A Different Kind of Courage

courageThere are so many quotable quotes from Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. I was surfing through my bookmarks and highlights this morning and was having trouble even knowing where to start – there’s just so much good stuff to talk about! This book talks about what it means to live wholeheartedly and how we have to talk about the things that get in the way (shame & fear) before we can even think about living wholeheartedly. The problem is that none of us want to talk about shame and fear – these emotions are often intensely painful and we prefer to keep them shrouded in secrecy.

I know I have a really hard time being vulnerable about these things – even with myself. I prefer to view myself as competent and wise, more used to helping other people than needing any help myself. Case in point: I’m still not sure I really “needed” this book, but I think the material is fabulous for other people. Ha! Needless to say, I read the book through twice and now I should probably chew on these concepts for longer than I think necessary.

For example, let’s look at a few things Brown says about courage. Courage is a major part of the book – obviously, it takes courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and work toward more authenticity. Brown writes that,

“the root of the word courage is cor- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today [She’s comparing that to our common definition of courage as fearless action]. Courage originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart.'”

I love this definition. It sounds like something I like to think I already do on a regular basis. However, Brown turns the tables a bit with this illustration:

“Do you know how incredibly brave it is to say ‘I don’t know’ when you’re pretty sure everyone around you gets it? Of course, in my twelve-plus years of teaching, I know that if one person can find the courage to say, ‘You’ve lost me,’ there are probably at least ten more students who feel the exact same way. They may not take the risk, but they certainly benefits from that one person’s courage.”

I know I’ve been the one relieved that someone else asked the question but wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been the person to ask a teacher to re-explain themselves. I’m pretty sure I’ve always done my best to act like I know exactly what’s going on and look down on those poor slow people who don’t get it yet. Ouch!

This is a terrible attitude not only because it’s dishonest and judgmental but because it closes you off from actually learning. Have you ever had that experience? Where you get in over your head and instead of just admitting, “I really don’t know much about this – please explain it to me,” you get defensive and wreck the conversation? Yeah . . . I’m working on asking for clarification and telling people I don’t understand what they’re talking about. I know it’s better for me to ask questions and really learn but sometimes the pull to be viewed as “the smart one” still makes me do pretty stupid things. Go figure.

Do you relate to this?

Accidentally Making Homemade Mayo

It’s been my week to cook again. I’m delighted to tell you that not only did I make the mayo in the title (more on that in a second), I also made my first whole chicken and homemade chicken stock this week. So, it’s been a bit of an adventurous week for me. But this post isn’t really about cooking, it’s about a *cough* absolutely brilliant *cough cough* parallel or illustration that came to mind in the process of accidentally making homemade mayo.

Homemade MayoSo, today I was going to make avocado tuna boats for lunch. Didn’t sound hard. The ingredient list was basic. I just started following Step 1, putting an egg, apple cider vinegar, some mustard and salt in our food processor. Then I read the next bit of instructions and suddenly realized I was about to make mayo! This might not seem like a big deal for many of you. You might not have read a few blog posts about how difficult it is to make homemade mayo and how easily you can mess it up and how it often doesn’t turn out quite right. You might not have written off making homemade mayo as too likely to fail.

Needless to say, I suddenly felt very nervous. But the instructions just seemed so basic and relaxed and I had already put all those ingredients in the bowl – it seemed like a waste not to go ahead and try it. So I did. And it actually turned into mayo! It wasn’t quite as fluffy but that wasn’t a big deal considering it was going straight into a tuna mixture.

Ok, so that’s the story. And what are the brilliant parallels I want to draw from this experience? Maybe you can guess:

1. We often don’t try things because they sound too hard.

Sometimes, we overthink things. We read way too many reader comments, overload on variables and possibilities and ultimately discard ideas because we feel overwhelmed (this is often me researching recipes by the way). But it applies to all kinds of decisions in life – projects we want to do, ways to volunteer, whether or not to adopt or foster children, where to give our money. Even much more basic decisions about our consumer choices or activities often fall by the wayside because we think changing just sounds “too hard.”

2. Sometimes it’s better to not know the destination before starting on the journey because if we did, we would never go.

Which brings me back (as I feel like so many things do) to Lord of the Rings. Did you see that coming? Yup – I’m talking about Frodo again. Initially when he agrees to take the ring out of the Shire, he thinks he’s only traveling to Bree to meet Gandalf and then figure things out. If he had known he would take the ring all the way into Mordor, he might have never agreed to the journey at all.

