As part of my personal goals last year, I challenged myself to read a business or leadership book every month. There were quite a few I read via audiobooks, and also a number I received as advanced copies from publishers and could read on my Kindle.

The idea started in April 2017, and it was to read and post my thoughts on what I learnt from the book (or not!) with the hashtag #bookiam.

In 2018 I didn’t quite reach my goal, but I did read 10 over the year (and in 2017 I got through 19, so surely that counts for something! 😉  )

So what does happen when you read a business book a month for a year? From my experience you will:

  • gain fresh insights
  • challenge your previously held beliefs
  • learn about the latest research and practices in your field
  • find great ideas to implement in your workplace, or for your clients
  • occasionally be bored to tears…  😉

Yes, the last point is just being honest that not all business/leadership books are created equal. Regardless, the positives outweigh the occasional boring book and I encourage everyone to at least try and pick up one book this year.

Here is the list of what I read, listed in order of stars (best to least favourite).

 

My 2018 books

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take ActionStart with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having read Leaders Eat Last, and watching and following everything Sinek does, I thought it was about time to go back to his original book.
With a basis in anthropology, but a strategic marketing mind and experience, Sinek has created a great argument for why “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. Work out your own personal “why” and you will be successful provided you stay true to that “why” AND make sure others in your organisation also understand and believe in that “why”.

This definitely had me thinking as when I talk to potential clients, and even my website, I follow what most people do and provide “what” I do and give features and benefits.
I’ve started to really think about what is my why, how I can communicate that more effectively, and use it as a basis for what I do.

A fantastic book for any leader or business owner who wants to truly understand how to inspire others. Or if you aren’t a reader, you can also go onto youtube and watch his amazing TED Talks and interviews.

50 Top Tools for Employee Wellbeing: A Complete Toolkit for Developing Happy, Healthy, Productive and Engaged Employees50 Top Tools for Employee Wellbeing: A Complete Toolkit for Developing Happy, Healthy, Productive and Engaged Employees by Debbie Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

According to Debbie Mitchell, when it comes to people management, “there is a tendency to over complicate it when we really don’t need to” and that seems to be the ethos she uses in her books. They are step-by-step, no fuss, easy to implement ideas.
The UK stats show that almost 15% of people are facing some form of mental health challenge in the workplace, so it is no wonder that well-being has become an important consideration for so many businesses.

This book is designed for line managers or generalist HR professionals and each one of the 50 tools is structured as:
*Introduction – an overview of the tool
*Promoting well-being – how the tool connects to well-being
*Approach – guidelines for how to implement
*Outcomes – what results you should expect
*Measuring Impact – suggestions on how to evaluate your results

It is a similar structure to what she used in her book 50 Top Tools for Employee Engagement: A Complete Toolkit for Improving Motivation and Productivity, and there does seem to be a small bit of cross-over. Not that there is duplication of the tools, more that many of those listed for well-being can also be engagement tools.

I would recommend this for anyone that would like to have, basically some “cheat sheets”, on how to create and implement some well-being ideas into the workplace. I didn’t find any “ah-ha!” moments or new information, it was more that it is all in the one place. The author is based in the UK and so the stats and some resources given are mostly related to the UK, but I think it is still transferable to other countries, you just need to do a quick google search instead of relying on the link provided in the book 😉

Thanks to Kogan Page and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

8 Steps to High Performance: Focus On What You Can Change (Ignore the Rest)8 Steps to High Performance: Focus On What You Can Change by Marc Effron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marc Effron has researched for years existing scientific studies, to develop these 8 steps that be believes are scientifically proven to increase your performance.
Step one – Set big goals
Step two – Behave to perform
Step three – Grow yourself faster
Step four – Connect
Step five – Maximise your fit
Step six – Fake it
Step seven – Commit your body
Step eight – Avoid distractions

Effron defines performance as someone who consistently delivers better results and behaviours, on an absolute and relative basis, than 75% of their peers. That sounds like a pretty tall ask, but if you treat this book like a meta-analysis of various scientific studies on performance, I’ve no doubt you will find information that will be helpful for you to improve your performance.

A caveat here is that there are parts I don’t agree with based on my own psychology studies. Caution should be taken, as even the author states, to always critically review any study before taking it as fact. For example, Effron claims that your personality and intelligence is fixed ; that EI is a myth ; and that focusing on your strengths is a distraction. But his comments in these areas are related purely to if they increase your performance (or not), and are based on select studies related to performance.

I think this was a great, easy book to read and I have already recommended this book to a few clients to pre-purchase, because I think there is real value in this book for anyone who wants to develop themselves, but really doesn’t know where to start or even what role they want next. There are also a number of tools and quizzes in the book to help you set your development path.

Thank to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Power of Company Culture: How Any Business Can Build a Culture That Improves Productivity, Performance and ProfitsThe Power of Company Culture: How Any Business Can Build a Culture That Improves Productivity, Performance and Profits by Chris Dyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris Dyer is the founder and CEO of a Company called PeopleG2 and over the years has become more and more interested in engagement and culture in the workplace. He runs a podcast called TalentTalk and has now written this book for other business owners, CEOs and HR Executives on why workplace culture matters and what you can do about it.

