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Monday, March 11, 2013

Can You Make Hamburgers from Sacred Cows?

Consider 7 of the “sacred cows” -- ideas revered beyond reason -- of the workplace: Preparation, Balance, Collaboration, Creativity, Excellence, Fairness and Passion. Are they the foundation for success or hiding behaviors that are actually masking behaviors that hold you back at work.
In his book “Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits that Masquerade as Virtues”, Jake Breeden shows their “dark side”:

Balance: Disguising indecision as a bland compromise that attempts to achieve many things but ends up accomplishing nothing

Collaboration: Creating a culture of learned helplessness with little individual empowerment and accountability

Creativity: Wasting time and money coming up with new ideas because it feels good, not because it's needed

Excellence: Spending too much energy producing perfect work instead of developing the quick-and-dirty solution needed now

Fairness: Keeping score and evening the score to make sure no one gets more than their "fair share"

Passion: Racing down a path seeking success only to find burn-out and misbehavior instead

Preparation: Planning to do work instead of productively working out just-in-time solutions with just the right people

Breeden suggest that Instead of zealous pursuiing of seemingly virtuous traits, as a leader you must appreciate the unintended consequences of their good intentions.

Preparation, while mostly a virtue, “can backfire by causing you to fall in love with your work to the point that you defend what you should change,” writes Breeden. “Sometimes preparation is an excuse not to take action.” page 21

Let “underperforming” colleagues sink or swim. “Allowing someone to fail helps them get better,” writes Breeden. “Stepping in for the good of the team blocks growth and reinforces bad behavior.” page 67

“Comparing your progress with your colleagues’ isn’t wise. “If you feel treated unfairly at work, you may be tempted to rationalize unethical decisions,” writes Breeden. “Fairness” can become “an excuse to cheat.” page 137

Many executives embrace the role of “cheerleader in chief.” Passion can  be  “exhausting.” though, ending in “burn-out.” “Sometimes leaders are better leading silently from the back of the room.” page 152

Conclusion? Identify your sacred cows” and ... train them!

If you’d like to buy a copy of this book


Jack Breeden-Tipping Sacred Cows (Wiley), Bloomberg Businessweek 3/11/13

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