15 Books on Business Culture You Need to Read Today
Your company culture is the heart and soul of your organization, and it can mean the difference between dazzling success and dramatic failure.
Over the past three years, I have personally read one book a week. This is a big time commitment but well worth it. Since committing to reading a book a week, I have gotten to know a lot of the authors on a personal level. I've compiled a list of some of the top reads over the past six months that have helped me grow my calendar app. I've used their advice and it's worked.
If you’re in need of some new ideas for engaging your team, improving communication and achieving better results overall, the books on this list will inspire and motivate you to make changes in your leadership style and organizational structure.
1. Elevate by Robert Glazer
In this national bestseller, author Robert Glazer provides an inspiring read about how you can bring out the best in yourself as well as those around you. Building on the power of a positive focus and his thought leadership as a visionary in the business world, he includes real-life lessons from numerous individuals.
The primary aim of the book is not to just help elevate readers to achieve individual sense. Instead, Glazer goes much deeper than that.
He examines how spirituality, emotional intelligence and intellectual ability provide pathways toward becoming a better person and igniting the best in those around you. As a result, he delivers the recipe for happiness, joy and satisfaction in work and life.
2. Mean People Suck: How Empathy Leads to Bigger Profits and a Better Life by Michael Brenner
In Mean People Suck, author Michael Brenner challenges the idea that leaders must be “mean” in order to be authoritative and an effective manager. Instead, he introduces the idea of using empathy to connect and communicate better with your employees.
When employee engagement is low in the workplace, poor management and lack of leadership are often to blame. Negativity in company culture, poor relationships with co-workers and a boss who’s just plain mean will lead to unhappy employees, worse performance and lower profits.
Brenner uses his own experiences and challenges from his career as a corporate sales and marketing executive alongside proven research to create a guide to developing empathy in the workplace. It all comes together to better engage employees and enjoy a more meaningful career.
3. You Don’t Have to be Ruthless to Win: The Art of Badass Selfless Service by Jonathan Keyser
Jonathan Keyser is out to prove that you don’t have to be all about yourself in business but instead can excel by taking a selfless approach to servicing customers. If you doubt his claim, then you’ll definitely need to read this book.
Keyser shares how he had a job he hated in commercial real estate brokerage and how it turned him into the worst version of himself. From there, he explains how he decided to reinvent himself as a selfless leader. As a result, his brokerage firm achieved eight figures.
Related: 8 Proven Ways to Make Money in Real Estate
Keyser walks you through the transformation process in mindset, perspective and action to explain how you can become a selfless servant and leader of a company who is focused on others. Beyond business, he explains how you can be selfless in all aspects of your life without being taken advantage of or losing your own identity.
4. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
In this follow-up to Start With Why, Sinek explores what makes a great leader and why strong leadership is the key to a happy team and a successful business.
The title of the book comes from a conversation Sinek had with a Marine Corps general when he observed the most senior individuals taking their seats to eat only when the more junior Marines had already been served. This rule extended far beyond the dining hall — on the battlefield, leaders are expected and prepared to sacrifice their own conveniences for the good of their team.
The book continues with examples from outside of the military, to businesses across several different industries. The most successful workplaces are built on great relationships and trust between leaders and their teams.
If you’re looking for how to improve your leadership skills beyond management tips and theory, Leaders Eat Last delves into human emotions and biology, and why it’s so important to create a “circle of safety” for your team to give them the confidence to flourish.
5. Non-Obvious Megatrends: How to See What Others Miss and Predict the Future by Rohit Bhargava
Every business leader wishes he or she could predict the future. You can’t, unfortunately, but you can catch a glimpse of it through Rohit Bhargava’s Non-Obvious Megatrends.
The latest installment in the Non-Obvious Trends series, Bhargava’s book explores topics ranging from gender identity to technological backlash. For each trend, Bhargava provides suggestions on how companies can capitalize.
How does Bhargava spot tomorrow’s trends before others do? Bhargava draws insights from conversations with senior executives, students and everyone in between. Having founded Influential Marketing Group, he spends his workdays advising CMOs and his remaining hours as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Bhargava’s “Global Marketing in The Age of Social Media” course is overbooked each year, while his “Non-Obvious Public Speaking and Pitching” class informs the university’s Executive MBA program.
6. Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live by Laszlo Bock
Google is not only one of the world’s most successful companies, but it’s also one of the most sought-after places to work. Google is famous for its employee perks like free gourmet food and innovative working environments, but is there more to the organization’s success? Who better to give away the secrets to Google’s success than one of its insiders?
Author Laszlo Bock was the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google — a job role that entailed being in charge of attracting and retaining “Googlers”, and making Google win the title of Best Company to Work for more than 30 times around the world.
Related: Three Things to Learn From Google’s Workplace Culture
Work Rules! provides powerful insights into how organizations can attract talent, develop their people, improve communication, and boost motivation in the workplace. One example of Google’s innovative approach: managers aren’t responsible for hiring, firing or salary increases. Instead, these decisions are made by peer groups or independent teams.
7. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Kegan
Your organization is only as good as the people in it. This book explores what can happen when companies invest in their culture and every one of their people, not just those with obvious potential.
