There’s no one way

Paul Nolan

One of the benefits of this job is that I get to talk with super-smart people who have amazing insights. For example, my reporting for this issue included long discussions with best-selling author Jeffrey Gitomer and Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson. Both have new books out.

These two successful businessmen couldn’t be more different. Gitomer is an indefatigable New York City expat (now living in Charlotte) who seemingly buys wholeheartedly into the Warren Zevon song, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”

Asked for his thoughts on work/life balance, the 73-year-old Gitomer said, “If you’re not working out of balance, then your checkbook will be. I don’t have a time to work and a time to stop. I work when it’s time to work and I stop when it’s time to stop.”

Meanwhile, Heinemeier Hansson takes a hard stance against today’s prevalent 80-hour work week culture (especially among tech companies in Silicon Valley). This is not a result of more work to be done, it’s a pandemic of “false busyness” and too many distractions at work, Heinemeier Hansson states in his book, “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work,” co-written with his Basecamp co-founder Jason Fried.

Fried and Heinemeier Hansson lead what they call a “calm company.” They encourage 40-hour work weeks and lead by example. They set no quarterly or annual sales goals. (In fact, Heinemeier Hansson told me they don’t even have full-time salespeople.) They don’t believe in business plans beyond six weeks out. And they’re not constantly chasing more market share.

“We’re serving our customers well, and they’re serving us well. That’s what matters,” they write. “Doubling, tripling, quadrupling our market share doesn’t matter.”

That kind of talk would send Gitomer into an expletive-laden rant. If he had any hair left, he’d pull it out reading Heinemeier Hansson’s book.

But the thing is, I hung up from both conversations with admiration for both men. There are different paths to success, and no single one is the “right” way.

That’s also the message of our cover feature on the challenge of dealing with a disengaged work force. Managers lead their teams differently. The constant, it seems, to effectively engage workers is to show genuine care and provide them meaningful work they can feel good about.