Soft Skills Are Hard

Auditing Leadership: The Professional and Leadership Skills You Need

Wiley; $50

Given that its author is a former Big Four auditor and vice president of AuditWatch, you might expect Auditing Leadership to focus more on the former than the latter. That it doesn't is greatly to its credit, though it may lead to disappointment in those hoping for a primer on running an audit engagement, as the subject is only rarely mentioned. In fact, the book is mostly concerned with the sort of leadership skills that will apply in just about any kind of business endeavor, particularly those that involve small teams. With sound advice on everything from gathering feedback and handling complaints, to dealing with e-mail, interruptions, networking and communications, it is, in short, a primer on the sorts of "soft" skills that accountants are often said to lack.

Innovate Nicely

The Firefly Effect: Build Teams that Capture Creativity and Catapult Success

Wiley; $24.95

Don't let the naysayers convince you that accountants are incapable of creativity and innovation; this is manifestly untrue, as proven by the many listed transactions and accounting schemes they've come up with. The trick is tapping into the latent creativity at your firm, and The Firefly Effect provides a useful process for doing just that. Its goal isn't to make you creative, but to help you make others creative, and to do that it focuses on leadership, showing you how to encourage everyone to contribute, while preventing the noisy few (including you) from dominating. Its team-oriented approach will soon have your whole staff creating and innovating like crazy - at which point it'll be time to read the next book.

Jail Is Bad

Essentials of Business Ethics: Creating an Organization of High Integrity and Superior Performance

Wiley; $39.95

Creativity is all well and good, and profits are even better. Public disgrace, on the other hand, is not so good, and jail time is even worse. To find a healthy balance, consider Essentials of Business Ethics, which details an ethical decision-making framework to help make sure your firm naturally operates on the right side of the equation. Better still, it offers concrete ways to integrate ethics, which can often seem otherworldly and out-of-touch, into work goals, performance appraisals and financial incentives, to keep your more innovative staff from straying. And just in case you need confirmation of the value of ethics, the book includes a running series of vignettes from the history of Enron, highlighting various ethical decisions that confronted the company, and eventually its auditors. We all know how well that turned out.

Recovery Plans

Save Your Retirement: What to Do If You Haven't Saved Enough

FT Press; $14.99

It wasn't just large financial institutions and carmakers who took a hit in the last year or so - millions of potential retirees also suddenly found themselves up a creek. Many of them will be looking to you for a paddle, and Save Your Retirement just might fit the bill. It provides specific advice on rebuilding retirement savings, reworking retirement schedules and more, with details geared for different stages of pre-retirement. Whether you want to actually hand it to them, or read it yourself and pass along the gist as professional advice, is entirely up to you, and will probably depend on whether you've read Essentials of Business Ethics.

Not For Lottery Winners

The Leap: How Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career from Good to Great

Portfolio (Penguin Group); $24.95

Like so many others in the American workforce, we here at New Products have a love-hate relationship with our jobs: We love to hate them. So we turned to The Leap with some interest, in hopes that it would turn us around. We found much of interest, particularly in the book's notion that you don't need to radically change yourself to improve your career - you just have to know yourself better, to make the right choices. After you know yourself, the book suggests developing an idea that's appropriate to you but that also draws in others to support you, and then, rather than taking big risks, you should aggressively manage the risks involved in boosting your career. All in all, it's an interesting, insightful approach to finding work that you love - but it still leaves you working. What we really wanted was advice on how to change to a career as a professional lottery winner. Where's the well-written, well-researched business book on that?

Hedging Hedge Funds

Managing Hedge Fund Managers: Quantitative and Qualitative Performance Measures

Wiley; $85

Hedge funds had a good run, sucking in vast quantities of cash and charging ridiculous fees for performance that often wasn't up to snuff, all with ludicrously low levels of scrutiny from regulators and investors. That's all changed now, of course - the crash has winnowed their ranks and made both government and clients much more suspicious. Managing Hedge Fund Managers is a roadmap to enacting those suspicions in a productive way, with guidance on fund structure, management, benchmarking, risk, and due diligence in choosing (or rejecting) funds for yourself or your high-net-worth clients, including real-world case studies of what can go wrong. Let's hope the SEC reads it.

IQ vs. EI

The Other Kind of Smart: Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence

Amacom Books; $17.95

Intellectually, we understand that other people have feelings and are in touch with them; we just have a hard time caring. This is not very productive, according to The Other Kind of Smart, which claims that people with high "emotional intelligence" are more effective and successful, to say nothing of happier. The book aims to help readers boost their emotional intelligence, with simple tools for developing a greater awareness of your emotions, and controlling and channeling them in useful directions, and makes a strong case for the importance of paying attention to emotional issues in the workplace.

Welcome To Our World

Winning the Global Talent Showdown: How Businesses and Communities Are Partnering to Rebuild the Jobs Pipeline

Berrett-Koehler; $27.95

Having gone through its own staff crunch recently, the accounting profession may well be receptive to the argument of Winning the Global Talent Showdown, which is that the U.S. faces a significant shortage of qualified talent over the next decade. The shift to a more knowledge-based economy, it claims, requires skills we aren't teaching and won't be able to import. The answer it suggests is to bring together government, labor, schools, parents and businesses (that's you) to redesign the systems we use to produce talent so that they produce the kinds we need - including more accountants.

(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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