HBR Guide to Your Professional Growth: A book review by Bob Morris

HBR Guide to Your Professional Growth
Various Contributors
Harvard Business Review Press (April 2019)

If you don’t care about your personal and professional growth, why should anyone else?

As you probably know already, most of the volumes in the “HBR Guide to” series are anthologies of articles previously published in Harvard Business Review in which various contributors share their insights concerning a major business subject such as better business writing, getting the right work done, and project management. In this instance, the focus is on professional growth.

As is also true of volumes in other such series, notably HBR Essentials, HBR Must Reads, and HBR Management Tips, HBR Guides offer substantial value in cutting-edge thinking from 25-30 sources in a single volume at a price (each at about $15-20 from Amazon in the bound version) for a fraction of what article reprints would cost.What we have in this paperbound edition are 28 articles previously published by Harvard Business Review. If purchased separately as reprints, the total cost would be about $260. Amazon US currently sells this volume for only $13.36.

The material is organized within six sections. The individual essays in each section address specific issues related to a general objective.For example, in the Section One:

o Robert Steven Kaplan explains how to reach your potential by defining success.
o Brian Fetherstonhaugh asserts it’s never too late to develop a strategy for life of meaningful labor.
o Dorie Clark explains how to think strategically about your career rather than leaving it to chance.

Material in the other five sections provide equally valuable information, insights, and advice with regard to HOW TO

Assess yourself and obtain feedback
Set goals for yourself
Become a better learner
Gain new skills
Move ahead in order to move up

Here’s what Heidi Grant discusses in her article, “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently” (Pages 103-109):

1. Get specific.
2. Seize the moment to act upon your goals.
3. Know exactly how far you have yet to go.
4. Be a realistic optimist.
5. Focus on getting better, rather than being good.
6. Have grit.
7. Build your willpower muscle.
8. Don’t tempt fate.
9. Focus on what you will do, not what you won’t do.

Yes, I realize, it’s easy to make a list of what to do. Grant also explains HOW. To varying degree, other contributors also focus on the WHAT and WHY as well as on the all-important HOW.

I also hold in high regard Stephen Covey’s discussion of the habits of highly successful people. Here they are:

1. Be proactive
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Put first things first
4. Think win-win
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
6. Synergize!
7. Sharpen the Saw

Long ago, Aristotle said this: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” More recently, Warren Buffett suggested, “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” By all means cherish your high hopes and great expectations but meanwhile keep in minds this observation by Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Each of us is a work in progress. Years ago, I realized that as well as the fact that personal growth and professional development may have different objectives and different challenges but really are interdependent. The information, insights, and advice provided in this book can help almost anyone to achieve both personal and professional objectives. Ultimately, however, the value of the material will depend almost entirely on how effectively each reader uses it.

Assuming you hope to achieve great success, I commend to your attention this comment by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

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