To say 2016 was a whirlwind is certainly an understatement! The past year was full of highs and lows, and more highs and lows. It looks like a new course has been set, and we are going to be in for one heck of a ride in 2017!
I always like to take the time just before the new year to think about my focus for the upcoming year. I also like to summarize it with one or two words. For 2016, it was “leadership,” and I made the commitment to read a lot of leadership books, attend several leadership conferences, participate in a CEO group, and watch many leadership videos. When you think about it, for most businesses employees are the largest expense item on your income statement, so it only makes sense to spend a significant amount of time on developing your leadership skills. As a bonus, it not only helps you, but it helps your employees and your family (if you are one of those leaders who brings the “office” home every now and again).
In looking back over 2016, I wanted to share with you my favorite leadership books that I read in 2016, broken down by categories:
My first set of books is based on general leadership, the big picture, the right attitude to be a successful leader.
Start with Why – Simon Sinek
I put this book first since if you don’t clearly know your “why,” reading the other books really doesn’t matter. To succeed, you need to have a strong purpose as to why you are doing what you are doing. If not, you are going to have a hard time staying focused on what matters most; and your employees will not have the drive needed to get them to go the extra distance. Your “why” is not about making money (that is a result), it is why you (and your business) exists! First start with your personal why (which is where the leadership comes in), then apply that enthusiasm of “why” to your team, and that is where the magic really happens! Simon has great resources on his website, including PowerPoint presentations you can use to educate your team. You can also watch his famous TedTalk, or just Google “start with why simon sinek”:
Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
This was the first book I read in 2016, and based on the title I didn’t expect much from it, but the content was great and easily applicable to business leaders. Ex-Navy Seal, Jocko Willink came up with 13 points that cover off leadership, however I believe the first point is the most important (and the title of the book), “extreme ownership.” Basically, it’s all your fault, you are responsible for the successes and failures in your life and business. If your team is not 100% on board on why you are doing what you do, then it’s your fault that you didn’t communicate your purpose sufficiently enough. If you didn’t make your last quarters financial goals? Yes, it’s your fault! Maybe you didn’t spend enough time developing the right goals, guiding your team on achieving them, and following up to ensure they were meeting their targets. You can get a quick easy to read book summary on Paul Minors website.
Entreleadership – Dave Ramsey
I had certainly heard of Dave Ramsey the personal financial guru, but I hadn’t heard of Dave Ramsey, the leadership guru until I attended the Infusionsoft ICON conference in Phoenix last year. I love Dave’s common sense approach to business. I don’t think many people realize that Dave’s organization employs 100’s in the Nashville area, and operates various business models across the country, from financial literacy for churches, schools and everyday people to his Entreleadership books, support groups, and conferences. In the spirit of sharing, Dave gives his take on starting and running a business, and covers his early learnings, his philosophy on hiring and firing, as well as his advice on financing a business. This comment I heard Dave say at his conference in Dallas, sums up his common-sense approach “I had a job, the guy needed a job, so I thought he would do the job for money, wow, was I mistaken!” He gave great tips on employee communications and his leadership style. If you like listening to podcasts, Dave’s got one of the best, you will hear interviews with the top business thought leaders (many of the authors on this list have been interviewed) for free on his website (or iTunes).
Without a team behind you, you basically have a job. Your largest expense item and your source of most of your headaches will be around employees, so I have this selection of books that focus on hiring and keeping the best employees on your team.
The Ideal Team Player – Patrick Lencioni
The challenge with people is that they have their personalities, quirks and other idiosyncrasies that make them, let’s say… a challenge. What I love about this book is that it simplifies the important attributes to great employees, the key is to find those who are: hungry, humble and (people) smart. You would think every person who wants to work would have these traits, but they just don’t. How many people are just looking for a “job” (not hungry), are “entitled” (not humble), and/or self-centered (not people “smart”). It gives you a new lens to view your existing team, and to evaluate new additions to your team. When you have a team of hungry, humble, and smart employees, life will be much easier for you. The Table Group has a lot of great tools and resources online to help you with the Ideal Team Player model on their website.
Multipliers – Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown
In Multipliers, Liz and her co-author, Greg McKeown (author of another great book, Essentialism, which I’ll discuss in another blog on “productivity”) discuss why some leaders bring people down (“diminishers”), and others bring them up and often get 10x productivity out of them (“multipliers”). This book focuses on getting you to think about your leadership style and whether you are bringing everyone down, or are you getting the most of out your team. It also helps you identify what each of your team members does really well, so you encourage their creativity and focus on what they do best, which will not only make them go over and above but will make them happy. There is a great book summary on the Harvard Business Review website for the book titled: Managing Yourself: Bringing Out the Best in Your People. There is also a free assessment to see if you are a “multiplier” or “diminisher on her website.
Now that you have a basic leadership style, and a team behind you, you need to actually make things happen. These books will help you stay focused, and give you some processes you can follow to keep you and your team on track!
The ONE Thing – Gary Keller
This is the book that helped guide me to work on the most important thing every day for 2016, which was developing my leadership ability. Since I run two companies, the ability to manage my attention is critical, while I still have a long way to go, it certainly helped with my sanity. Once you know your “why,” this book would be a good second book to read. Gary will help you plan and execute a strategy so you can accomplish your goals. You can download a free book discussion guide, the figures and graphs from the book and even watch a webinar on The One Thing website.
Beyond Entrepreneurship – Jim Collins
This book is what I consider the “manual” of implementing many of Jim Collins’ strategies, from developing a vision framework, a BHAG, and keeping your ship going in the right direction. The good news is that Jim Collins did say he was going to update and re-release this book in the near future (hopefully 2017!). Don’t forget to visit Jim’s “tools” section on his website, for some great resources!
Scaling Up – Verne Harnish
Once you have worked on your personal leadership style, you need to implement it within your organization and that is where Scaling Up comes in. This book has all the details for you to communicate (and over-communicate) your vision and purpose so that all your employees are not only going in the right direction, but all on the same path. This is a tactical book, that has specific strategies for communicating your vision, goals, KPI (key performance indicators), manage employees (daily, weekly, quarterly meeting structures), and will focus you on your most important number! Verne also has many of the worksheets available to download for free on his website.
You will often hear Dave Ramsey say that “leaders are readers,” and I totally agree! I read about 6 books per month. For me, I read about an hour in the morning before I start work, and another hour at night before I go to sleep. As well, I travel a lot, so I do get plenty of other opportunities every month to read on planes and on weekends. For those of you who are not big readers right now, you may want to start with baby steps, and that would be reading book summaries. I found this great website run by productivity expert, Paul Minors, you will find 2-3 page book summaries of many of the books mentioned above.
So what am I going to focus on in 2017? Well, my word will be “execute.” I plan on taking all the leadership and processes I learned over the past year, and now execute on them! I will be adding new profit centers, adding more employees, updating practice and business processes so that I can squeeze out more profitability. In essence, I am going to “get it done!” As I move through this journey in 2017, you can keep tabs on my progress on the IAPAM blog, and my personal Facebook and LinkedIn profile pages for the latest entries.
As for you, now is the time for you to choose your word, what is your focus going to be for 2017?
Wishing you a wonderful 2017!!
Cheers, Jeff Russell