Book review: A Bible for personal performance

One of the latest soft-cover books published by the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP) is titled Winning at Packaging from author Thomas L. Hudgin, a 29-year veteran of the packaged goods business.

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Subtitled “Keys to success from the human side,” this book takes just 166 pages to deliver its message—and a preachy one it is: Work effectively with your employees and they will make you proud and successful. What makes this book valuable is virtually the same reason it’s also lacking: Hudgin’s ideas are quick and simple, but the rationale behind them is often unexplored.

However, make no mistake, this book could help a large percentage of packaging people with oversight responsibility. What could make good supervisors, team leaders or just “bosses” can be found in the book; what makes a good one from a bad one isn’t so clear. Perhaps the book tries to accomplish too much.

In a chapter titled “Building better teams,” Hudgin repeats the oft-quoted maxim that life is “10 percent of what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it.” His insight is that “we control 90 percent of our own attitudes.” In retrospect, it sounds simplistic, and all too often that’s what it seems. Usually, this type of book works hard to reinforce its arguments, sometimes to the point of overkill. This one makes a statement and then moves on. That’s both good and bad.

The “good” is that it’s a quick read and delivers several interesting messages. The “bad” is that it often fails to convincingly back up its statements. Here’s an example: “Leadership is doing the right things. Management is doing things right. Leadership is finding what’s important. Management is getting important things done.”

At times, the copy exposition more resembles an outline than fully fleshed out arguments. Given the attention span of many people today, this may be precisely what many are looking for; this tea was far too thin for my taste.

To be fair, Hudgin also includes some anecdotes to illustrate his points, usually with an unspecified packaging company setting. But some of these appear contrived to make a point. Put another way, I hope some of the situations are fictional.

It’s important to keep in mind that this is a very individualized tome—one that posits theories, some of which we’ll agree with and others we won’t. Suffice it to say that this is an intriguing, almost self-examination of motives and theories about how people interact in packaging.

Frankly, the appendix could be nearly as valuable as the book itself. Hudgin adds nearly 20 pages of practical tips to improve communications. Much like the manuscript itself, it’s neither weighty nor breaks new ground. Rather, it’s a collection of quick, solid helpful tips. IoPP member price is $55; $75 for nonmembers. (AO)

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