Nine Minutes on Monday
By James Robbins
List price: $25
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Author James Robbins wants just nine minutes of your workweek—and in those nine minutes, he says, you can do your most vital work.
Robbins’ Nine Minutes on Monday is a simple prescription for managers, team leaders and executives to shift from focusing on day-to-day details of management to focusing on real leadership. He proposes a nine-minute, nine-point assessment every Monday, when a manager looks at how he or she will meet employees’ key needs that week.
Robbins lays out those needs and then offers managers ways to make simple changes to their own weekly schedules so they can focus on those priorities and not get lost in the minutiae of management. Those needs, and ways to fill them, include the following:
- Employees want to know the organization cares about them. Learn more about employees as people, how to use “walkabouts” to visit with employees casually but effectively, how to mark personal and cultural milestones at work, how to express real interest in people’s future goals, and more. Managers need to ask themselves each Monday “How will I take a genuine interest in my employees this week?”
- Employees want to develop mastery—to struggle with and overcome challenges. Topics include setting clear expectations that are specific and challenging, structuring tasks that stretch people’s abilities, giving consistent feedback, and defining what success should look like so employees know what they’re out to achieve. The Monday question: “Whom will I give feedback to this week?”
- Employees need regular recognition. Saying “We already have a company recognition program that does that” or claiming that individual recognition is favoritism is wrong, Robbins says. Readers learn the differences between recognizing achievements, behaviors and attributes; how to make recognition regular; and why it’s important to practice how you recognize others’ work and behaviors. Managers need to ask “Whom will I reward or recognize this week?”
- Employees need to connect with each other, especially in teams; Robbins calls it being “sticky.” The book examines ways to build trust, identify and deal with problem behaviors among employees, increase personal camaraderie among workers, and help new hires bond with the team. Monday’s question: “What can I do to make my team ‘stickier’ this week?”
- Employees need to see their managers modeling desired behaviors. Employees look to leaders to know how to act and respond, Robbins writes, and he outlines how to be a purposeful model who asks “What model do my people need from me this week?”
A key chapter walks readers through how to structure a weekly, nine-minute planning session to cover the nine needs and set priorities for the week.
Steps include creating a list of specific action items for each need and focusing on the four most important needs—care, mastery, recognition and purpose—first. Robbins gives examples of how real managers use the nine needs to be hands-on leaders who take small, specific steps each week.
The book includes links to online tools such as worksheets and exercises.
Is Work Killing You?
By David Posen
House of Anansi Press, 2013
List price: $18.95
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The right amount of stress can be beneficial, spurring us to better performance. But too much stress quickly degrades performance and brings on a host of other problems, from physical illness to lack of engagement.
In Is Work Killing You?, physician David Posen, writing for both employers and employees, digs into why work-related stress is increasing. He shows readers how to get today’s stresses under control—which benefits both themselves and their workplaces.
Posen identifies three main contributors to workplace stress: Volume of work contributes to overload; “velocity” of work means employees are expected to do more, faster; and abuse at work is the stress created by toxic co-workers. Anyone running a business or organization should care about workers’ stress because chronic stress leads directly to absenteeism, lower productivity, health and safety issues, and behavior problems that make teamwork difficult.
Then Posen details the stresses of the workplace—overload, speed and abuse. Posen looks at the characteristics of a workplace that is the right size to prevent overload—a place where employees are challenged but not overwhelmed, have time and energy left to have personal lives, and have enough staff to deal with crises. He looks at how workplace cultures can promote overwork, deny that stress exists and focus on the bottom line to the exclusion of any consideration for employees.
Posen’s advice for employers includes these steps:
- Learn the signs and stages of burnout, which often starts with positives (high ideals and high expectations) that can drain energy.
- Find each individual worker’s optimal performance zone—the number of work hours each week that produce the best outcomes.
- Help employees set priorities. Posen urges managers to examine and shift workloads, watch for perfectionism that actually slows work down, provide the resources employees really need to get work done, and take other steps to ensure that employees are focused and supported.
- Review whether job cuts have left employees doing too much to make up for the lower head count, and consider whether you need to do more hiring. Cut costs in ways other than by cutting the workforce.
- Reconsider expectations. If they’re unrealistically high, they can create a treadmill effect, with employees running faster and longer to meet demands yet never catching up. Posner outlines how to do a reality check on expectations.
- Root out overuse and misuse of technology. Use e-mail more effectively, develop policies for the use of electronics, and stop expecting employees (and managers) to check devices frequently when they’re not at work.
- Ensure that the organization or business takes some responsibility for work/life balance and doesn’t just tell employees that striking a balance is their job alone. Focusing on results rather than on hours worked is one way to start.
- Identify and deal with abusive people. Posen covers how to recognize abusive patterns, warn and monitor offenders, and “find them, fix them, or fire them”—but never just let them continue to work as they are.
Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead
By Sheryl Sandberg
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
List price: $24.95
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While institutional barriers have kept women from getting to the top at work, women also face internal barriers—their own expectations, fears and compromises—that cause them to hold themselves back professionally. Sheryl Sandberg wants women to acknowledge and deal with those internal barriers, and then move on to “achieve their full potential.”
