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The Business Books that Changed My Career Trajectory

Posted by Adrienne Johnston on

As I sat down to write this post, I was overwhelmed by just HOW MUCH this set of books changed my career, income, self-confidence, and capabilities. Before I read them, I was managing a Starbucks and making $38k/year. It was tough to make ends meet and I was constantly stressed.

Realizing I wasn't being challenged enough, I got a job at a start-up - on the ground floor. I was the 13th employee and I had A LOT to learn to keep up with the fast pace of growth the company experienced. I knew that if I could figure out managing and leading high performing teams, strategic vision and execution, and talent recruitment that I would have a tremendous opportunity to grow with the company. So I set out on my journey to gain genuine confidence (in spite of my inexperience), and tangible skills to capitalize on the tremendous opportunity I had in front of me. Some of that knowledge came from leaders in the organization, my coach, and good old fashioned trial and error. But a lot of it came from my own self-study and reading these 9 books. My husband and friends used to find it comical that I would read these books on a Saturday night. But I truly enjoyed it, along with the confidence and skills I was gaining!

So here they are! The 9 books that helped earn me an $80k/year raise! 

1. How Remarkable Women Lead

This was the book that started my journey, and I give it to every woman I work with! This book goes into the scientific research the authors did on the five dimensions of centered leadership, specifically as they relate to women: connecting, engaging, energizing, meaning and framing. One of the elements that makes this book so captivating is that each point is illustrated with an anecdote from the research that really conveys the message.
2. Who
There is no bigger challenge universally faced in the workforce than hiring the right people. People send their representative to the interview, and you have to be able to suss out the talk from the action and experience. This book teaches you exactly how to do that, and in a simple way! 
 
3. Leading So People Will Follow
This is an unconventional, but incredible, leadership book. It identifies the attributes of successful leaders throughout the history of man, based on our folktales. And my favorite aspect is that it includes a workbook/action section with each attribute, so you can self evaluate and determine your action plan to develop or refine those skills. 
4. Playing to Win
So I always thought that I struggled with strategy, but this book helped me gain the confidence that I get it (and everyone else just uses the word inappropriately!) The book takes you through the elements of defining a strategy with big name brands that you recognize and identify with.
5. 12: The Elements of Great Managing
First, you should know that I love everything the Gallup Press puts out. 12 was the first Gallup book I read, though it's actually the sequel to #7 on this list, First Break All the Rules. This book addresses the hierarchy of engaging employees similarly to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Team members have basic needs to be engaged in their jobs, like having functional tools and expectations of their role. And those needs have to be fulfilled before they can aspire to growth and helping build the culture of the organization. You have to read it! Especially if you've been struggling to be engaged in your current role.
6. Strengths Finder 2.0
Strengths Finder helps you identify your unique strengths through an online assessment (the code for which is included in the book) and then walks you through the sections of the book that apply to your strengths. The entire premise of the book is that we should get our weaknesses up to an acceptable level and then leverage the-you-know-what out of our strengths, because that is where we will stand apart from the crowd.
7. First, Break All the Rules
As alluded to in #5, this book is a must-love Gallup book. Certainly, any aspiring or current manager would benefit from this read, which takes Strengths Finder 2.0 a step further, by applying the strengths model to the whole team. So instead of treating each team member identically, allowing each of them to flex and contribute equally, but differently, to have a more significant impact.
8. The 2020 Workplace
Though I read it when it first came out, and 2020 seemed a long way off, the book holds up to the test of time. It discusses the generational challenges of having 4 different generations in the workforce at one time, and how to capitalize on technology to achieve better results.
9. Lean In
Ok, technically this book just came out as I was getting my big promotion, BUT it is so spot on, that I had to include it in this list. 
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, discusses the challenges working women face, and how to overcome those obstacles. My husband and I had children with the understanding that everything would be 50-50% (other than the childbirth part!). If we had not successfully executed that goal, I don't think it would have been possible for my career to have developed so quickly.
I hope you find this list helpful! If you have any you'd add, feel free to let us know in the comments below!

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