Backbonology: Tough Decisions at Work

Backbonology: Tough Decisions at Work


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982207397
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 07/20/2018
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 777,603
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Doc D, the penname for David P. Bugay, PhD, has a reputation as a high-energy speaker, author, poet, and playwright. He has spent over two decades in higher education as an administrator and faculty member. He has also held positions for almost a decade in kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade education as principal and administrator. An organizational behaviorist, he has served on the board for the Association of Chief Human Resource Officers and on the boards for the Association of California Community College Administrators, International Higher Education Teaching Learning, and Leadership Oakland. He frequently presents on topics ranging from Backbonology, conflict resolution, and communications.
Doc D, a well-known poet, has written two poetry books available on Amazon Books: The Naked Turtle Dances and a second one for children, Zombie Dearest: Poems for Young Zombies. He has also become a playwright with his first musical comedy, Zombie Dearest. His website,, has a list of all his published works. Visit his site and have some fun.

Read an Excerpt


Custom Backbones to Fit Your Style

He makes life decisions like he is ordering off a menu at a restaurant. Then he sticks with them!

Life decisions and tough decisions don't come easily to most of us because we all suffer from the human condition. Tough decisions can be difficult — in fact, so difficult that people often do all they can to avoid them. These decisions can bring conflict, upset the status quo, and bring out the worst elements in us. Yet for many of us, tough decisions need to be made to bring people back to focus on their work. At the beginning of this book in the Preface I provided a real-life example of a supervisor that didn't evaluate a poorly performing employee but provided three positive memos for mediocre work – and then wanted to fire him shortly afterwards.

Her lack of communication because of her fear to confront the employee on poor performance placed her and the organization in a difficult position to defend. Her poor performance as a supervisor to provide feedback for an employee with poor performance blemished her hard work, her personal dedication, and her diligence to meet her department's goals. Everyone lost from the supervisor, the employee, and the organization because she suffered from that human condition we call fear. She was afraid to confront a potentially hostile employee in regards to poor work performance.

The best part of the story is that she learned from this situation. She took the principles now residing in this book, learned to communicate her expectations to her employees, and provided regular feedback to them. Her persistence paid off. She learned well enough that eventually she earned a promotion to the level of a vice president in a few years.

Bill George, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, authored Authentic Leadership. He defines authentic leaders in his book as genuine, moral, and character-based leaders.

People of the highest integrity, committed to building enduring organizations ... who have a deep sense of purpose and are true to their core values who have the courage to build their companies to meet the needs of all their stakeholders, and who recognize the importance of their service to society.

He then identifies five qualities authentic leadership demonstrates.

1. Understanding their purpose

2. Practicing solid values

3. Leading with heart

4. Establishing connected relationships

5. Demonstrating self-discipline

George regards Warren Bennis, a scholar widely regarded as a pioneer of leadership studies, as his mentor. Bennis said to him,

Leadership is character. It has to do with who we are as human beings and the forces that shaped us. To become authentic leaders, people must adopt flexible styles that fit the situation and capabilities of their teammates. At times, authentic leaders are coaches and mentors, inspiring others and empowering their teammates to lead through the most important tasks without a great deal of supervision. At other times, authentic leaders must make very difficult decisions, terminating people and going against the will of the majority, as required to meet the situational imperative. These difficult actions can be taken while still retaining their authenticity.

Authentic leadership, character, and the ability to make tough decisions don't reside in the CEO's office but can be found in our own domain. Tough decision-making requires a backbone, that inner tower of strength we have but at times hide from view. You already have what it takes — you just need to reach for those tools that reside in each of us to sculpt your inner self into a confident decision maker, even in the toughest of circumstances.

We all need help because we have a desire, an internal fire that wants to be loved, to be liked, or at least to be respected.

Backbonology provides a formula for structured decision-making, based on our own inner strengths, to make hard decisions.

