In this new series of articles, I’d like to share some of the books that have stood out for me recently. I’ll use the ‘book review’ format loosely as a springboard into a wider conversation about the world of work—and how to do it better.
Each of the books we’ll look at has contributed to my ongoing learning and deeper understanding of how I move forward in my mission to bring more justice to work. In some ways, reading them has been like a cold shower—painful, shocking even, but refreshing.
Although few of them talk directly about psychology, these books have helped me understand why an economic argument for change is hardly ever good enough; why people prefer to stay stuck rather than face into the changes required for a better future; why they’ll tell themselves there can’t be a better way simply because they’ve never heard of it or because ‘it wasn’t invented here’; and how easily people absent themselves from the basics of common decency and respect for the points of view of others.
On the much more positive side, these books have also inspired me—opening my eyes to new possibilities and better ways to do better work. Their authors remind me that many people are daily fighting the good fight to bring their best selves to the task of helping a better world come into being.
“Sometimes we need to nail our colours to the mast.”
If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know I can’t go long without quoting an idea from one source or another, be it an ancient philosopher or a recent TED talk. This is never (I hope) to show off my learning—which always feels woefully inadequate in any case—but more to remind myself that I am building my own ideas on strong foundations—standing on the shoulders of giants.
Sometimes, though, we need to nail our colours to the mast. So, to set the context around the core idea of this series, I hope you’ll indulge me by kicking off with a quote from my own book, More Than Just Work. I think of this passage as my manifesto for ‘just work’:
‘Just work’ includes my belief that it is possible to be ‘just’ at work—to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Everyone has the right to be well managed.
What might such a radical proposition as ‘everyone has the right to be well managed’ mean? I figure it means helping the people you lead through your management hierarchy properly understand the context of the work they’re doing. They feel connected to the overall purpose of the enterprise and are aligned to its vision and values. They work to arrive rather than arrive to work. They are empowered with the requisite authority over the resources required to acquit all of that for which you hold them accountable.
You know what you have called for is both reasonable and possible, given the human and material resources you place at their disposal. They have a deep sense of the significance of what they are doing and experience the world as a better place for them being in it. They feel safe to make mistakes whilst exploring new ways of being and doing—they’re excited by the prospect of continuous learning and growth.
I’m a firm believer in the importance of assembling mental frameworks that can be used to make better decisions. Reading, whether in print, digital or audio format, is still one of the best ways we can get exposed to new thinking.
As I further explore the bibliographies in the books I admire and gather recommendations from friends and colleagues, I’m encouraged (and perhaps a little daunted) that my reading list continues to grow. There are so many angles from which to approach this fundamental and fascinating subject. So I hope you’ll join me in my humble inquiry into understanding how the world works—in both senses of that phrase.
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More Than Just Work distils my thinking about three decades of managing work into a manageable framework. It’s edited and proofed—and looks gorgeous—but my editor and I are calling it the ‘advanced reader’s copy’. Soon, I’ll incorporate a few suggestions from some early trusted readers and make some changes based on new ideas I’m discovering.
You can buy the book here (with free shipping anywhere in Australia). If you do so now, I’ll send you the next edition for FREE later this year, bundled with the ebook and audiobook versions.
[Main image: Isaac Davis on Unsplash]
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