Professional Development Books Keep Me on Track

One of the ways I know if I’m on track is by checking the number of books I read each year, both for pleasure and for my profession. I don’t have a set number that I have to read, but I do know that if I’ve gone months without reading then I need to realign my priorities.


Professional development books help with one’s career journey. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I decided to review the books I had read for my professional development, in part, because the stack that still needs to be read remains quite high. I did finish several and thought I’d pull them together in a list in case you have anyone you’re still shopping for. I included links to the original posts.

Most of try to do too many things at once. All that multi-tasking makes it difficult to focus. A great book about getting yourself set for the day is 18 Minutes. Written by Peter Bregman, it is based upon his weekly Harvard Business Review columns. Step 1 takes 5 minutes and is about setting the plan for the day. Bregman says that before turning on your computer, we should sit with a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful. In Step 2, we refocus for one minute every hour. At the end of the day, we review for five minutes. It sounds simple. I’m fairly consistent with Steps 1 and 2. Step 3, not so much.

I’m an introvert, althoughI’ve learned to function in many settings as an extrovert. I even enjoy it. However, at the end of the day, I need to allow for quiet time, which is why at conferences I prefer to room alone and why I build time into the day for a peaceful walk in between meetings. These become my “restorative niches” as described in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It’s a great book for understanding the value of introverts.

In Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, he recommends making a list of the 25 people most responsible for your career. But he doesn’t stop there. He then wants us to write a thank you note “to confront the humbling fact that you have not achieved your success alone.”

Most of us need routines and order in our lives. If you’re like me, though, you struggle to do so. It’s about finding “the power of rhythm and routine” at work. That phrase comes from Cheryl Richardson in her book, The Art of Extreme Self Care. Creating routines “creates a sense of order that gives the mind a much-needed rest,” she writes. One of the best routines I’ve developed is printing my daily calendar for the next day before I leave the office at the end of the day. That way I already know if I have to pack a lunch or if I have an early meeting for which I must prepare. If that’s the case, I know to schedule my training session for a different day or only plan on a 30-minute morning workout. I also know what healthy snacks to pack.

Jason Womak, author of Your Best Just Got Better, warns that we are often forced to sacrifice quality for quantity. Because there is so much information to take in, he says, we’ve become a nation of skimmers. The downside of that, Womak says, is we miss essential details that could “help us improve our productivity, build better relationships and live more gratifying lives.” His book offers several suggestions, several of which I’ve implemented, including carrying a camera.

What books did you read this year that you would add to the list?

25 People Who Helped My Career

In Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, he recommends making a list of the 25 people most responsible for your career. But he doesn’t stop there. He then wants us to write a thank you note “to confront the humbling fact that you have not achieved your success alone.”

To reach the top you had help along the way. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on my list. Making the list wasn’t too difficult but I wanted to go the extra step and annotate it to include how the individuals helped my career. It’s been a great exercise.

Almost everyone who has helped my career is still a part of my life, for which I’m thankful. In reading my annotations I was reminded to not settle for “good enough,” to push past my comfort zone and to listen.

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to write the thank you notes but I suspect throughout the year, I will. In the meantime, I thought I’d thank a few people on my blog (I didn’t include last names since I did not ask for permission to include them):

Roger: My high school journalism teacher taught me that journalism was a noble profession, one in which I could make a difference. He also encouraged me to enjoy life.

Meg: Because of her I learned to take a big chance – to do something I never thought I would do:  lead a national organization. Once I committed I never once doubted that I could do it. I just needed someone – Meg – to push me to do it.

Hugh: Our lunch conversations imbued me with many leadership lessons. Hugh, who is a fellow lover of fountain pens, provided me with my first opportunity to speak on leadership. He also helped my collection grow.

Marilyn: She is the ultimate teacher and the ultimate learner, and that’s what she taught me.

Pauli: While she frustrated me as an editor, in hindsight she was making my writing stronger. I sometimes hear her voice when I’m working on a project so I push myself to improve the project.

Jerry: He gave me an opportunity to grow. I evolved from journalism to media and community relations. I learned to work in a para-military environment and hold my own as a civilian. I learned to assess a situation quickly and make a decision.

Who would your list include? You may not have time to write a thank-you note, but you could acknowledge them by posting a comment to this post about how they helped you.

Reading for Success

I recently reordered my one bookcase so that all of the business, leadership and self-help books that I’ve purchased and have not read were shelved together. I figured it would be a small section. Wrong!

(Photo by Cynthia Price)

Then I looked back on my blogs for the past year and discovered I had only read four such books – and that included the ones I read for the business book club to which I belong.

The ones I read this year had some great points. Here’s a quick recap:

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink describes the secret to high performance. It’s about autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie tells the story of TOMS shoes but also offers lessons from innovative companies.  The section on “Keep it simple” particularly resonated with me.

TouchPoints by Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard describes interruptions as “opportunities to touch someone and improve the situation.” The interactions are framed using the TouchPoint Triad: Listen, Frame, Advance.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith forces you to look at various habits that may hold you back. Fortunately, Goldsmith also provides ways to change for the better, whether it’s through feedback, listening, thanking or following up.

Business and leadership books are a great way to keep your skills and thinking fresh. One of the subjects I want to learn more about is change management. To make sure I schedule time for reading about the topic, I recently agreed to present a short session on the subject at work. Now I have no excuse.

What books would you recommend I add to my list?