To start 2013, I thought I could usefully share the business books I recommended most in 2012. Those listed below, I most frequently recommend to friends, colleagues and co-workers. With one exception, I have not included books on specific technologies: I will leave those for another post.
I hope you enjoy these books as much as I. If you read them, please share your thoughts.
Influence (Robert Cialdini)
In recent mentoring I have noticed a common theme in issues faced by my friends and colleagues. How can they nurture influence in their teams and companies? Whether within your team, or with your customers, or even in your personal lives, Cialdini provides a fascinating and convincing guide to earning Influence through sympathy, empathy and commitment. Soundly based on experimental psychology, Influence is sharp and handy.
The Leader’s Voice (Boyd Clarke, Ron Crossland)
Recommended to me first by a mentor at Microsoft, I’m happy to pass the word along. Clarke and Crossland provide no magic formulas for becoming a good leader, but they do share some very helpful ideas about how and when to communicate – how to find your voice – with individuals and teams to the best effect. I have given away and re-ordered The Leader’s Voice countless times. Do me a favour and buy your own!
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Patrick Lencioni)
Another book I first found while working at Microsoft with Kamal Hathi, perhaps the finest manager I have known in my career. Not only for teams in difficulty, most everyone can learn from Five Dysfunctions. The style takes a little getting used to; Lencioni, in effect, writes a short novel (a leadership fable) about a team’s recovery from serious disarray. His later volumes adopt an even more mannered style, but in Five Dysfunctions the format flows well and the lessons convey a sure touch. I am not ashamed to say that I have bought copies of this book for every manager in my own current team. I expect I will do so for every team I lead.
The Click Moment (Frans Johansson)
I had the great pleasure to meet with Frans Johansson this year and to record a conversation with him. You can see that conversation here, but you do need to sign up for it. Frans is fascinated by how innovation occurs and in this book he explores a secret that many business and technologies writers prefer to avoid: success is far more random than you either expect or would like to believe. However, Frans does not just leave us there: he shows through numerous examples how people can experience and take advantage of those “click” moments when it all comes together unexpectedly.
Customer Data Integration (Jill Dyché, Evan Levy)
Think you can skip this, because you are not planning a Customer Data Integration project? Think again. This book neatly balances sound technology advice about integration with real experience and wisdom about that trickiest of subjects … aligning Business and IT. If you need to explain technology needs to managers, or business needs to technologists this book, in both style and substance, shows you how. For me, it’s a classic.
90 Days to Success in Consulting (William McKnight)
I am often asked for advice by friends thinking about starting their own consulting practice. I consistently recommend one first step – read this book! William McKnight is not only a consultant with experience, expertise and integrity; he also writes clearly and sets out a very pragmatic plan for your first few months on your own. Another book I have given away many times.
It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be: The World’s Best Selling Book (Paul Arden)
Paul Arden was a British advertising legend. His little book (and its companion Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite) guides you with concise and often funny insights, to creative success. I used to have two passages from this book stuck inside and outside my office door: It’s Wrong to Be Right, and It’s Right To Be Wrong. Among the books I recommend, this one will change your outlook and habits tomorrow!
You may well wonder why a step-by-step guide to meditation makes my list of recommended business books. In fact, I have often recommended Wildmind to business colleagues in the last few years, who have always found praised it. You wish to reduce stress, or improve focus, or just need some practice to help you through the day? Wildmind is the most practical primer I know. Neither preachy or new-agey, Bhodipaksa’s shares straightforward, wise and helpful counsel. (And he’s Scottish too!)
Speak Peace in a World of Conflict (Marshall Rosenberg)
As an inveterate campaigner for peace in areas of conflict, Marshall Rosenberg learned some vital truths. Most importantly, that violence and conflict are personal matters, and that learning to communicate peacefully is a critical skill that, once learned, can transform your world. I trust your business world is not violent, but I expect you see plenty of conflict: difficult colleagues, unhappy customers and even tough-questioning journalists and analysts! This pragmatic, insightful book, based on Rosenberg’s techniques of Compassionate Communication, will help you to resolve conflicts positively in all your work.