Self-help books often do more harm than good. Released by the thousand every year, they tend to bury useful information beneath reams of unlikely anecdotes or quasi-spiritual nonsense. They can be expensive too, in terms of both money and time. Most people seek help when they need it urgently. The last thing anyone needs is a pile of turgid reading matter clogging up their in-tray.
Thankfully, a few books exist that can genuinely improve the personal skills, working relationships and general well-being of any reader. They are aimed not at specific disciplines, such as personnel management, but at the generic issues faced by most workers, regardless of rank or role.
You may, therefore, find it helpful to keep a few copies of each in your office, to refresh your own skills and complement your advice to others. Better still, you could encourage your board to distribute them widely, to prevent problems across the organisation.
The recommended reading list below is by no means exhaustive, but each book represents a good return on investment as they are all accessible, concise and practical. The list covers a range of skills and solutions that should boost the productivity of any workplace.
Read faster, read better
How To Be A Rapid Reader: Six steps to increased speed and concentration, by Kathryn Redway (National Textbook Company, ISBN: 0844229431, £4.99 from Amazon.co.uk).
Imagine all the printed material that crosses your desk each day. Now imagine racing through it, twice as fast as usual. Impossible? Not at all. In fact, the skill of speed-reading can be learned and applied in just a few hours. And far from forcing you to skip information, it will actually help you to retain even more.
Kathryn Redway's brilliant tutorial is 119 pages long and can be read in an afternoon. Indeed, you will probably finish it much sooner, as your reading picks up speed. The book aims to rid you of childhood reading habits, such as subvocalisation (reading words aloud in your head), and to replace them with new ones, such as using your peripheral vision to read several words at a glance.
It includes dedicated chapters on how to speed-read complex material such as business reports, legal texts and periodicals. So it should prove useful to workers in any sector. In organisations that depend on the ability of their staff to read and retain new information, it will boost productivity at a stroke.