The Culture Code
The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
“Where does great culture come from? How do you build and sustain it in your group, or strengthen a culture that needs fixing? … Culture is not something you are–it’s something you do. The Culture Code puts the power in your hands. No matter the size of your group or your goal, this book can teach you the principles of cultural chemistry that transform individuals into teams that can accomplish amazing things together.
This book is jam packed with stories from a variety of different businesses and groups. They all work differently yet overall are sharing the same underlying messages. The stories left me giggling at times or wondering more, and were very interesting.
Most of what I learnt from this book wasn’t anything new. But the examples, stories and how it’s told was amazing. The overall messages will be remembered as they are linked through the stories. Each of the 3 main chapter/authors points has a section of “ideas for action” as takeaways for you to apply the knowledge you’ve just learnt. It gives you actionable questions and ways to apply it. Unfortunately, as do a lot of similar books, the actionable items are more so in person and can’t be used in a virtual or work from home environment.
It was still good regardless and basically just for the interesting stories I loved it. [Rose’s note: I can definitely attest to the fact this this was a great book – Suzi giggled her way through the book, and stopped reading multiple times in order to make the reading experience last longer.] 4 stars.
Scale for Success: Expert Insights into Growing Your Business
“All it takes to start a business is a great idea and initial funding. But when it comes to growing and scaling a business – turning it into an enduring success – it becomes much more difficult to manage and sustain the various elements that are involved. You need to set out a clear plan, sustain funding, optimise marketing opportunities and develop an effective team. There are many opportunities to fail but, with Scale for Success, readers will gain valuable insights and practical advice from a global array of entrepreneurs and business leaders who have paved the way to their own versions of commercial success.”
This is a review by Suzanne, who specialises in reading and reviewing business books. I can tell you that she really enjoyed this book! She was either reading it because it was so good, or trying not to read it because she didn’t want it to end!
This book is a lot of short stories and lessons from entrepreneurs and CEOs sharing their experiences with scaling a business. I really enjoyed it! The book follows in a logical order with different sections on different topics. Each chapter has one or two stories from different entrepreneurs regarding that topic and providing advice. I love hearing the engaging stories from different business experts. The book still flows well overall as it’s all written from the same author, and not a collaboration of authors.
There are key take away tips, inspiration and advice from each entrepreneur. There is also their own personal definition of success which I found interesting. In similar style books with lots of stories there is normally some I’m uninterested in. However with this book, I loved all the stories and struggled to put the book down.
This book is aimed for businesses that have already started, mainly those that are larger and looking at growing further. It includes raising venture capital and other funding but isn’t only on these points. I think it was great to see not just scaling up, but how to exit and move on from a business as well. There are not many business books discussing how to exit. I don’t think I learnt any particular pieces of advice to implement right now, but it was a great enjoyable read and I do recommend it, even if you are not scaling up.
Bloomsbury | 2nd July 2021 | AU$34.99 | paperback
The Ideal Team Player
How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues
“Lencioni presents a practical framework and actionable tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players. Whether you’re a leader trying to create a culture around teamwork, a staffing professional looking to hire real team players, or a team player wanting to improve yourself, this book will prove to be as useful as it is compelling.”
My beloved author strikes again! Although it sounds similar to Lencioni’s other novel, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, the two books are substantially different. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team talks about the qualities needed for a team to work together. It focuses on how to lift other team members productivity by how to interact as a team.
In contrast, The Ideal Team Player discusses how to improve team work by focusing on the individual person. This is includes hiring team members with these 3 virtues. How to look out for the virtues within a person. And how to support your current team members to improve these virtues if it’s not their strong suit.
Like Lencioni’s other novels, this one also has the fable as the main part, followed by a recap of the theory learnt. The fable gives you examples of people falling into specific categories which you can use to match against your current team members. The theory section then also gives you more self assessment tools as well.
Overall it is a great read with lot of value. I would recommend it to anyone who is hiring team members, even if it’s just your first. 5 stars, I would read again.
The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team
“Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams even the best ones-often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Just as with his other books, Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.”
I love this author to start with and couldn’t wait to read it! It lived up to expectations and was a great read. It’s a similar style to the author’s other novels. That is to say, most of the book is a fable and then it had the theory at the end. The fable makes it relatable to the reader. As the reader you can picture the characters in the fable and have likely been in the same situations as them. You get caught up and invested in the characters, also wanting them to succeed.
