Chief online Joy Officer: How Great Leaders online Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear online

Chief online Joy Officer: How Great Leaders online Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear online

Chief online Joy Officer: How Great Leaders online Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear online
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A 2018 Nautilus Book Award Winner for Business and Leadership!

The founder of Menlo Innovations and author of the business culture cult classic Joy, Inc offers an inspirational guide to leaders seeking joy in the challenge of leading others.


Rich Sheridan''s Joy, Inc. told the story of how his tiny software company in Ann Arbor, Michigan achieved success and renown by embracing offbeat culture and human-centered values. In Chief Joy Officer, he turns his attention from culture to leadership, and draws on his experience running Menlo and consulting elsewhere to offer a wise, provocative guide on how anyone can build leadership capacity for joy within their own organization.

Chief Joy Officer offers sage, hard-won advice to any manager or leader who yearns to make more of an impact on the lives of others, including:

   *  Self-understanding is the cornerstone for every virtue of leadership: authenticity, trust, humility, and optimism.

   *  Good leaders make more leaders: Learn to judge your performance not on whether people are doing what they''re told, but whether they''re developing independent leadership capacity.

   *  Influencing up is just as important is influencing down: how to encourage different thinking in those above you in your organizations.

Filled with colorful anecdotes from Sheridan''s personal journey and wisdom from many leadership mentors, Chief Joy Officer offers an approachable, down-to-earth philosophy and practice that will help even the most disillusioned of middle managers bring a renewed sense of purpose to their work building others.

Review

“If you feel like something is missing from your workplace but can’t quite figure out what, read this book. Richard Sheridan shows just how important a joyful workplace is, and how much it can revolutionize your life, your team, and your organization.” —Kerry Patterson, author of Crucial Conversations and Influencer

“I often say that Menlo is the most agile company on the planet. Want to know why? Their purpose. Their vision. And, most notably, their servant leadership. You need to read this book. Then read it again.” —Linda Rising, coauthor of Fearless Change and More Fearless Change

“Rich Sheridan is the gift that society needs in a world that is becoming more and more artificial and transactional and less human and real. His teachings come not from a place of judgment or ego, but rather from compassion, care, and practice. I found myself inspired to my core and ready to take on the challenge of creating and enabling joyful cultures.” —Dalton Li, Head of Enterprise Lean Practices, MassMutual

“A powerful roadmap on how to lead and inspire a modern workforce. Rich Sheridan is a profound innovator in the field of employee engagement. If you’re looking to build a high-performing team, you must devour Chief Joy Officer immediately.”—Josh Linkner, tech entrepreneur, author, venture capitalist

“This book is about nothing less than restoring the soul of your company. I have read dozens of books on management and leadership. This is the only one that ever brought tears to my eyes. If you have found the top of the mountain to be an isolated,cold, and lonely place, then kindle the fire of joy—start your journey by reading Chief Joy Officer.” —Darren Schumacher, PhD, principal and consultantat Schumacher Consulting Services

“Read this book and you will want to be a Chief Joy Officer. Inspiring lessons from an exceptional leader of a company built on joy.” —Jeffrey Liker, author of The Toyota Way

About the Author

Richard Sheridan is CEO and cofounder of Menlo Innovations, a custom software design and development firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The company has won the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility for eleven straight years. His first book Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love, was published in 2013.  Menlo and Rich have been featured on the cover of Inc., Entrepreneur, Forbes and New York magazines. He frequently speaks at business conferences and to major corporations such as Mercedes-Benz, Nike, and 3M. For more information visit www.menloinnovations.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Joy Is Personal


A man is what he thinks about all day long.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

From my midtwenties to my early forties, I worked at the same place: a company called Interface Systems, on the west side of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The office was near Jackson and Zeeb roads, a twenty-minute commute from our home via I-94.

I started out as a programmer, and before long, I was asked to lead the technical efforts of programming teams. By my thirties I was no longer typing in the code alongside the people I was leading, but rather managing their efforts to create those same products. I was promoted again, then again, granted more authority and more people to manage; rewarded with raises, stock options, and a nice office; and given decision-making power. I had everything the world measures as success.

