Your Job Survival Guide

Financial Times
Gregory Shea / Robert E. Gunther  
Total pages
August 2008
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Your Job Survival Guide
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No matter what industry or business you're in, today you face an environment of "permanent whitewater," characterized by intense uncertainty and unrelenting change. Most people struggle to cope with this new environment: they work with far too little sleep and far too much stress, finding themselves pushed beyond their limits without a moment to regroup. Your Job Survival Guide introduces you to the new mindsets, equipment, and skills you need to thrive in an era of non-stop, accelerating change. While other books focus on the broad, abstract principles of leading change, Your Job Survival Guide is the first book for those who need to successfully navigate the new "whitewater environment" when one false move can be catastrophic. Drawing on extensive experience in industries ranging from telecom to energy to health care, the authors show how to pace yourself to preserve your sanity... prepare to fail gracefully and recover quickly... retain optimism, resilience and a sense of play no matter how hard you're working... build a "personal flotation device" designed to protect your career security... and set your own course...... lead ad hoc, loosely linked teams that constantly form and re-form... thrive in an environment that demands more, and delivers non-stop adventure in return.


The first start-to-finish guide to personal success in an era of non-stop change.


° Practical, personal, "water-level" techniques to help you navigate the rapids of change and have more fun doing it!

° How to protect your career, improve your resilience, set your own course, and lead.

° Based on the experiences of hundreds of leaders in industries ranging from telecommunications to energy to health care.

Table of Contents

Preface: We Surely All Will Die xix



    Dangerous Waters 3

    Sailors and Paddlers:Your Real Job Is Change 6

    The Limits of Flat-Water Thinking 9


CHAPTER 2: WORKING THE EDDIES: Pace Yourself to Preserve Your Sanity 13

    All Hands on Deck 17

    We Are Drowning in Change 19

        The Impact of Exhaustion 22

    Strategies for Pacing 25

        Create a “Not To Do” List 27

        Build Breaks in the Action 30

        Get Good Sleep 32

        Take a Nap 33

        Enforce Vacations 35

        Avoid the Perils of the Crazy Brave and Phony Tough 38

    Keep a Roll in Reserve 41


CHAPTER 3: MASTERING THE ROLL: Prepare to Fail Gracefully and Recover Quickly 45

    Failure Is the Only Option 48

    Strategies for Failing Quickly and Recovering Gracefully 52

        Treat Your Career as a Series of Experiments 52

        Minimize the Risk of Failure 54

        Master the Emotions of Failure 56

        Practice Failing 57

        Prepare to Learn from Failure 59

        Make Your Mistakes on the Move 60

    Failing and Play 62


CHAPTER 4: THE POWER OF PLAY: Optimism and Resilience 65

    The Play's the Thing 66

    The Power of Optimism 70

    Strategies for Unsinkable Optimism 71

        Create Optimism and Avoid Learned Helplessness 72

        When All Else Fails, Paddle Like Hell 74

    Choose Your Equipment for the Right Level of Fun 75

        Patience: Keep Your Feet Up and Go With the Flow 77

        Recharge by Paddling 79

        Create Time and Space for Play 80

    Cultivate Exuberance 81


CHAPTER 5: PERSONAL FLOTATION: You Are Responsible for Your Own Security 85

    Sink or Swim 89

    Strategies for Personal Flotation 91

        Learn Self-Rescue by Developing Your “Brand You” 91

        Build a Portfolio of Projects 92

        Practice Your Offside Roll: Cultivate Diverse Skills to Increase Maneuverability 93

        Create Strong Networks 98

        Take Care of Your Health 100

    Alone in a Tight Place 101



    Meaning Is Local 105

    Get Out When You Hear the Roarof the Falls 109

    Strategies for Scouting and Portaging 112

        Listen to the River: Read the Water 112

        Develop Your Intuition and Then Listen to It 115

        Listen to Others: Learn from Reports of

        Fellow Travelers 120

        Know When To Portage 123

        Recognize When You Are Drowning 126

        Listen to Your Heart 131

        When in Doubt, Scout 133

    The Phoenix 134


CHAPTER 7: RISING ABOVE THE ROAR: Communicate Through Symbols 137

    Strategies for Communicating Above the Roar 140

        Actions Speak Louder Than Words 140

        Maintain a Line of Sight 142

        Never Risk a Lie-Even Unintentionally 144

        Ensure Two-Way Communication 147Create Space to Grieve: Funerals, Irish Wakes, Slicing

