A new business book guaranteeing to make you a millionaire or the world's greatest manager is born every minute. Like diet books, these cure-alls claim to fix every flaw standing in the way of fame and fortune. But forget the lessons from the super CEOs (who may be in jail now anyway); this month we've found four books that focus on creating lasting improvement by helping readers find and build their business strengths.

You've got it, so flaunt it

Barbara Corcoran became the Queen of New York Real Estate by following the simple yet savvy lessons she learned from her mother. Her new book, Use What You've Got: And Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom (Portfolio, $24.95, 288 pages, ISBN 1591840023), tells how Corcoran applied Mom's advice ("If you don't have big breasts, put ribbons on your pigtails" and "Jumping out the window will either make you an ass or a hero.") to build a brokerage firm that now does $2 billion in annual revenue. Corcoran's mother identified special qualities in each of her 10 children, and at an early age, her daughter became an entertainer with a gift for gab. The up-and-coming real estate tycoon relied on those skills when she faced challenges or setbacks. Written with technical writer Bruce Littlefield, Corcoran's book chronicles her highs and lows (her boyfriend/business partner married her secretary), and her candid self-revelations give readers a real sense of her high energy and relentless persona. Women cultivating their own unique strengths will be inspired by Corcoran's dynamic story and common-sense advice.

Do I do that?

It's too bad the Christmas holidays are over because The Achievement Paradox: Test Your Personality ∧ Choose Your Behavior for Success at Work would be a perfect gift for the annoying chatterbox in the next cube. Most Americans now spend more of their waking hours with coworkers than with friends or family, and who wouldn't love to give a few of them a personality adjustment? But it's not too late to give this book to yourself. Let author Ron Warren show you how your personality impacts your behavior, your success and your satisfaction at work. Warren says everyone has several success traits, along with some counterproductive ones (like Need for Approval, Controlling, Tense) that interfere with our achievement, and he explains how to create an Action Plan that will build up your strong areas. Achievement Paradox is an enlightening book for understanding yourself and others. When you're done, you can pass it on to a "friend." Baring all Good PR folks are not just cheerleaders or spin-meisters who issue a press release every time the CEO sneezes. Richard Laermer, the founder and CEO of RLM Public Relations, shows how anyone can create that mysterious thing called buzz with Full Frontal PR (Bloomberg, $24.95, 256 pages, ISBN 1576600998). Remember the water cooler conversations about The Blair Witch Project and Survivor? Without a fancy PR firm, you can spark the best marketing tool of all old fashioned word of mouth. The advice here is comprehensive and competent. Tie your idea to a trend, work a celebratory/commemorative/charity event (the alternate three Cs), or find a local angle to your story. Laermer reveals the nitty gritty details of forming long-term relationships with journalists, stressing honesty, access and reliability. Armed with Laermer's public relations know-how, you can start promoting like a pro.

Winning at sales

Discover Your Sales Strengths: How the World's Greatest Salespeople Develop Winning Careers (Warner, $26.95, 256 pages, ISBN 0446530476) shatters several sales myths, including the lie that anyone can sell with enough effort and training. Authors Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano along with The Gallup Organization interviewed 250,000 top salespeople and found three keys to becoming a sales superstar: discover your strengths, find the right fit and work for the right manager. If you don't have a clue what your strengths are, a Web survey is included to help identify your talents. Eschewing specific sales techniques and corny inspirational stories, Smith and Rutigliano have created a truly helpful guide to finding a job and career that suits what you already do well.

 

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