Issue No. 291 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting delivers my Top-10 book picks from 2013 and two master lists of almost 300 books I’ve reviewed since 2006. Plus, this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
Top-10 Books for 2013
Woody Allen once said, “I took a speed-reading course where you run your finger down the middle of the page and was able to read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia.” I don’t speed-read my book picks—and I was blessed with a heavy client load again this year, so I averaged an eNews about twice a month—but who’s counting?
This last issue of 2013 features my annual recap of the books and resources I reviewed in 2013 (Issues No. 266 to 290). To read all the 2013 book reviews from Your Weekly Staffing Meeting, visit the archives at my Buckets Blog. To download a PDF of the chronological list of book reviews from 2006 through today (all 291 issues), visit the Book Bucket on my Management Buckets website. A second book review list, with all books categorized within my 20 buckets, is also available.
In 2013, I published 27 issues with reviews of 19 books, two articles, including one from Harvard Business Review, one meeting cost calculator, a board governance DVD/toolbox, a 292-page musical score, a CD on “How to Delegate,” and the humorous leadership movie, “We Have a Pope” (DVD with English subtitles).
It's a tough assignment to narrow it down to 10 that all have popular appeal, because all of us are at different levels of competency across the 20 management buckets.
[ ] What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Discover the 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break, by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter
I agonized over my 2013 Book-of-the-Year pick because there were at least three runners-up (see below). But I landed on this one because of this elbow-in-the-ribs: “The higher you go [in your career], the more your problems are behavioral."
The 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break include:
#1. Winning too much.
#2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
#3. Passing judgment.
#5. Starting with “No,” But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly says to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
#9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
#12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
#14. Playing favorites.
#16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
#18. Punishing the messenger.
#20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.
I hope you’ll buy the book, or at least read my review. Bonus insight: Chapter 12, Special Challenges for People in Charge, encourages leaders to write a document: “Memo to Staff: How to Handle Me.” If written with humility and transparency, it’s a brilliant, brilliant tool.
The Other 9 on My 2013 Top-10 Book List:
(These are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.)
[ ] The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization One Decision at a Time, by Dennis Bakke
I titled this review, “Gut Check for Decision Makers” because this business parable takes a timely whack at leaders and managers who hog all the decision-making fun.
The bestselling author of Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job, Bakke has some counter-intuitive counsel for you. Maybe, just maybe, you should push decision-making farther down into your organization because the people closest to the situation are the best informed and have the most at stake.
Bakke confesses, “Early on, I would sometimes ask others for advice, but I would make the final decision. Isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do? I soon realized that the more decisions I made, the less engaged others became, and the less ownership they had in the results."
"The problem was me.”
In this quick-reading story format, the author preaches a radical approach to decision-making. He says that in a decision-making company:
• the leader chooses someone to make a key decision
• the decision-maker seeks advice (including from the leader) to gather information
• the final decision is made not by the leader, but by the chosen decision-maker.
[ ] ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Balancing Board Roles (DVD, Viewing Guide & Facilitator Guide), produced by ECFA
In this second toolbox from ECFA, the viewing guide quotes David L. McKenna: “When asked what they would do differently, retired CEOs most often say, ‘I would give more time to developing the board.’”
This 12-minute DVD and supplementary materials describe the three board hats that often create confusion with board roles: the Governance Hat, the Volunteer Hat, and the Participant Hat. Example:
“If you need a board member—recruit a board member.
If you need a volunteer—recruit a volunteer.”
Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, famously said: “There is one thing all boards have in common. They do not function.” This practical toolbox will help your board identify dysfunction—and move it towards governance health.
[ ] The Leader’s Palette: Seven Primary Colors, by Ralph E. Enlow, Jr.
Really? Do we need another book on leadership?
Absolutely! Life-long learners/leaders have insatiable appetites for books that help them grow—like this one. Enlow says “we inflict harm upon ourselves and havoc upon God’s people when we overestimate the degree of our giftedness.” Ouch!
This book is perfect for coaching and mentoring, personal renewal, and staff meeting enrichment. Arresting PowerPoint slides jump off almost every page:
• “You can’t make up in training what you lack in selection.”
• “Leaders ignore culture at their peril.”
“The responsibility of every godly leader
is to resist the subtle temptations
to convert their credibility into celebrity.”
• “Plan sparingly. Plans also fail because they are too bulky. Good planning is participatory. Especially at the operational level, it should flow up from the grass roots. It requires the input of all major stakeholders and systems.”
• “But good planning is not the accumulation of everyone’s aspirations. Ultimately, a plan represents the elimination of options.”
