Reading is a passion for many of us and this year was no different. I’ve been swept away to distant and unique lands with Lev Grossman’s wonderful Magicians Trilogy; enchanted by the events in The Night Circus; and educated by Joseph Boyden’s 2014 Canada Reads winner The Orenda.
It’s the schooling aspect that this blog will focus on – the books that most impacted my thinking and development in 2014.
With so many great works this year, this is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, just those that I’ve read, executed on, re-visited and referred to others (in some instances on numerous occasions).
The six titles embrace not only the business world, but opportunities for personal growth in addition to building skills for business applications. Not all of the titles were released in late 2013 or 2014. Some have been business standards for awhile and I found myself referring to them this year to help guide clients in their search for answers. So here in release order are my 2014 reading resources that I’d highly recommend to anyone (no affiliate links).
The 4 Disciplines of Execution: April 2012, Free Press; McChesney, Covery and Huling:
Definitely a book that I’ve returned to on numerous occasions and a constant challenge for clients and others I’ve met over the year. A great many people have wonderful ideas. They can effectively communicate those ideas to others and build a following or interest. And then, for some unforeseen reason, the idea doesn’t bear fruit. The main reason is typically that the great idea was poorly executed on. If you have a team, whether they be full time employees, part-time collaborators or contracted help, success will depend on your ability to provide the right environment to achieve success. The 4 Disciplines of Execution is a guide to help you identify and achieve the “Wildly Important Goals” that you’ve set out for your organization. The author’s have laid out the book in three sections. The first is what the 4 Disciplines are. The second, how to instill the 4 Disciplines with your team to create a great culture. The third, how to instill the 4 Disciplines in your whole organization. As Alex Azar (The president of Lilly USA, LLC), noted in his letter discussing his introduction to the 4 Disciplines as a new Lilly VP:
“I often look back on the decision to attend that initial meeting, and more important, on the journey we’ve made to create not only great business results but also a high-performing culture. It was a pivotal decision for me – one that changed the way I lead forever”
My clients are not large organizations, but struggle with very similar issues. A not for profit leader that I consult with has found great results when she has implemented the formula with her team. They’ve grown in size and are well on their way to making a major impact on our culture here in Ontario. As Henry Ford said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”.
Give and Take: April 2013, Viking Press; Grant, Adam:
Grant’s look at “A Revolutionary approach to success”, is indeed truly that. We’ve all heard Leo Durocher’s famous quote “Nice Guys Finish Last”, then along comes Grant to illustrate that the quote is not true. Throughout the book, he gives clear illustrations of not only doing the right thing, but what on occasion looks like business suicide. Grant defines the three personalities the “giver”, the “taker” and the “matcher”. In today’s collaborative environment, it helps to understand who you are and who you’re dealing with. A gifted researcher and storyteller, the book is not only informative but highly entertaining as well. It is well laid out and I particularly liked the actionable items included at the end. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, this book provides the guidance and resources to help you shift, if even slightly, in your orientation to a “giver” style. An important read, if only once for everyone.
I worked with a business owner that would shake his head when I’d recommend a WordPress site for a small business so that they could control their own website, be coached and encouraged to make minor changes, all updates, and write their own blogs. He was certain that they’d never buy from us again. Instead we increased sales 4x over some of our other clients, because they called on our expertise for the bigger items, more consultation on strategic and integrated marketing initiatives. We gave them, with no additional cost, the ability to be independent and agile, in return, they trusted that we indeed had their clients and their best interests at heart. Give and Take illustrates the advantages of a “giver” mentality.
Finding Your Element: May 2013, Viking Press; Robinson, Ken with Aronica, Lou:
I first learned of the work of Sir Ken Robinson from a Canadian National radio program Q, when he was in shortly after the release of “The Element”. The Element was about understanding “where natural aptitude meets personal passion”. The radio program lead me to his acclaimed Ted Talk: How schools kill creativity (located below), along with 30 million other views. I was hooked on his work and went back to read “Out of Our Minds” on creativity. In 2013, the authors took their work a step further and released a reading resource to help you learn “How to Discover your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life”. It is a refreshing read and a guide to help you discover where your aptitude and passion intersect. Since hearing Joseph Campbell’s famous quote “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls”, many have been on the pursuit of finding their passion. But it is not that easy, as we occasionally mistake what we’re good at for what we should be doing. But as The Element reminded us, you should love it as well. After doing the circuit, Robinson notes that he was frequently asked how one could find their element. Thus this sequel, companion. It is inspiring and easy to read. Filled with wit and intelligence, it is a great read that you’ll find yourself returning to time and again for the practical guidance, resources and stories that the reader can relate to.
