Book Reviews - Symposium Learning

June 2, 2021
leadership-book-review.jpg

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Can a 20-years-old guide still be actual and provide insights that resonate with modern managers? Indeed, it can! Leadership skills for women delivers over 90 pages of exercises and ideas that will help all aspiring managers, women as well as men, to achieve valuable self-knowledge to boost their career.

The authors foreword anticipates this as a “book to read with a pencil” (p.vii): thought out its pages it guides the readers from the discovery of the qualities that make people leaders to the learning of key skills, via the unique challenges and opportunities that leader face, with direct consideration to women managers.

The workbook opens by listing the characteristics of the effective leader: values intuition, ethical believes and great listening skills are what differentiate a leader from a follower.

Of great insight are the 2 core leadership styles that can be recognised in leaders: the “Quite style”, that divides in The Supporter & The Perfectionist and the “Outgoing Style” which includes The Director and The Motivator – simple and easy to follow indication of characteristics and preferences that can be observed and reflected upon.

The statement “your attitude as a leader will set the pace and the tone for your employees” (p.10) sets the expectations high and the authors suggest that conflicts raising directly from the private sphere will lead to stress to trickle in the business life affecting one’s own effectiveness as a leader.

Management evolves around “planning, organising, staffing and controlling” (p. 13) and those four basic functions are essential to both man and women to become effective leaders.

It is not until page 15 that the authors begin to address unique challenges that women leaders face: by listening the stereotypes the readers are guided to truthfully ask themselves if they have engaged in such stereotype and what resolutions could be taken to change perception. Accepting that some of the challenges are differently worded today, I have wonder if the stereotypes are still actual despite the semantic. “Women are too picky” or “women are difficult to work for” are surely some two I have found myself confronting.

The workbook reads easily and it can be completed in 2-hour setting or over a few sessions, depending on what the reader is really searching for.

Insights on team players types (p.24), values as motivators (p.27), time management (p.37) create an active workbook. The reader can get fully involved by naming individual team member, list traits that makes them difficult and then work out effective resolution techniques such as coaching and feedback (p. 51)

Very Interesting the notion to use Positive Anger in conflict resolution and the proposition that women, being raised to “be nice”, are directly challenged in using this technique. The ethics that guide “raising girls” continue to resonate in most contemporary discussion around women leadership. The benefits of leadership that the authors provide e.g. leading a more interesting life thanks to the ability to travel, could be modernized in a new edition by including closing pay-gap and increase equality in participation, without decreasing the great insight offered by this useful workbook.

LEADERSHIP SKILLS FOR WOMEN

Boost your career with new techniques and skills.

Marilyn Manning and Patricia Haddock

Kogan Page – Better management skills

(1999)

96 pages

ISBN: 0749427310

Interactive Worksheets

Further Reading

Available on Amazon


June 2, 2021
mentoring-book-review.jpg

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A concise and straightforward workbook for those who intend to become a mentor in their workplace. The easy to follow content and chapter breakdown, provides friendly worksheets to complete during the reading and allow the aspirant mentor to begin reflective work on own motivation, belief on what mentoring is and create of next steps towards further education

The book opens with the idea core to mentoring is the development of latent abilities, in those named as the mentees: listening, exchange of knowledge, skills and opportunities are essential to a constructive and efficient mentoring experience.

G.Shea suggests that a good friendship, where effective listening and support has occurred, should be considered a real mentoring relationship. Allowing for Informal as well as short-term associations, mentoring is about development, interchange of viewpoints and encouragement towards a professional and winning behaviours.

Most of all mentoring is about going the extra mile:

“Most of us have known many good and competent teachers (…) The fortunate ones among us have also encountered teachers who have lit a spark within us, who opened new vistas and dimensions before us, who touched us deeply and who awakened and encouraged our potential” (page 23)

Some key points for effective mentoring

  • Focus on what is done following the mentor’s help, rather than how
  • The desire of the mentee to be independent is essential
  • The empowering mentors may just involve in good listening which will allow the mentee to find the solution by him/herself.

Without doubt mentoring is a path to change and Shea reminds its reader of 5 key bullet points of change management (page 37) which include: share vision, time, behaviour adjustment, coping and internalisation of the change.

The workbook prompts to the different ways listening, the most essential aspect of mentoring, occurs. Mentoring requires active listening, respectful listening, listening for feelings, listening for motivation.

Mentors are to refrain from giving advices: if during the conversation the mentee retorts with “Yes, but…” the mentor must halt and reflect on how the relationship might be shifting towards problem-solving or coaching rather than remain in the constructive area of mentoring:

Mentoring is a reciprocal, mutual relations between equals working together: the mentor will have a gaining relationship by sharing his/her own motivation openly with the mentee.

When mentoring as a manager more care in the disclosure of objectives and a plan to revision must be discussed: this will ensure that seniority will give assurance of competence and not of become a measure of performance expectations, which can be covered by other aspects of the relationship.

MENTORING

A GUIDE TO THE BASICS

Gordon F. Shea

Crisp Publication Inc.

