Everybody Matters: A Book Review

Quick! When you think “perfect place to work,” what workplace characteristics come to mind? Lucrative compensation? A great product? How the idea of saying “I work for [insert name of organization here] makes your soul leap?

I don’t think there actually is a perfect place, but Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family captured ideas and concepts about management that are surely worth a try.

Book Review

It took me a long time to read this book, so the processing of its tidbits happened in small “a-has” rather than instantaneous epiphanies. This pacing was well-timed given my two-year odyssey of trying to process my choice to leave my full-time job and evaluate my next steps.

The Power of Everybody

Because it took me so long to read this book, I had the opportunity to type the title repetitively as I logged my “Friday Reads” on Facebook and Twitter every Friday. Almost every time, I could remember the “Everybody Matters” part but I am sure I mangled the rest (which is technically “The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family”), never remembering if it was “extraordinary,” “incredible,” or some other superlative! As the book states early on, though, even if I couldn’t remember that level of specificity, “everybody” really does mean “everybody,” and “not just the fortunate few or the exceptionally talented.” 

The Power of Clear Communication

There is a lot of writing out there about clear expectations and how if you don’t have a goal, you probably won’t get there. I love how this book took that concept one step further — how clear expectations are the catalyst that can help people motivate themselves.

“When people know their goal, they are inspired to express their gifts, and they discover capabilities they didn’t even know they had.”

I also appreciate the organization’s utilization of the power of storytelling, self-awareness, and vulnerability: “We believe that real people telling real stories creates real learning.” I concur!

The Power of an Abundance Mindset

Many of the businesses Barry-Wehmiller acquired had been run into the ground, organizationally, financially, and morale-wise before the acquisition. One of the most challenging hurdles Barry-Wehmiller faced was helping staff in the newly-acquired organizations believe that business could be about more than budget reductions and process modifications designed to cut corners.

We don’t have to win every project. We need to enter into responsible relationships with responsible people who value what we bring to the table.

 

The Power of Honoring Life Outside of the Workplace

This topic is huge to me. As a worker who has recently transitioned from a “traditional” workplace to a virtual one, I have been thinking even more than previously about the configurations of the work parts of our lives and the non-work parts of our lives. The way we divvy up our energy is simply not black and white.

The authors write, “We don’t draw a line between behaviors within the workplace and how people can apply them at home. What surprises participants is that we encourage telling stories about our home lives as much as we talk about the things we do in our leadership roles at work.”

The passage below is not so much about time and energy as it is about the actual essence of the self. I love it:

An important take-away for participants learning our approach to leadership is that they can be — indeed, must be — the same person at work that they are at home. They don’t need to wear a mask to work. The Leadership Checklist is not just for the eight or ten hours people spend in the office or in the factory. It’s for all twenty-four hours and every aspect of their life.

The Power of Reciprocal Commitment

The book interweaves a theme throughout about how co-workers should regard one another and their roles. In their Leadership Fundamentals classes, “We ask participants to set their organizational identity aside for the duration of the course; they don’t know if the person next to them is a CFO or a plant leader…..We specifically say, ‘Please do not talk about your title or the actual day-to-day work that you do. We want to know who you are as a person.”

Along with that effort to peel away “title” identities for the purpose of learning and growing, the authors remind leaders, “if you think you are too busy to give time and energy to your people, then they’re too busy to give time and energy to you. It is a balanced equation.”

The Power of … Well, POWER

As I mentioned above, when an organization is in the business of acquisitions, there is a constant “newness” for the personnel at the acquired organization. Reading these sentiments made me think of a time in my previous organization. I had a new supervisor, who reported to the Executive Director. We had been discussing some decision that had to be made, but apparently my co-workers and I were consistently expressing a tone of “but what if the Executive Director doesn’t want it that way?” You could have heard a pin drop in the room after he asked:

Why is everyone so afraid?

I can only imagine the fear at an organization that has experienced adversity after adversity, broken promise after broken promise. Therefore, I appreciated this sentence: “The cycle of caring begins with you,” as well as “since when do you need a memo from corporate that tells you that it is acceptable to be good stewards of the lives in your care?”

It is hard to build trust again after it has been broken repeatedly. That’s why it was so heartwarming to read one person’s opinion on page 229: They’ve done everything they said they were going to do.

Finally, something I think about often as I watch my 16- and 19- year olds grow up is personal accountability. I see them and their peers simultaneously sharing minute and intimate details of their lives with an extremely broad array of people via social media, but also being disconnected from looking people in the eyes, having to research facts without Google, and not necessarily having defined long-term goals (not that you have to have that when you’re a teen, it just seems different than the outlook I had at their ages). I hope they grow to understand this: 

I am the message.

