Mark Jarvis – Uncle bob builds a boat
A tale about life and ambition. In the story, they dream of building a boat and winning races. As they go on a journey of exploration led by Bob they discover the real purpose and meaning behind the boat. It wasn’t just about winning a race, it was about friends, family and belonging, the importance of, and interaction between your team, your environment and your management style. It highlights the importance of knowing what success looks like and how you need to communicate it well and keep reinforcing it. Encouraging us all to reflect on our purpose and re-define how we are measuring success.
Alex Ferguson – Leading
How do we separate good managers from great leaders? This book investigates the traits of Sir Alex Ferguson’s years of leadership at Manchester Utd football club. Describing how he always aimed to keep the long-term success in mind, trying to ensure short term decisions did not affect the long term, looking as far down the road as possible. He describes thinking about the football team’s composition a few years ahead in order to maintain its competitiveness.
In his case it was a result of a focus on the youth system, Sir Alex also spent time with the families of young players to get a deeper understanding of their upbringing, the environment and values. This ensured he could support and develop them in the right way and his personality would not disrupt the wider team culture.
Making sure intent was communicated clearly rather than barking orders from the sideline which could show a lack of trust.
Jonah Lehrer – How we decide
Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason and the precise mix depends on the situation. A mix of conscious and unconscious bias and decisions making.
In this book Jonah Lehrer looks at how we can use the experience of others to be more successful, how do we make decisions and how can we get better outcomes. A book about the work of the mind.
Spencer Johnson – Who moved my cheese
How we all react to change and how we can work with our natural tendency to resist and fear change, How we see, anticipate and adapt to change. A realisation that the biggest inhibitor to change lies within ourselves. Blending our attitudes and beliefs, aiming to keep things simple by imagining something better by reflecting on past mistakes. Breaking out of our comfort zone and enjoying the journey of change.
Suggestions from Brian Carman
Spencer Johnson – Who moved my cheese
This book has a story within a story and explores how different characters respond to change. Things change in our work and in our lives, and people may instinctively respond in their own way. This book challenges you to think about how you respond and if another approach would be better for you. My favourite line is when one of the characters, initially fearful of change, asks themselves “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”.
Caroline Goyder – Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority
Gravitas explores how you can bring power & impact to your conversations, from speaking to a colleague to delivering your next TED talk. Exploring why we need impact, the benefit it can bring and the tools to generate it, the book goes into real depth around how to make people want to listen, and how to unlock learning within them as a result.
With practical and simple techniques, you’ll learn to find your natural gravitas, and be confident in building influence and engagement with your audience. Written by leading voice coach Caroline Goyder, you too can have the voice of the stars.
In Stolen Focus, Johann Hari presents his research on the products and technologies that have evolved to compete for our “eyeballs”. This is illustrated with stories and examples that many of us will find familiar. There are three reasons I found this book to be valuable. Firstly, as a product practitioner, I found it useful to reflect on the ethics of designing products that succeed when people feel compelled to look at them. Many product managers I’ve worked with value “stickiness”, or measure “active users”. Hari makes some great points about the value being created in tech products, and how they currently favour advertisers and big data accumulators. Might there be a gap in the market for products generating value more directly for users, even if we have to pay for them? Secondly, as an individual, I found plenty of takeaways to help avoid loss of focus. It’s amazing how much you can get done if you close email and instant messaging for an hour or two. Finally, as a parent – this is stuff we just need to know!
David Thomas and Andrew Hunt – The Pragmatic Programmer – 20th Anniversary Edition
I’d like to encourage a wider audience to read The Pragmatic Programmer because it brilliantly demonstrates the qualities and characteristics that you should be looking for when working with technology professionals. If you skip over the 5-10% of this book that deals with the fine detail, you’ll find this book approachable even if you’ve never written a line of code. The authors describe their experiences in the industry, giving insights into their mindset as they overcome a range of common challenges. These insights would be invaluable for anyone involved in recruiting engineers. Product owners would benefit from understanding how to create sustainable and maintainable products – and perhaps ask engineers the right questions. Stakeholders, clients, coaches, team leads, would all benefit from empathising with the software profession, and recognising a good programmer when they meet one. And obviously, if you are a programmer, this book is primarily for you!
Ricardo Semler – The Seven Day Weekend
The Seven Day Weekend describes the practical implementation of self-managing teams at Semco; a Brazilian engineering group. There are other books on this topic that offer insights into the underlying theory, such as the excellent Reinventing Organizations, but this book is more about sharing examples of what has worked, and most interestingly what hasn’t gone wrong. This might be useful for anyone making the case for giving people autonomy but are meeting with resistance. One story describes the time that factory operatives were given the freedom to choose their own working hours. Anticipating chaos, two management meetings were scheduled every day to mop up the mess, the unions assumed it was an underhand tactic to roll back benefits, and nobody thought it would work. When the time came, people just asked each other what time they planned to turn up, and got on with it.
Suggestions from Paul Grew
Eric Schmidt et al – Trillion Dollar Coach
I love this book for a number of reasons. Firstly it breaks open the secret that the world’s most successful business people have coaches. Coaching is for everyone, especially for those with a growth mindset and a thirst for success. The second reason is it also shows what coaching an exec is like. How the coach holds the coachee to account. It shows how coaching at the very highest level isn’t just about asking questions.
A must-read for anyone who calls themselves a coach.
Robert Iger – The rid of a lifetime
Love our hate Disney there is no escape from it. Whether you dress up as the Little Mermaid, escape to a galaxy far far away, or relish the Marvel Universe, Disney is ubiquitous in most of our lives. This is the story of what it’s like to lead a global brand, drive change and leverage new technologies. It shares many pivotal moments in his tenure that shows his exceptional leadership. If you’re looking for a leadership role model this is a decent place to start.