Here’s an interview I conducted with Tim Irwin, Ph.D., author of Run with the Bulls Without Getting Trampled. Please refer to my October 12, 2007 post for background.
LL: One of the blurbs for this book says that it “really makes you want to be a better manager, a better leader, a better person.” Why is that? How can one business book achieve all that?
TW: When compensation is perceived as fair, people work much harder for meaning than for money, but they have to view their jobs as meaningful. When leaders get this, it’s inspiring, and they, in turn, want to bring out the best in others. Too many people find meaning outside of work—they live for the weekends. How important it can be for a leader to create a culture at work where people find meaning in what they do during the week!
LL: It takes a lot of guts to draw upon this metaphor. So often, authors and managers for that matter skirt the issue and turn the other way when employees raise uncomfortable issues like some of the bad stuff that goes on in a company. Have people always had to dodge the proverbial bullets and is it getting worse?
TW: If you have a job, you’re running with the bulls every day, and it’s been that way for a long time. The key is to become relevant to the two fundamental goals of any organization—survival and success. If you’re not relevant and contributing to those two basic goals, you are going to get trampled. We also must run wisely and skillfully to avoid the horns of those corporate bulls!
LL: What was it like to really run with the bulls? And why on earth would you do this? (This is a mom speaking . . . )
TW: It seems crazy from where we sit. The festival of San Fermin makes a lot more sense in the cultural context of Spain. This festival has been going on for 600 years and has become a rite of passage. When my wife, Anne, objected to our son’s going, the compromise was that I agreed to go with him. The irony (seen in the video on my Web site) is that William pushed me out-of-the-way at the last instant. The rescuer became the rescuee.
LL: Can someone learn to be politically savvy at work? Do you have to undergo a major personality adjustment to know, for example, when to keep your mouth shut and when to speak up? Some people just seem to naturally be gifted at reading people and situations. What can those bulls teach us about that often sought-after skill?
TW: Some people are more naturally gifted at reading others and situations—these people often have high EQ (emotional intelligence). This skill can be learned and developed, and it’s why I often recommend that younger workers find a mentor—someone who higher up the food chain, and has demonstrated the skill. They likely understand the inevitable politics of the organization and know where the land mines are.