What I've read recently
Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr
Whether you love or hate Amazon, it’s hard to deny how successful it has been. This book written by two ex-Amazonians attempts to show the unique principles and processes at Amazon with enough detail that you would be able to implement them if you chose to. It’s a tall order and I feel they did a good job. They start by describing Amazon’s leadership principles and some of its most impactful processes. They also share case studies to show how it works in practice (e.g. with the Kindle, Prime, and a few others). One of the things that stood out is their willingness to try things, fail, learn from their mistakes, and try again. Even on a large scale (Fire phone anyone?). It took them years to go from dependent teams working on a monolithic codebase and database to autonomous, single-threaded teams. That journey required multiple iterations and the willingness to admit failure and try new things. If you’re looking for ideas on how to improve your product and organizational processes, this is worth a read.
EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products by Marty Cagan
What separates strong product companies from weak ones? Marty Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group believes that strong product companies have empowered product teams focused on delivering products that delight their customers that work for the business. What’s most interesting is the in-depth exploration of what truly makes an empowered product team. There’s a decent chance that reading this book will be eye-opening and will reveal just how far your teams are from being truly empowered. If you’re looking for ways for your teams to perform better and be more engaged Marty Cagan’s book (or the SVPG blog) is a good source of ideas.
Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing by Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp
We all know that wellbeing is important. This book offers a practical framework of 9 practices to actively work on your own wellbeing. These practices combine modern research and ancient wisdom and have produced consistent results for the authors in their own lives and with their clients. I could leave it at that but I’ll also offer a management perspective. As a manager (or as a coach), one of the best things you can do for your team and your organization is to take care of yourself. This allows you to bring your best self to work which will support your team in doing the same.
Wellbeing at Work by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter
This book explicitly looks at the connection between wellbeing and work. It looks at the clear impact of wellbeing on employees and organizations. It argues that organizations and teams perform better when they support the wellbeing of their employees. Sounds obvious right? I’ll admit that it wasn’t my favorite and it does feel at times heavy on the Gallup marketing. That said, one of Gallup’s forte is the breadth and depth of their research which they use to support their claims. They also offer practical recommendations for leaders and managers to support the wellbeing of their employees which is useful.
Language and the Pursuit of Leadership Excellence: How Extraordinary Leaders Build Relationships, Shape Culture and Drive Breakthrough Results by Vinay Kumar and Chalmers Brothers
I’ll be totally honest, this book was hard for me to read. It often felt like a slog. Yet I would still recommend it. Buried in these pages is useful content that I’m probably only starting to understand. I’ve often said that words matter and one of the things that differentiate good managers and leaders is their superior use of language. One of the premises of this book is that language is generative, not just descriptive. By bringing more awareness and superior skill to how we use language, we can generate better results for ourselves and our organizations. I recently did a presentation on the role of managers and I based my presentation on one of the central models from the book. That in and of itself made the book worthwhile!