What I've read recently
Whether you’re a leader, coach, or parent, understanding what drives true resilience and toughness is key to success. Unfortunately, we hang on to outdated ideas and theories of what toughness is. Real toughness is not about sucking it up, powering through, pushing everyone to the limit and seeing who’s standing at the end. The current research points to four pillars of real toughness: embracing reality, listening to your body, responding instead of reacting, and transcending discomfort. While compartmentalizing discomfort can work, the higher-level move is to deal with it by paying attention to it, understanding what it means, and responding in an appropriate way.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have more influence? As a manager, there are lots of situations where you may want to influence your team, peers, upper management, or another team. The challenge is figuring out how to do that without coercion when you have authority, and how to do it when you don’t have authority in a way that doesn’t feel manipulative. Enter Zoe Chance. In this book you’ll find actionable strategies that will help you have more influence without feeling icky about it. You’ll learn about the effectiveness of using warmth, that asking is half the battle, and about the magic question: what would it take?
Engineering Management for the Rest of Us by Sarah Drasner
I have a short list of management books that I feel are good for first time managers, especially engineering managers. This book is now on that list. It gives a broad overview of the engineering manager role and strategies and tactics for success. Software engineers making the jump from individual contributor to manager should appreciate that the author goes into detail on topics such as meeting hygiene, decision making, scoping down PRs, collaborating on shared code, and prioritizing your time at a high-level as well as at the daily level.
What does it take to be “good with money”? What skills or individuals come to mind when you think about financial success? Chances are you may have thought of someone that was extremely wealthy or perhaps someone that was really good at math. One of the fascinating things about financial success is that it turns out to be more of a “soft” skill than we think. In this book, Morgan Housel describes how doing well with money has a lot more to do with how you behave than how smart you are. There are a handful of behavioral skills that anyone, regardless of their financial education, can use to give themselves the best chance of financial success. We all have our unique psychology of money. This book could help you understand yours and the behaviors that may or may not be serving your financial goals. From a management point of view, understanding our own story around money which is different from everyone else’s can be helpful for having productive conversations around compensation.
You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy
This book makes a case for listening as a skill and a skill that is being lost. It explores the multiple benefits of listening well and methods for anyone to improve this skill. Listening is a fantastic way to connect with someone, to learn, and perhaps counter-intuitively to have more influence. While there are lots of ways to become a better listener, one of the most effective ways is to practice showing up with more curiosity.
Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry by Marcia Reynolds
“Coach the person, not the problem” is a piece advice that coaches are familiar with, but what does it mean? This book offers a helpful frame to think about effective coaching: great coaches act as thinking partners, often using the skill of reflective inquiry (reflective statements + questions). Coaching the person, not the problem, means your goal in a coaching conversation is not to solve the person’s problem, it’s to help the person think through that problem. If you’re looking to have more effective coaching conversations, this book explores in detail how to be an effective thinking partner.
What's on my list
Talent Makers: How the Best Organizations Win through Structured and Inclusive Hiring by Daniel Chait and Jon Stross
Hiring well is hard and everyone knows how important it is to building a strong organization. In tech, we also know that we need to do a better job at DEI when it comes to recruiting. This book was gifted to me by one of the best recruiters I know and I’m looking forward to reading it. It’s by the founders of Greenhouse, a popular applicant tracking and recruiting software.
I’m curious about ways to enhance thinking, our own and that of others. In fact, I see coaching as exactly that. Our brains are not good for storing lots of factual information while computers and digital tools do this very well. Anyone with a smartphone knows what it’s like to walk around with the biggest encyclopedia ever invented. This book explores how to leverage technology to store and organize information that is useful and relevant to you.
The Staff Engineer’s Path by Tanya Reilly
The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier is a book that I recommend to first time managers. Most tech companies now have dual career paths for managers and individual contributors and there’s less written about the latter. This book aims to fill that void and provide insight into what the path is on the technical side and how to succeed.
This one was recommended by a coaching friend who asked me if I had read it with coaching in mind. This book challenges the now popular wisdom that the key to a successful and happy career is to follow your passion. I’m familiar with some of Newport’s other work like Deep Work and A World Without Email and I’m curious to read one of his earlier books.