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Shine: How to survive and thrive at work

Here’s a tip. If Bono, the lead singer of U2, ever marches up to you and asks “who’s Elvis round here?” do not point him in the direction of the guy in the corner with the large quiff or the obese chap in finance who constantly munches burgers.

What the Irish singer actually means, as Chris Baréz-Brown reveals in his book Shine: How to survive and thrive at work, is that he wants to meet the people in any organisation who think differently.

Looking for the Elvises of the world is certainly a more imaginative and interesting way of expressing what is quite a simple concept.

But perhaps more interesting is that Baréz-Brown has taken Bono’s bon mot and, like a real-life Rumpelstiltskin, turned it into career gold.

Along with this book he’s also got a website called uppingyourelvis.com and a whole business providing advice and motivational courses to firms.

In terms of practicing what you preach, Baréz-Brown himself is clearly a perfect example of his message that we can all act on an idea and make it work.

With regards to what he says in Shine, he has about 80 bite-size vignettes covering everything from having a nap on the job if you’re the boss, praising others, the benefits of not writing things down, recruiting staff and the karmic benefits of doing business favours.

As with all books of this type, most of this is common sense.

For example, the section on recruitment has some obvious rules about the necessity to be ruthless about who you choose and inviting potential recruits to do trial sessions as a way of weeding out the weak.

As with other motivational speakers, he has a large section on the importance of honest feedback and dealing with it appropriately.

In most cases, when you ask for feedback or if it is offered to us about something we’ve done, we automatically assume it’s going to be bad news. But Baréz-Brown points out the negative perception many of us have about feedback is the result of only receiving feedback when we’ve screwed up.

Instead, he says when leading people, the only way to help them grow and develop is to provide both positive and negative feedback.

His rule of thumb is once again inspired by the ideas of someone else, this time Canadian journalist and speaker Malcolm Gladwell, who argues that for every piece of feedback about how something can be done better, five pieces of restoring feedback where you tell the person they are doing fantastically is required.

But make the compliments specific rather than just meaningless statements such as “you’re great”, “loving your energy” or “nice hair”.

The way Shine is written mirrors the presentational style of every motivational speaker you’ve ever seen or heard – a crude mixture of pop-culture references, personal anecdotes and amateur psychobabble.

But for all that, it’s difficult not to be carried along by his infectious enthusiasm. It’s like going out for an evening with an overly positive friend who is constantly egging you on to have a good time.

For the first hour you will want to kill him. For the second hour you’ll be paranoid he wants to kill you, but by the early hours of the morning you’ll both be singing at the moon and pledging undying love for each other.

Review by Robert Thickett

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