With the arrival of summertime, we often envision ourselves lying on the beach, sipping lemonade (or an adult beverage with a little umbrella in it), and reading all the pulpy fiction we’ve saved up for vacation, right? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had a vacation like that since I was a teenager! Even so, summer is a great time to get caught up on your reading list – and when the sun doesn’t go down until 9:00 or later, you have all the more time to read!
I often joke that my reading “addiction” is what makes me Amazon Prime’s best customer, so I wanted to share a list of classic business books with you that, if you’re like me, may feed your own addiction. I chose five books that have been influential in my business approach and that represent different aspects of running your business. All of these are available on Amazon. So order your books, get your glass of lemonade, and enjoy!
1. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence (2nd edition, 2013) by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, & Annie McKee
I annotate key thoughts in the front or back pages of a book that I’m reading so I can remember the important points. To best illustrate why I’m including this book on the list, here is a sample of the timeless concepts I noted in this book: Leaders set the emotional tone for the rest of the team. Emotions are contagious. Beyond a moderate level, anxiety and worry decreases people’s mental capacity. People join companies and quit their bosses. A great leader will spend time coaching, creating collaboration among and deepening personal relationships with her team. People first, then strategy.
This book, while grounded in scientific research, is immensely practical. Like me, you will experience multiple “aha!” moments while reading it.
2. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It (2004) by Michael E. Gerber
The E-Myth is the mystic surrounding entrepreneurism – the Great American Dream, second only to home ownership. If you haven’t read this book, you’ve at least heard others talk about its main message: Work ON your business, not IN your business. Gerber says that most entrepreneurs are great technicians (like an auto mechanic, a software guru, etc.) who went into business because they themselves could do brilliant work. What a shock it is when the entrepreneur realizes that he or she must train OTHERS to do the same brilliant work if they want to grow the company. In this book, Gerber teaches you to create systems and processes to run your business. Most of my 15+ years of consulting has been focused on getting groups to examine, redefine, and document their processes, so this is music to my ears. Gerber also gives you easy-to-understand advice on creating strategies for all parts of your business: vision and goals, people programs, computer systems, marketing, and business development. Although this book is 10 years old, it is an oldie but goodie.
3. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals (2012) by Chris McChesney, Sean Covery, and Jim Huling
One of the companies that I worked with for many years created 2-3 WIGs every year – Wildly Important Goals. The executive committee agreed on 3 organization-wide WIGs, then each department fashioned their own WIGs in a cascading manner. The methodology behind this approach to goal-setting and execution is detailed in this book. I really like its advice to focus on only 2-3 big goals at a time. The human mind can easily process and remember only 3 or fewer things at a time, hence the common phrase “it’s easy as 1-2-3”. In other words, don’t boil the ocean! Focus on only the most wildly important goals! This book teaches you to create and manage leading and lagging indicators, or activities and outcomes. Identify and track the activities (such as making sales calls) that contribute to achieving the desired outcome (increased sales revenues). Great read for any business owner who wishes to put more discipline into their execution!
4. Discovering the Soul of Service: The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success (1999) by William L. Berry
What resonates with me about this classic treatise on customer service is Berry’s emphasis on values that drive the service organization. He points out, as do I, that values are more effective than an employee handbook in guiding the actions of all team members and creating alignment within the organization. Because I come from an intensely service-oriented background as an executive of technical support organizations, this book was important to me. With Berry’s research at A&M University and his examples from real life companies, this book reinforced my philosophy of providing excellent, caring service to customers. Again an oldie but goodie for any business leader’s bookshelf!
5. Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (2014) by John Mackey, Rajendra Sisodia, and Bill George
My last recommendation is a book that I’ve noted previously in this blog. The authors are a reputable group, to say the least: John Mackey is the co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, Raj Sisodia is a professor at Babson College, and Bill George is the former CEO of Medtronic. The reason I’m so excited about this book is it creates a name and, more importantly, a comprehensive structure to running a values-based business that can make a profit while changing the world. When I read this book, I felt like the authors had systematized everything I think and believe about business. (You can read more about Conscious Capitalism in my blog post or my white paper.)
If you are tired of me talking about Conscious Capitalism, you can read the predecessor book by Raj Sisodia, Jagdish Shesh, and David Wolfe called Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose. Another great read, with loads of research on world-class companies.
Kristin Robertson, CEO of Brio Leadership, is dedicated to increasing the number of employees who are excited to go to work on Monday mornings. Services include executive coaching, leadership development classes and company culture consulting. Don’t forget to get a copy of Kristin Robertson’s new book, Your Company Culture Ecosystem, available on Amazon.
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