Last year we thought it would be fun to look over the vast scores of books published on productivity, leadership and management to find books that would be of interest to our readers. It was harder than we expected, but we were happy with the results of our definitive book roundup so we decided to make it an annual post!
This time we’ve narrowed the focus to what we consider the best business books that have been published this year in the categories of productivity, leadership and management. Yes, we know the year isn’t over yet, so if you have any books that we’ve left out or are being published in the last quarter of 2016, we’d love to hear about them. Make sure to tweet us your recommendations with the hashtag #bestbusinessbooks2016.
How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb (Crown Business) The former McKinsey partner has crunched the numbers from recent behavioral economics, psychology and neuroscience findings and applied them to the workplace to better understand why we do what we do, and how that knowledge can help boost our projectivity. Webb offers practical tips on coworker conflict resolution, maintaining your sanity through dull meetings and how to deal with the information overflow of emails and other intraoffice communications.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (Grand Central Publishing) Newport, a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, knows about how distracting the world is, let alone the workplace, and how important it is to focus, especially when dealing with cognitively demanding tasks, like, say, leading a project. He offers a solution to getting swept away by the tide of emails and social media that is constantly threatening to drown our attention in unnecessary distractions, by cultivating a “deep work” ethic, and provides a series of four rules to achieve that productive state.
Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (TarcherPerigess) Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman teams up with popular Huffington Post writer Carolyn Gregoire to explore his research into the “messy minds” of the highly creative and explores the practices and habits that promote creativity and innovation. Each chapter explores one of the 10 attributes and habits they assign to the highly creative, some of which include: imaginative play, daydreaming, solitude, intuition and mindfulness. While this may sound as if it’s merely riding the current trend bandwagon, the book shows new pathways into productivity that are worth exploring.
Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy and How to Make Them Work for You by Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne and Sangeet Paul Choudary (W.W. Norton & Company) By exploring the economic disruption model of such companies as Uber, Apple and PayPal, the authors look for keys to their success and how that can be used to help in your work. They show ways to connect sellers to buyers and hosts to visitors, while explaining how to identify markets and monetize networks. As digital networks, the authors note, business must harness the power inherent in these new networks to remain competitive and viable. By addressing the current situation they set up strategies for the future.
Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (Random House) Not only is the science of productivity defined, if you didn’t know there was one, but at the end of the book Duhigg adds real-world lessons to easily apply the knowledge learned in the book to your work and life. Duhigg describes eight key productivity concepts and how the people and companies who use them get so much done. Through case studies he shows how these people and companies view the world, what choices they make and how they may choose different ways to achieve their goals, the end results are the same. By seeing the common ground on which they stand, readers are able to assemble a strategy to improve their own productivity.
Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent by Sydney Finkelstein (Portfolio) By profiling a group of successful and distinctly different leaders and seeing what they share beyond their success, Finkelstein is able to parse out a program that can produce a better boss, maybe even a superboss. Whether they’ll be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound is irrelevant when you’re able to learn so much from the author’s 10 years of research and hundreds of related interviews. Some of his findings are that superbosses create master-apprentice relationships, encourage collegiality and don’t resent employees who leave, but cultivate them as part of a greater network of resources.
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant (Viking) Sometimes you have to go against the grain to succeed. Conformity and tradition don’t make great leaders and are a poor paradigm for innovation. Collecting a wide range of studies and stories that touch on business, politics, sports and entertainment, Grant illustrates that a part of leadership is being able to recognize the good ideas, champion them and build a coalition of allies to act when the time is right. This technique is lifelong, and should be applied in early childhood to nurture leaders who thrive in cultures that welcome dissent.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (Scribner) Psychologist Angela Duckworth knows the secret to success. Her book can be read by parents, students or athletes, but is equally applicable to business people looking for the skills necessary to become industry leaders. She writes that it’s not talent that drives achievement as much as a mix of passion and persistence, which she defines as grit. Using her personal story as an example, she describes her early experience teaching, consulting in business and working as a neuroscientist that all feed into her theory. There are other profiles that also prove her point while providing an inspirational read.
