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10 Novels That Will Help You Perform Better In This Business World

10 Novels That Will Help You Perform Better In This Business World

It goes without saying that one of the best ways to forge ahead in life is to be around those who have walked the journey you would like to travel.

Commonly referred to as mentors, these are the people who will guide you. They have learned from their errors and ideally, it is their wisdom that you would like to leverage to avoid common mistakes and get to your own destination quicker. These are the people who will help you

But we know that not all mentors are great. We also know that those who are really awesome have time limitations. They can only be at one place at a time. As a result of their demand, their time is expensive. To get their time and attention, you will need to pay big bucks.

Having said the above, there is one way of getting the best in a cost-effective way. That is through reading novels written by these esteemed men and women. As Lailah Gifty Akita put it: “Great mentorship is priceless.”

Here are 10 books you can read to enable you to forge ahead in life in your leadership, career, and entrepreneurship endeavours.

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carneige

People are the most important resource in life. Ideas come from people. People consume your products and services. People produce the products and services you sell. In a world that has advanced in leaps and bounds technologically, we should never forget that people trump technology on any given day.

This book will teach you how to express your ideas, assume leadership, and make people enthusiastic. Equally important, it teaches you how to make people feel valued and appreciated. First published in 1936, it has sold 15 million copies world-wide. Clearly, there’s no going wrong with this book.

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2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

Often called America’s number leadership authority, Maxwell was identified as the most popular leadership expert in the world by Inc. magazine in 2014, and he has been voted the top leadership professional six years in a row on LeadershipGurus.net.

This book focuses on aspects of your life that are irrefutable: constant and timeless. Whether you are in New York or Johannesburg, in the 18th or 21st century, these are laws you can entrench into your life eternally.

3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

Stephen Covey has been instrumental in shifting my paradigms in life.

While it is awesome to read and have knowledge, what really matters is application. Not only application, but consistent and permanent application of knowledge that will change your life. In this book Steve Covey focuses on how to change for good through changed habits, a struggle faced by millions of people who know the right thing but who never really master the willpower to realize that change over a long and sustained period in their life.

4. Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

This book depicts the true personification of selflessness, a quality possessed by one of the greatest leaders of all time.

I honestly don’t know how I would have responded after 27 years of imprisonment under a regime that oppressed every ounce of my humanity. I don’t know how I would have responded to a system that cost me two marriages and segregated me from my family, passion, and life course.

In this book, Mandela teaches us how we can respond to the most trying of circumstances and come out victorious.

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5. StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

We often get told to “embrace our weaknesses” and turn them into opportunities.

While that is true, it is half the story. The reality is that you become less effective in life if you spend most of your time working against your natural talents and gifts. Yet we are often quick to apply for jobs that have very little to do with our natural abilities. And then we spend most of our lives collecting salaries that bring complete frustration and stagnation to our lives.

This book helps you tap into your strong points. It then encourages you to focus most of your time working on your strengths and enhancing. It comes with a fantastic online assessment tool that has been completed by more than 2 million people.

6. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Oftentimes, it seems like the work place is geared at those who are vocal and assertive. “They speak their minds” is one phrase you’ll hear often, coupled with “that’s why they get what they want”.

It seems too easy for the extrovert to get ahead in the workplace. But, in this highly vocal and noisy world, the workplace needs introverts. There is an incredibly important role for those who are ‘quiet’. This book, in an engaging and easy-to-read fashion, explores introversion and its value in modern day society. It also highlights the inter-dependent relation between introverts and extroverts.

7. ThinkerToys by Michael Michalko

Entrepreneurship is about solving problems. All products and services that customers buy are bought on the premise that the product or service will solve a problem. On the back-end of solving a problem is a solution. Some solutions are rocket science while others are very basic.

When you think of Groupon, the magnitude of simplicity cannot be further highlighted. According to a December 2010 report conducted by Groupon’s marketing association and reported in Forbes magazine and the Wall Street Journal, Groupon was “projecting that the company is on pace to make $1 billion in sales faster than any other business, ever.”

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They are the fastest company to make $1 billion in sales from a simple solution — giving discounts. ThinkerToys taps into this ability to develop and improve our creative flair.

8. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

Ever been told “you need money to make money”?

I’ve come across entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas, but crushed spirits because they ‘did not have enough money to start the business’. This book highlights the importance of entrepreneurs finding their passion. Once that’s done, they need to work on that passion in a creative way that has the potential to solve problems in a profitable way.

Passion and problem-solving attract support, including monetary support. In other words, even though money is need to fire up ideas, you don’t need to have the money upfront. In a world where entrepreneurs chase overnight riches, the book highlights the need to start small and grow humble beginnings organically and authentically.

9. “The Obstacle Is the Way” by Ryan Holiday

To be a successful entrepreneur, you’ve got to be positive, driven and a visionary. I’m sure you’ve heard that before.

But, that’s the nice and rosy side to entrepreneurship. The flipside of that is that you WILL fail.

Where’s there’s creativity and ideas, there’ll be testing and failing. Where there’s passion, there’ll be plenty of frustration. Where there’s monetary resources required, you’ll have many a door shut in your face. Sadly, most entrepreneurs freak out when they come across obstacles that lead to temporary failure. Yet, failing is all part and parcel of the journey to success. Failing simply means you are coming across obstacles that will inspire you to be creative and a problem-solver.

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As such, failing is NOT failure. This book will teach you how to turn your obstacles into opportunities, thereby turning your failing points into success stories.

10. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

We live in a world of convention. We get told to study hard, get a well-paying job, or start a business that pays us well. Then we’ll enjoy the sweet taste of success, they say. In all this, we seldom get told about the power of time freedom over financial freedom. As a result, many people get to the pinnacle of their success and still feel a void. One that feels like a trap. A trap that often robs you of your time.

In this book, Timothy Ferriss highlights tools you can use as an entrepreneur to create and run automated businesses that give you time freedom.

Conclusion

As an entrepreneur who has worked eight years in the corporate world, I’ve experienced the power of these books manifest in my life.

Mentors are vital. We all need them to get ahead in life and contribute meaningfully on earth. With all the time and monetary limitations that come with accessing the best mentors, it becomes incredibly difficult to access them in person.

With books though, you have the power to tap into the wealth of wisdom that these great individuals have to offer. I hope you’ll find these books incredibly useful as you forge your way to a life of success and fulfilment.

More by this author

Peteni Kuzwayo

Peteni is the founder of Run For Wealth. He shares about entrepreneurship and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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