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Reading List September 2022

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The seasons are changing and fall is approaching here in North America. No matter the season, reading is the gift that keeps on giving. It can challenge you to rethink what you believe, fuel your creativity, and give you new ways to reach your goals. I hope this reading list is as helpful to you as it was to me. 

Enjoy and happy reading!

person holding book sitting on brown surface

What I've read recently

The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul
The other day, I tried to convince my 12-year-old son that not all thinking happens in the brain. Let’s just say that a debate teacher would have given me an F in persuasion. He was not convinced to say the least. The idea that thinking happens exclusively in the brain is deeply ingrained. Annie Murphy Paul is much more persuasive than I am, and I highly recommend this book. Not only do we think that thinking happens solely in the brain, but we also think that our thinking is stable regardless of the conditions. By understanding how our thinking is impacted by our body, our environment, and our relationships, we can find new and interesting ways to improve our thinking and the thinking of our organizations. 


Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson
I’ll be honest, I did not get a ton from reading this book, but that may be reflective of having recently read similar books such as Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing and The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success That Feeds—Not Crushes—Your Soul. This book offers a model for resilience that could be helpful if you’re looking for a framework. It just didn’t leave much of an impression on me.


Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations by Dan Ariely
Why do people do hard and amazing things? We often think that motivation is straightforward. If you pay someone lots of money, they will be motivated regardless of what the work is. If someone enjoys what they do, they’ll be motivated. So why are our highly paid employees and teams not motivated? Dan Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics. He’s fascinated by irrationality and he describes how motivation is much more complex. His primary research shows that seemingly small things like acknowledging someone’s work or doing something hard can have a big impact on motivation. It’s also surprisingly easy to demotivate someone. What’s just as interesting is that they asked a group of people to estimate the outcome of various experiments. What they found is that people consistently underestimate the impact of meaning on motivation and overestimate the impact of money.


Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Stronger by Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastle
Have you ever been frustrated by the inability of groups in your organization to make decisions? Or perhaps you’re concerned that the wisdom of the crowd is actually the wisdom of the loudest and not serving you well. This book helps us understand why group decision-making can often amplify the biases of individuals and lead to worse outcomes. And it gives us hope by providing tactics and strategies to improve our group decision-making and truly tap into the wisdom of the crowd.


Love + Work: How to Find What You Love, Love What You Do, and Do It for the Rest of Your Life by Marcus Buckingham
I have to admit that I’m not always the biggest fan of Marcus Buckingham. In the nature versus nurture debate, he seems to be all in on nature. He’s all about focusing on people’s strengths and unique talents which I think is great, but I also think strengths and talents can change and be developed. All that said, this is my favorite book of his so far and I’ve been recommending it a lot. When the daughter of a good friend of mine graduated from high school, this is the book that I gifted her as a graduation present. Our schools and our companies are currently not designed to get the best out of us. They’re designed to define standards of performance and sort people based on those standards. Do you want to get that promotion? Here are the requirements and competencies that you need to match. Is it time to figure out raises? Let’s compare all the people in the same role against each other and see which one best represents the standard for that role. It’s not an unreasonable approach and it’s worked reasonably well to date. What Buckingham argues for is an entirely different approach. In this approach, the organization helps each human find and apply their unique talents. If you’re currently feeling unfulfilled with your work, I recommend this book. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it will give you the tools to do your own self-reflection and find work that you love doing and takes advantage of your strengths and interests. 


Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by Stanley McChrystal
I was looking for a good book on motivating teams and this one was recommended to me. It’s not really about motivation per se, but this book has a lot to offer on team building and inter-team collaboration. When you think of a top-down, hierarchical organization that is designed for efficiency, it’s hard not to think of the military. General McChrystal describes how one of the most elite and efficient military organizations realized it needed to change when it couldn’t be efficient enough to face a modern complex opponent. The argument is that in our 21st-century world, more and more organizations will have to make the same adjustment if they want to survive and thrive in our complex world. Top-down organizations, and even organizations with strong teams, can thrive in a complicated world. In a complex world that is hyper-connected and changing constantly, adaptability is more important than efficiency. In that world, top-down organizations can’t react fast enough, and teams of teams are needed. One great tip from the book is that team building is all about horizontal connectivity, not vertical connectivity. A great way to improve horizontal connectivity is to assign as many tasks as possible to groups instead of individuals. This will force people to get to know each other, collaborate, and build trust.


Plays Well with Others: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Relationships Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker
This book looks at 4 common maxims on relationships and uses current research to examine how true they are. Those four maxims are: can you “judge a book by its cover”, is “a friend in need a friend indeed”, does “love conquer all”, and is “no man an island”. The quality of our relationships has a huge impact on the quality of our life. It makes sense to put effort into improving them and this book has some good tips on how to do that.

Person Reading Book and Holding Coffee

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, which is a popular applicant tracking and recruiting software. Hopefully, it’s light on the marketing and heavy on the content. 


Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness by Steve Magness
This is a book about resilience and mental toughness. It’s about defining toughness and the best way to become tough. Spoiler alert, real toughness is not about the outdated macho tough guy image. It’s not about sucking it up, powering through, pushing to the limit, and seeing who’s standing at the end. Yes, it does involve doing and overcoming hard things, but there’s a lot more to it than that.


The Art of Somatic Coaching by Richard Strozzi-Heckler
Somatic coaching is coaching through the physical body. It’s a fascinating area of coaching that I know little about. When trying to solve a problem or overcome a challenge we often focus solely on our minds and our thinking. This mindset limits our ability to solve problems and perform at our best. Sometimes the best solution involves paying attention to what our body is telling us or changing our embodied behaviors.


Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker
I think the only Steven Pinker I’ve tried to read is The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century which is a very different book (and one that I should go back to). One of my coachees recommended this one and promises to be an intellectually challenging read. 


The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a classic management book, yet I haven’t read any of Lencioni’s other books. This one seems like it brings together a lot of his work into an overarching framework for organizational health.

People talking at table

What about you?

Have you read something you liked recently?
Are you looking for a recommendation on a specific topic? 
Send me a message and let me know! 

Have a great week. 

Related Reading: Reading List April 2022

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