HRM exclusive: Widgets author tells all

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HRM: What compelled you to write Widgets? What do you hope business leaders take away from the book?

RW: I found myself a strategist and advisor in possession of some really cool research on 12 “new rules” that control the relationship between an employee and the organization for which he or she works. As I spoke about the research and the rules, I assembled some killer examples that I felt ought to be shared with a wider audience.

I also felt I needed to update what I’d written in my 2006 bestseller, 12: The Elements of Great Managing. Newspapers get old in a day. Magazines get old in a month. Smartphones get old in a year. And many business books become obsolete in five or 10 years. I’m delighted seeing leadership-related controversies in the news now – such as the slow-motion train wreck of Holacracy at Zappos – to know that I gave readers of Widgets advance notice of how that story will end and its implications for their businesses.

The biggest takeaway for leaders from Widgets is that your people will reciprocate good for good and bad for bad. It means that if you are genuinely invested in the success and happiness of your people, they will deliver exceptional results.

It also means that if you try to spin things or try to “engage” them through a process they will perceive as a management trick, they will either leave or throttle back in ways that you can never police away and that will put your business at risk.

HRM: If you could get business leaders everywhere to change one thing about their management style, what would it be?

RW: More coffee! Sit down with each employee every week to talk, to listen, and to strategize. Everything that makes a person into a real manager flows from those conversations.
Rodd Wagner will be presenting a masterclass on the art of employee engagement at the upcoming HR Leaders Summit. To find out more about the event, hosted at the international centre in Toronto, click here.

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