Saturday, December 26, 2009
Zapp: The Lightning of Empowerment by William C Byham
Zapp: The Lightning of Empowerment--How to Improve Quality, Productivity, and Employee Satisfaction by William C Byham is a management resource mean to inspire leaders to make room for their employees to be and do their best. Written as a fable, the book contains images of notebook pages from one of the character’s notes as he learns how to apply the ideas, zapping his department with an enthusiasm they did not have before. The author suggests that if the reader doesn’t have a lot of time, they can just read the notebook pages and get the gist of the book, which is true. Very true. In fact, one could argue why bother with the lengthy fable at all? However, reading the notebook pages probably wouldn’t suffice and the fable does work to contextualize the ideas by giving “real life” situations. Because these “real life” situations are told within the context of the fable they, unfortunately, don’t feel quite real enough. I think that if Byham had used the fable as a framework, offering it in smaller and short doses as an introduction to a truly real life situation, drawing on his own and other professional leaders’ examples while still offering a bullet-list summary of the chapter’s content, the book would work better. It is a bit too long, the fable too drawn out, the points too buried in pretext, to be fully realized. With all of that said, I have worked for a person who exemplifies the principles Byham defines and I have to say that it was the most positive work experiences in my life. This manager knew, either by training or instinct, how to encourage and support the team without compromising the integrity of the work output. Motivation was given with empathy, honest recommendations made with reason. Although I would have preferred a more sophisticated presentation of valuable information, I cannot fault Byham for creatively presenting his ideas. No doubt, some readers will enjoy the format and even find the ideas more easily understood for it. And for those readers who find the fable a tedious affectation, follow the author’s advice and read the notebook pages. Where more clarity is needed, you can always read the pages that precede the one notebook page without having to struggle through the entire fable.