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12 Books Recommended By CEOs That Will Help You Succeed At Work

12 Books Recommended By CEOs That Will Help You Succeed At Work

As business leaders, CEOs face incredible challenges at work. How do they get through it? They seek ideas, inspiration, and strategies from books. Here is a list of 10 novels, works of history, and classic business books that have inspired today’s top CEOs.

1. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (Jeff Bezos, Amazon)

Built To Last

    “Visionary companies pursue a cluster of objectives, of which making money is only one—and not necessarily the primary one.”

    Jeff Bezos recommends this book because it shows how to create a long lasting company. If you are seeking to build a legacy in business, this modern classic is required reading. Collins and Porras bring outstanding research depth to the book. A key insight from the book is that profit is usually not the only motivation for visionary companies.

    2. The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande (Jack Dorsey, Square/Twitter)

    Checklist-Manifesto

      “Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything – a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps – the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss.”

      Jack Dorsey recommends this book because he knows that top notch execution is essential to business. Having good ideas is only part of the equation. Improving performance is a major concern for leaders and CEOs. If you are frustrated with mistakes and errors, building a checklist is a great solution. As Atul Gawande explains, surgeons, doctors, and commercial pilots use check lists to save lives. For a checklist to be useful, it must have a small number of steps that address major problems.

      To get started, read How To Build A Checklist In 6 Steps.

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      3. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright (Tony Hsieh, Zappos)

      TribalLeadership

        “Change the language in the tribe, and you have changed the tribe itself.”

        Leadership makes the difference between a company that grows and one that fails. We only need to think about corporate scandals and the problems caused by unethical leaders (e.g. Enron) to understand that principle. Tony Hsieh admires the book because it explains the importance of creating a strong company culture. If your organization, department, or team is in trouble, tribal leadership could be the answer.

        4. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson (Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola)

        The Ascent of Money

          “Only when savers can put their money in reliable banks that it can be channeled from the idle to the industrious.”

          In the modern business world, we have endless financial options and resources to use. There are plenty of ways to borrow money and many ways to seek investors. However, the financial system is a human system that can break down. In Ferguson’s book, you will learn how the financial system evolves and the forces that drive it. Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent considers it a great read. On a personal level, I found this book to be an outstanding and highly engaging introduction to economic history.

          5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Randall Stephenson, AT&T)

          The Brothers Karamazov

            “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

            A long-standing classic of world literature, The Brothers Karamazov is a powerful read. CEO Randall Stephenson recommended this book in Scouting Magazine. There is much to learn from this book including perspectives on family life and life in Russia. If you’re looking for an engaging work of fiction to read, this book is a great place to start.

            6. The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman (Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase)

            The World is Flat

              “No matter what your profession – doctor, lawyer, architect, accountant – if you are an American, you better be good at the touchy-feely service stuff, because anything that can be digitized can be outsourced to either the smartest or the cheapest producer.”

              Understanding recent changes in the global economy is a challenge. In this popular book, Friedman has explained several key trends including outsourcing and improving technology. As you interact with global customers and competitors, this book will give you a big picture understanding. CEO Jamie Dimon recommends this book (along with The Intelligent Investor) in his suggestion to JP Morgan summer interns.

              7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil)

              Atlas Shrugged

                “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won.”

                Atlas Shrugged is a popular book among many successful people. Financial blogger Trent Hamm listed the book as one of the 10 books that changed his life. CEO Rex Tillerson recommends the book because it shows the positive impact that business leaders can make on the world. Published over 50 years ago, the novel remains a popular read in the business community.

                8. The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (Warren Buffett, Berkshire-Hathaway)

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                The Smartest Guys In The Room

                  “The tale of Enron is a story of human weakness, of hubris and greed and rampant self-delusion; of ambition run amok; of a grand experiment in the deregulated world; of a business model that didn’t work; and of smart people who believed their next gamble would cover their last disaster—and who couldn’t admit they were wrong.”

                  As you build a career, you will be faced with choices. You may have decide whether to take a job or move to a new city. You will also be faced with the decision on whether to act ethically. This book is a great case study in what happens when an unethical focus to produce profits takes over. Warren Buffett has recommended the book. Buffett’s recommendation is in line with his famous newspaper test principle.

                  9. Competing Against Time by George Stalk (Tim Cook, Apple)

                  Competing Against Time

                    “The creation of value by using time as a competitive weapon requires strategies to lock up the most attractive customers to keep competitors at bay.”

                    With millions of customers to impress, it is no surprise that Apple CEO Tim Cook recommends this book. The recommendation is likely influenced by the fact that Cook came up through the ranks with a focus on operations and procurement. After all, if materials and inventory do not arrive on schedule, it is very difficult to run an effective business.

                    10. The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin (Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs)

                    The Discoverers

                      “I have included the story of only a few crucial inventions – the clock, the compass, the telescope and the microscope, the printing press and movable type – which have been essential instruments of discovery… My focus remains on mankind’s need to know – to know what is out there.”

                      Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has been reading this sweeping history book for years. Much like The World is Flat and The Ascent of Money, this book puts our world into context. You will learn about the people who explored the world, took risks and challenged their society’s ideas. Those are all important lessons to learn as you navigate through new business challenges. This book may also inspire you to keep working if you are working on a new product or a start-up – situations where you are confronted with uncertainty.

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                      11. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (Marilyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin)

                      malcolm_gladwell_blink

                        “We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it…We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world. The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”

                        Gladwell has become a widely quoted and important author for good reason. His insights and storytelling ability have few peers. In Blink, you will learn about the fine art of decision making and how fast decisions work. CEO Marilyn Hewson recommends this book because it helped her to trust her instincts in business.

                        12. Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman (Larry Page, Google)

                        Surely You're Joking

                          “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists.”

                          Google co-founder Larry Page has listed this book as one of his favorites. As a scientist who worked on many different problems in physics and technology, Feynman is a great example of pushing boundaries. As Google continues to develop new products such as driverless cars, one can see the Feynman’s innovative approach shining through. If your business ideas are novel and facing challenges, Feynman’s book will inspire you to keep working at it.

                          Featured photo credit: Jeff Bezos/Desk.com via desk.com

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                          Bruce Harpham

                          Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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                          Last Updated on September 16, 2019

                          How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

                          How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

                          You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

                          We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

                          The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

                          Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

                          1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

                          Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

                          For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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                          • (1) Research
                          • (2) Deciding the topic
                          • (3) Creating the outline
                          • (4) Drafting the content
                          • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
                          • (6) Revision
                          • (7) etc.

                          Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

                          2. Change Your Environment

                          Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

                          One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

                          3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

                          Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

                          Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

                          My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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                          Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

                          4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

                          If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

                          Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

                          I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

                          5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

                          I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

                          Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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                          As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

                          6. Get a Buddy

                          Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

                          I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

                          7. Tell Others About Your Goals

                          This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

                          For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

                          8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

                          What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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                          9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

                          If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

                          Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

                          10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

                          Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

                          Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

                          11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

                          At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

                          Reality check:

                          I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

                          More About Procrastination

                          Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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