Here are some of my favorite books on topics that affect performance and effectiveness. These areas are often at the core of my coaching, whether at the individual, team, or organizational level.
Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
by David Rock
Told in an entertaining story mode, Rock uses neuroscience to explain why we lose focus and how to be more effective.
The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want
by Sonja Lyubomirsky
This practical guide is both a how-to book and a research-based contribution to the field of positive psychology. (Other well-known authors in the field: Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow.) Lyubomirsky offers a range of techniques that have been shown to increase positive well-being. Her research concludes that, although our level of satisfaction in life is often affected by factors we can’t control, like our genes and our environment, we actually can control roughly 40 percent of our happiness. Why not make the most of that 40 percent?
Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong
by Carl E. Larson and Frank M. J. LaFasto
A required text at the Stanford Business School, this short and readable book combines systematic research with clear conclusions about the essential characteristics of high-performing teams. The authors researched a wide range of teams, from a Mount Everest expedition to a ground-breaking cardiac surgery team. The eight principles they identify, and the frequent causes of team failure, can be applied to any collaborative effort.
Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen
Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last, and his colleague Hansen studied high-performing firms that beat others in their industry by at least 10X for 15 years or more (the “10x’ers”). They examine the effect of luck on the success of the 10x’ers and conclude that these companies didn’t have better luck; rather they took full advantage of good luck and were disciplined enough to be in position to minimize the consequences of bad luck in difficult times. Drawing lessons from the contemporaneous expeditions to the South Pole in 1912 of Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen, they coin the term “20-mile march” to describe the discipline and steady progress of the companies that thrive. (The team of steady “20-mile marcher” Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole; no one on Scott’s team survived.) The book offers great stories and examples to boost a sense of emotional fortitude and the power of choice and determination.