Book review: Tipping Sacred Cows

Emma De Vita reviews the book by Jake Breeden

Tipping Sacred Cows, by Jake Breeden
Tipping Sacred Cows, by Jake Breeden

A catchy title and a catchy idea: Jake Breeden, an American executive coach, argues that, ironically, what holds you back at work might not be your vices but your virtues. These sacred cows, which include balance, collaboration, creativity and excellence, are actually dangerous qualities that pass themselves off as admirable, he says.

Take excellence: "Our pursuit of it backfires when our high standards choke progress," writes Breeden, who argues that this usually happens when we focus on excellence in the process rather than in the outcome. Why? Because if your excellence muscle is exercised to ensure every step of a process is flawless, you might lose sight of the bigger picture. If you focus on the outcome instead, it doesn't matter if you fail along the way - in fact, you will learn from your mistakes.

Breeden is not in favour of what he calls "automatic collaboration": he writes that "the default state of working should be alone. Leaders should collaborate only when they must." You should ask yourself whether a task really needs other people working on it, or whether you are engaging in automatic collaboration. This is a refreshing take on the usual management material.

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