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Powerful leadership learning and current thinking on coaching

Welcome to our book reviews

Take a look at the books that have stood the test of time in leadership and coaching.  

You'll find reviews and author interview clips below.

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Bob Hughes, Forton Group CEO & Creator of the Leadership Book Club

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Book Reviews

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From the Ashes to the Summit - Juan Carlos Mejia

Juan Carlos Mejia From the Ashes to the summit

From the Ashes to the Summit is one of those books driven by one person’s personal experience from which we can all learn a lesson. I’m not usually a fan of the “motivational speaker” approach to inspiration; I find they are either stories from people in the sporting world who are successful because they are so much more driven and focused on the average, or some cheesy heartrending life story overly dramatised for impact

Juan Carlos Mejia’s story is different. Being in a coma is not an experience that many people will ever go through but the way that Juan has written this makes it accessible to everyone. Yes, his drivers were somewhat extreme but the accidental nature of it all makes it easier for us to relate to; it is possible to relate traumas and tragedies in one’s own life more easily.

We’ve all had crises and setbacks in our lives, albeit hopefully not on this scale. Juan Carlos writes in a very accessible way and draw some great conclusions about how to survive and thrive during and following a crisis.

One factor he describes is the need to have purpose. Anyone familiar with the Forton group coaching model knows this is where we start. For us, it’s about vision, values, and ideal self. Juan Carlos focuses on vision and uses the phrase I liked “remember that the more detailed, specific, and vivid it is, the easier it will be to evoke it whenever you need it”

From this, his What moves on to alignment with How. Again, I think coaches can see parallels in how we support people with his story. Equally, leaders can take lessons from Juan Carlos’ approach to planning and anticipating when embarking on change projects

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The 7 Principles of Conflict Resolution - Louisa Weinstein

7 Principles of conflict management

The 7 Principles of Conflict Resolution

By Louisa Weinstein

Published by FT Publishing International (2018)

Disagreements are a normal part of life, and a healthy part when we listen to each other and use our creativity and insights to improve. Yet, for many, conflict is an unpleasant and inescapable part of the work environment.

In my own experience, I’m amazed at the sheer volume, breadth and depth of conflict that people can sustain. How they will fuel their own, and others’, grievances in order to maintain their status, position or power.

How leaders and managers often fail to acknowledge their role in supporting their teams to channel disagreement positively, recognise their responsibilities, or use their skills to address issues as they arise.

Having said that, I recognise that I need to develop my own skills (especially my patience) if I’m to be any value to the people I work with.

For all these reasons, it’s great to learn from the expert.

The author heads up the UK Conflict Resolution Centre and lawyer. Her interest in this field came about when she saw the difference mediation can make in her own professional field.

What’s immediately obvious about this book is the title: “Conflict Resolution” is so much more positive than ‘conflict management’, which implies (to this reader at least) a ‘one size fits all’ approach; suppressing the conflict, rather than resolving it.

Her definition of conflict is “the enduring condition where I disagree with you”. That’s the easy part. What the author shows is that, because of our different perspectives on what conflict resolution might look like, your solution may be different to mine. Our sense of ‘justice’ may be rooted in very different moral maps.

‘Resolution’ in this context seems to be about finding peaceful solutions: it’s a form of negotiation, often with additional parties, not just between the people in conflict. The conflicting parties may have tried already to sort things out – but how often do our actions not have the impact we intend?

Those peace negotiations may need to address career, personal, financial, political and/or emotional issues – sometimes more than one single issue or presenting factor.

To address this huge spread of challenges, the author has created 7 principles of conflict resolution, and peppers the book with stories and case studies to show how not every situation has a neat, ‘happy ending’.

What’s good about this book, first and foremost, is that sense of ‘no single right answer’. We each need to navigate our way through the conflict resolution maze, and this is the sat nav we need.

At the centre of the book, under the author also sets outs a series of clear steps towards resolution.

And the first step is as realistic and open as you can get – ask the question as to whether mediation might work, and how it might work.

This leads to the implementation of a support structure which includes a process and the opportunity to engage with mentors or conflict coaches, internal or external mediators, to ensure the process sticks: with the eventual aim of creating learning organisations, as well as skilled managers.

The author also describes the kinds of policies and communications steps that underpin the people and processes steps.

My conclusion from reading this book is that this is a great first step, and my understanding is greatly improved but that so much more is needed. I hear that the author is introducing a new training programme and I look forward to that.

In the meantime, I strongly recommend this book as a positive introduction to the topic of conflict resolution.

 

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Living Every Second - Tracey Edwards

Living Every Second

Living Every Second is the autobiography of Tracey Edwards. Tracey captained the first all women crew in the longest toughest yacht race in the world. She sailed a boat called Maiden in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race in 1989, while still in her early 20s, breaking records on the way

I’m not always a fan of those inspirational speakers who tell you about a story in their lives and say “Come on you can do it”, or the sports stars who turn into public speakers and say that if only we were more like them, if only we had their dedication, then we too could achieve great things. People like that are usually driven in a way that the average employee is not. However, there are inspirational stories out there, and Tracey’s is one example of those where we truly can learn.

Tracey suffered personal loss at an early age and became a rebellious teenager, being thrown out of school various entertaining misdemeanours. With all the enthusiasm of youth she went to Greece ended up cooking on a boat and very quickly picked up navigating skills and learn how to sail.

JC manages to secure a whole series of jobs on various boats around the world boats. The way she writes about it, it seems she is looking. In truth, Tracey clearly has the ability to win people over very quickly, up to and including King Hussein of Jordan! It’s a great example of people now seeing the skill and talents that come naturally to them

Tracey serves as crew on a boat doing the Whitbread race and is so captivated by it she is determined to enter the race with her own crew in four years’ time when the races run again – and the crew will be all female. The story continues to entertain as she describes the challenges of succeeding in a very male dominated environment.


Despite fierce opposition, sexism and criticism, Tracy and her team not only reached the start and raced around the world, they won two of the toughest legs and came second overall

There’s much more of the story to follow and I encourage you to read it. There is inspiration here. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And women succeeding in a male dominated world

Tracey now runs a charity – The Maiden Factor – whose mission is to highlight and create awareness of the 130 million girls worldwide who  currently are not afforded an education and raising funds for charities currently facilitating that basic human right

 

 

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The Five Dysfunctions Of a Team - Patrick Lencioni

The five dysfunctions of a teamThis book has been around a while now: first published in 2002.  So a very fitting choice for The Forton Group to review in this, our 15th year of being in business.  It's described as a “Leadership Fable” and, I have to be honest, that put me off. Other books in this same genre have come over as being just too cheesy for me. However, it was recommended by someone I trusted, so I persevered. I quickly found myself absorbed into the story. The characters were plausible and the scenario terribly familiar!

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The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown

The Myth of the Strong LeaderThis is a fascinating look at leadership in the political world, spanning democracies and authoritarian regimes, and exploring leadership in many contexts. The lessons to be learned and the parallels to the world of organisations are many and varied.

The book opens with a useful discourse about the quality of strength and why it seems such a common property we want to ascribe to our leaders – how often do we say we need weak leadership? There are many qualities that political leaders need above and beyond the ability to look strong.

You can listen to a facinating interview with Archie Brown below:

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