Category Archives: Other Playbooks

Reviewing Other Playbooks – Bury My Heart at Conf Room B

Go forth, lead, live, authentically being your best self, and you will kick ass.

Sounds good. Let’s do it. Ready, break.

Then the book gets lost in a 5 step plan with 4-6 substeps each across multiple scenarios. Damn. Better hire McKinsey to help with the implementation. But then a storm of 28 year old MBAs telling you what you already know is rather unpleasant.

That’s a little unfair, but the whole simple methodology thing is an fatal flaw in most red and white covered biz books (thanks to Stan Slap for at least going with Black and Red). So before I carry on with my bitching, let me tell you about Room B’s premise. And I happen to whole-heartedly agree with it, bee dubs (for noobs and corporate stiffs, bee dubs is colloquial for BTW, as in Bee Tee Dub, the phonetics for BTW, which is texting short hand for By The Way – your welcome).

Premise: integrate your personal values into your workday life and you will become a more inspiring, effective leader. You will find your work and life better balanced. You will feel good about yourself. Higher innate passion and energy will drive you and your team to what the author calls the “Better Place.” Which helps you get out of the “Bitter Place.” Implied in the Better Place is crushing every quarter, slamming competitors gracefully, and Winning Togetherness.

If I could condense the book: Lead with your authentic, true self, driving forward with your unique personal values, while clearly envisioning your team with where you are going and how you are getting there.

So a book in three parts: find yourself, be yourself corporately, then envision your peeps. Then pop the champ and get your ring.

Conf Room B has extremely practical action steps for each phase. Its definitely a “how-to” book. That is its strength and its weakness.

Find yourself is not quite the simple half day task outlined early on. The author gives a list of 30 values to pick from. You quickly narrow that down to three. A brief exploration of how you got those values, and poof, self is found. No need to read Thoreau, Nietzsche, or your favorite religious or anti-religious authors.

From there, he wants you to stage a 20-minute launch event with your team. You explain your values, that you will begin authentically living them and leading with and through them, taking your team from the Bitter Place to the Better Place.

Good luck with that. If I were on your team I’d be LMAO’ing for days. Cheeeeeeeeeez.

But I see his point, from one perspective. You can’t sell your exec coaching services to a big enterprise unless you can offer a relatively instantaneous implementation plan.  Corporate Bosses are about Action and Results and Dynamic Change; not personal evolution.

Imagine this pitch to the SVP of HR: I will lead your most promising high potentials on a one year journey of self discovery, followed by a one to three year implementation phase. I then promise immense ROIC on my services in year five.

Haha, get real. Like not never.

But that’s the real real. Caterpillars may metamorphise (sp?) into beautiful butterflies overnight; managers into philosopher king leaders overnight, not so much.

Let’s step into the Real Talk Zone for a moment, noobs.

Here’s your average American’s value set: Comfort, Pleasure, Incremental Advancement (thanks, Consumer Capitalism Culture). I see it everyday in my own life, my own team, my own organization, and the firms I invest in. I do know some rock stars though, real corporate bad asses. Some of them are the best executives in the world. Some of them are start-up heroes. But they are maniacal psychopaths. No work/life balance for them. But that’s a topic for a different post.

The author brings in neuroscience for a brief moment. This is all the rage right now. Guys if you can just up your Testosterone (hit the weight pile, rookies) and Gals, your Oxytocin, or is it Oxycontin, I forget. Anyway, he asserts that failing to honestly live out your values at work will inherently cause dissatisfaction. You will generate too much adrenaline and cortisone. Next is burn out, passionless management instead of passionate leadership, ultimately leading to physical and mental health problems. Complete agreement here. Unfortunately, Slap (seriously, the guy’s name; Mom, Dad, really?), doesn’t further explore the brain chemical side of our existence any further. Just figure out your values and all your mental problems will be solved.

I actually agree with that last statement. That’s the whole point of OffWins: psychological strength leads to wins.

Remember the last point of our Psychological Weight Lifting plan: Find Thyself, Be Thyself. As biz bosses we want immediate results. Thus, I advocate the StrengthFinders thingy. Its quick, like 30 minutes, and starts helping you immediately. Over the medium term, you should read this blog. Over the longer term, you should grapple with life’s existential questions directly for yourself: Origin, Ethics, Meaning, and Destiny. Reading the thoughts of the greatest thinkers who have ever lived will help. But we’re biz bosses so we don’t really have time for Plato and Tolstoy. So I’ll read that stuff and blog it for you so you can skip step three until retirement, if necessary.

Value-finding, as advocated by Room B, is probably adequate as a substitute for Strength-finding. I actually think latter is superior, but its probably not a big deal. Superior because “Strengths” sounds more businessy than “Values.” Strengths are easier to discuss without cheez than Values. And lastly, the StrengthFinder stuff can be adopted by both Bosses and Minions (I make my team do it so I can better manipulate, errrr, manage them). Room B seems to focus only on the Boss: find and live and lead your values and they will follow, instead of helping them win by finding their own values.

Finally, the book suffers from grandeur – it proposes to be the only book on leadership you will ever need. It does this implicitly, by leaving out its sources, or describing how it fits into a broader journey of self-discovery. The Tibetan Monks would be seriously pissed off if they knew. But they are too busy living in the moment to be bothered.

So in summary, Room B fits nicely into the Playbook, but is not a complete playbook in and of itself. For our purposes, it helps with the grand task of learning how to live better in the workplace and be more effective as an intended consequence. I think I shall add it as a secondary reading rec in the Find Thyself/Be Thyself section.

Thanks, Electronic Arts for the book rec. And EA, noobs, bosses, players, and wannabes, is not the worst company in Murica. Proof: the last two Call of Dutys (an Activision game – EA’s primary competitor) failed to work properly on my uber high end Alienware and Razer gaming laptops, whereas Battlefield 3 worked perf. So GTFO with that worst company non-sense.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other Playbooks, Psychological Strength