A trove of insightful parables for anyone who has struggled in a managerial role.




Real-life lessons on how managers can maximize their employees’ potential by recognizing the power of seemingly everyday moments.

The boss is always being watched—his or her employees ponder every word and discuss every deed. Wasserman and Katz call this the “invisible spotlight,” and getting the most from employees depends on how managers conduct themselves and their relationships under its ceaseless glare. The authors argue that managers commonly underestimate the impact they have on their employees. Well-crafted encouragement can set the stage for improvement, while a callous demeanor can undermine the management relationship. Like an architect designing a building, the effective leader deliberately creates conditions that enable subordinates to achieve goals. Distilling decades of consulting work into a slim, potent text, Wasserman and Katz sidestep the buzzwords and management “formulas” that have overrun the genre. Instead their book teaches by example through war stories from the corporate front lines. A case study about a caustic yet capable trucking manager in Ohio reveals how a boss can improve the bottom line but demoralize his workforce in the process, putting longer-term success in jeopardy. The story of a nitpicking boss who tried to artificially create a “Caring Culture” in her department underscores the importance of credibility. The successful transformation of a former superstar employee to a behind-the-scenes leader offers a lesson in how to adapt to a new role. Whether dealing with an office diva or apologizing for an outburst, managers at all levels can find guidance in these succinct pages. The authors could have done more to address how carelessly composed emails and text messages—those imperfect modes of communication essential in today’s workplace—can damage relationships as easily as the spoken word. Still, the book’s authenticity makes up for this oversight, and makes it a welcome addition in cubicles and executive suites alike.

A trove of insightful parables for anyone who has struggled in a managerial role.

Pub Date: June 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-1460926017

Page Count: 154

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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