Books for Leaders

Winning Decisions: Getting it Right the First Time

WinningDecisions AprMay2014bookBy J. Edward Russo & Paul J.H. Schoemaker

Leaders’ decisions drive action in their organizations.  When decisions are delayed by an overwhelmed leader, we call it a bottle-neck. Work comes to a stop until someone says yes, no, go forward, go back.  Decision-making is so ubiquitous, so part of the fabric of daily action, that few take the time to analyze the decision-making process for efficiency and effectiveness.

(more…)

The Living Company

By Arie de Geus

The dark days of winter cause me to focus on my inside environment. I clean, I sort and I hopefully divest myself of unused goods. My aim is to create an office workspace that is uncluttered and distraction-free.

My professional library is my biggest challenge. Where do all these books come from? Are they like the coat hangers in my closet, reproducing as I sleep? Sadly no, my accounts at online and bricks and mortar book purveyors will testify to my love of procuring new bookshelf fodder. Once the shelves fill and the stacks start to form on the floor, I know it is time to purge.

Every time I cull my collection, I find a hidden gem. I acquired The Living Company when it was first released in the late 1990’s. At that time, I was powerfully struck by Arie de Geus’ message. Would a re-read in 2014 be equally rewarding? I often find that business books don’t age well; their messages are so tied to their times that they sound simplistic or even anachronistic at a later date.

(more…)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

By Susan Cain

I feel validated! After a lifetime of thinking that something was wrong with me when I wanted to work alone and did not want to be part of a team, Susan Cain has written a beautiful book promoting the value introverts bring to the workplace. I first heard of Cain’s work when I viewed her moving presentation on TED Talks. If you need any inspiration to read this book, view her TED Talk and you will see why I am so excited about her compelling research and writing.

(more…)

The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work

By Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

One of the downsides of writing a newsletter for many years is that occasionally I have to eat my words. In 2012, I wrote a newsletter devoted to motivation where I bluntly stated that I had read enough about motivation and would stop looking for new motivation models and methods. That proclamation lasted about six months or until I learned about the work of Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer. These authors have added serious new research to the dilemma of employee engagement and motivation, specifically around the power of small wins and a sense of purpose, and have compiled the results of their research into a very readable and informative book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work.

(more…)

The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work

By Charles Feltman

True confession: in my misspent youth, I was known to resort to Cliff Notes to complete those dratted literature essays. That may be why I am drawn to the Thin Book series (see another Thin Book review.) Despite their small size, this series is a real asset in that it offers us quick reads on some challenging topics.

I was attracted to Feltman’s book because issues of trust permeate the corporate world. Decades of downsizing, outsourcing, offshoring and other management practices have eroded trust and loyalty among workers. Even good leaders face employees who are disengaged and distrustful of management messages. Distrust can sabotage a work relationship, lower productivity and create stress, and anxiety for everyone. To be successful, leaders cannot afford to ignore perceptions of distrust in their organizations.

(more…)

The Wisdom of Teams

In this edition of my newsletter, I have chosen to highlight a real classic on teams. The Wisdom of Teams was first published in 1992 in the heyday of teams in business. A number of business gurus of that time were promoting teams as the answer to all corporate ills. The total quality management (TQM) movement, hot in the 1990’s, lauded quality circles and process improvement teams as a way to rid organizations of waste and inefficiencies.

(more…)

Immunity to Change

For years I have been reading books on change theory. I have absorbed numerous process models, lifecycle diagrams and how-to formulas searching for the elusive answer to why permanent, sustainable change is so difficult. Whether we talk about individual change or large-scale organizational change, the statistics tell us that the failure rate of change is staggering.

(more…)

Thinking Fast and Slow

I spent most of this fall reading Thinking Fast and Slow, 500-plus pages of richly stimulating writing. Rarely do I take this much time to pore over a book but this tome warranted the extra effort. In my line of work, teaching and coaching business leaders, I am continually mystified by why people choose different courses of action. What drives decision making is a perplexing and fascinating area of study for me.

(more…)

The Thin Book of Naming Elephants

By Sue Annis Hammond and Andrea B. Mayfield

Review by Alice Waagen,
Workforce Learning

The value of The Thin Book of Naming Elephants is in opposite proportion to its size. This small book packs a large and powerful message: how to surface undiscussables for greater organizational success. The authors, Sue Annis Hammond and Andrea B. Mayfield, have contributed their collective years of HR and HRD consulting to give us a clear and concise how-to manual for taking those invisible elephants in the room and deciding what to do with them.

(more…)

The Big Book of HR

By Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem

Review by Alice Waagen,
Workforce Learning

Human Resources is the business function everyone loves to hate. As an adjunct HR professional (I spend my time in the learning and development arena), I find myself caught in endless debates about the value HR brings to the organization. Is HR simply costly overhead or do its programs and services contribute to business success?

When I hear discourse on the value of HR, I am often struck by the lack of understanding folks have as to the size and scope of the HR function. I am at the point of asking everyone I meet to read The Big Book of HR before they start talking about the merits and detriments of this critical business support function.

(more…)