Foundational to our struggle to make tough decisions are the elements we have in our own personalities. Some of us have a deep sense of compassion for others, and to hurt their feelings would make us feel their pain. That feeling component shouldn't be rejected but also shouldn't lead us. The first section of this book covers this topic in depth. Rejecting our feelings removes our ability to be true, authentic leaders since it denies a portion of who and what we are as both people and leaders.

Others have a built-in fear that if they say something the other person doesn't like, he or she will reject them. This fear comes from a foundational need for others to accept us. At times, we need to pass over that fear to reach our goals, objectives, and successes. For whatever reason, we may hesitate to make a decision and become paralyzed in our fear.

I have found over the years that many people let their fear stand between them and the potential success standing on the other side of their fear. They struggle to reach that success, yet daily inaction to make decisions prevents them from applying for the positions in which they really want to be employed; they struggle to deal with a difficult person in their department or make a major personal decision. Too often they accept the status quo because it is there. It will never change — because they don't change; fear overwhelms them at the moment of decision.

Yet we already have all the tools and mental capacity to make the changes we would like to see. We just need the knowledge to use the tools we already have, and maybe a push.

You already have a fire burning within you that knows what you want and what you have to do. This book's job is to provide the tools you need to step over that fear of tough decisions, because you will have the confidence to make them and possess the tools to do so. It will provide you with the framework of a backbone — not for your body but for your personality. It is that thing that consists of your mind, will, and emotions. Throughout history, many have called that thing the "soul."

To complete this book, I interviewed several people whom I believe have worthwhile messages for all of us. One of these people is Eloy Oakley who serves as the chancellor for the world's largest system of higher education with over two million students annually, the California Community Colleges. He said,

Leaders should know themselves. You cannot be a leader if you do not know your values, your strengths, and your weaknesses. People see through fake words or insincere comments that you do not really mean. Leaders need to be themselves and be authentic.

Leadership comes from inside you. You will have mentors in life who can lead, teach, and mold you. But when it comes to your turn to make a tough decision, you will be the owner of it. Backbonology can help you build your strength and provide the tools you need to reach and become the authentic leader already residing within.

Everyone seems to want change, yet the greatest change agent can be found within. Blessed is the person who changes the world by teaching us to change ourselves.

Backbonology 's Foundation

The Mind, Will, and Emotions

The foundation of your backbone provides a solid base of support for both your backbone and your entire upper body. When your backbone becomes out of balance, you lean to one side, limp, and cause a host of other problems.

Just like in the physical world, where the foundation of your stance and your ability to stand up tall rests on the foundation of your spine or your tailbone, your tailbone provides the foundation for your backbone.

Your backbone has a foundation, which supports your entire backbone and your body.

Just like your backbone, the foundation of Backbonology provides the source for our thoughts, values, and feelings. We will explore the historical perspective of the origins of these. As we build on the foundation, we will find that our thoughts, values, and feelings play a critical role in our self-image, self-esteem, and confidence. We need to be confident within ourselves to be able to make tough decisions, as we will discuss later.

No one in history has ever had your exact DNA, genes, parentage, or environment. In the history of all humanity, no one has ever existed who is identical to you.

Your uniqueness comes from that inner fiber of your being that makes your personality. It can be found in the components of your soul — your mind, will, and emotions.

To have any dialogue on decision-making, especially tough decision-making, we need to identify our personal uniqueness, which comes with our own set of strengths and weaknesses. We also need a fundamental understanding of how this uniqueness derives from our personalities. Finally, we need to see how our personalities express themselves through the components of our souls — our minds, wills, and emotions. These foundational components provide a strong base for our backbones, confidence, and the ability to be confident amid tough decisions.

Pursue what you are, what you have been becoming, and who you will be.


Don't Lead with Your Heart, but Don't Leave It Behind

You can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

The old woman, a proud Native American, came to the back door of our house. Hours before, her son had had a run-in with the law. Her husband had come out to defend the son, and now both sat behind bars in police custody. Her anger and frustration could be felt as she stood on the porch, on the edge of tears.

