3 (More) Business Books You Should Have Read by Now

Periodically through the year, Mind Your Business checks in with our members to find out which business books they’re reading and why. Listed below are three more books to add to your reading list.

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    My Reading List for 2017:

    No. 1: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

    This is a classic, but should be on everyone’s reading list if you are serious about being successful in life and in business. This book was first published in 1937 and is a compilation of the interviews of more than 500 successful men—including Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford. It is not a quick-fix or feel-good book, it breaks down 14 key focus areas that need to be understood and put in practice to actually see results. One of my mentors shared this book with me and I have not only read it multiple times this year, I have implemented several of the concepts and continue to do so as I grow my business. Here are a few of the things that I have implemented:

    • Persistence. The mind is a creature of habit—it thrives upon the dominating thoughts fed to it—control of the mind through the power of will comes from persistence and building habits.  I am creating a habit of a daily organizing routine in the morning and a short reflection period at the end of every day.  Doing something over and over seems boring—and it is—but the more you do it, the more it becomes automatic and you won’t resist it because it is just part of what you do. 
    • Subconscious mind. This was a game changer for me. Your subconscious mind will not remain idle and if you fail to plant your desires and the RIGHT THOUGHTS, you will never get the results you want. You need to feed the right thoughts in your subconscious mind—making them positive and repetitive. “Man can create nothing which he does not first conceive in thought”—when you really understand the power of thought, it can change everything for you. Every day I have said aloud my intentions, what I want and what I will give in return for it and it has brought me clients and friendships this year.
    • Power of the master mind. He defines the master mind as “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” It seems obvious—get other great thinkers around you to help shape, perfect and grow your thoughts and ideas and the whole group benefits from the energy and intelligence available to everyone in the group. You must pick the right people. I have facilitated a few of these and will continue to do so next year with people who want to grow in areas of leadership—everyone who participates has grown because we love to learn from others versus just a book. I am starting my own master mind for my business as well and in 2018 I know that my group will reap tremendous benefits!

    No. 2: Everyone Communicates Few Connect by John C. Maxwell

    “According to the Harvard Business Review, ‘The number one criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is an ability to communicate effectively.’  That means connecting! If you learned to connect better, it would change your life! This book has so many applications from a leadership perspective. It is broken into two parts—the principles of connecting and the connecting practices. When we communicate, we tend to think of ourselves and ask “will we look good, did they like me, did they hear me?”

    Here are a couple of my takeaways from this book:

    • The power of connecting is thinking of the ‘other’ person, when you realize that it’s not about you—growth really begins to happen. I have used this in my business as I thought about attracting the clients that I am really looking for—what are their wants and needs? What do they care about? What would really help them?  Instead of what I wanted them to know about me or what I wanted to tell them. I also use this in my coaching practice. The most common challenge I have seen in leaders is ability to influence and influence happens when we connect with others. It starts with the first connecting practice “common ground”—what does the other person want or need that you have in common with them so they see and feel a connection. 
    • Tips for connecting to a large group. The use of storytelling is so powerful. Don’t make your presentations death by powerpoint, show a picture and tell a story, our brains light up and we will listen and connect with you. I have used this in my speaking engagements—the most powerful stories are personal and the stories that show you when you were not perfect!
    • Use interesting facts and data points to make it interesting as well. One of my coaching and mastermind clients used this for a presentation she was giving and was so successful that one of their largest donors asked for a copy of her speech!

    No. 3: Your Brain at Work by David Rock

    If you are someone who brags about the fact that they are such a great multi-tasker, then this book is for you. This book helps to break down what we know about the brain and how it applies to becoming a more effective leader by understanding how to:

    • Make better decisions.
    • Stay cool under pressure.
    • Collaborate with others.
    • Facilitate change.

    I have applied this to how I approach my day and get things done by doing my biggest thinking in the morning when I am fresh and making sure that I don’t waste precious cognitive time with reading emails in the morning. I am a reformed multi-tasker and still slip once in a while but I have been conscious of having a “space” for thinking and not taking my phone with me when I am doing this. I have also helped dozens of executives have more effective meetings by doing one simple thing—removing the phones and computers from their meetings. They will end in half the time, people will pay attention and decisions will be better and made quicker! 

