I am sometimes asked “What should I read that will help me?” The trite answer is anything and everything you can that will teach you something about yourself, the people around about you or the world in which you live. There is so much material around now and easily accessible through the internet that you will have to limit what you read. Disinformation on the internet and social media also means that you will have to read it with an open and somewhat skeptical mind. These days I find inspiration in many places: books, television, blogs, Ted talks, LinkedIn posts, Tic Toc, the list is endless.
What people are really interested in however is what books did I read. Again there are many I have read over the years but there are probably three that I regularly mention.
The first, and this was the first one I read, is Dale Carnegie’s: “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Although originally written in 1936, I believe the lessons from that book have stood the test of time. As with the other two books I will mention, I do not pretend to observe or follow all of the lessons, certainly not all of the time, that is too high a bar for me to attain.
Some of the key ones I try to follow are:(1) Do not Critcise , Condemn or Complain, (2) Be quick to acknowledge your own mistakes, (3) Don’t attempt to “Win” an Arguement, (4) Begin on Common Ground, (5) Make People Feel Important, (6) Have Others Believe your Conclusion is their Own, (7) Know The Value of Charm, (8) Remember their Name, (9) Be Genuinely Interested in Other People, and (10) Be Generous With Praise.
The second book I read (and I am re-reading the revised and up-to-date version again now) is the seminal work by David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford: “The Trusted Advisor”.” Now in its 20th anniversary edition, it came out in 2000, I regard it as required reading for any professional.
Again this book sets a very high bar of the things you should do to achieve the rank of someone’s trusted advisor. Some one to whom a client will always turn in times of greatest need, who they know will be totally focussed on them. I cannot summarise here what the authors take almost 300 pages to describe but it is also interesting how the essence of many of Dale Carnegie’s lessons are contained in what they say.
My third book is equally demanding, if followed rigorously. It is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” written by Stephen Covey in 1989. The 7 Habits are: (1) Be Proactive, (2) Begin with the End in Mind,(3) Put First things First, (4) Think Win-Win, (5) Seek First To Understand then be Understood, (6) Synergize and (7) Sharpen the Saw. Again, I believe, echoes of Dale Carnegie apply equally in some of these habits.
The 7 Habits describes itself as a “proven team effectiveness operating system. Participants increase team engagement, morale, and collaboration. Teams come away with improved skills in communication and relationship building. No matter how competent a person is, they will not have sustained and lasting success unless they can effectively lead themselves, influence, engage and collaborate with others and continuously improve and renew their capabilities. These elements are at the heart of personal, team, and organizational effectiveness.” While I can agree with that, it is a high bar in my opinion to achieve, certainly all of the time.
I got the Franklin Covey organisation to do a weekend course on the 7 Habits to all my partners, probably about 20 years ago when I was Managing Partner. Some really enjoyed the course and got a great deal out of it. Some learnt some new things to use in the future. Some disliked the regime that they felt the “7 Habits” might enforce on them. Interestingly, one of my most skeptical partners often thereafter referred in conversations to the second Habit so I hope everyone got something out of the weekend.
I tell the last story to underscore what I said at the outset. If you approach any new ideas with an open mind, a degree of humility and an eagerness to learn then you are likely to get something out of the experience. Embrace the book in whole or in parts as suits your makeup and ability, but you will take something out of the experience.
As I said at the outset, read as much as you can but mix a good degree of skepticism in to and make that reading work for you and your journey to becoming a better person.