This time of recognition, promotions, and increasing responsibility should have been the highlight of my career at the time. And yet . . .

As time passed, I also found myself sneaking out of the office earlier and earlier, as close to 5 p.m. as I could without being noticed. During the day, I would turn my monitor away from the door and play FreeCell, forcing mindless lulls in what should have been busy, productive days. The prospect of going to work filled me with a sense of unsettledness and dread. I started abandoning my most efficient drive down I-94 to the office, instead opting for back roads, driving past Interface farther and farther out into the Michigan country landscape before finally doubling back and driving to work.

I was burning out, and it had everything to do with my definition of leadership.

The culture at Interface favored getting products out to market before they were ready and dealing with the inevitable quality problems that resulted, a process we sarcastically referred to as "just smushing it." Everyone (executives, customers, and users) then blamed us for producing inferior products. Through my persistent advocating, I was eventually permitted to allocate 30 percent of my team''s time to simply fixing problems that were coming at us every single day. And 30 percent wasn''t enough. This had a demoralizing effect on everyone in the organization.

I became convinced that we just didn''t have the right people to do the job. Meetings to sort out quality problem "priorities" lasted for hours. We would decide which 10 percent of the problems we had time to address, which would be described in "release notes" (that no customer would EVER read), and which could be recast as "features" in cleverly worded but utterly incomprehensible end-user documentation. Even worse, hiding behind all the bugs was a product that couldn''t actually be used by regular human beings (we enjoyed calling those people stupid users), and it didn''t actually solve real problems for them.

I was frustrated by how little teamwork was at play within my various teams and the utter lack of an effective relationship between the technical team and the marketing and sales side of the house. Everything felt disorganized and chaotic. We tried so many different versions of meetings, forms, and status reporting, but nothing seemed to address the root cause of our poor communication and the disappointing results that followed. Most of my team members were heroically in charge of one piece of a complex technical product line and no one else knew what they knew, so when crunch time came, there was incessant overtime and a fear of vacations being taken by these same heroes at critical moments. Most of my team carried their maximum allowable vacation balances because they couldn''t actually use it. When people did take an inevitable vacation, they were armed with laptops, cell phones, and pagers so they would be available to apply emergency fixes to their code. There was rarely an uninterrupted vacation for our technology heroes. And the pieces that each one of them was working on never easily integrated with the work of their peers. They simply could not agree on an integrated strategy, which led to inevitable fights.

My introverted technical leaders seldom fought with words but rather with code. In one dramatic version of this, one of my programmers created some code that the other didn''t agree with. The other programmer displayed his disagreement by changing the code to the way he thought was right. These rounds of competing edits went on for a couple of months before my boss, the CEO, called me and them into his office and declared: "Guys, you are killing the company . . . agree or else." The "or else" now seems humorous to me, as there was no "or else." If we had fired one or the other or both, we were equally screwed.

I began fantasizing about an escape, leaving Ann Arbor and corporate life to start a canoe camp in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. My wife and my three daughters still chuckle when they hear that idea. They have no idea how serious I was.

One afternoon in October 1997, Bob Nero, the new CEO of Interface Systems, invited me into his office and told me I was being promoted to VP of R&D, a job he had been grooming me for since he arrived on the scene early in 1996. I listened patiently to this amazing offer. It took me about a minute to tell him no. I told him I didn''t want to sign up for the uncapped personal commitment required of a VP of a troubled public company. My daughters were still young (fifteen, thirteen, and ten) and I was afraid I''d wake up ten years later and realize I missed the best part of being a dad. The Eagle Scout in me wanted to help Bob. The provider in me wanted the financial rewards that would pay for college and eventual weddings for three beautiful and intelligent young women. Yet, I was confounded by the demons that I knew would further kill my spirit as my career stepped up a gear and a speed.

Bob was upset with me. His plans to turn the company around depended on me taking this pivotal role. He didn''t have a plan B.

