How to “find and mine the gold that resides in everyone”

Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People
Edward M. Hallowell, MD
Harvard Business Press (2011)

How to “find and mine the gold that resides in everyone”

I agree with Edward Hallowell: “Put simply, the best managers bring out the best from their people. This is true of football coaches, orchestra conductors, big-company executives, and small-business owners. They are like alchemists who turn lead into gold. Put more accurately, they find and mine the gold that resides in everyone.”

Of course, that is also a worthy objective for managers: to find and mine the “gold” within themselves as well as within others…and then refine it. There is an additional dimension of engagement that should also be mentioned, suggested by the fact that parents raise future wives and mothers as well as daughters and future husbands and fathers as well as sons: In a role in which they do resemble alchemists, the best managers help those entrusted to their care to become effective managers.

Hallowell suggests a five-step process “to ignite peak performance.” He devotes a separate chapter to each step: (1) Select high potentials and align their strengths with the work for which they are best suited, (2) establish and then continue to strengthen connections with those who are managed as well as between and among them, and meanwhile (3) ensure that the work environment is one that stimulates and nourishes “imaginative engagement” (i.e. play); (4) create conditions in which people are encouraged to “grapple and grow” by taking prudent risks that are exciting learning opportunities, and (5) do anything and everything possible to help me “shine” with pride in what they have achieved, joy in having done it with pleasure, and confidence that that this Cycle of Excellence will be self-perpetuating.

With rigor and eloquence, Hallowell carefully reviews and discusses the latest research on brain science to get the best from one’s self and others; however, he focuses most of his attention on explaining HOW to do that. For example, he suggests 11 “simple, concrete steps…to get the sand out of the gears of the Cycle of Excellence and to promote the feeling of connectedness that lubricates the gears so well” (Pages 105-107), then he offers ten practical suggestions to encourage “the deep and exciting state I call by the deceptively simple term `play.” (Pages 127-132); next, on Pages 152-156, Hallowell identifies ten steps to take to help employees “grapple with the demands of the job and achieve consistent progress”; and my final example, on Pages 172-173, ten steps for promoting shine among associates.

Checklists such as these will help facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of important material later, as will the “Key Ideas” section that Hallowell provides at the conclusion of each chapter. I commend him on this brilliant book, a shining achievement that will, I am certain, help his readers to produce countless others.

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