I’m a big fan of books that explore business skills development—this one succeeded in ways where others missed the mark. The author’s journey, through negotiating as a police officer, FBI lead negotiator and negotiation professor at top universities, brought a powerful perspective on negotiation with a focus on the human element.
Whether you’re negotiating to generate millions in profit, get a new job or even dealing with your kids, the tested and proven techniques in Never Split the Difference are great approaches to take across a wide spectrum of endeavours.
Detonate: Why – And How – Corporations Must Blow Up Best Practices (and Bring a Beginner’s Mind) To Survive, by George Tuff and Steven Goldbach
I attended a seminar delivered by the authors Geoff Tuff and Steven Goldbach where they walked through the key learnings of Detonate. Having only recently started my career, it was eye-opening to hear perspectives of seasoned professionals (both presenters and audience members) who shared their learnings from falling into traps associated with best practice playbooks.
The authors would argue that these best practices are more accurately termed as bad habits. Detonate suggests that in the face of innovation, best practice playbooks need to be destroyed to win in the marketplace. With a focus on optimism and empowerment, the book explores approaches and mindsets which are critical to success in a business environment characterized by profound technological advances and uncertainty.
Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t, by Verne Harnish
It’s the story you’ve heard countless times before in this decade of rapid and rising innovation— businesses growing beyond their means, and instead of pushing forward in their momentum they let it sink them. Scaling Up takes readers through the decisions leaders must make within the categories of people, strategy, execution and cash to overcome this challenge. This isn’t your standard “how to grow your business fast” read. I enjoyed the anecdotes Verne Harnish shared along the way—businesses mismanaging one of these four areas, how they came to realize it, and how they overcame it. I found this book valuable regardless of what position you hold in a business and what I appreciate most was the tools, techniques and resources they brought to light.
– Annesha Mendes
Educated, by Tara Westover
I ended up reading Educated after several recommendations, and never could I imagine the captivating world and upbringing of Tara Westover. In Educated, Westover recounts her childhood in rural Idaho—raised by survivalist parents who kept her out of school and away from mainstream medicine. At every turn of the page, Westover brings readers into her unconventional childhood—labouring in her father’s junkyard and mixing herbs for her mother who was a midwife. Without any formal education, she was able to study her way to university. The first time she stepped into a classroom was at 17, and she would later study a whole other continent away—far from what was familiar. She begins her path to self-discovery and a decade worth of higher education. I admired the perseverance Westover maintained in her pursuit of education, despite the constraints of her family and her unfamiliarity with the world outside the mountains she grew up on.
– Annesha Mendes
Factfulness, by Hans Rosling , Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund
Not only do most people make wildly incorrect guesses to simple questions about global trends—what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school—experts do as well. In Factfulness, Professor of International Health Hans Rosling and his co-authors, offers strong rationales for why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective—from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).
Our problem is not only that we don’t know what we don’t know, but also our guesses are informed by predictably negative biases.
It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to prioritize the things that threaten us most.
I generally don’t love self-help books. All too often they rely on poorly crafted metaphors (are women really from Venus?) and lack the sophistication to understand when their advice does not apply. Eric turns this on its head. He takes the aphorisms we know and believe “nice guys finish last” and ”it’s not what you know but who you know” and explains who they work for and who they don’t.
Eric Barker presents evidence based answers to what works and what doesn’t, and what the cost of success is likely to be. Using evidence from the social sciences, history, sports and even comic books, he examines what separates the extremely successful from the rest of us, shows us what we can do to be more like them—and explains why in some cases it’s good that we aren’t.
Atomic Habits, by James Clear
This book refreshingly changed my perspective on goal setting and helped explain why new years resolutions usually never make it past January. We tend to focus more on setting goals than on the processes of reaching them—our systems. Goals are useful for planning and setting a direction, but it’s a focus on systems that enables progress. It’s the compounding of small incremental changes that lead to impactful results.
The best thing about the book is that it’s highly actionable. James drops little golden nuggets of advice from his personal life along with strategies and tools to help with your own habit formation. Relating this back to business, setting targets and KPIs for your teams is an important practice, but it also must be coupled with a robust system to ensure that they will be able to meet these targets.
Dare to Lead, by Brené Brown
I was drawn to this book from the numerous accolades Brené has achieved throughout the years. She takes the concepts of vulnerability and empathy from her previous work, and applies it to leadership in the corporate world.
You either have it or you don’t—not according to Brené. We often associate courage and strength with good leaders, but Brené argues that “you can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability”. Failure is inevitable, and it’s about embracing this and continuing to lead in spite of it. When leading, we don’t have to pretend to have all the answers, we only need to stay curious and ask the right questions.
The Farber Book Club read and discussed Quiet earlier this year. The book highlights the differences between extrovert and introvert characteristics—not in a better or worse way but recognizing the strengths and risks of both styles.
Like most characterizations, few people are all one or all the other. Everyone has a band they can operate in; spending too much time outside that band to meet others expectations will lead to significant stress. And many people are ambiverts, demonstrating characteristics from both categories at different times in different situations.
Our group agreed that these concepts are very relevant to both how we work within our teams and company; and how we engage with and support clients in our different practices. For our Executive Search practice, this is a key concept when determining that elusive thing called fit. Different roles and environments call for different operating characteristics.
Like so many areas of life, knowledge is power! Being self-aware of our own tendencies and comfort zones allows us to be more selective in how we operate.