Sandberg, chief operating officer for Facebook, draws on her own career and her personal experiences as executive, wife and parent as she lays out the ways in which women often undermine themselves at work, and how they can stop doing so.
Gender stereotypes still persist, and, with most business leadership positions still held by men, women (and men) tend to expect that women won’t achieve those roles, Sandberg notes. Our media publish cautionary tales about how women find it tough to “have it all” and how either children or careers suffer. “The good news is that not only can women have both families and careers, they can thrive while doing so,” Sandberg says. But she cautions that having both family and career requires constant “adjustments, compromises and sacrifices.”
Her observations include the following:
- Women underestimate themselves—consistently. Their self-doubt makes them feel as if they are frauds, which makes them hold back
- Women who excel at their jobs often are viewed as unlikeable or difficult, “iron ladies” who might get the job done but whom others (including other women) don’t want to emulate. Competent women aren’t perceived as likeable, yet likeable women are perceived as more nice than competent.
- When it comes to negotiating for their own pay, women negotiate less than men. People expect men to negotiate for their own benefit, but don’t expect it of women. Sandberg looks at what makes women reluctant to negotiate.
- Women take fewer risks in their careers. Outside pressures (including expectations that women will accommodate a partner’s career moves rather than vice versa) partly cause this risk-averseness. But women too often decline assignments that would stretch them and teach them new skills—because they worry that they don’t already have the skills.
- Mentoring is important to helping women get ahead, but too many women look at finding a mentor as “the professional equivalent of finding Prince Charming”: The right mentor will make everything perfect. Sandberg says young women need to hear, “Excel first and you will get a mentor,” not “Get a mentor and you will excel.”
- “Of all the ways that women hold themselves back, perhaps the most pervasive is leaving before they leave,” Sandberg says. She delves into the ways women deny themselves chances to advance professionally and take on new challenges because they are looking ahead to possibly having children—and turning down opportunities just in case they might need to leave to have a child at some point. Sandberg argues that “the time to scale back is when a break is needed or when a child arrives—not before, and certainly not years in advance.”
- Men need to take on more responsibility for home and children, and women need to let them. Employment policies, which still assume that women and not men will be home longer when a new baby arrives, should treat maternity and paternity equally.
- Shutting down discussion of gender only “impedes progress” in the workplace. Sandberg points out how women fear that raising issues about gender will make them appear to be blaming others for problems, while men fear that talking about gender will be misinterpreted.
- Women should help other women, though one “obstacle to more women gaining power has sometimes been women already in power.” But Sandberg adds that she is willing to bet on women helping other women. The more women there are in powerful positions, the more they will and can do for others, she says.
Talent, Transformation, and the Triple Bottom Line
By Andrew Savitz with Karl Weber
List price: $37.95
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Sustainability is about how businesses can “turn environmental and social challenges … into business opportunities,” and it’s a hot topic. Increasingly, companies are hiring sustainability specialists and setting up sustainability departments. What is missing is a key role for a department that is crucial for real transformation—the HR department. In Talent, Transformation, and the Triple Bottom Line, Andrew Savitz and Karl Weber provide examples, ideas and plans HR professionals can use to make sustainability a reality. They also answer questions such as the following:
- What is sustainability? Learn the current business meanings of sustainability and its environmental, social and economic aspects. The authors’ “triple bottom line” measures a company’s environmental and social impact as well as its economic performance. The book defines what sustainability means for business, outlines trends in sustainability and recommends ways to develop sustainable business strategies.
- How does an organization make sustainability part of its workforce life cycle? If sustainability is viewed as a separate, feel-good activity—just a way to boost corporate image—then the workforce won’t take it seriously. Linking sustainability strategy to employee behavior is critical if environmental and social aspects are to become ingrained in workers’ daily actions. Sustainability can be part of all aspects of workforce management, including recruitment, diversity, career development, training, and compensation and incentives. Readers get advice on creating incentives that reward employees for helping meet corporate sustainability goals.
- What role does workforce management play in bolstering sustainability? HR’s position as keeper of performance management processes and other workforce management processes gives it a strong strategic part to play. The book describes how performance appraisals can link employee goals to larger sustainability goals and how appraisals can evaluate and reward employees based on sustainability performance. Readers also learn about what today’s workforce expects from corporate sustainability and how some organizations have created career paths focused on sustainability.
- How does sustainability affect HR areas such as health programs, labor relations, diversity, employee engagement and more? The book examines how sustainability expands HR’s responsibilities; looks at tools and techniques now available to help HR approach its traditional goals with sustainability in mind; and shows how wellness programs, working conditions (such as flexible work arrangements) and workspace fit into sustainability.
- What is HR’s role in the larger picture of building a sustainable company? HR can learn lessons from other companies’ experiences in changing corporate culture and in changing employees’ beliefs. A section on “how to get where you want to go” uses examples to show how HR can take specific actions to make sustainability a real, concrete part of the organization.
Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.