(1992)

77 pages

ISBN: 0 7494 – 0881 -2

Interactive Worksheets

Available on Amazon

Further Reading

https://books.google.ie/books/about/Mentoring.html?id=XIPngoZ09SMC&redir_esc=y


June 2, 2021
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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The book is perfect for those interested in learning about Situational Leadership without having to address extensive Occupational Psychology theories and data.

Written as a dialogue that reminds of the Socratic method, Dr. Paul Hersey characters are modelled on “two giants in the field – Frederick W. Taylor, the father of scientific management (Task Behaviour) and Carl Rogers, who opened new horizons in interpersonal relations (Relationship Behaviour)” – page 126

The key themes are addressed in the dialogue and further expanded in explanatory sub-chapters.

The model of Situational Leadership has been adopted since the late 1970s and, as the title suggest, leadership is not be intended as a fixed skillset that a manager and leader can apply. Leadership is the ability to modify and interpret the situation, more specifically the requirements and readiness of the followers, and adjust the management style accordingly. This flexibility is well explored in Chapter Four Selecting Appropriate styles –

Rogers: You got it…and, you know, after a while, I could predict that Taylor would treat me differently depending on the job we had to do, how much a knew about it, and how much I wanted to get it done. (page 54)

Of extreme value is the chapter that covers Performance problems and more specifically performance discipline. The basic suggestion is that the modern negative connotation of discipline as a corrective measure has evolve from what used to be a more positive and constructive use of the term disciple “A disciple is a learner” – page 114.

Time, an essential factor in performance and management must allow for variation of circumstances, motivations as well as company goals. It is the role of the manager to evaluate correctly if there are events which can negatively impact performance.

“When people’s performance declines, the intervention needs to be made with a leadership style that is appropriate for their present readiness.” (page 115)

The model was first created by Dr. Paul Hersey in collaboration with Ken Blanchard and it was introduced as a “life cycle theory of leadership” in 1968. The two theorists subsequentially developed independent streams of the model. Dr. Paul Hersey founded the Centre for Leadership Studies which offers courses and certification to deep dive into the content and application of the Situational Leadership theory. Dr. Blanchard has also actively engaged with the model and created SLii© model and the Blanchard Training and Development Inc. (Companies).

Criticism of the theory are not address in this original volume, which in fact frames itself as presenting a model rather than a theory of Leadership “A model, on the other hand, is a pattern of already existing events which can be learned and therefore repeated”.

The SITUATIONAL LEADER

Dr. Paul Hersey

Wilson Learning Edition

Centre for Leadership Studies

1984

127 pages

ISBN: 0446513423

Prologue and Post Prologue

The Story, the Background, The epilogue

https://youtu.be/5qD_6yIKXbo


June 2, 2021
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Reading Time: 2 minutes

A. Montgomery is an awarded author, Harvard Business School Professor and Director in boards of two Fortune 500 companies. The content of the book is educated by her experience in running the Harvard’s Entrepreneur, Owner, President Program (EOP). Written with accessible language that uses minimal commercial jargon, the book clearly covers what set out in the contents outline: it explores what are the key responsibilities of a strategist and how to differentiate between strategizing and creating business models. Using approachable case studies such as IKEA, Gucci and Apple, Montgomery concludes the book by sharing an inspiring poem by Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day” (1992) which poses the question

“Tell me, what is it your plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

The aim is clearly outlined at the beginning of chapter 1: “My ultimate goal is not to ‘teach strategy’ but to equip and inspire you to be a strategist, a leader….” (p.5) The book is suitable as a bright read for a business owner, as an introduction to higher management responsibilities or for entrepreneur searching for inspiration while embarking in new ventures. It is not a workbook or a guidebook: it provides limited, but effective, diagrams and a very good FAQ appendix (which reminds of the usefulness of SWOT!).

Key points stressed throughout are

  • Leadership and strategy are inseparable (p.12)
  • Strategy is more than an aspiration (…) it’s a system of values (p.133)
  • Strategy can be a simple motto that translates the key purpose of the company: be unique
  • The strategist is not a super-manager: s/he employs a team key people with the correct specialisation and know how
  • Communications enables success

During the reading, Montgomery invites her audience to answer many questions, reformulated clearly on the final chapter (p.133)

  1. What does my organisation bring to the world?
  2. Does that difference matter?
  3. Is something about it scarce and difficult to imitate?
  4. Are we doing today what we need to do in order to matter tomorrow?

The Strategist has the responsibility towards its own firm as well as its own community; the purpose and values it brings and offers must be the most essential moments of considerations. The Strategist is responsible to define what a company is, what it exists to achieve. I recommend this book as a good introduction for Senior Managers to the concepts and mind-set that guide strategizing versus the more customary business planning approach.

The STRATEGIST

BE THE LEADER YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS

Cynthia A. Montgomery

HarperCollins Publishers

(May 7, 2012)

208 page

ISBN: 9780062071019

Frequently asked Questions

Recommended Reading

Alphabetical Index

Available on Amazon

 http://cynthiamontgomery.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKawTRAFOYY