Nick Smith’s review of ‘Managing Executive Health’ for E&T magazine

Managing Executive Health

By James Campbell Quick, Cary L Cooper, Joanne H Gavin, and Jonathan D Quick

Cambridge University Press, £19.99, pb, pp238

There’s never been a worse time to be a manager. Global markets undergoing inexorable pressure, universal job insecurity and a culture of corporate flux all add up to business communities entering a state of chaos. The responsibility of providing secure careers in a stable economic environment for your employees has been relegated in favour of responding to the demand to return profits to the board or shareholders. Executive stress has understandably reached epidemic proportions.

But, says the team of four distinguished authors responsible for the excellent Managing Executive Health, managers can respond positively to this pressure provided they are in good shape physically and mentally. The book’s subtitle – ‘Personal and Corporate Strategies for Sustained Success’ – promises, and delivers, a sensible and serious approach to an issue based on scientific research and academic methodologies. It’s also very readable. The boxed-out case studies of high-profile executives provide an air of unmistakable authority. These include: Lee Thurburn (founder, Flashnet communications), Gerald Arpey (president and CEO, American Airlines) and Len Roberts (former chairman and CEO, Radio Shack).

As a group, managers work too hard, spend too little time with their families, drink and smoke too much, are overweight, don’t exercise enough, are prone to stress and don’t sleep properly. Under the pressure to deliver results they are also vulnerable to loss of spiritual vitality and ethical focus. This is no good, say the authors, because you can’t perform at your best if you are suffering from any or all of these symptoms. Loneliness, excess travel, failure in the face of crises and repeated exposure to risk all exert their toll. It may seem obvious, but say the authors, one of the best ways to tackle these issues is to meet them head on with physical and mental fitness.

But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. At one point the authors examine the five classic objections to taking exercise: lack of time, boredom, injury, inconvenience and basic sloth. Perhaps we all recognise these symptoms, but where the authors are particularly helpful is in providing positive ways of looking at these objections. By the time I’d finished the chapter on physical health I had my walking boots on. Of course, on one level this is all common sense, but if we were all blessed with common sense there’d logically be no requirement for books such as Managing Executive Health.

Logic, of course, is the first victim of pressure, and so a handbook that argues clearly and concisely the benefits of exercise and health management in the workplace could not be more welcome. Most business books are about succeeding in terms of professional ambition, but Managing Executive Health is far more important in that it deals with the more serious issue of succeeding in staying healthy in an unhealthy environment. The message is clear: your health is your finest management attribute, so look after it. An extremely valuable book, Managing Executive Health could literally save your life.

Nick smith is management editor of E&T magazine and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

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