Review: Barry Schwartz – Why We Work (S)

Why We Work
Barry Schwartz

“An eye-opening, groundbreaking tour of the purpose of work in our lives, showing how work operates in our culture and how you can find your own path to happiness in the workplace. Why do we work? The question seems so simple. But Professor Barry Schwartz proves that the answer is surprising, complex, and urgent… How did we get to this tangled place? How do we change the way we work? With great insight and wisdom, Schwartz shows us how to take our first steps toward understanding, and empowering us all to find great work.”

This was the book I was trying to get, when I ended up getting The Paradox of Choice as this one wasn’t there. I put this one on reserve and hence read it next. Unfortunately, it’s still not that great. It was better than The Paradox of Choice, but not great. It’s also a lot smaller then The Paradox of Choice which is good as at least it got to the point a lot quicker. But it still didn’t have much in it or much of a point.

The sub-stories in each chapter are ok, but basically only relate back to the point of “people don’t work just for money”. This is ok, but really I was expecting more interesting stories but instead these were just flat. I was also expecting additional ideas, solutions and actionable items that can be taken away from the book, to provide a meaningful workplace. But it seemed to just rant about “people don’t work just for money” for the whole book.

The action items were only very briefly touched on in the last chapter which is only 5 pages and is basically a conclusion. Thus it’s only a 2-3 stars from me.

Review: David J. Schwartz – The Magic of Thinking Big (S)

The Magic of Thinking Big
David J. Schwartz

“The Magic of Thinking Big gives you useful methods, not empty promises. Dr. Schwartz presents a carefully designed program for getting the most out of your job, your marriage and family life, and your community. He proves that you don’t need to be an intellectual or have innate talent to attain great success and satisfaction, but you do need to learn and understand the habit of thinking and behaving in ways that will get you there.”

Despite being first published in 1959, it’s not bad! Most of the book’s ideas are still relevant today. Obviously with older books such as this, you can tell that is is older from the style of writing and examples being used. However the principles and overall message is still the same. I think it would have been really good for it’s time. It has aged a little but not as much as you would think.

I read this book on and off and took quite a while to read it. I felt like you needed to be in the mood for it. Most of the “magic secrets of success” are things such as believing you can succeed, setting yourself up, managing your environment etc. For me tp enjoy and take it in, I needed to take breaks in between these chapters and not read a lot of it at once.

The author’s writing style was good and draws on his personal experience for short stories and examples. For a self help book which I don’t normally like, it is pretty good. I would recommend it for anyone who likes self help books, or needs to think more positive or stop procrastinating. I wouldn’t read it again; overall it was average. 3 stars from me.

Review: David Vise – The Google Story (S)

The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media and Technology Success of Our Time
David A Vise

The Google Story is the definitive account of one of the most remarkable organizations of our time. Every day over sixty-four million people use Google in more than one hundred languages, running billions of searches for information on everything and anything. Through the creative use of cutting-edge technology and a series of groundbreaking business ideas, Google’s thirty-five year old founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have in ten years taken Google from being just another internet start-up to a company with a market value of over US$80 billion. Based on scrupulous research and extraordinary access to the inner workings of Google, this book takes you inside the creation and growth of a company that has become so familiar its name is used as a verb around the world.”

2 stars? I mean, I finished it, so it’s more than 1 star right? But really I skimmed for the last while, so it  should be 1 star. I honestly don’t think it had anything good in it. I was expecting some insights, including ups and downs of the journey along the way. Yes it was a journey I guess, but it was written by someone else and it had no insights at all. It was like the author had found a bunch of people that knew The Google Guys and interviewed them, and then mashed it together. He didn’t have any knowledge or access to Google Inc….

Even more terribly, because they were all raging fans of The Google Guys already, they gushed over them or ideas. There were no “hard” moments in the journey of the business or even anyone that disliked The Google Guys. There is always controversy and hard decisions to be made, but none of these were mentioned at all. It was very one sided towards the things that were being done well.

Even the good parts of business that the author advised The Google Guys were doing right, were glossed over and had no depth or insight. It was just like “now they made $x profit or share price” with no detail of how that happened. It also went into the origins or backstory a lot more than needed. We seemed to spend a lot of the book there, languishing in the past of a business that is actually relatively futuristic.

The back of the book clearly tells us that the book was not created, authorised or endorsed by Google, Inc – and you can see why. I only picked it up thinking that everyone should know a little about Google and some stories to tell, but after I finished I don’t think I have any, and as a book it didn’t do it for me. I have had more insights into Google from other books who have done short 1 chapter or so case studies on Google, such as Simplify, then this whole book just on Google was. I really didn’t get anything out of it at all and I do NOT recommend it to anyone.

