Each year, highly recommended readings are annotated and presented for the Nursing Executive Center membership at their annual meeting series. These are nonnursing readings by design-carefully selected from the broad leadership literature. This year, because we have entered a new decade, the approach was to carefully review all of the readings that had been featured in prior years. The search was on for the top 10 articles and books that were in the "must read" or "must reread" category. They are considered to be especially meaningful for the chief nursing officer, the executive team, and key managers reporting to them. Each would make a stimulating topic for a leadership retreat or journal club discussion.
These 10 publications are compelling classics, or soon-to-be classics. Each is considered to be a meaningful source of leadership wisdom, with both professional and personal impact. Please enjoy reading your choices from "The Top Ten in 2010." And as Peggy Noonan, a Wall Street Journal columnist, wisely advises, "Never feel guilty about reading. It's what you do to do your job."
Bridges W. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Pub; 2003.
This book is a consistent favorite of many effective leaders. It never seems old and always remains relevant because transitions are indeed serious and they are constant. We each face them, nonstop, in our professional and personal lives. Just as one change is managed, another appears in a seemingly never-ending cycle.
Bridges teaches transition management, today's essential skill for highly unstable times. He speaks to us in simple and clear language, with beautifully organized and easily read chapters, examples, and wisdom from a broad array of great thinkers. The book contains common sense and easily applied information. Bridges opens the book by saying:
It isn't the changes that do you in, it's the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational: the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal.
My favorite example of transitions in this book describes the terrible discomfort one experiences with moving from the "tried and true" to the unknown-and the difficult time in-between. This is described by Ferguson as similar to the Peanuts comic strip character "Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold onto." Absolutely worth a read. It stimulates great discussion, where leadership teams can share their personal Linus analogies.
Bruch H, Ghoshal S. Beware the busy manager. Harv Bus Rev. 2002;80(2):64-69.
This article is a refreshing piece written by 1 Swiss and 1 British professor of leadership and business. It has application for anyone who manages anything. The article opens with the question, "Are the least effective executives the ones who look like they are doing the most?" The authors note that 2 traits are necessary for effective, purposeful action: focus and energy. A matrix and these 2 traits shows 4 quadrants: disengagement, procrastination, distraction, and purposefulness. It is fun to find your quadrant (or maybe not so much fun). The authors believe that only 10% of mangers are truly purposeful. Whether you agree or not, it is a provocative piece.
Drucker PF. Managing oneself. Harv Bus Rev. 1999;77:64-74. Available at: http://www.nlada.org/DMS/Documents/1061561860.55/document_info.
This one is a treasure from Peter Drucker-a must read if you are serious about knowing yourself, your strengths, your values, how you learn, and how you best perform, setting yourself up for success in what Drucker calls the second half of your life. Drucker says, "Do not try to change yourself-you are unlikely to succeed. Rather, work to improve the way you perform best." Obviously, this is not traditional thinking. He asks readers to consider where they belong, what they can and should contribute, and how and why to take responsibility for relationships. This is one you may want to read and then read again periodically. You can determine if you are staying on course regarding optimal performance as you proceed along your ongoing personal leadership journey.
Managing Your Boss
Gabarro JJ, Kotter JP. Managing your boss: a compatible relationship with your superior is essential to being effective in your job. Harv Bus Rev. 1980;58:92-100.
This article is a Harvard Business Review classic and frequently reprinted article over the years. It is another important and comprehensive look at the boss relationship. The authors stress that your boss is your link to the rest of the organization-and is your enabler for success. Key discussion points include the need to understand the boss and his/her context, as well as your own. The advice is to appreciate your boss's goals and pressures, strengths, and weaknesses. Do you really understand his/her objectives? What is the boss expecting from you? What does your boss do well? What are his/her blind spots? What is your boss's working style? How does he/she like to get information? Does your boss thrive on conflict or avoid it? The authors say that without such information, a manager is "flying blind," creating unnecessary conflicts, misunderstandings, and problems. One section addresses the critical skill of how to make wise use of your boss's time, a topic not usually addressed. This is a timeless common sense article creating a framework for an essential process that is seldom examined.
Becoming More Successful
Goldsmith M. What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful. New York, NY: Hyperion; 2007. Also available on audio book.
The author presents a concept that I had not previously considered, that is, understanding that the same characteristics that got you where you are in the work world may now be holding you back. Marshall Goldsmith is widely regarded as one of the top executive coaches in the country. One-on-one coaching with him costs 6 figures! Happily, this book gives you some of the same great advice. It is subtitled "How to Help People Become Even More Successful." It is dedicated to "all successful leaders who want to take it to the next level and get even better." He itemizes 20 habits that will hold you back from moving to the top.
