Leaders are Readers, so it is said. Apart from loving good books, I too need to keep expanding my knowledge, skills and opening my mind to new perspectives, so that I remain “green and growing”, rather than to have to admit to be “ripe and rotting”. So I read every day and sincerely hope that you may find it beneficial too. Here is what I have been reading more recently. I will keep adding to the list as I start reading the next book.
|The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes & Barry Posner|
|The Doncaster Rotary Club runs an annual leadership development course based on the work of the authors of this book to provide a great service while raising good funds for their charitable purposes. They invited me to donate my time to co-facilitate this 3 day course, which I thoroughly enjoyed and will probably continue doing. This book created the framework for the course. 30+ years of research underpins their core messages from the question: “what did you do when you were at your personal best as a leader?” resulting in 5 practices they advocate:
I learned a lot about my own leadership approach as well as some very solid insights about teaching “good leadership” from the remarkable work of these two men.
I would encourage the read of this if you are new to leadership or still finding your way, because of the manner in which the fundamentals are emphasized so very practically.
|My Story by Dan Carter|
|Any rugby fan will know of Dan Carter. One of the game’s most freakishly talented and successful players. But also one whose career has been plagued by incessant injury absences. Interruptions that would have had by far the most of us quit long, long ago. I have rarely read a story of the incredible power of a long term dream (to be able to win a Rugby World Cup) as the driver to overcome obstacles, no matter how many, how often or how serious. We all benefitted by this tenacity, so that we could continue to be enthralled by his ability on the field.
Similar to many other great elite sports people, he struggled with seeing himself as worthy of playing at the level he had been invited to. His usual initial response to something new: first doubt, then fear, then determination, then results.
I loved his description of when things went superbly: “there was no sense that anything was particularly out of the ordinary, I was conscious though, that there was a “flow” to the game which I hadn’t experienced much before and that almost everything I tried was coming off“.
Conversely, he suggests that when his team were floundering it was important to “step back” and ask: “What are your goals? What are you trying to get out of this game”?
He also said when he was too focused on his own agenda for instance going into the game wanting to be man of the match or wanting to kick all his goals without missing one, then, when he missed one or made a mistake and couldn’t reach the result, that’s when he got into this “red-head” state, playing with frustration.
Focused on the team however, and enabling everyone to be their best usually resulted in that aforementioned “flow”.
There is so much to learn for all of us from how he overcame all his adversities, whether for our life, our work or our business.
|Underneath the Southern Cross by Michael Hussey|
|Yep, call me a cricket tragic if you want, but I don’t just love cricket – I love the shared life and professional learnings such international careers in the elite sporting spotlight can offer us all, no matter what our walk in life. As an Executive Life Coach that is well known for my work helping people overcome self belief related obstacles on their way to substantial growth, change and success, I found this story an amazing admission of the prolonged lack of belief in himself and being “good enough”. That is something almost every client I have worked with has had to face up to and conquer on their way to heightened success. The masses don’t seek out and work with a coach due to their ego or courage preventing that or actually acknowledging the presence of any such obstacles.
What’s so remarkable about Hussey’s admission is how (obviously) abundantly blessed he is with cricket talent that everyone else but himself can see. That, coupled with his incredible work rate and practice preparation should easily have overcome any fear or doubt, yet before any and every game he would torment himself and allow his mind to play through the most debilitating demons. Remarkably however, despite all that “angst” he found his own way of breaking through that each game and going on to win. I found many inspiring stories within this story, one’s which will serve my coaching work beautifully because of the rich metaphors my clients will so easily be able to relate to.
|Test of Will by Glenn McGrath|
|I loved Glenn’s initial book “Line and Strength” and wondered whether like “Ocean’s 12” being such a disappointing follow on to “Ocean’s 11”, this book would suffer the same fate.
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the observation how Glenn has in fact grown by what life threw at him between books.
I got two “zinger’s” from this book.
Firstly, he says his biggest life lesson: it goes on.
