wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Robert (Bob) Townsend (1920-98)Robert Townsend


The successful boss of Avis, the car hire company, from 1962-5

One of the first management gurus with his bestselling book, Up the Organization (Townsend is pictured right on the front cover).


Key book

Up the Organization (1970)


The most successful organizations satisfy their customers by satisfying their employees.

 Robert Townsend

Douglas McGregor’s (pictured right) Theory Y is best because of its belief in self-motivating employees by making work fun and fulfilling.


Therefore, employees should be given:

  • stocks (shares) in the company (so sharing in its profits).
  • control over decision making (decisions should be made at the lowest possible level).


It is also vital to:

  • cut bureaucracy.
  • reduce meetings to a minimum.
  • fire any unnecessary department i.e. public relations, advertising, personnel (human resources) and purchasing - outsource your supplies instead.


Leaders and managers should be:


1. Thankful

Gratitude is “a really neglected form of compensation”.


2. Available

Acting as coaches.


3. Honest

Not conning anybody (including customers, employees and suppliers).


4. Fair

  • keeping promises.
  • judging people only on performance.
  • removing management privileges ( like reserved car parking spaces).


5. Decisive and effective

  • keeping standards of excellence.
  • making sure people blame themselves for their mistakes (not others).
  • getting results through doing something worthwhile, not “just building another monument to some diseased ego”.


6. Inclusive

Giving employees

  • power.
  • information. 
  • the opportunity to challenge each other.


7. Humble

  • avoiding arrogance.
  • learning from mistakes.


8. Objective

Doing what’s most important.


9. Tough

  • being brutal on time wasting.
  • pushing people hard through tight budgets.


10. Patient and purposeful

Making sure employees focus on achieving the organization’s objectives.


Key quote on business success

If you can’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all. Because if it’s not excellent, it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you’re not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing here?


Key quote on motivation

You can’t motivate people. That door is locked from the inside. You can create a climate in which most of your people will motivate themselves to help the company to reach its objectives.

Rewarding outstanding performances is important. Much more neglected is the equally important need to make sure that the underachievers don’t get rewarded.


Key quotes on leadership and management

The best managers think of themselves as playing coaches.

True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders.

Hubris is the unforgivable sin of acting cocky when things are going well. As the Greeks tiresomely told us, Hubris is followed inexorably and inevitably by Nemesis.


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