Book Reviews

Book Review: “HBR’s 10 Must Reads – On Communication”

Review written by Silas Grant –

Book number 8 is in the books (no pun). “On Communication” is a book published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that includes a series of articles about the essential elements that make up effective communication. Much of what was in the book feels as if it should be common sense. But as always, in HBR fashion, the book provides hypothetical as well as real-life examples that accompany those common sense principles.

The concept: Communication isn’t just something you do; it’s something you constantly prepare for and evaluate. It involves listening to others, talking to others, and focusing on the techniques. Much of our communication with others ends up being personal, but we must be careful not to be offended. The idea of communication is to advance the relationship, not to “win” the encounter.

Key takeaways:

Persuasion: The book states that persuasion is as much about listening and implementing elements of your counterpart’s wants as it is you trying to get your counterpart to understand and accept your desires. The book provides standardized leadership profiles/styles and how you should typically approach each style of leader.

Talking and speaking: The book talks about the importance of dialogue and also being authentic. Being comfortable with who you are and speaking up are important elements to effective communication. The book also offers ways to fine-tune honest, difficult dialogue for the sake of building better relationships versus being offensive for no reason.

Pitching ideas: We all are faced with the challenge of persuading others about things that we prefer or prioritize. The book describes a handful of “pitchers” (types of people pitching ideas) and how each pitcher can use his/her characteristics to get buy-in from the “catchers” (those that are listening to and deciding on ideas)

The HBR format for their books allows the reader to digest the chapters in different ways. There is the conventional paragraph form of text. Then there is an “Idea in Brief” that summarizes the concept for each chapter. This is helpful if you are reading the text and have a harder time conceptualizing the chapters in long written form. I love the HBR series as a whole. One drawback for me is being able to follow the hypothetical examples that are used with made up companies. I prefer the real-life stories (which are also included). Sometimes the build out for the made up companies and stories are a little harder for me to follow because I’m seeking literal examples. The “Idea in Brief” concept makes up for that for me in those instances. For those looking to get reinforcement on communication strategies, it is a book to pick up and to keep around for references in the future.

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