5. The Oz Principle by Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 18.52.59This is a different type of book that I am reviewing as it is a non-fiction management book so absolutely the type of book I am very good at starting and very poor at finishing! But I am pleased to say that I did read to the end of this one, despite the small margins and even smaller print. I enjoyed the book, but feel as I often do with this type of book that it could give you all the information in a much smaller volume! Notwithstanding that, there are some good and powerful messages and approaches in there.

The book is based on a simple premise – if we take accountability for ourselves and what happens to us, we will feel more empowered and be more successful. This simple premise is of course not so simple to live by. Many people, in fact at some point in life, all people fall into a victim cycle where things happen to them and they feel helpless to change. The authors argue that people who take accountability, rise out of the victim cycle and make things happen. I liken this to a ‘can do’ attitude which is only possible if you identify what you can do and then do it!

But where you might ask does the title come from? The authors have woven their advice around the story of the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy, the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow journey along the yellow brick believing themselves to be victims of circumstance. When they arrive at the Emerald City they learn that actually they possess in themselves the power to get the results they want. The authors use this to show how we all have that power, while acknowledging that we cannot control everything that goes on around us. We can of course control what we do about it and how we react to it.

The book draws out the concept of being below or above the line. Below the line is akin to being in victim mode while above the line is taking accountability and indeed control of situations, be they personal or work related, and bringing about more success.

Below the line is typified by behaviours such as blaming others, sticking your head in the sand, denying responsibility (it’s not my job!) and covering your back. Above the line behaviour involves seeing the issue for what it is, owning it by taking on the responsibility, solving it (not necessarily alone) and doing something about it. All this makes a lot of sense and is really not new, but always useful to be reminded.

The authors do acknowledge that we all fall below the line from time to time and stress the importance of self-awareness in this which then enables you to take the steps to move above the line. It is human to fall below the line and sometimes we all need a moment to rant or whinge and the key here is to know when to stop and move up above the line. That is the only place where we will truly feel empowered and happy with our lot.

The book goes into detail on how to take the steps to get above the line, namely, see it, own it, solve it, do it. I know I have already used some approaches in keeping myself above the line and have been more aware of falling below the line. It will take time to make a big difference, but in time it will.

There are many examples and case studies, some feel a little simple but help to illustrate the point. Of course all the case studies show a dramatic change of fortune when the Oz Principle is applied and I remain to be convinced it is quite so simple. Though I would happily be proven wrong!

A good, if slightly long, read with parts in it that can help in all aspects of life.


7. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 18.43.29I am one of the many who was charmed by the Downton Abbey series and the goings on both upstairs and down in a large stately home in the early 20th century. It also spanned the time of the First World War which has been uppermost in so many minds of late as we live through the centenary commemorations of so many dreadful battles. Having been beguiled by these tales and equally beguiled by the setting, in 2015 I headed off to visit Highclere Castle, the real Downton Abbey. Here the beautiful surroundings enchanted me and the house, standing proud in the midst of its stunning gardens, made an impressive statement. I can certainly imagine the impact on people coming up the long drive to be greeted by such an imposing sight. So what of the people who lived here, the real Downton Abbey? As luck would have it, the current Countess of Carnarvon has done a lot of research on her husband’s ancestors and one of the results of this is Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, of course I had to buy a copy.

The book did not disappoint, there is a glittering cast of characters full of the nobility and royalty.┬áIt is a big cast though and at times hard to keep up with who was who! It was helpful that some of the names were familiar to me though I wasn’t aware of the Carnarvon’s links to the Royal Family, nor their influence during World War One. In fact the part of the book during the period of the Great War was fascinating. Having watched Downton Abbey I knew that many great houses had been used as hospitals during the war and Highclere was no exception. The difference was in how the hospital was laid out, with the bedrooms at Highclere being used for individual men rather than a large ward set up in the main rooms downstairs. There was the also the question of how the nurses and doctors would be paid, to my surprise Almina funded that herself. Highclere did not remain a hospital for the duration of the war, to get the best doctors of the day Almina moved the hospital to London and continued to care for many heavily traumatised and injured men to the very end.

The other big story is the uncovering of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Another endeavour funded by the Carnarvons. There is no wonder Lord Carnarvon needed an injection of capital which his wife was able to supply through her family links to the Rothschilds. The success of the Egyptian endeavour is well known, to have the perspective of the family was fascinating.

Lady Fiona Carnarvon (the current Countess) has an easy writing style and her passion and enthusiasm in the history of her husband’s family shines through. This was history brought to life with real characters living through some gruesome times.