    Another concept I have used here relates to managing change and our tendency to get easily distracted. The anterior cingulate cortex lights up when something is different and in your brain—this novelty gets attention. If there is too much change all at once or over a very short period of time, it can cause anxiety or fear.  You might see this in organizations as people “shutting down” and feeling overloaded because their brains really are! I have used this in my consulting practice to help organizations and leaders “break-down” their changes and keep it simple. If you are trying to change 10 things all at once, you will get chaos, but try to change three or four things, with good explanations as to why and help in making the change and you will see much more success. 

    An overarching principle about the brain is that it is organized to minimize danger and maximize reward. When you apply this principle and the others in this book to your own personal leadership style and how you run your business to be more ‘brain friendly’ you will see great increases in performance, engagement and satisfaction.

    What are you reading these days? Let us know on Twitter!

    Jill Windelspecht has spent 20 years coaching executives, leading global and regional talent strategies, managing change and developing people. She works with mid- to senior-level executives and business owners to reach their potential and help create organizational climates that lead to lifelong prosperity. Helping executives develop their leadership and communication skills so that they can build a strong, cohesive team and break through any barriers holding themselves and their team back ... and not have to burn themselves out by doing so!  View her website by clicking here or contact Jill via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.  

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    Next up: 3 Simple Brain Hacks for Goal Setting and Goal Achieving

    3 Simple Brain Hacks for Goal Setting and Goal Achieving

    Sometimes, reaching your goals is all about using your head. Follow these three simple brain hacks to end 2018 and start 2019 on a high note.

    It is that time of year that we reflect on our progress toward our goals for the year and start thinking about what we want to accomplish in 2019. So, how did you do? If you are like most of us, you didn’t accomplish everything that you envisioned for the year. But we get a fresh year to start over again. If you want to do better, I have a few tips for you and it is all about using your brain!

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    Why do we fail at achieving goals?

    The answer is in your brain—and your blood pressure. And high blood pressure can help you keep goals on track. Emily Balcetis, a social psychologist from NYU, explained how properly set goals boosts our systolic blood pressure, which is the measurement of our body being geared up and ready to act. The more stretched they are, as long as we don’t feel they are impossible, the more excited we get. 

    So, to succeed in goal setting, and especially in stretch goal setting, Balcetis’s research states we’ll want to follow these three simple hacks:

    Brain hack No. 1: Plan for Obstacles

    Have a plan, a backup plan, and a backup plan to the backup plan. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, everyone was betting on Michael Phelps. He had already won seven gold medals, and his next event was his strongest—his eighth gold medal was nearly in the bag. But then tragedy struck: he dove into the pool and his goggles filled with water. Virtually blind he activated his backup plan—he started counting his strokes. He knew how many strokes he needed to get to the other end of the pool. So, he focused, stayed calm, and yes, won a staggering eight gold medals. Planning for obstacles while at the same time envisioning success boosts our systolic blood pressure—it increases our readiness to act.

    Brain Hack No. 2: Create the Right Habits

    Setting and sharing intentions make goals happen. When we make commitments to ourselves and others, and we discuss, sign off on them, and ask “what can I do today” to get closer to achieving our goal we boost systolic blood pressure too. Being intentional and having others help hold you accountable increases the likelihood that we will achieve our goals.   

    Brain hack No. 3: Move the Goal Closer

    Moving the goal closer requires us to envision it, to see ourselves achieving it (such as Michael Phelps seeing himself win the race). Remember the goal must be specific and tangible (win this race) versus more abstract (get the gold medal). With this focus we activate the left side of our prefrontal cortex and the planning/envisioning gets stronger. We also light up the ventral striatum where we experience reward and get a nice dose of dopamine to cause good feelings around the goal being achieved. When we focus on the goal in our mind’s eye, Balcetis found that goals look 30% closer.

    How you end is how you begin

    When I work with my coaching clients, they find these simple tips valuable and knowing that they are going to be held accountable at the next session gives them the motivation to move closer to their goals.

    How you end 2018 is how you will start 2019—join me and start strong!  Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in life are the day you were born and the day you discover the reason why.”

