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What Business Books Are Experts Recommending?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC) canvassed its members over the past ten days to determine what are the best business books that they and their clients are reading and recommending. SAC CEO Alan Weiss, Ph.D. has chosen a representative sample of members' comments to suggest to business leaders.

Lisa Anderson of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. said, "The best leadership book is Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, because it focuses on leadership in terms of achieving business results as opposed to the typical mountain of business books discussing leadership styles, fads, personality characteristics, etc. Additionally, the book provided pragmatic insights into the key success factors of leadership."

: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin is the choice of Ed Poll, coach to the legal profession, in Venice, CA. "In this time of political maneuvering, it is fascinating to read about the genius of Lincoln, an early organizer of the Republican Party. The similarities between then and now are striking and provide an entirely different perspective on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that we don't read or hear about despite the ubiquitous nature of our media. However, the leadership qualities of Lincoln are unique. Descriptions of how he not only neutralized his adversaries, but also gathered the best minds of the time to serve the interests of our country are captivating. His strength and humor are needed now.

"The management book that gets people beyond thinking to action—that's my nominee for Management Book of the Year," says John Carroll, consultant, author and president of Unlimited Performance, Inc. in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. "When Good to Great by Jim Collins has owners and managers taking positive action to 'get the right people on the bus' and make sure they're 'in the right seats,' it earns the Oscar, at least for me."

Carl Robinson, Ph.D., Managing Principal of Advanced Leadership Consulting, finds that "Too many books on management practices are based on faulty science or none at all and are generally based on just the author's experiences. Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, describe how to distinguish myth from fact. After reading this book you'll have a healthy skepticism about the next big management guru or theory."

Organizational performance expert, Liz Bywater, PhD, recommends First, Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. "This is an eminently readable and insightful work," states Bywater, who is president of Bywater Consulting Group, based in Yardley, PA. "Buckingham and Coffman base their observations upon extensive research by the Gallup organization. They offer unconventional (thank goodness!) guidance that can be adopted by managers in organizations of all types and sizes." Key suggestions from the book include selecting for talent (rather than experience), building upon employees' strengths (instead of trying to fix areas of weakness) and placing employees in roles for which they are best suited (rather than promoting until they reach their levels of incompetence).

The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking, by Roger Martin, is the choice of Seth Kahan, president of Performance Development Group in Bethesda, MD. "Holding conflicting ideas in your mind simultaneously is not only challenging, it can be lucrative. This book illustrates how successful leaders have generated solutions to some of their most challenging situations by refusing to give in to one side or the other. The author is practical, introducing the idea through engaging stories, then providing guidance on how to develop this ability for your own use. Martin is Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, where he conducted most of the numerous personal interviews that led to the insights he shares."

"The book which had the greatest influence on my own management style isn't about leadership or management at all," contributes David A. Fields, managing director of Ascendant Consulting. "Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish's classic parenting book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk gives marvelous, practical skills which are easily translated to the workplace." Fields attributes his management awards to the book and suggests that much of effective leadership rests on the type of powerful listening and communication Faber and Mazlish describe.

Insurance and risk mitigation consultant, Scott Simmonds of Saco, ME votes for the work of Peter Drucker. "Great business books can be measured in two ways. First, once the book is read, does it sit on the shelf gathering dust or is it pulled out and reread or referred to? Second, when you do reread it is there still value to be gained? Rereading Drucker always provides reminders and insight into the core principles of business. My personal favorite is Innovation and Entrepreneurship. However, The Daily Drucker is growing on me (day-by-day) as it spans the breath of the business thinker's work."

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