My Top Shelf – Books that I love

Everyone should have a top shelf – the one you share with people at work when they ask for a reading recommendation.  A few caveats on my list:

  1. I generally only recommend books <200 pages, with a few exceptions.  (I favor authors who have mastered clarity, passion, and brevity)
  2. These are around business and/or personal development books.
  3. I will explain any selection, but not apologize or argue about it.  It is my shelf – so build your own if you disagree. 🙂
  4. I do not loan these out, but will often buy people a copy.  They are marked up and I would hate to lose them.

It has expanded over the years, but my general rule is that the number has to be limited.  Now to add one I have to take one off.  I had a shelf with about 8 books for many years, then I got a bigger shelf. 

Here is my top shelf:

(they are in no particular order – but left to right in the picture)

  1. The Mindful Coach – Doug Silsbee
  2. Co-Active Coaching – Whitworth/Kimsey-House, Sandahl
  3. Sway – Ori/Ram Brafman
  4. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  5. All Things New, A Fable of Renewal – Rodger Price
  6. Confessions of a Public Speaker – Scott Berkun
  7. Good to Great – Jim Collins
  8. First, Break all the Rules – Marcus Buckingham/Curt Coffman
  9. Fierce Conversations – Susan Scott
  10. Linchpin – Seth Godin
  11. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
  12. How Full is Your Bucket – Tom Rath/Don Clifton
  13. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish
  14. Drive – Daniel Pink
  15. One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard/Spencer Johnson
  16. For Men Only – Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
  17. Mastery – George Leonard
  18. Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
  19. Rework – Jason Fried/David Heinemeier Hansson
  20. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
  21. Death By Meeting – Patrick Lencioni
  22. The Will of God As A Way of Life – Gerald Sittser
  23. Season of Life – Jeffrey Marx
  24. The Servant – James Hunter
  25. Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson
  26. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  27. HalfTime – Bob Buford
  28. Tribes – Seth Godin
  29. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  30. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach
  31. Do the Work – Steve Pressfield

Some are great books, and some have achieved significance for other reasons.  In the end, I will recommend other books on occassion, but I love these selections.  In addition, I also have 2-3 Harvard Business Review articles I love for people not having time to read.

Looking for a good question to ask your new leader?  What two books stand out in your mind as great?  (might be a good idea to read them – it will often explain how they think and what they value)

Submit a question to this posting if you want a more detailed explanation on any of these selections.

Leadership Development Starts – BEFORE you lead

I have been asked to read and review David C. Baker’s new book Managing Right For The First Time.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments.

Your Aptitude Comes Largely From The Choices You’ve Already Made.  This is a section title from the chapter, What Managers Are and How You Become One.  It reminds us that leadership development starts the day we decide we like to work and will commit extra time to becoming better at whatever we do.  I am reminded of a CEO telling me ‘We can’t afford leadership development right now’, and realize that too many people do not see the simple steps involved in developing as a leader.

So what do we do with this wisdom? 

Use this thought as a guide for yourself/others that desire to grow as leaders.  Make a simple list of what you look for in a leader and pick one area to focus on generating success/experience in that area.  Here are some examples:

  • Leaders: Effectively deal with different personalities.  Action:  Who in this office do you dislike the most?  Go build a relationship with them and partner with them on some project.
  • Leaders:  Find solutions to problems and solve them.  Action:  Find something to fix that will take resources/time, present your solution to the leadership group, and fix it.
  • Leaders:  Help teams work together towards a common goal.  Action:  Find a not for profit or outside event, volunteer to help lead an event they have planned, and then do it.  (plan 30 minutes debriefing with your own leader what you learned)
  • Leaders:  Have infectious attitudes, are seen as positive forces in the workplace.  Action:  Ask a few close people – Am I more like Eeyore or Winnie the Pooh? (sounds stupid, but it will cut right to the point).  If you receive feedback that you are a glass half empty person, commit bringing three positive comments to every meeting for every one criticism for the next 3 months.  Ask again at the end of three months.
  • Leaders:  Make learning a habit and help others learn.  Ask two or three leaders in your company what their favorite business book it, pick one, and find 2-3 other people to read it and discuss it over 2 or 3 lunches.  Maybe invite the leader in for one session to share with you their thoughts.

Becoming a leader starts before you lead.

Mastery – One of keys to success! Part 3 of 3

Mastery is “available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it-regardless of age, sex, or previous experience.”   These are the words of George Leonard in a book he wrote called Mastery.  This is not a new book.  My copy was printed in 1992 and looks/feels like it has been on the journey that the author describes.

This predates the 10,000 hour discussion I presented (see past blog), but reminds us that committing to Mastery is really about getting on a path and staying there for a lifetime.  For achieving Mastery is not about the destination, but the journey to get there.  The author provides many vivid images of the journey, from sports analogies around tennis to illustrations using the martial art of aikido.  If you are interested in a rich exploration of the topic, read the book.  But let me share a couple of parts that stuck with me.

A significant point was around our view of practice.  Practice if often viewed as a verb, but as it relates to Mastery it is best viewed as a noun.  The author points out the Chinese word tao and the Japanese word do – both of which mean road or path.  So achieving Mastery is about practice (remember 10,000 hours).  Practice is a journey on which you embark.

