Book review: The Power of a Positive Team
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Title: The Power of a Positive Team
Author: Jon Gordon
Reviewer: Ben Morri
Reviewer's rating: 5 (out of 5)
As an HR professional and a qualified and experienced sports coach, my shelves and e-reader are full of books on teams and team performance. So I was delighted to be asked to review this book by Jon Gordon.
However, I’ll confess to having more than a degree of British scepticism about what “positive” in the title might be fortelling.
Gordon addresses this early on and underlines the point several times throughout: “positive teams confront the reality of challenging situations and work together to overcome them”. Reassured that the content will not be enduringly saccharine, we can press on.
The book is relatively short at 150 pages (plus guide to resources and his other works). It is written in a light and accessible style, signposted and well spaced.
The coverslip advises that the book is to be read by teams together, and the low level of effort required to read and digest the contents seem to deliver this mission. In style it reads like a pre-match address to a team, offering a direction, illumination and enjoining us to embark on the journey.
There are other books that will offer greater depth on the material, and if you really need a guided tour through the mechanism of an author’s contention, this will probably not be the ideal read for you.
However, for all that, the contents will resonate with anybody that has been part of a team, whether they felt it work or not!
There are plenty of suggestions and exercises that you can lift from the book and deploy, as appropriate to your context (and making it your own is a point that Gordon likes to make).
In style it reads like a pre-match address to a team, offering a direction, illumination and enjoining us to embark on the journey.
Not all of the case study examples will sit comfortably but the author does admirably well to offer up a breadth of team examples, however shallowly, a trick that will separate this work from others in the field. Sport always presents good examples, but is not everybody’s cup of tea.
The last decade has witnessed a huge growth in the military/team instructional catalogue. Gordon takes those and adds to them creative and corporate, profit and non-profit examples. This will hopefully enable those who might otherwise be deterred to engage with the constructs.
Themes and tools
The book motors over a lot of ground in a relatively short time: tackling goals; culture; purpose; dealing with negativity; connection and growth, but encourages ownership of the team dynamic from all levels of the team.
The formation of a team is not the exclusive domain of leaders (important though they are) nor is it something that is just done to us. Gordon shows us the tools to use and reminds us that it is within our power to use them.
A note on culture
It is also reassuring to see the same message being delivered in respect of culture: “don’t expect someone else to create it”. In a different voice, the message might be subversive but sits comfortably in this context.
Indeed, while the edge may have been lost somewhat, the importance of forging and directing the right culture in everything that you do and say was emphasized after several of the large failures in the run up to the financial crisis.
Similarly, the mis-selling scandals which have created fertile breeding ground for target driven cold-calling give further reason to spark the reader’s interest in getting culture right and aligned with proper purpose.
In summary, Gordon achieves his declared objective. The book can, and should, be read by all. However, for the seasoned traveller on this road it is best approached as a valuable and timely refresher, while for the novice it offers up immediate utility but will also serve as a gateway to further study and reflection.
Light enough to be digested in one sitting but amicably enough structured that you could dip in and out (meditations style), the book will serve as a useful addition to the team library and language.