Our Favorite Business Books

To order any of the following books, click here!

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster 1989) by Stephen R. Coveys
One of the best self-help books out there, Covey’s 7 Habits is for everyone, not just CEOs. A special favorite is Habit 5: “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.” The trick of diagnosing a problem before prescribing a remedy may sound like common sense, but how often do we problem-solve in the wrong order? Keep your chin up! Have a positive attitude! This is, often, great advice, but telling someone to “walk it off” when they have a broken leg may be evidence of a premature prescription. Empathetic listening, according to Covey, allows us to understand deeply. It’s the usual pattern that we seek first to be understood – to get our point across, make ourselves clear. Highly effective people listen with the intention of understanding someone else, then respond appropriately and empathetically to what they hear. And when people feel like their problems have been heard and understood, they are far more likely to be receptive to and have faith in the advice they are given.
     Another very useful tool in Covey’s book is the Time Management Matrix. It divides our chores into four quadrants: Urgent and Important; Not Urgent but Important; Urgent but Not Important and Not Urgent and Not Important. Once we learn to place the tasks we do on the matrix, we can begin to see how much of our productive time is being sucked away on tasks that are simply not important. We learn to focus our time on tasks that are Important but Not Urgent – the space for long-range planning activities, for preparing for eventualities so they don’t become fires that must be put out.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

Co-Active Coaching (Davies-Black 1998) by L. Whitworth, H. Kimsey-House and P. Sandahl
A very nuts-and-bolts approach to the hard work of becoming an effective coach, Co-Active Coaching deals with the basics. How do you give clients the hard tasks, the unwelcome feedback, when you’re afraid you might lose their business? Your clients are counting on you to be honest with them, but let’s face it, sometimes the truth hurts. Two excellent points in the book are the Gremlin Effect and the 3 levels of listening.
      According to the authors, clients have Gremlins that must be dealt with. The Gremlin is that little voice that nay-says risky decisions, that turns away from change. The Gremlin is happiest with the status quo, and when things look likely to change, it’ll speak up with all its “can’t” language (“You can’t do that! That can’t work!). The Gremlin looks at the bleakest sides, the darkest outcomes, the scariest possibilities, and sometimes clients listen. Taking the Gremlin head-on, right from the start, is one of the coach’s primary responsibilities: drag the wee beastie into the light where the client can see it for what it is, and suddenly the Gremlin starts to lose its influence.
      The 3-tiered listening system is a highly sensitized way of understanding our listening habits. At Level 1, we are listening only to hear how what the other person is saying impacts on us. Does the fact that you’re not happy mean that my life is going to be impacted? At Level 2, we focus on the other person. Level 2 is the lovers, so focused on one another that the rest of the world ceases to exist until closing time, when the cleaning staff starts mopping under their chairs as a hint. We hear each other, we monitor body language, we are hyper-aware of everything about each other. At Level 3, we are listening with a 360º radius. Everything around us feeds into our communication, like radio waves in the air. At Level 3, our intuition is heightened, coaches become aware of not just the client but the world the client lives and works and moves in and is impacted by.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

Gung Ho! (Wm. Morrow 1998) by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles
Gung Ho! Turn on the People in Any Organization is a slightly cheesy, light read on a very important topic: how to keep employees’ spirits from “dying at the office door.” Peggy Sinclair called it the “quit-but-stay” option: when someone keeps coming to work but stopped being a real participant some time ago. So how do you re-energize a workforce that has already quit?
      First, apparently, you study some squirrels. Worthwhile work is lesson #1. Squirrels work hard because their work will matter when it’s winter and there’s little to eat. How do you show employees that their work matters, that it makes the world a better place? All work has value; knowing that their work is valuable and valued gives employees self-esteem and, of course, Gung Ho!
      The second lesson comes from beavers. Even though beavers work as a team, there’s no discernible leader. Each animal does what it thinks is best. And that’s the lesson: trust your employees to do their jobs in the way they know is best. “In control of achieving the goal” makes workers – you guessed it – Gung Ho!
      The final lesson is the Gift of the Goose: the raucous honks of a flock of geese isn’t about warnings or fear, it’s about joy and celebration and cheering each other on. A team that supports and encourages one another (and gets a few honks from above) is a team rife with Gung Ho!
      Gung Ho! may be a light read, but it touches on some very worthwhile management strategies. No one wants to work in an environment of mutual misery: the “Reassessment Guideposts” can help any employer or manager determine where they sit on the spectrum from Gung Hopeless to Gung Ho! and how to create a workplace where people want to be.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

