Books I Wish I’d Read at University

Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others.
~ Roy T. Bennett

Working in the corporate world is often challenging, especially when it comes to changing mindsets. Although we’ve come a long way, it can still be difficult for women to progress in their careers, especially when juggling a family. While I’ve grown in confidence over the past ten years, and have begun to expand my library of business and self-help books, there are several that I wish I’d been introduced to at university.

A Good Time to Be a Girl, Helena Morrissey

Synopsis: From the founder of the worldwide 30% Club campaign comes a career book for women in a transforming world who don’t just want to lean in, but instead, shatter the paradigm as we know it.
Learnings: The stigma towards working mothers is changing. Women should be proud to have a career and a family. However, I definitely wouldn’t want quite as many children as she has!

Championing Women Leaders beyond Sponsorship, Shaheena Janjuha-Jivrau & Kitty Chisholm

Synopsis: They say empowered women empower women. Each of us has a role to play in championing other women. To become a successful leader, we must help to develop other women, and therefore ourselves in the workplace.
Learnings: Mentoring is not enough. Women in leadership need to be able to promote and support talent that we see in other women.

Eat That Frog: Get More of the Important Things Done Today, Brian Tracy

Synopsis: There just isn’t enough time for everything on our ‘To Do’ list – and there never will be. Successful people don’t try to do everything. They learn to focus on the most important tasks and make sure they get done.
Learnings: Don’t waste time being efficient at small, less important tasks. Spend time doing the most important things and you will achieve more professionally and personally

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers

Synopsis: We are all afraid of something, but we should all be less anxious and move away from a life of paralysis, depression and indecision to one of power, energy, enthusiasm and action.
Learnings: There is no wrong or right decision; there are just different paths that will provide you with different experiences. What’s the worst that could happen? Know that whatever happens, you will be able to handle it. So go right ahead and do it!

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, David Heinemeier Hansson

Synopsis: It is time to stop celebrating crazy and start celebrating calm.
Learnings: Don’t feel bad about making somebody wait for something. If it’s not urgent, there’s no need to stress about sending it over. Be more efficient at the important tasks and reduce the amount of unnecessary tasks.

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg

Synopsis: Women in the workplace have come a long way but we are still falling short of where we could and should be. This is because we are still embracing our ‘female’ traits and being overshadowed by men.
Learnings: Be brave and sit at the table. The easiest way to relinquish power is by thinking you are powerless. You don’t have to act like a man to get ahead, but be confident, be positive and be gracious. Reach for the sky, but know your own limits.

Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong, Jessica Bacal

Synopsis: Failure is not the opposite of success. Failure helps us take the next step towards achieving success. Don’t fear setbacks; embrace them.
Learnings: Believe in yourself and your dreams. Shake off the perfectionistic attitude women are taught to adopt. Own up to your mistakes and explain what you’ve learned and show how these setbacks have shaped you as a person.

Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office, Lois P. Frankel

Synopsis: Women need to shake off the ‘little girl’ they were told to be throughout childhood and embrace their confident, assertive woman. Often, women are too nice or too meek or too patient.
Learnings: You don’t have to act like a man. Be confident in the way you speak, sit, stand and dress. Speak up, ask questions and suggest ideas. Be honest about what you want or think you deserve and ask for it. Good things rarely come to those who wait.

On Women and Leadership, Harvard Business Review

Synopsis: What will it take to create a more gender-balanced workplace? Harvard Business Review selection of the most important articles on leadership and gender at work to show where gender equality is today and how far we still have to go.
Learnings: It’s important to consider different styles of talking to ensure our intended message is carried forward and not misinterpreted. Be direct with questions and conversations. Don’t ignore problems. Share with someone you trust and ask for support. We are not alone.

Personal Branding for Brits, Jennifer Holloway

Synopsis: However you want to get on at work, people buy people… but what they’re really buying is your personal brand. Your brand lets people know who you are and what you bring to the table and most importantly, how you’re different from everyone else out there.
Learnings: The way you think, act, and present yourself really does matter. However, it’s important to stay true to who you are and not lose sight of your identity or integrity. Accentuate the positive. Smile more. Initiate conversations.

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success, Jim Dethmer

Synopsis: Unconscious leadership is not sustainable. It’s important to choose the present and not succumb to fear. Conscious leadership helps people shift from leading through fear, to leading through trust.
Learnings: Value learnings above things like success and money. Realise you will not always be the perfect leader, and this is OK. By accepting this, and consciously trying to improve and be open to learning, you can develop and become an even better leader.

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Michael Bungay Stanier

Synopsis: Coaching is an art, but can help teams and managers develop. The power of coaching can enable teams to work less hard, but have more impact.
Learnings: “Tell less and ask more. Your advice is not as good as you think it is.” There are seven key questions to help with coaching. Use them. Believe that you are being effective – let go of the power of the conversation and empower your colleague to unlock their potential.

The Confidence Code, Kathy Kay & Claire Shipman

Synopsis: Although we have come a long way in gender equality, men still dominate in the world of work. But is this really down to the differing confidence levels of men and women?
Learnings: Spend less time worrying about whether you are competent, and more time focused on self-belief and action. Women need to be more confident about making decisions, because we focus too much on being perfect, which delays our decision-making. Step out of your comfort zone and believe in yourself; be confident that you can manage that project or deliver that presentation to the board.

The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown

Synopsis: “Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” Many of us are ashamed of who we are and are living ‘fake lives’, but it’s much better to be authentic and live as we are.
Learnings: Courage, compassion, and connection are the gifts of imperfection. When you choose to be vulnerable through shame and imperfection, you allow yourself to experience connection and the gifts of imperfection. Being courageous makes us – and the people around us – better. Dig deep and embrace who you are!

Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

Synopsis: This book reveals how our minds are tripped up by error and prejudice (even when we think we are being logical), and gives you practical techniques for slower, smarter thinking. It will enable to you make better decisions at work, at home, and in everything you do.
Learnings: Some decisions are made boldly, quickly and intuitively, e.g. things we know to be true or a fact; other decisions require slower, rational thinking, e.g. when there are multiple stakeholders involved. Spend time on the more important decisions and don’t waste energy on simple, risk-free choices.

Are there any business books that have helped you with your career? And have you found that times are changing, or do we still need to ‘break the glass ceiling’?

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