A sharp, habit-forming leadership manual.

The Coaching Habit

SAY LESS, ASK MORE AND CHANGE THE WAY YOU LEAD FOREVER

A trenchant guide to coaching for business managers.

Books with clever titles and pithy, time-saving concepts fill the crowded management and leadership genre, which targets busy executives, and too often, they overpromise and underdeliver, like empty-calorie snacks. But Bungay Stanier (Great Work Provocations, 2013, etc.), the founder of Box of Crayons, a Toronto-based training company, has produced something closer to an engineered nutritional bar, in which each ingredient contributes to the whole. The author explains why coaching is vital for managers and reviews reasons why they shy away from it, including the notion that dispensing answers and advice seems faster and easier than empowering subordinates. He persuasively argues that changing such habits can free managers to “work less hard and have more impact.” The book refines the coaching process into “Seven Essential Questions” and gives each its own chapter: “The Kickstart Question,” “The Focus Question,” “The Strategic Question,” and so on. Each one asks readers to note a situation that triggers the urge to dispense wisdom rather than coach, and gives cues to replace that habit with a new one. The questions then build naturally toward conversations about coaching. The book tailors its organization and length to time-pressed readers, who can finish it easily in a couple of hours or in 15-minute increments. Bungay Stanier writes with verve, effectively incorporating humor, surprise, and parables. Subheads are numerous, and pull-quotes often fill entire pages, but readers shouldn’t mistake the book’s compact size, slide-deck–style presentation format, and breezy tone for a lack of substance. It’s packed with actionable tips derived from training classes; on-point observations from leading business thinkers, such as Daniel Pink and Charles Duhigg; supporting research citations; and recommended resources for further study. Each chapter steers readers to the Box of Crayons website, where lively videos will reinforce the messages. In this way, the book serves as either an appetizer for a whole course on coaching or as a satisfying small meal on its own.

A sharp, habit-forming leadership manual.

Pub Date: Feb. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9784407-4-9

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Box of Crayons Press

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2016

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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