If you are seeking, I hope you find some answers here to help you on the right path.
Maximizing Your Social: September 2013, John Wiley and Sons; Schaffer, Neal:
Billed as a “one-stop guide to building a social media strategy for marketing and business success”, Maximize Your Social lives up to it’s billing. Schaffer has provided a step by step guide to building a social media strategy. In the next few chapters he relays solid tactics to employ to achieve your goals. Having said this, some of the tactics are already slightly dated due to the change in platforms. However, the underlying principles are sound and it’s one of the strengths of his work. Schaffer was a successful business professional before becoming a social media writer and teacher (a common thread in the authors and specialists I follow). The work demonstrates best business practices in networking, client service sales and marketing. The fundamentals are easy to find and then applied to the social media universe, no matter the platform. I’ve liked and followed Neal’s work and presentations for a while and would encourage you to do so as well. In addition, the book covers the analysis you’ll need to ensure that your strategy and tactics are on target. As Winston Churchill was quoted as saying “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”. With this book, you’re given all the guidance you’ll need to cover it all. (Note, I received my copy of Neal’s book as a gift from Hootsuite in a random draw).
Social Media Explained: January 2014; Schaefer Marketing Solutions; Schaefer, Mark:
One of the most common issues I see my clients struggling with (and in this, size does not matter) is understanding social media. It seems to be such a common issue that it drove Schaefer to write Social Media Explained. Unlike most other books in the social media spectrum, it does not focus on the “how to’s” of any one or multiple social media platforms, but focuses on the business trend as a whole and how business can successfully adapt it to their communication, networking, marketing, service and sales strategies. The book is divided into two segments, the first is the “five most important things you need to know”. Secondly, the “five most important questions you’ll face”. Schaefer creates a modular exploration of the “five foundational strategies of social media marketing“, that take the reader step by step into clarifying and demystifying social. A part of that is advising the reader that there are three key elements to any successful social media effort. They are: Targeted Connections + Meaningful Content + Authentic Helpfulness = Business Benefits. After which he tackles the five most common questions/objections to social that hold companies back from success. Issues like, how to measure social media success, how much to invest in advertising on social platforms vs traditional sources and more. I’d recommend (and have) this work to anyone interested in applying social to their business. Especially to those that feel they have to be there, but haven’t the foggiest idea. This work will help you understand why you’d want to invest and apply resources to develop a sound social media strategy for your entire organization. As Albert Einstein once noted; “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding“. Develop your social media skill to bring peace to your client, staff and business relationships.
Everybody Writes: September 2015; John Wiley and Sons; Handley, Ann:
I recently touched on this work in my blog Struggling with Content Creation, so won’t spend much time on it here. Everybody Writes; is an essential go to guide for anyone looking to improve their writing abilities. It’s never been easier to share your thoughts and feelings, or to share your knowledge with a much larger audience than before. Because of the advances in technology, it’s become harder though to stand out in the crowd. In Content Rules, with C.C. Chapman, Handley illustrated the need to create good content that serves your audiences’ purpose. In Everybody Writes, Handley takes the reader deeper into the how to(s) of successfully writing good content. It’s a step by step guide for the budding or experienced author to get the most from your efforts. The book debunks some traditional rules that may be holding you back from sharing your ideas. At it’s best, it is an encouraging friend that you can return to time and again to dig deeper, take the next step and know that it’s alright, you indeed can write. The book promises to be “Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” and it delivers. As Benjamin Franklin shared; “Either write something worth reading or do something worth reading about“. With this guide book by your side, you just might do both.
Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk:
The Tao of Twitter, Revised. by Mark Schaefer. The best resource I’ve seen for effectively using Twitter.