I went home that night and quietly thought it all through. Despite my negative thoughts, my inner optimist had not been subdued. I thought this could be my chance. From this perch, I could lead in a new way, a way that had never been done before. I was stuck in a room full of manure, and I was suddenly thrilled with the idea that there had to be a pony in here somewhere. It was an irrational thought, but my energy suddenly turned 180 degrees.

The next morning I told Bob I would take the job . . . on one condition: that he would support me in building the best damn software team that Ann Arbor had ever seen. Neither one of us ever looked back after that day.

At the earliest stage of this newfound mind-set, I knew there had to be a different approach to leadership. It couldn''t be based on heroes. Perhaps the programmer in me believed that there was just as big of an opportunity for elegance in leadership as there was for elegance in code. Every good programmer will recall the one time they felt so proud of their technical creation, not only for what it did but also for how it was written. I began to believe the essence of true leadership involved way more how than what, and as author Simon Sinek would eventually teach us, why.

An age-old human argument is centered on the morality of "Does the end justify the means?" Humanity has learned and relearned that the "means" matters so much. We have seen countless examples in human history where unethical or unsupportable means always catch up with you, no matter how good or noble the original intended outcome. My life journey suddenly became centered on a bright, new, energizing hypothesis:

There is a means of leadership-as yet undiscovered or at least so uncommon as to seem quixotic-that can systematically produce ends that match our hope and dreams for pride, success, and delight. In short, I began to believe that a pursuit of joy was not only possible but sustainable. Later I would come to learn that joy was the only thing that truly mattered.

 

My Dream for Joy

 

If I wanted to create an environment where others and I could work with pride, I needed to find a new operating model. The one we had-and the one I saw in so many companies around Ann Arbor and around the country-wasn''t working. We needed to replace the traditional model, which was marked by fear and bureaucracy, with one that allowed teams to bring their whole selves to work every day. This better model would support a collegial and productive environment, where innovation and imagination helped foster practical inventions that would serve and inspire customers. That creativity and innovation, in not just product but process, would also power the team''s energy, creating a kind of human perpetual-motion machine. All of this, by the way, would pay off in real terms too, leading to higher revenues, bigger profits, and other markers of business success.

What I was seeking, which would become crystal clear later in my career, was joy at work. No word other than joy fit my engineering ideal-of designing and building something, perhaps many things, that would see the light of day and be enjoyably used and widely adopted by the people for whom it was intended. Yes, that''s what I wanted above all else-joyful outcomes produced by joyful people working in a joyful place.

This is not the same as happiness, mind you. Where happiness is a momentary state of being, joy is deeper and more meaningful-and not as fleeting. You can be joyful without being happy every minute; you can be joyful when the work is difficult and challenging, even when you feel angry at the world, your team, your customers, and yourself.

Building a joyful company was my big dream. And to up the ante even more, I wanted to implement this joyful dream in an industry not exactly known for delighting customers or employees-software design. My industry coined the phrase "death march" in a business context. We were well known for all-night coding sessions and poorly managed and buggy products. What was I thinking, trying to make such radical change in a field like that? Perhaps the canoe camp was a good idea after all.

My journey to a better way of working started out of disillusionment and ended where I am now-as the leader of a very joyful, award-winning software company called Menlo Innovations (still based in Ann Arbor). My partners, colleagues, and I got to this place with a deliberate focus on two intertwined keys: culture and leadership. In other words, we entirely rethought how the team interacted with one another, with customers, with other stakeholders, with their work environment-this is culture. We also rethought how leaders define the company''s purpose and get everyone aligned around common systems and expectations to get real work done, constantly iterating and always improving themselves, their peers and employees, and the whole team. I''d go a step further and add that we also redefined who leaders are-beyond the name on some plaque outside a corner office but rather those people who can truly inspire, motivate, and develop others, regardless of their title or position.

 

End Permission Seeking: No More Fear-based Leadership

 

I went deep into Menlo''s joyful culture in my first book, Joy, Inc. As a result of writing the book, I got to connect with many people who wanted to institute a joyful culture in their work, in all kinds of industries, in companies large and small all around the world. I found that so many of our conversations about culture came back to leadership. People wanted to know how to be the leader who could get others to follow them to a better place. They were curious about what good leadership looked like, how it was sustained over time, and what leadership looked like as an executive, as a manager, or as a really committed employee who might not even have anyone officially reporting to them. These conversations were the impetus for this book.

