BURY MY HEART IN CONFERENCE ROOM B by Stan Slap
“BURY MY HEART IN CONFERENCE ROOM B” by Stan Slap
A Book Review by Gary S. Smolker
Stan Slap is a great writer and a very witty guy.
I enjoyed his book very much both for what it is about and for the comments he makes in his book that have nothing to do with what his book is about.
For example, at the end of his book are research notes consisting of quotes. Here are a few.
“God is a comedian performing before an audience that is afraid to laugh.” — Voltaire
“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.” — Muhammad Ali
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We must be our own before we can be another’s.” — Emerson
“I pointed out the stars to you and all you saw was the tip of my finger.” — Anonymous
As an aside, Stan Slap mentions that he and his wife cannot stop buying books.
He says he figured out why: He and his wife had an unsettling childhood and learned early on to read as an escape.
He theorizes that he and his wife are not buying books; they are buying safety and salvation and imagination of what is possible when the story is new.
The arguments and advice in his book are based on the underlying theory that people’s values define their reality and form self-justification for their actions. His book is about values.
Values are deeply held personal beliefs that are your personal standards.
Stan Slap states the purpose of this book is to teach managers how to obtain emotional commitment from the people they manage.
HOW TO OBTAIN EMOTIONAL COMMITMENT FROM OTHER PEOPLE ACCORDING TO STAN SLAP
Stan promotes his book as being a “how to book” for managers. Stan believes his book teaches managers how to obtain emotional commitment from the people they manage.
I believe the same formula for obtaining emotional commitment from employee underlings applies to obtaining emotional commitment from all people, including wives, husbands, friends, customers, strangers, etc.
Stan gives instructions on how to obtain emotional commitment from people you are managing.
Stan sets forth a list of 50 values, and advises managers, and I advise people, to do the following
- read the lists
- determine your own top three values,
- discuss your top three values with the people who work for you (and people whose commitment you desire),
- live your values at work and in your personal life and
- relate everything you do to your values.
Stan makes the point that emotional commitment
- is the biggest thing a human being has to give;
- it is the key to true self fulfillment;
- it’s unconditional, often overruling logic and self-preservation.
People judge you by the sincerity of your actions. People have an internal emotional compass. That is where dependable emotional commitment comes from. It is self-generated.
Living your values (being yourself) allows you to maintain a personal center of gravity and makes you a lightning rod for people who care about the same things that you care about, for people with the right heart.
Stan proceeds from those assumptions to argue that in order to achieve peak performance a business organization must allow it to be the best possible place for managers to practice true fulfillment, to live their values and to realize deep connectivity and purpose.
To obtain emotional commitment each person in a relationship must allow the other person to be true to who they are in their relationship.
Stan states, “The irreducible essence of leadership is that leaders are people who live their deepest personal values without compromise, and they use those values to make life better for others — that is why people become leaders and why people follow leaders. … Leaders begin with an acute awareness of what’s most important to them and a deep desire to remake the world around them so they can more fully experience it. … Leaders are extraordinarily capable of selling their vision – transforming, subverting, and navigating past opposing points of view. The fundamental skill of leadership is the ability to unit others in a common purpose.”
Although a great example of a company that proves Stan’s point exists (Google) Stan does not give any example of a company that proves his point. Also Stan does not make the point that it is important to have a great product or service, that having a great product or service that people relate to will enable them to live out their values.
GOOGLE PROVES STAN’S POINTS
Google employees constantly say they are on a quest to bring information to the masses.
The goal of the founders of Google was to create a company everyone wants to work at.
Google has succeeded in its quest to create a company that everyone wants to work in.
According to “Googled” by Ken Auletta: Google in early 2008 was receiving one million job applications per year, adding 150 employees a week and employing nearly 20,000. More applicants are accepted by Harvard (about 7%) than are hired by Goofle (about 1%). Google resists hiring ordinary people.
One commentator had this to say about Google’s success: Google’s success not only results from the recruitment and retention of higher quality employees, it also has to do with their alignment with community values, with trying to make the world a better place. People unlock a higher fraction of their creative potential when they feel that what they are doing is about more than making a buck, or more than enhancing the business scorecard and building the value of the company. People put out at a higher level when they think what they are doing is something that makes the world a better place.
According to “Googled” by Ken Auletta: Google employees enjoy free meals and luxurious snacks. They eat free food at large cafeteria tables, take breaks in lounges with pool tables and espresso machines. Car washes and oil changes are available on Thursday. Also available are barbers, dry cleaners, day care, dog care, dentists and five physicians to dispense free physicals and medical care. Employees chose their own laptop computers which are given to them for free. Maternity leave consists of five months off at full salary, and new dads can take seven weeks off at full pay. Most employees are allotted a day a week, or 20% of their time, to work on projects they feel passionate about.
One of the founders explained why the founders signed off on an abundance of employee amenities that made their venture capitalists nervous as follows: Generous benefits help recruit and retain employees. Compelling employees to drive for meals and find a parking spot would be a productivity sink and they probably would not eat healthy food, waiting in line to pay would waste more time.
People want to do something they believe in. Google has a higher mission, which is to make the world’s information freely available.
The founders of Google believed if they built Google, people would come. They had no business plan. They had a vision. It was a customer focused point of view: “We deliver the world’s information with one click.”
Stan Slap states: People want and need the humanity, inspiration, purpose, direction, confidence and unity that leadership gives. Google is an example of a company that does that. I recommend that you read about Google in “Googled” by Ken Auletta.
“Bury My Heart in Conference Room B” is about what it takes to be a leader. Stan Slaps quotes Boris Pasternak: “Revolutions are made by fanatical men of action with one-track minds, geniuses in their ability to confine themselves to a limited field.”
Google is a company run by people with clarity of purpose. Their core mantra was echoed again and again in their IPO (Initial Public Offering) letter: we believe that our user focus is the foundation of our success to date. We also believe that this focus is critical for the creation of long-term value. We do not intend to compromise our user focus for short-term economic gain.”
According to Ken Auletta, “The IPO declared, as they had from day one, that Google will ‘not accept money for search results ranking or inclusion’; that no attempt is made to keep users in a walled Google garden but instead to steer them quickly to their destination; that if the ad does not attract user clicks, it will be dropped ‘to a less prominent position on the page, even if the advertiser offers to pay a higher amount.’ And those ads deemed more relevant because they attract more clicks, move to the top, ‘with no need for advertisers to increase their bids.’ Since Google only gets paid when ads are clicked, this ranking system ‘aligns our interests equally with those of our advertisers and users. The more relevant and useful the ad, the better for our users, for our advertisers, and for us.'”
HOW TO HIRE PEOPLE
Stan Slap does not discuss how to hire people in “Bury My Heart in Conference Room B.”
Ken Auletta lightly touches upon the issue of how the founders of Google hire people.
According to Auletter, at an interview of a lawyer applying for a job, one of the founders asked the lawyer to draft a contract in which the founder sold his soul to the devil, and asked the lawyer to present the contract to the founder in thirty minutes or less.
The unmentioned point in Stan Slap’s book and in Ken Auletta’s book is: If you don’t have really energized people who are motivated to deliver you will not achieve success though matter how skilled experienced and educated your people might be.
Stan’s book is an advanced course in emotional intelligence.