Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Book Review: Option B

Sunday, January 13, 2019

How do you rebuild your life after the loss of you husband and the father of you two young children? Business leader Sheryl Sandberg has no choice but to adjust to her option B life.

Sandberg, with the insights of her co-author psychologist Adam Grant, lays out the raw emotion of the loss she experienced, and the pathway she chose to move forward, pursuing her option B life, now that her option A had been taken away from her forever.  Their book is Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy (2017 and published by WH Allen)

Whilst Sandberg draws from your own deeply personal experience, the book introduces a range of other issues in life that can cause us to have to look at an option B for our life. It addresses subjects like the role of friends and family, our own self-confidence, getting back into the workplace, and helping kids through the journey as well.

Using solid well researched principles, the authors give the reader tools rather than a prescriptive approach to handle whatever life has thrown at you. This acknowledges that each situation is deeply personal and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

The book is well written, organised well and flows easily. It was very easy to read and challenged me in not only thinking about how to handle the difficult moments in life, but how to help other people handle theirs. I highly recommend this book, which although is not a standard management text, certainly is very important in slef0leadersherip. I believe it is important that everyone read this book.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Lecturer at Avondale Business School

Book Review: Turn the Ship Around

Monday, January 7, 2019

Control, competence and Clarity is the three-pronged approach former submarine commander David Marquet used to transform the US Nuclear Submarine Santa Fe into the most successful submarine in the US Navy. He tells this story in his 2012 book “Turn the Ship Around: A Trues Story of Turning Followers into Leaders”, published by Portfolio Penguin.

Marquet believed that every follower can be a leader, and that through them becoming leaders in their own right, the organisation would thrive and grow. His approach proved right and transformed the Santa Fe into a highly efficient and effective network of people. Divesting control, developing competence and providing clarity are the key components of this strategy.

Detailing how he implemented this when he took over command of the Santa Fe, Marquet provides a look into the inner workings of life on a submarine. The book is a great read with examples and stories that make the practical application of his ideas easy to see and readily apply into other workplace contexts.

What I particularly appreciated was the stories of things that did not work, and how these “failings” were part of the learning process.

The book is well written, organized well and flows easily. This book is now one of my favorites and I would recommend it to any leader looking to take their leadership to the next level.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Lecturer at Avondale Business School

Book Review: Leadership in Action

Monday, January 7, 2019

Rising over 40 years from the rank private to two-star General in the Australian army, John Cantwell has spent a lifetime leading Australian men and women in challenging and sometimes deadly circumstances. Using practical examples of what did and didn’t work during this time, John Cantwell lays out his thoughts on leadership in an excellent book “Leadership in Action – Lessons for the real world from a real leader”, published in 2015 by Melbourne University Press.

Believing that anyone can learned the skills of leadership, Cantwell puts together a simple to read but highly effective book on the essential elements of leadership, within an Australian context.

The book is a great resource for new and aspiring leaders who want to find the key areas for their development, or to lay out a strategy for their leadership. It is also a very timely reminder to established leaders of what their leadership can be if they are prepared to continue learning.

The organisation of this book is very logical and straightforward. In fact, you don’t need to read cover to cover, but can pick out key areas that you may particularly want to focus on. The whole spectrum of leadership is covered, but in bite-sized chunks that are quick to read and easily transferable to the workplace. This is a very well written book that should appeal to all leaders, new and established and a highly recommended read.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Lecturer at Avondale Business School

Book Review: The Truth About Leadership

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

While the content of leadership may change over time, the fundamental principles, or truths of leadership, do not, well known leadership authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner have written their list of the 10 truths about leadership in their classic book ‘The Truth About Leadership’, published by The Leadership Challenge in 2018.

Kouzes and Posner are amongst the most prolific and well-known leadership authors of the last 30 years. They have written many of the books that now form part of the essential reading for all leaders. Drawing from their extensive consulting engagements, and over one million responses worldwide to their research, their material is based on relevant and up to date examples.

Some of the 10 truths include:

  • Credibility is the foundation of leadership
  • Focusing on the future sets leaders apart
  • You can’t do it alone
  • Trust rules

This is a very orderly and logical book, meaning you can pick and choose areas of most interest if don’t want to read cover to cover. It is also well written and easy to read. The use of current examples makes it easy to relate to and apply to your own setting.

This book should be read by anyone aspiring to or currently in leadership, and is a fantastic book. While it is a few years old, it is a great reminder of the essentials of leadership which never grow old. Very highly recommended.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Lecturer at Avondale Business School

Book Review – Kill Bad Meetings

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Cut 50% of your meetings, transform your culture, improve collaboration and accelerate decisions. This is the claim of authors Kevan Hall and Alan Hall in their 2017 book ‘Kill Bad Meetings’.

Frustrated at inefficient, ineffective and unnecessary meetings, the authors draw on their considerable business experience and research to show how meetings, well run, can be good for business. More than just providing training, this book looks to systematically change the meeting culture of organisations.

I found the book to be a very useful tool in examining meetings, and providing guidance to organisations on saving time and money. The structure is built on why better meetings assist your business, then turns to the unnecessary meetings, topics and participant of meeting. For example, they note research that indicates 10% – 20% of participants at meetings should not be there at all. The third section gives excellent advice for designing better meetings, and is followed by how to improve meeting flow. The book concludes with a section on how to embed the changes and overcome resistance to change.

Peppered through are practical tips and action steps to ensure the ideas can become a reality. This is a really well organized book that is well written, easy to read and very helpful. Highly recommended

Warrick Long, Lecturer, Avondale Business School.

