If you’re looking to relax over the holidays with a management book that can help you grow, HBR at 100 is your best bet.
This collection from the ever-insightful Harvard Business Review is filled with concepts that transformed management thinking over the past century. Indeed, each of the 30 chapters is essentially a summary of an important book that followed the article’s publication so you get extra mileage from your reading time. It’s an essential landscape of where we have been and where we are going, with legendary contributors like Peter Drucker, Michael Porter, Clayton Christensen, Frederick Herzberg, Teresa Amabile, Gary Hamel, Amy Edmondson and Theodore Levitt, who, when I stumbled on his classic Marketing Myopia article one summer while at university, dramatically expanded my horizons. There’s a currency to the ideas, and thanks to the skill of the journal’s editors over the years, the articles are not intimidating, but easy to read.
Here’s the rest of my top 10 list for 2022:
2. Deliberate Calm by McKinsey & Co.’s Jacqueline Brassey, Aaron De Smet and Michiel Kruyt focuses on controlling your emotional equilibrium in times of change – better handling thoughts and feeling, mindsets and beliefs and core identity preoccupations that can hinder your effectiveness. There were a lot of books this year showing how greater emotional awareness can make us better managers. This was the best.
3. Tranquillity by Tuesday by Laura Vanderkam has the long-time author on time management testing nine practical techniques. She reports on how you can bring them into your life, providing not only more balance, but also more excitement, alertness and energy. You can almost certainly benefit from at least a few of them and she is practical in her advice for implementation.
4. Quit by Annie Duke is the first extensive argument I can recall for walking away from challenges that aren’t worth your time and effort. We hear repeatedly about the importance of resilience and grit, and they are important, but the former professional poker player also highlights the value of knowing when to fold your cards, be it with a job that has turned sour or a project that no longer makes sense.
5. 7 Rules of Power by Stanford University business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer argues too many of us are afraid of power or embarrassed by our desire for it and that foolishly limits our careers. We need to get over ourselves, seek power and use it to improve things around us. His book prods us to reappraise our feelings about power and move out of our comfort zone, following his seven prescriptions.
6. The Trifecta of Trust by consultant Joseph Folkman has oodles of information from 360-degree assessment scores of leaders he uses to illuminate the three key elements of building trust with others: Expertise, consistency and fostering good relationships. Trust can be ambiguous, but those three pillars are relatively clear and attainable. His studies show you can improve trust over time and you need not be perfect but above average in each factor to be trusted.
7. Diversity Training That Generates Real Change by diversity consultants James Rodgers and Laura Kangas argues we have expected too much from diversity training and used inappropriate approaches as well, focusing on education, which gets people’s backs up. Instead, we need to encourage introspection and experiential learning about others, working with the overall work force, not just groups we decide need to be re-educated. The book offers lots of examples and excellent advice.
8. Suddenly Hybrid by Karin Reed and Joseph Allen tackles one of our newest challenges – virtual meetings. She is a broadcast journalist and he is a professor of industrial and organizational psychology at the University of Utah, and they bring their varied experiences to this tricky area that is new to most of us, offering lots of advice that can help you re-examine if you are on the right track.
9. Don’t Fix Women by gender equality consultant Joy Burnford reminds us not to blame women and try to change their behaviour in the quest for a fairer workplace, but to accept that our male-dominated cultures, processes and policies need to be shaken up. She takes readers through the many career obstacles women face, but what stands out in this book is the many practical options she offers in each area for organizations to make headway. The title may sound like a harangue, but the book is a sparkling educational offering.
10. The Crux by Richard Rumelt has the professor emeritus at the UCLA Anderson School of Management borrowing from his experiences as a rock climber. He highlights the importance in strategy of focusing on the problem or challenge in our organization where a commitment to action will propel us forward. The book is clearly written with many absorbing examples.
Depending on your interests or sense of where you need to improve, you will find something on that list worth plunging into.
- The two books I most regret not being on the top ten list are The No Club by academics Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser, Lise Vesterlund, and Laurie Weingart, which reveals how women are more likely to take on crappy, unpromotable tasks at work and what we can all do about that, and Ideaflow by Stanford design professors Jeremy Utley and Perry Klebahn, which argues the organization with the most ideas will win, so focus on producing far more than you currently do.
- Two other excellent books – let’s call them honourable mentions – are coming out in the next few weeks from Canadian authors, How to Calm Your Mind by Ottawa’s Chris Bailey and Workday Warrior by Ann Gomez.
- If you’re primarily after a compelling read, consider The Man who Broke Capitalism by New York Times columnist David Gelles, which eviscerates the record of the man viewed as the best manager of the last century, former General Electric Co. chief executive officer Jack Welch, or former Toronto Star publisher John Honderich’s memoir Above the Fold, which can be heartbreaking at times, as he tells about his efforts to build a career independent of his father, the betrayals he experienced when they worked together at the newspaper and the challenge of managing in an industry in decline.
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston-based writer specializing in management issues. He, along with Sheelagh Whittaker, former CEO of both EDS Canada and Cancom, are the authors of When Harvey Didn’t Meet Sheelagh: Emails on Leadership.