Leadership and Management Book Reviews

Amazon: Top Leadership Development Books List

Amazon: Diversity in the Work Place Books List

March 2016

Book review of CH2M Hill Little Yellow Book by Tom Rath and Jim Harter

Review by Scott Gillespie, City of Eugene, Oregon

I was lucky enough to work under a couple former senior CH2M Hill project managers early in my career. One thing they gave me was CH2M Hill’s Little Yellow Book. It’s given to every new CH2M Hill employee even to this day. It was written in 1982 by Jim Howland, one of the co-founders of the firm. Nothing in my career has resonated like this book, pound for pound it’s the best mentoring and project manager guidance I have ever come across. I still have a copy of it on my desk wherever I work. Take a read through it when you have time, it’s short, only about a 5 minute read. A few things are specific to consulting but 95% of it applies to all engineering professionals public or private. Following this has brought me a lot of success.

December 2015

Book review of Well Being: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter

Review by Robert Tintle, City of Eugene, Oregon

Based on research, the authors suggest there are five essential elements contributing to our wellbeing over a lifetime: Career Wellbeing; Social Wellbeing; Financial Wellbeing; Physical Wellbeing; and Community Wellbeing. The book is a quick and easy read. The end of each chapter includes recommendations for boosting wellbeing in that particular element. I agree with the authors’ statement that after reading the book, “You'll have a better understanding of what makes life worthwhile. This will enable you to enjoy each day and get more out of your life -- while boosting the wellbeing of your friends, family members, colleagues, and others in your community.” If you want to explore ways of increasing your own wellbeing, consider reading this book to jump start your journey.   

July 2015

Book review of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Review by Delora Kerber, City of Wilsonville, Oregon

Five Dysfunctions of a Team - A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Instead of presenting the material in a boring, technical style, this book reads like a novel.  The book is divided into two main sections – ‘The Fable’ and ‘The Model’.  In the first section of the book, it tells a story about the challenges of a fictional high tech start-up company through the eyes of a newly hired CEO and how teamwork plays into the success or failure of a company. We learn about the Kathryn, newly hired CEO and her seven top executives each with personality traits commonly encountered in the workplace. As they participate in several two day retreats, they discover information about each other and how their lack of team work affects their company. Kathryn presents to her team the Five Dysfunctions of a Team and how these dysfunctions impact the ability of their company to thrive.  In the second section of the book, the author provides a practical guide for using the Five Dysfunctions of a Team Model to improve your team with team assessment questions and examples. It is only 226 pages including acknowledgements and it an easy to read book. I highly recommend this insightful and enjoyable book.

June 2015
Book review of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
Review by Karina Hohler on November 5, 2012 (Amazon.com)
 The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
This is a book all leaders, born or made, should read. Maxwell's leadership laws are succinct and highly useful. He supports the laws with real business stories and leadership anecdotes, then he shows you how to apply these laws (each chapter ends with practical strategies and activities to help you reflect and grow your leadership abilities). Honestly, I couldn't stop reading.

But here are the main points from each chapter/law of "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership":

I. The Law Of the Lid: Leadership ability determines a person's level of effectiveness.
II. The Law of Influence: The true measure of leadership is influence--nothing more, nothing less.
III. The Law of Process: Leadership develops daily, not in a day.
IV. The Law of Navigation: Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.
V. The Law of Addition: Leaders add value by serving others.
VI. The Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the foundation of leadership
VII. The Law of Respect: People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves
VIII. The Law of Intuition: Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias
IX. The Law of Magnetism: Who you are is who you attract
X. The Law of Connection: Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.
XI. The Law of the Inner Circle: A leader's potential is determined by those closest to him
XII. The Law of Empowerment: Only secure leaders give power to others
XIII. The Law of the Picture: People do what people see.
XIV. The Law of Buy-in: People buy into the leader, then the vision.
XV. The Law of Victory: Leaders find a way for the team to win.
XVI. The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum is a leader's best fried
XVII. The Law of Priorities: Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.
XVIII. The Law of Sacrifice: A leader must give up to go up.
XIX. The Law of Timing: When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go.
XX. The Law of Explosive Growth: To add growth, lead followers--to multiply, lead leaders.
XXI. The Law of Legacy: A leader's lasting value is measured by succession.

A great book and the most digestible, practical, and actionable leadership book I've come across other than Leadership 2.0.

December 2014

Book Review of The Five Languages of Appreciation, by Gary Chapman and Paul White

Review Becky Nickell, City of Eugene

I recently listened to the audiobook The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White. Since two of Chapman’s other books, The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages of Children, have had positive effects on my personal relationships, I was curious when I saw that he had applied the love language concept to the workplace.

The basic idea behind these books is that people have different communication styles for showing and receiving love and appreciation. Chapman calls these styles “languages” and boils them down to five categories:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Acts of Service
  • Tangible Gifts
  • Appropriate Physical Touch

He says that everyone responds to all five languages to some degree, but that we tend to have one or two that we are really fluent in. When we receive a message in one of our primary languages, we tend to get the message loud and clear. But, when someone tries to communicate in one of our least fluent languages, we may misunderstand or not even notice their message.

Problems can arise in relationships when people don’t realize that they are speaking different languages to each other. One person may think they are helping another through a tough workload with verbal encouragement (words of affirmation) while the other person is wishing they would pitch in and help get the work done (acts of service). Another person may want to be left alone to do their work but would really like a few minutes one-on-one with their supervisor (quality time) to help them connect and refocus on their priorities.

As I’ve read these books I have begun to look differently at the ways people communicate that they care. I now recognize gestures of appreciation that I may have missed before, and I can better tailor my messages of appreciation to suit the recipient.

If you’d like to learn more, check out http://www.appreciationatwork.com/.

July 2014

Review by Lisa Shea

A great foThe Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posnerundation book.

I've read a large number of books on leadership and management over the years. The Kouzes and Posner "The Leadership Challenge" does a good job of providing an easy to read overview which helps leaders in all levels of an organization learn and grow. It's important to note that this is not meant to be a "solutions for specific situations" handbook. Rather, it provides that core level of understanding to give you a foundation, so that as you progress and pick up other "how to" books you have that base support beneath you to keep you grounded in a healthy, productive direction.

There are many first person stories in here to illustrate their points. They are presented with a variety of individuals from different backgrounds and management levels. This is great - it means no matter where the reader is in their career, they can relate directly to at least some of the stories. Sometimes books are tempted to only interview CEOs of gigantic companies, which might be cool for status reasons, but it does little to help the majority of their readers with their actual issues. The Leadership Challenge makes the stories accessible to all.

The key practices laid out in this book are:

  • model the way
  • inspire a shared vision
  • challenge the process
  • enable others to act
  • encourage the heart

If you sit down with a hefty challenge that leadership has faced in your company, and then compare the progress of the challenge against these five practices, you can see very powerful correlations between what went well and poorly and these practices. There are not just touchy-feely "nice to have" ideas. It is clearly demonstrable that working to build a common purpose with the team, celebrating the small victories as you move along a project, building a climate of trust between managers and employees, and recognizing employees when they do an outstanding job are critical to the short term and long term success of an organization. They can often spell the difference between success and failure on a project.

Well recommended not only for managers and leaders but also for any employee who wants to find more satisfaction in their job. There are many situations where someone who is not "technically" a leader still provides leadership and mentoring activities to his or her coworkers. This book can help anyone succeed and become more enthusiastic about their work and life.

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