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No One Told You the Book List for Improving Leadership Skills? I Will

No One Told You the Book List for Improving Leadership Skills? I Will

Becoming a better leader takes effort, making mistakes, reflection and study. When you lead, you are expected to take chances and take risks. If you are driven by a need for security, you may not have what it takes to become a leader.

To help you understand your leadership strengths and provide practical ideas to lead better, start with reading these books. This combination of personal development, biography and business books provide several perspectives on leadership skills. If you are a regular reader like me, you may find yourself reading the same category of books over and over again (e.g., only business books) and neglecting other genres. Take this opportunity to read widely — there is more than one way to lead successfully.

1. Churchill: A Life by Sir Martin Gilbert

Churchill

    Winston Churchill remains one of the most inspiring and accomplished leaders in history. What leadership skills can you learn from studying Churchill? You can learn the value of personal focus — how Churchill overcame rejection when he started his military career. You can also learn how Churchill developed his public speaking skills. Though Churchill is widely known and respected for his speeches today, those leadership skills did not develop overnight.

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    2. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John C. Maxwell

    5_Levels_of_Leadership__85464_zoom

      As one of the most popular and respected leadership authors in America, there is much we can learn from John C. Maxwell’s books and example. Consider his own leadership career as a starting point. He started his career in the church, began a non-profit organization and today leads a successful leadership development company. The ability to achieve success in several industries shows that Maxwell’s leadership ideas have been tested in the field.

      3. Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

      Washington-A-Life

        America’s first President is widely respected for several important leadership accomplishments. He led soldiers into battle and through years of physical hardship during the War of Independence. He later served as America’s first President, a rare figure who had the ability to unite a young country. But how did he achieve all these leadership feats? Chernow’s outstanding biography takes us behind the scenes with outstanding research that features quotes from Washington’s letters and other sources. To start your Washington education today, read Career Hacks From Young George Washington.

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        4. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

        switch

          Leaders are rarely interested in the status quo. As a leader, you will be asked to create change. There are all changes of change projects you may lead — launching a new product, improving customer service or improving productivity. In this highly readable book (I read it on the beach and was glued to it!), Dan and Chip Heath explain how change really works. A key insight — change efforts require an understanding of logic, habits and psychology. If you miss one of those aspects, your leadership will fail. The book makes use of stories and studies to teach great points on how to make change happen.

          5. The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

          the-truth-about

            Your personal qualities and character are key factors in determining your success as a leader. The authors present a compelling case on what makes leaders successful based on decades of research. The first important insight is that honesty and integrity are the foundation for your success as a leader. Without those qualities, few people will be inclined to trust you. The second great insight I learned from this book is the importance of the leader going first and taking risks. For example, if your company is about to adopt a new computer system, you can signal your leadership by being the first to go through the training and then supporting the rest of the team. Thanks to leadership expert Richard Rierson for recommending this book to me.

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            6. Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

            fivedysfunctions

              Lencioni has a highly readable style in the world of business books. He tells a compelling fictional story and then has his characters work out his principles over time. In this book, you will learn Lencioni’s perspective on team work. A major lesson from this book: Simply hiring a group of high performance people is not enough to create a team. Relationships within the team matter more. Without that trust and connection, the team will never perform at a top level.

              7. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker

              Effective Executive

                Drucker’s classic book has stood the test of time in the business world. Leaders will benefit from reading this book in two ways. First, Drucker provides timeless productivity principles to help leaders manage their priorities. Second, the book has incredible lessons on making decisions and following through on those decisions.

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                On occasion, some of the language and examples may feel dated. Don’t let that stop you from growing your leadership skills with this classic book. If you enjoy Drucker’s perspective, consider reading “A Year with Peter Drucker,” which provides a detailed discussion of his ideas.

                8. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant

                Give and Take Book Cover

                  Adam Grant has reshaped the leadership conversation with his New York Times bestseller, “Give and Take”. Leaders who give AND take achieve more success — that’s the ultimate lesson from the book. The book is also filled with motivation and productivity studies that will benefit leaders. A great example is the call centre study that Grant conducted. The study focused on a university call center where callers sought donations to the college. The productivity and average donation received significantly increased when the callers had a short presentation from a student who had benefited from the fundraising.

                  Featured photo credit: Book/kaboompics via pixabay.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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                  Published on January 16, 2019

                  How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                  How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                  We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

                  You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

                  You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

                  That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

                  Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

                  1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

                  Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

                  We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

                  To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

                  At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

                  The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

                  2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

                  Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

                  The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

                  In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

                  It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

                  It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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                  So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

                  • Are you a great strategist?
                  • Are you an effective planner?
                  • Is Project Management your strength?
                  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
                  • Are you the ideas person?
                  • Is Implementation your strength?

                  Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

                  3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

                  One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

                  Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

                  Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

                  Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

                  4. Take Time for Planning

                  “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

                  One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

                  You can take the time to think about:

                  • What’s the purpose of the project?
                  • How Important is it?
                  • When does it need to be delivered by?
                  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
                  • What are the KPIs?
                  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
                  • Who is working on this project?
                  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
                  • What tolerances can I add in?
                  • What are the review stages?
                  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

                  Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

                  5. Focus on Priorities

                  Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

                  Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

                  One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

                  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
                  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
                  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
                  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

                  James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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                    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

                    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

                    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

                    6. Take Time Out

                    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

                    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

                    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

                    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

                    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

                    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

                    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

                    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

                    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

                    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

                    8. Stop Multitasking

                    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

                    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

                    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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                    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

                    9. Work in Blocks of Time

                    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

                    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

                    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

                    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

                    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

                    Then take another 10-minute break.

                    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

                    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

                    10. Get Rid of Distractions

                    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

                    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

                    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

                    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

                    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

                    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

                    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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                    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

                    12. Take a Time Audit

                    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

                    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

                    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

                    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

                    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

                    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

                    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

                    13. Protect Your Confidence

                    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

                    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

                    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

                    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

                    Final Words

                    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

                    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

                    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

                    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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