The fable is structured in a way of very short little chapters. This is great if you need to put it down and you can still remember where you are up to (I did not want to put it down though).
I love that the author didn’t try and put too many theories into the book. As per the title there are only 5 dysfunctions of a team. Really that’s all you need to discuss so it isn’t over complicated, and it is possible to fully explore each. In the theory section at the end, the author gives practical examples of how to test of each of the dysfunctions. This includes examples of a good or bad team and a team questionnaire so you have something to take away and are able to evaluate your own team.
Overall, I would read it again. I recommend this book for anyone that is in a team. The book goes through it with the executive team of a large organisation, however is can be applied to a small business team of 5 or so as well.
Jumping off the Hamster Wheel: How to run your business so you sleep at night
“Business owners need to know much more than a core skillset, but how do you figure out the right things to know? In Jumping Off the Hamster Wheel, award-winning business coach and CEO Jamie Cunningham provides a comprehensive and practical how-to guide for small business owners who want to build a profitable and sustainable business.”
This book was just average. I didn’t have any excitement from it or learn anything new. I guess the purpose of the book was to be a ‘only business book you need’ to learn most of what you need to successfully run a business. It’s basically all other business book theories in one. So I guess it did achieve this, and if you think about it like that, then this book is great.
If you have read many other business books like me, then you won’t really enjoy it. It’s nothing new to learn and wasn’t all that engaging or said in a different way. It started out promising for the first half, however after that didn’t seem to hold my attention. I kept putting off finishing it because I knew I would have to review it – and I just didn’t feel strongly enough about it to write much about it. 3 stars from me.
The Beermat Entrepreneur: What You Really Need to Know to Turn a Good Idea into a Great Business
Mike Southon & Chris West
“Every business starts with a bright idea, and many a bright idea has been hatched in a pub scribbled on a nearby discarded beermat. But how do you turn the moment of inspiration into a well oiled plan? who do you need to talk to? How do you find the cash to back the idea? How many people do you need to work with to get the idea off the ground? And how on earth do you find them?”
I picked this book up for something lighter to read. This was lighter in comparison to other leadership books where you are constantly learning new things and wanting to implement them. The Beermat Entrepreneur was perfect for this! As you can imagine, the book was in a relaxed style. I could relate and laughed to some of the typical business things that happen at each stage of the business life cycle.
The book takes you through a typical entrepreneur journey starting from the business idea in the pub with mates, through to implementing this business and growing it to the “mighty oak” phase. It obviously can’t cover everything you will come across along the way of building your business but it does cover quite a lot of the typical obstacles you may come across. However, the book doesn’t go into great detail of each item. If you have a particular business issue you want resolved, this isn’t the book for you.
Overall it was a really enjoyable read. Not for detailed insight but is a great overview of the entrepreneur. If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur or wondering what the life of an entrepreneur is like, then it’s a great read for you. 4 stars.
Stop Listening to the Customer: Try Hearing your Brand Instead
“The customer is not always right. Far from it. What the customer wants is often at odds with what is best for the business or brand. Adam draws on his years of creative agency experience, the wisdom of other voices, as well as marketing science to outline the dangers of listening to the customer too much and reveals what you can do about it. This book will show you how to build a strong brand or business.”
Overall the concept of the book is that the customer is not always correct. The customer doesn’t always know what they want, and even if they do, it might not be the correct thing for your company. The premise of the book is to put your brand and what your company stands for above everything else, including the customer.
I do agree with this premise. However, the book didn’t execute this the best it could have been. The author seemed to jump around a lot and it didn’t have a focus of what each chapter was about. The author also jumped around with short stories, some of which were good but some which could have been removed.
A good half of the book was convincing the reader that the customer is not always right. As the reader I was convinced of this rather early on! I wanted to know more about the author’s point of why the business should be hearing the brand instead. There was hardly any of this section of the book.
The author didn’t seem to explain their point and their side enough. It kind of felt like it ended abruptly and I wanted to hear more of how to actually listen to your brand. At what stages of the business life cycle should you be listening to brand and how much? The author doesn’t actually answer this question.
