I have been asked to read and review David C. Baker’s new book Managing Right: For The First Time. I write in books. I circle, highlight, and dog ear pages I want to return to. This posting is based on one of those pages. **Special Offer for my blog readers: If you are interested in reading this book yourself, the publisher has given me 10 copies to give to my readership. I liked the book because of the simple wisdom it shares and how it fits nicely into a mentor/mentee or group study. Email me if you want a copy – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can hear it now – “You want me to worry about culture? I am a manager trying to keep my head above water learning the job and reacting to all the change above me and below me, and now you tell me I am a culture builder?”
Culture is the sum total of all your choices – this statement from David Baker caught my eye because it is simple and scary. It reminds us that everything we do contributes to the environment (culture) we create. A lot to digest, so let’s focus in on one thing that Baker calls out in his list “Enemies of Culture”.
The first enemy of culture for you as the leader is the technically proficient or very capable jerk. I love the blunt language. There should be a name for the person who uses their knowledge to elevate themselves and to step on others. Jerk fits.
I have learned to ask certain questions when receiving the “They are really smart but everyone hates them. Can you help?” call. The first question is “Why do you want to keep them?” I have to hear a compelling reason and a strong commitment from the leader or it is not worth my time. I know from experience that 80+% of the people that are stepping on people do not know it, and when they get hit with that information they will need to see some extremely strong support to help them be successful or it will not work.
Action: Here is a template I published for a performance conversation that makes it next to impossible to side step this situation as a leader. Every performance conversation needs to be very explicit around: 1) What you do on your job and 2) How you do it (ie: culture). This enemy should receive high marks for being smart, and a substantially below standards for being mean.
I can here the reaction now. Scott – it is not that easy.
Just to let you know, I did not say it was easy, but I feel very comfortable saying it is that simple. Remember, as a leader the Culture is the sum total of all your choices. Make the choice to address this enemy.