I’ll show you mine if you show me yours: 5 Game-Changing Books

I was sharing my latest must-read (or in our case, must listen) book with my good friend and colleague, Amy, when I jokingly said, “I should write a blog about all these awesome books!”  She said, “That is a fabulous idea!”  It is common knowledge that Amy offers wise advice–so here we are.

The hard part? Choosing only 5! For this writing, I chose the books that had the greatest overall impact on my personal professional development. Clear as mud? Let’s see if I can do better. Books like Start With Why (Simon Sinek), Switch (Dan and Chip Heath), Rocket Fuel (Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters) are brilliant and insightful, but they each had a narrow  focus or specific business purpose, such as marketing.  The five books that made the cut for this will probably change right up until I hit “publish”…

If you are looking for reviews for your next Audible purchase, this is NOT a traditional book review with a tidy synopsis and key points and take-aways (we have Amazon for that).  I want to share why these books resonated with such depth and power; pushing me to take action or rethink long-held beliefs. The ideas and wisdom from these books, born from research and observation, drove me to want to know and understand more so I could grow professionally.

Linchpin by Seth Godin

I am currently reading this book cover to cover for a second time. I have pulled quotes and referenced passages (I have a few dozen sticky notes) to help inspire friends, family and peers as well as to lead my team. Why did this book have such an impact on me? Because it challenged so many of my long-held beliefs about our school system, employment and the world of business. I read this very early in my “intentional professional development” phase.  I had to push myself through the first part, all the while secretly arguing with Mr. Godin! By the end of the book, I felt myself opening to his ideas and insights into the world as it is-as opposed to the world as it was during my coming of age. People matter. Connections matter. One of the many mini-lessons he shares discusses how paralyzed we become when we are emotionally attached to an outcome of an event. We lose our ability to make decisions and to act and move forward (does this count as a take-away?). I am curious to see if during this second read, I will glean more from the beginning passages I resisted so fervently four years ago.

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

I am not sure where to even begin. This book is both broad and deep. I am a sucker for research and science-and Simon does not disappoint. He takes you on a journey of humanity: from the past to the present, at work and at home, the push and pull of generations, the worst of us and the best of us. I did not want this book to end! Like most of my ‘reading’, I consumed this over Audible. Great books like this are an excellent way to stay in shape-I run longer when inspired by a great read.  Not only did this book inspire me to become a better boss, co-worker, friend, parent, partner-but it also helped me understand and truly appreciate the generations before and after mine.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

I had some difficulty choosing which Jim Collins book to include here, but in the end I went with my first exposure to Mr. Collins. At the time I read this we were in rapid growth mode (between 20 and 30 percent each month for about 18 months). So drinking from a firehose was a pretty accurate description of our (Jeff, the owner of our company, and myself) lives.  We had decided that our street smarts and intuition were simply not enough to carry us into this “real company” status we were propelling towards.  Jim provides an immense amount of research-driven insight as to why some companies become great. He digs deep into the impacts that culture, structure, and leaders have on a company. All things Jeff and I needed to evolve as  our company exploded. This book, along with my next pick, laid the foundation and prompted Amazon to recommend the book Tractionby Gino Wickman in my queue. Traction was the biggest game changer for our business and became the passion for my side hustle. You may wonder why I didn’t include Traction in my top 5. Simple. It has a specific purpose: a step-by-step blueprint for running your business using all the great insights and theories from the likes of Jim Collins and Pat Lencioni. And although it was our company’s game changing book for our operations, it does not target inspiration – it inspires action!

5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Speaking of Pat Lencioni, I imagine this book is on just about every professional’s list. I highly recommend the Audible version-it’s even more entertaining. I have had delusions of grandeur (maybe still do) that I would someday be Katherine. This book has shown me the value of open and honest discourse-both in the workplace and at home. Why didn’t I find this gem 20 years ago?! This truism has been reinforced through many other books and articles, but more importantly our business is living proof that the benefits of this are real and cannot be ignored. I have had improved results in both my professional and personal life because I have embraced what Pat has so ingeniously shared with us through the power of story, which is why I try to listen to this periodically.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

This was another new discovery for me just this year (thank you Audible for your suggestions). In a word. Wow! That is the response I have received from each person I have since recommended listen to this book. The power of understanding human motivation and how we tick cannot be overstated. The information in the pages of this book, if put into practice, will be life-changing. Chris not only provides us with plenty of psycho babble to back up his methods (not to mention real life scenarios), but he also generously hands over specific tools and steps to give you, the listener, every opportunity for success. There is so much information that I have since purchased the paperback for review to help me put his teachings into practice (I couldn’t figure out how to dog ear and sticky note my audible version).  So far I have only just dabbled on the surface of techniques and applications. Look for an update once I start to master some of these skills. On a side note, I have forewarned my boss, Jeff,  that I plan to use him as my unwitting guinea pig. This would speak very highly of Mr. Voss as I recommended this book to him as well. Even so the methods in this book are so good that Jeff won’t see it coming.

Did I mention how difficult it was to choose only five?!  There are so many amazing books on the market and what lights my fire may leave you cold. I think it’s important to keep an open mind when reading (listening) to new ideas or methods that, initially, rub you wrong. And I suspect you will not always embrace everything you read, or perhaps you will pull parts that fit with your business or stage in life-but that does not negate the potential for learning and growth. We as humans are never ‘done’. We can always become better and smarter tomorrow than we are today.

Please share your game-changers in the comments below. I am always on the hunt for new material. Who knows? Maybe your favorite will make the next list.

PS: Honorable mentions:

Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath

Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey

Get a Grip by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton

American Icon by Bryce G. Hoffman


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