There are no problems, only opportunities: it’s a cliché, sure, but it’s also the useful premise behind several forthcoming books. Seeing a problem as a challenge to be conquered not only puts a positive spin on a difficult situation but also opens up the situation to creative solutions.
In Networking for People Who Hate to Network (Touchstone, Nov.), tech-industry veteran Karen Wickre shows how even introverts—she counts herself among them—can tap into a wide range of contacts in order to further their careers. “You know more people than you think,” says Wickre, who has worked as a Google executive and as editorial director at Twitter. She adds that maintaining loose ties with a colleague—asking about a recent vacation or remarking on a shared interest, for instance—can yield as much benefit later on as an informational interview with someone new.
Wickre guides the shy toward making connections while staying within their comfort zone. Methods that don’t require immediate response, like email and social-media private messages, allow introverts a buffer between receiving information and responding to it.
In Control the Conversation (Career Press, Oct.), James O. Pyle and Maryann Karinch focus on face-to-face conversations, such as meetings and job interviews. Pyle, a human intelligence training instructor for the Department of Defense, and Karinch, an interpersonal skills consultant, demonstrate how to get one’s message across by anticipating questions and having responses ready, rather than answering off the cuff.
Some business interactions are more fraught than others, and dealing with an office bully, negotiation coach Greg Williams says, can require a different skill set. Negotiating with a Bully (Career Press, June), which he wrote with developmental editor Pat Iyer, teaches readers to recognize and combat bullying behavior, while cautioning, as Williams writes, that “it takes more than one occurrence to call someone a bully.”
Other negative workplace behaviors, such as those that arise from ingrained bias, can be more subtle. In Erasing Institutional Bias (Berrett-Koehler, Oct.), Tiffany Jana, a diversity consultant, and Ashley Diaz Mejias, whose academic work focuses on racial bias, offer strategies for addressing systemic bias that workers at all levels can implement, showing how those in middle management or even administrative positions can make a difference in the workplace. “We sympathize with anyone who feels overwhelmed by this challenge,” Mejias says, “and we try to break down the work of eliminating bias into steps that can be done by individuals.” Many solutions are simple yet effective, she adds, citing as an example one woman who works at a large NGO and makes a point of hiring other women.
Taking the Lead
Even those at the top of their professions need guidance, and several titles speak directly to the C-suite.
In 2014’s A More Beautiful Question (Bloomsbury), a book PW’s review called “a potential game changer,” journalist Warren Berger described how a corporation can foster a culture that encourages employees to ask constructive questions. That title has sold 44,000 print copies, per NPD BookScan, and sparked a follow-up, The Book of Beautiful Questions (Bloomsbury, Nov.). Organized by chapters about decision making, creativity, connecting with others, and leadership, the new book urges those at the top to take more time to think things through.
“I want people to slow down, step back and ask some pretty hard questions,” Berger says. “People are often so caught up in trying to manage that they don’t ask the things they need to in order to make change happen.”
Questions Are the Answer by Hal Gregersen (Harper Business, Nov.) also focuses on how problems can be solved through asking the right questions. Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, looks at how various innovators—SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, GoldieBlox entrepreneur Debbie Sterling—have challenged assumptions and solved problems by making effective queries.
Dan Schawbel, in Back to Human (Da Capo Lifelong, Nov.), looks at leadership from a different angle. He says that the best leaders create connection by depending less on screen time and more on face-to-face interaction. Schawbel, a branding expert and startup advisor, conveys input from leaders at companies including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Nike, as well as in the U.S. Air Force, and offers a self-assessment tool and other exercises to help readers figure out where and how to start reconnecting with their team.
The Long View
It’s the rare business challenge that’s solved by a quick fix or the obvious answer. Climbing the corporate ladder, for instance, can be as much about the good will of others as about one’s own merits.
“Every day we walk into the office and are trying to pick up hidden cues,” says Little, Brown senior editor Philip Marino. “If your goal is to get promoted, you need to be able to see where your work is valued.”
In The Formula (Little, Brown, Nov.), Albert-László Barabási, a scientist specializing in network theory, analyzes the links between performance and success. “In sports, performance leads to success, but in many other areas, those two things cannot be as easily measured,” says Barabási, who directs the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University. He adds that it’s crucial to remember that while performance has much to do with the individual, “success is about others and how they acknowledge and reward you.”
Ryder Carroll, a digital production designer, found public recognition in 2013 when he posted his idiosyncratic journaling method online. In 2014, a Kickstarter campaign to further popularize his bullet journal method earned $80,000 (eight times its original goal); as of 2017, running the Bullet Journal empire is his full-time job. In October, Portfolio will release The Bullet Journal Method, a how-to guide to Carroll’s combination wish list/to-do list/diary.
Where people go with Carroll’s journaling system, he says, is up to them. “The methodology has two aspects: the visual, physical manifestation of the journal, and the unseen, mental practice of focusing on the things that matter.”
Farsighted by Steven Johnson (Riverhead, Sept.) centers on the kinds of long-term goals many bullet journal practitioners aim for in their notebooks. Johnson (Everything Bad Is Good for You; Where Good Ideas Come From) emphasizes that complex decisions with long-term effects should be made carefully. His suggestion: “Don’t simplify. Build as complex a map as you can.” Johnson says this approach “forces people to seek out potential flaws and circumstances ahead of time instead of reacting to them down the road.”