The Best Business Books of 2014

This proved to be an interesting year for business books. In a year during which world governments and corporations have struggled with economic pressures and internal breakdowns, strong leadership has been desperately needed. This was reflected in the business books that rose to the top of many people’s reading lists. At a time when trust in leaders has diminished even more, executives should take time to read and learn from these summaries.

The complete list of 30 books is included below, all of which have been summarized by Soundview as part of its subscription offering. To read descriptions of the individual titles, go to Best Books of 2014 . They are also available for purchase individually.

Work with Me – Barbara Annis & John Gray
Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers – Anthony Mersino
Springboard – G. Richard Shell
Disciplined Entrepreneurship – Bill Aulet
Finding Allies, Building Alliances by Mike Leavitt & Rich McKeown
Compelling People – John Neffinger & Matthew Kohut
Coaching for Breakthrough Success – Jack Canfield & Peter Chee
The 80/20 Manager – Richard Koch
Focus – Daniel Goleman
Choosing Change – Walter McFarland & Susan Goldsworthy
The Learned Disciplines of Management – Jim Burkett
Grounded – Bob Rosen
Hacking Leadership – Mike Myatt
Leadership 2030 – Georg Vielmetter & Yvonne Sell
Absolute Value – Itamar Simonson & Emanuel Rosen
Moments of Impact – Chris Ertel & Lisa Kay Solomon
A Team of Leaders – Paul Gustavson & Stewart Liff
Flex – Jane Hyun & Audrey Lee
Brief – Joseph McCormack
The Innovative Sale – Mark Donnolo
Elevate – Rich Horwath
The Purpose Economy – Aaron Hurst
Accountability – Greg Bustin
Thanks for the Feedback – Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
The Road to Reinvention – Josh Linkner
Overfished Ocean Strategy – Nadya Zhexembayeva
How the World See You – Sally Hogshead
The Responsible Entrepreneur – Carol Sanford
Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does – Susan Fowler
Pitch Perfect – Bill McGowan & Alisa Bowman

We’re already working on summaries of the top books of 2015. If you ‘d like to have these titles in your library, become a Soundview Member. You won’t regret it.

Escaping the “Self-Employment Trap”

Many entrepreneurs, write the authors of Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back, don’t know the difference between growing a business and “growing a job.” A job is the responsibility of one person. In contrast, a business functions through a number of individuals in key roles, each with their own sets of responsibilities. In other words, authors Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel write, if as an entrepreneur you are working 70 hours a week because you alone are still responsible for the four core systems of your business finding prospects, closing sales, producing and delivering the product, and collecting on what you are owed you haven’t built a business, you’ve built a job. And sustaining such a job is not possible unless you sacrifice other aspects of your life.

The Self-Employment Trap

In Scale, Hoffman and Finkel lay out seven principles to help entrepreneurs escape the trap of every aspect of the business moving through them — what they call “the self-employment trap.” The first principle is understanding the concept of building a business, not a job. To clearly lay out the difference, they offer a business growth model based on three levels:

Level One is the preparation for launching the business and includes the business plan and making sure the business is viable.

Level Two Early Stage is getting the business off the ground. This is when you start to build a customer base and reach profitability.

Level Two Middle Stage is when you escape the self-employment trap by starting to build out the four core systems described above. Level Two Advanced Stage is when you’ve established a management team, and the systems keep the company running.

Level Three is the exit stage: As an owner-entrepreneur, you can sell the business or be a passive (and proud) owner of the business you launched from scratch.

Many entrepreneurs stay stuck in Level Two Middle Stage because they are focused on operating the business — selling to prospects and delivering the product — and are not taking the time to build a base that will allow others to take over “the job” they are now doing alone. The remaining principles in Scale are intended to help entrepreneurs break out of Level Two Middle Stage.

Through principles two and three, entrepreneurs learn to build a solid foundation for future growth. Principle two covers systems and controls for the business, while principle three offers tools to clarify the market and identify competitors.

Principle four, “Create the Right Strategic Plan,” helps entrepreneurs to do their homework so they can pick the best strategy for their company.  Principle five — “Learn to Read the World So You Build Tomorrow’s Marketplace,” is focused on keeping the company up to date.

In principle six, “Overcome the Predictable Obstacles to Scaling, Pillar by Pillar,” the authors show how to scale the sales and marketing, operations, finance, team and executive leadership pillars of the business.

The final principle is “You Do Have Time to Scale Your Company.” The authors offer a “time mastery system” that will refocus time and effort on tasks and responsibility of true value — and eliminate the work that you should not be doing in the first place.

Hoffman, a former CEO in the Priceline.com family of companies, and Finkel, a successful business coach, have written a practical guide filled with tools and methodologies — many available online — that will help many entrepreneurs finally break free of the exhausting and frustrating self-employment trap.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

A MIND-BENDING APPROACH TO THOUGHT

What is 2+2? The answer that comes immediately to mind is, of course, 4. What is 17 x 24? We can arrive at the answer, but only after a little work. In our minds, writes psychologist and former Princeton University professor Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow, there are always two systems at work. System 1 is an intuitive-based “automatic” system that can be summarized as fast thinking. System 2 is an “effortful” system — a slow-thinking system that requires an effort (and some time) for us to arrive at the answer.