    Imagine yourself 12 months from now, living the life you’ve always wanted. How would it feel to have the clarity to make that possible? How would it feel to have a group of people that support, challenge and hold you accountable to your dreams?

    Join me and your peers—finish strong and start strong!  

    Learn more  https://talentspecialists.net/unlock-your-potential/

    Jill Windelspecht has spent 20 years coaching executives, leading global and regional talent strategies, managing change and developing people. She works with mid- to senior-level executives and business owners to reach their potential and help create organizational climates that lead to lifelong prosperity. Helping executives develop their leadership and communication skills so that they can build a strong, cohesive team and break through any barriers holding themselves and their team back ... and not have to burn themselves out by doing so!  View her website by clicking here or contact Jill via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.  

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    Next up: 3 Ways to Increase Your Influence

    3 Ways to Increase Your Influence

    A lot of people get caught up in waiting for the other person to stop talking so they can start. But if you take time to really listen to what the other person has to say, you can sharpen your influencing power. Here’s how.

    A person of influence listens to people. They understand the incredible value of becoming a good listener. Listening shows respect and builds relationships—at work and at home!

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    When you don’t pay attention to what others have to say, you are sending the message that you don’t value them. When you do listen to others, you are communicating that you respect them and show them that you really care about them.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every man I meet is in some way my superior, and I can learn from them.” 

    How can you learn if you aren’t really listening?  Unfortunately, few people are good at listening.  If you are one of them—fantastic. If you are like most of us, keep reading!

    What gets in the way of listening?  Here are 3 common barriers that get in the way of effective listening.

    Barrier No. 1: Overvaluing talking

    Effective communication is not persuasion, it is listening. If you are waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can talk, you’re not listening.

    TIP: A good rule of thumb—listen twice and much as you speak. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason!

    Barrier No. 2: Lacking focus

    Most people tend to speak about 180 words a minute, but they can listen at 300 to 500 words a minute, which can cause you to lose focus. You have all that extra space to fill and you can start daydreaming and thinking about what you want to say next or what you are going to have for lunch. 

    TIP: Learn to direct that attention by concentrating on the person you are with. Focus on their body language, watch for facial expression, look into their eyes.

    Barrier No. 3: Carrying personal emotional baggage

    Your past experiences, both positive and negative, color the way you look at life and shape your expectations—especially strong experiences. As Mark Twain said, “A cat who sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. He’ll never site on a cold stove either. From there on, that cat just won’t like stoves”. Being preoccupied can make you defensive and impact your ability to really listen.

    TIP: Check your emotions and focus on the purpose of the conversation. Keep yourself on an even keel so that you don’t lose the purpose.

    Measure your listening skills.  

    Ask someone who knows you well to use these questions to evaluate your listening skills:

    • Do I usually look at the speaker while he or she is talking?
    • Do I wait for the speaker to finishing talking before I respond?
    • Do I make understanding my goal?
    • Am I usually sensitive to the speaker’s immediate need?
    • Do I make it a practice to check my emotions?
    • Do I regularly suspend my judgment until I get the whole story?
    • Am I in the practice of summing up what the speaker says at major intervals?
    • Do I ask questions for clarity when needed?
    • Do I communicate to others that listening is a priority?

    3      Tips to becoming a better listenter

    No. 1: Don’t interrupt. Give people time to express their ideas. Hold that tongue!

    No. 2: Focus on understanding. Listen with the intent on real understanding, not just hearing the words - apply meaning to what you are hearing.

    No. 3: Ask questions for clarity. Look at the speaker, suspend your judgements and ask questions to ensure understanding. If you show people how much you care and ask questions in a nonthreatening way, you’ll be amazed by how much they’ll tell you.

    There is no greater gift than being listened to and you should really be present with the person you are talking to. As an executive coach, my job is to listen and help leaders come to their own insight. Often, it is one of the few conversations they have where they feel like they are being listened to as well. It is very infrequent that we allow people to talk and be listened to. It seems like such a simple thing but the highly distracted world we live in is often the excuse we give to withholding this gift to the people we care about the most.

    "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." --Stephen R. Covey

    About Jill Windelspecht

    How you end 2018 is how you will start 2019 - join me and start STRONG!  Mark Twain said “The two most important days in life are the day you were born and the day you discover the reason why.”