Review: Stephen Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (S)

Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R. Covey

“One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of presidents and CEOs, educators and parents—in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations across the world. This twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Stephen Covey’s cherished classic commemorates his timeless wisdom, and encourages us to live a life of great and enduring purpose.”

This book was pretty much as I expected. It’s thick, large, and long, which is good for stopping and starting and sinking into. I liked some parts of it, I think more of the good parts were at the start than the end – this is different from most of the business books I read.

Overall it was fairly good. The downside was its length because you never know when a good bit might come up. So you could be reading a patch of average or just felt like this part could be edited out and condensed and then suddenly be hit with something insightful. A lot of the book at the start dragged out, including the Introduction before even getting to habit one.

The 7 Habits are as follows:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

The 7 habits aren’t particularly new or anything different. But the author does have some different perspectives, points and tips under each one. I found some of these hidden gems and stories under each. But overall the habits are nothing new.

I would recommend it for anyone who is in sales or a leadership role. However the principles could be applied to anyone’s personal life who wants to foster continual learning. I wouldn’t re-read it again but it was good. 4 stars.

Review: Patrick Lencioni – The Ideal Team Player (S)

The Ideal Team Player
How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues
Patrick Lencioni

“Lencioni presents a practical framework and actionable tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players.  Whether you’re a leader trying to create a culture around teamwork, a staffing professional looking to hire real team players, or a team player wanting to improve yourself, this book will prove to be as useful as it is compelling.”

My beloved author strikes again! Although it sounds similar to Lencioni’s other novel, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, the two books are substantially different. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team talks about the qualities needed for a team to work together. It focuses on how to lift other team members productivity by how to interact as a team.

In contrast, The Ideal Team Player discusses how to improve team work by focusing on the individual person. This is includes hiring team members with these 3 virtues. How to look out for the virtues within a person. And how to support your current team members to improve these virtues if it’s not their strong suit.

Like Lencioni’s other novels, this one also has the fable as the main part, followed by a recap of the theory learnt. The fable gives you examples of people falling into specific categories which you can use to match against your current team members. The theory section then also gives you more self assessment tools as well.

Overall it is a great read with lot of value. I would recommend it to anyone who is hiring team members, even if it’s just your first. 5 stars, I would read again.

Review: Patrick Lencioni – The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (S)

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick Lencioni

“Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams even the best ones-often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Just as with his other books, Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.”

I love this author to start with and couldn’t wait to read it! It lived up to expectations and was a great read. It’s a similar style to the author’s other novels. That is to say, most of the book is a fable and then it had the theory at the end. The fable makes it relatable to the reader. As the reader you can picture the characters in the fable and have likely been in the same situations as them. You get caught up and invested in the characters, also wanting them to succeed.

The fable is structured in a way of very short little chapters. This is great if you need to put it down and you can still remember where you are up to (I did not want to put it down though).

I love that the author didn’t try and put too many theories into the book. As per the title there are only 5 dysfunctions of a team. Really that’s all you need to discuss so it isn’t over complicated, and it is possible to fully explore each. In the theory section at the end, the author gives practical examples of how to test of each of the dysfunctions. This includes examples of a good or bad team and a team questionnaire so you have something to take away and are able to evaluate your own team.

Overall, I would read it again. I recommend this book for anyone that is in a team. The book goes through it with the executive team of a large organisation, however is can be applied to a small business team of 5 or so as well.

Review: Jamie Cunningham – Jumping off the Hamster Wheel (S)

Jumping off the Hamster Wheel: How to run your business so you sleep at night

Jamie Cunningham

“Business owners need to know much more than a core skillset, but how do you figure out the right things to know? In Jumping Off the Hamster Wheel, award-winning business coach and CEO Jamie Cunningham provides a comprehensive and practical how-to guide for small business owners who want to build a profitable and sustainable business.”
This book was just average. I didn’t have any excitement from it or learn anything new. I guess the purpose of the book was to be a ‘only business book you need’ to learn most of what you need to successfully run a business. It’s basically all other business book theories in one. So I guess it did achieve this, and if you think about it like that, then this book is great.

If you have read many other business books like me, then you won’t really enjoy it. It’s nothing new to learn and wasn’t all that engaging or said in a different way. It started out promising for the first half, however after that didn’t seem to hold my attention. I kept putting off finishing it because I knew I would have to review it – and I just didn’t feel strongly enough about it to write much about it. 3 stars from me.