While these two systems would seem to be well-designed for dealing with the world, in truth, writes Kahneman, the systems create some problems. The reason is that system 1 kicks in when system 2 is more appropriate — or, to put it another way, our trusted intuition can lead us to the wrong answers and the wrong conclusions.

What’s So Bad About Our Minds?

Steve is mild-mannered and detail-oriented. Is Steve more likely a librarian or a farmer? Most people would answer librarian, and they would be wrong. The mistake, as Kahneman explains, comes from the caricature of a male librarian (mild and detail-oriented) that we carry in our minds. In truth, as there are a far greater number of men who are farmers, there are more mild-mannered Steves on tractors than behind circulation desks.

Our biases and “heuristics” — the technical term for “rules of thumb” — can cause us to jump to conclusions, right or wrong. “Librarians are mild-mannered” is a heuristic and leads us to the wrong answer. System 2 thinking will be more accurate in many situations, but as Kahneman notes, we think slowly when we are stumped and don’t have a fast answer to jump to — such as when faced with the problem 17 x 24. When an answer easily presents itself to us (“Steve is more likely a librarian”), we rarely take the time to second-guess our intuition. Thus, we make erroneous decisions and draw erroneous conclusions based on shortcuts we didn’t even realize existed.

For example, Kahneman writes, most people believe they have an informed, objective opinion about which are the most important issues facing their nation. In truth, research has shown that people decide which issues are most important based on media coverage. The reason is the “availability heuristic” — the rule of thumb that people attach importance to events that are easily retrieved from memory, in other words, readily available (rather than buried in distant memory). How do those events become available? The answer, of course, is media coverage.

Priming is another phenomenon that can affect our decisions without our knowledge. A person who’s recently heard the word “food,” for example, will be “primed” to complete the word SO_P as SOUP and not SOAP. Priming is the reason that ballot questions concerning funding for education get far more support from people who vote in polling stations located in schools.

The Marvels of the Mind

Of course, fast thinking is not always wrong — and in many cases it’s necessary. As Kahneman explains, recent developments in cognitive and social psychology have also revealed the marvels of intuitive thinking. Kahneman is not arguing that we are making wrong decisions consistently, only that we are far less rational than we believe ourselves to be.

Thinking, Fast and Slow will have readers looking at the world around them, and at their own decisions and opinions, much differently. This is not a fast book to read, however — nor should it be. There is too much to be savored.

Do You Have Rookie Smarts?

For many years now, I have considered my greatest strength as an employee to be my experience. As young people join our company, I can tell them about our history of 36 years in the summary business and all that we’ve learned over the years. But these days, things are just moving way too fast for experience to be enough!

Liz Wiseman, in her book Rookie Smarts, has it right when she makes the point that “In a time of constant change, success depends on seeing the world through rookie eyes”. Wiseman explains why we are often at our best when we are doing something for the first time—and how to reclaim and cultivate this curious, flexible, youthful mindset called “Rookie Smarts”.

Fortunately for those of us who’ve been around for a while, Wiseman also identifies a brand of leader she calls a “perpetual rookie”. Despite years of experience, they retain their rookie smarts, thinking and operating with the mindsets and practices of these high-performing rookies.

Whether you are a true rookie looking to stand out at work, or a seasoned veteran who needs to keep up your game, Wiseman’s words are for you. So we’ve invited Liz to join us for our Soundview Live webinar How to Retain Your Rookie Smarts on November 5th.

I’ll certainly be listening in, and I would invite you to join me. If you’re a Soundview subscriber, you can attend the webinar Free as always. If you’re not yet a subscriber, you may want to consider subscribing now. For the cost of just two webinars, you’ll have a year of book summaries and can attend our weekly webinars free as well.

The Wisdom of Oz

Why does the story of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion touch us? Like all great entertainment, their journey resonates. We see ourselves in the characters and likewise wish we possessed the power, the brains, the heart, and the courage to make our own dreams come true.

So what are your dreams? What do you want? Is it a promotion? Improving a relationship? Rescuing a child? Finding a new job? Saving a marriage? Getting a degree? Finding the love of your life? Making a difference in your community?

According to Roger Connors and Tom Smith, the answer is personal accountability. In The Wisdom of Oz, they claim that when you unleash the power of personal accountability it will energize you in life-altering ways, giving you a concrete boost that enhances your ability to think, to withstand adversity, to generate confidence, and to increase your own natural emotional, mental, and intellectual strength.

Among the principles they delve into:
• When you can’t control your circumstances, don’t let your circumstances control you.
• Every “breakthrough” requires a “break with.”
• Greater accountability is the most powerful choice you will ever make.

We have invited Roger Connors to join us for our next Soundview Live webinar, to explain how you can unleash the power of personal accountability. Register for Using Personal Accountability to Succeed in Everything You Do today and bring your questions for Roger to answer during the session.