Joy at work seems like such a simple idea-just make everyone happy, right? No! Embracing joy at work means fighting joy''s greatest enemy: fear. And unfortunately, leadership based on fear is the status quo for nearly every organization and bureaucracy. Choosing to lead with joy is a big shift.

At Interface, fear of our shareholders drove us to ship inferior product. Fear that our programmers would screw up drove us to invent arcane systems of trying to test quality into their work. Fear that we would ship two weeks after our competitors drove us to cut every possible corner just to get something out there that simply disappointed everyone. Fear that we weren''t working hard enough or smart enough led to incessant demands for overtime.

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it''s possible to create an organization free from fear, where people bring their whole selves to work and the full range of their potential, energy, and talent is put to the company''s benefit. (That''s what you''re paying for, isn''t it?)

The bad news is, the path there is anything but comfortable. It involves letting go of most of what you''ve learned or experienced. It means changing what you believe about the people who work for you and with you.

The best news, though, is it means getting back to your own dreams of what you always thought was possible. It means getting back to the truest form of who you really are and what you always believed you could become. It means getting back to your own very personal definition of joy. One you''d be proud to have written on your gravestone.

This book won''t be a blueprint for a one-size-fits-all model of leadership, or for explaining which of the twenty-six leadership styles you exhibit. It is my goal to make a stand for leading with joy as something that you not only can do but something you MUST do. I will use tangible and practical examples from our experience at Menlo (and those of a few other companies) to show you that a more joyful, more human, more fulfilling path to leadership is not only attainable but imperative for survival. By questioning business as usual and envisioning the organization you truly want to work for or build, you''ll also define the kind of life you want to lead-at work, outside of work, all together in its messy complex glory.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
81 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

ST
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Joy to Read, Reflect and Take Action!
Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2019
When Tom Peters writes in the foreword of the book that he “sometimes thinks when I read [Rich’s] work that we were twins separated at birth,” I felt the bar was set very high. Fortunately, Chief Joy Officer delivered on those expectations. The book is divided into two... See more
When Tom Peters writes in the foreword of the book that he “sometimes thinks when I read [Rich’s] work that we were twins separated at birth,” I felt the bar was set very high. Fortunately, Chief Joy Officer delivered on those expectations. The book is divided into two main sections. In Part 1, the author introduces and explores the core leadership values: Authentic, Humble, Loving, Optimistic, Visionary, Grounded in Reality, and Servant Leadership. In Part 2, the focus is on putting those values into practice and building a culture of joyful leadership. Areas include: Starting with purpose; Value leaders, not bosses; Pursue systems, not bureaucracy; Care for the team; Learn together; Become storytellers; Bigger than ourselves; and Positive organization.

This book, as with all leadership books, is useless without personal reflection and then putting thoughts into action. Rich provides and weaves some very personal and authentic stories throughout the book. I especially enjoyed those about humble leadership, being visionary and pursuing systems.

While many may be skeptical of Menlo Innovations and the Menlonian Culture, I have been on two factory tours and I can tell you that it is real. Reading words on a page just don’t do the justice as being there in person and participating in the circle as they pass the Viking hat. I highly encourage you to go on a tour yourself to experience first-hand the culture and stories presented in Chief Joy Officer.