    Imagine yourself 12 months from now, living the life you’ve always wanted. How would it FEEL to have the clarity to make that possible? How would it FEEL to have a group of people that support, challenge and hold you accountable to your dreams?

    Join me and your peers - finish strong and start strong!  

    Learn more  https://talentspecialists.net/unlock-your-potential/

    Jill Windelspecht has spent 20 years coaching executives, leading global and regional talent strategies, managing change and developing people. She works with mid- to senior-level executives and business owners to reach their potential and help create organizational climates that lead to lifelong prosperity. Helping executives develop their leadership and communication skills so that they can build a strong, cohesive team and break through any barriers holding themselves and their team back ... and not have to burn themselves out by doing so!  View her website by clicking here or contact Jill via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.  

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    Next up: 4 Leadership Lessons from BizConCLE

    4 Leadership Lessons from BizConCLE

    From enhancing customer retention to what sets transformational entrepreneurs apart, BizConCLE 2017 was filled with useful takeaways and lessons that small- and medium-sized businesses can use to build their business. In case you missed it, check out the below for recaps of the four impactful keynotes that took place during the show. Learn more about BizConCLE and how it can help your company by clicking here.

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    Next up: 4 Ways to Be a Better Leader

    4 Ways to Be a Better Leader

    What traits do you think of when you consider what makes for an effective leader? During a recent Small Business Boot Camp session, Jeff Nischwitz of The Nischwitz group took a deep dive into the qualities all leaders share, and how those characteristics can help a small business—and its staff—thrive. Below are X takeaways from the presentation.

    What traits do you think of when you consider what makes for an effective leader? During a recent Small Business Boot Camp session, Jeff Nischwitz of The Nischwitz group took a deep dive into the qualities all leaders share, and how those characteristics can help a small business—and its staff—thrive. Below are X takeaways from the presentation.

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    1. Know Yourself

    Entrepreneurs need to understand what kind of leader they are striving to be. And as part of that discovery, should ask themselves three questions:

    • What kind of leader am I committed to becoming?
    • Am I willing to let go of how things have always been done?
    • Can I tolerate living outside of my comfort zone?

    2. What Not to Do

    Leadership is not bullying. It is not about being disengaged. What is it about, then? Continue reading …

    3. Be Accountable

    A leader has to have the trust of their staff. Being accountable is one way to build trust, but what are the others? Try being human:

    • Ask for feedback.
    • Admit mistakes.
    • Be honest if you don’t know the answer to something.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    • Allow staff the freedom to challenge perceptions.
    • Understand the ‘3 I’s of Leadership.’ 

    4. Be Conscious

    Remember back in the second item that talk about being disengaged? A Gallup Survey found that 70% of employees are not engaged with their work and employer. The steps outlined above will go a long way toward helping eliminate a leader’s blind spots and increase team engagement. It’s important that leaders take a “conscious” leadership position, that is, be aware of not only the needs of their staff but also to honor their staff’s perception of their leadership. And if you want to know more about conscious leadership, check out Nischwitz’ book: “Unmask: Let Go of Who You’re Supposed to Be & Unleash Your True Leader.

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    Next up: 5 Guidelines for Strong Business Partnerships

    5 Guidelines for Strong Business Partnerships

    We are all familiar with Individual transactions where you want to obtain the greatest value or lowest price with little or no expectation of repeating the transaction (e.g. buying a car, acquiring a key piece of machinery or equipment for your business). In these cases, it is simply a function of which party can demand and get the best outcome from their own perspective. Since it is a one-time transaction, there is typically less opportunity for building upon it for longer-term mutual benefit.

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    Establishing or modifying a business relationship or partnership generally will be a different situation. In these cases, both parties are seeking value and return from the partnership that often is expected or desired over a long period of time and therefore is based on mutual trust. While it is a trite and perhaps overused phrase, both parties likely expect the relationship to be a long-term “win-win” situation.  

    Guidelines for a Strong Business Relationship or Partnership

    I have negotiated numerous business relationships of various sizes, some of which were successful and some were not. Combining these experiences has led me to apply these guidelines that help lead to strong partnerships.

