Climb to the top in half an hour

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The Independent Online
Many stressed-out managers, if handed a book purporting to reveal the secrets of good management, would sigh with exhaustion rather than relief.

Dealing with difficult people, making a good impression, brainstorming effectively and having the ability to plan and execute projects are all essential skills for those in charge of others. But when time is at a premium, it often seems more chore than pleasure to extract pertinent points from a ream of waffle.

Now, however, there's an alternative. Publisher Kogan Page has capitalised upon the trend for bite-sized, digestible chunks of information, bringing out a slimline series called 30 Minutes... - a management equivalent to the popular "bluff your way" books. The advantage is that you can whizz through one of the 60-page collections on the train to work and still feel fresh - as well as feeling better equipped to cope with a difficult day ahead.

Eleri Sampson, an image consultant who specialises in management development and has written 30 Minutes To Make the Right Impression, examines the image factor in meetings, interviews, presentations and in the first-day- in-the-job scenario. "Build an audience profile by collecting information about its size, composition, prior knowledge and propensity," she advises. "Consider the relationship between image and audience. Your image takes on reality only when it has an audience to respond to it. There is usually an internal as well as an external audience to be considered. The internal audience is your inner voice."

Her tips for making an effective entrance or exit are both succinctly observed and politically sensitive, as in the example: "Avoid referring to ladies, girls or chicks: women is a better bet." There are also handy checklists, encompassing everything from "21 Negative Impressions" ("grazing on fizzy drinks and crisps at your desk" and "too many family photos surrounding your work area", for instance) to creating powerful mannerisms.

Authors Cary Cooper and Valerie Sutherland present another side of the coin in 30 Minutes To Deal With Difficult People. Three stereotypes - the abrasive, the stress-prone and the aggressive personality - are identified, along with tactics for getting the best out of employees with such tendencies. "We all have the capacity to be difficult. Ultimately, we should keep in mind that humour is a very effective way of dealing with a difficult person or situation," note the authors.

For managers who get that sinking feeling when it comes to planning a new project, advice from Trevor Young, a senior consultant with the Industrial Society, may help. He sets down seven steps for effective project planning in 30 Minutes To Plan A Project, with a briefing on each essential principle and key action points. Communications and creativity consultant Alan Barker, meanwhile, takes a stimulating look at how to generate innovative thinking in 30 Minutes To Brainstorm Great Ideas, based on the research done in the 1930s by the "inventor of brainstorming", Alex Osborn.

"Most of our work is located in a cycle of operational thinking, involving routines, procedures, rules and known solutions," writes Mr Barker. "Brainstorming is a journey of discovery, away from the world of regulations."

He looks at why the process often fails, and delineates the factors which need to be in place for a successful session. The series, which has a dozen other titles to choose from, suffers from one drawback; the "quick skim" approach leaves the reader hungry for more specific advice and case studies. But any one of the books would make an ideal stocking-filler, and there's just time to digest it between Christmas dinner and the Queen's speech.

The series includes titles on communication and presentation skills, preparing applications and report writing. Each title costs pounds 3, published by Kogan Page.