Flat Army Book Review: Part One

Flat Army Book Review: Part One

My good friend and “co-conspirator,” Dan Pontefract (follow him on Twitter), has written the book Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. Over the past three years, the team at ViRTUS and I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Dan and his team to put the Flat Army philosophy into action at TELUS.

Dan was nice enough to send me a press copy in advance of the book release so I thought the very least I could do is to write my version of a book review. So here it is, all of my favourite quotes and excerpts from Flat Army, the ones that resonate with me most in the first few chapters:

Chapter One

  • In a report entitled Global Leadership Forecast conducted by DDI, with over 14,000 leaders, DDI’s research indicated that, ‘organizations with the highest quality leaders [a]re thirteen times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.”
  • Further to that quote DDI asserts that, “organizations with high quality leadership [are] up to three times more likely to retain more employees than their competition; they also [have] more than five times the number of highly engaged leaders.”
  • Approximately 70% of employees aren’t as engaged as they should be at their place of work.
  • In a 2011 press release, the Center for Talent Innovation reports that 37 percent of Gen X employees are looking to leave their current employers within three years.
  • The natural tendency of any baby-boomer-aged leader is to lead through the demonstration of power and will.
  • It is time to connect the dots between leadership, engagement, learning, technology, and collaboration.
  • …when back by transformation leadership (and leaders), employees thrive on the basis of “self-identity, belongingness, self-efficacy and responsible attitude.”
  • From Organizations Don’t Tweet – People Do, “If you really want an engaged workforce, treat [people] as fellow grown-ups working together for a shared purpose.

  • Engagement...is about whether or not an employee feels trusted by leaders to do the right thing when it counts.
  • A highly engaged organization has the potential to reduce staff turnover by 87 percent and can provide a corresponding increase in performance by 20 percent.
  • AON Hewitt researched more than 7,000 organizations and found that each disengaged employees costs an organization an average of $10,000 in profit annually.
  • We're not here to see through each other; we're here to see each other through. [this is easily my favourite quote in the whole book]

Chapter Two [interested historical perspective but nothing I wanted to highlight]

Chapter Three

  • the founder of Altimeter Group Charlene Li cleverly depicts being an open leader as "having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals."
  • Open leadership: the act of engaging others to influence and execute a coordinated and harmonious conclusion.
  • There is a definitive link between employee engagement and an open culture...
  • [Lowe's] CEO Robert Niblock says in T + D Magazine, "To be successful, we must win trust with our customers, and that means enabling and empowering our employees to earn that trust. To make that happen, we must ensure that our management team has everything it needs to earn the trust of employees."
  • Becoming a connected leader attributes:
    • trusting
    • involving
    • empathizing
    • developing
    • communicating
  • Being a connected leader attributes:
    • analyzing
    • deciding
    • delivering
    • cooperating
    • clowning [yes, really. I'm glad he put this in here. MD]
  • Beyond a connected leader attributes:
    • coaching
    • measuring
    • adapting
    • exploring
    • bettering
  • I don't care how I learn, so long as I am learning.
  • Pablo Picasso: "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."

Chapter Four [well, actually only half the quotes I like in this chapter...]

  • To be trusting is to be mindful of the human condition.
  • trust happens when there is action - when there is interaction and experience. Trust is both a noun and a verb. It's when the word becomes a verb that a leader truly demonstrates the attribute of trusting.
  • For a leader to be trusting, she must have belief that whatever the scenario, the team will be capable and willing to achieve the objective. For a team to be trusting of the leader, it needs to possess the tacit belief that she is one of the team, not someone camping out behind a closed office door sitting at a marble desk signing expense reports.
  • Vulnerability begets trust; trust begets loyalty.
  • How to be trusting:
    • You don't know it all: Listen to the viewpoints of others.
    • People look to you for direction: Be transparent in your views and actions.
    • In the hame of euchre, everyone hates those who renege: Apply the same thinking to Flat Army.
    • All talk no action is paralyzing: Less talk and more experience and interaction is fruitful.
    • Mistakes happen, so encourage them: Harvest and learn for the next suitable scenario.
    • Sporadic, haphazard mannerisms are loathed: Institute consistency in all of your efforts.
  • Darren Entwistle [TELUS' CEO] says, "there is tuition value in mistakes."
  • How to be involving:
    • You don't own all empty seats on the bus: Insist others on your team and in your organization to participate, sit beside you and contribute.
    • Discouraging participation is diabolical: Encourage others to reflect, participate and take ownership.
    • Permitting others to stay on the sidelines of involvement is fraudulent: to lead is to ensure others are involving themselves.
    • Assisting the creation or continuance of walled gardens is pathetic: Break down barriers and roadblocks to advance levels of inclusion.
    • Preventing involvement is disengaging: Openly suggest that everyone has something to contribute.
    • Cutting people off from adding feedback is soul crushing: Actively seek out people to provide comments, ideas and feedback.
  • [I have as many quotes more to type than I've written so far for Chapter Four]

So if you like what I liked so far, you're going to love the book. Basically it's the how-to manual for leaders today who want to be (way) ahead of the curve.

Mike Desjardins

Mike is a a graduate of UBC’s Sauder School of Business with a Bachelors of Commerce, Mike has spent the past 21 years transforming businesses.

  • Dan Pontefract
    Posted at 04:24h, 01 May Reply

    I really should have sent you an e-copy. 😉

    Thanks Mike and to the entire ViRTUS team. You are truly Flat Army citizens.

    • Mike Desjardins
      Posted at 14:42h, 01 May Reply

      I’m glad you like my unconventional approach! It did take a while to type all that out (and you’re right, I should have grabbed the ebook!) but thanks to my Grade 9 typing teacher, it didn’t take as long as I thought it would (granted I stopped midway through Chapter 4’s highlights). I hope it convinces people to buy the book because it’s well worth the read.

  • Flat Army Book Review: Part Two - ViRTUS
    Posted at 20:20h, 10 March Reply

    […] approach to reviewing Flat Army by Dan Pontefract. As in my Flat Army – Book Review first post (Chapters 1-4 1/2), here are my favourite excerpts and quotes from Chapter 4 1/2-12. So you may be […]

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