Michael Stallard, Carolyn Dewing-Hommes & Jason Pankau,
Fired Up or Burned Out
(Thomas Nelson, 2007)

I would like to tell you about a book called Fired Up or Burned Out, written by three authors named Michael Stallard, Carolyn Dewing-Hommes and Jason Pankau. This is not a complex book, but simple books can sometimes be quite effective at saying something important, and this is one such book.

The underlying idea is very simple: People who get along with their co-workers and feel good about their jobs are not only happier, but are also more productive and more creative. In other words, employees need to feel connected with each other, with their employer and with the community.

Part 1 of the book gives a description of what being connected means and why it is important. They cite many surveys and research studies to back up their view.

How does this atmosphere of connectedness or "fired up" get created? Our three authors say there are three components to this, although I see them as three overlapping ideas. Part 2 describes the three components.

Vision: Idea No. 1 is to create a sense of vision and inspire workers with a sense of identity within the workplace. This means helping every employee understand not only what the company does, but why they do it, why they value quality, what the company's role in the community is and how the company impacts many people beyond the walls of the building. The goal is for all the employees to know what the company stands for, and to feel that being an employee of that company is a positive part of each employee's identity. I came to understand this factor seven years ago, when my job, and the agency where I work, were contracted out from our county to a well-known nonprofit agency with a long history of helping people. When I used to tell people I worked for the county, the response was polite, neutral and unenthusiastic. Now, when I say that I work for Easter Seals, there is a more positive response, as many people know Easter Seals has been helping people for decades.

Value: Idea No. 2 is to help employees feel more valued. The way to make this happen involves some very simple pieces, like using people's names, letting them know when they do something right, sharing our accomplishments and learning about co-workers' lives beyond their jobs. Employees need to feel they are not strangers in their workplace, especially as one's workplace is often where one is for one-third of the time on most days.

Voice: The third idea is a sense of voice or knowledge-flow. Employees should be able to believe that, if they come up with a good idea, someone else might listen to it, might take it seriously, might give it a try and, if it really is a good idea, credit will go where it's due. Employees need to know the bosses do not always need to hear that everyone agrees with them. It should be safe for someone, at the right time, in the right place and in the right way, to say, "I am not sure that would work. What about trying this instead?"

Part 3 of the book talks about leading by example, demonstrating character, modeling openness and working to create an atmosphere where connectedness and creative productivity will flourish.

Part 4 is a list of 20 examples of great leaders who inspired connectedness or instances where connectedness flourished and resulted in great progress. These examples cover different times in history and different aspects of life, from sports to business to science to politics. I did not find them all inspiring, but most were pretty impressive, and the diversity of the examples will insure that most readers will find something that resonates.

Is there anything new and innovative in this book? No, not really. This book is a nice package of inspirational ideas for the workplace, though, and can act as a good refresher of what can make work more meaningful. This book is also a good companion piece to the book called Influencer: The Power to Change Anything.

review by
Chris McCallister

8 March 2008

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