The old woman had come to share her grief and seek comfort. "I always taught my son to follow his heart. To do what he felt was right. It's our heritage. Now this. It's a mess," she cried.

Somehow a Bible verse appeared from nowhere in my head, and in my most insensitive way, I shared it. "That was your first mistake. Never trust your heart. The Bible says, 'The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?'"

That's me, Mr. Sensitive. I seldom remember, let alone quote Bible verses but this was one of those special moments. I continued with my commentary. "I never trust my emotions. If I did, I'd become angry and take actions, which would be wrong by other people's codes. I'd say offensive things to others. I think it's best to lead with my mind and listen with my heart."

The old woman uttered, "So you think I raised my boy wrong?"

I responded, "No, I think your boy isn't a boy anymore but a man who is responsible for his own actions. He made choices, maybe bad ones. He followed his heart, became angry, and now others, from the law, exert their own will over his."

We talked awhile, cried, and hoped the best for her family. The old woman had been a friend, a mother, and a neighbor. She needed comfort, and in my own way I provided it in that moment. Eventually her family worked through those difficulties. Her husband returned home the next day. Her son overcame his immediate problems yet struggled for years with uncontrolled emotions.

The heart serves as a powerhouse full of fire, passion, and hope. Potent feelings such as fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, and trust all live there. We call these powerful feelings emotions, and they guide, touch, and too often lead us. Emotions guide in love, anger, passion, kindness, and fury.

Emotions are the best of us and the worst of us.

For here in our hearts, we strive to want people to love us, though not necessarily with intimacy. But we want them to care and share in our joy, hopes, and dreams.

We live in tribes we call "family," "work," and "neighborhood." In our tribes, we want to be respected, to be acknowledged. We desire to have friends and solid relationships.

These feelings make it hard to execute tough decisions, to be that firm person on a continual basis, because when we do, others may not love us, may not smile when we pass, and may not like us.

We want to be loved.

That's not how tough decisions and tough conversations work. We run the risk of making a tough decision, alienating the people around us, and denying ourselves the very things we yearn for in our inner selves. When making a tough decision, we may become unpopular. People may talk behind our backs and may not even be nice to our faces. That's why we call them "tough" decisions.

Tough decisions take place at home, at work, and in everyday life. Each tough decision can create conflict. Most of us desire to find peace, to avoid conflict, and to preserve harmony. Your heart has a place in decision-making, including tough decision-making, but the heart must be tempered, as we will describe in chapter 4, "Decisions from the Soul."

At work a supervisor may want to preserve unity in the workplace, so he or she fails to tell employees who don't carry their share of the work to step up their game. These supervisors practice peace at any price. So, others have to carry the burden while people continually walk on tiptoes to avoid offending the workplace bully.

At home, a spouse may not do his or her share of the household work. The other one does and suffers silently. The children, sweet little angels that they are, may be terrors to everyone around, yet parents, who are blinded or hopeful as they peer through rose-colored glasses, defend them. The bottom line is that everybody wants to be loved. Our natures seek to have people like us. We have a built-in desire to be loved and to belong.

As leaders, we must keep our hearts in check but not ignore the messages we receive from them. The emotions, which we call our hearts here, belong to us and serve an important purpose. They play an integral part in our decisions, giving us a consciousness for the consequences of a decision. To make decisions based on only data and intellect will make us no more than machines and strip out our humanity. This style of decision-making removes authenticity from one's leadership style because it becomes literally, by our definition, soulless leadership.

But we can use Maslow's hierarchy of needs to help. Abraham Maslow originally published the hierarchy of needs in 1943. It is shown above, and over time it has become one of the most accepted models in the world of psychology. The popularity comes from several factors, in that it encompasses human need and satisfaction, especially in the context of Backbonology. It helps us as employers and employees to identify where people are, including their primary drivers for motivation and how to motive them in their personal levels of motivation; then we can find fulfillment in their work and personal satisfaction.

