Whether you're looking for some good reading or needing an idea for what to buy a co-worker this holiday season, this is when I offer up my annual list of recommended books. Sometimes this list contains only new books, other times it's a mix of new and older books. This year's list is a mix of new and old, but starts with a brand new book, hot off the presses.
My number one recommendation this year is Managing the Mobile Workforce by David Clemmons and Michael Kroth. In the interest of full disclosure, I know both of these men, but in all honesty, they've put together an engaging and excellent "how to" book that applies to today's - and tomorrow's - workplace. In my opinion, this book is an absolute "must read" for anyone who so much as uses a cell phone to keep in touch with co-workers or team members.
Think about it: It's tough enough for managers to get good management training, let alone training on how to manage people remotely. If your company has any kind of remote or mobile employees, you're guaranteed to find numerous ideas and "a-ha's" in this book that will save you countless hours (and headaches).
Senior leaders, middle managers, and remote or mobile workers will find this text helps create a straighter path (and avoid mis-steps) on the way to quicker and better results.
Second on my list this year is a book for managers (or those aspiring to be), titled Management? It's Not What You Think, by Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, and Joseph Lampel.
The content is great and this book nearly tied for first place, but the layout leaves a lot to be desired. If you've read anything by Tom Peters lately you're familiar with his multiple-font approach. This book is not that wild, but I found four different fonts on one page somewhat distracting and unnecessarily cumbersome.
I acknowledge that's not the author's fault. What the editors were probably trying to do was visually depict the non-traditional insights presented by the writers. If you're looking for a "by the book" approach to management, look elsewhere. In this book you'll be treated to a series of short chapters giving you humorous, insightful, and real "how to" insights on the realities of management.
In fact, "management theory" takes a (well-deserved) beating in this text. Page 63 offers a statement that captures the flavor: "It is time to close down conventional MBA programs. We should be developing real managers, not pretending to create them in the classroom." I like the way this book shakes up our view of management.
Another book I recommend is Reframing Organizations, by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal. This 2008 title was a text from one of my doctoral classes this year, and even though it was used as a textbook, it doesn't read like one. Having performed organizational development work for more than 20 years, I must say, I wish I'd had this book 20 years ago!
Any leader, manager, or human resource professional will benefit from this book because it gives you four very unique ways to view - and therefore resolve - organizational problems.
Using real-life examples, humor, and practical insights, the authors walk you through the structural, human resource, political, and symbolic frames. By knowing how to look at problems through these four frames you'll be better equipped to identify the real source of a problem—and then know how to move things forward.
I must say that several other books should be on this list, but I simply could not recommend them because they are what I call "slogs." By that I mean that the books may have valuable information, but the writer is so verbose or the word choices are so painfully inappropriate that one must slog though the text by sheer will or sift though piles of pedantic fluff just to find the worthwhile nuggets.
For that reason, I think I need to recommend a book I've recommended before: Clear Technical Writing, by John Brogan. First published in 1973, the book is difficult to find these days, but it's by far the best I've found for helping people write clearly. And don't let the title fool you. The book will help you no matter what you write; it doesn't have to be technical writing.
Finally, I want to recommend again my book that came out last year, Creating Passion-Driven Teams. The reason: It's now a best seller, and it continues to hold a five-star rating on Amazon.
A common theme among reviewer comments is that the book gives you a fresh look at the basics (it's not the same old management stuff you'll find in many books). One reviewer is even restructuring his entire company around the principles set forth in this book!
Well, there's the list. Happy reading!