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Business Worst Practices: A new best seller?

Dealing with co-workers is a big thing in all organizations today. Being able to depend on the people you work with can make a big difference in whether or not you want to come to work or start looking for another job. The same can be said for organizations and those who manage people. If you are working hard and your boss is not recognizing your efforts, chances are you are ready to leave. Bosses can actually kill productivity in the workplace.

Maybe we should be looking for more leaders, instead of managers. Maybe we are not teaching the right things in schools of management.

There are ways to understand the work environment that you cannot learn in a classroom. Some organizations stress team dynamics and working with groups, but for the most part academic offerings do not seem to parallel these teachings. Most business school courses focus on individual projects and individual assessments, but few focus on team-based or group projects where members of the group start to see new skills that are needed in working together to accomplish common goals.

It sounds so simple and really very basic, but most people coming out of business schools are still not prepared to work in corporate environments. They need to gain other perspectives that we just don't seem to provide in most graduate school curricula, which badly need updating and revision.

Book review: Warriors, workers, whiners, and weasels
Trying to understand the work environment is a critical skill and can help you make a decision to stay or leave an organization. That's why team dynamics and group projects should be stressed more in academic settings.

One of the books I came across that I thought was pretty good in discussing today's work relationships was Warriors, Workers, Whiners and Weasels by Tim O'Leary. The last book that I thought was really good when it came to understanding people in the business world was Robert Ringer's best-selling Winning Through Intimidation. There have been a lot of books in between, but I just feel that these two books put things a little better. I would recommend both as to their clear focus on how things really are.

In Ringer's book, he classifies people into three types - Type One, Two, and Three. In O'Leary's book, he classifies people into four types named after the title. Both books provide some pretty good insight for people that have to work with others. Hmmmm…….that's just about everybody.

Crumbling companies usually filled with deadwood

You can tell when an organization is led well. People have a different attitude and work well together. Notice how I said “led well,” not “managed well.” You manage resources, but you lead people.

Most people I have talked with say that they are working at organizations that have poor management. That speaks volumes as to claims that senior management is not doing its job in “leading people.” It looks like we have a lot of “managers” in executive positions but few “leaders.”

These poorly-run organizations usually ignore the people really doing the work and instead reward those that are more political. The good people usually leave and what is left is a bunch of political deadwood that all have egos inversely proportionate to their skills and work ethic. By the way, this includes executive management as well.

Everyone wants team players

Many people try to rehearse answers for typical interview questions that come up when they look for jobs at these organizations. This is actually a good practice because you should feel comfortable in answering questions that may be difficult to answer on the fly. The real stumpers are ones like, “Tell me about yourself?” or “What are your two weaknesses?” These can really get you hesitant if you have not thought about what to answer.

This is such a lame question asked by many in HR: “Are you a team player?” I always told people in my classes to answer that interview question with, “No……….I am a team leader.” I told them to pause awhile after saying no, to see if the interviewer would faint, and then say, “I'm a team leader.” Every organization wants team members and have overemphasized this to a point that they have forgotten that someone has to lead the team.

The trouble with many organizations is that they have a whole section of middle management that cannot make a decision. These are usually the people that point to their MBA and their project management certificate. Everyone wants that middle management title, but few know how to take command. Or, does middle management really stand for sheep? This has crippled many American companies.

As I have said before, there are two types of people in management - the “Cattle and Catalysts.” The catalysts are the agents of change and will get things done, but they are in a scarce minority. The vast majority of people are cattle and usually are found grazing at their desk waiting for the herd to be called.

Another “key phrase” that many HR people look for is “self starter.” This is another overused phrase on both sides of the interviewing table. I did see one resume I thought was really good. The person said, “not only am I a self-starter, I am a self finisher.” That really stuck with me because I thought this person saw beyond the lameness of “self-starter” and proclaimed, "Hey, I can finish what I am given."

Time for political accuracy: Worst practices

The “Baaaaaa” and “Mooooooo” of the politically correct indecisive types are not the battle cries of winners. Middle management that has that skill set is more destined for the slaughterhouse than for any glory or innovation.

Forget all the “feel good” management books and all the examples of “good companies” and “Best Practices.” What is needed is a list of poorly-run organizations and why they are dying on the vine. These are the organizations and “management styles” to avoid as they usually are the ones that are ripe for takeover or, in some cases, just ready to expire.

A book titled Worst Practices would be a best seller because so many would be buying it off the shelf in volume to keep their corporate names from becoming synonymous with Enron and WorldCom. What a blow to their over-inflated egos. Do you have any that would make the list?

CARLINI-ISM: You manage resources, but you lead people.

Copyright 2006 - James Carlini

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James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. He is also president of Carlini & Associates. Carlini can be reached at or 773-370-1888. Check out his blog at

Check out James Carlini's blog at

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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