Sunday, December 12, 2010

Leading Teams. Setting the Stage for Great Performance. By J. Richard Hackman

What is it about?

Hackman used experimental data and field analysis to find out what are the main conditions that make a team effective.

He defines an effective team as one that:
  1. Serves its clients well
  2. Gets better and better
  3. Helps each member achieve personal fulfillment
Hackman thinks that a team's performances are much too often attributed to its leader's coaching style. He finds other conditions much more relevant: it should be a real team, with a compelling direction and an enabling structure (defined in terms of design of the work, norms of conduct, composition). A supportive context (reward, information and educational systems) and expert coaching also help a lot.

The book has much scientific rigor but it is also fun to read: written with clarity an humour, full of interesting examples.

How is it useful to an HR practitioner?

We HR people tend to see a strong relationship between performance and people: we think that people's styles, traits and states of mind determine how well they perform.

This book can help us think differently about teams. Among many other things, it provides an insightful criticism about leadership programmes that seek to teach managers how to behave with their teams.

If there are any underperforming teams in your organization, reading this book will undoubtedly help you understand better what's wrong with them, and what you could do about it.

Who recommended this book to me?

Steward Friedman, author of "Total Leadership" simply told me: "I like Richard Hackman's book, Leading Teams, and I recommend it to you".


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Total Leadership. Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life. By Steward D. Friedman

What is it about?

Take the 5 to 10 people that are most important to you, in any domain of your life: your partner, your boss, your main client, your children: whoever they are. Consider them as stakeholders of your success in life. Have a conversation with each of them to talk about your future and your mutual expectations. This simple but very powerful  experience is what Steward Friedman calls "stakeholders' dialogues", a part of the Total Leadership programme.

I know: "Total Leadership programme" sounds a bit guru-ish. But it is very serious, methodical and efficient.

The book is full of examples and self-development exercises. It makes you think, but also makes you act for the sake of your own successes.

It shows that the notion of work-life balance needs to be surpassed and explains how to do it, by taking initiatives that can have simultaneously a positive effect on the four domains of your life: Work, Home (i.e. family), Community (i.e. friends and the public interest) and Self (i.e. your mental, emotional and physical fitness).

How is it useful to an HR practitioner? 

Firstly, it has the potential to change your life. Not every book does!

For example, it provides excellent tools to help you see what objectives you should define for yourself. It also helps you strengthen your relationships with those who have the greatest impact on your life.

Secondly, once you have tried the method on yourself, you will want to use it to help other people be better leaders. If some manager in your society seems overwhelmed, unhappy, misunderstood, inefficient, lacking passion, or badly evaluated, you will find in this book an excellent personal development method.

Who recommended this book to me?

I listened to an interview of Steward Friedman on Harvard Business Review's Ideacast.