Good Reads from 2009: Part 2

“Reading furnishes the mind only with material for knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”

John Locke

As my last post of 2009 and my first post in 2010, I wanted to share 10 books that I think are worth the time and money. While not all of the books are project management specific, their ideas will help you be a better project manager.

In last week’s post I covered books on Personal Effectiveness. This week, I’ll finish with 5 books that helped me keep or improve a positive attitude last year.

Confidence

What was missing throughout most of 2009? Confidence. Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s book on the subject was helpful in explaining how sports teams gained, lost and then regained confidence.  She shows how can confidence can be built and maintained through small steps taken by leaders and their teams.

Key Quote:
“People with character have internalized – embedded in themselves – the three cornerstones of confidence: accountability, collaboration and initiative. When the going is tough, they are able to draw on those internal supports. They behave accountably in finding the strength for extra effort so as to live up to responsibilities. They behave collaboratively by reaching out to other people and seeking mutual support. And they show initiative by finding steps that can be taken through things that they control, that can make a difference, however small.”

Advantages to Owning this Book:
Outlines how leaders create and maintain confidence in their teams and themselves.

Why is this a good buy for a PM?
Because in this economy, understanding how to work past obstacles and defeats is essential in eventually achieving success.

Upbeat

There were days during 2009 when it was very tough to stay positive – especially when everyone wanted to talk about the economy. And how bad it was. And how your job search was going. Rajesh Setty reminded us that we lived inside our conversations, so it was critical that they were headed somewhere constructive.

Key Quote:
“To think differently won’t happen overnight but you have to start somewhere.  My strong belief is that if you initiate change in the right direction, you will discover a solution for yourself very soon that outlasts any recession, and actually helps you thrive during such times.”

Advantages to Owning this Book:
Upbeat asks hard questions about how you will adapt in order to thrive during a recession. Owning the book will allow you to revisit whether you’re adding value to your network or need to raise the bar in another area of your life.

Why is this a good buy for a PM?
The book is written to entrepreneurs and encourages an entrepreneurial mindset when you sell yourself to employers within today’s marketplace.

The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (even when you have every reason to be miserable)

The most surprising book I picked up all year, The Great Eight, written by Scott Hamilton, provided a fresh perspective on happiness. In a departure from other books on happiness, Hamilton writes that happiness doesn’t fall in your lap: it takes work.

Key Quote:
“Consider yourself an athlete competing in a sport called happiness….It takes a discipline of focus and determination to achieve happiness.  And no one will make it happen for you but yourself.”

Advantages to Owning this Book:
In The Great Eight, the author outlines eight disciplines that he uses to define and achieve happiness. What is useful about this perspective on happiness is that it is “ready for everyday use.” This is not a sunny-day perspective: Hamilton fought off cancer and setbacks in his career before he wrote this book. Its advice was very helpful in dealing with setbacks and disappointments in my job search.

Why is this a good buy for a PM?

Hamilton writes that when a skater falls they are trained to bounce back up and pretend like the fall never happened. The same mental toughness is a good characteristic for any PM to acquire, since everything we do is seen and judged by everyone.

The Power of Nice

The Power of Nice? I know. But, in The Power of Nice, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval explain how being nice can help you influence others.

Key Quote:
“It is often the small kindnesses – the smiles, gestures, compliments, favors – that make our day and can even change our lives….the power of nice will help you break through the misconceptions that keep you from achieving your goals. The power of nice will help you to open doors, improve your relationship at work and at home, and let you sleep a whole lot better. Nice not only finishes first: those who use its nurturing power wind up happier to boot!”

Advantage to Owning this Book:
This book is a useful reminder of ways to be nice in the workplace. If you’re feeling jaded, reading this book will remind you of the influence that you can gain by simply being nice.

Why is this a good buy for a PM?
Most PMs have no power in the organization and rely on the kindness of others to get work done. This is a good investment to learn how to influence others.

Three Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice

I’ll finish up with a Les Parrott book on the benefit gained by waiting another three seconds to make a decision. In three seconds, or what is commonly known as ‘thinking twice,’ we can improve our attitude, get up from a failure and try again or embrace a challenge.

Key Quote:
“Three seconds separate those who “give it their all” from those who “don’t give it a second thought” – literally.  Three seconds. This brief buffer is all that stands between those who settle for “whatever” and those who settle for nothing less than “whatever it takes.”

Advantage to Owning this Book:
The simple ideas outlined in this slim book are powerful.  It is a very good book to reread to keep them fresh in your thoughts.

Why is this a good buy for a PM?
Three Seconds is a book about continuing to reach for excellence.

Do you have any recommendations of books I should read in 2010? Leave a comment, send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

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