Appearing in In The Black, August 2017
Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace
By David Stillman and Jonah Stillman
HarperCollins, $46, 320 pages, ISBN 9780062475442
David Stillman wrote the well-regarded When Generations Collide, and here he teams up with his son to take a close look at Generation Z – people born between 1995 and 2012. The father provides the research foundation and case studies, and Gen Z Jonah offers personal insight and experience.
Having been born into the digital age, Gen Zers take technological advances as given, and are good at adapting to disruption, especially in the form of the shared economy. They are willing to work hard, and if they take the entrepreneurial option of starting their own business they will put everything into it. In fact, one of the traits the Stillmans identify is FOMO, or ‘fear of missing out’ – on anything.
But even if they have avoided the sense of entitlement that defines Millennials, Gen Zers are not going to be pushed around when it comes to recruitment and promotion. Their strong sense of self-belief means that if they are denied opportunities they will simply look elsewhere. They are not particularly loyal but are innovative and clever, and know it. Interestingly, a good salary package is a very high priority for them.
The Stillmans do a solid job of explaining both the upside and downside. This is useful stuff for managers to know. After all, the first of the Gen Zers are already leaving university.
Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters
By Anthony Tjan
Penguin, $33, 304 pages, ISBN 9780241245002
Tjan has written extensively about the nature of leadership, especially in the finance sector, and has interviewed scores of successful leaders. Good People distils his findings, and is aimed at people new to a senior management role. He convincingly argues that the core role of a leader is to find and develop other leaders, not just through careful recruitment and promotion but also through constant, active mentoring.
He believes that too many executives see mentoring as a training program focused around skills. Yes, technical ability is important but the best leaders go beyond competence to focus on helping to shape other people’s character, self-awareness and empathy. In the long run, these qualities matter more than skill enhancement.
In mentoring, encouragement and enthusiasm are more effective than admonishment and cynicism. Tjan advises that the relationship should be not one of hierarchy but of respect based on experience. The other side of this coin is that mentors must be willing to reveal some of their own vulnerability, perhaps by explaining what they learned from their mistakes.
Good mentoring means investing time but is a task as crucial as sound financial management. It is good for the company as well as the people involved. In the end, the best mentors recognise that leadership, in its truest form, is a duty and service toward others.
The Business Legal Lifecycle
By Jeremy Streten
Quikmark, $30, 158 pages, ISBN 9780994551405
Many entrepreneurs in Australia start up a business without knowing much about the legal requirements that come with growth and development. This useful book aims to correct that, and Streten draws on his experience as an SME principal and lawyer. It would be a good starting point for accountants who act as financial consultants to clients and want to extend their advice into other fields.
Filling out the forms to establish a business is the easy part. Knowing your obligations in relation to employees, clients and suppliers is trickier. Contracts are an essential tool but can be a difficult area of law. Streten also delves into the crucial field of intellectual property protection, from trademarks to international patents.
As the business grows so does the legal complexity, whether it involves expansion to new premises, franchising or acquisition. There is likely to be a legal dispute at some point, so an entrepreneur needs to understand how litigation works. Knowing how to recover debts to ensure cash flow is important. When it comes time to move out of the business, there are legal issues to consider as well.
Streten explains all this with admirable clarity, although the book might have been improved by an appendix of specialised resources. But this is a minor point: Streten’s aim is to provide a practical guide, and in this he succeeds.
The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career
By Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew
Hachette, $30, 336 pages, ISBN 9780451495679
Cavoulacos and Minshew are the founders of the popular career advice site Muse.com and between them bring a great deal of experience to bear on their subject. Multiple changes of companies, jobs and career paths is the new normal, so there is a need to know how to build your skills portfolio, plan your steps, and market yourself when opportunities arise. The emphasis of the book is on practical advice, from sifting through the career options to mastering first impressions to possible scripts for job interviews. Networking is a valuable tool for finding and understanding possibilities, and a good mentor is an important asset when it comes to assessing your own worth.
Cavoulacos and Minshew emphasise the need to present your best profile but they point out that any attempt at deception will be counter-productive. Instead, especially when seeking a promotion, you have to be able to communicate what you have done and why you are ready to move up. Being able to say how you stand out from the crowd is critical. ‘Soft’ skills are the key.
The book includes plenty of worksheets, tests, templates and thought experiments, many of them designed to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Cavoulacos and Minshew write with American readers in mind but most of what they have to say would be universally applicable.