[ ] I've Got Your Back: A Leadership Parable — Biblical Principles for Leading and Following Well, by James C. Galvin
In my review of this excellent book, I listed 10 reasons why you should read it:
Reason-to-Read #6: It’s as Relevant as Your Last Meeting! Galvin writes, “Even with all the research and books available to us, leadership is still messed up.”
“When managers or politicians or pastors dominate in meetings, demand their own way, treat people as objects, or abuse followers, we typically call them ‘strong’ leaders. Harsh leaders would be a better descriptor. Clumsy would work. Maybe we should describe them as completely inept at creating a healthy leader-follower dynamic.” He adds, “As followers, our mental model of leadership must be messed up, too.”
Endorsed by both John Ortberg and Nancy Ortberg, this will likely be the first book you’ve ever read on follower abuse and what to do about bad bosses. It’s biblically deep and the business fable format makes it extremely practical.
[ ] David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell
The New York Times bestselling author writes, “David and Goliath is a book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants. By ‘giants,’ I mean powerful opponents of all kinds—from armies and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune, and oppression. Each chapter tells the story of a different person—famous or unknown, ordinary or brilliant, who has faced an outsize challenge and been forced to respond.
• Should I play by the rules or follow my own instincts?
• Shall I persevere or give up?
• Should I strike back or forgive?”
In these memorable stories, Gladwell explores two ideas: 1) sometimes “the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty,” and 2) we “consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are.”
Guarantee. If you read it, you’ll buy the book for others.
[ ] Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, by Jocelyn K. Glei, Editor
“Should you answer your email,
or answer your calling?"
The unique approach for Manage Your Day-to-Day is compelling: 20 authors, 20 short chapters, and 20 full-page spread quotations, like this one from Warren Buffet: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say 'no' to almost everything.”
The 20 authors call this a “playbook of best practices—the missing curriculum that you didn't get in school” for making ideas happen. And it over-delivers. I scribbled down 37 memorable points I'll revisit in the future, including this one:
“The biggest problem we face today is 'reactionary workflow.' We have started to live a life pecking away at the many inboxes around us, trying to stay afloat by responding and reacting to the latest thing: e-mails, text messages, tweets and so on.”
A few notes from this quick, but powerful read:
1. Never invest the best part of your day on other peoples' projects.
2. Do creative work first, reactive work second.
3. Manage to-do list creep (limit yourself to one 3”x3” Post-It).
4. Create daily focus blocks.
5. Find windows of non-stimulation.
6. Warning on social media, “For many of us, mindlessness is the default state”—so we must judiciously disconnect.
7. Review the 10 questions to ask before you post on social media (“Am I looking for validation? Is there something I could do to validate myself?”)
8. Understand the difference between information overload and information over-consumption.
9. Ponder! We have lost the distinction between urgent and important.
10. Cross off Fridays.
Perhaps my strongest recommendation would be this: somewhat of a life-long student of time-management best practices, I have dramatically altered my daily routine (when in my office) as a result of reading this book.
[ ] Entrepreneurial Leadership: Finding Your Calling, Making a Difference, by Richard J. Goossen and R. Paul Stevens
“Let’s be frank,” the authors admit, “entrepreneurs are not always the easiest people to deal with. In fact entrepreneurs may be among the most challenging for any organization. They can be impatient, action-oriented and nonbureaucratic.”
They add, “The challenge for the church is to harness, rather than squelch, the energies and passions of entrepreneurs in their midst.”
Newly plowed ground includes:
• Why they do not use the term “Christian entrepreneur” and what they mean by the “Christian” work heresy.
• The difference between humanist and Christian models of entrepreneurship.
• In discussing what leaders do, they cite biblical examples of good and bad leaders. (The bad list: King Saul, Diotrephes, and King Solomon. The good list: Nehemiah, Daniel, David, Paul and Jesus.)
• On the much debated topic, “Meaning & Work Ethic,” they are provocative with an Old Testament case study in “meaningless work.”
• Why good theology is a foundation for good entrepreneurship.
• On the issues of “Risk and Reward,” taste these tidbits: The Risk-Taking God, Reframing the Pursuit of Rewards, and The Temptations of Reward-Seeking.
One myth: “Calling is a one-time event.”
“Along with an entrepreneur’s wallet,” warn the authors, “comes his entrepreneurial spirit.” And if all the entrepreneur senses is criticism in the use of his or her gifts, this will lead from “disenchantment to disenfranchisement.”
