What I've read recently
You may be wondering why a book about tennis is on this list. What does it have to do with leadership, management, or coaching? And to be honest, it’s been years since I’ve played tennis (though there has been some pickleball in my life). It is helpful to at least be familiar with tennis to read this book, but if you have that baseline, this book is fascinating and about so much more than tennis. It’s about learning new skills, and how to transfer skills knowledge from one person to another. It’s also about the mental side of the game and how to perform at a high level once you learn a skill. And that of course, is very relevant to leadership, management, and coaching. It’s easier to see how it applies to learning physical skills, but once you see that it applies to all skills, the impact of this book increases. Have you ever been stumped at work by someone unable to do something that you could? You tell them over and over what to do and how to do it, and they still don’t “get it”? This is what’s at the heart of this book. Trying to explain to someone how to do a complicated skill doesn’t work very well. This book explores a different approach that involves increasing self-awareness, letting go of self-judgment, achieving relaxed concentration, and letting your natural and instinctive performer learn. Fascinating!
The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
The premise of this book is that much of what seems to block us in our daily lives appears to do so based on our framework of assumptions. If we can change that framework from one of scarcity to one of possibility, then much more is possible than we imagine. This book offers twelve practices to make that shift from scarcity to abundance. Some of them are described with clear steps, while others are described more through story and example. I was left feeling unsatisfied and wanting more practical applications. It could be that because it is an art, I need more reflection and practice to fully digest and integrate what the book offers.
Primal Leadership, with a New Preface by the Authors: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence (Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence) by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee
What does it mean for a leader to lead with emotional intelligence? Daniel Goleman is often credited with the concept of emotional intelligence and EQ. This book looks at leadership through the emotional intelligence lens. There are a couple of things that stand out to me from this book. One is a framework of 6 different leadership styles, 4 of which they call resonant and 2 which they call dissonant. Each style has strengths and weaknesses and understanding the different styles can help a leader understand themselves better. It also gives them a framework to apply the best style for different situations. The other thing is the impact of a leader’s emotions on their organization. Leaders are often focused on what they need to do and how, for logical reasons. But they often overlook the tremendous impact that their emotions have on their team and ultimately on the results they seek. Think about the impact of emotions on performance. Imagine a team member having an early morning meeting with their manager and leaving either demotivated versus inspired energized. What impact would that have on the rest of their day? As a leader, your emotions impact the emotions of your team, and this is a powerful and often underused lever.
Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement by Jackie Stavros, Cheri Torres
Before generative AI, there was a different AI: Appreciative Inquiry. What do you notice? Are the conversations focused on problems and what’s going wrong, or on finding creative solutions, leveraging strengths, and exploring possibilities? If you’re a leader, manager, or coach in this organization, become aware that the nature of your conversations is often how you impact the organization. If a positive and strength-based approach resonates with you, Appreciative Inquiry provides the tools to change your conversations. It’s a different way to positively impact engagement, culture, and results. Appreciative Inquiry is about having conversations that lean towards the positive and towards asking questions versus making statements. If you want to try this out, start by candidly acknowledging and accepting the current state without judgment. Then explore asking questions that are positive in nature. And notice what happens in your org when you change the nature of your conversations.
How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Decisions by Annie Duke
Former poker pro Annie Duke shares some tools, frameworks, and exercises to help us make better decisions. In life, like in poker, making good decisions requires a good decision–making process. We often equate a good outcome with a good decision and vice versa, but that’s a dangerous trap that ignores the role of luck/uncertainty, especially in the short term. It’s the equivalent of saying that running a red light is a good decision if you don’t get in an accident, and bad if you do. It’s possible to make good decisions and get unlucky just like it’s possible to make a poor decision and get lucky. If you want to go beyond a pros and cons list (which don’t work very well), this book will give you tools to level up your decision making.
Managing Transitions (25th anniversary edition): Making the Most of Change by William Bridges
Change and transition are not the same thing. A change is something like starting a new job or re-organizing a team. A transition is everything it takes for a change to become the new normal. Managers and leaders are often tasked with managing transitions. Sometimes it’s a change they initiated and often it’s not. This book provides practical tactics and strategies for managing transitions. What I found particularly useful is that it helps with all three phases of transitions: ending the previous state, navigating the messy in-between state, and starting the new state. Those first two states are often overlooked and bringing awareness to them and providing tools for managing them is worth the read alone.