Stan Slap: Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers
My colleague and friend, Richard Greenberg of the BreakThru Alliance, invited me to an event last fall to meet the provocative author and business strategist, Stan Slap. I unfortunately had to miss that event but I did recently read his new book, Bury My Heart at
Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers and I talked with Stan directly this past week:
Stan’s book was released last August and immediately hit the bestseller lists of the New York Times, Wall St. Journal and USA Today. It has since gone on to be named one of the best books of the year by 800-CEO-READ, Fast Company, Inc., Miami Herald, Executive Soundview…you get the idea.
I’m not surprised because the book has as much personality as the man himself. It is provocative, heartfelt, very funny and extremely practical. More important, it solves what Stan calls, “the last great mystery in business.” Why do companies stop themselves from getting what they want most from their managers? Why do managers stop themselves from getting what they want most from their companies?
What is this book about?
Stan’s book is about creating emotional commitment in managers – what he calls the “Holy Grail” for an organization. He notes that a manager’s emotional commitment is worth more than their financial, intellectual and physical commitment combined. “It may be big, but it’s not easy,” he says. “The key neurobiological source of emotional commitment is the ability to live your deepest values in a relationship or environment. For a manager this means the relationship with their company and the environment at work and that doesn’t happen naturally.”
This isn’t soft stuff; it’s the stuff of hardcore results. “The opposite of emotional is not rational,” he explains. “The opposite of emotional is detached. There isn’t a strategy or performance goal that is weight bearing if it’s built on a foundation of detached managers.”
What are the implications for HR professionals?
For HR to continue as a strategic partner to the CEO, it has to make a significant contribution to the success of strategies and goals. Stan’s approach is a tool to make that happen. One of the biggest liabilities in a management organization is the constant draining of energy. It’s a hard job, with constant demands and stresses. Adding a new strategy or goal on top of it risks diverting the energy needed to do the regular work. Emotional commitment based on living one’s own values will cause that energy to be sustainable and self-reinforced.
This is a problem that affects almost every company. One of the startling research statistics in Bury My Heart at Conference Room B is that 10,000 managers from 70 countries identified Family and Integrity as their two most important personal values. Then Stan asked them to identify the personal values that they were most under pressure to compromise to do their jobs successfully. You guessed it: Family and Integrity. “This is the equation for emotional detachment,” he says.
Stan’s book shows why emotional detachment is a reasonable state for any manager, having nothing to do with their intelligence, maturity or wanting to support their company. When it happens in “bad” companies it’s obvious but he points out that it happens in good companies too and it’s even more dangerous because it’s harder to see.
How do we know this approach works?
Stan is also the CEO of his own international consulting company – called “slap” and his clients such as Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and Viacom see tangible results. For example:
Executive teams report faster execution times on key initiatives
Traditional performance measures for growth such as Gross Sales, Net Income, and EBITDA have increased as a result of slap company intervention
Executives and managers fulfill their personal core values while also showing increased emotional commitment and engagement scores for their respective teams and functions
The slap company specializes in creating maximum commitment in the three groups that decide the success of any business: its manager, employee and customer cultures. Stan has proprietary solutions directed at all three cultures but he says his first book had to be about managers because everything starts with tapping their discretionary effort.
Why did you write this book?
“I wrote this book to allow any company to achieve emotional commitment from its managers,” says Stan. “But I also wrote it to make the business case for a manager’s humanity. We lose that and we’re all in trouble. We save it – manager by manager and company by company–– and we’ve saved ourselves.”