I believe Menlo Innovations is much like Toyota in the sense that thousands will take tours and try to emulate this at their own business and most will fail miserably. The reason is that most visitors will try to take one or two practices back to copy and implement and thus missing the whole point on building a joyous culture. To paraphrase Simon Sinek, it’s not “What they do” that is important but the “Why” and “How” they do it. Menlo’s culture is the secret sauce, and it is successful because of their ability to embrace contradictions. This starts with their mission statement (to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology) which drives their purpose. These contradictions continue throughout their organization including their extreme interviewing process (where candidates are assessed on how well they support other candidates), paired programming, open and collaborative workspaces (no offices or halls), no organizational chart or formal hierarchy, open book financials and equal profit sharing just to name a few. Rich Sheridan provides a thought-provoking book and proven path of how they have created joy. It is up to each of us as leaders to create joy at work, at home, and in our communities. Who will you serve and inspire today?
23 people found this helpful
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Alesya Opelt Macatol
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Wonderfully Open & Sincere Business Book
Reviewed in the United States on December 14, 2018
In a world of blowhards and grand standers, author Rich Sheridan writes honestly about lessons he''s learned throughout his software career. Through masterful storytelling he recounts his successes and failures as leader. This book is easy to read and wonderfully... See more
In a world of blowhards and grand standers, author Rich Sheridan writes honestly about lessons he''s learned throughout his software career. Through masterful storytelling he recounts his successes and failures as leader. This book is easy to read and wonderfully refreshing.

My favorite parts were when Rich discussed empathy and working to help the whole person, not just the employee in the office. I also learned a great deal from the section on "Vision at Every Level" and "Pursuing Systems, Not Bureaucracy". These sections have lessons I''ve already been able to implement in my job.

Totally enjoyable book and highly recommended - perhaps with a Big Mac and a Coke.
20 people found this helpful
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William A. Sommers
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Joyful Leading and Learning
Reviewed in the United States on January 11, 2019
Having visited Menlo after reading Joy, Inc. I was looking forward to reading Sheridan''s new book. This book weaves together some of the most forward-thinking leadership strategies for real-world applications. Innovation in business, education, and the government will... See more
Having visited Menlo after reading Joy, Inc. I was looking forward to reading Sheridan''s new book. This book weaves together some of the most forward-thinking leadership strategies for real-world applications. Innovation in business, education, and the government will continue to be a challenge, especially for those top-down, Theory X managers. This book provides multiple examples of how to lead, and share the leadership, in creating positive outcomes for the end users and the people who will develop them. No book will give the ''silver bullet'' for all organizations. What Sheridan provides is a repertoire of ideas that is creating a company where many want to work. I have already assigned this book to two people I am coaching. Rich, thanks for extending my learning.
16 people found this helpful
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DonnyR
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Love this book!
Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2019
A must read for any leader!
17 people found this helpful
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E. Swan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Uplifting Quest to Help Others Create Great Places to Work!
Reviewed in the United States on March 26, 2019
“It is my goal to make a stand for leading with joy as something that you not only can do but something you MUST do.” In his second book, Richard Sheridan doubles down on the concept of a joyful work culture—delightfully detailed in his first book, Joy, Inc.—only... See more
“It is my goal to make a stand for leading with joy as something that you not only can do but something you MUST do.”

In his second book, Richard Sheridan doubles down on the concept of a joyful work culture—delightfully detailed in his first book, Joy, Inc.—only this time he offers insight into how he and his cofounder built the structured freedom enjoyed at Menlo Innovations. He’s still “Storyteller-In-Chief” which means the book is full of life experiences—the bad ones that he learned from and the good ones that told him he was on the right path.

He quotes the insights of others, shares wisdom gleaned from thought leaders and pulls it together into a generous roadmap for leaders. As our collective “Joy Guru,” Richard takes his role seriously and he invites others to join him in creating worthy products, laudable services and, most importantly, workplaces that matter.

Chief Joy Officer outlines how leaders must think and what they must do to create the kind of aspirational workplace he and his co-founder cultivated at Menlo. Whereas Joy, Inc. illustrated what zero hierarchy, paired programming and the absence of walls could achieve, Chief Joy Officer focuses on counseling those who aspire to make that vision real for themselves and their people.

Richard Sheridan begins by sharing the set of principles he and his partner James Goebel came up with to guide the business. Living by their principles means:

“Practicing servant leadership”
“Using systems thinking”
“Fostering inquisitiveness”
“Mentoring compassionately”
“Taking on difficult conversations”
“Thinking holistically”
“Taking chances on people”

In Part One of Chief Joy Officer he explores “what it means to lead an organization and take on the awesome responsibility of guiding, supporting, and protecting those around you.” He outlines the values of the joyful leader by describing the positive impacts of living those values and offering cautionary tales of what happens without them. After framing key leadership values, he devotes Part Two to relating how those values translate into constructive behaviors—what joyful leadership looks like.

