- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. The seemingly simple construct of having a “growth versus fixed mindset” was a mind-blower for me; and it now influences a huge amount of my thoughts and actions. We’ve found this immensely helpful at BoardEffect as we strive to foster an organizational “love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.”
- Leading Change by John Kotter. In my experience, Kotter’s 8-step process for leading change is pretty bomb-proof. On the many occasions when projects have run off the rails, a quick process check has inevitably revealed that I’ve missed or neglected one of Kotter’s all-important steps. First published in 1996, more recent works offer updated strategies for our current world that operates at warp-speed.
- Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards by Richard Chait and William Ryan. A seminal work relating to boards of directors and the very first thing I read upon joining BoardEffect. Chait’s “Three Modes of Governance” (fidicuary, strategic, and generative) offers a cogent and broadly acknowledged framework for capturing the breadth and complexity of board work. These three modes of governance are used in how BoardEffect approaches the design of our board portal software solution.
- Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose by John Whitmore. An oldie, but goodie. Whitmore’s GROW model is super-effective at empowering people and avoiding micro-management (but it’s hard(!) and requires practice). There are also some gems that are easier to implement (hint: when speaking with colleagues, avoid “yes / no” or “why / why not” questions; far more effective are questions that start with “what, when, how”).
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. Okay…full disclosure: According to iBooks, I have only read 15.4% of this book. My completing it was the unwelcome casualty of a particularly busy spring. But I’ve really enjoyed it thus far, particularly Chapter 2: Carrots and Sticks: Manipulation versus Inspiration. This one tops my “hammock list;” and I’m looking forward to picking back up this book that early-on asserts, “This book is not designed to tell you what to do or how to do it. Its goal is to give you a course of action. It is to offer you the cause of action.”
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz. This book is written by a legendary entrepreneur and venture capitalist; and it is packed with valuable lessons woven into interesting anecdotes. The book also completely appealed to me because I firmly believe that very few things worth doing are ever easy. In full candor, though, this is the other book that I need to get back to during my upcoming hammock sessions. Yes, I’ll admit that I often start too many books at once…but I always come back and finish the good ones. This one is great.
- The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. Whoa…what…I thought this was a list of business books?! As much as this is a book about love, it is every bit as much about relationships. And communication. And every organization demands successful management of both relationships and communication in order to survive. While the actual “love languages” definitely differ in the workplace, the framework for seeking to truly understand how others come at the world is truly invaluable. If this idea seems hokey or makes anyone squeamish, Tom Rath’s StrengthFinder 2.0 is a more business-oriented approach that offers more awesome tools in this same realm.
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. This is a super-fast read, but one that has something of value for virtually all teams and team members. Having members of a leadership team read this at the same is one sure-fire way to get broad-based commitment among people to avoid the behavior on display in the book. For more of a prescriptive field guide on how to effective move into a new leadership position, I really like Michael D. Watkins’ The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter.
- Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. I think Zappos rules; and I am looking forward to reading this one (although I have neither downloaded nor started it(!)). A seemingly similar book that I can absolutely recommend, though, is Conscious Capitalism: Freeing the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia.
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles or The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro. These books have absolutely nothing to do with business or leadership or organizational change. But they are two of the books I’ve most enjoyed reading in recent years; and they are truly great beach read for those of us who want to truly unwind and leave the office completely behind for a few summer days. In such a case, crank up the Taylor Swift, mix up a daiquiri, and embrace every minute of these guilty pleasures.
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– Todd Gibby, CEO at BoardEffect