Good People

Sometimes I read a book which I feel that I should be enjoying but really struggle with. It causes me all sort of angst in an “it’s me, not you” kind of way. Is my head too full of stuff that I don’t have the brainpower for intelligent writing and can only cope with lightweight?

Good People by Anthony Tjan is one of these books. The subject-matter of the book really appeals to me in principle, but in practice I’m finding myself reading paragraphs and not having any memory of what I’ve just read. Is my poor 42-year-old brain not up to it any more?

It’s really making me think hard about the books I’m reading and how I review them. So, I’m going to try something slightly different this time. When reviewing books, I’m going to consider the three different criteria:

  1. Am I interested?
  2. Did I enjoy reading it?
  3. Will it help me with my business?

So, how does this apply to Good People?

1. Am I interested?
Yes. I like the idea that to run a business you don’t have to be ruthless and just out to make yourself money. Yes, you do need to make money, but I’m sure that there must be a way of doing it without walking over everybody else. So for me, a ‘good person’ is someone who is not only good at what they do, but also treats other people well.

2. Did I enjoy reading it?
No. I thought at first that it was going to be a cracker. The author is straight in with an example of how the company WD-40 has an excellent record of retaining staff because they love working there. That’s interesting right, that a large company treats its staff so well that they actively enjoy working there? The book has examples and anecdotes throughout and these bits I really engaged with. But in between that is some very theoretical writing on goodness. This is what I really struggled with. I found this writing quite dense and very difficult to take in. And I really did give it a shot, but when I find that I’m having to force myself to pick up a book to continue reading it, I’m afraid that’s me lost.

3. Will it help me with my business?
No. In a very general way it will because it’s made me reconsider what I mean by being ‘good’ (not sure if it’s the actual message the author was trying to convey). However, I definitely wouldn’t say that this book has a practical use for a small business owner. If you’re interested in some very intelligent writing and the concept of good people then give it a go, but I couldn’t find anything practical in it that I can apply to how I run my business.

Sorry, it’s me, not you…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy “Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters” from Amazon >

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

I grabbed a copy of this book after reading the Guardian article that I mentioned in my previous post: Where are all the women business writers? I was inspired by the article to seek out more business books by women and as Sheryl Sandberg was mentioned in the article this seemed to be a good place to start. And indeed it was.

What the book is all about is women’s right to equality at work and what women can do to help themselves and to effect change. Sheryl uses ‘lean in’ to describe what we, as women in business, should be doing – instead of holding ourselves back because of a lack of self-confidence we should instead lean in and be ambitious.

I was completely hooked from the start. Sheryl writes very intelligently and coherently. She brings in her own personal experience, as well as facts and figures from research, which makes the book very well rounded. Not only has she made me more aware of the inequality of men and women in business (and the home), but she has also made me want to do something to make it better.

Honestly, I feel like I’ve had my head in the sand for the last few years. I generally only come up against sexism in a subtle way. But of course in the big business setting that Sheryl works in it’s going to be way more obvious. Things like office buildings where you’re met with blank looks if you ask where the ladies loo is. And the more serious matter of women not being given high-level jobs or being paid as much as men if they are.

I find that this is something I feel passionate about and would like to find my way of making a contribution. I hope that writing about it here is a small step in the right direction.

Rating: ★★★★★

Grab yourself a copy of “Lean In” from Amazon >

The Strengths-Focused Guide to Leadership

The Strengths-Focused Guide to Leadership is all about how you can focus on strengths (your own and your team’s) to get better results. What I found very interesting was the definintion of a strength – it’s something you’re good at and something that you enjoy and energises you. This sparked my interest because I tend to think of a strength as something that you’re good at, stuff not necessarily the enjoyment bit. In fact the authors argue that it’s not a strength if you’re good at it but you don’t enjoy it. And what’s more, a weakness could be a strength that you overuse. Interesting stuff.

I found the book well-structured with lots of detail making it clear how to put it into practice. And it’s equally applicable to small and large businesses. There are sections which apply the system to working with teams and recruiting employees etc, which might lead you to think that it’s more suited to working in a larger business with a team of people. However you could focus on the section about identifying your own strengths. Just that one section is worth getting the book for – I felt that I learnt a lot from that. And I can see how I could apply it to my very small team of two – I don’t need a whole department of people to make it applicable.

What did bring the book down for me was that it wasn’t the easiest read. There are two things I noted:

  1. The size of the print was uncomfortably small for me – I should probably have gone for an ebook rather than hard copy so that I could control the size of the font. This of course is down to the publisher and not the authors, but did contribute to the experience of reading the book.
  2. In some ways I appreciated the amount of detail as it helped reinforce the message, however it could have gone too far and at times with the result that it felt quite repetitive. Maybe if the book was edited down more its overall readability would have been improved (and maybe would have allowed for larger print).

But having said that, my feeling about the book is on the whole positive. The premise is very interesting and definitely made me think differently about how I approach things. Even if I don’t end up following their system to the letter, I’m sure that I will put some of it into practise.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy “The Strengths-Focused Guide to Leadership” from Amazon >

Moose on the Table

Moose on the Table by Jim ClemmerOver the last couple of years I’ve become very familiar with the concept of eating your frog/toad in a time management kind of way, pharm and have been coming to terms with eating elephants (a bite at a time if you’re dealing with project management). Now, healing in the words of the woman on my yoga video, “we’ve got another animal on our hands”. This time it’s a moose, but thankfully we don’t have to eat it. Any other animals we need in a business context?

Moose on the Table by Jim Clemmer has the subtitle ‘A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work’. I didn’t realise until I started reading it that that is exactly what it is – a novel. What a fun way to approach a serious subject! It’s the story of how Pete sorts out a frighteningly bad leadership problem to turn the company he works for around. It’s a nice, easy read with a lot to take away and apply to your own situation. I certainly know a lot more about leadership (and moose) than I did before.

To be honest, if I had sat down to read this as a novel rather than a business book then I may have come away a bit disappointed. As far as a work of fiction goes it’s probably not the best bit of writing I’ve ever read. But that’s not the point is it? As a refreshingly different approach to providing advice on leadership and communications this is a huge success. It certainly ticks all the boxes of being easy to read and conveying the information in an easy to absorb way.

If you’re interested in learning more about good (and bad) leadership or have an in-house issue you need to tackle this would be a good place to start.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy “Moose on the Table” from Amazon >

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