I bought a book over the weekend. It was all of 10p – ex stock from my local library. Except strangely it had never been loaned, it was in perfect condition. Someone had obviously thought to buy it for the library and then perhaps someone else decided there wasn’t a use for it. The book was by the popular and respected writer Tom Rath and its subtitle is “Positive strategies for life and work”. Which you’d think is a book that might be useful to someone, somewhere. Heck this is a New York Times number 1 best seller. Oprah liked it, Deepak Chopra too and if you prefer your recommendations a little more robust then Martin Seligman is also a fan.
When I worked for London Underground I was given a 360 degree appraisal. Most people in leadership roles got one. It was a useful process for me and opened my eyes to a few things. Based on my scores the L&D team had suggested a reading list, much of which was to be found in the company library. I duly trotted down to the library after work one day. Having been assessed about halfway through the corporate programme I wasn’t too optimistic that any of the books I needed would be there. Still I thought it best to get my name on the wait list.
When I got there the librarian couldn’t have been more helpful. Absolutely the books were in stock, many of them in new editions bought by the company to support this process. I selected the first 3 on my list and flicked through. None of them had been taken out.
I moved on to some of my second choices. As I recall these were hardy standards such as Covey or Drucker – the doorstop books as I like to think of them. No new editions needed here, plenty of stock already in the company. Most of them last taken out several years before. Approximately at the date of the last big corporate initiative in leadership.
I guess you could account for the difference between then and now saying that these days we all prefer a snappy TED talk or a colourful infographic but I think there is also something deeper at work.
There is an assumption that most people within organisations are crying out for some investment, they want the deeper knowledge, the development that good training brings.
I mean undoubtedly some of them do but most? I’m not so sure that’s the case. I’ve seen plenty of instances where people have acted counter to the values / aims / mission of their company. Quite a few where people have knowingly failed to discharge their legal duty. Even some where people have distinctly set out to do harm to colleagues / the organisation as revenge.
So I guess my question is should we help those who won’t help themselves?
I don’t know the answer but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.