Overview. Don’t get your hopes up, this book is not about approved non-compliant behaviour. It delivers a topic in a way I remember well from recruit training: if you want to implement an idea into the Australian Army, you need to outline all the faults and obsolescence of the existing idea, and then you must present your new idea like your mother’s life depends on it. This book breaks down the conventional thinking of managing business and personnel to the point of irrelevance in contemporary workplaces, and delivers unconventional thinking and approaches that challenge you to question not just how you are conducting your role, but why, and for whose ultimate benefit.
Background. The management consulting company Gallup conducted an investigation of 24 different companies from 12 different industries, encompassing 105,000 employees from over 2500 businesses to create measurable data of conventionally-conceived immeasurable patterns – productivity, profitability, retention, and customer satisfaction. Arguably, profitability can be seen as easily measurable; however, it becomes vague when considered in relation to employee investment. Certainly, the Australian Army doesn’t consider its profit margin as a key performance indicator, it values its people. This is where the remaining three patterns of productivity, retention, and customer satisfaction (or client or associate) gain considerable focus.
Relevance. At some point in our military careers, we have received the following advice and direction: treat everyone how you would like to be treated; anyone can be anything they want to be, as long as they put their mind to it; success is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. Anyone can refute these ideas with their own opinions and experiences; however, hard data is what provides irrefutable evidence. This brings about the problem of how do you measure the immeasurable? By asking the right questions to everyone and paying attention to the extreme responses rather than just focussing on the vast middle ground.
The ROAD less travelled. Early in the book, the vast middle ground of conventional management behaviours is highlighted as inconsistent and inefficient. There is even reference to military personnel that exhibit these behaviours all the way through to compulsory retirement age – ROAD warriors (Retire On Active Duty). It is a harsh assessment on first impression but there is nothing gentle in this book. I found myself responding both emotionally and passionately in certain passages, not because I was outraged at the content, but because it reflected some of my own circumstances in the workplace. I realised that conventional thinking and approaches no longer serve my purpose or my workplace’s needs. Being realistic is the most commonly travelled road to mediocrity.
Put your people first. I often reflect on the most important lesson I learnt in preparation for my current role – it’s not about you. Strategic application of emotional intelligence serves the majority of the workplace; however, I have always felt I lacked the necessary tools to truly meet their needs. A common theme throughout the book recognises the importance of skills and knowledge, while focussing on the individual’s latent performance abilities – their talent. Not to be treated as a superpower or dismissed as an intangible aspect, talent that is recognised and utilised is what distinguishes good workplaces from great ones. 12 specific questions detailed in the book are used to determine effectiveness of the workplace in consideration to each individual’s needs. From this information, you can measure the immeasurable and pay attention to the extremities.
Lessons learnt and application. In all the messages that are delivered, the most prevalent for me in this book are: people don’t change that much; don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out; try to draw out what was left in, because that is hard enough. Since finishing this book, I haven’t stopped thinking about my role, my purpose, my workplace, and most importantly: the people I manage. We shouldn’t focus on fixing, guiding, or steering people into a direction. Instead, the focus should be on authentically leading, assessing, and assigning them for the benefit of both the soldier and the Australian Army.