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Top quotes from Marcus Buckingham’s new book "Nine Lies About Work"

First Break All The Rules author shares lies about work in new book

Marcus Buckinghamlandscape image
In Nine Lies About Work, co-authors Marcus Buckingham (Play To Your Strengths, First Break All The Rules) and Cisco executive Ashley Goodall tell how ideas and practices held as truths at work often frustrate the people they’re meant to serve.

Here, the best quotes from Nine Lies About Work.

Lie # 1 People care which company they work for

“When people ask you what it’s “really like” to work at your company, you immediately know you’re not going to tell them about the solar panels and the cafeteria, but what it’s really like.”

“Beyond explaining the now, culture has become our handle on the next.”

“If you’re at Goldman Sachs, then never mind the surfing – you’d rather be winning. You wear your bespoke suit every day because you’re a winner.”

“While people might care which company they join, they don’t care which company they work for. The truth is that, once there, people care which team they’re on.”

“When you’re next looking to join a company, don’t bother asking if it has a great culture – no-one can tell you that in any real way. Instead, ask what it does to build great teams.”

Lie # 2 The best plan wins

“It’s not true that the best plan wins. It is true that the best intelligence wins.”

“While team leaders who check in once a week see, on average, a 13% increase in team engagement, those who check in only once a month see a 5% decrease in engagement.”

“Trust can never emerge from secrecy. Frequency creates safety.”

Lie #3 The best companies cascade goals

 “This pressure to achieve company-imposed goals is coercion, and coercion is a cousin to fear.”

“Sales goals are for performance prediction, not performance creation.”

 “Work makes you feel trusted; goals make you feel distrusted.”

“It doesn’t have to be SMART, or big, hairy, and audacious. If a goal is going to be useful, if it is going to help you contribute more, then the only criterion is that you must set it for yourself voluntarily.”

 “The best companies don’t cascade goals; the best companies cascade meaning.”

“Our people don’t need to be told what to do; they want to be told why.”

“Don’t tell them what you value, show them. What do you actually want them to see and to bump into at work?”

“Stories make sense of the world; they are meaning, made human.”

Lie #4 The best people are well-rounded

“As humans we are wired to find joy in seeing someone else’s talents in action.”

“A strength, properly defined, is not ‘something you are good at’. A strength…is an ‘activity that makes you feel strong’."

“The well-rounded high performer is a creature of theory world.”

“Growth, it turns out, is actually a question not of figuring out how to gain ability where we lack it but of figuring out how to increase impact where we already have ability.”

 “The best people are spiky, and in their lovingly honed spikiness, they find their biggest contribution, their fastest growth, and, ultimately, their greatest joy.”

“While the outcomes of high performance are visible and clear, the ingredients of high performance vary from person to person.”

Lie #5 People need feedback

“You are weird. You don’t seem weird to you because you are with you all the time. But you are weird, to everyone else, and they are weird to you: gloriously, beautifully weird.”

 “Positive attention is 30 times more powerful than negative attention in creating high performance on a team.”

“People don’t need feedback. They need attention, and moreover, attention to what they do the best.”

“A focus on strengths increases performance. Therefore, a focus on strengths is what creates growth.”

“If you want your people to learn more, pay attention to what’s working for them right now, and then build on that.”

“There’s one thing you can start to do immediately: get into the conscious habit of looking for what’s going well for each of your team members.”

“You can fix a machine, you can fix a process, but you can’t fix a person in the same way – people aren’t toasters.”

 “Excellence is not the opposite of failure; we can never create excellent performances by only fixing poor ones.”

“If you see somebody doing something that really works, stopping them and replaying it to them isn’t only a high priority interrupt, it is arguably your highest-priority interrupt.”

Lie # 6 People can reliably rate other people

“Although we are not reliable raters of others, people can reliably rate their own experience.”

“If you’re after good data, be on the lookout for questions that only ask that you rate your own experience, or intended actions.”

“Any tool that pretends to reveal who you are is false.”

Lie # 7 People have potential

“So there is no such thing as having potential. Or rather, there is, but it doesn’t mean anything. Or rather, it doesn’t mean anything beyond being a human.”

“Only certain people have “potential”; everyone has momentum.”

“This notion that some people have lots of potential, while others don’t, leads us to miss the gloriously weird possibilities lying hidden in each and every team member, even the ones who, at first blush, seem to have little to offer the team’s future.”

“Our people tools and processes can never compensate for bad team leaders.”

Lie # 8 Work-life balance matters

“Teams are where we live, and team leaders can make or break that experience for us.”

“We need a new way of thinking. About work. About life.”

“Neither you nor your life is in balance, nor will you ever be.”

“You can, and should, weave love into your work, no matter what role you’re in.”

“You have a unique relationship with the world, a relationship that reveals things that only you can see.”

“Burnout isn’t the absence of balance, but the absence of love.”

Lie # 9 Leadership is a thing

“(Leadership): It’s like saying your cat has catness because he’s a cat: it might be true, but it’s hardly helpful to your hamster if he dreams, someday, of being a cat.”

“If there were more good leaders, we might be just a little less focused on it (leadership).”

“A leader is someone who has followers, plain and simple.”

“We follow a leader because he is deep in something, and he knows what that something is.”

“Leading and following are not abstractions. They are human interaction; human relationships.” 

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