Secondly, his quoted mantra: “control the controllables” is such a powerful concept, so aptly put in such brevity. It is a huge factor in so much of the work I do as a coach in helping people identify and manage the obstacles that are holding them back from raising their game. To focus on what we can change amidst the inevitable challenges growth will throw at us. How much unnecessary energy do we allow the incessant “worry wheelspin” to consume, rather than letting go of those we can do nothing about and focusing our attention on those we can control? Sage advice, packaged in a very interesting mix of personal and professional learnings – whether you are a cricket fan or not.
|The End of Australia by Vern Gowdie|
|Whilst very negative in it’s outlook, the “possible probability” outlined in this book about our impending financial future is chillingly sobering. Vern Gowdie is a financial planner / analyst. But before you roll your eyes, he (and his small group of associates) are also independent analysts, not dependent on Wall Street or Governments or unlimited credit and ultra-low interest rates. He says that 8 years ago Australia’s Federal Government was debt free. In 2020 our debt has is forecast to be $550bn. All over the globe, the financial sector has grown obscenely rich on the ability to lend more and more dollars while pocketing the worlds biggest ever bonuses. He expertly outlines how this Australian debt blowout is chicken feed compared to the other big players around the world and how, amongst many other factors, because the baby-boomers are winding back their debt, this house of cards is about to collapse, making the 2007 GFC look like “baby stuff” and even significantly transcending the 1930’s big depression. As a baby-boomer myself, I thought his recommendations made a lot of sense and have certainly influenced my thinking and planning. I think this is a very worthwhile read, unless you just want to keep your head in the sand…|
|The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do|
|This is a real “feel good book” and very easy to read, not only because it shares many a good laugh. Lightly written in the typically expected form of a renowned comedian, it nonetheless covers a depth of learning from vast personal challenge and background that we can all relate to and we can all learn from. As a migrant myself (albeit without all the extraordinary transition challenges faced by this remarkable man and his family) I appreciated how each of our individual stories contributes to what makes up that conglomeration of backgrounds we today call “being Australian”.|
|Playing It My Way by Sachin Tendulkar|
|A very humble story of one of the cricket world’s freakishly greatest greats but in my opinion quite boringly written. Maybe that’s the cultural difference coming out here but this was a little like reading a text book.
However, I loved his technical descriptions and particularly how he read a bowlers intent from carefully watching how they held the ball and certain habits that gave them away. For the cricket lover it is filled with incredible battles of will against the odds and another great insight into the life of how such great sports professionals were born, created and have to live in our media invasive world.
For the non-cricketer, it is nonetheless full of extraordinary life and success lessons.
|The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam|
|An extraordinary insight into the unconscious workings of our brain. Easy to comprehend for the lay-person and filled with incredible examples of how our prejudices are formed and how they play out remarkably in ways we wouldn’t consciously associate with.|
|Quiet by Susan Cain|
|A “quietly but powerfully written” insight into the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.
What a great collection of research that underpins her message and also dispels a few old myths about so many of the stereotyped labels we are so quick to hand out.
Whether you are a leader or led (aren’t we always both?) the insights gained from this book cannot but influence the way you can better understand, appreciate and leverage different behaviours of those around you.
In my work as an executive life coach I so often help clients needing to raise their “corporate and political visibility”. We often need to focus on getting them “off their couch and out of their comfort zone” in order to proactively develop their business network. Many try to hide behind “being an introvert” until they read this and recognize the power embedded in their natural but not recognized finesse and ability to influence and win others over. No, it’s not just the “loud ones” that can do that.
|An Autobiography by Allan Border|
|This age old classic tells of some incredible times of turmoil in the international cricket world in a very humorous and “straight” way. An easy and entertaining read for cricket lovers with some strong messages of standing your ground against adversity for the non-cricketers.|
|Escape The Rental Trap by Tim Boyle|
|The simple but powerful and practical message of this book goes about buying your first property in 7 simple steps. I found it an easy read on a recent domestic flight with a great breadth of relevant knowledge and suitable depth from someone that’s obviously “been there and done that”. How do I know that? Because I’m both an author and a successful residential property investor with a good portfolio of my own. Whether you just want to buy your own first home or develop a property portfolio you will find this book packed with practical and sensible tips to help you get into the game and avoid typical mistakes. And knowing Tim as a friend and professional network associate as I do, I know you can then rely on him and his expertise to help you fund the right property, in the right structure to serve your purpose very specifically.|
|Mastery by Robert Greene|
|With this book Robert Greene shows us through his incredible research of past masters like Darwin, Da Vinci, Edison, Goethe, Keats, Einstein, Franklin, Ford, Mozart etc. how we can leverage their learnings and approaches to lead our own lives, so that we too can achieve mastery in whatever field we choose.
All of these masters rebelled against conventional paths expected by their parents, environments or circumstances in order to choose and pursue (often over a period of time) what they instinctively felt was right for them in their life.
