Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Focus and Leverage Part 291

Many times on my blog I have discussed books that I have read, so today I want to recommend a new book by Malcolm Gladwell entitled David and Goliath.   We've all read or at least heard about the story of Davis and Goliath, but the way Malcolm Gladwell tells his story is always different and unique and this book is no different.  This book is about underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants.  Mr. Gladwell sites many references about people with dyslexia and how they were able to overcome this learning disorder and become hugely successful.
In Davis and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantaged, offering new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.  One of the most interesting parts of this book talks about how when people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters, first and foremost, how they behave.  This is called the "principle of legitimacy and legitimacy is based upon three things.  First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice - that if they speak up, they will be heard.  Second, the law has to be predictable.  There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today.  And third, the authority has to be fair.  It can't treat one group differently from another.  So how does this apply to a business scenario?
If you stop and think about the three parts of the principle of legitimacy, all three pieces do apply.  First, the people you employ must feel like they have a voice meaning that if you want things to improve, then the people doing the work must be heard.  As I've said many times on this blog, the people doing the work can tell you how to get better if you'll simply take the time to listen to their ideas.  If there is no listening, there will be no improvement.
Next, there has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules in place will not be in a constant state of change.  Workers need to know that what's expected of them today will be the same that's expected of them tomorrow.  You can't ask workers how to improve the job they are in if you turn around and lay them off as a result of their improvement ideas.  Finally, from an authority perspective, it must apply equally to everyone in the organization.  There is no room for favoritism in the work place.
I encourage everyone to go get this book and enjoy it just like I have.
Bob Sproull

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