Read to succeed – 2017 list of business and self improvement books

My list of business reads for 2017 (Read to Lead) was well received, so I thought I would share my 2018 list with you. I have read some fantastic books this year and not very many made it onto my “others” list!

You may view some of the books I list here as more “self-help” rather than business. The reason I list these are that I spend a lot of time informally coaching. I love to read books that may help me point people in the right direction to deal with their personal blockers to sucess as well as business ones.

Here are my top picks from 2018:

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

I don’t think I have ever underlined and highlighted a book more than this one. I have been really interested in mindsets (and how you change them) since I read “Mans Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl”. I have changed my own mindset hugely over the years by being open to ideas and trying things out. My happiness baseline is now very high which has really improved my resilience – essential in the work of work. 

Check out Shawns Ted Talk

It’s really funny and gives you a good taste of what this book is all about. The book is also funny and highly readable, backed up by science and research. I want to take so many of the ideas here and share them. They can (incrementally) be quite life changing! I am currently reading the follow up “Before Happiness”.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek 

I saw Simon Sinek’s famous Ted Talk a few years ago and it literally changed the way I approach work. I figured out my “why” and everything changed. When you figure out your “why” your energy and resilience almost seem to become limitless. I want to help people and businesses learn how to shine brighter. Everything I do goes back to that. Simon has his critics and you could say that this book can be a little simplistic. But, because I know this approach works, he has a permanent fan here!

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink

As a Myers Briggs ENFP this book felt like home. It celebrates and states the case for a different kind of mind. A mind that is becoming more important as AI and IT take many aspects of work. 

Good news for me is that I appear to have this kind of mind! – probably why I liked the book so much. Pink argues we need to supplement our already well-developed left-brained skills by getting in touch with six critical senses, namely: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning.

I loved the section where he explains the importance of laughing and joy in the workplace. If we grasp his vision of the future it may lead us to becoming much more fulfilled within our careers.

How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up by Emilie Wapnick

Another good book to give ideas for career coaching. Plus, I am one of the people she refers to in this book. Someone who is interested in many different things – too many sometimes! It was great to realise the strengths of this and strategies to deal with the weaknesses

The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves by The Arbinger Institute

I am fascinated about mindset and the difference you can make to your life by being aware of and making changes to your current mindset can make.I defiantly have an outward mindset, I could recognise my behaviours throughout this book. What interested me was how to sustain it when the going gets tough and how to facilitate organisational change using awareness to outward mindset. I think this book would be particularly useful to change managers

The Kindness Method: Changing Habits for Good by Shahroo Izadi

How do you make changes to bad habits in your life? How do you react when you fall off whatever “wagon” you are on? Do you have a harsh inner critic? This book takes a refreshingly different approach to creating lasting habits and has some nice techniques for dealing with that inner critic.

Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get From Good to Great by Carmine Gallo

Gets 5 stars from me! Another great read with fascinating examples and tangible tips that you can really apply to your presentations and communications. I took lots from it and was able to apply the learnings immediately.

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

I don’t say this often, but this is a must-read book. It is, in fact, a book that could save your life and will certainly improve the quality of it. Sounds heavy? 

Nope, it’s actually far more fascinating than scary, but the impact will be that you will start to plan sleep and give it much more priority – making your life immediately better. I work in HR and have turned into a sleep evangelist – with every conversation I now start with “Soooooo, are you getting enough sleep?”. Because lack of sleep causes so many problems and great sleep maximises your true success potential.

Some key things that interested me:

– being a night owl or a morning bird is not a choice but a circadian rhythm that we cannot change. We just need to adapt to it.

– What enough sleep really means and the fact that catching up at the weekend does not reverse the damage. 

– The link between sleep and obesity. spoiler alert – 3 years olds who sleep 10.5 hours or less have a 45% increased chance of being obese by age 7.

– The link between sleep and the heart – adults 45 or older who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack.

– The link between Sleep and Alzheimer’s

– The link between sleep and emotions – emotional IQ depends on consistent REM sleep.

– The link between sleep and sports injuries. Less than 6 hours sleep, your chance of injury increases by 75%

– Practise + sleep makes perfect

– Deep sleep is a driving force of brain maturation

– Of particular interest to me is that insufficient sleep in the workplace causes massive issues. Sleep is a determining factor in creativity, intelligence, memory, motivation, effort, efficiency, productivity, effectiveness in groups, emotional stability, sociability and honesty. All are dismantled by insufficient sleep. Very importantly, as a HR person, a key message for me is that people like their jobs less and are more likely to blame others when they are under slept. Poor sleep in managers creates a chain reaction in their team. 

In summary, every CEO should read this book, yes its startling, but the most simple changes and education could create a company that really maximises its potential.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff

I finished Finish!!

Great book with lots of tangible tips on reaching goals and the reasons we procrastinate. Bonus… it’s funny. I do love an amusing business book. Makes learning fun!

The Mindful Leader: Ten Principles for Bringing Out the Best in Ourselves and Others by Michael Carroll

This book was written by a HR Leader, and as a fellow HR professional I can easily see how my practice fits and improves my chosen career path. It aids:

– the ability to sit comfortably with uncomfortable emotions and topics

– the ability to really listen without chatter, opinions and distractions going on in your brain which creates much more quality interactions.

