Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More weekend reading

My recent session with Covey's 8th habit was followed up by two other books that I didn't find all that useful either. The first was 'Emotional Intelligence' by Daniel Goleman. Way too 'fluffy', with a lot of hand-waving, psuedo-science, with a touch of the metaphysical. Ok, there's more to being smart than mental horse-power and more to success than mental acuity - the heart matters and one's emotional and social maturity play an important role too. No argument, but it was quite hard to find anything 'actionable' in this book. It's possible that the book is a gem that further study and reflection would discover, but for now, I'm not seeing what others find so compelling about the book.

The next book was 'The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable' by Patrick M. Lencioni (2002). Set in an illustrative business novel, the book looks at what is called the five common dysfunctions of a team, that if eliminated would greatly improve the effectiveness of any team. These dysfunctions are described as a pyramid - from bottom to top:

1) Absence of trust (from an unwillingness in the team members to be vulnerable)
2) Fear of conflict (inability to engage in unfiltered, passionate yet constructive debate)
3) Lack of commitment (no buy in and commitment expected)
4) Avoidance of accountability (without commitment to goals, hesitate to call others on actions)
5) Inattention to results (individual needs put above the team's goals).

The book has received quite high praise in a number of circles. I found it modestly thought provoking, but two factors detracted from the book. First, there's really no data or compelling reasoning why these set of issues should be considered as the key dysfunctions of a team; rather they seem to be one person's reasonable thoughts on the subject, but not altogether convincing. Second, how to address or eliminate these barriers was not well covered in the book. It was mostly an exercise that the fictional characters did while we were 'not watching' - which makes it difficult to apply the principles suggested in this book. At least it was a fairly easy and quick read -- it would probably be helpful to next look at one of the follow-up books which look more at application.

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