Books in Brief

Apr 1, 2008
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HR Magazine, April 2008Investing in People; The Emotionally Intelligent Team; Leaders at All Levels;
Taming the Abrasive Manager;

Investing in People
By Wayne F. Cascio and John W. Boudreau
FT Press and the Society for Human Resource Management, 2008
List price $39.99, 360 pages
ISBN: 978-0-1323-9411-6

Buy the book! This book can be purchased through the SHRMStore online. Members receive a discount off the list price.

In Investing in People, world-renowned HR experts Wayne F. Cascio and John W. Boudreau make a compelling case for why it's more important than ever for HR practitioners to demonstrate the link between their practices and employee performance. Using their powerful LAMP methodology (logic, analytics, measure and process), the authors provide a framework for measuring and analyzing every area of HR that impacts strategic value, including:

  • Hiring.
  • Training.
  • Leadership development.
  • Health and wellness.
  • Absenteeism.
  • Retention.
  • Employee engagement.

In Investing in People, world-renowned HR experts Wayne F. Cascio and John W. Boudreau make a compelling case for why it's more important than ever for HR practitioners to demonstrate the link between their practices and employee performance. Using their powerful LAMP methodology (logic, analytics, measure and process), the authors provide a framework for measuring and analyzing every area of HR that impacts strategic value, including:

  • Hiring.
  • Training.
  • Leadership development.
  • Health and wellness.
  • Absenteeism.
  • Retention.
  • Employee engagement.

In the book's foreword, Susan R. Meisinger, president of the Society for Human Resource Management, acknowledges that many HR professionals aren't agile in the use of measurements to move their businesses forward. This book offers guidance, she says, by giving HR professionals the tools and analytic framework they need to inform and motivate their strategic partners.

Rather than advocate a "peanut butter" approach to talent decision-making that spreads HR investments evenly across the entire organization, Cascio and Boudreau recommend that HR leaders learn to systematically focus HR investments where they matter most.

The book discusses principles such as risk, return and economies of scale and shows how they can be used to evaluate investments objectively. The authors also explain how to integrate HR with an enterprise's overall business strategy and how to gain commitment from business leaders outside the HR function. One of the best features of the book is that it gives readers online access to software that automates all of the key formulas and calculations described in the book, so that even HR leaders who are math challenged can apply them.

Cascio is US Bank Term Professor of Management at the University of Colorado Denver. Boudreau is research director at the Center for Effective Organizations, and professor of management and organization at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California.


The Emotionally Intelligent Team
By Marcia Hughes and James Bradford Terrell
Jossey-Bass, 2007
List price: $27.95, 216 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7879-8834-0

Emotional intelligence can make teams more flexible, enabling them to function well in a business world where rapid innovation, collaboration, outsourcing and talent shortages all bring constant change. There's a business case for improving teams' emotional intelligence (EI), authors Marcia Hughes and James Bradford Terrell say, because better EI translates into better productivity and performance.

EI is "the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions and respond effectively to the emotions of others." The Emotionally Intelligent Team delves into seven specific skills teams need to develop emotional and social intelligence. Hughes and Terrell relate each skill to many real-life team examples:

  • Team identity. When team members identify with the team, they are energized to participate and will want to take actions as a team. Ideas for creating team identity include developing mission and vision statements, surveying members, and holding team discussions about what the team means to its members.

  • Motivation. Goals, accountability and rewards are parts of motivation, and readers learn about modeling behaviors they want to see, asking team members what they need for motivation and developing team prizes that truly motivate members.

  • Emotional awareness. Teams can learn to become comfortable with emotions, be objective about them and respond to emotions gracefully. Tips include practicing empathy, increasing trust among team members and helping introverts speak up more while helping extroverts listen better.

  • Communication. Readers learn to look at team members' varying communication patterns, understand both verbal and nonverbal communications, and look at communications' emotional content.

  • Stress tolerance. Teams have to be able to handle the "unpleasant surprises" ahead, and team members who are tolerant of stress avoid turning against each other when things go wrong.

  • Conflict resolution. How willing is the team to take on its internal conflicts "openly and constructively" rather than avoiding conflict or making it personal? Skills to improve team conflict resolution include improved empathy, assertiveness, humor and collaborative, intentional communication.

  • Positive mood. More than a mere feel-good exercise, building a positive mood in a team promotes cooperation and cohesion, Terrell and Hughes say. Some ways to boost team mood are increasing playfulness at work and halting an overwhelming task temporarily to do some lighthearted brainstorming.