This is a big reminder to me that our desire for certainty gets in the way. We want to know the whole plan before we start. We get frustrated with God when he doesn’t “show” us where we should be going. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe we’d never agree to start the journey if we knew each step before we took it. By digging in our heels and refusing to go, we would never find out if we could do it. I think the courage only comes in the moment, not before. The resilience to continue, the wisdom for decisions, the skills we need to learn and grow – these are supplied as needed, on a “give us this day our daily bread” kind of basis.

Which leads me to my conclusion:

3. Just do it!

You learn by trying. Faith becomes real in action.

(Obviously for those of you that tend to be the opposite of me and leap before you look, maybe your job is to stop and assess a little more before you jump into action – nuance, people, one message does not fit all!).

Have any epiphanies of your own in ordinary moments this week?

The Importance of Organizational Health

Organizational HealthToday I want to review just a tiny portion of The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni – a book that a Rich recommended in the comments sections awhile ago. I really appreciated the tip because this book dovetails beautifully with everything I just learned on my Birkman certification course. The “advantage” Lencioni writes about is Organizational Health. His whole premise is that any organization that is healthy will have an advantage in its field. Why?


An organization that is healthy will inevitably get smarter over time. That’s because people in a healthy organization, beginning with the leaders, learn from one another, identify critical issues, and recover quickly from mistakes. Without politics and confusion getting in their way, they cycle through problems and rally around solutions much faster than their dysfunctional and political rivals do . . . In contrast, smart organizations don’t seem to have any greater chance of getting healthier by virtue of their intelligence. In fact, the reverse may actually be true because leaders who pride themselves on expertise and intelligence often struggle to acknowledge their flaws and learn from peers (p.9)

Lencioni says there are two requirements for success. You have to be smart in your strategy, marketing, finance and technology and you have to be healthy. He defines “healthy” as:

  • minimal politics
  • minimal confusion
  • high morale
  • high productivity
  • low turnover

If you’ve spent any time in the corporate world, you may have found that the opposite is true for many, many organizations. Why is that? Lencioni writes, “Most leaders prefer to look for answers where the light is better, where they are more comfortable. And the light is certainly better in the measurable, objective, and data-driven world of organizational intelligence (the smart side of the equation) than it is in the messier, more unpredictable world of organizational health” (p.7).

Figuring out the “human” element of “human resources” is definitely messy and unpredictable and that’s the beauty of the Birkman. It’s data-driven, objective and measurable. The data it provides takes some of the unpredictability away and maps it for us in terms of interests, usual behaviors, our actual motivational needs and stress behaviors when our needs aren’t met. It is specifically tailored to address communication issues and interpersonal conflicts, help managers maximize potential and guide individuals in finding their best career fit. You can use it manage more effectively, develop accurate job descriptions and make better hiring decisions.

Having worked in three different companies in the last five years, I’ve seen a variety of dysfunction firsthand and that’s exactly why I’m so excited to be a Birkman Consultant. I hate to see potential go to waste. I hate to see frustration and politics getting in the way of people being able to do their jobs well and enjoy them. And I think the Birkman gives people a phenomenal platform for addressing some of these core issues and become a healthy team.

Unfortunately, as Lencioni points out, many employers and managers view this kind of thing as optional, believing that “team building” has no impact on the bottom line, when in fact it’s the exact opposite: “The financial cost of having an unhealthy organization is undeniable: wasted resources and time, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, and customer attrition. The money an organization loses as a result of these problems, and the money it has to spend to recover from them, is staggering” (p. 13).

By the end of this month, I plan to “officially” launch this business. Addressing organizational dysfunction and helping frustrated individuals will be my primary goals.

What do you think about this concept of Organizational Health? Got a story to share about it? And feel free to contact me if you want to jumpstart the Birkman process for yourself or your team!

Working Identity Book Review

Working Identity by Herminia IbarraI just sped through Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra because it’s due back at the library today and I can’t renew it. Ahh – the pressure of library due dates. I know technically I could just ignore them and hold onto books for another week without incurring any fees or punishment but out of respect to my librarian mother I just can’t bring myself to bend rules like that. So I live under the constant pressure of which book is due when. I really should start controlling myself when it comes to how many holds I place at a time. Inevitably I find 3-4 books all waiting for me at once, all non-renewable because another 50 people after me want them. Talk about the woes of a bookworm.

