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.

I’m happy to report that I smashed by goal and ended up reading 19 business or leadership books in 2017!

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. I have one which I started back in July, and still haven’t been motivated enough to pick it back up and finish (that could have given me a nice even number of 20 books for last year too!). 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 part one (the first 10 books) of what I read, listed in order of reading.

Part two is coming later this week along with the books I consider a must read for any Leader or Business Owner.

My first ten books

1. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good on Sheryl for speaking out about gender bias in leadership, possible reasons for it, and what we can ALL do to try and end it.
I will admit I did find a lot of the content unoriginal – but perhaps that is the problem. There is so much information and facts available on the issues with women in leadership and yet we make very little progress.

2.The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know by Katty Kay

The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know
My rating:  3 of 5 stars

I thought this was more valuable than Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead and maybe that is because the authors spent more time on tangible suggestions. Also, as much as I admire Sheryl Sandberg, she is hard to relate to if you don’t work in the start-up IT industry.Although aimed more at female leaders, I think this book is just as valuable to men for their own self awareness – surely we can all use a little more confidence? You can also complete the confidence quiz at their web site here.

3. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat LastMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to this audiobook from the library and before I was even halfway through I’d purchased the paperback. Not because the audio was bad, but because this book is just that good that I not only want to read it again, but I want to be able to highlight and dog-ear pages and bookmark them as I go.
Sinek breaks leadership back down to anthropology. What do humans in society need? How does that need translate to the workplace (which is it’s own society)? What do leaders need to do to support their fellow humans with their social, security, and goal-oriented needs?
There is also comparisons to the marine corps and how in their mess halls, leaders always eat last – hence the title of the book.
This book is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a leader or not. It doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 80. Just read this. We can all do with a bit more understanding and empathy of our fellow human beings.

4. Love ’em or Lose ’em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye

Love 'em or Lose 'em: Getting Good People to StayMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read this in around 2008 and I saw it on my bookshelf so decided it was time to get it back out.
I really like how the authors break down ideas for engagement and retention, and have ordered them into 26 groups (A-Z). This makes it one of those books you don’t need to read cover to cover. You can pick what your biggest issue is and it will give you the relevant section for that.
This is a book anyone in a leadership role should have on their desk.

Actually being able to do a workshop would be ideal, but despite my enquiries to their Company I haven’t had a response so I can only assume these are unavailable (or maybe only available in the US)

5. Think Simple: How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity by Ken Segall

Think Simple: How Smart Leaders Defeat ComplexityMy rating: 3 of 5 stars

Segall gives us multiple case studies through this book of businesses that are start-ups right through to very large and old Companies, and how they have to work to keep things simplified and the benefits that gives.
I found the different case studies quite interesting, and it was a nice change to have some Australian examples given too. I do agree with some other reviews that the structure of the book was not simple and could have used some work. It also felt a little heavy in the Apple/Steve Jobs department. As fascinating as his time at Apple was, I think far too much of this book was given to it.
Overall an interesting book, but not one that will leave you with any clear steps of what action you can take. Segall describes it as a “roadmap to a roadmap” so I guess you can read this to get inspired and get ideas and then go elsewhere to determine how to implement.

6. Fire Them Up!: 7 Simple Secrets To: Inspire Colleagues, Customers, and Clients; Sell Yourself, Your Vision, and Your Values; Communicate with Charisma and Confidence by Carmine Gallo

Fire Them Up!: 7 Simple Secrets To: Inspire Colleagues, Customers, and Clients; Sell Yourself, Your Vision, and Your Values; Communicate with Charisma and ConfidenceMy rating: 3 of 5 stars

This has some good concepts, but now that it is 10 years old could use an update. Unfortunately the examples given in some parts (Donald Trump for example) have taken on a whole different meaning, and Steve Jobs has become a bit of a “easy out” for leadership books wanting to describe an inspirational leader.
I did like that the book goes trough 7 “simple secrets” and then in part 2 of the book takes us through real case studies of how these apply.

Worth a listen, and hopefully will be updated soon.

7. Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life and Business by Richard Branson

Screw It, Let's Do It: Lessons in Life and BusinessMy rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn’t know that much about Branson (other than his many media appearances) and I found this really interesting to learn more about him, his early years and philosophy.
He really seems to be a person that genuinely cares about others and the planet and that is very admirable.
I’m not sure I really learnt anything from the book, other than just cool things he has done and I learnt a whole lot more about the Virgin group of Companies.
So interesting, but ultimately I didn’t have any real takeaways.

8. Exceptional Talent: How to Attract, Acquire and Retain the Very Best Employees by Mervyn Dinnen

Exceptional Talent: How to Attract, Acquire and Retain the Very Best EmployeesMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an interesting study into the definition of “talent” and the ways that organisations have started to transform the ways they attract, hire, engage, retain, develop and exit employees.
I call it a study because the authors have taken lots of source material and put it together in this book to build a case around these components and show examples ; rather than a book containing the author’s own ideas or hypothesis.
This makes it a useful book for either existing HR practitioners who are looking for a source of lots of material to make a case to their CEO ; or for existing senior Managers and business owners who don’t really understand talent/engagement/retention and would like a nice introduction to why it matters and what good Companies are doing. It also means the book will, unfortunately, date rather quickly, so I suggest getting your hands on it soon:)

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

9. The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success by Steven J. Stein

The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your SuccessMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great companion book for those who have undertaken the EQ-i 2.0® or the EQ 360® and want to understand more about the tool and exercises for developing in some areas, or for those who have undertaken the certification as a practitioner.
As someone that falls into the latter category as my reason for reading this, I can certainly see myself using this book with clients or even just to remember certain elements of the tool and their meanings and applications.

10. 50 Top Tools for Employee Engagement: A Complete Toolkit for Improving Motivation and Productivity by Debbie Mitchell

50 Top Tools for Employee Engagement: A Complete Toolkit for Improving Motivation and ProductivityMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book totally delivers on its promise. There are 50 tools related to engagement which are logically structured including the best situation to use the tools and how to assess their effectiveness.
I love how the author has used tools/ideas which are easy to implement, and often at a very minimal cost, which are perfectly suited for small-medium sized businesses. It doesn’t mean that large multi-nationals can’t use them, but let’s be honest, they are more likely to pay PwC big dollars for the same result!
This is not a book full of theories (in fact there are hardly any referenced), it is purely focused on pragmatic activities you can implement in your workplace to drive employee engagement.

I received this book as a kindle version and I found the book so full of practical ideas that I got to the end and went and ordered the paperback. I don’t often do that, but it is certainly a book I will be able to refer to, bookmark, highlight, and refer to on a regular basis. It is perfectly suited to business owners, mid-senior Managers and HR practitioners.

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

Coming Soon

Keep an eye out for part two with the final 9 books I read, plus my recommendations for what you need to get your hands on this year!

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