Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Go-To List of Business Classics

In a previous job I was in charge of the management library for the company. As an avid reader, I was excited to be able to buy books and make them available for check-out to the employees. I focused on buying books on CD, because I thought that people would be more inclined to read business books if they were part of their commute. Every month I would send out a company-wide email listing the new purchases and reminding staff of the library.

Much to my chagrin, however, there were only about 4 or 5 core people in the company of several hundred who consistently borrowed books. This made it easy to track who had never returned a book, but I felt at the time that people were missing out. Business books can be expensive, and I thought this was a great resource and service.

Now, years later, I have come to appreciate the valuable impact that a few good books, referenced and read again and again, can have over reading a lot of books and forgetting most of what I’ve read. Although I still read lots, I have some books I refer to as my “classics” that I have incorporated into my life and my business practices.

Therefore I have composed a list of my old favorites with links directly to Amazon should you wish to purchase one. These are books I recommend to my clients and cover leadership, team-building, influence, behavior styles and communications.

I would love to hear what books have positively influenced your life– especially in the leadership and business realm. I hesitate to ask, because of the deathly silence in my comments section, but I know there are some readers out there…so please share. Happy reading!

The Leadership Challenge, 4th EditionThe Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner

Kouzes and Posner have created a classic for those who are committed to being great people leaders. With lots of examples and practical to-do’s, it serves as an enlightened “how-to” reference. Based on over two decades of research, the work revolves around the “five practices of exemplary leaders” : “Model the Way”, “Inspire a Shared Vision”, “Challenge the Process”, “Enable Others to Act”, and “Encourage the Heart.” This work has inspired a two-day workshop, which I have participated in, and a 360 assessment, the Leadership Practices Inventory.

People Styles at Work... .And Beyond: Making Bad Relationships Good and Good Relationships Better
People Styles at Work and Beyond by Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton

Understanding behavior styles is, in my opinion, the most effective tool in anyone’s interpersonal skills toolbox. If they haven’t taken a workshop on it, I usually take one of my coaching sessions to teach my clients a quick shortcut version of how to recognize behavior patterns in order to communicate effectively and build positive relationships. This book is the next best thing to a workshop or a one-to-one coaching/training session.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do DifferentlyFirst, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

I recommend this book to all new managers and supervisors, and if you aren’t a new manager but have never read this book, you should own it. Based on The Gallup Organization’s research studies of millions of employees and managers, it is foolhardy to ignore their findings on what makes a great manager. Many organizations now use the employee survey that was developed from Gallup’s findings.

Resolving Conflicts at Work: Eight Strategies for Everyone on the JobResolving Conflicts At Work by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith

Just what the title says, this tome offers eight strategies “to move from impasse to transformation”. This is a handy reference for anyone, but it is especially applicable to organizational leaders who can influence the culture of a workplace. The authors emphasize how conflict can be used creatively rather than toxically.

Everyone seems to like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team but I prefer this practical book on how to develop a cohesive, productive team. The emphasis is on creating a “Code of Honor” for the team which instills loyalty and team pride while reinforcing good communications and teamwork. There are lots of actionable to-do’s that any team can put into place.

Having taught the workshop many times, I have had the opportunity to instill the seven habits into my life until they are, yes, habits. Or almost. I truly believe if we work to incorporate these habits our lives will be more peaceful and more productive. It’s happened to me. A true classic, which everyone should take to heart.

The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) - Updated and RevisedThe Power of TED by David Emerald

This is a transformational little book that shows us how to pull ourselves and others out of a “Victim” mode into a solution-oriented “Creator “ mode. We all have felt like victims, rescuers or persecutors sometimes, and we recognize others who fall into this too. This little volume packs an impact by showing us ourselves and how we can become a coach, creator or challenger. A great book for anyone, and having taken the TED workshop, I often teach my clients how to coach their employees from Victim to Creator, and how to stay away from the Rescuer role.

Leading ChangeLeading Change by John Kotter

One of the two books on change I highly recommend for any leader. All the organizations I work with are implementing changes, and yours probably is too. How to implement change effectively is often overlooked by leaders. This book has a step-by-step approach that leaders should seriously take into account when attempting any type of change.

Managing Transitions: Making the Most of ChangeManaging Transitions by William Bridges

The other change book I highly recommend for leaders. This book takes us through the psychological journey of change and offers practical checklists to ensure you are doing what it takes to help your staff and yourself integrate change and manage the transitions as quickly and as successfully as possible.


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