Aug 2, 2016

Book Review: Faster, Smarter, Higher by Utkarsh Rai

When I came across this title, I presumed it would be on the lines of "The Goal" by Eliyahu Goldratt or "Ready to lead" by Alan Price. Career-related challenges covered through the life of a working professional, followed by actionable insights and framework for the reader as the protagonist solves these challenges - I prefer such story-telling narrative to talk about serious issues pertaining to career management. But this book addresses these issues in a simple, straight-forward manner.

Faster, Smarter, Higher is very relevant for people in their early-to-mid stage careers. The author has covered all important facets of managing one's career - yourself and other stakeholders who play a vital role (your manager, your peers, your team, your manager's boss, your manager's peers etc). For each stakeholder, he has clearly explained their role and importance and concrete steps to manage the different scenarios that get played out as you climb up the corporate ladder.

A leader needs to exhibit different leadership styles based on his team members' personality, strengths and work style. Similarly, the author has provided ways to slot managers into categories. He has also given actionable pointers on how you can work with each of them. The quote that we are familiar with - "People leave managers and not companies". This classification of managers is helpful in understanding the respective managerial traits, how to adapt to them and deal with common workplace issues. 

Some of the key take-aways that I found relevant in today's context are (quoted from the book):

1) Never ask your manager 'when can I get promoted?'. Instead, the right question is 'what skills do I need to demonstrate to move to the next level?'
2) You need to subtly beat your own drum without being pompous about it. The best way to increase your visibility is to interact with more and more people, especially those high in the hierarchy
3) As a manager, the more you empower your employees, the more they take their job seriously and deliver with full accountability and responsibility
4) As a manager, earn your respect than demand it. Respect is directly proportional to a person's behavior rather than their position
5) It is very important to increase your interactions with stakeholders of the next level and to make them aware of your contributions, skills and your capabilities

I felt the last part on how one should prepare for the future could have been elaborated - career progression, mid-stage crisis, continuous skill development, changing work dynamics, evolving value prioritization etc. I see a need for deep coverage of these topics as I notice contrasting perspectives that unfold between people in their 20s and 30s.

Though the narrative was simple and easy to follow, the tone felt a little monotonous. A few case-studies, anecdotes from the author's professional life, interviews from people who have faced such challenges etc would have made the material more impactful and captivating to read. Nevertheless, it is a relevant book for those who have just started out their careers and also for those who have moved from an individual contributor to a people manager role.

P.S. The book was sent to me by Flipkart as part of their "bloggers initiative". The review is my honest and unbiased feedback of the book.

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