Reading That’s Transformed My Thinking

One of the best ways to transform your company is to expose yourself to experts who think differently than you do. Here are some titles that have transformed my thinking about the fundamentals of high-growth business.





5 Levels of Leadership
By John Maxwell

True leadership isn’t a matter of having a certain job or title. In fact, being chosen for a position is only the first of the five levels every effective leader achieves. The 5 Levels of Leadership are 1. Position – People follow because they have to. 2. Permission – People follow because they want to. 3. Production – People follow because of what you have done for the organization. 4. People Development – People follow because of what you have done for them personally. 5. Pinnacle – People follow because of who you are and what you represent.

To become more than “the boss” people follow only because they are required to, you have to master the ability to invest in people and inspire them. You need to help people to develop their skills to become leaders in their own right.



21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
by John Maxwell

What does it take to be a great leader? John Maxwell looks at 21 “ laws of leadership” that determine whether someone will succeed as a leader or not, including:

  • Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness
  • The true measure of leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less
  • Leadership develops daily, not in a day
  • Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course
  • Leaders add value by serving others
  • And much more . . .


Five Dysfunctions of a Team
by Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni says, “Successful teamwork is not about mastering subtle, sophisticated theories, but rather about combining common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence. Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make teamwork so elusive.” He then shows how that works by examining: Absence of Trust; Fear of Conflict; Lack of Commitment; Avoidance of Accountability; and Inattention to Results.



People (Hiring and Development)

by Brad Smart

Great companies, large and small, rise or fall because of their talent; the more high performers on your team, the more successful your organization will be. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Research shows that only about 25% of all new hires turn out to be high performers.

Three huge problems account for the typical poor results in hiring: dishonesty (via deceptive résumés), incomplete information (via shallow interviews), and lack of verifiability (via biased references). Topgrading shows how to solve all three problems. Instead of hir­ing by your gut reactions to résumés and interviews, you can start using a scientifically honed process that compels candidates to be totally honest.



by Geoff Smart

Geoff Smart and Randy Street provide a simple, practical, and effective solution to what The Economist calls “the single biggest problem in business today”: unsuccessful hiring. The average hiring mistake costs a company $1.5 million or more a year and countless wasted hours. This statistic becomes even more startling when you consider that the typical hiring success rate of managers is only 50 percent. Learn how to
• avoid common “voodoo hiring” methods
• define the outcomes you seek
• generate a flow of A Players to your team–by implementing the #1 tactic used by successful businesspeople
• ask the right interview questions to dramatically improve your ability to quickly distinguish an A Player from a B or C candidate
• attract the person you want to hire, by emphasizing the points the candidate cares about most

The Ideal Team Player
by Patrick Lencioni

Lencioni presents a practical and compelling framework and actionable tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players.  These are helpful insights for leaders trying to create a culture around teamwork, staffing professionals looking to hire team players, or team players who want to improve themselves.






Strategy (Creation/Development)

Blue Ocean Strategy
by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

This bestselling strategy book, written by world-renowned professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, challenges everything you thought you knew about strategic success and charts a bold new path to winning the future.

When first published in 2005, Blue Ocean Strategy challenged the basic tenets of competitive strategy and called for businesses to shift their focus from competition to creating new market spaces that would make the competition irrelevant. Instead of trying to do something better, faster, or cheaper the authors urge businesses to do something no one else is doing. It’s a refreshing look at standing out. No wonder the book has sold more than 3 million copies!








Built to Last
by Jim Collins

What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the other companies?

Built To Last examines what lies behind the extraordinary success of 18 visionary companies and which principles and ideas they’ve used to thrive for a century. Built to Last discusses concepts such as preserving a core ideology, the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) concept, owning a cult-like culture, trying new things, refusing the idea of a “great idea” to start a company, and consistent innovation.


Good to Great
by Jim Collins

The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice such as:

  • Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness.
  • The Hedgehog Concept: (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence.
  • A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology.

The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.