The many factors that proved to be common across all their pursuits to mastery – the ones Greene outlines for us in this book – are the same ones available to each and every one of us, irrespective of our current age and stage. The masters all had to find who they were (and who they weren’t). They trained their minds to find the positive, often against all odds. They ignored the obvious and the mediocre and accepted that failure was necessary for success. They developed a confidence and belief in themselves that transcended their comfort zone and enabled them to see the uncommon being possible.
Another common trait Greene highlights is how much all the Masters had to learn to persevere (discipline and technical skills) and to “sell” their ideas (social and influencing skills) through massive opposition in order to prevail, something I devote lots of coaching time to for my clients to succeed in their initiatives. he shows they knew they didn’t have to do it alone, seeking, leveraging and leapfrogging the mentors they needed along the way.
Apart from starting out very strongly with the need for us identify and define the purpose of our life’s work we will pursue, Greene emphasizes 3 clear chapters in any great life outcome:
This isn’t an easy read, but an extremely worthwhile read. It took me months to read, because it took me into such depths of relevance that so powerfully confirmed what it takes to build “an extraordinary life”.
|Why Geese Honk by Randy Gadient|
|This little book is a wonderful collection of metaphors that translate the powerful simplicity of what enables geese to naturally achieve such remarkable feats in nature into the very comparable realms relevant to us humans and everything we can do, when we also apply ourselves to these “natural rules”.
It goes to the core of what makes people great, what makes leaders great and what makes those increasingly rare companies that are truly great, great.
|A Course In Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson|
|Inspired by “A Course In Miracles”, bestselling author Marianne Williamson has created a set of what I would call “spiritually infused course instructions” that whilst related specifically to weight loss, create a marvelous insight into “our bigger picture” of who we are and how (much) we are. Metaphorically, emotionally, physically and spiritually we learn about why, what and how is causing us to “hold on to what we are holding on to” and that our willpower alone will never be able to overcome that.
I personally found the “total surrender to Divinity” references a bit much for my taste, but it is worth persevering beyond them for the very appropriate messages that allow us to understand how unfinished “letting go” of so much of our background conditioning plays havoc in the way we see ourselves and play out our world today.
I loved how in her introduction already she suggests: “Spirit alone has the power to positively and permanently reprogram both your conscious and your unconscious mind” and how later re-iterates “whatever it was that has happened to you is over, and in the present it does not exist unless you bring it with you”. Not a “walk in the park read” but nonetheless a very worthwhile read if you want to make some very fundamental changes in your life and the way you see yourself and be yourself.
|Think big, Act Small by Jason Jennings|
|Investing decades in research, Jason Jennings and his team uncovered what the common attributes were that enabled 9 American organizations – through economic upturn and downturn – to consistently increase revenue and profits in double digit growth for 15 consecutive years. Fundamentally such attributes are their ability to foster a communal culture within their people to think as big as they can in terms of solving customers problems, making better products and creating value (not just for shareholders) and then practicing to act small by humbly remaining true to their “start-up culture” of treating every employee like the owner, while teaching managers to get their hands dirty. I enjoyed finding so many “old school values” still as applicable today as they were decades ago. I also found many parallels to the “think global, act local” approach. I wonder if we were to do that research in Australia whether or how many such organizations we might find here? I think this is worth reading whether you are or considering a start-up, an SME (Small to Medium sized Enterprise) or even leading a division of a large global corporate. I’m sure you will find the messages and approaches timeless and universally relevant.|
|Passionate Marriage by Dr. David Schnarch|
|This is a great book but not an easy read. While at first it appears to be a sex therapy book for couples in monogamous relationships, this book is about helping you find who you really are, what’s holding you back from everything you really want (and are prepared to chase) and how your relationship(s) is (are) working.
Whilst reading it myself provided valuable insights, it’s value really comes through when both partners read it individually first and then work through it (and their relationship) together, chapter by chapter. Not many will be willing to do that and prefer to choose to continue pretending. But those that do will experience life changing benefits.