[ ] On My Worst Day: Cheesecake, Evil, Sandy Koufax and Jesus, by John Lynch
Picture an impressionable youngster, 11-year-old John Lynch. After a winning ballgame in 1964, young Johnny blurts out a conversation to his Creator (big-surprise-to-John, no surprise-to-God)—but then goes silent for almost two decades. Fortunately, God is not silenced—and we read his voice across the years and the pages. (It’s a stroke-of-brilliance book format.)
Page-after-page, we follow the hilarious, gut-busting stories of adolescence, girls, his blue 1960 ragtop VW Bug ($225), graduate school, triumphs and failures. Lots of failures.
This is the earthy stuff of Lynch’s latest and best narrative. Hilarious. Original. Poignant. Pure. Kleenex®-sad, yet hopeful and grace-oozing. LOL funny, but life-changing. And expensive! (I bought 35 copies of this page-turner for friends.)
But get this—God’s voice is warm, inviting and frequently very, very funny! Lynch’s cavalcade of comedy and confession is impossible to categorize. He skillfully shares his powerful story from the dark trenches and then—Wham!—God’s voice emerges in stunning dialogue with grace and comfort. The enormity of God's grace buckled me over—and it will do the same for you. Promise.
[ ] Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, by Donald Rumsfeld.
Admiral Hyman Rickover warned, “If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won’t.”
That’s one of over 400 “rules” in this must-read book. The quotations, axioms, rules and corner office wisdom ooze off almost every page. In the front of my copy, I noted 36 rules that I will use again, such as these keepers from “Running a Meeting” in chapter two:
• “The first consideration for meetings is whether to call one at all.”
• “If you can find something everyone agrees on, it’s wrong.” (Rep. Mo Udall)
Rumsfeld adds, “The default tendency in any bureaucracy, especially in government, is to substitute discussion for decision-making. The act of calling a meeting about a problem can in some cases be confused with actually doing something.”
“If you expect people
to be in on the landing,
include them for the takeoff.”
• “Stubborn opposition to proposals often has no basis other than the complaining question, ‘Why wasn’t I consulted?’” (Pat Moynihan)
The 33-page appendix of over 400 “Rumsfeld’s Rules” is worth the price of the book, yet I also underlined dozens and dozens of one-liner insights in the 12 fascinating chapters including:
• Picking People (a must read)
• Thinking Strategically (excellent)
• The Unknown Unknowns
• Confronting Crisis
• Meeting the Press (relevant today!)
• Inside the Oval Office
Here’s a taste:
• “If you are not prepared to live with the fact that your actions may lead to failure, then you probably ought not to be in leadership.”
• “One of the more important—and difficult—tasks for a staff member is to tell the boss when he might be wrong.”
“Disagreement is not disloyalty.”
(Curtis E. Sahakian)
• “Prune businesses, products, activities, and people. Do it annually.”
• “A’s hire A’s. B’s hire C’s.”
• “If you want to find out which managers are A’s and which are B’s, take a hard look at the teams that surround them.”
• “Forward-thinking leaders try to have some names in mind before a key vacancy needs to be filled.”
• “Many people have the ability to review something and make it better. Few are able to identify what is missing.”
“Never hire anyone
you can’t fire.”
• “Without the discipline and time invested in strategic planning, one of two things is likely to happen. Your organization will be buffeted by outside events and forced to be reactive. Or it will stay on autopilot, propelled by the inertia of policies and plans that were decided months or years before.”
• “If you are working from your inbox, you are working on other people’s priorities.”
• “If you don’t know what your top three priorities are, you don’t have priorities.”
“What you measure improves.”
P.S. Master List of Book Reviews: Click here to download my chronological list of 291 issues of Your Weekly Staff Meeting from 2006 through today, plus a second list of all book reviews categorized within the 20 management buckets.
Delegate Your Reading in 2014!
C.S. Lewis said, "It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between." So this past summer, I ran “rerun reviews” of two books, one by Peter Drucker and one by Malcolm Gladwell. Plus I reviewed the book, My Ideal Bookshelf, and invited readers to submit photos of their all-time Top-10 books (six did).
Ideas for 2014:
1) Delegate your reading. Assign books to other team members and ask for mini-reports at staff meetings. 2) Read relevant chapters only. Don't feel guilty for not finishing a book. 3) Hold high the value of sharpening the saw and model it yourself and reward others who read. 4) Budget for books. Invest in your people by investing in books. 5) Discover whether your people are readers or listeners. Audio books might be helpful to some.
I have some fantastic books coming in 2014!
FINAL NOTE: If you serve on a nonprofit board, or lead a board, check out my weekly blog for ECFA on the Governance of Christ-centered Organizations.