Book Review: SQUAWK!

Bruce, one of The Wisdom Journal’s readers, contacted me about this delightful book. As it turns out, his neighbor is the author, Dr. Travis Bradberry. Dr. Bradberry was kind enough to send me an advance reading copy and I am very grateful to him and Bruce for their generosity and kindness!

SquawkSquawk is laid out as a parable, a narrative story of sorts and it is a very engaging read. I really enjoy reading and writing narratives because they’re not as “preachy” and the well written ones cause you to turn the page to “see what happens next.” I wrote Bad Debt Leads to a Bad Job and a Rough Life back in June and it was one of my more popular articles. I think people enjoy reading about principles more when an author weaves them into a story about ordinary people like themselves.

Squawk!: How to Stop Making Noise and Start Getting Results builds on this idea by showing how Charlie, a seagull manager, incorporates three simple and easy to implement steps to becoming a more effective manager of his flock. The author defines a typical “seagull manager” as one who swoops in, fails to get complete details of what is happening, squawks up a storm, deposits/dumps on the workers and leaves a mess for others to clean up, thinking he has saved the day. Does this sound like a manager you know? Does it sometimes sound like you?

Dr. Bradberry says that a seagull manager is one who doesn’t really understand the day to day frustrations and challenges that employees face and thinks they should just “suck it up and move on.” It isn’t always that easy and employees, like the other seagulls in the story, have the power to make or break the boss. The sooner a manager learns to see things through an employee’s eyes, the sooner he or she will be able to connect to those employees. A well connected team can accomplish so much more than a fragmented one.

Bradberry quotes some statistics that should wake up most managers:

  • Thirty-two percent of employees spend at lest 20 hours per month complaining about their bosses and probably a lot of those 20 hours are on company time. I would wager that 20 is a low number.
  • More than 66% of employees are actively considering leaving their current job.
  • Employers realize over $360 billion in annual losses due to employee dissatisfaction.

And this point was a real eye opener for me:

Most managers believe their focus should be in bringing in the numbers … but most get fired because of poor people skills.

The seagull manager is showing up more and more in today’s workplace because of a overly intense focus on numbers as the sole reason for business and a disregard for developing “soft skills.” But soft skills will produce long term numbers on their own. Look at companies that recognize their employee’s needs and then looks at those company’s long term performance.

Bradberry gives three simple but effective techniques that seagull managers can use to turn things around. And they are simple, but they are adaptable to many different offices and many different industries. Can one person write one book that gives highly detailed implementation information for a mortgage office, a physicians office, a stock brokerage office, an oil rig job site, a construction site for a hi-rise hotel, a small florist shop, and a web development firm? No, not really, but there are principles that transcend the individual idiosyncrasies of each industry, and writing a book on those principles allows its readers to use their own creativity to solve their problems. Bradberry, through this book, is teaching people to fish…

1. Set full fledged expectations – make sure your employee’s efforts are concentrated and focused on doing the right things the right way. Lay out your expectations and give them information on how you’ll measure their efforts. They have to know what success looks like. Ask for their commitment to work toward the goals you set for them..

2. Communication that clicks – all too often managers fail to communicate enough except when things go wrong. Then it seems like the communication never stops. He says to watch what employees say and do and then take the time to speak with them about their work. Communication clicks when it is frequent and in a simple enough language that everyone understands. This is no place for those corporate buzzwords.

3. Paws on Performance – pay attention to each employee’s performance and praise them often as a method to give constructive feedback. People respond to positive reinforcement and they will work hard to receive it. Keep your finger on the pulse of your group’s performance.

I read this book in a few hours, mostly because it was a narrative with an engaging story and I didn’t want to put it down. I saw myself in a lot of Charlie’s actions and I saw other managers as well. I have some things I need to work on. I believe the lessons in this book, if implemented, could have a lasting impact on how I perform as a manager. Simple, engaging and straightforward, anyone can understand and implement the principles found on its pages.

Buy or Dont Buy?

I would say YES, buy it, read it, lend it out, and ask for input … perhaps saying, “I read this book and saw some things in it that I need to work on and thought that maybe you could help me get there if you read it too.”

You can find out more about the work that Dr. Bradberry conducts as the president of TalentSmart, a global consulting business that studies the quest for excellence by companies and individuals. He has worked with over 75 percent of the Fortune 500 and has been covered by many major media outlets. Again, thank you to Bruce and to Dr. Bradberry!

[tags]book, books, boss, business, commitment, commitments, communication, company, employee, employer, goal, goals, job, jobs, lessons, life, manage, management, manager, managing, simple, success, work, book review, book reviews[/tags]

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