These four words, to me, show recognition that you may be “fed” information, given instructions, old where to go and what to do. But ultimately what the world sees is the message through you. You are the message, in everything you say and do.

And when it comes to messages, everybody’s extraordinary message does indeed matter. 

Book Review

All proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to Our Community LISTENS, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing powerful Communication Skills Training to communities throughout the United States.

This post is a response to Kat Bouska’s writing prompt: BOOK REVIEW! Book Review

NOTE: I was given a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. These effusively positive opinions are all mine.

 

Darn, My Dog is Dead

At the end of the 2014-15 school year, my son told me that his assigned summer reading was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This book was the summer reading selection for all grades. I ordered it on May 29, and it has been in our home since we received it. I wish my teenager were one of those go-getters who had his summer reading done before the July 4 fireworks, but he doesn’t roll that way.

When “Mandatory” Became “Optional”

On August 4, all families of students received this email from the principal:

School System Literature

My son was jubilant that the mandatory reading had been made optional. I, on the other hand, was not.

Trying to Understand

The day after the email explaining the new status of the summer reading assignment, I sent the principal an email inquiring about the decision. He called me the next morning, August 6 (and I very much appreciate the return call). To paraphrase, he said that upon further reflection, a decision had been made that the book, which contains multiple incidences of the “F-word,” “set the wrong tone, especially for incoming freshmen.” He said approximately 20 parents of incoming freshmen had called or emailed to register their displeasure, and that summer reading should be “fun.” He also said that apparently high schoolers often don’t start their summer reading until the last minute (I guess this was related to the fact that this decision was made once some students started discussing the book with their parents).

In response, I suggested the school could have done a disclaimer at the beginning of the summer and explained from the very beginning “this book has language which some students may find offensive. If they prefer an alternative they can request this through an instructor.”

The Public Discussion

Every Friday, I share what I am reading (paper and audio) on Facebook and Twitter for Friday Reads. This week, I abandoned the audiobook I had been reading (for now) in order to re-read “Incident” and announced that as my Friday Reads selection. It has been so long since I read the book, I felt like I needed to familiarize myself with it again, especially if I am going to be championing it publicly. In that post, I explained that it HAD been a mandatory assignment but had now been made optional.

School System Literature

Today, the Tallahassee Democrat published an article about this issue (read it here).

This Parent’s Opinion

My concerns center mostly around the process surrounding the decision to lift the mandatory requirement for the book. An email from the principal 13 days before school begins, stating “I am lifting the mandatory requirement for this novel” is not the ideal solution. Ideally, back when the decision was initially made about summer reading, the faculty or administration would have familiarized themselves with the book sufficiently to acknowledge that some parents and/or students may be uncomfortable with the language. They could have then developed an alternative book choice with accompanying assignments.

I read in the Tallahassee Democrat article that one parent was alarmed by the “foul language and the religious skepticism. She went on to say “I am not interested in having books banned … But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain – I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended. Kids don’t have to be reading that type of thing and that’s why I was asking for an alternative assignment. I know it’s not realistic to pretend bad words don’t exist, but it is my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my daughter knows what is right or wrong.” While I respect this parent’s opinion, and the choices she makes on behalf of her student, these factors would not cause me to seek an alternate assignment.  

I think it is realistic for a school to consider the frequency of obscenity in a book when making that book its single choice for summer reading for all grades (although I think it is highly likely that the majority of students entering high school are aware that people use this language). From the very beginning, when I started re-reading the book and realized that the first f-words were uttered by a woman who has just discovered that her dog has been murdered and has a garden fork sticking out of its carcass, I thought to myself, “well, I wouldn’t likely say “darn, my dog is dead.” I would be more likely to be overcome with shock and grief and say something relatively out of character. But I will concede there are probably other books that are just as worthy from a literary standpoint which have milder language.

On the issue of religious skepticism, however, the role of literature is to expose us to varying viewpoints. I want my children, who have been raised in a Christian household, to read books about people from all walks of faith, including NO walks of faith.

Since beginning to re-read the book, I have been reminded of its ASSETS in addition to the components which appear to have caused concerns: a reinforcement of prime numbers, explanations of the literary mechanisms of simile and metaphor, and a detailed insight into one person’s experience of the world from the viewpoint of someone with an Aspergers-like condition. These are all things I want my rising junior to learn.

To quote my friend Yolanda, “Literature is meant to make you think.” Thinking is most comprehensively fertilized when seeded with a VARIETY of thoughts, ideas, and viewpoints, not just those with which we concur.

School System Literature

Ultimately, I want my child to be able to analyze literature, learn from it, and discuss it respectfully with those who agree AND those who disagree. As parents, this situation gives us an ideal opportunity to role model HOW to interact with people of diverse opinions. Let’s not blow it.