Leadership Values

Be Authentic
“I think sharing the inside of our masks is the hardest part of authenticity.” This means acknowledging that we are not always feeling strong and successful. Leaders also feel stressed and overwhelmed. “To develop ourselves as leaders we need to bring ourselves to work. Our whole selves, trouble and all.”

The medium of authenticity is forming relationships with those around us. “Teamwork is a necessary component of authentic leadership. We cannot authentically lead others with whom we have no relationship and there is no better formula for building relationships than spending time together.” Authenticity and the resulting trust is what shifts leaders from struggling alone to solving work challenges as a team.

Be Humble
What stands out about the idea of humility is that it doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be walked on. It means considering others. It’s a great reminder that there is something noble about work regardless of how menial. It also means holding back from doing everything yourself—the path of expediency—and, instead, spending the time to teach others.

Be Loving
Luckily this is a word entering the workforce with more frequency in contrast to the indifference and disdain that led to scandals at Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, Theranos and others. Richard Sheridan describes this leadership characteristic by pointing out its opposites—things like not being cruel, impatient, uncaring, sarcastic or hurtful.

He includes a nugget of advice as a way to master negative emotions: “when furious, get curious.” It’s a technique with two outcomes; it redirects your anger and it helps you figure out the whole story. Ruminating on perceived wrongs prevents you from moving forward—use the truth to pave the way forward.

Be Optimistic
An interesting phrase he uses here is “justifiable optimism.” The idea being that things are not always rosy; leaders need to be honest, but also think long-term. A good leader is forthright about reality but chooses to be optimistic—they let people know they’ll survive adversity. I like his idea that the opposite of courage is conformity. A leader’s ability to experiment and take risks is fueled by their courage.

Have a Vision
What is striking about the need for a vision is that it cannot stand on its own. “A strong vision can imagine a great culture, but culture without process leads to chaos and process without culture yields soul-crushing bureaucracy.” He dedicates a whole chapter to process when it comes to putting values into practice.

And a vision is not the sole responsibility of the leader. That idea is a vestige of the outmoded leader-as-hero model. “The visioning process itself should be inclusive, not the exclusive domain of the owners, founders, or C-level brass executives.” The vision benefits from different voices, and including those voices means participants feel a part of and believe in the vision.

Stay Grounded in Reality
This is a great chapter about Richard’s own work habits (surprise—he works hard!) and his interactions with staff and community. It’s a sobering acknowledgement that “the practical realities of a business cannot be avoided. Run out of cash and you die. Stop listening to your customers and your market withers. Stop watching the numbers and recovery may not be possible. Fail to establish simple, repeatable systems and the organization will devolve into chaos.”

His key point when dealing with the natural conflicts that arise while trying to run a business is to always look outward; To maintain the mind-set of the “deepest aspiration and wiring of human communities: service to others,” which leads to the last of the leadership values.

Be a Servant Leader
“Joy comes from serving others with the work of our hearts, our hands, and our minds. That’s the true source of business joy.” His experience has taught him that people don’t consider themselves ready for servant leadership, there’s always a good reason why they can’t do it yet.

He encourages us to get a move on since servant leadership is the key to building other leaders, without whom the business cannot grow. The starting point is to be clear on who leaders are serving, and then spreading that clarity to others—every day.

Leadership Practices

Whereas the first part of the book covers leadership values, the second part of the book puts those values into practice “to create a culture of joyful leadership.” He blends idealism with pragmatism and tells instructive stories to bring each lesson to life.

Start with Purpose
Menlo Innovations has one of the most compelling purpose statements out there: “To end human suffering as it relates to technology.” For those who have read Joy, Inc., its origins clearly emanate from Richard’s experience during the early days in the software industry. It became his credo to fight an endless cycle of buggy software releases cranked out by teams of miserable developers writing code 24/7.