Leaders at All Levels
By Ram Charan
John Wiley & Sons, 2008
List price: $27.95, 172 pages
ISBN 978-0-7879-8559-2

Fewer than one in four company directors believes that his or her company's board has effective methods for succession planning and leadership development, according to author and teacher Ram Charan. He finds that while people fill out the forms and jump through the prescribed hoops to climb corporate ladders, real methods for identifying, developing and evaluating potential leaders are "inconsistent, perfunctory and bureaucratic."

Failures of succession planning and leadership development are serious, Charan says in Leaders at All Levels. Employers don't identify future leaders early enough in their careers; when leaders are identified, they often are forced to prove themselves on vertical career ladders that don't truly teach them or let them develop; employers fail to make leadership identification and development a vital part of current leaders' jobs.

What's the antidote to this failure? Charan offers his Apprenticeship Model of leadership development. The model includes spotting leaders in their first jobs, identifying those who see the big business picture and not just their own tasks. Fast professional growth that stretches the potential leader, plus mentoring that takes place constantly and not just in a few formal sessions, are other elements.

The book recommends recognizing leadership potential early, and a case study shows how Colgate does so. Charan shows how to identify employees who possess both people acumen and business acumen. He outlines why MBAs aren't automatically your next CEOs. Tips for identifying leaders include questions to ask when judging someone's leadership potential.

Charan urges employers to customize career tracks to help candidates learn new skills. He discusses how horizontal job moves, experience in organizations facing crisis, experience in global organizations and work with task forces all develop leaders.

He spotlights roadblocks to leaders' progress, such as the need to move existing leaders out of jobs to put developing leaders into those jobs, or resistance from high-potential employees' bosses, fearful of losing good performers.

The roles of bosses in developing these employees include giving deliberate feedback that goes beyond performance evaluations. Readers learn about "recalibration sessions" where those working with the potential leader combine observations. 

Employers need to manage apprenticeship programs systematically, and HR has a "pivotal role" in developing and managing this model, Charan says. He outlines HR's tasks, from getting bosses to look beyond their own specialties when selecting candidates to ensuring that bosses give specific, timely feedback to potential leaders.


Taming the Abrasive Manager
By Laura Crawshaw
Jossey-Bass, 2007
List price: $24.95, 216 pages
ISBN 978-0-7879-8837-1

Do you know Mark? This manager barks commands, explodes at subordinates and considers anyone who complains to be a traitor. He calls his management style his "bazooka" strategy—for blasting employees into action.

Yet Mark is also needy, constantly asking his bosses for approval. His aggressive style disappears with them, but with peers or subordinates, he keeps blasting away.

Mark is an abrasive boss. Author Laura Crawshaw knew him personally and saw the toll his style took on others—and on Mark. In Taming the Abrasive Manager, Crawshaw, an executive coach specializing in abrasive leaders and dysfunctional teams, sets out to help employers improve the workplace by getting their Marks to back off and even change.

Crawshaw looks at how these bosses got that way: They're often in organizations or careers where dominance pays off. They defend themselves by keeping employees in their places but also believe that if they're going to win and dominate, their employees must perform well. They fear failure and do whatever they deem necessary—control, humiliation, threats—to push their employees to succeed.

Abrasive bosses may have deeply personal reasons why they need to dominate and control others. Crawshaw contends they also are unable to read others' emotional cues and don't empathize with others.

These bosses' managers avoid dealing with them. They fear the bosses will be hurt, quit, turn their anger on the organization or take their anger out on employees worse than ever. So how do managers of these toxic bosses get them to change? Crawshaw delivers detailed advice, with sample dialogues, on how to:

  • Gather specific information, rather than vague criticisms, from the abrasive boss' peers and subordinates.

  • Present complaints to the boss as feelings that are facts—instead of getting into a debate about "what really happened," make clear that others' feelings are facts that must be dealt with.

  • Deal with the boss' defensiveness in all its forms, from denying what happened, to projecting fault onto others, to rationalizing that the roughness is necessary to getting people to work.

  • Get the abrasive boss to care about others' perceptions by first "making the business case for caring" and showing the boss why frustrated workers aren't effective. Then calmly threaten real consequences for continued abrasiveness. (Crawshaw offers several variations on "Change or we will take action.")

Crawshaw encourages organizations to create enforceable conduct codes that require respect in the workplace.


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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