Managing Time (Harvard Business School 2006)
Yet another contribution from the invaluable Harvard Business School’s Pocket Mentor series, Managing Time addresses one of the great questions every business person faces: How do I squeeze the most out of the time I have? According to Managing Time, effective people have two strategies for making their work time productive: (1) time leveraging and (2) time management.
      Time leveraging has to do with prioritizing, “using time in an intelligent way to pursue your most important goals.” Leveraging time means doing a fairly in-depth assessment of the way you spend time now and how you can allocate your time to get the most value from it. For example, do you learn better by reading a manual, doing some hands-on practice alone or being guided by a tutor in an intensive learning session? If you know what works best for you, don’t waste time trying to learn in a less-effective way.
      Time management is about how you leverage your time. Do you make lists? Schedules? Do you delegate responsibilities and chores? How do you make sure that everything that needs doing gets done?
      Without a vision and a plan, time management alone won’t do the trick. First, it’s important to understand what we’re working towards; then we can find ways to allocate more time toward our biggest goals, while effectively handling the day-to-day tasks that require our attention.
      Managing Time has a great many tools and tips to help us move competently toward our highest-priority goals without letting the small – but still important – stuff fall by the wayside.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

The Complete Guide to Coaching at Work (McGraw-Hill 2001) by Perry Zeus and Suzanne SkiffingtonAustralian authors Zeus and Skiffington’s The Complete Guide to Coaching at Work, gives readers a good grounding in the basics of coaching: what it is, where the idea comes from, what clients can expect to gain from being coached. Intended primarily for coaches or coaches-to-be, the book contains a lot of advice that business leaders could also benefit from. Coaching, after all, has to do with understanding people: their needs, desires, motivations and fears. Great leaders know that the success of their companies depends on the people who run them, and this book uncovers the secrets of developing trust and lines of communication throughout an organization. When only 35% of workers feel they can trust their managers and senior officers, clearly the current business model is flawed.
      The Complete Guide to Coaching at Work gives step-by-step guidelines for running productive coaching sessions, for becoming an effective listener, for determining and communicating the values of a company, for setting and accomplishing goals, for finding purpose in the work we do. From the CEO to the people on the factory floor, everyone wants to feel that his work has merit, that her contribution has been acknowledged and appreciated. This book can give coaches and managers the skills they need to lead a happy, focused, productive team.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

The Psychology of Executive Coaching (Brunner-Routledge 2001) by Bruce Peltier
Bruce Peltier was one of the first to apply psychological principles to the practice of coaching. Peltier’s book, The Psychology of Executive Coaching, targets two audiences: one, psychotherapists wanting to expand into business coaching, and two, business professionals who want to utilize the ideas and principles in their own workplaces.
      Imagine how much more effective you could be as a leader if you understood your employees’ defense mechanisms and how to work past them or the best ways to defuse active resistance to change. Behaviorism is about more than making dogs drool, after all; being able to gauge how employees respond to reinforcement and helping workers understand their own responses can lead to a team that is more self-aware and more in control.
      The book discusses such psychological concepts as “Cognitive Psychology” and “Hypnotic Communication,” giving history, definitions and real-life examples. The chapters are broken down into steps and offer guidelines for applying these principles in coaching sessions or in the work place. Grounded in the ethic of doing what’s best rather than what’s expedient, The Psychology of Executive Coaching is an excellent tool for any coach or manager wishing to help others achieve.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart (Jossey-Bass 2000) by Mary Beth O’Neill
Seattle-based coach Mary Beth O’Neill runs a training program which Urs has participated in, the principles of which he applies to his own coaching. O’Neill is an executive coach, and in Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart, she tackles the very special issues pertinent to business people at the very highest levels and the people who coach them.
     The book offers a very methodical approach to executive-level coaching. First, O’Neill looks at Core Concepts: What makes coaching executives different from coaching anyone else? Executives have less time and therefore often require a fast-paced, blunter approach. The sessions must be results-oriented, and coach and coachee should regard each other as partners in a process. Coaches need to identify and maintain a “signature presence” – that means not “performing techniques” on executives, but rather being engaged and interactive, fully present, not hiding behind formulas or roles.
      In Part Two, O’Neill outlines the four essential phases of coaching: contracting (setting goals, parameters, expectations), planning (identifying an action plan, focusing on next steps), live action intervening (watching the leader at work) and debriefing (discussing both coach’s and coachee’s assessments of the leader’s effectiveness).
      Part Three describes how coaches can determine if they have the traits necessary to be successful executive coaches (you are not intimidated by people in positions of authority) and how coaches can help leaders become coaches in their own workplaces.
      With its deep analysis of those in positions of leadership, Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart is an invaluable resource for anyone considering making the transition to executive coaching.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

Good to Great (Harper Collins 2001) by Jim Collins
One of Urs’ favorite books, Jim Collins’ Good to Great (Harper/Collins 2001) is a lengthy investigation of what differentiates a great company from a merely good one. Surprisingly, the muted success of being a ‘good’ company is often what limits it from becoming a ‘great one’ – good is, after all, good. Great is much harder.
      Author Jim Collins and his team studied a total of twenty-eight companies: eleven disparate companies that had made the transition from good to great (Fannie Mae, Gillette, Walgreens, etc.), eleven direct comparisons (same industries, not the same success), and six companies that had made the leap to greatness but failed to sustain it. By studying these businesses, Collins was able to pinpoint some of the ways in which great companies were different from less-great ones, but like one another. A few of these are:

  1. Level-5 Leadership: it’s humility and iron-willed determination for the win. Larger-than-life leaders may actually be detrimental to a company’s image. The best leaders usually come from within, ambitious for the company’s success – not their own.
  2. First Who . . . Then What: having the right people on board is what keeps the ship afloat. While the wrong people may have a company floundering in high seas, the right people will find and steer a successful course.
  3. Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith): often making the transition to greatness involves acknowledging head-on the stark and unpleasant truths about your current company and position. Once the truths of a situation are known, the decisions are often clear. Having the courage to discover the truth and act on it distinguishes the great from the good.

