GROWING INFLUENCE could have been just another ho-hum business book about the dynamics of how to succeed in the corporate world. But it isn’t. The authors Ron Price and Stacy Ennis couch their lessons in getting ahead in business inside a charming story that focuses on a 30-year-old mom trying to understand the complex world of the office, and a retired CEO in his 70s, who accidentally becomes her mentor.
Emily, the young lady, and David, the ex-CEO, meet over a cup of spilled coffee in a place called Slow By Slow (read Starbucks) in Boise, Idaho. Emily seems disturbed about something and David prompts her to talk about her problems, which as it turns out, revolve around rising to the top at work. Over a period of weeks, they develop a friendly relationship that centers on David’s passing along the wisdom he has gained from steering a Fortune 500 company. Each chapter contains another lesson for Emily, who feels unappreciated at her high-tech company, and somewhat cast aside because she has a young son to care for.
David starts by asking Emily if she is happy where she is. The obvious “no” leads to another question – what can she do to gain 100 percent control over herself? The answer: create what David calls “discretionary time,” that is, a period set aside to listen to music, or just think. It is a preliminary step, he acknowledges, but one that is absolutely necessary. David talks later on about the need for Emily to control her actions, collaborate with her co-workers and bosses, and show concern for those around her. If she is able to do these things, he assures her, she will begin to rise in the company. “Expertise and character were what mattered, instead of striving for a bigger title and paycheck,” David explains of his days running an international company. And, he adds this: “Ignore the position so you can get the position.” In other words, focus on the work and the people around you, and the better job will come.
David talks of old-fashioned values such as honesty, accountability, gratitude, humility and courage, which sounds quaint today. He tells Emily, “People follow the position, not the person.” Emily should never think she is so all-important. Emily and David remain friends, until such time as she discovers he has died of an illness he never even told her he had.
David’s teachings may sound like little more than platitudes, but given today’s 24/7 business world and all of the hyperventilating workers in it, his words sound soothing, and like something a lot of people need to read, and to consider.
GROWING INFLUENCE offers strategies for succeeding at the office, but avoids clunky business verbiage and substitutes for it a pleasant tale of mentoring.
~James Bernstein for IndieReader