Overall there was not enough actionable material to take away from the book. Unless you are particularly interested in short stories or the author, I wouldn’t recommend reading this book. 2 stars from Suzanne.
Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team
Scott Jeffrey Miller, Todd Davis, Victoria Roos-Olsson
“A practical must-read, FranklinCovey’s Everyone Deserves a Great Manager is the essential guide for the millions of people all over the world making the challenging and rewarding leap to manager. Organized under four main roles every manager is expected to fill, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager focuses on how to lead yourself, people, teams, and change. Readers can start anywhere and go everywhere with this guide—depending on their current problem or time constraint. They can pick up a helpful tip in ten minutes or glean an entire skillset with deeper reading. With skill-based chapters that cover managerial skills like one-on-ones, giving feedback, delegating, hiring, building team culture, and leading remote teams, the book also includes more than thirty unique tools, such as a prep worksheets and a list of behavioral questions for your next interview.”
I picked up this book as I was after some actual practical ways to improve myself as a leader and manager. That was exactly what I got! I loved that it had practices to do including a chart of “common mindset” and “effective mindset” for you as a leader to compare yourself in the areas and see where you can improve.
The book was written by three authors and the writing flowed really well. Each of the authors added little bits here and there throughout, including short stories or examples which helped explain that given chapter. The book had practical exercises to do in each chapter, as well as an end of chapter notes section where you can write your personal action items.
These were not like other books where they provide general advice and no solid goal. This book included in the practical sections the exact wording of coaching questions and practices to use. That gave it a full 5 stars in my eyes.
This is the kind of book you can’t read all at once. Like I did, you need to read a single section or chapter. Then, go away and do the exercises and put your new learning in place. It’s a lot of doing and you definitely need to refer to the book again as reference or to re-read it. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who has direct reports under them. I think it’s a must-read for the leadership team of any business, small or large.
Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter
Cass R. Sunstein & Reid Hastie
“Since the beginning of human history, people have made decisions in groups—first in families and villages, and now as part of companies, governments, school boards, religious organizations, or any one of countless other groups. And having more than one person to help decide is good because the group benefits from the collective knowledge of all of its members, and this results in better decisions. Right?”
This book was not for me. Although it’s in the “management” section of the library’s non-fiction, it’s all about theory and there is nothing practical or examples of what to do next. Not only is it theory, but it also doesn’t show “the right answer” at the conclusion of the theories. It basically says this can happen, and this can happen and this can also happen. It has no point or message that the book is conveying.
The message of the book is that group decisions are hard due to a number of reasons. These include: an individual’s bias, and how humans tend to agree with others – this causes a cascade of errors. Although the book is structured in chapters of “how groups fail” and then “how groups succeed”, the chapters didn’t really mean anything. The authorities continued to use examples of how groups fail in the succeeding section. Honestly I still don’t know the “solution” to this problem, and how to succeed.
The authors mentioned the same examples more than once, including writing that they would refer to it again in a later chapter. I don’t know why it couldn’t just be fully explained then and there? By the end of the Introduction I had already been convinced that groups fail in their logical thinking all the time, and I was ready for the solutions. I then fell asleep, lost interest and put the book down several times. The only semi-redeeming factors were the few story examples in the tournaments section and the fact that the authors used references for their work.
I did finish this book, but it’s only getting 2 stars. Don’t bother – there are better things out there. Anything is better than this.
Leading Virtual Teams
HBR 20-Minute Manager Series
Harvard Business Review
“Leading any team involves managing people, technical oversight, and project administration, but leaders of virtual teams perform these functions from afar. Don’t have much time? Get up to speed fast on the most essential business skills with HBR’s 20-Minute Manager series. Whether you need a crash course or a brief refresher, each book in the series is a concise, practical primer that will help you brush up on a key management topic.”
This book is a small, short quick read. It’s a nice little pocket size read. Unfortunately, I don’t think I really got anything out of it. It has some nice tips, including exact questions for team surveys or improving in general. However I felt I have already implemented most, if not all, of the things mentioned in it. I guess it’s a nice little reminder that I’m on the right track.
This book was published a few years ago, but would be even more applicable today given COVID-19 and teams being forced to work from home. I think overall it’s a good little read and has a few helpful pointers if you are new to leading virtual teams. Borrow it from the library, don’t bother buying it. You probably won’t want to read it more than once.