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Reading List January 2022

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What I've read recently

Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work by David RockAccording to one statistic, 75% of US drivers consider themselves to be above-average drivers. Think about that. We often think very differently about ourselves than we do about others. Here’s another example: when it comes to work, we want autonomy and the trust to solve interesting problems on our own, but we think the people we manage need our help and advice to solve their problems. Improving the performance of our teams is key to being an effective leader and manager. This book shares a framework to improve performance that is unnatural and counter-intuitive to most of us. What if instead of giving people advice and telling them what to do we helped them improve their thinking? Our brains are connection machines. We see the world the way we are, based on all the connections we’ve formed through our experiences and biology. We use those connections and mental maps to solve problems. We literally cannot give those solutions to others. In order for other people to solve a problem, they need to make their own connections and construct their own mental maps. Using research from neuroscience, this book shares a framework for improving performance and explains why a brain-based approach is more likely to work. This book gave me new tools and ideas to improve my coaching.

Dark Horse: Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment by Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas
This is a fascinating book, especially if your current career doesn’t feel quite right. It also has profound implications on how we evaluate and promote talent throughout our society. The authors were brought together by their shared belief that individuality matters. To answer the question of what is the best way for you to succeed they did research on dark horses: unexpected victors who have been overlooked because they don’t fit the mold. They found dark horses in all different disciplines with all different types of personalities and abilities. The common thread they found is that dark horses had meaningful and rewarding lives and they achieved success by choosing fulfillment. Dark horses succeeded by harnessing their individuality in the pursuit of fulfillment to achieve excellence. This is a very different way to achieve success than the standard path offered by most of our institutions. 
The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success That Feeds–Not Crushes–Your Soul by Brad Stulberg
This is a book for all of the over-achievers and high performers that feel like they’re succeeding, yet still feel discontent. The book defines heroic individualism as an “ongoing game of one-upmanship, against both yourself and others, paired with the limiting belief that measurable achievement is the only arbiter of success”. Stulberg offers a solution: groundedness and the principles of grounded success. As the title of the book suggests, it’s not enough to understand the principles and believe in their value, groundedness is a practice that needs to be put into action. This book attempts to explain the principles and their value through a mix of ancient wisdom and modern research as well as shares many exercises to practice each principle. 

Scaling Teams: Strategies for Building Successful Teams and Organizations by Alexander Grosse and David Loftesness
I found this book full of practical ideas for any software company planning for rapid growth, whether it’s a tiny startup or an established company. There are many different important aspects to scaling teams effectively. This book discusses scaling hiring, people management, organizational design, culture, and communication. It recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and often provides multiple options with commentary to help you decide what’s best for your situation. If you don’t want your company to slow down as you add more people, this is a great read. 

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
I’m working with a coachee on the skill of communicating ideas effectively (succinctly and precisely in a way that sticks). That’s not a skill I’ve worked with very often so I suggested we read a book together to see if that would spark interesting discussions. I chose this book by the Heath brothers who wrote one of my go-to resources on implementing change: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. They suggest six principles to make your ideas sticky: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories. I used some of the principles in a recent presentation (the one on scaling teams). I added some unexpected elements, told a story, and did my best to make the content concrete. I don’t think it was a masterpiece, but I think the presentation was better for it. While executing the principles well is hard and takes practice, just knowing them helped me and could help you with your ideas as well.

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