– in HR we deal with lots of very human problems and mindfulness gives you a lot more patience, perspective and peace for each situation no matter how messy it might be.

The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win by Jeff Haden

This was brilliant!! Practical, tangible and very enjoyable. It literally has something for everyone and I defy you to not take away at least one thing that will improve your life. There is no secret switch that makes someone successful. There is a process and clear tips and techniques that you will find here. 

Want to lose weight? – read this book, 

Want to achieve a goal of any sort? – read this book,

Want to stand out in work for promotions and pay rises ? – read this book

Setting up your own business? – read this book

Want to get more done? – read this book

I will be recommending this to everyone!!

I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam

This book has its critics in that it’s very much about and aimed at “successful” women who have earned a high degree of flexibility. However I thought there was a lot of great advice in here for women who are at an earlier phase of their career and are not stepping up and forwards due to their perceptions of how hard it will be to juggle family and a “big” job. There are lots of great tips, but what stuck with me most is our unbalanced mindset of what “busy” actually means, how many hours we have available in reality and the choices we make with those hours. As a working mum it made me feel much better about my choices as it showed that many working mums spend even more quality time with their kids as they were so intentional about that time. It also gave me a nice mindset change to my constant battle with emails!

A Mind At Home With Itself: How Asking Four Questions Can Free Your Mind, Open Your Heart, and Turn Your World Around by Byron Katie

Great book that would really help anyone who has anxiety or struggles with life and sees themselves as someone who suffers due to other people. It’s quite deep and I think people should start with a more basic Byron Katie book or the tools on her website. The last chapter of the book where the basic use and concepts of “the work” is explained should have been at the start of the book – again for those who may be new to the concepts. 

It’s a super straightforward but very effective way to challenge how our thoughts create far greater suffering than is necessary

Life in Half a Second: How to Achieve Success Before It’s Too Late by Matthew Michalewicz

4.5 stars. This is probably the best book on achieving success that I have read. It’s tangible, practical, science based and inspires you to take action.

Why 4.5, because to inspire you to take action he starts and ends the book explaining in huge detail just how insignificant your life is in the grand scheme of things. Whilst this may be true it left me feeling a bit unsettled! But maybe we need this wake up call….

Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur by Richard Branson

This book is very refreshing. Richard Branson has the right attitude to life, business and people. Very interesting insight into what he believes makes good business and how to be utterly human while creating it

The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World by Nilofer Merchant

This book works to confirm one of my most fundamental beliefs – that every single one of us matter and can contribute in a fulfilling way to the world if we get rid of the barriers and beliefs that stop us. Very inspirational with lots of fascinating case studies.

Total Focus: Make Better Decisions Under Pressure by Brandon Webb, & John David Mann

I thought this book was excellent in that it provided a practical and tangible approach to excellence whilst also being honest about the amount of hard work and the mindset required. Good examples and case studies of learning from mistakes and failures. He is not claiming that he is perfect now but provides a framework to at least get as close to excellence as you can. This book should leave you energised, focused and with some new ideas.

Screw Business As Usual by Richard Branson

Very inspirational read. Other reviewers are critical about the fact that he is so well connected, and how easy it is for him to create change compared to the likes of us. However, what Richard Branson does is use his connections, wealth, experience and entrepreneurial spirit to do good. Something we can all do if we find a cause we care about enough. He has made me look at the CSR strategy we created for the company in a different way as he gives many examples and case studies of companies that are doing good and making money at the same time. He also shows how you can do good on a micro and macro level, it not all big projects to save the world from global warming. Sometimes it’s arranging a loan for an African lady to buy a sewing machine to set up her own business.

Culture is Everything: The Story And System Of A Start-Up That Became Australia’s Best Place To Work by Tristan White

This is such a simple, practical guide to creating a winning culture. It has a checklist that can help you achieve the culture of your dreams. It is written by the CEO of the company, who is passionate about the benefits that a great culture brings. Important point though if your CEO and senior team don’t get it, it will be an uphill battle. The checklist is great, but you need buy in from the senior team in your organisation to make the culture change truly significant and noticeable.


Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust 

by Adam Kahane

Wasn’t what I was expecting. Explained his theories using huge political examples which I couldn’t always relate to what I was hoping to use it for. The end of the book was more useful, but I would have enjoyed a summary of his theory more than a full book.

Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown

I’m not really the right audience for this book. Very interesting but would be great for UI/UX designers, product owners or managers. The system is supposed to be applicable for any business really but most of the examples are B2C rather than B2B.

From a HR point of view interesting how to set up a growth team and who should be on it. Also, a good overview of what they should be doing but a bit too detailed for me.

Ask Outrageously!: The Secret to Getting What You Really Want by Linda Byars Swindling

Couldn’t finish it. There was not enough content to create a book out of this idea, it’s an article at best. Filled with simple common sense, nothing eye opening

Next year I am looking forward to:

–         Some more Simon Sinek

–         Flow by Mihaly Csijssentmihalyi

–         More on positive pshchology

–         More Carmine Gallow

I’ll finally read The 7 habits of highly effective people!

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