What’s often frustrating about the plethora of web material on personal development is the difficulty of sorting the highly useful recommendations from the fluff or the just plain wrong-headed. A terrific amount of so-called career research suffers from the halo effect—the bias that because an attribute is productive in one occasion, then the other related attributes will also be productive—and in other situations. The halo effect is also at work in the distinction between cause and correlation. Still, there is far more empirical, social science and humanistic research in the field than most would imagine, so whenever that’s available, I recommend it to my clients. On other occasions, I recommend the work of well-known authorities. Here are a number of potentially useful recommendations.
Stanford’s Bob Sutton, on Five signs that your mentor is giving you bad advice, an expert in the field of career and behavior, supplies us with an unusual, even unique set of valuable insights. Sutton reminds us of the struggle to take something that works well in one place and replicate it in another (the halo effect). As Sutton points out to mentees, they “have to play an active role in judging the advice they get.” Sheryl Sandberg is among those who reveal that mentors have played a key role in her success, but that she’s learned . . .
Sally Helgesen, writing in Strategy+Business on Three habits of highly effective demotivators, provides still another critical analysis as a realistic warning. Building on bad-boss horror stories, Helgesen is particularly focused on those who seem to take delight on sucking the wind out of any possible success we might have. She offers no recommendations for dealing with them. But her unusual insights are especially useful for explaining the downer you and I get when we’ve been worked over by a jerk or asshole. Most of us have had that experience of feeling crappy after an interaction, but not quite able to put our finger on what it was that just happened. Helgesen leaves no doubt. Of course, once you know what’s happening to you, you can eventually figure out what steps you need to take to deal with the problem and/or the problem person. Or, as in my case, find someone who can help you deal with the problem successfully.
Adam Grant, who’s so pragmatically intelligent he oozes smarts, recommends The 12 business books of 2014. How’s that for getting ahead of the crowd and reading some books in advance? There are several on that list that I can’t wait to get my hands on starting with Brilliant, by Annie Murphy Paul. Paul, an astute science writer, has made learning her key expertise. Exceptionally readable, she couldn’t write like an ivory tower academic if the world were to come to an end. But along the way, you might as well look at Bob Sutton’s Best Books. Included in that list are Mortensen’s Collaboration, the Heath Brothers Made to Stick, and Cialdini’s Influence.
Dan Goleman’s blog, The hard case for soft skills, on LinkedIn, is one of those long-needed recommendations especially for techies in trouble. Goleman, of emotional intelligence fame, is full of ideas, but here he takes on a subject of terrific strategic importance. Goleman understands his audience, including the Google folk who only respond to evidence-based approaches and hard data. And there’s that kind of data in his short blog. And, by the way, Google also revamped its Human Relations by using People Analytics as its primary persuasion tool. You just gotta get inside your audience’s rhetoric or you won’t get to their brain or their heart.
Umair Haque’s HBRblog, America’s economy is officially inside-out, is one for the intellectually curious about politics and economics. Haque is a London-based consultant and author who regularly writes for Harvard Business Review. He has all the academic credentials HBR dreams about: London School of Econ, Oxford, and McGill. But what I like about his stuff is his unique focus on capitalism and creating prosperity in the 21st century. Haque is one of those commentators you might want to consider for regular reading. His stuff is fairly unique, inevitably thoughtful, surprisingly pragmatic and always "cutting-edge" (ughhh. I just used that hyphenated noun). What I especially appreciate is that his unusual “take” on business includes government and policy, something most pragmatic American business writers ignore.
Flickr photo: Pizza DiMierda