    Guideline No. 1: Pick your partners carefully. Character and trust are the most important assets in a business partnership. Seek out organizations and people you are excited to do business with. The key to any good business relationship is to think strategically about the relationship and understand individual and shared goals. Before lawyers get involved, make sure you talk openly about business goals for both parties. Getting the business goals in writing can help make sure you enter the legal phase of creating a contract with a solid, mutually understood business case.

    Here are four tips to keep in mind when it comes to picking partners.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 1: Ask lots of questions to get a deep understanding of the other side’s strategies, needs, operations, etc. Ask questions even if you think that you know the answers. Listen carefully to the answers, what they say, the way they say it and their body language. Identify what brings their emotions up and down. You can present your stand according to your findings and be sensitive to their needs and requests.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 2: Be authentic and as open and transparent as possible or is practical with your own strategies, needs, operations, etc. Some people might approach a negotiation looking to gain an advantage by concealing information. While you may achieve a desired result in the short term, you run the risk of tarnishing your reputation, as well as increasing the odds that the deal can go bad. Share your reasoning and intentions in the discussions to help make it clear that you are a straight shooter who deals in good faith. You are more likely to disarm the other side’s defenses and improve the odds of a productive, long-term business partnership.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 3: Learn as much as possible about the role and benefit of the business relationship for the person or people you are dealing with. As the relationship progresses to initiation and especially through the course of the arrangement, find ways to expand your reach into the other organization by meeting and talking with people at various levels to better understand how all parties benefit. A phrase to frame this way of thinking is to seek to be “high, wide and deep” in your relationships with business partners, especially if it is a large organization. This reduces the chances that changes in management or company strategy will significantly detour the relationship.

    Picking Partners Tip No. 4: Take an appropriate amount of time to build the trust in a potential long-term relationship. If you are feeling uncomfortably heavy pressure to give an answer early in the process of developing or negotiating the relationship, I have found it is best to just say “No.”  Perhaps you can come back to the table at some point in the future, but the timing has to be and feel right for both parties.

    Guideline No. 2: Play for the long term by ensuring balance in the overall outcome (better known as “win/win”). The goal should be to forge a plan that creates solid benefits for all parties, not just big benefits for one side. Gaining the knowledge noted above will improve your ability to seek the positive outcomes for the other party and find the balance desired. This also leads to a stronger foundation to motivate a positive working relationship once the deal is done. At the same time, it is important to be ready to decide if and when there is not enough balance for either party. An imbalance of outcomes will likely lead to a short-term relationship and starting over with a new partner is more costly than continuing a fruitful and productive relationship.

    Guideline No. 3: Get on the “same side of the table.”  Be very clear about the work that is expected upon delivery and each company’s role in getting it there. Define roles precisely so they have no messy gray area. Make sure the exact product, service or process is explained and the infrastructure to support and update that product is part of this definition.

    Guideline No. 4: Create a deal for the other side that you would like to have for yourself. As you enter the contractual aspect of the relationship, it is easy to think about all the positive things that can happen in the relationship. It can be equally important to think through when, where and how things can go awry and end in a bad outcome. Look for ways to incorporate provisions in the contract that consider these potential outcomes and include ways to address or handle them should they arise. One way to think about this phase of the process is to “write the divorce settlement before the marriage.” 

    Guideline No. 5: Create a plan for evaluation. As part of your negotiation, you should make an effort to agree upon how to evaluate the performance of both parties after the deal is done. Agreeing to measure the success of the relationship is a way to improve the likelihood that performance standards, payment terms, and other rules and expectations are met. This sort of rigorous follow-through ensures that everyone’s expectations are aligned and makes conversations about the relationship following the deal’s closure more objective and generally easier.    

    A business relationship or partnership can yield great potential if approached and developed effectively.   Hopefully these thoughts serve as a guide in your business pursuits, large or small. 

    Bob Nicolay retired following a 25-year career at Progressive Insurance having had success in senior-level general management roles. During his career, he also held similar roles with small-l to mid-sized privately-held companies. He currently maintains a consulting practice advising and guiding senior leaders with financial services clients in developing and executing product, distribution/sales, marketing and operational strategies resulting in revenue and profit growth. He can be reached at Rnicolayconsulting@gmail.com or 440-213-3381.

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