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3 Best Business Books That Will Shape Your Life in 2019
Walk while delivering bad news, use mornings for “deep” work & more
In business school, I never missed an author visit because I always wanted a chance to learn from the masters. After 16 years home with kids, I cofounded a company that requires me to stay on top of what’s “hot” in the management field, and business books feed that need. At ReBoot Accel, we help managers transform cultures so that women thrive, and coach women for reinvention and advancement — so we have to stay current!
The three best business books I devoured over the winter holidays have already impacted the way I work. Here’s how they’ve influenced my daily life plus my thoughts on why you might want to read them.
Best time to do deep work
Deep Work by Cal Newport. I’m the odd person who loves plane flights because it’s the one place where I can be totally productive and creative. After reading this book, I understand why. Plane flights allow for “deep work.” Newport describes deep work as that which gets you promoted, and shallow work as the stuff that lets you keep the job. Deep work requires intense, focused, uninterrupted attention, and generally creates results with profound impact. Shallow work is mostly reactive — keeping up with life, answering emails, and responding to what’s on your plate.
My 2019 resolution is to spend more time each week on deep work, and has resulted in my new rule of “no meetings before 10 am.” I’m an early riser (5-6 am), so that means I can spend 4-5 hours before meetings in deep focused work. By 10 am I feel I’m ahead of the game. (Heck, I even throw in a workout.) Now I can adequately prepare for meetings, plan my priorities, and engage in work that allows me to develop intellectual capital. Forcing interruptions and distractions into the later part of the day has created pleasant mornings, and that early sense of peace and accomplishment sustains me throughout the day. I’ve already preordered Newport’s upcoming book Digital Minimalism.
When to be candid — and where
Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I admit it. I hate to have those “difficult” conversations.
I was raised to believe they had to take place over an hour in a closed room, and the build-up created angst. Scott’s book changed all that. Instead of fretting about a major confrontation, she suggests having a 2- to 3-minute talk while walking between meetings. Do it quickly; keep it short. Focus on three things: The situation, the behavior, and the impact.
The concept offers such a powerful approach to life that I have even shared it with my three kids.
A few years back, I spent weeks stewing over how to give a male colleague feedback on an action that made me feel wronged and slighted. I worried that I would appear overly sensitive, and ultimately never approached him about it. In retrospect, I would have used this book’s three-pronged approach: “Tom, we all want our website to be as effective as it can be (the situation). By not including me in the website revamp meeting (the behavior), we’re not including ALL voices, many of which can make our website stronger and reflect diverse perspectives (the impact).” This would have taken just 2-3 minutes and would have taken a load off my chest. In addition, I might have learned something about Tom’s motives. Giving feedback in this quick, informal manner keeps the conversation objective and nonjudgmental. And if it’s done in the spirit of “I want to help” (a requirement, in fact), it is the best gift you can give a coworker or a child.
So no more shying away from these conversations in 2019. I’m going to seek opportunities to help others be their best selves!
How to 10 X your impact
Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. This book describes how to get the most out of people by being an effective leader — one whose presence makes people sharper, better, and more engaged.
We all know “diminishers” — those who micromanage, shift priorities, and have to be the smartest ones in the room. A “multiplier” knows how to ask powerful questions, surrounds herself with people who are more gifted, has an abundance mentality (we can all win!), and creates a safe environment where people take risks and are allowed to fail.
There’s even an online quiz that helps you identify how you can shift your thinking to become more of a multiplier. I took it and realized I didn’t need to come to the table with all the answers but could be more effective by asking probing questions that would elicit them from the group. I was fortunate to have Bill Campbell, the well-known “Coach of Silicon Valley” and the ultimate multiplier, as a mentor. During our regular walks, he spent more time sharing stories and asking questions than providing answers or advice. My goal is to be more like Bill, and Wiseman has given me the tools to get there.