Anyway – this book had some gems and while it focuses on the process of midlife career transitions, there was a lot of connection and crossover between two other books I hope to be blogging about soon, The Gifts of Imperfection and Transforming Conversion. While its intention was to describe how people move from one “working identity” to the next, it seemed highly applicable to personal growth and the process of coming to faith.

Ibarra’s work focuses on people who realize they are no longer satisfied in their chosen careers:

When the question “Who am I?” reasserts itself long after we thought we’d figured it all out, it is usually motivated, at least in part, by some form of what academics call “disconfirmation” – a tangible sense that our earlier ways of understanding ourselves and the world have failed us or that fundamental assumptions about who we are are no longer as sturdy or satisfying (p. 35).

Ibarra argues that rather than spending a lot of time on introspection, assessments, theories and plans, we should begin a series of small experiments designed to test out the variety of directions we’re interested in, “Adults are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting” (p.2).

While we often want to have a clear path laid out for us before we begin the process of change, Ibarra concludes that, “Transformation, then, happens less by grand design or careful strategy than by the small wins that results from ongoing practices that enhance our capacity to change” (p. 87) and goes on to warn us that, “When we craft experiments, we increase the likelihood that things will never be the same again” (p. 106).

This advice resonated with me as I think we often get stuck in the thinking/planning process and forget to ever actually move forward towards our distant goals. The series of small experiments is exactly what I suggest for people who are trying to “find their calling” but have so many interests they’re not really sure which they’re most passionate about. The only way to find out where your calling lies is to start doing things and see what fits best. Connections happen in motion. Her warning is also important though because we sometimes don’t realize that once we’ve started down this road of exploration, we won’t easily settle back into the old patterns, jobs and lives we had before we started looking around. It can get messy.

Taking action and being aware of the likely consequences is essential. At the same time, we definitely need time and space to step back and reflect on our experiences and evaluate what they mean. Ibarra uses a French phrase “reculer pour mieux sauter” which literally means “stepping back to better leap forward” (p. 148). That step back helps us to ground ourselves, look around and make sure we are leaping in the right direction.

Here’s her summary of advice for making career transitions (and I would argue any major life changes!):

  1. Act your way into a new way of thinking and being. You cannot discover yourself by introspection.
  2. Stop trying to find your one true self. Focus your attention on which of your many possible selves you want to test and learn more about.
  3. Allow yourself a transition period in which it is okay to oscillate between holding on and letting go. Better to live the contradictions than to come to a premature resolution.
  4. Resist the temptation to start by making a big decision that will change everything in one fell swoop. Use a strategy of small wins, in which incremental gains lead you to more profound changes in the basic assumptions that define your work and life. Accept the crooked path.
  5. Identify projects that can help you get a feel for a new line of work or style of working. Try to do these as extracurricular activities or parallel paths so that you can experiment seriously without making a commitment.
  6. Don’t just focus on the work. Find people who are what you want to be and who can provide support for the transition. But don’t expect to find them in your same old social circles.
  7. Don’t wait for a cataclysmic moment when the truth is revealed. Use everyday occurrences to find meaning in the changes you are going through. Practice telling and retelling your story. Over time, it will clarify.
  8. Step back. But not for too long.
  9. Change happens in bursts and starts. There are time when you are open to big change and times when you are not. Seize opportunities.

These points sound simple and succinct but Ibarra notes that most major career transitions take between three to five years and the process is circuitous. She reminds us not to get too frustrated with the messiness of life in progress.

Have you struggled through a career transition experience or any time in your life that felt like you were living in limbo between who you were and who you were becoming? I’d love to hear your story. Did you use any of these strategies or wish you had?



What is the Birkman Method?

Maybe you popped over to the website when I first mentioned I was becoming a Certified Birkman Consultant but maybe you didn’t. I wanted to just give you a brief overview of the Birkman Method today because it will probably take me awhile to get my website updated to include all the services I am so excited to offer.

Birkman MethodWhat is the Birkman Method?

The Birkman Method is a behavioral assessment (not a personality test) that simply shows you what you do. What makes it unique is that this assessment shows you:

  • Your usual behavior (your positive style/your visible strengths)
  • Your motivational needs (which can be quite different than your usual style and may be invisible to others) and
  • Your likely stress behaviors when your needs remain unmet

Personality tests and other assessments tend to stop at the first one: they describe you and that’s it. Maybe they describe a few of your potentially negative stress behaviors as well but they’re missing a key piece of the puzzle: what your actual needs are.

