Books: Your dirty dozen - Twelve habits that hold you back. Can it be so simple, asks Adrian Furnham. Why not 13? Maximum Success, by James Waldroop & Timothy Butler, HarperCollins Business pounds 19.99

Books: Your dirty dozen - Twelve habits that hold you back. Can it be so simple, asks Adrian Furnham. Why not 13? Maximum Success, by James Waldroop & Timothy Butler, HarperCollins Business pounds 19.99 - So you want to write a business bestseller? A

by ADRIAN FURNHAM, professor of psychology at University College,London
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

So you want to write a business bestseller? A good step would be to look at what has done really well and copy it. You might combine Goleman's runaway success Emotional Intelligence with Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and write about bad habits that prevent success but can be cured by raising your EQ.

This book is not far off that parody. And it's very American. It is endorsed by many vice-presidents. There are numerous case studies of 'Chuck' and others, who epitomise bad habits. And of course the solutions are primarily psycho-therapeutic.

The book is an easy read. It's familiar territory. But it is not referenced, a surprise given the writers are Harvard academics. So you have to take their word for it. Sometimes they are over-simplistic and egocentric. They also make the common mistake of seeing causes (and cures) of bad habits as psychological. But these are often structural organisational issues, not simply the result of personal pathology. Business failure and success also involves economic, political and organisational forces.

The book is divided into two parts. The first covers the 12 behaviours that hold you back. (Note they are 'habits' in the title but 'behaviours' in the text.)

What are these bad habits? The first is that American obsession, low self-esteem, called career acrophobia here, the fear of falling from a senior position you did not really deserve in the first place. Number two is seeing the world in black-and-white or over-rigid categorisation.

We proceed down the list: doing too much/ pushing too hard; avoiding conflict; being rebellious.

I wanted to know which 'bad habit' was most common or serious; if any were interrelated; and whether there was a 13th.

It seemed at times a psychiatric textbook describing fundamental pathologies, at others it seemed like another of those 'problem-people-at-work' books.

The second half describes what you can do if bad habits are limiting your career success: take others' perspectives; come to terms with authority and accept you might have a (pathological) problem with it; use your legitimate role power effectively and examine your self-image.

Heard it all before? That's part of the problem with the book. It gives useful advice, at times, but nothing new. It's a cut above most self-help books, but still essentially of the genre.

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