The Basics II:
All You Need Is Love,
Not Tom Peters or Gary Hamel

I have recently come across reviews of two books that sound pretty good: Mass Career Customization, by Cathleen Benko and Anne Weisberg, and The Future of Management, by my friend Gary Hamel.

The premise of both is that the nature of work and job satisfaction and careers is changing—so much so that Gary insists we must re-invent the whole idea of “management.” There’s no way I could be critical, since I have been preaching from the same pulpit for over a decade—my “invention,” if that’s what it was, of “Brand You,” and touting of the Professional Service Firm “model” of work is testimony to my intimate involvement in this issue.

But, as I ponder it all, I’d have to take strong exception to Hamel and Benko and Weisberg and Peters—especially the notion that management must be “re-imagined.” Nothing wrong with what we said—except that it misses the Foundation Principle, which presumably dates back thousands of years.

In a nutshell, it doesn’t mean a thing to talk about “mass career customization” or “brand you”—if the Guiding Axiom is anything other than an Abiding Respect for and Belief in one’s Fellow Human Beings.

“Respect” and “appreciation” and “trust” are not exactly novel ideas—but they are precisely what’s often-mostly absent from the workplace of the past or present or, doubtless, future.

You know by now of my immodest admiration for General Ulysses S. Grant and Admiral Horatio Nelson. Nelson’s respect for his sailors and officers was manifold—biographer after biographer use the same word, “love,” to talk about Nelson’s relationship with his men, and vice versa. As to Grant, his humanity is illustrated graphically by this quote from the diary of a Confederate private, following a bloody defeat:

“The [Union senior] officers rode past the Confederates smugly without any sign of recognition except by one. When General Grant reached the line of ragged, filthy, bloody, despairing prisoners strung out on each side of the bridge, he lifted his hat and held it over his head until he passed the last man of that living funeral cortege. He was the only officer in that whole train who recognized us as being on the face of the earth.”

You may say I’m exaggerating, but I give you my word that I’m not when I say that I tear up whenever I read this passage. Nelson wished to “annihilate” the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar; U.S. Grant was known as Unconditional Surrender Grant. That is, both were tough as nails and then some—but they also deeply respected their fellows, friend or foe.

Add, as well, these gems to your “keeper quotes” list:

“It was much later that I realized Dad’s secret. He gained respect by giving it. He talked and listened to the fourth-grade kids in Spring Valley who shined shoes the same way he talked and listened to a bishop or a college president. He was seriously interested in who you were and what you had to say.”—Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Respect

“I wasn’t bowled over by [David Boies] intelligence. … What impressed me was that when he asked a question, he waited for an answer. He not only listened, he made me feel like I was the only person in the room.”—Lawyer Kevin _____, on his first, inadvertent meeting with David Boies, from Marshall Goldsmith, “The Skill That Separates,” Fast Company

“What creates trust, in the end, is the leader’s manifest respect for the followers.”— Jim O’Toole, Leading Change

“Either love your players or get out of coaching.”—Bobby Dodd, legendary football coach. (Vince Lombardi reportedly said, “I do not need to like my players, but I must love them.” Couldn’t confirm those exact words from Google, but did find many examples of Lombardi on loving one’s players.)

“I have always believed that the purpose of the corporation is to be a blessing to the employees.”
—Boyd Clarke

“The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated.”—William James

“We behaved as if we were guests in their house. We treated them not as a defeated people, but as allies. Our success became their success.”—”How One Soldier Brought Democracy to Iraq: The Mayor of Ar Rutbah” (MAJ James Gavrilis/USA Special Forces)

“No matter what the situation, [the excellent manager’s] first response is always to think about the individual concerned and how things can be arranged to help that individual experience success.”—Marcus Buckingham,
The One Thing You Need to Know

I don’t suggest that you blow off Hamel or Benko or Weisberg, or Peters, but I do suggest that you put First Principles first. Read and ingest these books before you turn to the nouveau “with it” ones:

Servant Leadership—Robert Greenleaf

The Human Side of Enterprise—Douglas McGregor

The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies—Steve Harrison

The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything—Stephen M.R. Covey and Rebecca Merrill

Re-imagine management? Not by my lights. Instead, put the eternal but seldom practiced verities first and create a workplace that is constructed on a base of trust and respect and decency and commitment to personal growth and one another, and, yes, love.