For me, 2017 has involved a lot of business travel. And whilst the novelty of spending hours in yet another airport quickly wore off, travelling is at least a great opportunity to pick up a book and learn something new.
Growing a business is hard, and often there are very few people to turn to to get some insight, advice and inspiration. I swear by books as a great way to freshen your thinking, learn from those that have tackled the same problems that you may be facing and encourage you to be brave enough to think differently. As we head towards the holiday season, here are my four favorite reads from a year on the move.
1. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything, by Patrick Lencioni
As CEO of an employer brand agency, I know people are the number one factor to success for any business, large or small. People are the one asset that can't be commoditized. Without the best people, you're not the best company. So this is a book that really appealed to me. Discussing how businesses need to be aligned along a common set of principles really resonated with me. It's a big part of the work I do with clients day to day. Its good sometimes to have one's own thinking reinforced, and that was the case with this book. Patrick shares some great insight about the importance of health in every aspect of a business. That includes strategy, operations, management and culture. The businesses that best uncover and communicate their culture and values can better attract people with matching values to join them. They're setting themselves up for success.
2. Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets Of High Performance, by Mathew Syed
I rave about this book to anyone that will listen, and if you've yet to discover it then you're missing a trick. I've a growing team in three offices across two countries, and this book is a brilliant source of inspiration and guidance. I re-read this during 2017 and it has been hugely useful to me in terms of keeping everyone motivated and involved, even if they aren't all in the same space together. It's hugely insightful about building teams and getting everyone on track for success. The key is to celebrate mistakes, embrace them and learn from them. Mathew examines some of the most productive and high-performing teams in the world from the business world and the sports industry. They welcome failure to help them take big steps forward. This book will radically alter the way you look at innovation, productivity, safety and team culture. There's a huge selection of case studies and so much to take in. It's a classic.
3. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't, by Simon Sinek
Simon is one of the most respected and widely read business writers and thinkers working today. With insight like this, it's not hard to see why. Simon suggests the book is more about biology than management theory and that's definitely true. I'm fascinated with how teams perform, how personalities mix and skills blend together. Working in employer brand and talent attraction, I know how important it is that a company has a team that fits with each other and with the company's culture. Simon discusses how great leaders put their teams first. He discusses building the "Circle of Safety", which protects the team from the distractions of the outside world. Therefore, everyone feels that they belong and the energies of the team are all channeled towards achieving the company goals. This is a great book about building loyalty and empowering your teams to take ownership and drive innovation.
4. The Inspiration Code: How The Best Leaders Energize People Every Day, by Kristi Hedges
Kristi has over 25 years experience as a communications expert and leadership coach. This book is packed with insight on how to be a motivational and energizing leader, and it's impossible to put down. Kristi outlines her philosophy of four key behaviours for leadership success: Present, Personal, Passionate and Purposeful. Why they may seem like four simple qualities, they're hard to get right with true effectiveness, authenticity and consistency. Having a consistency of approach is the real take-way that I got from this book. Kristi has really helped me get some rhythm, routine and consistency into my communication with my team. I learned that it's not about making big sweeping statements and grand gestures, it is about doing a few key things very well.
So there we are, pass this list on to Santa and kickstart your 2018 with some great insight.