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The Pocket MBA: A Woman’s Playbook for Succeeding in Business

We all want to be successful. As I look back, with all my corporate roles and personal business, I wish I had a guide to help me through some challenges and ways to deal with certain situations. Someone who knows the situations and can provide some guidance.

Jodi Cottle has created that guide. Cottle’s story and philosophy will challenge your thinking and inspire you to try new ways of working and leading.

As a woman leader, in today’s society, we all need a quick start reference to succeeding in business. Cottle provides the basics on the best methods and tools to focus on, along with some key tips and real-world anecdotes to help with your understanding. She will help you concentrate on your mindset while maintaining your focus by considering your personal values, combating imposter syndrome, and controlling your environment. Yes, this is something you can control.

Cottle explains how some brain science behind productivity and moods can enable you to stay in the right head space, or at least have some awareness of why you might be feeling the way you are – rather than going off on negative thought tangents. You know the saying, “When it rains, it pours” and it happens to all of us however we can get out of that space, it’s all in how we deal with it and finding the answers.

This book is divided into four parts, covering leading yourself, leading your people, leading your customers, and leading your business. You cannot help anyone if you don’t set your own direction, leadership ability, and mindset in order, before trying to lead a team of people. It’s all about how you connect with your fellow humans, staff, colleagues, or friends and family.

Not only thinking about how to control your environment, but also why you should in order to effectively manage your own head space. Do you truly know your values – that is, what guides your life? Are these values aligned with your business or workplace.

Cottle explains that sometimes when people put time and effort into visualization and controlling their thoughts, the important step they often miss is taking action and walking through the metaphorical doors that open. This is called “alignment”. Taking control of your environment is paramount to your success and wellbeing – otherwise, your environment will control you.

Cottle explains the leadership styles and strategically puts then into the acronym VACAS – Visionary, Authentic, Coaching, Authoritative and Servant. As a leader, you need to have equal measures of VACAS, and you need to wear the different hats at different times, with different people and in different circumstances. As a leader, you really should know yourself and not only how you lead but also how you are perceived by those you lead.

Cottle reviews different aspects of a business including recruitment, onboarding, training, etc. She explains that your responsibility as a leader is to make sure you are creating environments where everyone in your team has the best chance of remaining in the ‘reward’ state, optimizing productivity.

Cottle provides several cases and examples throughout the book, for example when having the feedback conversation with a staff member or colleague, ask that person to provide feedback about themselves first, and then have an open and engaged conversation. Doesn’t that just make sense and shows the employee that their opinion matters.

Ensure you have pathways in place for your staff to build competence and skill because this is key to keeping people engaged and productivity maintained.

Throughout this guide, Cottle reaffirms that you’re in charge of rounding out your own leadership development and building a great culture. It starts and stops at the top. Leadership is a learned skillset and one that should be continuously developed. Courage and perseverance might be the two of the most valuable attributes you can have.

Putting in the required time and effort is well worth it, because good people attract good people.

Stop, think and plan before you recruit. Now that you are clear on the importance of defining your values, have this top of mind when recruiting. Be calculated with your decision and guided by your values.

Delegating, developing and coaching staff within the limitations of their own competencies is vital for their longevity within your business. Matching competencies with accountability is a balancing act.

Cottle also provides an overview of core business strategies relating to differentiation – that is, product, price and customer experience – looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the alternative differentiation strategies.

The Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) framework is a combination of all the best bits of the modes and theories outlined. Cottle provides a clear and concise structure so you can methodically work your way through each phase.

Cottle explains the three business models to guide her strategic business level decisions. These are PESTEL, SWOT and the Porter’s Five Forces and she explains them in detail so that you also see the benefit of applying these models in your business.

This book was definitely a great read and one that I will keep by my side and read over again. The ideas really make you think of your own situation and how you can be successful not only for yourself but others around you.

You want to be successful, read this first!!!

Published by Wiley

Reviewed by Monique Vander Eyken, HR Consultant – MVE Consulting

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