Book review: Let’s Talk Culture by Shane Michael Hatton
You are immersed in the culture of your business or workplace, but how aware of it are you? Do you understand what it is, how to shape it and how it shapes you? In Let’s Talk Culture by Shane Michael Hatton, a very early reference to a story about goldfish crystallises succinctly the challenge of talking about culture in our professional lives.
This book is squarely targeted at the ‘meat in the sandwich’ – the individuals who have just taken on a leadership role or have been there for a little while. These are the individuals in the middle of their organisation (‘people leaders’) who help to bridge the gap between the values on the wall of the organisation and the situational reality of teams and their leaders.
Shane Michael Hatton is a trainer, coach and speaker, member of the Forbes Coaches Council and a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, and has written a previous book, Lead the Room: Communicate a Message That Counts in Moments That Matter. He has also synthesised his learnings and research in an accessible way for the everyday leader and learner. His writing style is clear, cogent and engaging, and uses a mix of carefully researched examples and curated quotes seamlessly to give the text richness without sacrificing momentum – critical for time-poor leaders looking to understand and make change. The book is structured such that each chapter highlights a key finding before expounding on the authors insights and gives leaders clear action steps, things to try and things to work towards, giving agency to readers to facilitate follow-through.
Hatton writes with authority and clarity about attributes and dimensions of ‘culture in the collective’, highlighting the importance of shared language and understanding of culture, how to assess and prepare for discussions about culture, and the five conversations that help leaders better understand, enliven and progress culture in their organisations. He also challenges ideas of defaulting to culture as opposed to driving it, and illuminates the dark side of culture, such as the difference between a culture and a cult, which is informative and thought-provoking. The reader is also given a way (or ways) forward to make meaning of culture in their context and use this for growth.
In summary, Let’s Talk Culture is an instructive and thought-provoking read, brimming with energy and agency for people leaders looking to understand their cultural reality and their power to influence it.
Review by Nathan Curnow, Deputy Principal – Operations at John Curtin College of the Arts.