I used to see a lot of project management thought leaders write about what they called soft skills. They meant things like Emotional Intelligence, communication, driving change, fostering collaboration, and so on. At some point, they realized that those things are hard. I prefer the term people skills, which isn’t specific enough for some, but it facilitates grouping knowledge and skills into three broad areas:
- People skills
- Technical skills
- Business acumen
A lot has been written about these topics, and a lot of recommendations have been made in the SEO-oriented format of Top Ten Books on XXX to Read Before You Get Out of Bed. This is the first of a series of posts that will recommend a few books that you might not have seen on more click-worthy lists.
- Khrushchev’s Shoe: And Other Ways to Captivate an Audience of 1 to 1,000 by Roy Underhill. Roy was the host of The Woodwright’s Shop on public television for 38 years because he can present fascinating content for 25 minutes in one take with no script and no rehearsals. He’s also a business communications consultant. Reading this book is like spending the evening listening to your eccentric Uncle tell stories for hours on end.
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. Will Strunk wrote his “little book” a century ago, and E.B. White kept it updated for decades. It is the best guide to writing well ever written. “Omit needless words.” I will.
- Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott. To be influential, you need to know how to understand people and how to persuade them.
Developing Yourself and Others
- Mindset—Updated Edition by Carol S. Dweck. This is the sixth edition of Dr. Dweck’s classic book on the value of a growth mindset in motivation and development.
- Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life by Ozan Varol. Yes, he really is a rocket scientist, and his book really is as good as Bill Gates says it is.
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier. Do you think asking is more effective than telling?
Collaboration and Culture
- THRIVE: The Facilitator’s Guide to Radically Inclusive Meetings by Dr. Mark Smutney. Sort of an advanced course, addressing things like privilege and power, multi-lingual meetings, and deep conflict.
- HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Across Cultures by P. Christopher Earley and Elaine Mosakowski. I’m a fan of the Harvard Business Review series, and this one is a good airplane read.
Next week, I’ll make some reading recommendations for developing your technical skills. No, I’m not suggesting you become a programmer. More like the classes you wish you had signed up for when you were still trying to decide on your major.