Seth Godin recently posed a suggested challenge: pick three books that changed your thinking and then buy them for three admired people and ask them to read them over the holidays to advance a conversation.
Though I won’t honour the challenge to the letter, I think that doing some reflection on books that changed my thinking is a great way to end the year on the blog. Here are three books that made a difference to my thinking as a manager for the better:
1) Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen
I own multiple copies if this one and use it to prepare for most difficult conversations. Of the three books I am recommending it’s the only one that I think has genuine utility in everyday life.
The book makes the point that each conversation is really three different conversations: the “what happened” conversation (where we tend to spend all of our time to our detriment), the “identity” conversation – what is the effect of the problem on each person’s identity? and the feelings conversation. The book also has a number of tools to support difficult conversations including to enter conversations as “learning” conversations.
The support the spirit of Seth Godin’s challenge, I will give a copy of this book to the first three people who email me saying that they’d like it.
2) Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee
This is a book about the power of emotional intelligence its links to leadership. The emotions of leaders are greatly magnified for better and for worse and they change the dynamic of teams quite powerfully. This book in combination with some of the more recent writing make the link between how your brain shuts down under stress – you go into fight flight mode and can actually go deaf – it is nearly impossible to work well under such conditions. At the other end of the scale, positive emotions, generate powerful creativity.
As well, this was also the first book to convince me to abandon the idea that leadership is innate. Most powerfully, the belief that leadership can be learned, will set someone up to be empowered for success in truly difficult situations.
3) Drive: Daniel Pink’s bestseller on motivation – it comes down to three things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
One the main findings – when you link monetary rewards to performance it only works well with rudimentary tasks. Performance actually gets worse with pay incentives with tasks involving analytical skills.
Here are two videos which explain his main ideas for those of you not inclined to read the book:
Animated one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc
TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrkrvAUbU9Y