Monday, July 11, 2011

What's for Breakfast?

I first published this post on March 11, 2009, which was some time ago. I thought it would be a good one to re-post for my newer readers. Peggy's book is one of my favorites on people skills.


This month's book club selection is The Hard Truth About Soft Skills, Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They'd Learned Sooner, by Peggy Klaus (it's in my Amazon list—see the sidebar). Peggy's writing style and sound advice make this an accessible primer on the people skills that are necessary for everyone who works with other people.
I really enjoyed Peggy's style. She has organized eight chapters around the basics: self control, getting the job done, listening skills, learning from constructive criticism, office politics, branding and bragging, diversity, and leadership. While whole books have been written on each of these topics, (actually, whole shelves of books on each), this lesson book gives an excellent overview of the skills with enough practical advice to help focus in on the areas that are most important. Each chapter is then segmented into half a dozen or so segments, perfect little bites of advice, just enough to read and then ponder for a while.

Three of the segments were particularly interesting to me. In the chapter on getting the job done, Peggy writes that "whining is for kids, and even then, no one wants to hear it." It's a pep talk, a good shake, and a sharp reminder to shape up. It reminded me of my mom's favorite saying: build a bridge and get over it.
The gender and diversity chapter includes a very, very important piece of advice for women: don't take it personally. Putting it very bluntly, the segment reminds women that they must never, ever cry in a professional setting. Never.

But my favorite part of the book is the advice on branding. We all develop a brand, either with intention or by chance. Think of yourself as a cereal brand, she writes. This little bit of advice reminded me of a school project each of my kids did in about third or fourth grade. The elementary school teachers included it in the curriculum as a fun way for the kids to get to know each other at the beginning of the year, build self esteem and I suppose practice their skills with scissors and glue. The kids had a great time cutting out magazine pictures of superheroes, writing fanciful ingredient lists, and using adjectives to describe their talents and aspirations.

So, I am going to design my own cereal box for me. My brand will include a statement of my core values and my twenty-five word description of my law practice, and probably a snappy photo or two. And the color of the box will, of course, be rose pink.

Image: http://free-stock-photos.com/

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