The Featured Finalists book reviews by Award Committee members will appear monthly from November onwards.
The January book review is by Lawrence Arnold
Resilience at work: Practical tools for career success, by Kathryn Jackson & published by Routledge
After a busy year, we all need to reflect on resilience at work. Kathryn Jackson, experienced NZ learning and development coach, had had a busy 2010, and then had her world rocked by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. She stepped up to join the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT) as a Peak Performance coach, helping leaders rebuild – everything! After researching, applying, and reflecting on resilience tools in this extreme situation she wrote Resilience at work: Practical tools for career success.
Few of us will experience such cataclysmic natural disasters, but earthquakes and volcanoes will occur in our careers and work lives. This book is aimed at organisations, career coaches, counsellors, and ‘people who are specifically seeking more strength in their world of work.’ It’s packed with exercises, management advice, and coaching tales within the Resilience Foundations framework of Emotional honesty, Self-care, Connecting, and Learning. Readers can self-assess their resilience characteristics, beliefs, and actions as a basis to move forward. That’s one big idea of the book.
The other big ideas are the ‘wish list’ of 12 resilience attributes self-esteem; self-efficacy; autonomy; conscientiousness; agreeableness; openness to experience; self-directedness; low rumination; communication; detached coping strategies; problem solving skills; and optimism … and the basic advice of ‘don’t follow a guide’, but use your own plan based on your own career and work life experience.
There are plenty of exercises, self-reflection, and tools to assist this and ensure readers don’t wander aimlessly through the landscape. I particularly like the ‘Coaching moments’ that encourage readers to link the ideas in each chapter to their real situations. One of them is:
For one week, keep a note of where your natural thoughts gravitate when things happen for you at work (this includes both successes and setbacks).
Then there are some specific focus questions to prompt reflection. This helps readers gradually build up a thought profile linked to real work situations.
While there’s plenty of work for readers to do, Kathryn’s energetic writing style will keep readers turning the pages … of the book and of their lives, and building resilience for career success.
The December review is by Warren Frehse.
Future Fit: How to Stay Relevant and Competitive in the Future of Work, by Andrea Clarke & published by Major Street Publishing
The title of this book will exude high expectations in the reader. A future fit into an unknown and reasonably unpredictable future is enough to arouse interest, although the sceptics would hardly be convinced that one book would do it all.
But Andrea Clarke has managed to capture the essence of the changing workplace using solid examples from her experience as a journalist with a particularly vivid re-living in the first instance of landing in a war zone.
This book captures a somewhat complex issue in today’s workplaces. Jobs are changing rapidly. People fear the rise of robots and artificial intelligence. So how do we prepare ourselves for the inevitable.
Well the inevitable turns out to be not as one might expect. The author really convinces with solid examples and thoroughly backed-up researched predictions of a future where “human skills” will be powerful differentiators in an ever-changing and demanding 21st century.
The good news is that such skills can be learned or honed to provide a competitive edge into the future workplace, much of which of course, is unfolding right now.
This highly-readable and nicely structured book centres on eight of these human skills with each chapter headed by a thoughtful quote to allow some reflection on what is to come.
Weaving the experiences of a somewhat seasoned news correspondent, the reader quickly catches on that the new workplace will be about navigating sudden shifts and turns in direction akin to a developing news story. Those that thrive into the future will need to be agile enough to embrace these changes.
Her assertions are backed up by local and international research that quickly concludes that it is now obvious that sitting still is not an option. Staying relevant will be as much about redefining current skill sets as they are about nurturing creativity and actively networking. It is not enough to let these crucial skills get rusty or simply left unattended to.
All up, the reader will feel empowered to sharpen these critical skills and be confident that human skills will naturally complement artificial intelligence, and eventually allay fears that robots will create an employment Armageddon through job elimination.
The message is clear that human skills will prevail and those who hone them will no doubt thrive and succeed in the future world of work. This refreshingly positive, yet realistic message is the theme of this book. It will definitely leave you with a spring in your step with renewed confidence about the future.
The November review by June Smith is of the awarded book for 2019.
Career Conversations: how to get the best from your talent pool, by Greg Smith & published by Wiley
The world would be a better place if there were more effective career conversations. Greg Smith, very clearly and systematically, sets out to give managers the tools to initiate, and more importantly to lead career conversations that unless undertaken, will leave employees dissatisfied or, at times, look for opportunities outside of the organisation.
Greg provides exercises, frameworks and diagrams that simply but effectively demonstrate aspects of career review, so leaders have the tools to gain insight into their own behaviour and help employees address career issues.
This includes identifying transferable skills that are not discipline related, as well as isolating not only the skills they enjoy using, but those that align with current and future market needs. (p 18)
While this book is directed at leaders and managers within organisations, much of the content can be used by anyone wanting to review and think about their own career.
The standard performance review process includes components of career direction and related training and development but all too often these are not given the attention warranted. One of the reasons for this could be that managers are not confident about the language and process to do this effectively, and the book provides these tools equipping them to help employees.
Taking the approach Fit your own mask, Greg guides leaders to take steps to develop their career coaching skills. With plenty of case studies, tips for leaders, review of key learning and summing up, it’s an easy to follow logical process. The diagrams are clear and useful in illustrating the approach and the foundation and context of each exercise.
Greg Smith is a very experienced and well qualified practitioner in career coaching, general management, recruitment and consultancy, and draws on this to provide a practical book delivering results for both managers and employees.