People Skills: The 3 Must-Read Books to Help You Improve Yours Instantly

People Skills: The 3 Must-Read Books to Help You Improve Yours Instantly

Or at least instantly get the ideas to help you improve them

People skills, like any other skill, need constant updating, evolving and upgrading. Books are a great way to up-level your people management and leadership skills, easily and effectively.

You can read a traditional paperback on your commute, listen to an audio book, or even read on your smartphone or laptop. I know it’s hard to fit in one more thing but reading great books can not only leave you feeling hopeful and inspired, it can be key to growing your arsenal of skills.

Here are my 3 top picks for books to improve and enhance your leadership skills:

1. Your Brain at Work by David Rock

I had heard positive reviews, but it took some time for me to jump on the bandwagon and read David Rock’s hugely popular book on how to use what we know about the brain to work more effectively.

There are many books about this on the market but what is attractive about Rock’s book is that he weaves the research into a very compelling and easy to read story; he then proceeds to follow the habits of his main characters at work so you can immediately see how modern brain insights could and should apply to your average workday.

In addition to explaining why we are horrible at multi-tasking, (a fact no one wants to believe if they have a long to-do list – myself included on busy days), he has some less well-known insights that I loved.

Some Of His Gems:

If you need an insight, don’t think harder, turn off your thinking brain.

Your brain needs a lot of fuel to stay focused – most of us ignore any mid-day refueling and spend a good chunk of our day with our brains in a distracted/unproductive mode from overwork.

If you have a plan of action to follow – write it down! Otherwise you are using otherwise valuable brain space you could use, to keep remembering your plan. (Great to remember for meetings as well – that’s what the whiteboard is for!)

With over 174 reviews raving about how David’s book can change behavior, work style and productivity, this is definitely a book every one in a leadership role must read to be more effective and engage your brain to change the way you work.

2. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Next on my list is a highly entertaining and empowering book for anyone in a leadership role, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team uses a fictional tale to talk about and share the importance of team work and how a leader can make teamwork happen by virtue of insight and expertise.

Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions of a team include: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. He offers easy-to-understand and implement strategies that will be a real blessing for those who’re struggling with leading their team.

Some of his gems:

If your team can’t fight well, you’ll miss having real debates and checking for the possible undersides of seemingly good ideas.

It someone’s not pulling their weight, either work-wise or is contributing to a negative environment, you have to take immediate action. Each team member is crucial.

3. Be Excellent at Anything (Formally called: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working) by Tony Schwartz

Best known for his “energy” work, Tony Schwartz’s book, Be Excellent at Anything outlines what businesses and leaders need to do in order to get the best from their people.

As he says in the very first few pages of the book, “The way we’re working isn’t working.”

His strategies include investing in people intentionally to meet their multi-dimensional needs so that they have the energy and the motivation to give their very best at work.

From including scientific studies to highlight the importance of sleep to real-life case studies that illustrate the impact of an active lifestyle, Schwartz not only inspires but also equips you with the tools you need to make these changes possible for your team. Each chapter has action steps that can be followed individually or as a team activity.

Some of his gems:

If you have 4 hours or less of sleep for even 3 days, you have the reaction time and cognitive skills of someone legally drunk. No more long work nights and then driving home!

Your whole team can benefit if you take sabbaticals from work – even if its just turning off your smartphone one night every week and postponing the urgent for tomorrow.

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Comment below and let me know what books YOU’VE read that have helped you improve the way you manage your team, deal with people and fulfill the responsibilities that leadership lays on you? 

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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