This kind of information is extremely valuable for your own self-awareness, for your personal relationships and for finding your ideal work environment. The Birkman Method can give you neutral language to discuss areas of conflict and differences of style with your spouse, child, manager, colleagues or teammates. Without judgment, the reports give you information about how to get the help you need to operate mostly out of your strengths (usual behavior) and minimize and manage your stress behaviors.

I often find it just as helpful to understand what an assessment does not promise to do.

The Birkman Method WILL NOT:

  • Tell you WHY you behave the way you do
  • Make a clinical diagnosis
  • Measure emotional maturity or mental health

This tool has been around for 60+ years and was developed by a former WWII Bomber pilot named Roger Birkman. He’s 94 years old and apparently was still coming into the office until just a few months ago! The assessment has an 94-96% accuracy level for validity and reliability of the results and the company has ongoing longevity studies that show your results are unlikely to change much over time (barring highly traumatic experiences). That means you really only need to take it once. I took it for the first time at 17 or 18 years old (about the youngest recommended age for taking it) and I still find my results are a very accurate reflection of what I do.

What do I want to do with it?

As you might guess, I love the Birkman Method for its insight into motivational needs, occupational interests and the level of self-awareness it can bring to your relationships and work. I am picturing using this method and the wide variety of reports it delivers with:

  • College students wondering what to do with their lives
  • Engaged or married couples who would like some extra tools for building a great relationship
  • Teams that need or want a boost reaching their potential in working together
  • Managers and employees who want or need to improve communication and working relationships
  • Anyone working through career frustration and transition

I see this tool as providing a safe space for helping people address behavioral differences neutrally and also break down some of the generational, cultural and gender stereotypes we often run up against. In an interview with Dr. Birkman, he summarized his desire for the Birkman Method as a way for people to learn to accept and love themselves, see God’s love and purpose in how he made them, and then celebrate the diversity and potential in everybody else they meet (you can watch that interview on youtube – warning: it made me tear up in a couple spots).

How do you take it?

Contact me! Right now, you can just shoot me an email if you’re interested in taking this (or use the contact button above). We can discuss cost (I’m still figuring out all the pricing options!) and then it’s as easy as sending you a link to a questionnaire and scheduling a feedback session (in person, over the phone or on skype) to review and discuss your reports. The questionnaire takes about 45 minutes if I remember correctly and provides you with a hefty report (seriously, people we’re talking 50+ pages of different report options).

Soon, I will hopefully have a link to the questionnaire right on the website and have an info page with the different options available.

UPDATE 6/11/15: If you’re ready to get your Birkman report, here are your choices!

  • Sale On!
  • Sale On!
  • Sale On!



Mid-March Check in

Just a quick check in for a blog post today – can’t believe March is already half over. It’s been busy as you can maybe tell from the fact that I haven’t blogged in 10 days. Saturday through Tuesday last week, my parents came to visit (or maybe we should say the grandparents came to visit Canon!) and we had a great time all together. I also had fun showing my mom how to make some of the recipes I’ve done recently and help her with her website (she’s starting an organizing business!).

March visitThen, Thursday I got to speak in chapel at Shoreline Christian School (John graduated from there 10 years ago now). I’m planning on doing more of that in the future so it was great to have this opportunity and get my feet wet again in the world of speaking.

I spoke on how your calling and the call to share the gospel are connected. First, I defined calling as “God calling you to himself through Jesus Christ, and then calling you to serve others. Your call to serve others will be unique and play out in a variety of ways throughout your life.” Then I looked at two ways that calling and the call to share the gospel go together. First, I think it’s easier to share your faith when you’re pursuing your calling in all areas of your life and second, that sharing the gospel will happen through your other gifts (not just verbally). I shared the stories of Gutenberg and the printing press and Charlotte Elliott’s hymn-writing (she wrote “Just as I am”). I got some positive feedback from the teachers so I hope the students got something out of it as well.

Next week is going to be busy and probably exhausting so I would love extra prayer as I take my Birkman course. And pray for John and Canon that they’ll do fine together for eight hours a day for three days. Thankfully we’ll be staying with John’s parents so they’ll get some grandparent time as well!

