Staying cool under pressure—whether self-imposed, brought on by others or caused by the environment, especially the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. Then figuring out how to work better with others and then performing at the top of your mental game.
That’s the prevailing theme for the most helpful books I read during 2015.
In no particular order, here’s the list of my top five.
By the way, the list is intentionally limited to five. That avoids taxing your working memory and contributing to any overload.
Also note that I’ve written about four of the five before. Nonetheless, it seemed useful to put them in one spot and describe their best benefits.
- Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts—Becoming the Person You Want to Be, by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. You’ve got to pay attention to your environment if you want to change your behavior, or even be the best person you want to be. (See Watch out! 3 ways to control your environment.)
- Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will by Geoff Colvin. If you want to future-proof yourself, especially against technology, read about how to brush up at CHESS. No, not the game, but the characteristics that make us powerful, premiere social animals: creativity, humor, empathy, socially sensitive and story-telling. (See Are you ready to excel at CHESS?)
- Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal and his writing partners. In this book, you need to forget about being a chess master as well and instead work on being a gardener. That’s General McChrystal’s metaphor for the best way to lead in today’s VUCA world. Heroic leaders can no longer swoop down and save the day. Rather than control their teams, they need to tend to them. The teams need to take more responsibility for sharing information and acting. (See Adapt with “radical info sharing and empowered execution” and 10 ways to lead like a gardener.)
- The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Gillian Tett. The author, who is a trained anthropologist as well as a financial reporter and editor, uses her anthropological lens to explore the upsides and downsides of silos. Silos are natural not only in organizations, but also nature and it’s unrealistic to think we’re going to get rid of them. However, we can make them work to our advantage. (See 3 ways to blend, not bust, silos to get better results.)
- Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done by Dr. Josh Davis. Full disclosure: Josh, who’s the director of research for the NeuroLeadership Institute, was my main professor. He often asked us to “have compassion for our brains.” The brain is incredibly complex and can operate much more effectively if we treat it well, especially in combination with the rest of our body. In this best-selling book, Josh shows how we can create the most optimal conditions to perform at our highest level.
As I reflect about the books I know and love, the following trio remain on my frequent recommend list. These “go-to” books provide accessible, important insights about how we live and work:
- The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload (2014) by Daniel Levitin. This how-to guide is backed with easy-to-understand science about the value of using external systems to help you pay attention and remember to keep track of important information without undue wear, tear and stress on your brain and body. (See the blog post Outsource and organize to improve performance for more information.)
- Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (2013) by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. These best-selling authors give very practical and simple yet very robust and scientific advice on decision making. (Check out the blog post Be decisive: Make big, bolder decisions for more information.)
- Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long (2009) by David Rock. This parable provides helpful guidance on how to better manage the vast quantities of information we’re presented with as well as better cope with colleagues and family members.
What are your favorite books from 2015 that aren’t on this list?
And what’s next up on your reading list? Please share!
Connect the dots plus dot the “i”s to be more intentional, inquisitive and inclusive
How well are you tapping into the skills and wisdom you need to lead in a BANI world?
All the old playbooks are out-of-date. Instead, you need to reach inside yourself, tap into your wisdom, and connect the dots for yourself and others.
To start, you can use these 5 tips to embrace your humanity and become a better leader.