World of Work

9 notable business books for your Christmas gift list

A management consultant in a bookstore is like a kid in a candy store, says our columnist Pierre Battah.

A look at business books that lean toward leadership, management and the modern workplace

A management consultant in a bookstore is like a kid in a candy store, at least it is for me. I really look forward to my twice annual list of notable books that I prepare for summer reading and for gift giving during the holiday season.  As usual, most of the books were published this year but there are a few included from a few years back that I missed in earlier lists.

My criteria this time around was to include notables from different realms of so-called business books, always with a bent towards leadership, management and the challenges of contemporary workplaces. So the list has authors who are world class executive coaches, empirically based workplace PhDs, a former associate dean at Harvard Business School now US federal reserve bank president, two gritty Brooklyn-born ad executives, a legendary and prolific management guru now holding the job as chief spiritual officer in his global management training empire and the most successful British soccer coach ever, not to mention the two foremost authorities on presentation design. I almost forgot the author who co-wrote the definitive book on negotiation nearly a generation ago.

Grit to Great

Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary — Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval (2015). Two award-winning New York ad executives speak of their unlikely ascension in the highly competitive world of advertising through applying their formula for success based on grit. Theirs is a recipe that relies much less on natural talent and much more on putting in the time to do the hard work. Lots of stories of perseverance and seeing things to the very end. How can you resist a quick read that has the word "pluck" in the subtitle?

Getting to Yes with Yourself and other Worthy Opponents

Getting to Yes with Yourself and other Worthy Opponents – William Ury (2015). Ury co-authored what many believe to be the definitive work on negotiation with the late Roger Fisher with whom he co-founded the Harvard Negotiation project. So when one of the world's foremost authorities on negotiation turns his attention to the ongoing negotiation we all have with ourselves, it is well worth the 192 pages. Ury uses the many challenges and triumphs his daughter's debilitating illness have presented as a recurring case in point to illustrate his arguments. The book is also laced with his first hand examples of negotiations from business, geopolitics as well as the more mundane yet important negotiation challenges of everyday life.

What You Really Need to Lead

What You Really Need to Lead. The Power of Thinking and Acting Like an Owner — Robert Steven Kaplan (2015). This book was written while Kaplan was an associate dean at Harvard Business School but its point of view is not that of an academic. Prior to his 10 years in the Ivy League
school he was vice-chairman of an investment bank and, following the book's release he has rejoined the financial industry in the US Federal Reserve System as a CEO. His perspective on leadership is that of thinking and behaving like an owner and taking responsibility for your actions and your impact. The book skillfully walks through the intellectual and emotional issues of leadership, the requirement to be "in shape" to lead, and lays out thoughtful questions to ask yourself as a leader. There are excellent suggested follow up steps at the end of each chapter that ask the reader five or so penetrating questions about their leadership assumptions and beliefs as well as an impressive four-page reading list at the end of the book.

Here is the balance of the list for late 2015 gift giving or to add to your bookshelf:

  • Collaboration Begins with You — Be a Silo Buster by Ken Blanchard, Jane Ripley, Eunice Parisi-Carew (2015). Blanchard has authored over 60 books mostly with others … enough said.
  • Leading — Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United by Sir Alex Ferguson (2015).  What I wouldn't give to attend Ferguson's infrequent classes at Harvard Business School. One of the very few instances where sport leadership effectively crosses over into real-life leadership lessons for organizations and communities.
  • Triggers — Creating Behavior That Lasts — Becoming the Person You Want to Be by Marshall Goldsmith (2015). Success self help for the CEO set by the executive coach to elite CEOs. Goldsmiths offers us "the 6 questions to Kick-Start Change". Great read, not as compelling a book title as his previous book What Got You Here Won't Get You There.
  • The Best Place to Work —The art and science of creating extraordinary workplaces by Ron Friedman (2014). I have followed Friedman on Twitter for some time. It is workplace science with unexpected twists and turns. Well written, exquisitely researched with valuable and applicable insights on virtually every page. Very compelling.
  • Presentation Zen — Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds (2012).Simple ideas and examples to make our presentations look fantastic.
  • Beyond Bullet Points — Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire Cliff Atkinson (2011). The science of effective PowerPoint presentations; so many need to read this to avert the epidemic of death by PowerPoint.

Happy holidays.

About the Author

Pierre Battah

Human resource management consultant

Pierre Battah is Information Morning's Workplace Specialist. Battah & Associates is a management consulting firm specializing in Human Resource Management.