I recently read the book “Winning Well” by Karin Hurt and David Dye. The authors are leadership consultants, after having careers in business and at not-for-profits and government. I think this book could be summed up by a theme of “win-win” for your career and your teams. Usually, win-win is a concept used in negotiations, but I think it fits here because the authors argue that the concepts that lead to winning well aren’t concepts that have tradeoffs, or need to balance against each other. Rather, they argue that by following some key principles, you can win at business, win in your career and win with relationships.
I like that notion, it prescribes that there is a certain way to treat each other that will make us all better. I think the other aspect of “Winning Well” that I liked is that the authors provide very practical tools to implement the strategies they outline in each phase of the book.
The book covers the concept of winning well by defining four manager types. It’s four quadrants, with the axes being results and relationships. Winning well managers focus equally on both, and use each to enhance the other. The pleaser manager may feel good to work with, but without results the business doesn’t move forward; plus they are likely to not deal with their poor performers, causing their best people to leave. User managers get results at any cost, usually with a focus on short-term results. So the business suffers from a deficit of long-term strategy, and the team will get burnt out. Finally, the gamer manager fails on both ends, usually because they are only focused on their own career survival and advancement. They are manipulative and play politics.
The last piece of the opening section is on measurement, and using key metrics to drive results and keep the team focused, but not drown them in endless data and reports. We saw this concept in spades in the book “MOVE” by Patty Azzarello, and the authors do a good job of providing their own reasons and tactics for implementing key measurements. The key learning for me: Focus on the behaviors you are trying to drive, then measure how the team is doing on those and those alone.
The second section of the book covers specific tactics for the manager, like leading good meetings, getting the team to support decisions, better delegation and accountability, and terminating someone with grace and dignity. The keys for good meetings? There is a purpose, ideally a decision to be made, rather than an information dump; and the meeting flow is maintained with quick-paced comments from each attendee; building commitments into the end of the meeting, so something actually happens with the results of the meeting (like what needs to be done, by who, by when, and how will we know it’s done?).
The third section covers ways to build the team, covering areas like creating confidence, getting feedback from the team, and building credibility and influence with the team.
Asking for and receiving feedback has been a topic among my team, after we received some upward feedback that generally showed we weren’t asking for feedback often enough. So we are working on a short “training” course to help us get better at feedback. The authors define six keys to success – ask for truth regularly, say thank you, respond/acknowledge the feedback, don’t shoot the messenger, find truth tellers, and self-reflect. They then give a method for specific feedback sessions (both giving and receiving) – things like visualizing how you will react to the feedback (maintain posture, eye contact, open gestures, etc.), organizing your thoughts, asking questions, and others.
There was also an interesting discussion on how to build confidence in the team, linking results with relationships. The authors suggest a “burst” – spend an entire day on one key skill – host trainings, make it high-energy, and have everyone work on one thing. Given the intensity, the idea is that the team will see immediate results, and it can create momentum for results going forward.
The final section covers potential pitfalls, like if your boss doesn’t want to win well, or if you lose or lack motivation.
I thought the book was a good read, again largely because it was practical with specific action plans at the end of each chapter and lots of stories used to emphasize the points in the book.