This book isn’t perfect. From a safety excellence perspective, we know that culture is king and that line management drives it. Therefore, seeing culture described as an “intriguing topic” raises an eyebrow, as does a tone that seems to assume Human Resources own and drive wellbeing rather than help line management to do so.
To justify these comments it’s worth noting that many UK companies have world-class safety cultures but few have excellent wellbeing cultures. There are, I’d argue, some directly transferable lessons yet to be fully embraced.
So while the importance of transformational and empowering leadership is considered, its utterly vital role in setting the tone is perhaps, in this case, underplayed.
These minor (but important) quibbles aside, this really is an excellent book. The introduction sets the scene in a user-friendly way and six excellent chapters follow. These each come with their own introduction, summary, reference list and ‘key takeaways’. They cover ‘why wellbeing?’, getting started, promotion, problems and pitfalls, monitoring and evaluating and tools and legislation.
The writing is concise, clear and largely jargon-free if a little dry in places. For example, it’s difficult to imagine a Gladwell or a Syed writing the line “we hope you have found this chapter both informative and insightful” but it avoids the trap so many experienced writers fall into of frequently referencing their own earlier work. In the chapter that covers positivity, Martin Seligman (the American who is the leading name in positive psychology) is referenced more often than Cooper himself – despite Cooper’s own prolific output.
Diagrams are simple and illustrative and case studies are to the point and well selected. Particularly apparent in the chapters on problems and pitfalls, monitoring and evaluating and tools and legislation, it’s clear that the authors know the subject of wellbeing from an academic and practical perspective and understand the need to make the business case for it.
They consider the frequent use of elite sportspeople for inspiration and point out that while our appetite for listening to their daring deeds seems limitless, the practical relevance of the ‘lessons’ can vary.
Books like Steve Peters’ Chimp Paradox also get a mention and further illustrate that the authors are aware that the vast majority of their audience reads books they bought in Waterstones rather than academic tomes.
The book covers material in a systematic, clear and concise way but it still has lots of memorable gems. The one that stuck with me most, as the authors drew upon leadership, was this quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Culture may be rather more than intriguing but that is, I think, as good a definition of it as there is. An excellent book.
Ian Hesketh and Cary Cooper KoganPage (bit.ly/3avnAhx) £19.99 paperback