Management books constantly tell us what we should be doing, yet few books tell us what we should stop doing. Stopping some behaviors gets little attention, but Goldsmith notes that can be as crucial as everything else we do-combined. Importantly, our bad habits are not flaws of skill, intellect, and/or personality. Instead, they are challenges in interpersonal behavior, mainly leadership behavior. Goldsmith calls them "transactional flaws performed by one person against another."
Some examples from the list of the 20 habits that hold you back from the top are "The need to win at all cost and in all situations; the overwhelming desire to add our opinions to every discussion; the needless sarcasms that we think make us sound sharp and witty; and claiming credit that we don't deserve." Small things, seemingly simple things, but any one of them can quickly become career stoppers. A very important read.
Goleman D. Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. New York, NY: Bantam Books; 2006.
In another groundbreaking book by the author of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman distinguishes between emotional intelligence and social intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the study of one person, within themselves. Social intelligence examines an interpersonal psychology that transpires when we connect with others. It is "the ability to read other people's cues and then act on them." The thesis is that humans are wired to connect. There is a neural bridge connecting with the others with whom we interact and those connections impact our biology. Goleman states that our relationships mold not just our experiences but also our biology. He believes that healthy, nourishing relationships are physically and emotionally beneficial. Toxic ones are "like slow poison in our bodies." There are distinct sets of neural processes that can nourish relationships. This is essential to understand because our interactions are fundamental to our personal and professional effectiveness. For example, can we accurately "read a room?" How well do we anticipate behavior? How do we respond in a manner that soothes a hostile situation, rather than promote antagonism? What can we learn that would enable us to be most effective with people that we interact with every day? The pragmatic information that examines our interactions with others in a new way makes this book well worth a look. It is helpful in understanding ourselves more fully, improving our relationships, and perhaps even making ourselves healthier.
Balance Is Bunk!
Hammonds KH. Balance is bunk! Fast Company. 2004;87:68. Available at: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/87/balance-1.html.
How could anyone resist this title? The author writes, "It's the central myth of the modern workplace: with a few compromises, you can have it all. But it's all wrong, and it's making us crazy. Here's how to have a life anyway." Hammonds goes against all of the conventional wisdom. He says, "Give up the promise of balance at any point in time. Instead, consider a life and career as a portfolio. In each chapter, we have different responsibilities and priorities." We must constantly allocate and reallocate. But the bottom line question is, "are you happy?" If so, you are likely in balance. A very reassuring read.
Hesselbein F. Hesselbein on leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2002.
This is a special book written by a very distinguished individual, Frances Hesselbein, chairman and founding president of The Drucker Foundation, now known as the Leader to the Leader Institute. She was former chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of America and hailed by Peter Drucker as an executive who could run any corporation in America and do it with distinction. This is an easy-to-read book with language that is clear and engaging yet always instructive and challenging. Hesselbein's passion and life's work are leadership, and that comes through clearly. She begins with the concept of leadership and how to be, not how to do. Then the author presents those behaviors and beliefs that characterize the "how to be" leader. One clearly sees the difference between the nature of management versus the essence of leadership.
This book would be stimulating and provocative for experienced leaders who use it to check their leadership compass, as well as to aspiring leaders who want to understand that true leadership is managing mission and innovation, and affirming that true leadership requires aspiration, dedication, passion, and skill. Another opinion on this work comes from a respected expert, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor, Harvard Business School. She says, "Frances Hesselbein is a national treasure and Hesselbein on Leadership is a treasure trove of her visionary yet practical wisdom."
Managing Energy, Not Time
Loehr J, Schwartz T. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. New York, NY: Free Press; 2003.
This book provides a refreshing new look at an old problem-managing time. The authors take the approach that, instead of focusing on time itself, people must make decisions about how they allocate and expend their energy and how they must assiduously plan to renew their energy. A powerful perspective that will likely-and positively-change your entire approach to the concept time management.
Who's Got the Monkey?
Oncken W Jr, Wass DL. Management time: who's got the monkey? J Nursing Adm. 1990;20(12):6-9.
This time-tested article is another management treasure and a must read. It presents a simple (and fun) analogy for assessing how one unwittingly accepts the responsibilities of others (monkeys leaping onto the back of unsuspecting managers). It is important enough that many reread it periodically to stay on course. It is great group learning for a leadership team. Nurse managers love this one.