Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation
If you know (or work) for someone who didn’t get the memo that cult of the CEO-style leadership is dead, here’s the perfect book to get them. The central thesis is that creating and sustaining a truly innovative organizational culture – one that empowers each individual to contribute his or her own unique “slice of genius” to the greater whole – requires a novel approach to leadership that represents a departure from traditional norms. Exemplified by people like Ed Catmull (co-founder and president of Pixar), successful innovation leaders build environments that foster collaboration, discovery-driven learning and integrative decision-making. And then they get out of the way, asking questions, refereeing and making tough decisions as appropriate, but otherwise letting the collective genius they’ve unleashed work its magic.
Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change
This book is full of fascinating case studies on successful large-scale change initiatives and the individuals who spearheaded them – from the campaign that dramatically reduced Thailand’s HIV infection rate to Delancey Street, the award-winning residential program that gives “hopeless” substance abusers and ex-convicts a new lease on life. What makes Influencer brilliant, rather than merely inspiring, is the elegant, actionable change management framework it provides. Whatever goals you may have for your team or your organization, understanding the best strategies for changing hearts and minds is a vital starting point.
If I could choose one TED presenter to sit down and chat with over dinner and a bottle of wine, it would definitely be Brené Brown. The fundamental premise of her wonderful book is that allowing ourselves to be open and vulnerable (vs. numb and self-protective) yields dividends in just about every arena of our life: in our relationships, at work, and in our overall capacity for connection, creativity, resiliency and fulfillment.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
As successful people move up the ladder, they often rely on the same behaviors and skills that fueled their early ascent. At a certain point, however, that playbook can be insufficient, or even limiting, to achieve upward mobility at the top. In this book, Marshall Goldsmith, one of the best known and highly regarded executive coaches in the field, identifies some of the most common derailing habits that trip up high performers and provides straightforward strategies for successful individuals and teams to take their game to the next level.
The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg’s excellent book offers interesting case studies and research throughout. Did you know a habit loop has three stages? The cue, which is the trigger that causes the habit to occur; the routine, which is the behavior itself; and the reward, which is how the brain learns to save the habit and encode it for future use. To change a habit – your own or even an entire organization’s – you need to identify the cue and then replace the bad reward you’re using to satisfy that craving with a healthier one that does the same thing. Easy, right?
Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message
Mohr is a CTI-trained coach and a compelling writer who homes in on how the voice of what she calls our “inner critic” can undermine self-confidence and impede our ability to reach our full potential. She offers practical strategies for how to recognize this voice, name it, and overcome its power. Mohr speaks directly to women, providing strategies to help them surmount what she sees as a tendency to submerge their best ideas, stay in the background and “play small,” but if you’re a man, don’t be deterred – her strategies will work just as well for you!
Triggers: creating behavior that lasts – becoming the person you want to be
How do we create meaningful and lasting behavioral change in the face of triggers that have the power to undermine our goals at every turn? This is the question posed by renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. The answer: intentionality and accountability. By giving ourselves a daily 2-minute quiz of “active questions” that begins with “did I do my best today to…” Goldsmith – a go-to coach for Fortune 500 CEOs – posits we can live each day with greater intentionality and better track our progress in combatting the environmental forces that inhibit change.
Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life
Want to discover an optimal state of consciousness where you feel and perform at your best? It’s called “Flow,” a state of being described by high achievers from artists to extreme athletes as total engagement in an activity such that you lose all sense of time and self, performing at your highest level without anxiety or impediment. Finding Flow is a streamlined update of Csikszantmihalyi’s seminal book Flow. In this digital age of multi-tasking, distraction, and fractured thinking, Flow is an antidote for both individuals and organizations seeking to cultivate the factors that foster creativity and lead to innovation.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works – A True Story
Dan Harris’ journey from skeptic and naysayer to practitioner and evangelist for the benefits of mindfulness meditation. With self-deprecating wit, the ABC news anchor describes his odyssey into the realm of the incessant chatter of his mind and how he learned to tame the negative voice in his head so he could respond rather than react to life’s challenges. Citing scientific evidence and his personal experience, Harris makes a compelling case for how a regular, consistent meditation practice can make you less stressed, more focused and happier.
The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion
Published a year to the day of her blog post that went viral, The Crossroads of Should and Must, expands Elle Luna’s advice and inspiration for connecting to your authentic self and finding your calling. Interspersed between colorful illustrations and doodles are Elle’s “pep talk” (her words) and suggestions for how to identify what it is that you are meant to do and developing the courage to pursue it. Even if a career change is not in the cards for you, Elle makes a compelling, visually delightful case for the premise that whether as your vocation or your avocation, your heart’s desire “must” be part of your life. Definitely a book to revisit anytime you need renewed inspiration or when you just want to smile.
Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson with neuroscientist Richard Mendius explain in lay man’s terms the science behind the brain’s plasticity or ability to change based on our thoughts and experiences. Combining scientific research with ancient contemplative practices such as mindfulness and meditation, Hanson provides a practical approach to how we can effectively rewire our brain and keep our nervous system in an optimal state of balance to reduce stress and increase health and well being.
It’s impossible not to be inspired by Google’s culture, a triple threat of mission, transparency and employee voice. Laszlo Bock, the company’s pioneering head of People Operations, shares Google’s recipe for building a great work culture, encapsulated in this quote: “Give people slightly more trust, freedom and authority than you are comfortable giving them. If you’re not nervous you haven’t given them enough.” His discussion of Google’s evolving approach to people strategies is fascinating, including the revelation that after years of limiting recruits to only top performers from Ivy League schools, Google changed tack to focus on cognitive ability, conscientiousness and resilience over pedigree, which produced more right-fit hires. Bock also offers a list of 10 Work Rules which are a concise and valuable source of insights for any manager.
I’m breaking the mold by introducing a podcast to the Faves section!
A documentary-style glimpse into the creation of a podcast-based media company, Start Up’s first season follows founder Alex Blumberg as he leaves his steady gig at This American Life to tackle entrepreneurship. Follow the roller coaster of his journey as you hear his cringe-inducing first pitch for financing, his awkward dance of bringing on a partner, the challenge of valuing his company and his raw reflections on work-life balance. Subsequent seasons shadow an array of nascent businesses, however the most compelling story remains Gimlet’s own trials as it rapidly expands. Listening to Alex struggle as CEO, I kept thinking, “Boy, he really could use some coaching!” And behold, in Season 4, Alex finally gets an executive coach and goes deep. I can’t wait to see how his new insights play out in his capacity to lead.
Designing Your Life
Based on the course in the Product Design Program at Stanford by the same name, this book culls the best of design thinking and business coaching as a way to solve one of the toughest questions around: how to figure out what to do with your life, and specifically your occupation. Pulling key steps from design thinking—such as reframing, experimentation, prototyping—the authors have provided a dynamic structure to approach finding or reinventing a career. Equally applicable to recent college graduates and mid-life career changers alike, this book is filled with brilliant exercises to clarify values, assess engagement and help gauge and test emerging ideas.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Underlying all effort, achievement or success, there is the simple fact of mindset. According to Stanford researcher Carol Dweck, mindset can be fixed (epitomized by the belief that intelligence and talent are innate) or growth-oriented (e.g., intelligence and talent can be cultivated). Using famous examples from the worlds of sports, business and politics, Dweck demonstrates the amazing possibilities that are possible with a growth mindset and, conversely, how a fixed mindset can stifle even the greatest talent. After reading this book, it’s tough to look at success and failure in traditional black-and-white terms, whether in the context of raising a child or building a career. Dweck demonstrates that the learner’s mindset is a crucial starting point for anyone looking to develop, change and grow.