The One Minute Manager hits the beach

Published: 05 Jul 2015 By John Stone

Sooner or later it will be time for your summer holidays. It’s also time for the newspapers to suggest titles that might be worth reading on the beach or half way up your mountain.  Usually, famous people and politicians are asked what they’re packing as their preferred reading, which is invariably hilarious as rather than admit to taking anything that is in the remotest way ‘unsuitable’, they have to pretend that they will be poring over some academic and/or business texts that will help them continue to be a success in their field. In recent years, the most obvious manifestation of this was the ‘requirement’ to be at least conversant with Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”. When intelligent men such as Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband confess they struggle with such a tome then what hope has the average business executive got?

If you are old enough to remember when “The One Minute Manager” was flavour of the month (or even, “What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School” and “In Search of Excellence”), then you’ll have seen many business books come and go.  Like me, you’ll probably have your favourites but the reality is that no-one will ever produce the definitive business book, simply because people and business change as often as models on the catwalk. Often a new book is simply ‘fashionable’ for a while and then left behind by the next big thing. 

A quick Google for some recommended books throws up a myriad of different subjects, some of which would not have been published several decades ago, often because the technology that underpins so much of our business didn’t exist then.  Books on confidence, gender discrimination, how to get a job, how to sell, how little things mean a lot, the qualities of authentic "executive presence" (whatever that is?), the three-C test (competence, character and cultural fit), plus five books by Patrick Lencioni -The Advantage, Getting Naked, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and The Five Tempations of a CEO - all came up on page one of my search.  There are more – many more, but let’s remember that a holiday is supposed to be a break.

My advice, should you be interested, is that you should take just one business book (after all, you are passionate about your business, aren’t you?), and a couple of non-business books.  These should be as far removed as possible from your work, and I often try to take one where I’ll learn something new (how to brew your own beer, smock-making, ancient Greek history), and something to lighten my mood (which invariably means PG Wodehouse).  On my recent break to the sun I read the “A View from the Foothills” the diaries of Chris Mullins, the Labour MP, which I can highly recommend.  But it’s up to you.  Any comments, suggestions or recommendations will be much appreciated!

John Stone

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