Humble Leadership – Book Review

Friday, October 19, 2018

What does a very successful US Nuclear Submarine Commander, a Spinal Surgeon, a Silicon Valley Start-up, and a major hospital all have in common, apart from their success? In these particular examples it is Humble Leadership, as described by Edgar and Peter Schein in their just released (2018) book ‘Humble Leadership – the power of relationships, openness and trust’, published by Berrett-Koehler.

The authors view Humble Leadership as requiring a certain kind of mindset, certain attitudes toward working with others, and skills in working with groups Their purpose in writing this book is to move reader to think as much, or more, about the process of building relationships at work as they do about the content of the work itself (p. 130).

I found this book appealed to me because of two main aspects. Firstly it dealt with the “soft skills” of leadership that are rarely written about in such a practical way, and secondly, it provided a wealth of examples that made it so much easier to contextualize the concept into many different settings. The chapter that provided some “how-to’s” and resource links was pretty handy also.

A key tenet of the book is to encourage leaders to move from Level 1 leadership (traditional transactional approaches) to Level 2 leadership (personal relationship based), and potentially in some rare cases to Level 3 leadership (emotionally intimate total mutual commitment).

This book was easy to read (I read it over a few evenings) and very practical. It is current and the concepts easy to contextualize. Do yourself a favor…

Warrick Long, Lecturer, Avondale Business School

Barking Up The Wrong Tree – Book Review

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

“Much of what we’ve been told about the qualities that lead to achievement is logical, earnest – and downright wrong.” So claims Eric Barker in his recently released book (2017) ‘Barking Up The Wrong Tree’, published by HarperOne.

Essentially Barker is dealing with the premise that ‘What we have been led to believe about being successful is mostly wrong.’ He has been researching the various issues associated with success for a number of years, writing about it on his blog. This book is a culmination of that research.

HE goes to enormous lengths to find research, and even to sources themselves to delve into the issues of success. For me, this means it is very convincing, and what I particularly like is that he explores multiple sides of the issues, allowing the evidence to speak for itself.

An example of the issues considered:

  • Do nice guys always finish last?
  • What navy SEALs, video games, arranged marriages and Batman can teach us about sticking it out when success is hard
  • The real truth about work-life balance.

Really well organised book, and very well written, with equal doses of research, humour and surprise.

This book will appeal to pretty much anyone, and especially those who are thinking about whether they are being successful or not, and what success really looks like (hint – it’s not about money!). Taken from page 3, “This book explores what rings success in the real world. And I mean life success, not merely money making. What attitudes and behaviours will help you achieve your goals in whatever arena you choose, career or personal?”

Very worthwhile, and one of the best books I have read for awhile –highly recommended.

Warrick Long, Lecturer, Avondale Business School.

Book Review: ‘The Tyranny of Metrics’

Thursday, July 5, 2018

“There are things that can be measured. There are things that are worth measuring. But what can be measured is not always what is worth measuring; what gets measured may have no relationship to what we really want to know.”

This statement, and the subsequent arguments presented by Jerry Muller in his book ‘The Tyranny of Metrics’ (2018, Princeton University Press), were initially a challenge for me, with my background as an accountant. But I warmed to his argument and grew to appreciate what he was presenting.

Muller is a professor of History at Catholic University of America and the author of numerous books on markets and capitalism. He draws on publically available information, numerous research and reports to substantiate his position, and provides a number of supporting examples that are easy to relate to.

A central theme of the book is that ‘many matters of importance are too subject to judgement and interpretation to be solved by standardized metrics. Ultimately, the issue is not one of metrics versus judgement, but metrics informing judgement…” (p. 183).

I felt it was a very convincing argument which has caused me to consider the metrics I use and am exposed to. Being very well organized, with logical arguments and ample evidences, the book is easy to read over a relatively short space of time. It would appeal to anyone involved in developing or using performance metrics.

Overall, this book is a balanced and worthwhile read, and as noted, is not about the evils of measuring. Muller’s summary would be captured by this statement from page 4 of the book: “The problem is not measurement, but excessive measurement and inappropriate measurement – not metrics, but metric fixation”.

Reviewed by Warrick long, Lecturer, Avondale Business School

Book Review – iGen

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

iGen, by Jean Twenge, published by ATRIA books in 2017, reviewed by Warrick Long.

iGen’ers were born in 1995 and beyond, and are sometimes referred to as Generation Z. This books explains, as the subtitle notes, why today’s super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy – and completely unprepared for adulthood. And what that means for the rest of us.

The theme in this book that struck me is that iGen’ers are scared. Twenge notes that due to the devise constantly within their reach, the iGen have extended their childhoods and isolated them from true human interactions. While being the physically safest generation, they are also the most mentally fragile.

Jean Twenge has a wealth of experience with the generations, holding a PhD and being a professor in psychology. Her area of research is the generations, her other books include Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic.

The book uses US data, particularly the major longitudinal studies of generations, and is supplemented by interviews with iGen’ers in order to hear their own stories. It is a well-supported book, but is US centric. However, with so much cross-fertilization of social media, television, movies and celebrity, the distinct cultural differences between countries is rapidly eroding and this book gives a good indication of what other countries can expect from this generation.

It reads in a very orderly and logical manner, but still provides the opportunity to just pick and choose areas of most interest if don’t want to read cover to cover. I found the book to be well written and easy to read. While solidly researched, it speaks to a wide audience and intersperses important data findings with humor and the voices of participants.

I recommend this book to anyone hiring and employing iGen, who has iGen kids, who teaches iGen, or is in anyway involved with iGen. You will find this book interesting and illuminating. It is very useful in understanding the uniqueness of this generation, and not confusing them with previous generations, and provides ways of effectively interacting with them.