        Nursing Stations, and Other Symbolic Events 149

        Make Sense of What Happened: Share Stories

        Around the Fire 152

        Use Myths to Create Meaning 153

        Use Metaphors 156

    Finding Meaning and Shaping a Legacy 157


CHAPTER 8: BUILDING FLOCKS: Teaming for Today's Run 163

    Murmurations of Starlings:Teams Have a Life of Their Own 165

    Strategies for Teaming 167

        Know What You Bring to the Team 168

        Know Your Teammates 169

        Become Skilled at Entering and Leaving Teams 171

        Find Safety in Numbers 173

        Understand What Game You Are Playing 175

        Choose the Right Vessel 179

        Understand the Working of Teams 181

    The Power of the Team 183


CHAPTER 9: LEADING TRIPS: Guiding Through Permanent Whitewater 187

    Leading in Permanent Whitewater 188

        Understand Power and Influence on the River 189

        Build Trust 193

        Stepping Aside: Manage Shifting Roles 194Enabling Leaders and Following Followers:

        Stepping Up to Leadership 196

        Assembling the Right Team 199

        Structuring the Team 200

    Humility and the Art of Leading from Behind 201


Conclusion, What Conclusion? 205

    Building the G-Rig 207

    The Rivers Are Rising 208

    No Place to Hide-But Why Would You Want To? 215


Endnotes 219


Index 231

Back Cover

Selected by IBM Competitive Edge Book Club Selection. 


"The beauty of this book on top of its life-saving timeliness is its capacity to give the reader concrete steps to live the good life and enjoy it.  The book made me understand that work can be more fun than fun.”

-Warren Bennis, Ph.D., University Professor, University of Southern California, coauthor, Judgment: How Great LeadersMake Winning Calls and Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor


Change. It's your job. It just won't stop. It's relentless. It keeps coming at you like never-ending rapids in a permanent whitewater river. Change will burn you out if you don't learn how to handle it. This book is not, however, about mere survival.  It is about thriving amidst the challenges of your permanent whitewater world at work. 


•Protect your career, improve your resilience, and seize the opportunities in turbulent times

•Take charge, learn to pace yourself, set your own course, and lead others in ad-hoc teams

•Ride the rapids and rediscover play and adventure in today's demanding work environment 

•Learn from research and the experiences of hundreds of professionals in industries from energy to telecommunications to financial services to health care


There's nothing abstract or cute about the way this book talks about change: This is practical, grounded knowledge for managing your life in a business world that's churning with change. Gregory Shea, Ph.D. and Robert Gunther show how to keep your working life on course instead of being pushed beyond your limits...find fun and fulfillment...regroup and rebound from failure...protect yourself from events you can't predict...take charge of your life, an your future!



Gregory Shea, Ph.D., consults, researches, writes, and teaches in the areas of organizational and individual change, leadership, group effectiveness, and conflict resolution. He is president of the consulting firm Shea & Associates, a principal in The Coxe Group international consultancy; Senior Consultant at the Center for Applied Research, Adjunct Professor of Management at The Wharton School, where he has taught for more than 25 years, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, and a Faculty Associate of the Wharton School's Center for Leadership and Change. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard, Shea holds an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and an M.A., M. Phil., and Ph.D. in Administrative Science from Yale. He is a member of the Academy of Management and the American Psychological Association.


Robert Gunther is coauthor or collaborator on more than 20 books, including The Wealthy 100 and The Truth About Making Smart Decisions. He has appeared on CNBC's “Power Lunch,” NPR's “Morning Edition,” and numerous local and national radio and television programs, and his projects have been featured in The New York Times, Time, USA Today, and Fortune. His columns or articles also have been published in Harvard Business Review, American Heritage, Investor's Business Daily, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. As founder of Gunther Communications, he has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, universities, and major nonprofits. He is a graduate of Princeton University.


Reader Review(s)

Two kinds of readers will profit from this extremely timely… guide for working in the increased uncertainty… of our times: those who need to understand our challenging world better and know it, and those who need to … but don't yet know it.

                        -Fritz Steele, Ph.D., authorof The Open Organization; co-author Workplace by Design and The Feel of the Workplace


This book… about embracing and thriving in a world of high-octane change…gives…some great practical tips that you can apply back in your workplace.

                       -“Richard's Book Review”, The Proteus Leadership Centres