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11 Books to Help you Start, End, Lead, Love and Lean

Reading is My Passion. From an early age, my dad inspired me to read.  We had books everywhere, including a yellowing paperback collection of John Steinbeck books which currently sits on my own bookshelf.  He wanted us to be challenged, to have our eyes opened, and to learn to love reading (and to not play video games) – and it worked (on all counts).

Business and Personal.  Now I find myself reading constantly, and recommending books to clients, colleagues and friends, thus the reason for this article.  This is a list of some must-have books in your library, and why they need to be there.

  1. Start with Why by Simon Sinek.  When I work with non-profits, they have a very clear reason for doing what they do, but I find that accountants and bookkeepers often are less clear; in fact, when doing speaking engagements I will often ask, and hear things like “I like numbers” or “tax returns are like a puzzle.”  While those things may be true, why not be a mathematician or work for a big 4 firm instead of having your own?  You have to know why you are doing what you are doing if you want passion, and in this book Simon Sinek spells it out clearly.  He helps you to see WHY great leaders need to know WHY and then HOW and WHAT and the questions that follow.  I truly believe that passion attracts and keeps customers, pulls teams together and help you through hard times – Start with Why will guide you through why you need to know why you are doing what you’re doing.  
  2. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  We know habits are hard to break, but why is that the case, and what can we do about it?  This is critical for all of us, as many times our habits keep us from embracing the future we want.  A truly fascinating look at the science behind habits and HOW to change them, this book will help you understand how to break routines you didn’t know you had and make positive changes you want to make in your business and life.
  3. Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud.  It was hard to pick just one of Dr. Cloud’s books, but this was the most recent one I read, and so was freshest in my mind.  Necessary Endings helps you realize that there is a season for ending relationships, products, and businesses, but also how to identify those endings, and how to actually end things well.  I believe “good” is often the enemy of “best” and Dr. Cloud helps you see how to let go to move on.
  4. Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey. I read this book years ago and loved reading Dave’s honest and very open advice in this book about every aspect of owning a business.  The title, a combination of entrepreneur and leadership, reminds you that as a business owner, you are leading- and as a leader, there is much to consider, from creating a mission statement, to hiring & firing.  In this book you will cover these topics and more, and come away fired up to win.  
  5. Good to Great by Jim Collins.  Good to Great reinforces many key principles, with facts and research, of what makes great companies.  A common theme to many of the books on this list, it is no surprise that humility, will/determination and discipline are found in great companies and leaders, and Collins finds this in his research.  It is often said that you hang out with those that you want to be like, and here, we can not only hang out with the greats, but really learn what makes them so.
  6. The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni.  Perhaps known for his “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, Lencioni writes in this book about how to hire  the right people in the first place (which happens to be the top challenge among accounting & bookkeeping firms).  Told in a story format and then practical advice, Lencioni helps you to understand why you want hungry, humble and smart people working for you and how to make sure you hire them and keep them.  A fascinating read, from the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni provides a practical and useful guide to grow a dynamic and top-performing team.
  7. The Speed of Trust by Stephen M R Covey. Written by the famous Stephen R Covey’s son, The Speed of Trust dives into the characteristics of trust, how a lack of trust manifests itself in an organization or relationship, and then also provides practical ways to improve trust.  I found the book to be very helpful, and while I quickly read most books, this is one that I chose to really read slowly and absorb.  
  8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.  Goldsmith works with highly successful executives, and many times, like us, we have habits we don’t even know we have that may be holding us back.  While we may not be able to change them all, an awareness helps- and reading this book will provide great insight and hope for change.  When consulting with clients, I find that recognizing our habits and then working to change them is one of the most important aspects of what we tackle.  This book helps to recognize them and move forward with positive action.
  9. Love Works by Joel Manby. One of my favorite lines of this book is “Profits are a product of doing the right thing – over and over again.”  I personally believe, like Manby, that love is about caring for others and requires action.  Based on the “love chapter” of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, he outlines how love (not a romantic rose-colored-glasses kind of love but a “deliberate and unconditional love that is the result of choices and behaviors rather than feelings and emotions” kind of love) belongs in the workplace. What a different organization we would have if we chose to deliberately love those around us.  What a different world it would be.
  10. Leadership 101 by John Maxwell. The foremost leader on leadership, Maxwell writes about why and how to grow as a leader and then dives into traits which make a great leader.  Not so shockingly, discipline, priorities, trust and vision casting all play a role in the lives of great leaders, and Maxwell poignantly highlights this.  One of my favorite quotes in the book is “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  As leaders who often are driven by our to-do lists and putting out the next fire this is a great reminder on the basics of leadership.  
  11. Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg. One of the most poignant stories in this book was about a meeting where the speaker said they would take one more question.  While many hands were raised, both male and female, the men continued to “lean in” and refuse to be shut down without asking their question. Most of the women remained silent.  While I may not have agreed with everything in the book, it was great to think through the specific challenges women face in the workplace- and men, you can benefit from this book as well.

Readers and Leaders. As small business owners, we are leaders.  And as Harry Truman famously said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” So pick one of these, and get started.  

Be sure to check back- this is a work in progress.  As I work through my wish-list on Amazon, I’ll add more later…up next Rabbi Lapin’s Thou Shall Prosper.  

How About You? Let me know what you’re reading – I’m always looking for my next book.

Carla Caldwell is the owner of Caldwell Consulting & Training.  Carla works with business owners (especially non-profits) to bridge the gap between growing business and specific accounting solutions.  

She also helps accounting and bookkeeping firms implement the tools that help them to be more successful- from value pricing to process development to the apps that support their systems.  Learn why companies are utilizing Caldwell Consulting & Training, to get better organized, more efficient systems and stronger results.

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