by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
As the dulcet tones of Auld Lang Syne finally faded into the background, many of us will have woken up to the dawn of the New Year with a sense of renewed optimism and purpose.
But as January moves into February chances are that many of those promises have fallen by the wayside. Which is absolutely fine…I mean, we could rip the proverbial out of you, but we figure your colleagues have probably beaten us to it!
However, if there is one resolution that you really should be on top of it is the one that promises you’ll read more. Specifically, that you will read more business-related books over the course of the year.
This was the pledge I made to myself last year and truth be told the return on that time investment has been quite remarkable.
Reading about other industries the experiences of other agency owners has enabled me to see what I was doing from a different perspective, whilst gleaming new ideas that could be applied to my business. Books are the leadership equivalent of the shared economy.
Of course, we’re all time poor these days. So I looked at the times of the day when I could squeeze in 20-30 minutes of reading – on the train, over my morning coffee and the 15 minutes my other half takes in the bathroom each night before going to bed.
Before I knew it I was finishing 1-2 books each month. My significant other, however, listens to audiobooks and whizzes through double that number in the same amount of time – it’s about finding the right medium that works for you.
Here are the 10 books that I enjoyed the most in 2016 and the ones I would recommend to anyone, regardless of hat level in the organisation you are at:
1 Winners: And How They Succeed – Alistair Campbell
There are many social theorists and commentators out there who proclaim to have unearthed the secret to what makes people successful. Most of the time, they simply profile the ones we all know – think Gates, Jobs and Branson et al. Campbell, however, goes further in what is an incredibly well researched and detailed insight into dozens of winners from all walks of life.
2 Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger
Berger superbly captures the essence of what makes ideas catch on, why is it that people talk more about certain products and ideas more others and what makes online content go viral.
Drawing on 15 years of research into the phenomena of social influence and highlights how some brands have successfully mastered the art of creating PR and marketing campaigns that become ‘contagious’.
3 The Art of Social Media – Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick
PR people are generally terrible at social media – no really, they are (except for us of course!). Few really understand it and of those who do, even fewer ever get it right. This where ex-Google bod Kawasaki’s book helps – packed with useful hints and tips on how to run better social media campaigns.
4 The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
Big fan of this book, not lease because I found it incredibly useful as a great pick-me-up when I hit a bit of a lull twelve months or so ago.
The problem with PR, and probably all sectors, is that other business owners talk rubbish – each proclaiming that their business is flying and set for world domination. Few actually admit to anyone – perhaps not even themselves – that- running a business is hard and there are often challenges that need to be overcome.
It is perfectly normal for that to happen, and weird if it doesn’t. What Holiday says is that it is these challenges – or obstacles – that help shape the business leaders we eventually become. Each obstacle is not something that pushes you off course; rather, it creates a slightly different path to reaching your objectives. As such, obstacles should be encouraged, not avoided.
5 Blackbox Thinking – Matthew Syed
Syed, a columnist for The Times , uses real-world examples of how organisations and individuals have gained prominence by learning and adapting from every failure along the way. He makes the point that in science, failure is seen as progress – each failure is a step closer to finding the winning solution.
With case studies taken from the world’s of sport, healthcare, law and business Syed’s book will prompt you to rethink the way in which you view those knock-backs in both your personal and business life. Success, he argues, is just the tip of the iceberg – beneath the surface lies a mountain of necessary failure.
6 Originals – Adam Grant
In Originals, Grant suggests that to be truly ‘original’ you don’t need to be the first person with a great idea – you just need to be different, better.
But to do this means embracing a culture where organisations – schools, businesses etc. – encourage individuals to speak up and contribute their ideas without fear of ridicule and in a way that business leaders can nurture those great ideas into something that could have real benefit for the greater good.
7 Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
This book will really make you think about how and why we make the decisions we do, whether purchasing choices or how we form opinions of people, objects or other situations. It can be tricky in parts and each page will prompt you to pause and consider what the author is saying, so expect this to be a slightly longer read than you may be used to.
8 Life’s a Pitch – Stephen Bayley & Roger Mavity
Split into two halves, each author takes it in turn to show how virtually every aspect of our daily lives is a sales pitch in one form or other.
There are some great ideas on how to create the right first impression and strong rationale as to why clients wrongly assume that measurement is all about numbers – it’s not: “Numbers is how you keep score, but they aren’t how you play the game.”
9 It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be – Paul Arden
This book can be read in thirty minutes – literally. Arden was the creative brain behind BA’s ‘The Face’ and Toyota’s “The car in Front…” ad campaigns that dominated British TV screens during the 1980s and 1990s.
This short book is a catalogue of insights with the underlining message to encourage businesses to “Be unfashionable: Take risks.
10 If I Could Tell You Just One Thing – Richard Reed
LinkedIn has been plagued by umpteen articles on ‘What I would tell my 20-year old self” – they are usually self-aggrandising twaddle, truth be told. Not to mention seriously dull!
You would be forgiven for thinking that this book follows that trusted format of key leadership lessons from the great and the good of our time. But it does so in a way that somehow feels more heartfelt, personal. And because of that it is easy to relate to its subjects – even Simon Cowell!