What a banner year for business books! I was challenged to cull my 2022 list to a manageable number. These seven books – in no particular order – made me think the most while enjoying the experience and even laughing out loud at times.
And all seven are well-written and feature practical, actionable ideas based on science and data. After reading four of the books earlier in the year, I wrote blog posts about them. The links are included here if you’re interested in my musings.
1. Influence Is Your Superpower: The Science of Winning Hearts, Sparking Change, and Making Good Things Happen by Zoe Chance. Unlike other books on influence, the author uses neuroscience and behavioral economics (which she describes as the “love child between psychology and economics”) to explain how influence works and how to do it well. Her approach makes influence much easier to do well, especially if you are comfortable connecting with others and building relationships.
The book’s big contribution: Position negotiations as conversations in which you collaborate with others, not confront them. And ask her magic question, “What would it take?” Adapted from Gloria Steinem, this question not only conveys respect, but it also can help you discover important information. And that information can lead to more creative and better solutions.
2. What Your Employees NEED and Can’t Tell You: Adapting to Change with the Science of Behavioral Economics by Melina Palmer. This book is an ideal companion to Influence Is Your Superpower because it uses behavior design to take influence to the next level. You can rely on this book as practical guide to help you improve how you frame changes and nudge people to take small meaningful steps that will lead to big changes. The author clearly describes the brain science, which adds insights into why it’s so easy to get derailed in explaining change and getting people to act.
The book’s big contribution: The author, who also hosts the popular Brainy Business podcast, shares lots of concrete examples and anecdotes in an easy-to-read format. Her science-backed suggestions also are easy-to-follow, which makes it likelier you can apply what you glean from her.
3. Elevated Leader: Level Up Your Leadership Through Vertical Development by Ryan Gottfredson. The author has taken the complex concept of vertical leadership development and explained it clearly and concisely. He makes the point that you can’t just continue visiting the app store, selecting new apps that will teach you more skills, and adding them to your devices. At some point, you have to upgrade your internal operating system if you want to do more. That’s the key point of vertical stage development – intentionally growing your capacity, clarity, and courage as a human being to deal with the complexities of modern life. As an added plus, the purchase of the book includes access to assessments plus a digital coach, Qstream, that tests your comprehension. Both are excellent tools and resources.
The book’s big contribution: The author broaches the subject of how past trauma can affect how individuals lead, which is insightful, useful, and groundbreaking. He’s also role models courageous leadership and demonstrates vulnerability by writing about his own trauma, which sheds additional light on this topic.
4. The Conscious Communicator: The Fine Art of Not Saying Stupid Sh*T by Janet M. Stovall and Kim Clark. The two authors emphasize that diversity, equity, and inclusion, including social justice, now touches every function in an organization as well as all the individuals. DEI no longer is a stand-alone topic that you “should” consider covering. For example, today a stakeholder has become “anyone with an opinion and a social media account,” which means you need to be on your toes about how you handle these topics and make sure you don’t say or do something that you’ll immediately regret.
The book’s big contribution: The authors have created a useful model called “DEPTH.” It stands for deliberate, educated, purposeful, tailored, and habitual. The model is designed to help organizational communicators and leaders figure out what you “should or shouldn’t be stepping into in the first place” and communicating. From the authors’ point of view, you need to be clear if you’re “commenting or committing.”
5. Compassionate Leadership: How To Do Hard Things in a Human Way by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter. In this research-based book, the two authors explain the practice of “wise compassion,” which they advocate for leaders. From their point of view, wisdom is “knowing the right thing to do and having the courage to do it.” Compassion is “having the intention to be of benefit to others.”
The book’s big contribution: Communicate with “caring candor.” The authors’ experience backed by research shows that clear, direct communication that’s kind and culturally sensitive is the most effective way to deliver messages. Recipients don’t have to expend extra cognitive energy to try to decipher what someone is trying to tell them.
6. Navigate the Swirl: 7 Crucial Conversations for Business Transformation by Richard S. Hawkes. Organizations are social systems that connect employees with others. All too often though people lose sight of their purpose because they get caught up in “organizational swirl”—the whirl of daily problems, dramas, and turf battles—and get stuck. To stop the swirl, employees need to take the time to talk in clear, deliberate ways. The author believes that “organizations evolve at the speed of conversations.”
The book’s big contribution: One of the most valuable frameworks is the “business triangle” that forms and supports the organization’s social system as well as its operations. The triangle’s three sides are “develop, sell, and deliver.” The fourth element, “support,” serves the entire triangle. When you see this triangle, it’s much easier to visualize the tensions you experience working with individuals in other functions and start to understand the push and pull that takes place.
7. If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity by Justin Gregg. This book’s title got my attention. Then the content entertained, educated, and alarmed me. Gregg’s main point is that we humans have amazing cognitive skills, but our brainpower often hurts us as well as other living things and the planet.
The book’s big contribution: “prognostic myopia.” This is the author’s term for our human capability and capacity to think about and alter the future, which is a big positive. However, this ability is coupled with “an inability to actually care all that much about what happens in the future.” So we inadvertently make a mess of some things, such as the environment.
My musings: How we humans may be too smart for our own good.
Now to turn the table and ask you: What are you reading, watching, or listening to that you recommend?
Happy New Year! And happy reading!
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.