Review: Mike Southon & Chris West – The Beermat Entrepreneur (S)

The Beermat Entrepreneur: What You Really Need to Know to Turn a Good Idea into a Great Business

Mike Southon & Chris West

“Every business starts with a bright idea, and many a bright idea has been hatched in a pub scribbled on a nearby discarded beermat. But how do you turn the moment of inspiration into a well oiled plan? who do you need to talk to? How do you find the cash to back the idea? How many people do you need to work with to get the idea off the ground? And how on earth do you find them?”

I picked this book up for something lighter to read. This was lighter in comparison to other leadership books where you are constantly learning new things and wanting to implement them. The Beermat Entrepreneur was perfect for this! As you can imagine, the book was in a relaxed style. I could relate and laughed to some of the typical business things that happen at each stage of the business life cycle.

The book takes you through a typical entrepreneur journey starting from the business idea in the pub with mates, through to implementing this business and growing it to the “mighty oak” phase. It obviously can’t cover everything you will come across along the way of building your business but it does cover quite a lot of the typical obstacles you may come across. However, the book doesn’t go into great detail of each item. If you have a particular business issue you want resolved, this isn’t the book for you.

Overall it was a really enjoyable read. Not for detailed insight but is a great overview of the entrepreneur. If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur or wondering what the life of an entrepreneur is like, then it’s a great read for you. 4 stars.

Review: Adam Ferrier – Stop Listening to the Customer (S)

Stop Listening to the Customer: Try Hearing your Brand Instead
Adam Ferrier

“The customer is not always right. Far from it. What the customer wants is often at odds with what is best for the business or brand. Adam draws on his years of creative agency experience, the wisdom of other voices, as well as marketing science to outline the dangers of listening to the customer too much and reveals what you can do about it. This book will show you how to build a strong brand or business.”

Overall the concept of the book is that the customer is not always correct. The customer doesn’t always know what they want, and even if they do, it might not be the correct thing for your company. The premise of the book is to put your brand and what your company stands for above everything else, including the customer.

I do agree with this premise. However, the book didn’t execute this the best it could have been. The author seemed to jump around a lot and it didn’t have a focus of what each chapter was about. The author also jumped around with short stories, some of which were good but some which could have been removed.

A good half of the book was convincing the reader that the customer is not always right. As the reader I was convinced of this rather early on! I wanted to know more about the author’s point of why the business should be hearing the brand instead. There was hardly any of this section of the book.

The author didn’t seem to explain their point and their side enough. It kind of felt like it ended abruptly and I wanted to hear more of how to actually listen to your brand. At what stages of the business life cycle should you be listening to brand and how much? The author doesn’t actually answer this question.

Overall there was not enough actionable material to take away from the book.  Unless you are particularly interested in short stories or the author, I wouldn’t recommend reading this book. 2 stars from Suzanne.

Review: Miller, Davis & Roos-Olsson – Everyone Deserves a Great Manager (S)

Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team
Scott Jeffrey Miller, Todd Davis, Victoria Roos-Olsson

“A practical must-read, FranklinCovey’s Everyone Deserves a Great Manager is the essential guide for the millions of people all over the world making the challenging and rewarding leap to manager. Organized under four main roles every manager is expected to fill, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager focuses on how to lead yourself, people, teams, and change. Readers can start anywhere and go everywhere with this guide—depending on their current problem or time constraint. They can pick up a helpful tip in ten minutes or glean an entire skillset with deeper reading. With skill-based chapters that cover managerial skills like one-on-ones, giving feedback, delegating, hiring, building team culture, and leading remote teams, the book also includes more than thirty unique tools, such as a prep worksheets and a list of behavioral questions for your next interview.”

I picked up this book as I was after some actual practical ways to improve myself as a leader and manager. That was exactly what I got! I loved that it had practices to do including a chart of “common mindset” and “effective mindset” for you as a leader to compare yourself in the areas and see where you can improve.

The book was written by three authors and the writing flowed really well. Each of the authors added little bits here and there throughout, including short stories or examples which helped explain that given chapter. The book had practical exercises to do in each chapter, as well as an end of chapter notes section where you can write your personal action items.

These were not like other books where they provide general advice and no solid goal. This book included in the practical sections the exact wording of coaching questions and practices to use. That gave it a full 5 stars in my eyes.

This is the kind of book you can’t read all at once. Like I did, you need to read a single section or chapter. Then, go away and do the exercises and put your new learning in place. It’s a lot of doing and you definitely need to refer to the book again as reference or to re-read it. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who has direct reports under them. I think it’s a must-read for the leadership team of any business, small or large.