Leadership & Business Growth Books for March 2014
Here are our top picks for the best leadership and business growth books this month.
Low Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity & Profits by Jeremy Eden & Terri Long
Every day, thousands of hidden and ignored problems frustrate workers and customers and, in turn, reduce profits. The key to finding and fixing these problems is to engage employees closest to the work and closest to the customer in new ways so they can contribute their ideas. This book provides rules that, if followed, will allow employees to harvest all the low hanging fruit – and some that is not so low hanging – that will grow earnings, make customers happier, and increase morale. Some examples of these rules include
Rule 15: Routinely review – and stop – “zombie projects”. No one admits it, but projects approved with fanfare are often completed even when midway through it is clear that they won’t work because no one wants to say they made a mistake. Killing “zombie projects” saves money and allows precious resources to be reallocated to worthwhile projects.
Rule 17: Get out of the habit of always doing the best job you can! It’s counter-intuitive, but conscientious employees often waste time and money trying to do a great job when a good job is all that is needed. This rule finds ideas that eliminate well-intentioned “gold plating”.
Rule 30: Always ask, “how do you know that is true?” Nothing kills good ideas faster than someone uttering, “customers won’t like it” or “operations can’t do it” or “it won’t pay back”. These tend to be opinions not facts. By simply learning to ask “how do we know that’s true?” and demanding facts, many perfectly good ideas will live to see the light of day!
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Burger
In this groundbreaking book, journalist and innovation expert Warren Berger shows that one of the most powerful forces for igniting change in business and in our daily lives is a simple, under-appreciated tool—one that has been available to us since childhood. Questioning—deeply, imaginatively, “beautifully”—can help us identify and solve problems, come up with game-changing ideas, and pursue fresh opportunities. So why are we often reluctant to ask “Why?”
Berger’s surprising findings reveal that even though children start out asking hundreds of questions a day, questioning “falls off a cliff” as kids enter school. In an education and business culture devised to reward rote answers over challenging inquiry, questioning isn’t encouraged—and, in fact, is sometimes barely tolerated.
And yet, as Berger shows, the most creative, successful people tend to be expert questioners. They’ve mastered the art of inquiry, raising questions no one else is asking—and finding powerful answers. The author takes us inside red-hot businesses like Google, Netflix, IDEO, and Airbnb to show how questioning is baked into their organizational DNA. He also shares inspiring stories of artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, basement tinkerers, and social activists who changed their lives and the world around them—by starting with a “beautiful question.” Berger explores important questions, such as:
– Why aren’t we nurturing kids’ natural ability to question—and what can parents and schools do about that?
– Since questioning is a starting point for innovation, how might companies and business leaders begin to encourage and exploit it?
– And most important, how can each of us re-ignite that questioning spark—and use inquiry as a powerful means to rethink and reinvent our lives? A More Beautiful Question outlines a practical Why / What If / How system of inquiry that can guide you through the process of innovative questioning—helping you find imaginative, powerful answers to your own “beautiful questions.”
Thanks For The Feedback: The Science & Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
The bestselling authors of the classic Difficult Conversations teach us how to turn evaluations, advice, criticisms, and coaching into productive listening and learning
We swim in an ocean of feedback. Bosses, colleagues, customers—but also family, friends, and in-laws—they all have “suggestions” for our performance, parenting, or appearance. We know that feedback is essential for healthy relationships and professional development—but we dread it and often dismiss it.
That’s because receiving feedback sits at the junction of two conflicting human desires. We do want to learn and grow. And we also want to be accepted just as we are right now. Thanks for the Feedback is the first book to address this tension head on. It explains why getting feedback is so crucial yet so challenging, and offers a powerful framework to help us take on life’s blizzard of off-hand comments, annual evaluations, and unsolicited advice with curiosity and grace.
The business world spends billions of dollars and millions of hours each year teaching people how to give feedback more effectively. Stone and Heen argue that we’ve got it backwards and show us why the smart money is on educating receivers— in the workplace and in personal relationships as well.
Coauthors of the international bestseller Difficult Conversations, Stone and Heen have spent the last ten years working with businesses, nonprofits, governments, and families to determine what helps us learn and what gets in our way. With humor and clarity, they blend the latest insights from neuroscience and psychology with practical, hard-headed advice. The book is destined to become a classic in the world of leadership, organizational behavior, and education.
Centered Leadership: Leading with Purpose, Clarity & Impact by Joanna Barsh & Johanne Lovoie
In the business bestseller, How Remarkable Women Lead, Barsh described Centered Leadership’s five capabilities and the research that underpins it. Here, with colleague Johanne Lavoie, Barsh provides a practical, actionable field guide for implementation.
In Centered Leadership, Barsh and Lavoie will guide you through the Centered Leadership program. You’ll find the interactive tools, exercises, and practices that have helped the men and women participants in Centered Leadership programs gain the skills, courage and confidence to lead. And, along the way, you’ll read inspiring stories of remarkable men and women leaders who demonstrate the power of these skills in action.
Those early in their careers will learn how to use these skills to explore their passions and accelerate their professional development. Those forming families will be able to use them to reconcile manage work and life to get the most out of both. And those who have already achieved success will be able use these practices to reach their next leadership horizon.
No matter what stage you are currently at in your career, or what level of leadership you aspire to, this book will equip you with the tools to unlock your own Centered Leader and achieve more positive impact at work and outside it.
The Idea-Driven Organization: Unlocking The Power In Bottom-Up Ideas by Alan G. Robinson & Dean M. Schroeder
Too many organizations are overlooking, or even suppressing, their single most powerful source of growth and innovation. And it’s right under their noses. The frontline employees who interact directly with your customers, make your products, and provide your services have unparalleled insights into where problems exist and what improvements and new offerings would have the most impact.
In this follow-up to their bestseller Ideas Are Free, Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder show how to align every part of an organization around generating and implementing employee ideas and offer dozens of examples of what a tremendous competitive advantage this can offer. Their advice will enable leaders to build organizations capable of implementing 20, 50, or even 100 ideas per employee per year.
Citing organizations from around the world, they explain what’s needed to put together a management team that can lead the type of organization that embraces grassroots ideas and describe the strategies, policies, and practices that enable them. They detail exactly how high-performing idea processes work and how to design one for your organization.
There’s constant pressure today to do more with less. But cutting wages and benefits and pushing people to work harder with fewer resources can go only so far. Ironically, the best solution resides with the very people who have been bearing the brunt of these measures. With Robinson and Schroeder’s advice, you can unleash a constant stream of great ideas that will strengthen every facet of your organization.