Books I Read: Gung Ho!

Gung Ho
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As part of my series on developing your leadership skills, I am sharing my thoughts on the book – Gung Ho!: Turn on the People in Any Organization by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. It is a book I read earlier in my career and found it helpful then and still relevant after all these years.

Gung Ho! is a book that you can easily read in an evening or two. It is written as a parable intended to help you tap into what motivates employees or team members. This book is easy to read and filled with common sense appropriate for anyone leading a small team, department, division, or a company. The approaches in this book are good for leading a team that has low morale. You should be able to learn new ideas to tap into the strengths of your team. Or you might refresh your memory on these approaches providing inspiration to tap into them again.

We are introduced to a plant that is in major trouble. Productivity and morale is low and most likely will close in about a year’s time. A new General Manager is appointed and she teams up with an Operations Manager who turned his department around with an approach called “Gung Ho”. The goal was to spread this concept throughout the plant over the next year in order to save it from closing. Gung Ho is based upon three principles to boost enthusiasm and performance in a work group or organization. The three principles include: the Spirit of the Squirrel; the Way of the Beaver; and the Gift of the Goose.

The Spirit of the Squirrel represents teamwork. If you ever watched a group of squirrels before winter they work hard as a team. They have a goal to gather and store food; otherwise they will not survive the winter. Translate to: worthwhile work leading to shared goals.

The Way of the Beaver represents controlling your own destiny and deciding how work is to be completed. If you watch a group of beavers you will notice there is not a leader. They work hard to get the job done; however how are they accomplishing their goal without a leader? Translate to: in control of achieving the goals.

The Gift of the Goose represents encouragement. Geese travel in a V format with a goose leading them. Periodically a different goose will lead. While they are flying the geese will honk to encourage one another. Translate to: cheering others on.

Overall this translates to: power of meaningful work; empowering team members; and the exponential factor of motivation. Taking these three simple concepts can help you take a team to higher productivity while providing meaningful work and empowering them to make decisions. Even though these concepts are simple in nature, they can be difficult to implement. Start with providing meaningful work to your team and be sure they have a shared goal. Perhaps they do not understand the meaning or purpose behind their work. How can you bridge that gap? Once they have a shared goal, how can they take more control on deciding the best way to approach their assignments? They are closer to the work being performed and most likely have great ideas on how to complete the tasks. Do not confuse mentoring and coaching your team with dictating how to complete the job. Lastly, encourage your team. Provide positive feedback on their accomplishments. It can be easy to fall into the trap of only providing feedback when something goes wrong. Celebrate the team’s success when they meet milestones or major deliverables.

You can purchase this book on Amazon.

How can you take these three simple concepts to start changing your leadership style? For me, it is a good refresher to review these concepts. I will challenge myself to see where I can make changes in each of these areas.

Now it is your turn! What are your experiences, thoughts, or observations?

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