Business books are a big part of my life. I help my clients write their books and I evaluate book manuscripts for publishers. I also read books because I love the learning and the insight that I get. Here’s a list of the five best business books that I read for the first time in 2016. They’re listed in the order that I read them.
The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
In the last decade or so we’ve learned how important coaching is to making leaders effective. This led to an explosion of books on coaching. You don’t need to read all of them, but this is one of the ones you should read and keep handy.
If you’re already a leader who coaches teammates, put this book on your coaching reading shelf. You’ll find lots in it to add to what you already know and to help you do what you already do better. If coaching isn’t part of your toolkit yet, this is a great book to start with. It’s simple, sensible, and it will work in just about any situation.
Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra
Most of the literature on learning to lead suggests that you start from the inside, figure out what’s important to you, and then act on it. That sounds good, but it rarely works in practice. Aristotle, a host of psychological research, and this book start from the outside and work in. The basic premise that you should act like a leader and act your way into thinking like a leader seems to me to work. It certainly worked for the people who went through my classes for years. This book also gave me insights into lots of different leadership and development situations.
Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg
I’ve tracked my personal productivity for decades, so I’m always on the lookout for books that will help me do my work better. I read several of them in 2016. Smarter, Faster, Better was the best of the lot and one of the best books about personal productivity I’ve ever read.
Duhigg writes about improving productivity as a learning process. That’s been true for me all the way along. There have rarely been super huge insights that suddenly helped me work better, instead there have been incremental improvements in various areas that built upon the last group of improvements.
This is a very well-written book with good stories and explanations of research.
Under New Management by David Burkus
The science-fiction writer William Gibson says that the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed. Someone is already doing things that will be common in the future. You used to have to hunt for those people. Well, you don’t have to hunt anymore.
David Burkus gives you a book-load of examples of innovative things real companies are already doing today. You probably won’t adopt everything that’s here. Heck, you may not even agree with some of it, but if you’re serious about making your organization better, you need a copy of this book and the examples and ideas it will give you.
Succeed by Heidi Grant Halvorson
Heidi Grant Halvorson is a psychologist who studies goals and goal-setting. That should make her able to write a great book on goal-setting. This is that book. Suceed is simply the best book I’ve ever read about goal-setting. It’s good because it brings together the science of it all as well as Halvorson’s personal understanding of how it looks from the inside. You’ve probably read a ton of stuff on goals in your life. I sure have. Even if that’s true, I think you will get a lot from this book. I sure did.
Re-Reading and Re-Discovered Treasures
I re-read a lot. This year I even wrote a blog post about it. Every year I re-discover a book or two that I haven’t read for decades. This year the big re-discovery was Ken Iverson’s book about NUCOR: Plain Talk.