If you’ve been struggling to figure out what to give to someone who has everything, you’ve come to the right place. Everyone can always use a little extra personal influence, persuasiveness, or success in their lives, and I’ve compiled a list of some of my more recent reading for your shopping convenience. (Even if that special someone is you.)
If you want to matter within your own organization, if you want to be a “go-to” person that others listen to, and if you want influence above your pay grade, you can’t leave it to chance. Here are three books that can help you make it happen.
The Art of Woo, by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa: this book is about Winning Others Over, and it emphasizes a strategic approach to getting your ideas accepted. Persuasion is a process which occurs over time, and this book provides a four-step process to ensure success.
Power, by Jeffrey Pfeffer: Pfeffer is one of my favorite business writers, and unlike others who have been writing for a long time, his newest book ranks among his best work. Power is Machiavelli in modern terms, reinforced with current management thought and social psychology. It’s also a useful and refreshing balance to so much writing today that shies away from straight talk about what actually happens in organizations and what it really takes to get ahead.
Just Listen, by Mark Goulston: Just Listen focuses on interpersonal conversations—on ways to get through to yourself first and then to others by understanding them, and relating to them in ways that make them feel understood and appreciated.
Presentations and Speaking
Most books about presentations are based on the author’s experience and little else. These books made the list because, in addition to excellent advice, they are backed up by solid and extensive research.
Resonate, by Nancy Duarte: For “ballroom” type presentations, this beautifully-designed book shows you how to engage an audience through story and compelling visuals. Duarte shows you how to create stories that provide strong emotional appeal to your message.
Speaking PowerPoint, by Bruce Gabrielle: Gabrielle’s book is a useful balance to Resonate, because sometimes stories and pictures are not enough. Internal presentations are usually “boardroom” style, requiring more text and dense content that is discussed around the table. This book is as much about thinking how to express complex ideas as it is about creating slides.
Advanced Presentations by Design, by Andrew Abela: This book also focuses more on the analytical side of presentations, and shows you a systematic approach to craft thoughtful content-rich presentations in a business environment.
The three books listed below share a common theme: there is no substitute for a knowledgeable and trusted sales professional who can bring solid business improvement ideas to their customers.
The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson: Extensive research shows that top-performing salespeople challenge their customers with fresh insights about how to improve their business. Their goal is not to “please” customers but to create constructive tension in the conversation, centered around their own unique advantages.
The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, by Charles H. Greene and Andrea Howe: Challenging your customers won’t work if they don’t trust you. Trust between individuals is one of the most essential and important ingredients of personal influence. Of course, you don’t need a book to tell you that. The critical point is that trust is also within your control, and this excellent book shows you how to establish, accelerate, and maintain it.
Bottom-Line Selling, by Jack Malcolm: Conflict of interest alert! It’s probably not fair to put my own book on this list, but I truly believe that every sales professional in the complex sale needs the depth of business and financial acumen this book provides. Besides, it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want.
By now you’ve figured out that I’m biased toward books that are based on empirical research. Nowhere is this needed more than in the literature of personal success.
Succeed, by Heidi Grant Halvorson: We all know it’s important to set goals, but it also matters what kind of goals we set, and how we set about achieving them. Succeed is useful because it gives scientific backing to “common sense”, but also corrects some misleading or even harmful common sense we take for granted. Read it for a lot of practical advice and techniques you can use immediately.
Any of the following: One of the most important ideas that comes out of recent research is that talent, ability and ultimately success are so much under our own control, if we’re willing to do the work. I had trouble deciding which of these excellent books to leave out, so I’ve put them all in; every one is worth reading:
Mindset, Carol Dweck
Talent is Overrated, Geoffrey Colvin
The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle
The Genius in All of Us, David Shenk
Bounce, Mathew Syed