Book & Video Recommendations
The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They’d Learned
Sooner by Peggy Klaus, 2008.
This is a very useful book to understand how important and necessary soft skills are in the
workplace. It also encapsulates much of the work I do with clients in order to help them build their
emotional intelligence and navigate their career.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, 2013.
At least one-third of the population is introverted, and they are undervalued in the workplace
today. Wharton management professor Adam Grant found in his research that extroverted leaders
enhance group performance when employees are passive, but introverted leaders are more
effective with proactive employees. Read this book and you’ll better understand your boss,
coworkers, direct reports and/or yourself.
Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Horn Without Blowing it by Peggy Klaus, 2004.
In this book, you learn to create a “bragalogue”(or short, enthusiastic, continually updated story
showcasing strengths and accomplishments) you can deliver comfortably and sincerely. This is a
key to “planting seeds for the future” or standing out in interviews, performance reviews or
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, &
Sheila Heen, 2000.
Here are strategies for disarming the impulse to lay blame and for exploring one’s own
contribution to a tense situation. There are specific recommendations for bringing emotions
directly into a difficult discussion by talking about them and paying attention to the way they can
subtly inform judgments and accusations. Understanding what is happening beneath the
conversation enables an opportunity for learning.
Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In by Mark Goulston and
John Ullmen, 2013.
In this post-pushing and post-selling world, influence should no longer be seen as something you
do to someone else to get what you want. Real influence isn’t even about what you want. Instead
it’s about forging strong connections by focusing on other people’s viewpoints and giving
something away before asking for anything in return. Connective listening is listening from their
there instead of your here.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek, 2011.
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And people follow others for the same
reason. Using Apple, Southwest Airlines and Martin Luther King, Jr. as examples, Sinek explains
why some people and organizations are more innovative, more profitable, and command greater
loyalties from customers and employees. A compelling why will always outpace any compelling
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek, 2014.
Workplaces today are full of cynicism, paranoia and self-interest. The best organizations foster
trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a “Circle of Safety,” which
separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside. This Circle of Safety, according
to Sinek, enables teams to be stable, adaptive and confident where every member feels that they
belong and are focused on the right things.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transform the way we Live, Love, Parent
and Lead by Brene Brown, 2012.
“It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers. It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that
might fail. It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo. It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to
settle. When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed. If
you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your
potential as a leader.”
Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence by Amy Jen Su
and Muriel Maignan Wilkins, 2013.
In order to own the room you must do two things really well: 1) demonstrate your authentic value and
distinction, and 2) connect to others in a positive way. The leaders who are able to be authentic while
also connecting with and impacting others have a signature voice — a means of self-expression that is
uniquely and distinctly their own. It takes a combination of what the authors call the driving voice and
supportive voice in order to perfect your signature voice.
The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership by Joelle Jay, 2009.
Using many examples from her executive coaching practice, Jay provides step-by-step exercises on
how to make progress with each of the 10 practices.
First, Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently by Marcus
Buckingham and Curt Coffman, 1999.
The authors use Gallup’s study of 80,000 managers in 400 companies to reach the conclusion that
a company that lacks great frontline managers will bleed talent, no matter how attractive the
compensation packages and training opportunities. There are also suggestions on how to become
a great manager, that include interviewing for talent, developing a performance management
routine, and learning how to get the best performance from talented employees.
Leadership on the Line by Ronald A. Heifetz and Martin Linsky, 2002.
Are your challenges technical or adaptive? Do you know the difference? Can you get to the balcony
and observe yourself in action? Do you know when and how to turn up the heat or turn down the
heat to get the work done. Can you give the work back in the face of resistance? This is a great
book for gaining perspective and putting it into action in your workplace.
Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman, 1995.
The author makes a convincing case for emotional intelligence being the strongest indicator of
human success. He defines emotional intelligence in terms of self-awareness, altruism, personal
motivation, empathy, and the ability to love and be loved by friends, partners, and family
members. People who possess high emotional intelligence are the people who truly succeed in
work as well as play, building flourishing careers and lasting, meaningful relationships.
The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, 1996.
It’s all about empathy and relationship. If a leader focuses on just those two things building the
next level of leaders is a far easier process.
Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard, Susan Fowler and Laurence
Managers are too busy and distracted to effectively mentor employees, so workers need to
assume responsibility for their own failures and successes. The modern workplace requires a
great deal of self-reliance. “Ultimately, it’s in your own best interest to accept responsibility for
getting what you need to succeed in the workplace.” Great advice for the responsibility we all need
The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve
Bottom Line Performance by J. Autry, 2001.
Servant leadership will produce fulfilling emotional, psychological, and spiritual rewards for
everyone involved. The author shows you how to remain true to the servant leadership model
when handling day-to-day and long-term management situations. You’ll learn how to manage with
respect and honesty and how to empower employees to achieve new levels of satisfaction.
The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M. R. Covey, 2006.
Son of the famous Stephen R. Covey, the author outlines 13 behaviors of trust-inspiring leaders,
such as demonstrating respect, creating transparency, righting wrongs, delivering results and
practicing accountability in order to help you move your organization along more quickly.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . And Others Don’t by Jim Collins,
What separates successful companies for those that are exceptional? At the heart of those rare
and truly great companies was a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined
people to think and act in a disciplined manner.
Workgroups & Teams
Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? by Denny Strigl, Frank Swiatek, 2011.
Behavior matters! This book has great advice on how to hold yourself and others accountable for
getting results. In my experience, accountability is perhaps the most vital behavior and appears to
be in short supply in the workplace today. Strigl & Swiatek provide valuable examples of what
works and doesn’t work in order to achieve results.
Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, 2002.
The first part colorfully illustrates the ways teamwork can elude even the most dedicated
individuals–and be restored by an insightful leader. A second offers details on Lencioni’s “five
dysfunctions” (absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability,
and inattention to results), along with a questionnaire for readers to use in evaluating their own
teams and specifics to help them understand and overcome these common shortcomings.
Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni, 2004.
Book discusses how to make our meetings more engaging and effective by focusing on contextual
structure and allowing for drama, especially conflict.
Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter by Cass R. Sunstein and Reid
Using examples from such diverse organizations as Google and the CIA, the authors help you
better understand the nature of how to help your team and organization make better decisions.
You can read a great deal more about it in my blog post here.
Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, 1998.
Excellent view of “The hard case for the soft skills.” The book details 12 personal competencies
based on self-mastery (such as accurate self-assessment, self-control, initiative and optimism) and
13 key relationship skills (such as service orientation, developing others, conflict management and
building bonds). Goleman includes many examples and anecdotes that show how these
competencies lead to or thwart success.
Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers by Anthony Mersino, 2013.
This is an excellent primer on emotional intelligence and the importance of it with regard to
project management professionals. Since research has shown that up to 80 percent of
management success can be directly related to emotional intelligence, project managers need
build solid interpersonal skills and their ability to recognize emotional cues in order to successfully
lead project teams.
Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, 2010
Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—
the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind
wants to change something at work; the emotional mind likes the comfort of the
existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome,
change can come quickly. It is essential to marry your long-term goal with short-term
critical moves. This requires behavior-level execution. The Rider needs direction; the
Elephant needs motivation. Motivation comes not from thinking, but from feeling—
knowledge isn’t enough to motivate change. It also requires confidence, and when
the change is big, you need to either shrink the change or grow your people (preferably
both). Great examples on how to bring about change.
Managing at the Speed of Change by Daryl Conner, 1992.
Leaders must raise their awareness of the Nature of change, the Process of change, and the
Resistance of change. Do not only apply these concepts to your organization but apply them to
yourself in order to understand how change affects you. You cannot escape the forces of change.
Are the challenges you face technical or adaptive? Do you know the difference? Can you get to the
balcony and observe yourself in action? Do you know when and how to turn up the heat or turn
down the heat to get the work done. Can you give the work back in the face of resistance?
Leading Change by John P. Kotter, 1996.
“Because management deals mostly with the status quo and leadership deals mostly with change,
in the next century we are going to have to try to become much more skilled at creating leaders.”
The author identifies pitfalls to be avoided that can undermine a successful change effort. He
convincingly argues for the promotion and recognition of teams rather than individuals. He aptly
concludes with an emphasis on lifelong learning.
The Heart of Change by John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen, 2002.
