Book Review: Books to Create High-Performing Teams
Is work a hard place for you? It is for many. Perhaps you are feeling a smidge unhappy and a few happiness techniques would help. Maybe you are procrastinating on something important but uncomfortable. Or it could be that you really do need to quit that toxic job. These books will equip you to create high-performing teams that are not only effective and productive but also socially supportive. Workplaces can enable employee health and happiness, and employees can learn to manage their time, energy and strengths to contribute more. None of this is magic — all of it is research-based and achievable with a little bit of thought and perspective.
When? Well, right now, of course.
AUTHOR: TIM BONO, PHD
When it comes to figuring out how to thrive in our age of ever-present social media and social comparison, author Tim Bono’s book presents some useful strategies. While Bono’s work focuses on young adults, there are lessons in this book that can apply to everyone. It’s a worthwhile read because social media, and the inevitable comparisons it causes us to make with others, truly does affect us all. I especially enjoyed the chapter on “managing the inevitable bad day” because it acknowledges that bad days happen and that not only can we get through them, we don’t have to let them define us. Bono also shares research-based tips for having better days — for example, did you know that venting your anger actually makes things worse for you and people around you? It is more effective to get over your anger by distracting yourself and doing something that is “incompatible with anger,” such as performing a random act of kindness. Bono’s writing is easy to grasp, and he talks about the research without sounding too academic, like many books in the field. If you aren’t interested in this for yourself, it’s a great gift for a young adult — especially those concerned with how many people “like” them on social media.
AUTHOR: SCOTT AMYX
Using personal and professional stories, Scott Amyx has tried to explain how people become successful by various definitions, in various fields of accomplishment, despite obstacles. He also looks to explain why some people, despite all their advantages (born in the right place and time, smart enough, connected enough, wealthy enough and so on), do not succeed at their chosen profession or calling. He calls this magical ingredient “strive.” While many observers have tried to explain success over the years, Amyx argues that they are “profoundly wrong” and that it takes striving — pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone — to have real, lasting success.
In order to get to where you want to be, you will need to experience discomfort — trying new things, meeting new people, taking risks, pushing boundaries, and even being disagreeable so that you can eventually succeed and achieve your goals. Amyx writes about individuals who, through the course of history, have exemplified how to move to discomfort and beyond. If you are looking for inspiration to move on with your difficulties, as Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” Now that’s some discomfort!
Dying for a Paycheck — How modern management harms employee health and company performance — and what we can do about it
AUTHOR: JEFFREY PFEFFER
The inside front leaf of this book states that “61% of employees said that workplace stress had made them sick … 7% said they had … been hospitalized … In China, one million people a year may be dying from overwork … And it needs to stop.” While reading this book, these statistics — and others like them — kept echoing through my mind. How did we, a supposedly intelligent species, create this notion of work that is so detrimental and so unhealthy? In my mind, work should be where your purpose and strengths meet the needs of the world and society. How did it get so toxic? Pfeffer explores the history of management, how we got here, and where we could go next to increase healthy outcomes, while still being productive and contributing to global well-being. While some of the statistics and issues are focused on the U.S. (lack of health insurance, growing income inequality), it would be erroneous to believe that Canada is exempt. Where the U.S. goes, Canada tends to follow, especially when it comes to business.
Pfeffer spends about the first two-thirds of the book making his case that modern management harms employee health and company performance, and then a couple of chapters talking about what could be done. For example, Pfeffer indicates that “two critical elements” of a healthy workplace are autonomy and social support. These nicely mirror theories of motivation and needs, like self-determination theory, which posit that fundamental drivers of human behaviour include autonomy and relatedness. Bringing more of this research into the workplace would indeed help people thrive and reduce health-related costs for businesses. Seems like a win-win. This is a very thought-provoking book, although a little depressing and fatalistic at times. Let’s hope that new thinking and research triumphs, so that more companies can do good by doing well.
AUTHOR: DANIEL H PINK
Although I haven’t read every single book that Dan Pink has written, I’ve read and enjoyed the majority. He has a knack for surfacing interesting information and bringing it together in a cohesive way that is easy to apply and feels intuitive. When is another one of these great books. Although I don’t think that this book (or anything else) would ever convince me to take an afternoon nap, at least now I understand the popularity of the siesta and how and when to do it most effectively. I understand better how to track and manage my energy so that I get more done throughout the day and how to manage tasks across a team in a way that maximizes efficiency. This book covers a lot of research and also includes a “Time Hacker’s Handbook” to help you apply that research in easy and cheap (in fact, usually free) ways that you could start using tomorrow. For example, you can learn to “pause like a pro” or “combat a midlife slump.” He’s got something for everyone. If you have ever wondered “can I be productive AND happy AND take it up a notch?” the answer is probably “yes” and there is something in this book for you.