• Phil Cole

Understanding Our Brains Makes Us Better Leaders (THE LIST: How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb)


Many of us have been reading ideas about professionalism and the workplace for years. We’ve been exposed to (whether we have practiced or not) a number of good ideas to be more effective, efficient, or collaborative. But many people coming into the workplace haven’t had this broad exposure, and a crash introduction would put them ahead of their peers on the learning curve quickly, with great benefit to their careers.


Fortunately, there is a perfect starter for these folks - a handbook of the basics that everyone should know: How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life by Caroline Webb. And it is probably a great reminder for the rest of us about the things we should be doing but are not.

The book is basically a list of dozens if not hundreds of useful professional tactics behaviors. And the context that explains why the behaviors work. There are sections on procrastination, goal setting, and among many others. This is a very functional book, in that it gets into the practical, hands-on performance of day-to-day tasks. While behavioral science is always in the background, clarifying and explaining, Webb's focus on useful action is consistent.


The book does require additional context about how to turn these behaviors into effective leadership behaviors, but that comes from the practice of leading others. Leaders (of any title) will need to consider their desired outcomes and effect on others as they incorporated many of these behaviors, tailoring the practice to match a specific situation or environment.


There are so many good tactics that I can’t possibly pick just a few. What is really beneficial is that the author covers most of the major genres, if you will, of professional challenges. As a result, there’s something in here for people at all different stages and environments.


One useful example (of the many I could select) is the connection between our automatic filters and our conscious perception. As I discuss in the related article, leadership requires we see specific aspects of human behavior in a group. If our subconscious does not recognize the relevance of these events, then they will be filtered out before they reach our conscious awareness. We will therefore be unable to act upon the group in ways that brings out excellence. Fortunately, How to Have a Good Day has a great exercise to direct our focus (and train our brains) to reveal what is relevant. Check it out here, or in the book.


How to Have a Good Day is a practical, grounded work that covers a wide range of the reality of professional life. For me, it was a great reminder of some of the things I should be doing. It’s also a book that I’m going to buy a few copies for new leaders newly promoted leaders. This one is worth your time, both as a full read and a reference for specific situations.


Welcome to THE LIST!


Webb, Caroline. How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life. Currency, 2016.

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