With all these things going on, further organizing projects have been on hold at our house but my mom has promised to help us tackle the garage when she comes back for Canon’s first birthday next month. I have also tried a few more recipes but I’ll just share this one since we loved it:

Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs

Besides all that I have been trying to get through some library books before they’re due again. Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness by Kathryn Green-McCreight

Families Where Grace is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame by Jeff VanVonderen

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health by Gary Taubes

I’m not going to get through the last one before it’s due but what I’ve read has been fascinating. I recommend all three books.

What are you up in March? What are you reading? 

What I’m doing in March: Starting a Business!

Life somehow got pretty busy this last week. I was planning on finishing up my “What’s Wrong with Work Today?” series yesterday but it looks like that might still be a couple days. Instead, I wanted to make a little announcement. It’s probably not technically accurate to say I’m actually starting a business this month, but I will be preparing to start one!

This time of year is always exciting for me. About three years post-college, I started noticing a creativity pattern in my year. January would roll around and I would start thinking. February would show up and I would feel antsy, throwing around ideas, wondering about new projects. By March or April, the ideas would solidify and bam! I would go into full project mode for a month or so. One year, I wrote a screenplay, initiated planning a women’s retreat, and developed a six-week small group curriculum. Another year, I wrote the whole first draft to my book. Last year was a bit different and the big project was having Canon at the end of April.

Business So this year, the January idea itch hit me again and I had a lot of options floating around. But the one that got me most excited was the possibility of becoming a Certified Birkman Consultant. Mid-February, after lots of discussion, we took the plunge and signed me up for the certification course that happens in just two weeks!

I first learned about The Birkman Method when my parents both took the assessment and suggested my sister and I also take it. I think we had just graduated from high school. Not only was it helpful for our relationship dynamics, but also for thinking about our college direction and career goals.

In college I interned at Campus Crusade (now Power to Change) in Canada where all staff members are required to take it. John and I were able to have an hour of pre-marital counseling with a Consultant who ran a Peer-to-Peer “Differences to Watch” report. The marketing team I worked with spent a whole day doing team development based on our Birkman reports.

I’ll wax eloquent on more of the details later on, but I’ve found it to be one of the best personality “tests” I’ve ever taken and I’m excited to be able to use it alongside much of the research I’ve been doing in the last few years about following our callings in life.

Consulting, speaking, workshops, seminars, team development, one-on-one mentoring – the possibilities are endless and I have to admit, I’m as terrified as I am excited. Investing in this certification means I have to actually do something with it once I’m done the course. It will mean redoing my website to include my services, booking clients and learning how to be a work-at-home mom. It appears that this year my project won’t just be a hobby or a personal project . . . it will finally be a business. This seems appropriate as I feel like I’m always trying to help other people start their own businesses.

businessAnd it’s not just my business. John and I both have realized in the last few weeks that we need to working together more effectively on Crozier Photography as well. Canon is almost one years old and it’s time for me to be more involved again. I miss going on shoots with him and, you’d never guess it, but I tend to be the better sales person in our wedding consultations. You can pray for us as we experiment with organizing our days and splitting up tasks and responsibilities between parenting and business and housework. It’s going to be fun!

What are you doing this month or this year? Got any big plans or exciting ideas?



What’s Wrong with Work Today: Management Part 3

Ok – here are some final thoughts to wrap up the Management discussion in this series (see Part 1 and Part 2 here).

On Monday, I talked about the separation of thinking and doing. In the comments, Anna wrote:

“On another note, when you talk about crafts or trades or whatever, I immediately think of plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, those kinds of trades. These are all kind of “blue collar” jobs, nothing that I’ve ever been encouraged to aspire to. But maybe that is also a loss in our way of thinking about work – we don’t value people who work with their hands. We seem to have this cultural preference toward staying clean and working with our minds.”

She highlights one of the big problems with our management culture today:

We have been taught to look down on blue collar “labor” and venerate using our minds – as if thinking and doing can be separated. We have made assumptions about intelligence and trades that are false. Anyone who works as a plumber, carpenter, dryer vent cleaner or dry wall installer can tell you about the difficult thinking required to diagnose, assess, prepare, install, correct and fix tangible things. Thinking and doing cannot be separated as much as we have tried. Even in the corporate world, where we’re supposedly all doing “thinking” jobs, much of the time you’re not supposed to think for yourself. Call any customer service center with a concern and if it’s not in the script, you’ll likely be told to either talk to a manager or that the representative can’t help you because of policies handed down by management.

