The summer travel season is almost here. I relish a summer day on the beach with a good book. My toes in the sand, the sound of the waves, and a great story that pulls me in. This is my definition of a perfect day. Whether you have a vacation planned or a long flight in your near future, nothing is better than some uninterrupted time with a good book.
Many businesses have implemented extraordinary changes in the last two years. Leaders and teams are being asked to do more and do it differently. As we look at the changes business faces in the coming years, I recommend reading some extraordinary books to provide you with innovative ideas and strategies for leadership, team engagement and fostering innovation. The additional benefit of reading widely is that it makes you a better writer. And we can all strive to improve our written communication skills.
Whether you are a leader, a manager, a lead, an owner or individual contributor, I recommend these thought provoking books.
1. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
I recommend this book most often to managers and teams in operations. It is full of riveting stories by Gawande as a surgeon traveling to several countries. He is able to prove that implementing checklists in healthcare and surgery settings saves lives. He shares how the volume and complexity of knowledge today exceeds our ability as individuals to follow procedures and make decisions properly, consistently, and correctly. Checklists have improved some of the most difficult things people do from flying airplanes and performing complex surgeries. There are many lessons for print and mail manufacturing in this book.
For more ideas on how to implement checklist strategies please read a blog by my colleague Mark Fallon, Checklists – Simple & Powerful Tools.
2. Death by Meeting, A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
We have all suffered through painful, boring, and unproductive meetings. We have all considered that going to a dreaded dental appointment might be more desirable than another meeting with certain teams or individuals. There is good news. Business meetings can be productive and useful. Lencioni uses a fictitious company filled with many familiar and humorous characters in a page turner about how companies and people can change. He provides a simple framework for leaders who want to eliminate wasteful meeting time and create an environment where employees are engaged and accountable. If you want to improve the meeting culture in your organization and ensure that all meetings are effective tools for making good decisions, this is your first book to read.
3. The Five Disfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
In Lencioni’s other best seller, he tells a powerful tale of a new CEO stepping in to run a company with a highly dysfunctional group of leaders with many challenges. This is a compelling story of a leader needing to make hard decisions to inspire change – or the current team dynamics may bring down the company. The team members will remind you of colleagues and associates you work with. If you want to improve your team dynamics and encourage people who are not engaged to move onto a new role, this is the book for you.
4. The Right Kind of Crazy by Adam Steltzner
This book is a first-person account of the innovation that led the Jet Propulsion Laboratory assisting NASA in landing the Curiosity on Mars. It is on my summer reading list. I chose it based on several recommendations while researching effective leadership practices. Steltzner shares how his team used curiosity-based decision making, and how they overcame creativity blocked by fear and uncertainty. He shares how they fostered mutual respect with teams while still bashing bad ideas. All great leadership lessons for business and print and mail operations.
While I read many business books, my real love is fiction. The power of story, dialog and characters that come into my life from reading books. Their stories make me laugh, cry, question, and open my mind to new ideas. Remarkable stories inform and educate us about concepts and choices we may have never considered, while providing alternative perspectives.
I am currently reading and highly recommend, The Vanishing Half: A Novel, by Brit Bennett. This is a fascinating story of African American identical twin girls born in rural Louisiana in the 1950s. The twins are light skinned, and run away together at age 16. One of the twins chooses to leave her family and past – living her life as a white woman. The author shares the different paths of the two sisters’ lives and the lives of their children. Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s. This book touches on the complex issues of race, racism, white privilege, and the changing societal norms across urban and rural areas in the context of a family divided.
I challenge you to read a new book. Start with one of my recommended books or another of your choice. Open your mind to innovative ideas and new lessons to learn. And may your reading provide you with ideas to share in your role and with your team. Happy reading.
Lois Ritarossi will be presenting Leadership and the Power of GRACE at IPMA’s 2022 Educational Conference June 12-16 in Buffalo, NY. In this talk, Lois and her colleague Mark Fallon discuss how successful leadership is based on two foundational principles – (1) servant leadership and (2) Individual peak performance. They will show how successful leaders are able to maintain both principles by applying GRACE: Generosity, Respect, Action, Compassion, Energy.
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at https://www.highrockstrategies.com/ or Lritarossi@highrockstrategies.com