To begin, he takes us through why a vision, mission and values are important and what they all mean. Then the chunk of the book is then what, he thinks, are the seven pillars to culture success. These being:
1. Transparency
2. Positivity
3. Measurement
4. Acknowledgement
5. Uniqueness
6. Listening
7. Mistakes
Dyer has researched these well through his podcast, but also through his own self development reading books, case studies, attending conferences and so forth. For example, he references Carol Dweck, Simon Sinek and Stephen Covey (amongst others) who are all well known and respected in their fields.
This is not a big book, but it covers a lot of ground and I really enjoyed reading it. As a HR consultant, there were many things that were not new to me, but it was nice to have them validated ;), and then there were other examples that I made notes of as I can see how that could work with some of my clients.
I particularly loved the last line in which he reminds us to “persist”. It is a reminder that culture change is very difficult and does take planned strategy and ongoing effort.

I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about company culture, and particularly those who can have great influence over it.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Unlocking High Performance: How to Use Performance Management to Engage and Empower Employees to Reach Their Full PotentialUnlocking High Performance: How to Use Performance Management to Engage and Empower Employees to Reach Their Full Potential by Jason Lauritsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We keep hearing that traditional performance review systems just don’t work. They often demotivate and hinder performance which is the opposite of the intention.
In this book, Lauristen tries to explain the origins of the performance review system, why it doesn’t work today, and what are some potential alternatives.
The origins of the PR system is interesting to reflect on, and I think anyone that has undergone performance reviews can quickly tell you why they don’t work well today! I thought on the last part of that this book falls a bit short. He does provide examples and case studies, but if you’re looking for some practical steps, you’ll need to do more research. Nevertheless, there may be enough in this book for you to be able to influence the decision makers in your organisation to overhaul what you have and embrace a more contemporary system that helps to motivate and drive performance.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging PeopleThe Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People by Gary Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a pretty interesting read as the author (Gary Chapman) has taken his “5 love languages” and with the help of Paul White, altered them to suit the workplace and provide guidance for how to provide your co-workers, manager and staff with appreciation that will motivate them.

The book essentially explains the background for the MBA inventory (Motivation By Appreciation) and gives some examples of how to introduce and use it successfully in your workplace. It also includes a code that allows you to take the inventory online.

I originally started reading this as I thought it may be helpful for recognition programs, but it is a bit different as appreciation is described being about the person rather than performance. However, I can see value in using this as a training tool for managers on motivating their teams, and providing positive feedback.

B2B Marketing Strategy: Differentiate, Develop and Deliver Lasting Customer EngagementB2B Marketing Strategy: Differentiate, Develop and Deliver Lasting Customer Engagement by Heidi Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Running a B2B company, this book caught my eye. Who can’t use new perspectives on marketing strategies?
Heidi spends some time on how marketing has changed with the Internet and social media, but also on the definition of a strategy and how that is different to your objectives and initiatives.
I did feel like the book was better aimed at marketing professionals rather than business owners and I would recommend it to marketers interested in other ideas and opinions.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

How to Create a Coaching Culture: A Practical IntroductionHow to Create a Coaching Culture: A Practical Introduction by Gillian Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a good introduction to coaching and to what a coaching culture may look like. Although it is entitled a practical introduction, that part of the book was a little underdone – and that is perhaps because culture is by definition all about your organisation and how you can develop it is not going to be the same as how another organisation can.
The authors have spent time working with organisations to build a coaching culture, and so most of the book felt like it was their stories. For those who don’t work in HR/OD or are new to the area, this may be quite useful and insightful.
Personally, there were no real takeaways for me. It wasn’t a bad book, it may just mean that this book is a little too introductory for those who have worked in this field for a while.

Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Armstrong's Job Evaluation Handbook: A Guide to Achieving Fairness and Transparency in Pay and RewardArmstrong’s Job Evaluation Handbook: A Guide to Achieving Fairness and Transparency in Pay and Reward by Michael Armstrong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Job Evaluations are “a subjective process carried out within an objective framework”. If you don’t know much about Job Evaluations and want to get an in depth introduction, this book is prefect.

Divided into 4 parts, it covers the fundamental characteristics of job evaluation, the three main formal JE schemes, the applications of JEs and the practice of JEs.

The book draws a lot from a 2017 survey of a UK rewards firm, plus some other reference material. It is a bit clinical (not quite academic) and so best suited to HR practitioners who want to understand more about job evaluation and pay structures. There is a bit of UK-specific information in the book which makes it better suited for that market, but it still has quite a lot of relevant information for other markets.

Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Naked CEO: The Truth You Need to Build a Big LifeThe Naked CEO: The Truth You Need to Build a Big Life by Alex Malley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Scrolling through the audiobook app on my phone from my library I came across this, so I had no prior knowledge of Alex Malley or “The Naked CEO”, but it seems it is a website he has built and this book is a culmination of what he is trying to put out to the world about how to survive & thrive in Corporates.
This book is absolutely aimed at people new to the workforce, or new to corporate life. The blurb is a little misleading because for anyone that has experience with attending leadership programs and/or diagnostics, or has been in the workplace for a while this book is rudimentary and a bit of a bore.

I have given 3 stars because I am not the target audience and with a better blurb aiming this at new job seekers and graduating uni students this book would probably be quite helpful. It is a bit of an ad for himself and his website, but there are still some useful opinions on how to prepare for interviews, set up linkedin, communicate genuinely with others etc.

 

What’s happening in 2019?

This is the year of character strengths, agile, employee experience, culture, leadership and flexibility. Look out for my reviews using #bookiam

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