Usually I wait until the end of the year to provide my list of recommended reads. But this year I've had quite a few good books come across my desk and I want to recommend some I think are quite useful.
First up is a book by Gary Harpst entitled Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead, and Last. Well-organized and easy to read, this book is probably the best "how-to" book I've read in a long time. Too many books about management and leadership talk about theory and principles. This book is more like 20 percent principles and 80 percent how-to. In other words, it's extremely practical.
The six disciplines are: Decide what's important; Set goals that lead; Align systems; Work the plan; Innovate purposefully; and Step back. For each of these disciplines Harpst provides checklists for practical implementation, charts and graphs to make things easy for us visual learners to understand, and also key obstacles to watch out for.
He presents his material in a way that makes it easy to follow and do. And therein lies the magic: Reading this and then doing it are two very different things.
Anyone in business would do well to make Six Disciplines mandatory reading throughout their leadership and management team. But don't stop there. The magic always comes when people talk about what they've read and how to apply it. To really strive for excellence, teams should add the "how-to" sections as action items on their meeting agendas. Even better: locate a top-notch consultant/facilitator to help stay on track regarding following through on the action items.
Next is a book by Lisa Haneberg, Two Weeks to a Breakthrough: How to Zoom toward Your Goal in 14 Days or Less. This book is based on the premise that people produce more breakthroughs and better results when they are both focused and doing something every day about their goals – what Haneberg calls being "in action."
The key to her program is what she calls "the daily practice." This is a combination of sharing your goal, taking action, and making requests, because these three things work together to improve both focus and action.
The book provides recommended activities to enhance the daily practice, plus good stories of how different people have applied those recommendations to bring about success.
I hear a lot of people talk about what they're going to do "someday," or about "that project" that never seems to get off the ground. Well, at only 123 pages and with a step-by-step program that takes all the guesswork out of it, Two Weeks to a Breakthrough will very likely help those people move ahead and achieve their goals.
Finally I want to recommend a book by Jack Stahl, the former president of Coca-Cola and CEO of Revlon. The book is Lessons on Leadership: The 7 Fundamental Management Skills for Leaders at All Levels.
I have to admit, when I first received this book for review I anticipated a highly theoretical, heady prose such as the type I mentioned earlier that's so prevalent in books on leadership. I was pleasantly proven wrong.
Although Stahl writes mainly from his experiences at Coca-Cola and Revlon, by no means are they narrow perspectives. And, by no means is what Stahl has to say only for executives of large companies. This book applies to those in leadership at any organization - or those that want to be.
Whereas Harpst's Six Disciplines is about managing the growth of a business, Stahls book is about being a leader in one. He provides compelling truths about the need for a clear, focused strategy; measurable objectives, and communicating both of those with enthusiasm throughout the organization.
He also talks about the flow of information and reporting systems, and perhaps most importantly, developing the people around you who can help the organization achieve its goals.
Stahl doesn't use corporate-speak; it's down to earth stuff. And he doesn't just tell us how what to do, he tells us what questions to ask and why we need to ask them. He also tells us these things based on a train-load of experience. I believe any leader in any company could learn from what Lessons on Leadership has to say.
By the way, I'm no Jack Stahl, but this is probably a good time to toss in a plug for my latest E-book, The Really Simple Way to Hire, Train, and Retain Great Employees. If you like you can read a few sample pages to get a flavor of the style and review the table of contents.
There you have it – some great summer reading to help make your workplace excellent. Enjoy.