Winning Well

A Manager's Guide to Getting Results---Without Losing Your Soul

 Winning Well

Authors: Karin Hurt, David Dye
Pub Date: April 2016
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814437254
Page Count: 272
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814437261

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Winning Well

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” —HELEN KELLER

Too often, managers try to win at all costs, when they should be focused on Winning Well. The hypercompetitive postrecession global economy puts frontline and middle-level managers in a difficult position—expected to win, to “move the needle,” to get the highest ratings, rankings, and results. Many managers become hell-bent on winning no matter what it takes, and they treat people like objects—in short, they lose their soul.

This exacts a high price from managers as they work longer hours to try to keep up. Those unwilling to make this trade-off either leave for a less-competitive environment or try to stave off the per-formance demands by “being nice” to their team. After years of try-ing to win while sandwiched between the employees who do the heavy lifting and leaders above them piling on more, they give up and try to get along. Inevitably, after prolonged stress and declining performance, they surrender to apathy, disengage, or get fired.

Don’t think this is happening where you work? Research says otherwise. According to Gallup, nearly two-thirds of American workers and managers are disengaged.1 We don’t believe that’s a coincidence. No one wins in environments like that.

• • •

“You can’t be in last place!” Joe shouted, and immediately winced as he saw Ann’s exhausted eyes begin to tear up.

Later in his office, Joe admitted: “She didn’t deserve that. She’s a newly promoted center director working long hours in a fast ramp-up. The problem is, we’re out of time. The business plan called for this center to be profitable in six months, and it’s been over a year, and we’re not even close. My VP keeps calling for up-dates every few hours, and that just wastes everyone’s time.”

Joe squeezed his temples. “My people need me to coach and support them, but if we don’t improve in the next 90 days, none of us will be here next year. Maybe I need to go.”

Joe leads a 600-person call center. The company stack ranks employees, meaning that every representative is assessed on a balanced scorecard of quality, productivity, and financials and ranked in order from highest to lowest. The managers and centers are ranked in the same way, and Joe’s center is dead last. The vice president of operations keeps a close eye on those numbers and constantly calls Joe to ask what he’s doing about the ranking. Joe spends most of his time putting out fires, answering customer com-plaints, and crunching numbers in a desperate attempt to move his team up the stack rank.

Whether your organization stack ranks or not, can you identify with Joe’s frustration? He’s been asked to win a game that feels rigged. He can’t possibly do everything he needs to. The company keeps score, and Joe is losing. Every time he tries to win, he ends up hurting people—people he knows are trying as hard as he is.

At this point, he’s not sure he can win, but if he can, it seems that victory will cost him dearly. He can feel his soul slipping away every time he loses his temper. It gets results—but at what cost?


Winning doesn’t mean you reach some imaginary state of perfec-tion. Winning means that you and your people succeed at doing what you’re there to do. The real competition isn’t the department across the building or the organization across town. Your competi-tion is mediocrity.

Whether you manage a group of engineers with a government contract to build the next interplanetary satellite, or you supervise a nonprofit team working to save an endangered shrew, or you manage a team of property tax assessors in a large city, or you’re a surgeon working with an anesthesiologist and operating room nurses you’ve never met before to save a patient’s life, or you manage a 24-hour convenience store, winning means you achieve excellence. When you win, we have better customer service, better products, better care, better experiences, and a better world. When you win, life is better for everyone.


Winning Well means that you sustain excellent performance over time, because you refuse to succumb to harsh, stress-inducing shortcuts that temporarily scare people into “performing.” You need energized, motivated people all working together. Your strategy is only as strong as the ability of your people to execute at the front line, and if they’re too scared or tired to think, they won’t. You can have all the great plans, six sigma quality programs, and brilliant competitive positioning in the universe, but if the human beings doing the real work lack the competence, confidence, and creativity to pull it off, you’re finished.

In fact, in today’s connected world, people increasingly expect a positive work environment. When you don’t provide it, they can easily go across the street to your competitor or go into business for themselves as freelancers or independent contractors. Now everyone else but you benefits from the time and training you invested.

Winning Well means that you sustain excellent performance over time.

The stories and best practices in this book come from our experience working with thousands of managers across private, public, and nonprofit industries who have something in common: They must motivate their people to achieve results that often feel impossible. Winning Well doesn’t mean you’ll be a pushover. It means you’ll be a manager known for getting results, whom people re-spect, and whom people want to work with. You can win—and you can win without losing your soul.

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