Books in Brief

By Leigh Rivenbark

HR Magazine, March 2006Coaching Leaders

By Daniel White, Jossey-Bass, 2005, 312 pages
List price: $35, ISBN-13: 978-0-7879-7714-6

Daniel White, managing director of Discovery Consulting and a specialist in coaching and training leaders, writes for those who coach executives and top managers. His book is designed to be helpful for such coaches regardless of whether their background is in HR, organizational development, career counseling or psychotherapy.

Drawing examples from his own coaching experience, White weaves dozens of cases into his book to demonstrate how he has found coaching theories work in the real world.

To familiarize readers with leaders particular needs, White outlines 15 leadership practices, such as setting priorities, recognizing and rewarding talent, building teams, recruiting talent, problem-solving, and using political savvy. For each, he supplies a case illustrating how a leader, usually through coaching, improved his performance in those practices.

White then takes on the nature of coaching. Coaching roles covered include acting as a guide who helps explore new behaviors, as a teacher who provides learning opportunities and as a practice partner who role-plays with the leader to try out behaviors safely.

In Coaching Leaders, White walks readers through stages of change, from the time the client sees no need for change, to contemplating and preparing for change, to taking and maintaining actions. He gives examples of how leaders can reinvent their behavior, rehearse potential changes, deal with uncertainty and more.

A section on the coaching process starts with the contract between coach and client, and then goes week by week through steps that include building rapport, assessing the leader and getting others feedback on the person, setting goals, and preparing and practicing for change.

White provides coaching techniques. Coaches can use careful questioning to lead clients toward self-examination, and the book has sample questions and responses. Readers get ideas for listening empathetically, helping a client reframe his views, and tapping into clients personal learning styles.

White notes that different approaches to coaching may be helpful for different clients. Some may respond better to coaching that appreciates their strengths before trying to modify their behaviors. Others may want the coach to discuss his personal experiences with issues similar to those the leader faces.

The book closes with a look at the coaching business, at trends in leadership coaching, and at developments such as personality assessment tools and coach training courses.

Building on the Promise of Diversity

By R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., AMACOM, 2006
238 pages, List price: $27.95, ISBN: 0-8144-0862-1

Corporate America is stuck on an outdated view of diversity and must begin defining and managing diversity very differently, diversity consultant R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr. says in Building on the Promise of Diversity.

In most organizations, diversity means workforce diversity, and workforce diversity means race and gender, Thomas writes. As a result, other types of diversitysuch as customer, product, function, acquisition/merger, family, or community diversitygo unaddressed.

Thomas defines diversity as differences, similarities and related tensions that exist in any setting, not just the workplace. He urges readers to focus on diversity management, which means making quality decisions in the midst of diversity. And he sets forth his Strategic Diversity Management process to help readers make those quality decisions.

Thomas discusses todays perception of diversity as a legacy of the civil rights movement and notes that such a view politicizes diversity. He argues for diversity approaches usable not just by organizations leaders and managers but also by rank-and-file employees. In addition, he addresses the complacency that leads managers to think they can meet the diversity challenge simply by meeting numerical targets for hiring people of certain races or a particular gender.

A core concept of Strategic Diversity Management is specifying what creates diversity. Race and gender, to be sure, can bring diversity to the mixture, but so can ethnicity, geographic origin, age, political affiliation, social or economic class, and other characteristics.

Strategic Diversity Management practitioners should keep diversity neutral, Thomas says, adding that diversity is neither good nor bada statement he notes may be shocking to some if they cling to the politicized version of diversity. He also insists that diversity programs be driven by an organizations actual requirements, focusing on what is needed to accomplish the organizations mission.

Thomas identifies three important diversity-management capabilities: to recognize a diversity mixture, to determine whether action is needed, and to select and use appropriate actions.

The book looks at obstacles to recognizing diversity, such as believing that diversity is the same as affirmative action, which can lead people to think that their situation doesnt involve diversity if there is no clear race or gender issue.

