When I speak at conferences, I always recommend a book (or three) as part of the content. It’s my belief that everyone should try to improve their skills as a leader and as a person; and there are so many good books out there to help you!
I have a system that perhaps you might want to replicate. I have categories of books in the pipeline as follows: The first category is my Amazon wish list. I have the Amazon app, and whenever someone recommends a book, I pop-open the app and add it to my wish list, allowing me to go back and find it, and to do a little more research before I hit “purchase.” The second is the stack of 3-5 books I have purchased that are on the bookshelf behind my desk—all waiting to be read. The last category is the 1-2 books that have actually made it to my backpack. I almost always have one with me, including a highlighter and a bookmark, ready to explore and learn. I learned to love reading at a young-age—perhaps the only positive of growing up in a home without a TV (yeah, I know, hard to believe).
2012 was a good year for reading, so I thought I would share my top five recommendations for service and support leaders (and everyone else):
- “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson: Published in 2011, clearly I was a little late to the party. It is such a big book (think War and Peace), but I am so glad I made the commitment. The book is not written in a typical bio-timeline, but in a series of stories (think the Macintosh story or iPhone story). It is filled with great insight into how one person can change the world. It will also make you question how anyone with Steve Jobs’ leadership style could have accomplished what he did. In one chapter, you will find wisdom that you want to emulate, and, in another, you will find a reason not to be like Steve. He changed the world we live in. How can you not want to know more about him? Buy it and read it—in small doses.
- “Crucial Conversations” (2011) by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler: This one is an update of a previous version with new research and new case studies. I had read the first version several years ago, but was writing and speaking about the subject so I wanted to get the refresh. I often tell people that being a good coach is the most important role you will ever have as a manager or leader. This book takes coaching to a deeper level and teaches you how to have the tough conversations—the ones that we are all afraid to have. I am thankful I have worked for leaders who were not afraid to have the crucial conversations with me. I want to be that kind of leader. This book will help!
- “Who’s Got Your Back” by Keith Farrazzi: This is one of my top recommendations for young managers and college kids—and really anyone that wants to be successful in life. “Who’s Got Your Back” builds on the importance of deep relationships in business and life. Ferrazzi offers a nine-step approach to building “lifeline relationships,” an inner circle of people who serve as advisors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners—a team of people that are not afraid to tell you like it really is. As a result of reading it, I am working to confirm my “team.” Before I read it, I understood the importance of personal relationships. After I read it, I understood much more of the impact they can make on every aspect of my life.
- “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees)” by Patrick Lencion: I have to admit I am a big fan of Patrick Lencion. I love his writing style of telling a story and then teaching from it. Check his name on Amazon and you will find many more books I have read. I love this one because it has a special fit for the contact center. If you Google “I hate my job,” you will find a lot of mentions of contact centers. It can be a monotonous and tough place to work. Yet, I know companies where effective leadership means employees love their jobs. Lencion will give you insight where your organization is today—and how to change it. Hint: It really is all about the frontline manager.
- “Chief Customer Officer” by Jeanne Bliss: You may look at the term “customer experience” as just another buzzword, but I have watched many companies over the past 10 years make it the description of how they isolate customer issues—and how they dramatically improve customer loyalty. Jeanne Bliss has been a leader of the customer service movement since its inception. The book is filled with client stories that outline the transformation, but it also offers detailed “how-to” in the steps required to transform a company. The sub-title is “getting past lip-service to passionate action.” There are no silver bullets—it takes hard work and a plan.
Look for my upcoming blog series around planning for your contact center in 2013!