Friday, April 24, 2009

Primal Management Book Review

I just finished a great book - "Primal Management - Unraveling the Secrets of Human Nature to Drive High Performance" by Paul Herr.

Herr starts with a statement "Business..has pretended that emotions and feelings are irrational and unimportant. This is simply wrong". The rest of the book goes on to successfully prove this point.

He uses the scary statistic that only 31% of the employees are motivated in America. If that statistic is true, there is huge upside opportunity in our businesses.

He talks about 5 "appetites" that all people have.

1) Cooperation - People want to work together in groups. Groups are more powerful. Successful leaders can grow teams that work harmoniously towards a common goal. People want to belong to a group.

2) Competency - People want to be competent. They also want recognition for this. There is a self esteem loop that occurs. Be competent, get recognition, be more competent etc. Successful companies and leaders can enhance this loop.

3) Skill deployment - people want to be allowed to use their skills. One of the challenges of the leader is to help people use and strengthen their unique abilities. Because everyone is unique, people are not just replaceable cogs. If anyone leaves, the company loses that persons' uniqueness.

4) Innovation - People are naturally curious and will come up with good ideas. Good leaders help nurture and encourage these.

5) Self-Protection - People are motivated to feel secure. One huge downside of the current turbulent times is this security is being threatened. Good leaders seek to create stability.

Herr makes the point that all decisions are first made with the emotions. We then go on to rationally justify our actions.

Herr sets a high bar for leaders. Walk the walk. Truly care for the people who work with you. Exceptional caring leads to loyalty and dedication.

Herr emphasizes the we based leadership style as opposed to the me based one. Good leaders trust their people, respect them, are polite to them and recognize that the only way to thrive in business is through their people. I am of the belief that the larger the company, the more the leader simply sets the tone or culture but in order to succeed, the people need to make the decisions. So decision making is not necessarily the job of a good leader.

I am a big believer that it is a combination of the numbers and the human side to make a successful company so the book resonates with me. I find that much of the business literature tends to focus more on the numbers and less on the people.

This is a great book for any leader to read. Should be required reading for all CEOs.


At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Monique Attinger said...

This sounds like a fabulous book - it's high time that leaders remember that their emotional smarts with their people are much more important than almost anything else. A leader who inspires gets more from their people, and their people get more from them.

It reminds me: money was never the primary motivator for me - as long as I was making something reasonable visa vi what I was worth on the open market. What was MUCH more motivating was recognition. If I was trusted and given a chance to show what I was worth - so much the better. In fact, I worked hardest and delivered the most value in situations where my creativity was in play; I was trusted and mentored; and I was allowed to work independently but was also recognized for what I did.

Seems straightforward to me in theory - but many folks find it much harder in practice.

At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Monique Attinger said...

Oh, and one other thing: I do think that people work better when they are held accountable for their results. I don't mean that you have to "slam" someone if things go wrong, but even the best employee / business partner / contractor can mess up. Investing the time to coach and mentor, regardless of whether a person is a full-time employee or not can help you to develop a wide network of folks who will invest in you - because you invested in them.

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous David Locke said...

This stuff was the infrastructure for having everyone write their MBOs. I've only worked in one place where we did that. That was long ago.

The necessity of alignment forced everyone to thing about how to achieve that, how to get work to be fulfilling.

That was a very fulfilling job. It may seem archaic, or mechanical, but when done correctly, it achieved the motivated employee.

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Larry Underwood said...

I've read hundreds of management books, recently read and reviewed Paul Herr's book as well, and concluded this was the best book I've ever read on the subject of employee motivation; period.

In fact, before I even read the book I had a feeling that was going to be the case.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a "Preview of Primal Management" (Allvoices) after listening to an hour and a half interview on some radio broadcast while surfing the internet late one night.

The very next day after my article was posted, I received an email from Paul, humbly thanking me for the favorable comments, which of course, made me realize this guy was for real!

Within a couple of days, I had a copy of it in hand, thanks to Amazon's speedy service; and I promptly plowed through it.

I realized I had been a "primal manager" myself (unbeknowst to me)during my 26-year career with Enterprise Rent-a-Car (1974-2000). I always thought it was just common sense.

I suppose I let my "primal management" instincts take over by asking myself, "How would I want to be treated by my boss?"

I couldn't help but notice Monique Attinger and David Locke's comments, and it's nice to know common sense is still alive and kicking. We just have to search harder to find it these days.

However, I do see there's hope for the future; if only we can get the rest of the world's CEOs to understand how simple business could be by treating employeees like human beings; not machines.


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