Lies About Work

In my over twenty years in public education, I experienced some incredible, thriving work cultures and experiences and some toxic, broken ones. I have seen teams come together to produce outstanding outcomes, and conversely, I participated in teams that couldn’t get it together and failed miserably. When we go through these experiences personally, we develop our own constructs and beliefs about what makes successful organizations, teams, and work experiences. 

So what happens when our developed “well-known truths” about organizations and leadership have become so oversimplified or misdirected over the years that they’re now creating challenges in helping employees and organizations thrive? I have found that many ideas and practices considered settled truths are profoundly frustrating and unhelpful for the people they are intended to serve. Push further, and look at the evidence of the real world, and you find that these practices neither reflect what we know about human performance nor produce the results we say we want. These ideas and practices are what Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, Senior Vice President of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco, call the nine lies about work. 

In their book of the same name, Buckingham and Goodall explore the disconnect between how we work best and how we believe we work best through the following nine lies and counterintuitive truths about work:

  1. LIE—People care which company they work for. TRUTH—People care which team they are on.
  2. LIE—The best plan wins. TRUTH—The best intelligence wins.
  3. LIE—The best companies cascade goals. TRUTH—The best companies cascade meaning.
  4. LIE—The best people are well-rounded. TRUTH—The best people are spiky.
  5. LIE—People need feedback. TRUTH—People need attention.
  6. LIE—People can reliably rate other people. TRUTH—People can reliably rate their own experience.
  7. LIE—People have potential. TRUTH—People have momentum.
  8. LIE—Work-life balance matters most; TRUTH—Love-in-work matters most.
  9. LIE—Leadership is a thing. TRUTH—We follow spikes.

For the next few weeks, I plan to share a few of these to see what we can do to help each other stop telling them at work. So for this post, let’s explore starting with the first on the list, LIE #1 and TRUTH #1, via the two videos below.

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