Business Book Review by Constance Devereaux
What does life look like when you lead it the way you want? It’s not the kind of question you expect a management book to ask. But according to author Stan Slap, it may be a first step toward increased performance as a manager. The answer should describe your whole life, not just the hours you put in on the company’s behalf.
In today’s world, the divide between work and home life is fluid. “This book is for anybody who wants to live their own values in any organization,” said Slap in an interview with Flagstaff Business News, but its message is applicable to any relationship you have with family, friends, or community. “The principles are just as sound wherever you apply them.”
Bury My Heart in Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers is about total emotional commitment and how it applies to effective management. It is what businesses need from their managers in order to truly succeed and is based on what companies value most: their own survival.
A company is an organism […] its primary priority is to survive. […] it needs managers to help it function and grow.
According to Slap, companies rely on managers to place company priorities above personal priorities, values and goals. It bribes, threatens and bullies. Strong-arm tactics gain managers’ financial, intellectual, and physical allegiance, but “they don’t get emotional commitment, which is what they really need in order to ensure ultimate survival.” To get it, companies must allow managers “to have their own values and act according to their own personal goals.”
It’s a scary proposition, though. “Companies can’t get emotional commitment from their managers because the company believes it needs to be the dominant organzation in the relationship.”
Companies fear that managers left to their own devices, value-wise, aren’t good workers. They stay at home, take long vacations, or call in sick to avoid shoveling five inches of snow from their driveways. “This is the great fear of the corporate organism: If I set you free to pursue your own priorities, you’ll leave me and I’ll die.”Corporations have separation anxiety?
These fears are unfounded, however; the how-to part of Slap’s book shows companies and their managers how to overcome fear and achieve emotional commitment. “That’s the Holy Grail,” said Slap.
It begins with managers. Here’s what you do: Turn to page 70 of the book and choose ten of the fifty values listed (things like “integrity,” “fairness,” and “innovation”). Narrow your list to the three you value most. Connect these values to Moments of Truth in your life. Voilà.
Okay, it’s not quite that easy. But Slap’s exercises help managers embrace their core values as cornerstones of emotional commitment. Leaders, according to Slap, take a stand on a very few things. They are highly focused on the core values that drive them and they use them as principles to guide work and life decisions.
Bury My Heart is the book version of Slap’s highly popular worldwide seminars. Corporate clients include Hewlett Packard, Electronic Arts, Intel, Microsoft, and Viacom. The book delivers the high-powered, high- energy kind of message you might expect from a corporate consultant.
Backed by research (not cited, however) the book nevertheless delivers a positive, reason-based message. “We were human before we started working in a company,” Slap told FBN. But what makes it worth- while to be human is often subtracted from our work, which takes up most of our daily hours. When it’s gone, we try to restore ourselves to wholeness and fulfillment. That causes dysfunction in our work and personal lives with great impact on the companies we work for. Dysfunctional environments work against a company’s central goals: to survive and to achieve success. In fact, when dysfunction arises, a company may seek survival – or safety – in actions that diminish managers rather than support them.
“The worst thing is to make someone feel small,” Slap told FBN. “That’s homicidal for a company, in a way.” FBN