O Great One! A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition by David Novak (Portfolio) Recognition is crucial to leadership, specifically telling your colleagues how much you value them. It may sound a bit soft as a skill, and it is, but the return on that simple investment is rewarding to your organization, according to ex-executive Novak. By relating this truth through good storytelling he is able to show how executives at Pepsi and other companies profited from not neglecting the people who got them where they are. There are lesson to be learned in these pages for CEOs or leaders of any teams, big or small.
Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two by Jim Koch (Flatiron Books) What better way to become a great leader than over a beer? The story that Koch tells of founding the Boston Beer Company, best known as brewers of Samuel Adams, is the spark that set off the craft beer revolution in the United States. It is also a tale of how to lead a small company against the odds and the big brewers and still come out on top. Along the way, Koch shares his insights into leadership, sales, marketing, hiring and company culture. It’s interesting, educational and a good excuse to take the team out for a couple of brewskis after work.
Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday (Portfolio) Some believe that the way to the top is by exercising your strong ego. Holiday says that the ego in fact is more often a stumbling block that blinds us to our faults and creates more problems than it solves. So, what to do? By delving into a deep pond of examples that touch on literature, philosophy and history, Holiday charts the lives of famous figures such as Jackie Robinson and Eleanor Roosevelt, to name but two, and explains how they conquered ego to become greater leaders in the process. It’s a counterintuitive approach and one that goes against everything our culture deems important, but in a world of vapid reality-TV stars, the egoless is king.
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp (Simon & Schuster) The author is a partner at Google Ventures, a company that is known as being adept at solving problems, and he’s generous about sharing the methodology. In this book, Knapp outlines a five-day process to find a way to resolve even the toughest problems. He’s done the due diligence and illustrates with examples of the method being used at hundreds of companies to successfully get them out of a hard place fast. A big part of being a great leader is having the insight to offer unique and unseen avenues out of the normal and everyday roadblocks that every company runs into. Are you willing to take the Sprint challenge?
Find Your Extraordinary: Dream Bigger, Live Happier, Achieve Success on Your Own Terms by Jessica DiLullo Herrin (Crown Business) Who doesn’t want to live an extraordinary life, but what does that have to do with being a more efficient manager? Well, having a deep passion for everything you do is going to be reflected in having a better handle on managing your work, once you leave feelings of inadequacy and guilt behind, and cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit. Herrin knows. She’s a serial entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of the Stella & Dot Family Brands. In her book, she explores how the same structure she put on managing her successful business can be applied to life in general. Her realistic steps to achieve success are candid and inspirational and empowering. You may not be able to have it all, but you can have what’s important.
The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success by Emma Seppälä, (HarperOne) There are many new studies showing that happiness leads to productivity, and as a manager you want your team to be as productive as possible, which is where Seppala, a leading expert on health psychology, well-being and resilience, and the science director at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, comes in. Her book shows that there are better ways of doing things than trying to do everything that’s thrown at us, and that stress is inevitable, but how we respond to it is not. By using the latest findings in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, she finds ways to enhance happiness and in the process improve your ability to manage on the job.
An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lasko Lahey (Harvard Business Review) Do you feel as if you’re wearing too many hats on the job? Are there a select few who take on the majority of the workload? That can be a great waste of the organization’s resources, according to the authors of this book. They propose a company culture where everyone to empowered to succeed through being part of the bigger picture, and how it not only raises moral but the bottom line. The authors’ Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO) is a simple but radical conviction that organizations prosper when deeply aligned with people’s strongest motive, which is to grow. They support their idea with real-life examples that show how to build this process into your own company.
The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass) You may be familiar with Lencioni’s previous book, it’s a managerial classic called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In that book he discussed how to turn around group behaviors that disrupt teamwork. In this volume his focus is on the individual, and he outlines the three vital virtues of an ideal team player. He expresses his ideas through stories, which makes them easier to understand and more engaging to read. But he follows these narratives with a practical framework and actionable tools for identifying, hiring and developing the best team players.
After you’ve finished with all this great reading, then it’s time to apply the knowledge you’ve learned in your work. But you’ll need the right tools to take full advantage of your newfound learning, and ProjectManager.com is just the collaborative, online suite of software solutions you need. It’s designed with the project leader in mind, and offers real-time views into your work while making planning, monitoring and reporting more efficient and easy. Try it for yourself with this free 30-day trial.