This creates a hierarchy that pre-disposes managers to think poorly of their employees. (Again, for the record, I have had some excellent managers and believe it’s possible to be a good manager.) But let’s face it, it’s easy to think less of people when we’re in charge. Power tends to corrupt us. Trying to prove, maintain or enforce authority can involve belittling others, withholding necessary information or not providing resources, especially if we’re insecure or hungry for more control.

Much of our management theories of the past were based on the premise that people, “fundamentally disliked work and would avoid it if they could. These faceless minions feared taking responsibility, craved security, and badly needed direction” (Daniel Pink, Drive, p. 76). But is that really our fundamental nature? Pink thinks not, “Have you ever seen a six-month-old or a one-year-old who’s not curious and self-directed?” He argues that if we are passive workers later in life,

“Perhaps management isn’t responding to our supposedly natural state of passive inertia. Perhaps management is one of the forces that’s switching our default setting and producing that state” (89).

As much as we would like to think we’ve moved on from these premises by trying to “empower” employees, I think too often these assumptions are still part of the management mindset. While we often say we hire people for their skills, we then don’t act like they really have them or won’t use them properly. We micro-manage processes and procedures. We don’t give employees credit for being able to figure out how to do things on their own. We think everything is up to us and everyone should follow our plan exactly (I know I have these tendencies without ever having been a manager of people – how many of us try to manage our spouses?). Joanne Cuilla writes in The Working Life:

The other insight about work that management theorists keep discovering is that if you give people information and a say in how to improve their work, they can produce impressive results. The fact that managers are constantly amazed by this tells us something about the respect they have had for employees (p. 141).

When corporations start trying to reconnect thinking and doing by allowing front-lines people to make decisions usually reserved for managers, business suddenly booms, customer satisfaction goes up, loyalty increases and employee retention levels are more easily maintainted. Consider Zappos’ legendary customer service and what it does for their company.

Overall, I think a strict management culture makes it difficult for people to work effectively. It’s hard for managers to shake ingrained assumptions about those they manage, and it’s hard for employees to develop the internal motivation and self-direction when no one makes room for growth in these areas. The unfortunate reality is that people in power often abuse their power and end up hurting those who report to them. You don’t have to go far to hear a bad manager story which I think is really sad.

Thoughts? Stories? Counterpoints? What have I missed in this discussion? Please share!


What’s Wrong with Work Today: Management Part 2

I started talking about Management on Friday. More specifically, I said that the concept of management is at odds with freedom – a core human value. It sounds a bit over the top to consider employment under managers as a fundamental loss of freedom, especially if you like your job – then it’s a sacrifice you willingly make and you receive benefits in return. But I find it interesting to consider because I think it helps us pinpoint an underlying cause of so much of our frustration in the workplace today.

Joanne Cuilla writes in The Working Life that,

“Employees throughout the ages have struggled to maintain their personal autonomy and dignity at work. The principle of freedom is at the heart of this relationship and is fundamental to how we think about work – freedom to work, freedom at work, and freedom from work . . . Adam Smith said workers receive compensation for their loss of freedom at work, not for the product they make. Here loss of freedom means a restriction of their liberty to do or say or not to do and say certain things during the time they are working” (75,85).

She goes on to explain that back in the early 1800s, employment in America was viewed as a temporary necessity. The goal was to become self-sufficient through your own trade or craft. Essentially everyone planned on being entrepreneurs, one-man shops and small business owners. All of that changed with the Industrial Revolution.

Depending on what results you look at, Frederick Winslow Taylor, the Father of Scientific Management, is either a hero or a villain in this story. His legacy still positively and negatively influences work today (which is really a nice way of saying that while I’m glad for the technological advancements that have been achieved since then, he basically wrecked how we do work in the process).

Before the Industrial Revolution work was done by craftsmen. Owners and managers didn’t dictate how the work was done – the craftsman had control over how they did their work. Taylor noticed that some workers did tasks more slowly than others or weren’t truly skilled for the work they were doing. Some workers didn’t work to their full capacity. Skilled professionals each had their own methods. It was all very customized and inefficient – something Taylor couldn’t stand.

“As Taylor saw it, the balance of power was tipped towards workers because they knew more than the foreman. The key to gaining control over workers and the pace of production was to design work so that almost any person could do any job with maximum efficiency” (Cuilla, 93).

