Apparently Dr. Joanie Connell has been listening in to my kitchen table rants, because the entire first section of Flying Without A Helicopter is a powerful and complete description of a situation about which I have railed often and loudly, although not nearly as eloquently or astutely as her observations, solid research, and clearly communicated perceptions.
Dr. Connell knows what she is talking about and how to explain it to us …
… and she is not much for sugar-coating the problem, as shown toward the end of the book:
“imagine a generation of leaders who are living with their parents, who look to others to tell them what the next step is, who fall apart when they make a mistake or someone criticizes them, and who don’t feel comfortable interacting with their team face-to-face. How prominent will our society be? How innovative will our industries be? How strong will our economy be?” (p. 109)
This is not a “Bash The Millennials” book, but a serious attempt to call our attention to a real problem which our entire society must address. At first, I thought this book was an academic discussion of the sociological dynamics of recent years which have affected our educational system, changed our parenting, and resulted in problematic attitudes and behaviors in current college students and entry-level workers.
“One thing they do not teach you in college is what you will actually be doing in a career of your choosing.”
Then as I moved through the book, I was treated to a good dose of career development counseling the way it ought to always be done. The book ends with some excellent coaching for self-improvement through a solid set of strategies to develop characteristics that we may have let wither.
“The point is people are much happier and more succesful when they are in jobs that fit their personality and work style.”
Dr. Connell clearly and convincingly shows us why this topic is important for all of us regardless of age or generational identification, and how we got to the place where her book is not just necessary, but essential. After a rousing preface and introduction, we enjoy a deep and rich exploration of this issue, how it manifests in school, relationships, and at work, and finally what we can individually do change the situation for ourselves.
The heart of Dr. Connell’s book is what she calls “REAL Life“, as defined by four characteristics essential for career success , along with five action strategies designed to develop or enhance those four characteristics. If you read nothing else, check out pages 24-26 for the essential ideas. Everything else in this book speaks to how each characteristic can help or hurt you, and how to move toward strengthening them through the strategies
Here are the four essential characteristics described:
RESILIENT is to stay engaged and maintain a positive attitude no matter what gets in your way.
EMPOWERED is to be liberated, independent, confident, and able to get things done.
AUTHENTIC is to be aware of yourself, know your strengths and your imperfections, and communicate genuinely and transparently.
LIMBER is to be flexible in mind and body, creative, resourceful, and able to switch gears quickly and seamlessly, as the situation requires. (Connell, 2015, p. 25)
Here’s the first of the five strategies with some commentary from me:
“Accept Imperfection: Praise less and appreciate imperfections in yourself and others.”
“Praise less” … now there’s a phrase you do not hear all that often, as we tend to relentlessly focus on themes like “Think Positive” and “Catch Them Doing Something Good“. The point here is to engage in worthwhile praise for specific behaviors and accomplishments, rather than mindless praise phrases such as “Good Job”, which loses its effectiveness as soon as the person is potty trained, in my opinion.
Parents and bosses often use the vague type of “good job” praise because they mistakenly believe this is a coaching approach, showing they lack a strong understanding of what is effective coaching.
Here are the other four strategies, each of which I could easily say several paragraphs about, if space permitted:
Build resilience: Take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them, while retaining positive energy.
Develop independence: Make your own decisions and accept the consequences, take care of yourself, and initiate action.
Polish communication skills: Listen actively, be present in the moment, manage your emotions, and be authentic when interacting with others.
Foster creativity: Take time to reflect, let ideas flow on their own schedule, and let yourself have numerous bad ideas (failures) to inspire the good ones (successes). (Connell, 2015, p. 26)
The book contains three major sections: Part 1 is an extended and rich discussion of the problem as the author sees it, expanding greatly on the points made in the preface.
Part 2 The Solutions includes a detailed treatment of the five strategies. I dare you to read this section (in whatever order “floats your boat”) and fail to come away with some useful material for reflection and self-evaluation.
Part 3 follows naturally with a series of reflective questions and exercises for each chapter, to drive the learning deep into your mind. This is the action part.
Once you have read the introductory material, you can start to dip into areas of particular interest and connect a section in Part 2 with the proper exercises in Part 3. However, my bet is that you will end up reading the whole blessed thing … maybe not in linear order, but completely. It’s that interesting and useful.
The Bottom Line?
The author specifically names “children, parents, educators, and managers”, which certainly covers a lot of folks. However, I imagine even a self-employed single person of mature years might find value upon which to reflect and act in Flying Without A Helicopter . In short, this book is useful for …
… Anyone in school at any level, with a child in school, or who works with people in school, especially if you want to help them succeed.
… Anyone planning to or already working, with relatives who work, or who works with other people, especially if you want to influence them.
Enjoying another excellent book that delivers far more than expected in the Heartland ….
ABOUT JOANIE CONNELL
Joanie B. Connell, Ph.D., is a talent management expert and career coach for people across job levels, ages, and industries. She works with companies to attract, develop, and retain top talent and she works with individuals to improve their success and happiness in their careers.
She has advanced degrees in psychology from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Harvard. As a professor, she has taught business and psychology students at the University of California San Diego, Alliant International University, and National University.
Her clients are from Fortune 100 companies, not-for-profit, government agencies, high tech, biotech, healthcare, finance, legal, and other industries. She draws inspiration from her daughter and support from her husband in San Diego, California.