Issue No. 315 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting delivers my Top-10 book picks from 2014 and three master lists of over 300 books I’ve reviewed since 2006. And this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
Top-10 Books for 2014
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 full client load again this year, so I averaged an eNews about twice a month—but who’s counting?
This last issue of 2014 features my annual recap of the books and resources I reviewed in 2014 (Issues No. 292 to 315). To read all 2014 book reviews from Your Weekly Staffing Meeting, visit the archives here. To download a PDF of the chronological list of book reviews from 2006 through today (all 315 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. And I’ve just updated my personal list (not prescriptive for you) of my Top-100 books.
In 2014, I published 24 issues with reviews of 32 books/resources, including a DVD and an ECFA governance survey executive summary.
It's a tough assignment to narrow it down to 10 books that all have popular appeal, because all of us are at different levels of competency across the 20 management buckets.
[ ] Xenophon's Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War, by Xenophon (Larry Hedrick, Editor)
Last January I read and reviewed The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker, by William A. Cohen. He noted that when people asked Peter Drucker to name the best book on leadership, Drucker responded: “the first systematic book on leadership—the Kyropaidaia by Xenophon, himself no mean leader of men—is still the best book on the subject.”
Why book-of-the-year? Start with more than 140 you-gotta-read-these subtitles (inserted into Xenophon’s new abridged version, edited by Larry Hedrick, a former air force officer and military historian):
• Inspire Your People with an Enticing Vision of a New Order
• Know When to Keep Your Own Counsel
• Err on the Side of Self-Reliance
• Obedience Should Not Be the Result of Compulsion
• Imagining Disaster May Save You from Tragedy
• Exude Confidence, Not Anxiety
• Recognize the Inevitability of Conflict
And those are just samples from the first 33 pages. Cyrus the Great was a life-long learner—with unusual wisdom. “Let us remember our forefathers,” he preached to his warriors, “but let us no longer exaggerate their virtues.”
The Other 9 on My 2014 Top-10 Book List:
(These are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.)
[ ] The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown
This page-turner true story came within inches of being my top book. It includes my pick for the most exquisite description—I’ve ever read—of what a high performance team looks like. Warning: once you start reading it, you can’t put it down!
[ ] Drucker & Me: What a Texas Entrepreneur Learned from the Father of Modern Management, by Bob Buford
You must read Bob’s insights on “How Organizations Die.” Here’s a teaser: “One of the most important lessons Iearned from Peter inevitably, in my view, turned our client-consultant relationship into more of a partnership. That lesson was his conviction that an organization begins to die the day it begins to be run for the benefit of the insiders and not for the benefit of the customers.”
[ ] Boards That Lead: When to Take Charge, When to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way, by Ram Charan, Dennis Carey, and Michael Useem
Learning boards will discover vast insights and practical next steps:
• Boards should ask new CEOs to draft a succession plan immediately (and the annual self-assessment should measure progress).
• Caution! Leaders can change dramatically when they get the brass ring.
• Nothing can make up for the wrong choice of CEO.
• Ten principles for finding the right CEO (Warning: “Review outside consultants carefully to prevent conflicts of interest.”)
• The value of a one-pager with agenda/decision highlights sent before every meeting
• The learned art of what to feed to the board
• How to coach new board members to stay at the right “altitude” in board meetings
[ ] Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder, by Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal, Ph.D.
This new book and 25-minute online assessment measures 10 talents, or drivers, of entrepreneurial success. “The degree of your natural ability in each of the 10 talents will determine where you will be successful and where you will fall short in your entrepreneurial journey.”
Co-authors Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, and Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal, Ph.D., say their research reveals that “only about 5 in 1,000 people have the aptitude for starting and growing a business. In comparison, 20 in 1,000 have IQs high enough to be accepted into Mensa.” (My assumption: if you read this eNews, you’re a Mensa member, right?)
[ ] Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand
Read this bio of Louis Zamperini before you see the movie (just out last week)—if you want the full, inspiring story. Why should leaders and managers read Unbroken? Read my review to learn why I would institute a $50 fine for every boring staff meeting—and why I would double the fine for myself if anyone caught me leading an uninspired, ho-hum meeting.
Note: Earlier in the year, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses selected Louis Zamperini as the grand marshal of the January 1, 2015 Rose Parade. Even though he passed away in July, Zamperini will be honored as the grand marshal in absentia.
[ ] The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes, by Gary G. Hoag, R. Scott Rodin, and Wesley K. Willmer
This may be the most important book ever published by ECFA. The authors quote Phil Vischer, founder and former CEO of VeggieTales: “We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore.”
"I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact. I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”
[ ] Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, by Bill Hybels
In Chapter 2, “From Overscheduled to Organized,” Bill Hybels has a news flash for the overcommitted: “You are the boss of your schedule.” Hybels studied the schedules of great leaders across history (Churchill worked in bed until about 11:00 a.m., Thomas Edison was a power napper), but here’s his most probing question in Chapter 2: “What would my schedule look like if God were in charge of it?”
[ ] Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker J. Palmer
Short and shocking! The author confesses: “I had simply found a ‘noble’ way to live a life that was not my own, a life spent imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart.”
Palmer was guided back by Frederick Buechner’s inspiring insight: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
[ ] To Be a Friend: Building Deep and Lasting Relationships, by Jerry and Mary White
I have seven reasons why you’ll appreciate this gem. Here’s one:
Maybe your friendships need a tune-up or a celebration. Be honest here—when’s the last time you’ve read a book on building deep and lasting friendships? Maybe never?
In just 150 pages, the Whites tripled my understanding about the richness and diversities of true friendship. Generously, they open the curtain on their friendships—and let us in on the fun, the sadness, and their memorable stories, many told on themselves (LOL!).
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P.S. Master List of Book Reviews: Click here to download these lists:
List #1: Books by Management Buckets Category (300+)
List #2: Chronological list of 315 issues of Your Weekly Staff Meeting from 2006 through today (300+ books)
List #3: John Pearson’s Top-100 Book List (as of 12/31/14)
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Delegate Your Reading in 2015!
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 highlighted “rerun reviews” of three books. And by the way, back in 2013, several readers submitted photos for “My Ideal Bookshelf.” (Click here to see what books David Curry, Jeff Lilley, Jason Pearson and others have selected for their Top-10 lists—of all time!)
Ideas for 2015:
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 book reviews coming in 2015!
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