His point to leaders is to be clear on both the purpose of the organization as well as your own purpose. Among other roles, the leader must pave the way for new leaders to emerge. The idea is to light the “flame” in others and give them room to flourish. But none of this works without that upfront clarity around purpose. It’s instructive to remember that Menlo has no hierarchy yet they have leaders just the same.

Value Leaders Not Bosses
A phrase he lives by is “bosses command, leaders influence.” The other truism he points out is that if you don’t encourage team members and subsequently “lose them”—whether they leave or stop feeling and acting like true contributors—then the boss’s workload increases. Becoming a leader as opposed to a boss “typically requires knowing people, both in a general sense and in a very specific sense; that is, knowing individuals and having a relationship with them. Trust is a necessary component of leadership.”

This chapter includes a picture of Menlo’s success as a non-hierarchical organization. Since that sounds slightly anarchic it’s helpful to know they maintain “eighteen different pay grades grouped into four categories (Associates, Consultants, Senior and Principal).” What’s different is that since there are no bosses to oversee progress, team members can only advance through peer evaluation.

It’s an impressively democratic process that results in the rapid rise of some natural leaders and the slower progression of others. It’s also an escape from “a full-blown, forms-driven bureaucracy.” The removal of hierarchy is not only driven by a desire for fairness. Without all of those layers, meetings and approvals, Menlo is nimble. That’s a huge competitive advantage.

Pursue Systems, Not Bureaucracy
Richard points out that leaders who create joyful environments, “are invariably systems thinkers.” These leaders avoid hero-based cultures by creating “simple, repeatable, measurable systems.” There’s a great symbiosis between a systems-based organization and a blame-free culture.

When things go wrong, the place to look is the process and the thing to do is fix it. Don’t waste time looking for the guilty person and assigning blame; people make mistakes. The job of the servant leader is to proactively accept blame and encourage teams to quickly move on to problem solving.

Menlo’s open office is full of job boards, visual management and other manifestations of Lean or Agile methods. They don’t focus on the names of the tools or the methods they’re using but they’ve clearly adapted them for their own processes. They are poster children (there are lots of posters on the walls) for the positive impact of clear, purpose-driven, visual systems.

Care for the Team
This chapter recaps Menlo’s famous hiring process—outlined in Joy, Inc.—which involves large batches of job candidates working in pairs while Menlo observers determine their fit for the culture. Employees have a large role in selecting their new co-workers with screening questions like, “Do they demonstrate good kindergarten skills? Do they play well with others? Do they share?”

Once hired, there’s consistent feedback and “tough love” when it’s warranted. The understanding is that everyone has a life outside of work which impacts their well being. Employees are unafraid to have difficult conversations but they are also trained to ask colleagues, “Are you okay?” when things aren’t going well. It’s vital “to care about the person, the whole person and not just the employee.”

Learn Together
Richard’s position is that “the most important thing a leader can do for his or her survival and that of the company is to stay in “learner mode.” Given changing technologies, competition and new industries the key is to “shorten communication and feedback loops.” He encourages people to “steal” ideas (legally) from books and for leaders to engage in sharing their own insights because “by teaching others we are learning.”

Become Storytellers
He adapts an old adage: “If culture eats strategy for breakfast, then storytelling sets the table for the meal.” Richard has been “Storyteller in Chief” at Menlo for years. Since they run regular tours in their open-format office, his employees have heard his favorite tales dozens of times. He describes an interesting impact of this setup. “The team believed in the stories I was telling and they wanted them to be true.”

This resulted in a reinforcement of the culture and it got others interested in running the tours themselves. Over time a staff of storytellers has emerged; a new wave of tour guides recounting their own tales of rescuing clients from technological misery and other manifestations of their vision. They built a storytelling culture.

Be Bigger than Yourself
He advises those on leadership journeys to consider who they serve and “what great and joyful service looks like for them.” He lists what he sees as basic needs of human nature and the mind-set that brings out the best in us.

“We want to work on something much bigger than ourselves.”
“We can only do that if we work in community with one another.”
“We are energized by a lofty external goal in service to others.”

The leader’s role is to inspire those around them with a clear vision of what is possible.

