I have a few close work colleagues—friends, really—who I go to for support, consolation, venting, and laughs. The group of us get together regularly for tea or lunch to discuss the usual work topics, to compare notes about the latest gossip, and to exchange advice.
Most of the time our discussions are lively, positive, and proactive. But we have found that when we allow ourselves to sit in our frustration with a climate that we find challenging at times, our meetings can devolve into more bitching and less action. We all recognize we need to vent but also that it’s important to not walk away feeling defeated or full of negativity. So when one of these colleagues suggested we read Shola Richards’ Go Together: How the Concept of Ubuntu Will Change How You Live, Work, and Lead, I was intrigued.
While not for everyone, self-help-type books do have a place on my bookshelves. I am always looking for new ways to manage my depression and anxiety, practice mindfulness, declutter my home, or grow my leadership skills.
The book stood out to me because it is based on the concept of ubuntu, which I became familiar with in 2009 when I first traveled to South Africa. As Richards explains, ubuntu is often translated as. “I am, because we are” (page xv). It is also related to the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” (page xiv).
In his book, Richards applies this philosophy of compassion, kindness, and unity to both personal and work lives.
Shola Richards is a speaker, writer, and trainer who is all about positivity. While I consider myself a pretty positive person and open to these types of methods, I knew a couple members of my group would be tougher sells than me. And as is true for many self-help books, this one toes the line of becoming a bit too saccharine at times, especially for those who tend towards skepticism (or sarcasm). But just as the book is about to descend into a refrain of “Kumbaya,” Richards brings it on back with realistic suggestions about applying ubuntu to work, like doing more of what toxic colleagues hate most and not being as asshat, especially when in a leadership role.
Throughout the book, Richards gives the reader concrete examples, often telling anecdotes from his own life. The sharing of his own imperfections, fears, and vulnerabilities is effective in gaining the reader’s trust and understanding. Richards also provides pragmatic suggestions for the solutions he champions, including ways to build empathy, to practice ubuntu, and to act instead of standing by and letting fear take over. His advice centers on “Eight Keys to Unlocking Ubuntu at Work,” which are straightforward reminders like “Address It,” “Honor It,” and “Own It” with helpful explanations of each.
Richards sets the stage for the book by recounting a 2017 survey about civility in America which found that “Ninety-four percent of Americans believe that they are always/usually polite and respectful to others” (page 8). The same survey uncovered that respondents believed “…the state of civility in America has never been worse than it is currently,” with 75% of Americans believing that incivility has reached crisis levels (pages 6-7).
While not shocking considering our current political climate, these sentiments illustrate the disconnect between belief and practice, or perhaps the lack of self-awareness and individual responsibility, in the US today. Richards encourages the reader to reflect upon their own participation in incivility, to explore their pain and reactions to it, and to use ubuntu to find the unity and togetherness necessary to build a better world.
Overall, the book sparked a discussion for my group that was valuable to me. It offers practical suggestions for ways to improve work relationships and empowers the reader to try them. With chapters on healing yourself, being present, becoming a kind leader, building resilience, managing bullies, and more, there is something for everyone in this book. While the message of the book — be a decent person to build a better world — is not new, the concept of ubuntu may be to many readers in the US and may impact them in ways previous frameworks have not.
I would recommend this book to those looking to improve the culture and climate at their workplaces. Reading it with a group can be a proactive way to apply the suggestions in your daily work life and to have a support system in place for the journey. You may also want to check out Shola Richards’ first book, Making Work Work: The Positivity Solution for Any Work Environment.
Title: Go Together: How the Concept of Ubuntu Will Change How You Live, Work, and Lead
Author: Shola Richards
Publisher: Sterling Ethos
Pages: 208 pages
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Tags: Work, leadership, self help, #OwnVoices, memoir
My Rating: Recommended
For more information:
Identical twin Shola Richards drank gasoline as a kid; his energy is still lit by Munson Steed for Rolling Out (2016)
Managing Change at UC Riverside by Sandra Baltazar Martinez for InsideUCR (2017)
The Spirit of UBUNTU: Eight Keys to Creating a Workplace Culture of Unstoppable Positivity – Shola Richards at Berkeley in 2017
Are you a fan of self-help or professional development books? Which are your favorites? Do you think Go Together would be useful in your workplace?
Many thanks to Shola Richards for the complimentary copies of his books.
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