Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book Review : The Ugly Duckling Goes to Work: wisdom for the workplace from the classic tales of Hans Christian Andersen By Mette Norgaard

The stories in this book offer a fun and lighthearted way to address work and personal issues. The book is organized into six independent chapters, each based on a fairy tale. We can choose to read the book in sequence or simply start with the one that interests us the most. After each chapter there is a summary of “Something to think about” and another called “Something to talk to your colleagues about”. In addition to the concise summaries and analysis, the lessons from these stories will inspire reader to bring more meaning, more energy and more joy to their work, thus creating a meaningful work life.

--The Emperor’s New Clothes: This story mocks snobbery and shows us how our fear and ego can drive us to foolishness. Clad in our power suits, we become more concerned with our image rather than ourselves. The corporate culture fuels us to be blind to self-awareness and personal beliefs and encourages us into accepting only what executive management would find meritorious. Somehow we will learn to reclaim our own agenda by using two terrific fool-detectors: self-awareness and candid conversations.

--The Ugly Duckling’s story of rejection and growth allows us to realize that – when we heed our longing, we grow into our swanlike nature. Many of us in the workplace can relate well to the feeling of being discriminated against for not fitting the mold. Yet, it is within our power to choose to leave bitterness behind and to uproot negativism from our system. Once this is accomplished, we can begin to assert ourselves in order to find out where we belong and how we can best fulfill our purpose.

--The Dung Beetle’s self-absorption and status driven creature teach us that an honest assessment of our strengths and weakness is the first thing that permits us to get pass frustrations and propels us to succeed. This does not mean that we should suppress our faith in our competencies. In contrast, the free-agent reality is that in the global market, the proliferation of downsizing and off-shoring should encourage us to grow and learn continuously. It is self-deception to hold on to fantasies of lifetime employment and linear career paths, feeling as if the world owes us something. Freedom is a wonderful thing and as free agents, our only security is in establishing a strong professional identity from mastery and building relationships.

--The Nisse at the Grocer’s is a tale of two tensions: between practicality and idealism, action and contemplation, standard of living and quality of life. A good book, a moving film, a motivational speech, or a weekend trip can make us want to be writers, artists, entrepreneurs. While it is true that the grocer provides us with porridge with a large lump of butter, it is the power of truth, courage, compassion and beauty that makes us creative and happy. Inspiration, however, is oftentimes short-lived, as one realizes that it may not keep a roof over one’s head. Each of us is a work in progress, and the story displays how the confused Nisse has managed to keep a balance. The more you integrate, the wiser you will be.

--The Fir Tree is a tragic tale of one has never really lived. The little tree was in a hurry to grow up and anxious to shine so soon. It lost its roots even before it was cut down. The fundamental to a happy life is the ability to be aware of and appreciate the moment. Oftentimes through, we defer our realizations and pleasure until the next target is met and until the next deadline is over. The question is not “Should we stop making plans?” the question is “How often do you postpone your life?” Savor the moment. Seize the day.

--The Nightingle awakens at it enchants. It tells of a plain little bird that touches the soul with its song, deriving its strength from nature, meaning, and freedom. It comforts both fisherman and Emperor, an equalizer. It does not concern itself with gold slippers, titles and applause from the Emperor’s court, since fulfillment is a reward on its own. The tales teaches us to push beyond mere perfunctory performances and reach our full potential.

This book is available at Main Campus and Subang Square Library. The call number is 650.1 NOR.

About the author:
Dr. Mette Norgaard, M.B.A., Ph.D., is a speaker on personal leadership and an executive coach and strategy consultant who has worked with senior leaders from organizations such as Microsoft, Intel, Coca Cola, General Electric, and Daimler Chrysler. Prior to starting her own consulting business, she was a senior consultant at the FranklinCovey Company. In her work with companies, her passion is to help people be authentic and alive in their work, and to create organizations that engage people’s best thinking, best energy, and best performances.

Born and raised in Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales were an integral part of her upbringing. As she grew older and began to study Andersen scholars she discovered that there was a clear pattern to Andersen writings. His heroes were authentic, congruent, true and real; his villains were narrow-minded, self-satisfied, proud and smug; and his hope for people was that they would enjoy every moment and grow into person they were meant to be. A philosophy that was close to Dr. Norgaard’s own heart.

Reviewed by Siti Hafizah Manap, Librarian, Subang Square Library

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