|Moments of Truth by Jan Carlzon|
|Written almost 30 years ago the messages in this classic read of how the then CEO of Scandinavian Airlines turned the company around in a declining world market are just as relevant today. The then hierarchical and centralized organizational paradigm that had the CEO and exec team “publish” their vision, having it “managed” through policies and rules by mid managers (despite them being so far removed from their customers), thereby rendering front-line staff unable to execute to the satisfaction of those that loyally pay for everything by choice was crippling the business. He turned this model on its head with customers and front-line staff at the top of the structure, supported by decentralized processes based on analysis and understanding of what customers really wanted, strongly communicating the intended vision in their language so everyone “got it”, and then empowered the front-line with the freedom to act to meet those needs. The turnaround was swift, significant and sustainable. If you are running a business or in a leadership role in a today, I urge you to (re)read this book.|
|What it Takes by Mark Bouris|
|A great Australian Entrepreneur that took on and beat the big banks at their own game shares some powerful personal and professional insights from his success. His fundamental message that “what it takes” is having a purpose, committing to it and relentlessly working to achieve it resonates so well with what every coach and mentor strives to have their clients understand, me included. What I particularly liked is his differentiation of “job focused” from “growth focused” individuals, whether employees or business owners.|
|Brave Truth by Geraldine Coy|
|With Nelson Mandela’s passing, most of us were reminded of the caliber of once in a century statesmanship that facilitated the creation of a new “rainbow nation” in South Africa. For the first world “apartheid was done” and we could all move on. What this book highlights is how deeply entrenched the depth and complexity of violence and retribution is within poverty stricken communities. While on the surface the “spin” is that a first world constitution and governance structure is in place, the reality is an ever deepening undermining of civic disorder through gangland violence that will stop at nothing to maintain its ugly status quo at the expense of “the pawn in the street”. A moving story bravely written at significant personal cost by a remarkable woman.|
|Planned reading for the December / January break|
|I love reading Biographies of elite sports or business people or other successful individuals because they are “real” stories from “real” people, usually full of inspiring learnings of having overcome challenges and excelled in their chosen field. There is usually so much incredibly rich experiential content, and so many relevant lessons from people of the most diverse walks of life who in fulfilling their compelling destinies not only raised their own game, but raised the bar for everyone else in the process. That way we can all learn from their journey and inject what matters into our own journey…
This break the biographies were:
|Falling Leaf Essences by Dr. Grant Lambert|
|Remarkable insights from a Doctor, Naturopath and Alchemist into how we can support the mental and spiritual “letting go” of personal obstacles with essences developed from “falling leaves”. Together with this book, he provided me with an additional level of support in the “letting go of some very old, unconsciously held “baggage”.|
|The Start-up of you by Reid Hoffman|
|The Linked-In co-founder and chairman applies the success principles for a business start-up to you as an individual. The days of “having a job” are over. The quicker we recognize that and look at our careers as we would a business start-up, the sooner we will get and stay in control of our lives.|
|The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz|
|A poignant insight into the creation of our self-limiting beliefs and the right agreements required to overcome them.|
|The Element by Sir Ken Robinson|
|The renowned TED Talker outlines how the right combination of Talent and Passion changes everything.|
|Make Mentoring Work by Peter Wilson|
|A great practical insight into Mentoring in the business arena by a very recognized and credible Australian leader.|
|Stop Speaking for Free by Lee B Salz|
|A specific guide how to set up, market and run commercially successful Webinars.|
|The honest truth about (dis)honesty by Dan Ariely|
|A remarkable read about how we all balance out truthfulness with cheating to create a “blindness reality”.|
|Cutting the Ties that Bind by Phylis Chrystal|
|A truly amazing technique to help us cut the ties that bind us to anyone or anything that exerts control over us. It personally helped me overcome and “let go” of some deep seated and unconsciously held ties from my past.|
|Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth|
|This book explores the relationship between how we eat and how we see ourselves in the world. As a “bloke” I found it a bit of a “chick-book” but am pleased to have stuck with it to gain the powerful relevance of its message for us all.|
|Lost and Found by Geneen Roth|
|How to recover from losing “everything” you ever owned and thereby finding everything you really want.|
|Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach|
|A re-read of this delightful view of life where we can create our own rules if we dare to believe we can.|
|For the Win by Prof Kevin Werbach|
|Understanding how we can apply the design (and other) principles of rampantly successful computer games to business experiential learning.|
|The Trusted Advisor by David Maister|
|A re-read of this age old classic of how to win the trust of and develop truly special relationships with our clients.|
|The well rested Woman by Janet Kinosian|
|A real eye opener (sic) to the world of sleep. How can we perform at our best if we aren’t sleeping properly. This helped me overcome a lifetime of poor sleeping habits.|
|To the Moment went the Traveller by Peter Kent|
|A delightful short “ode to the moment”, written in prose that reminds us of the power embedded in the simplicity of meditative silence in which we can truly connect with ourselves and who we really are.|
|Guaranteed Success by Philip Brooker|
|Revealing the secret to “being successful on purpose” in business. How can you hit a target you are unaware of?|