Top 10 Business Books for Managers

In my high-tech experience, most management promotions are usually based on the individual’s technical expertise and ability to execute. The person that is considered, in a technical role, has the following attributes: confidence, independence, self-motivation, requires no supervision, gets things done and is always learning. Given these attributes, they are very well liked by the management team and as the company grows, they are the natural choice for internal promotions. Being considered for a promotion, from a technical role to a technical management position, in most cases, is seen as a faster way to climb the corporate ladder, so the person sees it as a positive sign of recognition.

Once promoted, some companies have formal training programs, covering new manager challenges, leadership style, creating dynamic teams, influencing direct reports, etc. The only challenge with these programs is that the key people who got promoted are already extremely busy, and the new management lessons may not jive with the boss’s thinking. They start their new career by applying their learning and also trying to catch up with the added load. One other assumption they make is that the new team reporting to them has similar attributes to them, confidence, self-motivation, require no supervision, etc. Reality sets in and they realize a good portion of their time is now used up managing people. At this point they are wishing that they would have paid more attention during the Psychology 101 course a long time back in University.

As time goes by, the technical managers who make it and that are successful in this new role, use the courses (if any) as the starting point. They get to know their boss’s management style, and keep studying constantly just like the way they kept their technical skills. Throughout my career, I have seen many cases like this and after studying a lot of business and management books, I am recommending a top 10 that have helped me a lot. I hope you find them useful as well. In some cases, the author of the book has a good video summary, I have included the link as well.

  1. Thinking Fast and Slow” is a fantastic book by Daniel Kahneman, which should be read more than once. We make decisions constantly and this book explains the way the brain works by making an analogy of two mental systems, fast (system1) and slow (system2). The areas where we have built a lot of expertise, system1 thinking works well, the problem shows up when system1 thinking fools us in the areas that we don’t have expertise! This book is a classic, it covers many topics, I can’t stress enough the importance of this book, life changing no matter where the road leads!
  2. Winning” a very good book by Jack Welch covers management roles and responsibilities. The book discusses leadership, hiring, letting go, crisis management, strategy, career development, etc. This book has great advice, easy to read and practical examples for technical managers. Good reference that you can refer to.
  3. The 3 Box Soultion” excellent book by Vijay Govindarajan , discusses a simple frame work that can be applied to everyday situations. His idea comes from the Hindu faith. The 3 main Gods, which form a circle, consist of creation, preservation and destruction. “Box 1 — Manage the present core business at peak efficiency and profitability. Box 2 — Escape the traps of the past by identifying and divesting businesses and abandoning practices, ideas, and attitudes that have lost relevance in a changed environment. Box 3 — Generate breakthrough ideas and convert them into new products and businesses”. Fascinating read.
  4. Wide Lens”, excellent book by Ron Adner, on ECO system dependencies. He clearly shows, by examples, the difference between great innovations that succeed and great innovations that fail. Obvious and not obvious dependencies to Eco system!
  5. The Ultimate Question 2.0” is a revised edition of a book by Fred Reichheld. The key lesson from this book, is a great example of developing Metrics that are precise and tell much information by answering a few questions! For example, he proposes asking one question of your customers so you will know all that is needed in terms of their customer satisfaction! Ultimate question is: ‘On a zero-to-ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend us (or this product/service/brand) to a family member, friend or colleague?’. The phrasing of that question is ‘a shorthand wording of a more basic question, which is, “Have we treated you right, in a manner that is worthy of your loyalty?” He then categorizes customers into Promoters, Passives, and Detractors, thereby motivating everyone in the organization to take the necessary actions required to produce more promoters and fewer detractor. This is a great book to motivate all of us to come up with simple metrics that can be acted on.
  6. The One Thing” by Gary Keller, is a good read on how to set priorities, by constantly focusing on this question, “what is the one thing you can focus on now that by doing it, everything else is easier or not necessary?” The quote at the beginning of the book says it all! “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one”, a Russian Proverb.
  7. Intelligent Reframed” by Howard Gardner, a Harvard University developmental psychologist, discusses the key contribution that intelligence is beyond just IQ (logic, mathematical and language). It should include visual-spatial, sports-kin esthetic, musical-rhythmic, inter-personal and intra-personal. This is a great read, as all managers deal with people and need to find ways to motivate and assess their skills and performance. Realizing that people have multiple dimensions!
  8. There is an I in Team”, very good insight into team dynamics and how to build high performance teams. Mark de Rond highlights similarities between high-tech teams and sports teams, discussing the lessons that managers can learn from the world of high performance athletes. He explains why so many of the most talented, gifted individuals have trouble working in teams and presents ways for team leaders to overcome this obstacle to ensure high team performance.
  9. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, by Patrick Lencioni, is also a good read. He has written a number of books on various topics, for managers and organizations, mostly through a story telling format to convey the message. In this case the dysfunctional signs include, Absence of trust, Fear of conflict, Lack of commitment, Avoidance of accountability, and Inattention to results. Overall an easy to read short book and good for team members to read it as well.
  10. Dilbert”, excellent examples from Scott Adams, follow it daily! Good sense of humor is important, don’t lose it.

Happy Reading!

Mr. Hojjat Salemi is a Silicon Valley Executive. He has been working in the high‐tech field for more than 30 years. His background is in Systems and Semiconductor IC Development. He has worked in numerous high tech companies such as Cisco Systems, Cortina Systems, Nortel Networks, Mitel, Cortina, FPMX, Skystone Systems and NewBridge. He received his Bachelor and Master’s of Engineering at Ottawa University. In 2010, he was honored with the 2010 Faculty of Engineering Alumni Award of Excellence from Ottawa University. He also holds a number of patents on a variety of topics relating to Systems and Integrated Circuit design.