As we dive into Peter Block and Peter Koestenbaum’s teachings I want to add the following disclaimer. A common theme was ‘anxiety’ and we must be mindful that anxiety disorders are considered a disability and a few ableist words we’re used in the book that we do not condone.
We welcome open and transparent dialogue throughout the Book Club and ask that even in moments of disagreement we are respectful of each other. I also have a list of elements of the teachings I didn’t agree with too.
Look forward to diving through the Intro, Chapter 1 & 2 today and digesting your key takeaways.
Here are some of my thoughts on the 1st few chapters—I had moments of pure frustration @rosiesherry
Areas that made my eyebrows raise to 90 degrees:
Intro (page 43): “Employees do not have to motivated”—“Human motivation is an individual decision, not an environmental consequence”. I agree that individuals have to motivate themselves—we are adults after all. We could swap ‘motivated’ with ‘reassured’ or ‘clear communication’ which is what I think many orgs lack. Having leaders that keep others in the dark. Thinking back to recruitment processes, often the deciding factor is if someone has the right ‘culture fit’—many employees mirror the foundation of the environments they are placed in. If you have a leader that doesn’t inspire, stimulate or activate passion in their team—why would anyone want to work with them (people are not robots)?
Chapter 1 (page 44): “But their employees still have a choice about how to deal with them. They have a choice to leave, to join together to demand change, to ignore management and get on with the work, or unionize and structurally institutionalize their power” Ofc there are countries where these shifts are happening and I’m happy to see that. But this isn’t super straightforward. Using the UK for example where employees have unionised and Bills have been drafted by the government to put a stop to this. Then Twitter is another example of when layoffs began and a lot of folks who remained were on visas working in unethical settings—who couldn’t just quit. We have to be wary of privilege and systematic oppression when discussing this part.
Chapter 2 (page 62): “if we could learn to live with anxiety and see it as a positive key to our own well-being” and not something erasable or caused by others, we could then drop our defensive routines. Drop the narrative that does not work that well anyway. We could begin to trust ourselves more and trust each other. We would be less fearful of people in power, for we would realise that the grief we thought they brought us was in reality unavoidably self-inflicted”. This part felt very out of touch with reality and a bit on the gaslighting end. But earlier on they acknowledge that managers can abuse their power so my eyebrows rested a bit (page 44 “this is not to deny that there are some managers whom no-one wants to work for, who abuse their power and should not be managers’.
Prologue (page xx): a quote I really liked was “I was like a male Sleeping Beauty, waiting to be kissed by the prince of self-awareness”. At the beginning, Peter Block mentions that meeting Peter Koestenbaum helped him realise that having anxiety was a normal human thing.
Intro (page 14): ‘Parenting is the origin story of management and leadership’. I liked the way they broke this down and dived into the ‘management and culture = subjects vs employees = objects”. And how we could challenge this dynamic by treating employees as real partners. Removing that babying/micro-managing approach to management/leadership.
Intro (page 27): Personal reflection for leadership = mindset restraints >>> “There is a cost to an organisation committed to the freedom of its members = anxiety and unpredictability that this carries. Managers would have to confront: their own need for control + lack of faith in the possibilities of the people they work with + ourselves”. Block body declares that we are “we are each afraid of our freedom = fear the freedom of those around us”. It made me think of those that uphold very outdated work traditions vs those that want to disrupt the status quo. The discomfort is in the necessary change but not everyone is ready to let go of ‘we’ve always done it this way’ to welcome those shifts.
Chapter 1 (page 32): ’Learning circles’ + ‘communities of practices’—“engaging employees in constructing their own learning”. I agree with the idea of putting learning back in the control of employees with the necessary framework setup by the org (as suggested in this section). I’ve seen many companies include a learning package in their job descriptions. I don’t 100% agree with the hands-off approach from management that is being conveyed—especially when there is already so much disconnect that exists in orgs already between leadership and other employees. A keen interest in the growth of the team needs to still be prioritised by leaders.
Chapter 1 (page 48): “rewards don’t become a bargaining chip”—in relation to performance reviews (I never thought of it like that and I had such a light bulb moment).
Chapter 1 (page 49): “its people” = “colonial instinct” = orgs do not own people! >>> “seek new thinking about the human dimensions of the workplace”.
Chapter 1 (page 54): “Reject belief of a special ruling class…Leadership in an environment of freedom and accountability stands for each person being a manager, and a leader, all responsible for well–being of the larger world. This is not an argument against structure; it is about the distribution of power”—I think this would be a great shift for actually ‘eliminat[ing] oppressive controls’. Goes back to their point of employees being treated like real partners (plus the equitable element that should come with that).
I believe most humans are micro-managed, unnecessarily, and yes, like you say we don’t need motivation. We become motivated when we have respect, support, understanding, clear communication…like you say Chauntelle.
Chapter 1 (page 44): “But their employees still have a choice about how to deal with them. They have a choice to leave, to join together to demand change, to ignore management and get on with the work, or unionize and structurally institutionalize their power”
And to include this point, we have choices, but there are consequences of those choices. The amount of effort it takes to stand up, challenge, change or move on is often huge. This is a huge contributor why most people don’t have freedom, so many things working against their daily lives. And it’s so much harder for the underprivileged.
I often want to do or say stuff (lol) but I often bite my tongue, the perceived and expected consequences are often too much burden.
“if we could learn to live with anxiety and see it as a positive key to our own well-being”
I wonder if there is anxiety and Anxiety (small ‘a’ and big ‘A’) to differentiate here? I consider myself generally anxious, I have a son who has disabling levels of anxiety too, just sticking that there for context and appreciation of how I’ve experienced it in my direct life.
I so Anxiety is a real thing that shouldn’t be dismissed, but also as I was considering that anxiety should be part of the journey, it gave me more understanding. The narrative in the indie/tech world is often how being “free” (starting your own business, making your own way) is amazing, full of happiness, etc/blah/blah. But actually we should talk and prepare more about the anxiety as part of the journey. It happens, we can’t and shouldn’t hide away from it. The more we see anxiety as part of the journey. Then the more accepting we can be of it and then hopefully the more we can share our real experiences. I’m so sick of people painting a wonderful picture, and ignoring privileges or all the challenges they actually went through.