Leonard also shares his five keys to Mastery, which are:

  • Instruction
  • Practice
  • Surrender
  • Intentionality
  • The Edge

So what can you do as a leader to increase Mastery?

First, your performance management system has to promote Mastery conversations.  These questions need to be addressed:

  • What Mastery is needed in a role? (defined and measured at some level yearly)
  • What Mastery is the individual interested in attaining? (their own career goals – integrated into what the organization needs)
  • How is the Mastery journey going?  (for you and for us)

Secondly, the ownership of the journey has to be made very clear.  It is up to the individual.  A leader/organization owns providing a target and the support and resources.  Ultimately, the decision to go on and stay on the journey is owned by the individual.  Do you agree with this?  Think of it this way, most leaders will not be around a person for five years, and keeping track of 5 or 10 or 30 different people is not realistic for any leader.  So if the individual owns the plan, the commitment of  the leader become to create the time to review it, provide feedback on their progress, and assist in removing barriers that might be encountered along the way. (ex. time, resources, skills)

So how does your organization promote the journey to Mastery?  How well are you leading this journey?

Mastery = 10,000 hours! Part 2 of 3

It is a big number.  10,000 hours translates into 5 years of doing something BEFORE you can be considered to have attained Mastery.  So where did this number come from and what does it mean to people trying to attain it and leaders who are trying to grow and retain people who have this?

First question – Where did this number come from? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers he explores success and presents what he has found to be common themes to those who have achieved it.  One of his findings was that success might look overnight or based on talent, but a common theme is preparation (aka.  hours of work). He references a study of young musicians that examined who achieved the highest level of achievement vs those who became good.  The difference between average, above average, and excellence?  Hours of practice.  In the end, the number was 10,000 hours.  He also presented other anecdotal evidence of famous athletes, musicians, and business icons.  This is not his only point to success, but it is a significant one.

This 5 year number is one that I have also heard shared.  Studies have been done in the area of nursing that support that the length of time for a nurse to achieve the status of a clinical expert in a particular area is 5 years.  So if it is important for a nursing supervisor to also be a clinical expert, promoting them at 2 years or 3 years is a risk, especially if their team needs them to be an expert.  Mastery is about preparation.

Second question – What does it mean to people trying to attain Mastery and leaders who are trying to grow and retain  people who have this? Think about our society – microwaves, fast food, IM(now Twitter), Facebook (instant updates of life vs yearly Christmas cards), etc.  We do not like to wait for things.  When we do wait we do not wait very long.  So this number 10,000 hours seems like a looonnnnng time.

I was presenting to a group of nursing leaders one time and I said something that clicked with them because everyone went for their pencils and wrote it down.  I said “When you think about career development, imagine a crock pot, not a microwave.” I was shocked at their response, but this visual made them realize the time needed to grow expertise AND the commitment that it takes from all to achieve it.  Helping people achieve this takes a plan AND a commitment from a leader to revisit it and revise it every 6 – 12 months.

So what can be done with this number?   First, as an individual pick an area you want to achieve Mastery in and get to work.  A job, special projects, volunteering, reading each week, or whatever other way you can find to accumulate hours doing and learning.   Secondly, as a leader make a habit of asking questions of your people.

  • What is an area that you want to become an expert in?
  • What things do you want to learn or do over the next year?
  • How are you progressing  on the development goals we set for you last year?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?
  • 

Mastery – A great goal and a significant goal!  Just don’t get frightened by the number.  Remember, when you are doing what you love time passes quickly.

Mastery – Does it matter? Part 1 of 3

All this talk of Mastery – Initial Thoughts . . .

I watched a 10 minute YouTube video from Daniel Pink and I was blown away.  He shares the portion of his book (DRIVE) that shares the research based finding that the knowledge worker is motivated by three main things:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

What caught my attention was the word Mastery, which has become a familiar word for me recently.  The dictionary defines it as the possession of a consummate skill or the full command of some subject of study.  Now it is being heralded as a key to motivation for many workers.  Is this a surprise?

As a father of four I have had several more experienced men tell me that adolescence is easier if your child finds what they are good at doing.  This makes sense, but I am surprised that suddenly, in the adult world, this becomes newsworthy.  This is not intended to be an attack on someone making money for stating the obvious, but a recognition that we should view these new lessons for what they are – a reminder that many of the things we have learned in life still apply.

So how does this change how we manage our careers?  How does this change how we lead?  If Mastery is about being good at something, what has the most recent recession done to motivation if people are in one of two states – overloaded doing the work of 1+ people or trying to look overloaded by keeping their head down and staying in constant motion doing something.

Whether your people are in either of these states, I would offer to leaders that the  first step is sitting down and starting some dialogue by asking “What % of your job do you enjoy and want to get better at doing?”.  Then come up with a plan for increasing that by 5% over the next month.   Mastery starts with focus – and focus starts with leadership, from the inside and the outside.  A leader has the chance to bring focus from the outside by helping to define some targets/goals for the individuals.   We all have a chance to build focus from the inside by trusting, relaxing, and working at resuming our journey to Mastery.  After all, it is our journey and it is important.  Pink reminds us of that.  Where are you on your journey to Mastery?

There is more to be said on this topic.  Watch Daniel Pink’s take on this at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc.