Compiled by FRANK DILLON

The Yes/No Book

Mike Clayton, Pearson, €14.99

Subtitled “How to Do Less and Achieve More”, this book shows managers how to distinguish between accepting and rejecting requests, in both their professional and personal lives. The author, a business coach, speaker and ex-project manager provides a range of insights and practical techniques to enable professionals to take control of their decisions, become less stressed, less busy and more productive. His promise is that by reading the book, you’ll know when to say either “yes” or “no” with conviction.

Clayton says many of us are controlled by inner Gophers – our tendency to go-for this and go-for that without discrimination. We need to become much more proactive in choosing what to say “yes” and “no” to. The key, he says, is to develop a noble objection and to distinguish between “goal-directed choices” and “guilt-directed choices”. It is possible to say “no” with confidence, good grace and authority and to even leave people feeling positive about your “no” decision. The author looks at the psychology of “no” and how to overcome the hurdles of fear, guilt and discomfort. He also explores the distinction between “time critical” and “time charmed” and the value and purposeful procrastination.


Phil Olley, Pearson, €14.99

This book is firmly in the genre of self-help guides for managers who feel stuck in the treacle, as the author describes it. One of the reasons people find themselves in this situation is that they have not figured out clearly what the alternative to being stuck actually means.

Olley says that the answer is that success means different things to different people but a common denominator is that success should be fun. Too many people, he says, focus on the hassle that will surround them in becoming successful and believe that it will require huge effort and discipline. While it is true that some sacrifices need to be made, these should be viewed as investments in success. The book puts a strong emphasis on visualisation techniques, positive thinking and framing your life in terms of future possibilities rather than past or current constraints.

When you combine forward thinking and taking personal responsibility you will find that your mind creates pictures of the anticipated result in advance, a process the author refers to as a “fast forward” function. Prevalent in high achievers, this insight is extremely powerful for specific goals, he advises. Focus is also important for success, he notes.

The Success Equation

Michael Mauboussin, Harvard Business Review Press, €19.99

Subtitled “Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports and Investing”, this thought-provoking book is the work of the chief investment strategist of Legg Mason Capital Management and part-time academic and author. His stated purpose here is to untangle the strands of skill and luck and to provide frameworks for analysing their relative contributions.

He also offers practical suggestions for how to put these insights to work in business and other areas of life. His main insights are well summarised in a 10-point chapter at the end entitled “The Art of Good Guesswork”.

People are very poor at distinguishing skill from luck, he notes. Our minds have an amazing ability to create a narrative that explains the world around us – an ability that works particularly well when we already know the answer. This can be explained by our love of stories and our need to connect cause and effect. The blend of these two ingredients leads us to believe that the past was inevitable and to underestimate what else may have happened.

One of the main obstacles to learning is psychological. Our minds frequently use shortcuts. While these serve us well most of time, they also introduce biases that distort reality.