According to Jim Collins, he and his team “believe that almost any organization can substantially improve its stature and performance . . . if it conscientiously applies the framework of ideas” they uncovered. It’s time to be great.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

Giving Feedback (Harvard Business School 2006)
If the idea of a “feedback loop” for your business is that (a) there’s a problem, but (b) no one wants to address it with feedback, so (c) the problem doesn’t get fixed, and therefore  (a) there’s a problem, then we have the book for you. Giving Feedback from Harvard Business School’s highly effective Pocket Mentor series is an excellent resource for hands-on, error-proof, feedback training. Dedicated to helping you provide feedback that is equal parts positive and constructive, this book is loaded with tools and real-life examples. Armed with these strategies, you can enter feedback meetings prepared and confident that your concerns will be heard, while your employees won’t feel burdened or unfairly judged.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

Running Meetings (Harvard Business School 2006)
Also from Harvard Business School’s Pocket Mentor series, Running Meetings provides valuable insight into the art of running a productive meeting. From preparation to meeting follow-up, this book offers step-by-step advice for defining your goals, assessing your progress and understanding your group’s dynamics. What kind of a meeting is it? Are you gathering to share information, report progress, discuss problems, make decisions? How has the electronic age changed the meeting place and atmosphere? How can you deflect conflict and adjudicate differences? All of these issues inform your meetings and determine their success: this book can tell you how to get the most from your together time.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

The Economist: Guide to Management Ideas (Profile Books 2003) by Tim Hindle
What, exactly, is “vertical integration,” and how can “cannibalisation” refer to chocolate? For a quick refresher course on some of the principles of business, The Economist offers its business lexicon: Guide to Management Ideas. The comprehensive definitions and histories of several key terms, from “Activity-based costing” to “Zero-base budgeting,” can help anyone become more business-savvy. After all, if you plan to toss around terms such as kaizen and keiretsu over sushi, it’s important to know that kaizen means “continuous improvement involving everyone, managers and workers alike,” while keiretsu is “the name given to a form of corporate structure in which a number of organizations link together, usually by taking small stakes in each other. . . .” Whether you’re catching up or brushing up, this book is a great resource for any business person.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

Growing Your Business (Fireside 1988) by Paul Hawken
This is a great book for building a business based on your true values. Hawken - who still runs the premier mail-order garden tool company Smith & Hawken - shows that the successful business is an expression of an individual person. His main hypothesis is that the most successful business, your idea for the business, will grow from something deep within you which is so unique that anyone else who tried to execute it would fail. This is an easy read and an inspiring book for anyone in a small business.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

The Origin and Evolution of New Business (Oxford University Press 2000) by Amar V. Bhide
If you don't shy away from a bit of economics and appreciate a certain academic rigor, this is the book for you. The author, a Professor at Harvard Business School, has been featured Inc. Magazine with such controversial statements as: "in these highly turbulent markets, the cost of doing the analysis or writing a business plan exceeds the benefits." He has studied hundreds of successful ventures and combines this with modern theories of business and economics. One of the many insights he provides is that the stage of the market a business is playing in (e.g. growing or mature) has a much greater impact on the success of a new venture, than for example, the personality or management capabilities of the owner.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

The E-myth Revisited. Why most small business don't work and what to do about it (Harper Business Press 1995) by Michael E. Gerber
This is one of the best small business books around. Gerber walks you through the different stages of your venture and shows how to apply the lessons of franchising to any business. He also makes the important distinction between working on your business and working in your business. I have recommended this book to a lot of folks and almost all of them found it very insightful.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

The Referral Of a Lifetime: The Networking System that produces bottom-line results… every day! by Tim Templeton
This fun little book uses an entertaining fictional story to emphasize the importance of ‘putting the relationship first' – building an ongoing relationship with customers based on genuine respect and caring, rather than just making the sale and moving on. The book contains a step by step plan which inspired Urs in 2004 to start his own ‘staying in touch with my network program'. This is an easy read and a must for anyone in sales or in professional services.
Order the book: http://astore.amazon.com/redpocoach-20

Sign up for our e-newsletter ChangeAbility. ChangeAbility brings you hands-on tips and cool resources for growing your business.

* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
    Email Marketing You Can Trust

Read earlier editions of ChangeAbility