Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Book List

Well, 2014 was a big year for me. I finished my MBA and took on more responsibilities at work. I've seen a fundamental shift in my reading habits to be more focused on non-fiction. It is something that I thought would be remedied by my graduation, but even post-graduation I feel pressure to read for education and application rather than pleasure or personal satisfaction. While I understand the importance of continued professional growth, I hope to do a better balancing act in 2015. My annual goal is to read 52 books a year, but for 2015 I want to go a step further to say that I plan on reading at least 26 fiction books. I've joined a non-fiction book club, so I know that I will be getting a minimum does of practicality in my reading, so the push is to make sure the fiction side gets its fair share. 

 So here is my list from 2014. Enjoy!
#BookAuthorDate Completed
1Getting Past NoWilliam UryJanuary 10
2Man's Search for MeaningViktor E. FranklJanuary 19
3Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better DecisionsJohn S. HammondJanuary 24
4Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change by Joseph GrennyJoseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al SwitzlerFebruary 2
5Outliers: The Story of SuccessMalcolm GladwellMarch 3
6The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey 1)Richard Paul EvansMarch 10
7Born to RunChris McDougallMarch 11
8Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the BoxArbinger InstituteMarch 16
9Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-MotivationEdward L. DeciApril 7
10The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and HappinessJeff OlsonApril 14
11The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century Thomas L. FriedmanMay 2
12The Richest Man in BabylonGeorge S. ClasonJune 10
13How Will You Measure Your LifeClayton M. ChristensenJune 19
14Mind Over Back PainJohn E. Sarno July 20
15What Your Doctor Won't Tell You about Your Lower Back: Avoid the Pitfalls, Scams, Shysters, Con Men, Charlatans, and Quacks Bill YanceyAugust 9
16Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2)Suzanne CollinsAugust 26
17Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)Suzanne CollinsAugust 27
18Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold (Magic Kingdom of Landover #1)Terry BrooksAugust 28
19Five Dysfunctions of a TeamPatrick LencioniAugust 30
20The Black Unicorn (Magic Kingdom of Landover #2)Terry BrooksSeptember 3
21Wizard at Large (Magic Kingdom of Landover #3)Terry BrooksSeptember 7
22The Tangle Box (Magic Kingdom of Landover #4)Terry BrooksSeptember 9
23Witches Brew (Magic Kingdom of Landover #5)Terry BrooksSeptember 10
24Who Moved My CheeseSpencer JohnsonSeptember 20
25EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the TrenchesDave RamseyNovember 5
26The 4-Hour Work WeekTimothy FerrissNovember 15
27Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should KnowMeg MeekerNovember 29
28Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War IT'S Most Audacious GeneralBill O'ReillyNovember 30
29Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are HighKerry PattersonDecember 1
30Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is HardChip and Dan HeathDecember 31

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is HardSwitch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this is not a bad book, but has the misfortune of a competing title that addresses the same issues in more depth and with a more specific framework in roughly the same amount of space. I do like that it talks about change as a simple 3 step process, but Influencer just gives a better tool set. I don't know offhand which one was published first, but they share several of the same examples. Perhaps some borrowing is going on, but that is not material to me since I am focusing on my personal usefulness of the material. If you want to read a book on change, read Influencer. If you've already read Influencer and want a different vantage point on essentially the same principles, then Switch is the book for you.

If I were to call out a nugget of wisdom from this book, there is a useful sections that comes to mind. I really liked the part about action triggers. Just making the decision, setting goals, and structuring the environment doesn't guarantee success in your change effort. Adding some other features to the effort will increase your likelihood of success, and one of those is attaching required activity to outside triggers. An example is attaching a planned action--such as homework--to a specific date, time and place in relationship to an unavoidable event, such as Christmas morning.

Finally, this book does break with my common observation about business books being one third too long, with the last section of business books usually feeling like useless filler to hit a page target. This book gives great tips, examples and applications of the content at the end of the book. A small thing, but nice. Unfortunately, I think the first part of the book could have moved faster, but you can't have it all.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are HighCrucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review is a little ironic because I have championed the content from this book for years. I first encountered it around 2006, and have shared some of its key messages with others ever since. I have even added it to our annual list of books we study together at work (along with Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Leadership and Self Deception.) So why am I reviewing it now? Well, it is because every other time I have been distracted and not finished it, or have just reviewed sections rather than read them word for word. This time, with an upcoming training session I was conducting on my schedule, I made sure to read every word, and finally add it to my "Read" list.

So the content in Crucial Conversations is transformative. The power is not in the idea that some conversations are difficult or crucial, or even that we generally handle them poorly. The value is in the clear description of the model for how to handle crucial conversations. It is still difficult, but I have told new stories to myself and supported continued dialogue in many situations. My results with the content have made me a firm believer that this book is a must read for anyone who wants to improve the quality of communication with those around them.

So why didn't I give 5 stars if I'm such a fan? Well, I believe that I got a lot of value from this book in part due to other content I have come in contact with. Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Getting Past No, and others have provided many frameworks and situations that leverage the crucial conversations skills. With a 4-star rating I'm admitting that there are some situational applications that aren't covered by this book. Add those other titles to your reading list, and you'll get 5 stars worth of value out of this one for yourself.