Scaling Up
by Verne Harnish

In Scaling Up, Verne Harnish and his team share practical tools and techniques for building an industry-dominating business. These approaches have been honed from over three decades of advising tens of thousands of CEOs and executives and helping them navigate the increasing complexities (and weight) that come with scaling up a venture. This book is written so everyone — from frontline employees to senior executives — can get aligned in contributing to the growth of a firm. Scaling Up focuses on the four major decision areas every company must get right: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. The book includes a series of new one-page tools including the updated One-Page Strategic Plan and the Rockefeller Habits Checklist™, which more than 40,000 firms around the globe have used to scale their companies successfully — many to $1 billion and beyond.

Execution (Performance)

4 Disciplines of Execution
by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

This book looks not only at the ‘what’ but also ‘how’ effective execution is achieved using numerous examples of companies that have done that repeatedly.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) is a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing on your most important strategic priorities in the midst of the whirlwind. By following the 4 Disciplines—Focusing on the Wildly Important; Acting on Lead Measures; Keeping a Compelling Scoreboard; Creating a Cadence of Accountability—leaders can produce breakthrough results, even when executing the strategy requires a significant change in behavior from their teams.



by Ram Charam and Larry Bossidy

Bossidy and Charan reframe their empowering message for a world in which the old rules have been shattered and radical change is becoming routine. They postulate that for the foreseeable future, growth will be slower. Yet companies that execute well will have the confidence, speed and resources to move fast as new opportunities emerge. This is a realistic and hard-nosed approach to business success.








The Great Game of Business
by Jack Stack

Jack Stack’s revolutionary system of Open-Book Management suggested that every employee in a business should be able to understand the company’s key figures, act on them, and should have a real stake in the business. As Stack, himself said: “When employees think, act and feel like owners … everybody wins.” As a management strategy, ‘the great game of business’ is so simple and effective that it has been adopted by companies as diverse (and successful) as Intel and Harley Davidson.


Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential
by Greg Crabtree

Take the mystery out of small business finance with this no-frills guide to understanding the numbers that will guide your business out of any financial black hole. Author Greg Crabtree, a successful accountant, small business advisor, and popular presenter, shows you how to use your firm’s key financial indicators as a basis for smart business decisions as you grow your firm from startup to $5 million (and, more!) in annual revenue.

In this fascinating book you’ll discover:

  • Why your numbers are lying to you (and why you are the cause!)
  • How labor productivity is the key to profitability and simplifying human resource decisions
  • Why the amount of tax you pay is your #1 key performance indicator

Financial Intelligence
by Joe Knight

This accessible, jargon-free book is filled with engaging stories of real companies and gives nonfinancial managers the confidence to understand the nuances beyond the numbers. Inc. magazine calls it one of “the best, clearest guides to the numbers” on the market.






Built to Sell
by John Warrilow

Many business owners start companies in a search for more freedom. They want to control their own schedules. They want a higher level of compensation. And they often hope to retire with satisfaction from those labors. But most owners find themselves trapped in their own businesses because their companies can’t succeed without their involvement. Warrillow shows exactly what it takes to create a solid business that is valuable—and sellable whenever an owner wants out.


Personal Development

Start with Why
by Simon Sinek

In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn, inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on START WITH WHY — the third most popular TED video of all time.

Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? It all starts with why!



7 Habits of Highly Effective People
by Steven Covey

This is one of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of Presidents and CEOs, educators and parents— in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations. Learn how to develop habits that will change your life.

I’ll continue to post what I consider to be transformational books, so check back often for additional suggestions. You can also click here to see a more comprehensive (and growing) list of titles that can help you scale up your business.









The Answer
by John Assaraf and Murray Smith

New York Times bestselling author John Assaraf and business guru Murray Smith—two hugely successful entrepreneurs—combine forces to bring their insights and techniques together in a revolutionary guide for success in today’s business environment. They employ cutting-edge research into brain science and quantum physics to show how leaders can actually rewire their brains for success. They demonstrate the beliefs, habits, thoughts, and actions that they have used to build eighteen multimillion-dollar companies.