You know the drill: Every business or management book that’s ever been published promises to tell you the silver bullet for being successful. Sounds interesting but, of course, most of them don’t say much more than what’s printed in the summary on the back.
As someone who’s read a ton of business books over the past few years, I figured I would save you some time and money by sharing the ones that I’ve found to really be useful. If you only have time to read a few, give one of these five a try!
This is probably the most useful general management book I’ve ever read. Chip and Dan Heath talk through different methods for successfully implementing change at work and at home by sharing a couple of frameworks and illustrating their points using stories. The best part about this book is that it’s simple—I read it over four years ago, and I still remember their key takeaways and apply them in my daily life.
Need a go-to book for focusing on interpersonal skills or relationship-building techniques? Difficult Conversations is it. I like this book because it is able to boil down an extremely complicated topic into a set of very actionable recommendations. Going through this book with other people can also be a good way to strengthen work relationships or bounce ideas off of others. For example, my manager and I read it jointly and then moving forward were able to use language from the book when discussing sticky situations.
The need to exercise empathy is what has stuck with me most from this book—without fully grounding yourself in the other party’s situation, it’s very difficult to reach a consensus.
I know, this one sounds like a gimmick, but it’s actually incredibly useful in day-to-day work life. Essentially, Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson provide the reader with a bunch of extremely simple, quick actions a manager can take to better oversee and motivate employees. It’s especially helpful for someone who is new to managing others because it presents a wide variety of scenarios that I found useful to think through before encountering them in real life. This is also a great book to talk through with senior members of your team, as they’ve likely read it and will have some advice to offer about implementing key concepts. Advice is structured around one minute goals, one minute praisings, and one minute reprimands.
This is another change management book that focuses more on changing individuals than changing organizations. Charles Duhigg examines change in a bunch of different contexts, highlighting ways in which the keys to change lie in how we manage and create new habits. While it’s useful in a business context, I’ve also found this book to be extremely helpful as I think through changes I want to make in my personal habits.
My favorite factoid from the book is that 40% of everything we do during the day is a result of habits—that has definitely been motivation for me to try and build some better habits!
Yes, I know—this book seems a little dry and out of place. But hear me out before skipping it! While management techniques and practices are hugely important professionally, I’ve found that general knowledge about business context is also crucial for success. This has actually been a major part of a number of interviews I’ve participated in; interviewers have asked me questions about what’s going on in the business world because they want to figure out whether or not I am engaged in important news. Reading Secretary Geithner’s account of the 2008 financial crisis provided me with some great context that I’ve been able to use in a number of different professional conversations. If you (like me) sometimes struggle to get a handle on current events, I’d definitely recommend checking out this book.
Photo of books courtesy of Shutterstock.