Book Review: Surviving & Thriving in the HR World (Jim Suthers)

Gosh, something must be in the water!  Tons of my associates and colleagues around town have announced to me that they’ve just started the process of writing a book.  I’m almost tempted to do so myself, to keep up with the Joneses, but then I remembered that I have an extremely short attention span and my efforts would probably peter out after about 10 pages.  So blogging is more my speed, at least for now.  I did notice, however, that Bellevue College actually has a “Book Midwife” on staff who teaches people how to bring their thoughts to market in written form.  Should the day ever come, I may need her services…

At any rate, I digress.  What all of this is leading up to is the fact that one of my friends, Jim Suthers, DID recently give birth to a new book that is designed to pass along his years of hard-fought HR Management insights to those who might be looking to make a name for themselves in the human resources field.  Entitled “Surviving & Thriving in the HR World”, this book is a short (110-page) power-packed work where Jim “calls it like he sees it” in terms of some the positive/negative behaviors, games, and shenanigans that take place in the typical workplace — and how a savvy HR professional should deal with them.

The things I liked most about the book?  For starters, rather than complicating the process of management, and the art of working with people effectively, he brings us back to a set of really basic, but critical, concepts such as displaying integrity, giving and getting respect, practicing common courtesy, and portraying a professional image at all times.  Having started his leadership career in the Marine Corps, you can clearly see the influence of this experience in his corporate success philosophy.  Additionally, he backs up his beliefs and contentions with numerous examples from his own storied HR career, such as the time he ignored the protests of a manufacturing manager and personally stopped a mechanical punch press for safety reasons (i.e. it was cutting off the fingers of workers at an alarming rate…) or the time his commitment to meeting everybody in the workplace led to his discovery that the company custodian actually held numerous product patents — and was working in this seemingly “menial” capacity because he claimed to “do his best thinking while he swept floors.”

I also enjoyed some of the numerous relevant quotes throughout the book, many of which I’d never seen before.  Two of my favorites were:”When you step into a turnaround situation, you can safely assume four things: morale is low, fear is high, the good people are halfway out the door, and the slackers are hiding.” (Nina Disesa, Chairwoman of McCann-Erickson Worldwide) and “I will pay more for the ability to handle people than for any other ability under the sun.” (John D. Rockefeller, Sr.)

As for some gentle criticisms of the book, or at least advice that might help match it with the right audience, I think it’s safe to say that the lion’s share of the material Jim presents isn’t necessarily specific to management in HR but could apply equally to any front-line management position, in general.  So anybody thinking that this is a how-to training manual that goes into detailed depths about the HR function might be surprised to find that the contents are high-level, and strategic, as opposed to debating specific methodologies for administering workers’ comp plans, writing employee handbooks, or conducting employee investigations.  I also suspect that most veteran HR practitioners will also have learned many of these same lessons, themselves, through their own workplace experiences and adventures.  Still, it never hurts to be reminded of some of the essential behaviors that lead to success, or to compare the wisdom of another successful senior HR leader with your own.

All things considered, I admire Jim for taking the time to distill his decades of experience down into this punchy, no-holds-barred publication — and if any of you end up reading the book and would like to chat with him further about his ideas, or how to become a true “player” in the HR field, just let me know!  I’d be happy to make an introduction and have a hunch I could convince him to let you pick his brain over coffee…

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One Response to “Book Review: Surviving & Thriving in the HR World (Jim Suthers)”

  1. Actually Matt, this blog on writing is RIGHT ON TIME!
    As this week, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association hosts their annual summer writing workshop and conference in Seattle beginnng on July 30, 2009. See —

    http://www.pnwa.org/

    For all those writing a book — this is a good group to connect with.

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