It's that time of year again when I offer my annual list of recommended reads. There's some darn good stuff out there that people need to know about, so let's jump right in:
My number one recommendation this year is Gary Harpst's Six Disciplines Execution Revolution: Solving the One Business Problem That Makes Solving All the Other Problems Easier.
In the interest of full disclosure, Gary Harpst is writing the foreword for my upcoming book Creating Passion-Driven Teams. But I have to tell you, I approached Harpst to do that after being wowed by what I read in Execution Revolution.
If you are a business leader or if you run a business unit, you will be impressed with Gary Harpst's down-to-earth, practical, and very workable solutions. This book is number one on my list for several reasons. First, it's aimed directly at small and mid-sized companies - the majority of businesses. Second, Harpst emphasizes the need for a balance between execution and strategy, and never have I seen it explained so well.
Using clear instructions with easy-to-understand examples, Harpst shows that achieving excellence is not enough. Many companies reach what they define as excellence, but then fall out of it, usually floating back and forth between strategy and execution. Harpst explains how to avoid that and create enduring excellence. Also, the book has well-thought out diagrams that help readers "see" what to do.
What's more, this is a hardcover book with a list price of only $12.95, and it's available on many sites and bookstores for even less. That's an insanely low price for a phenomenally valuable book. If you're in business and you only read one book a year, this should be it.
If you're going to read more than one book, another one worth your time is High Altitude Leadership: What the World's Most Forbidding Peaks Teach Us About Success.
You've heard me lament in the past about how every politician, corporate leader, and bread truck driver has written a book on leadership. Well, here's one that breaks the mold. Written by a management consultant (Don Schmincke) and a mountain climber, (Chris Warner, owner of Earth Treks, a company that leads climbing expeditions), it's full of analogies that are not only mesmerizing, but also very applicable.
This book takes the very real issues encountered while climbing mountains (such as fear, selfishness, arrogance, and lone heroism) and correlates them to what happens on leadership teams. It's a breath of fresh air that stands out in the blur of "me too" leadership books.
For those who give presentations, get Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. I first came across Reynolds' work by stumbling upon his Presentation Zen blog. For those who'd rather read a book than a blog, or for a quick reference to refresh your memory, this book is your ticket to creating more impact, more "WOW," and more audience connection in your presentations.
As someone with a graduate degree in training and development who's been giving presentations for more than 20 years, I thought I'd seen and read just about everything there was on the topic. Suffice it to say I was wrong.
Presentation Zen shows you to get your message across with dynamic, eye-catching techniques. In other words, you'll never need to deliver "death by PowerPoint" again. Even if your subject is technical research, it can be delivered with cutting edge appeal. Reynolds shows you how.
In Boreout: Overcoming Workplace Demotivation, authors Philippe Rothlin and Peter Werder cite numerous studies showing that an increasing number of workers are understretched, unmotivated, and immeasurably bored—and that the problem is more expensive, more widespread and more damaging that burnout. They discuss common symptoms, the phases of the problem, and how many pseudo-solutions do not help.
At the heart of the problem is lack of communication - from both employees and employers! After helping readers recognize the problem and its ripple effects, Rothlin and Werder provide strategies for what people can to turn things around.
My final recommendation is the only book on the list not published in 2008. George Clason's The Richest Man in Babylon was written in the 1920's, but it's just as pertinent today as it was then.
In my opinion, this book is the absolute best for explaining the mindset and actions needed to secure a lifetime of financial security. If you wonder why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the real answer lies in how they view money. This book not only teaches people what's needed to acquire wealth, it does so in a story (fable) format so that it's very easy to remember. Don't let the size of the book fool you. It's short but extremely powerful.