He wanted to reduce specialized skills down to a system in order to increase efficiency and profits. In effect, this ruined work. By breaking down complex processes into small actions that anyone could do, Taylor separated thinking and doing. Thinking was now going to be done by managers so that the employees would only have to focus on doing (Matthew Crawford’s book Shop Class as Soulcraft does an excellent analysis of this). It was all going to be much more efficient. And cost-effective. If people were no longer required to think, pay could be substantially reduced because the skill level required was so much lower.

It didn’t go over too well at first. Ford implemented the same principles that Taylor developed in his ground-breaking assembly lines and people initially revolted. Craftsmen walked off the job horrified and insulted (Crawford, 39). They didn’t believe it was possible to do quality work this way. Ford had to temporarily double his wages to get anyone to work the lines.

“Between October 1912 and October 1913 the Ford Motor Company, with its famous production line, hired a whopping fifty-four thousand men to maintain an average workforce of thirteen thousand employees” (Cuilla, 96).

And there was another consequence: Turns out when you stop asking people to think, you also ask them to stop taking personal responsibility for their work. Soon after the assembly lines were introduced managers began to complain about the “poor and lawless material” they had to hire instead of the “efficient, self-respecting craftsman” they had once had (Crawford, 101). Hard workers got harder to come by as work became less holistic and internally motivating. Careful supervision by managers became more and more necessary.

This is where the chicken-and-the-egg dilemma comes in. Were those people really inherently “poor and lawless” workers that had to be closely watched? Or was the close supervision and uninteresting work actually a contributing factor?

If we’re honest, I think most of us have some kind of basic unwillingness towards being managed (whether that’s at work or at home or wherever). While you could argue that we’re just rebellious creatures by nature, I think it indicates that we were built for freedom. We have an inherent understanding that simply being told what to do by a manager is not how we were made to live our lives. We are drawn to the idea of self-directed craftsman and professionals exactly because they have freedom to do work in their own way and they make self-disciplined use of their freedom in creating work of the highest calibre.

The problem is that while we romanticize the idea of working for ourselves, many of us don’t have hard skills, a specific craft or specialized profession that could make us a living. We’re sometimes not even sure where our interests lie. And even if we were, we often don’t have the focus and drive developed to pursue these interests as a career. We don’t know how to become self-directed and tap into internal motivation. We aren’t good at self-discipline because it’s so rarely been required. So managers remain necessary.

The question is: if we gave up the concept of management today would we fall apart or would we start digging out the craftsman mentality that I think is locked somewhere instead each of us?

What’s Wrong with Work Today: Management

So, it’s been awhile since I started this series. If you want to refresh your memory, here’s Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Today, I want to talk about Management. Ah ha! We’re finally getting to the real issues, you think. Time for us to rant about our ridiculous bosses. Not so fast.

Let’s be clear, I don’t think managers are naturally evil – I’ve had some excellent managers. But, when I say that management is part of what’s wrong with work today, I mean that managers shoudn’t exist. We shouldn’t have them. They shouldn’t be necessary.

What?! You think. I know – there are so many “buts” that come to mind immediately. For example:

  • But people need direction
  • But people need accountability

Ok, so let’s think about this a little. Yes, people work best with direction and accountability, but it’s how this direction and accountability is provided that I think should change. I’m all for leaders, partners, mentors and colleagues providing direction and checking in on deadlines. And I’m all for project managers because I think projects do need to be managed. But I don’t think managers of people should be necessary. And if you’re thinking I’m just getting picky about word choice, you’re absolutely right.

David Whyte writes in Crossing the Unknown Sea:

It is strange to think that the whole spirit of management is derived from the image of getting on the back of a beast, digging your knees in, and heading it in a certain direction. The word manager conjures images of domination, command, and ultimate control, and the taming of a potentially wild energy. It also implies a basic unwillingness on the part of the people to be managed, a force to be corralled and reined in. All appropriate things if you wish to ride a horse, but most people don’t respond very passionately or very creatively to being ridden, and the words giddy up there only go so far in creating the kind of responsive participation we now look for.

See what I mean? Words matter. It matters if you feel managed or if you feel enabled.

The idea of management is at odds with freedom. And every human was built with a desire for freedom. Freedom is a core issue in employment and management so I want to dive into that one on the next post.

Meanwhile, tell me what you think. If we throw out the idea of management are we in for disaster and mayhem? Are we being too idealistic and naive in our view of human nature to think we might not need managers?