What Great Bosses Know about Bedtime Reading

October 6, 2010
Category: Uncategorized

I’m sometimes asked to suggest worthwhile books for bosses. I’m pretty picky about my favorites. They need to be practical, helpful, grounded in solid research and well-written. After all, managers have so little spare time these days, that when they curl up with a book, it’s probably bedtime — or sick bedtime — reading.

Here’s hoping you are healthy and have a little time to spare. I’m suggesting four books I’ve enjoyed reading recently — and think you might, too.

For bosses managing change (and who isn’t?)

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

The Heath brothers, Chip and Dan, build on the solid foundation of change management expert John Kotter, whose book, “The Heart of Change,” emphasizes the key role of emotion in change. The Heaths look at the challenge of balancing head and heart in all sorts of situations, from personal to business. They use real-life examples and research to back up their recommendations on setting clear direction, finding quick wins and keeping people moving in the right direction.

For managers who want to be smarter about motivation

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

Daniel Pink rounds up some of the best thinking on motivation and shows why money isn’t a magical motivator. Make no mistake, as Kenneth Thomas also makes clear in “Intrinsic Motivation at Work,” money isn’t unimportant. Thomas and Pink agree that poor pay drags people down, but when the issue of money is taken off the table, the real drivers of performance and engagement come from within people. It’s the manager’s job to help rev up the internal engines Pink identifies: autonomy, mastery and purpose. For a fun slice of the book’s message, check out the creative video produced from Pink’s talk at London’s Royal Society for the Arts:

For bosses who don’t want to be jerks

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best … and Learn from the Worst

Stanford’s Robert Sutton says he got so much reader feedback from his last book, “The No Asshole Rule,” that he turned their horror stories into a guide for bosses who want to do things right. Make no mistake — this isn’t a workplace etiquette book. Sutton teaches how to be a very strong leader, but he parses the difference between a smart boss and a wise one. He balances an emphasis on empathy and compassion with direct advice like “cut loose the real losers” and “protect yourself from the energy suckers.”

For supervisors who want a better understanding of how they, their employees and their customers make decisions of all kinds

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Every manager has to be a psychologist from time to time, and they can use a coach like Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke. His entertaining case studies on how people make decisions — sometimes foolishly — and why, can help bosses with everything from motivation, to negotiation, to doing a better job in their own judgment calls. (Note: He has a newer book, “The Upside of Irrationality,” but it’s still on my “To Read” list.)

As a bonus, let me point you to something so creative I just had to share it. Graphic artist Patrick Garvin of the Florida-Times Union wanted to do something to support some colleagues who were recent victims of the economy. So he adapted a column I wrote last year, “Ten Reasons You Should Hire a Journalist.” Garvin gave it new life with his illustrations. Click this link and see for yourself.

Bookstore shelves feature plenty of business books. (And one more soon, I hope, as I’m working on one based on these columns and my teaching.) But what’s the best strategy for choosing books and implementing what you learn in the workplace? I’ll share my advice in today’s podcast: “What Great Bosses Know about Bedtime Reading.”

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information on leadership and management that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and all walks of life.

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