Final Thoughts
The author clarifies that joy is not the same as happiness. You can hear the human struggles in the Menlo stories; the everyday realities of what it takes to get to joyful outcomes. He’s also not naive about how many leaders and organizations will brave the unknown and put in the effort required to build a joyous culture.

But he challenges his readers to consider moving past the endless varieties of easy outs; we’re different, we don’t make software, it wouldn’t work in this economy...choose your hedge. He simply points to the incredible rewards, financial and intrinsic, and offers a path to those who are ready to “run the experiment.”

Lucky for us, Richard Sheridan is both a gifted storyteller and an engaging writer. He speaks from experience and from the heart which makes for good reading. There’s lots to take away from his latest book and from his goal in life: “To leave the campsite better than [he] found it.” We are lucky campers!
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Sharon L. Spano
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Practical Approach to Leadership
Reviewed in the United States on January 29, 2019
Yes, even a hundred years after we began to officially study leadership and what it means, it seems the construct still eludes us. Leadership is just one of those things we can''t seem to wrap our minds around. Transformational Leadership, Authentic Leadership, Situational... See more
Yes, even a hundred years after we began to officially study leadership and what it means, it seems the construct still eludes us. Leadership is just one of those things we can''t seem to wrap our minds around. Transformational Leadership, Authentic Leadership, Situational Leadership--theories rise and fall. With over thirty years in the field, I''ve witnessed leaders try them all. I''ve always been one who believed that leadership was less about a title and more about a way of thinking and being in the world. Clearly, the chaos in Washington points to the reality that there must be a better way to lead in our ever-evolving complex society. Rich Sheridan has found that way. This isn''t just a book. It''s a way of life.--a new dimension to leadership. Don''t be fooled by the title. Yes, he talks about bringing joy back into the work place, but he''s not speaking from some theoretical perspective. Rich and his team are living proof that the premises in this book actually work. If you''re tired of endless bureaucracies and meetings that go no where, this book is a must read. Learn how to empower your team to be highly productive and accountable. If all of this sounds too good to be true, my recommendation is to schedule a tour of Menlo Innovations. See for yourself what leadership, at the highest level, really looks like. I can promise you that you''ll leave there not only wanting to read the book. You''ll be wondering if Meno has any open positions. Thank you, Rich Sheridan, for opening our eyes to what''s possible when a leader is passionate about his team--so much so that he''s willing to put aside his own ego to let them shine. This is a well written book with a lot of heart. One I will pass on to my clients for years to come.
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Michael James Knight
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
We need more books like this
Reviewed in the United States on January 28, 2019
I have been a writer most of my professional life, but in the past two years much of my creativity energy has gone into trying to create a company that is a force for good in the world, that will carry on the goal of making the world, and schools in particular, better. To... See more
I have been a writer most of my professional life, but in the past two years much of my creativity energy has gone into trying to create a company that is a force for good in the world, that will carry on the goal of making the world, and schools in particular, better. To help me in my journey, I''ve tried to find models of the kind of company I''m looking to created, and Richard Sheridan has taught me a lot about just what an organization can be. I would say this, if you''re leading an organization, any organization, and you want it to be a place where people love to come to work and where they do their best work, you should read this book. Chief Joy Officer is practical, inspiring, and grounded in the literature on leadership, and it makes you feel hope just reading it. I highly recommend it.
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Rob Kirk
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A few small pearls, so many more great books to read
Reviewed in the United States on June 10, 2020
I''ve never read Joy, Inc. but this follow up book seemed to lack a lot of meat on the bone. It''s a skimmer and I really wanted to love it, based on all the great reviews. There are some pearls of wisdom but they happen to be the quotes the author brings in, not the stories... See more
I''ve never read Joy, Inc. but this follow up book seemed to lack a lot of meat on the bone. It''s a skimmer and I really wanted to love it, based on all the great reviews. There are some pearls of wisdom but they happen to be the quotes the author brings in, not the stories or original thoughts. Time is valuable, find better books.
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 2, 2021
This was my “Homework”! It is one of the best books I have read in a long while. Highly recommend.
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