July 21, 2012

Business Books You Should Read

I can’t emphasize enough how much reading business books has helped me in my career and in my life.  Some of the most amazing and successful business people in the world share their accumulated years of wisdom in books.  Why wouldn’t you read and learn from them?  Books are so cheap!  It’s one of the best-bang-for-the-buck ways I know of to spend money.

Today I created a new “Books” post category under “Other.”  Under this category I’ll share books that have helped and influenced me in big ways.

“Winning” by Jack Welch

“Winning” is probably the single most amazing leadership and management book I’ve ever read.  Even Warren Buffet gave it the best endorsement imaginable when he said “No other management book will ever be needed.”

Welch covers all the bases in this book — leadership, teams, selecting and motivating winning talent, strategy, communication, budgeting.  And he does it with plain, down-to-earth and sometimes blunt language.  Welch breaks each lesson down to simple and easy-to-understand fundamentals.

Here’s an example from the introduction to the chapter on “Strategy”:

More than a few times over the past three years, I have been on a speaking program or at a business conference with one big strategy guru or another.  And more than a few times, I have listened to their presentations in disbelief.

It’s not that I don’t understand their theories about about competitive advantage, core competencies, virtual commerce, supply chain economics, disruptive innovation, and so on, it’s just that the way these experts tend to talk about strategy–as if it’s some kind of high-brain scientific methodology–feels really off to me…

Forget the arduous, intellectualized number crunching and data grinding that gurus say you have to go through to get strategy right.  Forget the scenario planning, yearlong studies, and hundred-plus-page reports.  They’re time-consuming and expensive, and you just don’t need them.

In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward.  You pick a general direction and implement like hell.

Truer or more beautiful words were never spoken.

If you read only one book on my list, read “Winning.”


“Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success” by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg

“Nuts!” is all about Herb Kelleher and how he created the legendary culture of committed and passionate employees at Southwest. Not only did it inspire me about the difference one leader can make, I also got about a million ideas from it.  I ended up using about a dozen ideas, but that was enough to transform VietnamWorks into one of the best and most fun companies to work at in Vietnam.

The authors spent years as consultants to Southwest.  They were so were struck by the hospitality and good humor of Southwest employees that they decided to write a book to “Tell the Southwest story.”

The book is full of fun, powerful stories that show how Southwest’s values, management style and belief system have created the most efficient and consistently profitable airline in American history.  Southwest shows us that having fun at work can be just as good for the bottom line as it is for the heart.

Some great chapters:

  • Kill the Bureaucracy
  • Learn Like Crazy
  • Don’t Fear Failure
  • Employees Come First
  • The Art of Celebrating Milestones

Read this book to learn how to create a culture where people feel a sense of belonging and give their best every day.  [Warning: it’s a two-way street — if you want people to do their best, you have to give them your best as well as your heart.]

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