My top reading picks from 2016

Each year I finish with a personal retrospective. It’s a chance to take stock and reflect on the highlights, lowlights, and what I’ve learned last year that I might apply to the coming 12 months.

A key part of this process is looking at what I’ve learned. As a business coach, education and improvement is not only a personal value, it’s my job. And one of the key ways in which I learn is through books. Many of the books I read, and others I listen to. They all provide me with insight, ideas, and perspective.

This year was a good year in the book department. Looking through my bookshelf, my kindle list, and my audible account, I found the top 25 books that influenced me in 2016. The entire list is too many to review in detail so here are five that deserve special mention.

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, by Daniel H. Pink

Dan Pink does it again.. As he’s done with Drive and A Whole New Mind, he takes the subject of selling and turns it into a universal skill that everyone in business, no matter what their role, must master to be successful. By thinking beyond the stereotypical used car salesman, Mr. Pink shows how we’re all selling in all parts of our professional and personal lives. He shows that we not only sell things, but ideas, methods, concepts, and even ourselves just about every day. In the book he also outlines the half-dozen key traits of successful selling and describes how and when to apply them. Check out the book for the details.

The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues, by Patrick M. Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni is widely known for his work on team performance. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is one of go-to texts for making teams great. His follow-up digs into the key individual attributes that make a great team player. By looking for, and developing, these characteristics you can make sure you’re selecting the right people for your teams and finding focused goals for personal development that will make for better team performance. 

Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model, by John Mullins & Randy Komisar

For those of you in the product development space, I’m sure you’ve all read The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries. Some of you may have even read the book that Eric based a lot of his work on, The Four Steps to the Epiphany, by Steve Blank. If you dig one level deeper, you’ll find Getting to Plan B, by John Mullins and Randy Komisar. This book explains why, in early stage ventures, your first plan is guaranteed to be wrong, you just won’t know how. These authors show how to learn from the failings of your plan A so that you can get to plan B faster and make plan B better.

Managing The Professional Service Firm, by David H. Maister

If you’ve ever been in a consulting firm, or owned one like me, you’ll know that professional services industry is its own beast. Finding clients, finding people, and developing services is an art that take time and practice. While many people can make a marginal business out of it, it takes true focus and alignment and discipline to really get it right. David’s book gives you a guide to designing your business and tools to make it operate smoothly.

Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, by Sydney Finkelstein

My favorite book of the year was Superbosses. Sydney Finkelstein does an excellent job at looking at where great managers and great leaders come from and discovers a rare and often overlooked species of boss: the Superboss. These are people who are not just great bosses themselves, but also create many great bosses under them. Sydney shows 20 of the NFL’s 32 head coaches trained under Bill Walsh from the 49ers, and illustrates how 9 of the 11 executives that worked under Larry Paige at Oracle, went on to be CEOs, chairs, or COOs of other companies. If you want to know if you are, or work for, a Superboss, read the book and learn about the key traits—several of which are quite surprising—of these rare and unique leaders.

And with that, we’ll call 2016 a wrap and look forward to making 2017 a similarly good year. If you found those five summaries interesting, check out the books themselves and the rest of the books on my list.