Thomas illustrates his process with a detailed example of how the heads of a fictional companys three functional units clashed and how their tensionsnone of which were linked to race or genderleft them unable to make good decisions about integrating their units work. The example analyzes the tensions, looks at desired business and personal outcomes, and lays out possible responses.

Thomas is CEO of Roosevelt Thomas Consulting & Training Inc. and founder of the American Institute for Managing Diversity, both in Atlanta. He also is a member of the Society for Human Resource Managements Board of Directors.

Painless Performance Evaluations

By Marnie E. Green, Pearson Education, 2006
162 pages, List price: $19.95, ISBN: 0-13-170675-6

Supervisors and managers responsible for employee performance evaluations will find advice, formats for recording performance, tips on preparing for performance meetings with employees and more in this handbook on making performance evaluation part of the supervisors daily routine.

Author Marnie E. Green, founder of the Management Education Group in Chandler, Ariz., details performance management roles played by supervisors, executives, employees, human resource professionals and others.

Noting that forms and formats are largely irrelevant, Green says that organizations bog down in details when they should focus on making certain that performance management is regularly and easily updated and discussed. Green does not prescribe one system of performance management but gives readers tools and ideas to use within their current systems. In Painless Performance Evaluations, Green looks at:

Setting goals. Make performance expectations clear with tools, including success criteria, completion deadlines and progress reports. Work with employees to develop performance goals.

Documenting performance. Reasons for performance documentation can include creating work histories and supporting managerial decisions such as firings or training choices. Green lists the kinds of information supervisors should have in their files on each employee, and she notes which data are inappropriate for supervisors to have.

Making performance management a daily routine. Tips on becoming a more disciplined performance manager include using e-mail as performance documentation and using performance logs regularly.

Learning to identify performance problems. Assess whether your concerns about an employee are based on legitimate performance issues or [your] personal pet peeves.

Giving legal and objective ratings. Learn how to explain rating categories to employees and how to create legally defensible ratings.

Writing performance evaluation documents. Green lists possible information sources for evaluations, discusses how employees self-evaluations can help both employees and supervisors, and looks at how specificity and examples make evaluations effective.

Conducting evaluation meetings. Three rules apply: Eliminate surprises; let the employee talk more than the supervisor; and focus on the future, not the past.

Beyond E-Learning

By Marc J. Rosenberg, Pfeiffer, 2006
375 pages, List price: $40, ISBN-13: 978-0-7879-7757-3

Because of computers, e-learning will eliminate the classroom. And all successful e-learning means is that your technology works, whether or not anyone actually learns anything from it.

Such are the myths about teaching and learning with technology that management consultant Marc J. Rosenberg debunks on his way toward changing readers thinking about how e-learning fits into the workplace.

Rosenbergs book is directed at helping trainers learn how their influence can expand: Technology specialists learn the business and learning aspects of their technology; consultants discover how to help clients learn better; managers, from executives to supervisors, learn how to integrate e-learning into work more effectively.

Beyond E-Learning opens with warning signs that your e-learning effort is heading in the wrong direction. Organizations that have technology without a bigger strategy, that are weak at assessing whether people are actually learning or that limit e-learning to formal, online courses risk waste and disillusionment when their e-learning doesnt produce results, Rosenberg says.

In assessing the current state of e-learning, Rosenberg looks at the smart enterprise that lets knowledge, facilitated by technology, move across departments, locations and hierarchies. E-learning is not a separate activity but an integrated part of business planning.

The book then moves outside the classroom. Smart enterprises need a learning and performance architecture that integrates electronic and nonelectronic, formal and informal learning, to improve performance. The learning and performance architecture includes information repositories, experts and their expertise, and communities and networks. Classroom and online training, as formal learning, and mentoring, coaching and performance support, as informal learning, play roles too.

Rosenberg explores knowledge management in-depth, saying that while many think it is about storing information on computers, it actually means turning undiscovered knowledge into common (or organizational) knowledge that everyone can use.

Rosenberg also covers how to make e-learning changes last in your organization. He provides appendixes with sample change management plans, more detail on signs of e-learning problems and charts of knowledge management system features.

Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va. Inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement by SHRM or HR Magazine .

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