The book uses the same 8-steps outlined in the book Leading Change, but provides practical
examples to demonstrate the “see-feel-change” in action. This is a story-driven book that explains
how the best change leaders motivate people to overcome even daunting obstacles to change and
produce breathtaking results.
Communicating Change: Winning Employee Support for New Business Goals by TJ Larkin and
Sandar Larkin, 1994.
How and when you communicate can make or break your change initiatives. The authors provide
practical advice from actual examples of successful and failed communications at multinational
corporations including General Motors, Polaroid, Xerox, Hewlett-Packard, GE and IBM.
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant, 2016.
Grant presents a compelling case through studies and research debunking the common belief that
successful non-conformists are born leaders who embrace risk. He demonstrates how originality can
be launched, unleashed and sustained as well as how leaders can fight groupthink. Originals provides
you with the knowledge and courage to advance your own ideas.
Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy, 2015.
“To be present, it’s not enough to know who you are and express it to others; you need to act on it.
In 1992, psychologist William Kahn studied psychological presence in the workplace, identifying four
critical dimensions: a person must be attentive, connected, integrated, and focused.” The famous
TED Talk speaker who gave us the Wonder Woman pose presents a solid and convincing blueprint for
how you can “fake it until you become it.”
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, 2011.
After decades of research in psychology, Daniel Kahneman takes readers on an exploration of
what influences our thought processes. System 1 and System 2, the fast and slow types of
thinking, become characters that illustrate the psychology behind things we think we understand
but really don’t, such as intuition. Kahneman’s transparent and careful treatment of his subject
has the potential to change how we think, not just about thinking, but about how we live our lives.
Manager 3.0: A Millennial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management by Brad Karsh and
Courtney Templin, 2013.
No matter what your age, understanding and accepting that each generation has its own values
that differ from your own is important to manage relationships in your career. By 2015 there will
be more Millennials in the workforce than Baby Boomers. The main characteristics that define the
management style of these Millennial managers are: collaborative, flexible, transparent, casual
and balanced. The better prepared you are to communicate with Millennial managers, the better
you’ll succeed in managing, working along side or being managed by them.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, 1990.
A classic worth rereading from time to time in order to ensure you are practicing the great advice
A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, Richard Lannon, 2001.
New research in brain function has proven that love is a human necessity; its absence damages
not only individuals, but our entire society. The authors explain how and why our brains have
evolved to require consistent bonding and nurturing. They contend that close emotional
connections actually change neural patterns in those who engage in them, affecting our sense of
self and making empathy and socialization possible. Indeed, the authors insist, “in some important
ways, people cannot be stable on their own.”
Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, 2011.
Pink discusses the fact that carrot and stick methods for engaging workers has been scientifically
proven not to work, yet they are still used by most organizations as a way to motivate employees.
Intrinsic motivation including the elements of autonomy, mastery and purpose are what Pink says
is necessary to raise engagement and productivity in today’s workplace.
To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink, 2013.
Pink’s latest book convincingly informs us that “selling” is now a requirement for all of us no
matter what our job title may be. He describes the art and science behind selling and includes six
successors to the elevator pitch, three rules for understanding another’s perspective, five frames
that can make your message clearer and more persuasive. Pink weaves compelling stories along
with social science and research to create a paradigm shift for how we should think of selling
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, 2011.
“The kinds of errors that cause plane crashes are invariably errors of teamwork and
communication. One pilot knows something important and somehow doesn’t tell the other pilot.
One pilot does something wrong, and the other pilot doesn’t catch the error.”
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell,
I’m a fan of Gladwell’s books and this one provides a fascinating look at a common assumption
that bigger is better, stronger and more impossible to conquer. The author gives numerous
examples that challenge this assumption to hopefully unlock our own fears or reluctance to stand
in the face of impossible odds. Though the last few chapters drag on a bit and he doesn’t sum up
things as well I would like, all in all this is another terrific book that I think you’ll appreciate.
Short Videos (~20 minutes)
TED Talk Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
TED Talk Brene Brown: Listening to Shame
TED Talk Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action
TED Talk Simon Sinek: Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe
InsideQuest interview with Simon Sinek: How to Get People to Follow You
TED Talk Ken Robinson: How Schools Kill Creativity
TED Talk Daniel Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation
TED Talk Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts
RSA Animate: The Power of Outrospection
RSA Animate: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us