Maslow defines five basic needs, which build on each other as a pyramid. These build on each other much in the same way as the vertebras of the backbone build on each other. In this theory of behavior, we must fulfill the lowest needs in this pyramid before we can advance to meet and experience the higher-level need fulfillment found at the top of the pyramid. When Maslow first defined this motivational pyramid, he believed the different levels had a great deal of fluidity between them and that at different times we can move from one level to the next, depending on circumstances.

Basic Physiological Needs

This lowest level of needs provides a foundation for our drives because if these don't become met, we die. These demonstrate the basic needs for human survival. If they aren't met, the human body will no longer function properly and will ultimately fail.

These needs include air, water, and food, which comprise the basic metabolic requirements for survival. Included with this level of basic survival are clothing and shelter, which provide protection from the elements.

Employees at this level live at a basic subsistence level. They will do anything to please the employer but may have issues in getting to work. They will work at a level of constant fear and worry, because they will just be getting by with the bare minimums of life. Don't expect anything creative, because they fear their ideas will place their employment in jeopardy. Don't expect loyalty, for they live in a state of fear to lose their employment and may seek another way to find work.

Safety and Security Needs

Once the basic physiology of one's needs has been satisfied, his or her safety needs will then become the next level of needs the person will pursue. These include personal security, family security, and safety; financial security, health, and well-being; and then the development of a safety net for long-term protection. This can manifest itself as job security, saving accounts, insurance policies, and pension plans. The person will vigorously pursue his or her safety as well as the safety of those he or she cares about.


Excerpted from "Backbonology"
by .
Copyright © 2018 David P. Bugay, Ph.D..
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword, xi,
Preface, xiii,
Acknowledgments, xvii,
Introduction, xix,
Chapter 1 Custom Backbones to Fit Your Style, 1,
Backbonology's Foundation, 6,
Chapter 2 Don't Lead with Your Heart, but Don't Leave It Behind, 8,
Chapter 3 Decisions from the Soul, 19,
Chapter 4 Think, Plan, and Do, 29,
Backbonology's Power, 38,
Chapter 5 Success Waits on the Other Side of Fear, 40,
Chapter 6 Accept Yourself, 49,
Chapter 7 Born This Way, 58,
Chapter 8 Raised This Way, 63,
Chapter 9 Find Yourself, 73,
Chapter 10 Reinvent Yourself, 83,
Backbonology's Strength to Be Tough, 97,
Chapter 11 Tough Decisions: The Leader's Turf, 100,
Chapter 12 Tough Decisions in a Moment, 106,
Chapter 13 Tough Decisions on Personnel, 112,
Chapter 14 Tough Decisions to Manage Change, 123,
Chapter 15 Tough Decisions in Negotiations, 133,
Chapter 16 Tough Decisions on Coworkers, 143,
Chapter 17 Tough Decisions to Manage Your Career, 155,
Chapter 18 Listen — Even to What's Disagreeable, 165,
Chapter 19 Humans versus Tech and Tyrants, 179,
Chapter 20 Gaggle of Wise Counselors, 190,
Chapter 21 Positive People, 198,
Chapter 22 Chaos People Hamper the System, 206,
Chapter 23 Collaborative Communication, 213,
Backbonology's All-Embracing Perspective, 222,
Chapter 24 Trust but Verify, 225,
Chapter 25 Unsupportive Culture, 234,
Chapter 26 Humor: Refuge of the Sane, 248,
Chapter 27 Building Tools for Your Reputation, 253,
Chapter 28 Pain Builds Experience, 263,
Chapter 29 Dark Tools, 268,
Chapter 30 Dignity and Respect, 276,
Chapter 31 Conclusion: Last Words, Tough Decisions, 283,
About the Author, 285,
Bibliography, 287,

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