Recommended Reads

As well as providing you with the titles of some of the books and resources we find useful in our work, we are now including more in-depth reviews of some of our favourites. See below our Recommended Reads so far:


Crucial Conversations – tools for talking when stakes are high

By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Do you ever feel so passionate about something that you raise your voice and bang the table in your eagerness to get your point across? Or do you sit back and say nothing so you don’t rock the boat and risk damaging your career? Perhaps you enjoy using sarcasm to express frustration in a ridiculous situation, or you find yourself watering down a difficult piece of feedback to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? You may even have resigned yourself to the fact that you just can’t ‘do’ emotional conversations and you avoid them like the plague. If any of the above strikes a chord, then you’ve also probably got a few problems at work or in your personal life that just keep coming back time and time again, driving poor results. If so, then I’ve just the book for you!

Crucial Conversations, described by Steven Covey in his foreword as a ‘breakthrough book’, provides the tools and resources to hold conversations, where emotions are strong, stakes are high and opinions differ, in a way that minimizes defensiveness and maintains mutual respect and trust. In fact the authors claim that you will be able to say ‘almost anything to almost anybody’ after reading this book!

In 2003, I was fortunate enough to be trained by one of the authors to facilitate the associated instructor-led programme; Joseph shared countless anecdotes with us taken over many years of research observing highly effective leaders from Fortune 500 organizations demonstrating incredible skills at this type of conversation. The authors’ painstaking analysis of this dialogue, interpreted in the context of some of the most convincing social psychological research over the last half-century, is conceptualized in a simple practical model. This really works!

As our ‘graduates’ swell in number, we are gathering ‘success stories’ as they find the courage to initiate conversations that they really should have had some time in the past. Suddenly they find themselves ‘unstuck’ and more effective as individuals. They discover they can talk to their supervisor about how trust has become an issue in their working relationship; they sit down with a peer and express crushing disappointment about their lack of commitment on a critical project; they have a productive and positive conversation with their teenager for the first time in months. It sounds impressive. It is impressive.

This is a gem of a toolkit that you can pick up and apply in any situation, becoming more effective in conversation and relationships, and making poor results a thing of the past. And if you find yourself wanting more, try the equally acclaimed Crucial Confrontations.

Sarah Cooney

Lilly UK


“The Inner Game of Work”

By W. Timothy Gallwey

Tennis, Golf, Skiing – and now work! Published by Random House in 2000, I have only just found this one. My Aunt gave me the Inner game of Golf years ago – after recognizing that my head was so full of theory that I was unlikely ever to improve!

And my delight with the Inner game of Work is that, for me, it seems to consolidate so many other bits of theory – Transaction Analysis, Success theory, Coaching theories and others – into simple Anglo-Saxon language round ‘Awareness’, ‘Choice’ and Trust – or, as Gallwey says “A better way to change”.

‘Awareness’ is about understanding through observation, focus and reflection on how stuck I had become in some of my beliefs and attitudes (that’s SELF 1 at work!). Although I coach people to value their strengths, I ‘should’ know better – and I do keep going on about the need for reflection at every level of leadership. Here, however, Gallwey helps me to focus on some of the ‘parent’ induced rules still hidden in my programming. Non-judgmental observation and awareness is the key. SELF 1 needs to be out of the way, to allow SELF 2 to perform – and the latter “embodies all the inherent potential we are born with, including all capacities actualized and not yet actualized”.

‘Choice’ speaks about the options of moving from Conformity to Mobility – even under the constraints of corporate life, where so much seems to be preordained. I can choose how to approach each situation – from my SELF 2 excellence rather than weighed down by my SELF 1 programming.

As the CEO of ‘Me Plc’ I have all those resources at my command. I can also choose to take back the ‘shares’ in my life that I have bargained away for something, be it for stability, for money, for approval, for control. I can make those choices – or not.

‘Trust’ is about believing in the natural ability to learn, as real focus and awareness increase. “The Coach’s actions could either support the student’s self-trust, or undermine it”.

And that really reminds me to be with my client, wherever they are, and to absent much of what I ‘think’ I ‘ought’ to say!

So to the final gift from the book for me – a short Chapter entitled “The Inherent Ambition” which concentrates on “desire – the force that fuels all work”. Gallwey reminds us that desire is felt – not thought – and that we might in our past have been brought up to see wants and desires as untrustworthy – that only reason was trustworthy.

Yet perhaps we do better to listen for the still small voice of SELF 2. Gallwey seeks not ‘freedom from – more ‘freedom for’ – for the ‘I want to’ behind the ‘I have to’.

“Ask yourself seriously, Do I have a master other than myself?”

Comments by Antony Aitken


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