After investigating three leading companies identified as “Deliberately Developmental Organizations,” or those at which development is built-in to daily working life and culture rather than reserved for one-off training programs, the book presents several ways in which your own organization can model this highly successful approach.
The winning formula includes providing a safe and supportive environment for growth, making sure each individual identifies their own growing edge and building development into your organization’s daily routines and procedures.
8. Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean by Kim Scott
Along the same lines of reducing aggression in your management style for better results, Radical Candor provides you with advice on how to be a “kick-ass boss without losing your humanity.”
This book advises leaders to move from a position of control to one of collaboration, building a supportive feedback loop that’s designed to deliver better results and invest in employee development.
Radical candor boils down to two key concepts: care about your people on a personal level and challenge them directly. Beyond this, Scott identifies three key principles for managers to build better relationships with their employees: make it personal, get stuff done and understand why it matters.
9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Good management is all about helping every member of your team to reach their full potential. Sometimes those with the most potential aren’t the ones self-promoting their skills and vying for your attention, but the quiet individuals who remain in the background.
In Quiet, Cain takes us on a journey inside the mind of an introvert and shows us how much they’re often undervalued in the workplace and elsewhere. With examples of some highly successful introverts, she identifies some common traits of this personality type, and how they can be recognized.
This is not just a book written for introverts (although if you class yourself as one, you’ll find much value in it.) Leaders and managers can also learn how to get the most from their most introverted employees and understand that working in a team isn’t always the way to get the best out of everyone.
10. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh
Online retailer Zappos has featured as an example of excellent workplace culture in many other books, so there should be no surprise in seeing a book written by Zappos CEO in this list.
In Delivering Happiness, Hsieh reveals the secrets of an organization that’s not only hugely financially successful (Zappos was bought out by Amazon in a deal worth $1.2 billion), but also frequently named as one of the best companies to work for.
The company culture of Zappos not only had the effect of creating a workforce of incredibly engaged and happy employees, but this also translated to amazing customer service and happy customers. Zappos is a great example of how to achieve success by aiming to make those around you happier rather than more productive.
11. Brave New Work: Are You Ready to Reinvent Your Organization? by Aaron Dignan
Aaron Dignan, founder of New York-based consulting company The Ready, distills his years of experience working for companies including Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft and Airbnb in Brave New Work, demonstrating how organizational change can lead to massive results.
The book lays out an inspirational blueprint for the future of work and encourages the reader to abandon old and inefficient ways of working to discover the true potential of your people and business.
The theory laid out in Brave New Work is backed up with fascinating examples of organizations that have embraced change: a bank that abandoned traditional budgeting went on to outperform its competitors for years to come, and a business that canceled a monthly meeting saved an estimated $3 million a year.
12. Shut Up and Listen!: Hard Business Truths That Will Help You Succeed by Tilman Fertitta and Jim Gray
Also known as the Billion Dollar Buyer, author Tilman Fertitta is an entrepreneur who turned one restaurant into a global hospitality empire worth billions. Now, he’s sharing how you can do the same with your business in this actionable book.
Over the course of 30 years in business, Fertitta has gone through the challenges and failures to get to the successes. What’s gotten him through are a set of principles that he has adhered to and that have shapes his company, which includes Landry’s Seafood, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Morton’s Steakhouse, The Chart House, Rainforest Café and more than forty restaurant concepts as well as five Golden Nugget Casinos. Plus, Fertitta is the sole owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets.
The book will teach you six key action items.
13. What '80s Pop Culture Teaches Us About Today's Workplace: 10 More Iconic Movies, Even More Totally Awesome Business Lessons by Chris Clews and Diane Franklin
This newly released sequel continues to explore more about how the pop culture of the 1980s impact our business culture today. While it may be hard to imagine that a decade that had such questionable taste in fashion could teach us anything, fortunately it’s not about the clothes but more about the 1980s movies.
Besides providing a nostalgic look back at some of the most iconic movies in history, the book is chock-full of movie quotes, scenes and more that relate to the workplace and how we interact and understand each other.
If you are a movie nut and a business owner or leader, you’ll enjoy this book’s references to movies like The Outsiders, The Princess Bride, Caddyshack and more. Even if you didn’t grow up in the 1980s, this book’s lessons about human nature will resonate with you.
14. Culture Is the Bass: 7 Steps to Creating High Performing Teams by Gerald J. Leonard
Music already serves as a relatable metaphor for so many things in life, so it makes sense that this newly released book uses music to explain how to develop high performing teams for your company. Leonard sees the creation of high-performing teams has the pathway to an effective project management culture that delivers a symphony of balance, unified vision and harmony for an organization.
He shares seven key principles based on his experience as a professional musician, culture change expert, and certified Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP). The seven-step process includes tips on enhancing leadership skills, thriving in a difficult workplace, eliciting productive feedback from others and reclaiming your time from tasks that otherwise waste that valuable resource.
15. Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform For Change by Marc Benioff and Monica Langley
Written by the founder and co-CEO of Salesforce, this new New York Times bestseller guides you through the ways you should proactively seek out change as your primary business purpose and vehicle for innovation and growth. Besides change, the visionary Benioff explains how values need to define your business culture because these are what shape your business purpose.
To explain what he means, Benioff provides a behind-the-scenes look at Salesforce and its core values, which include trust, customer success, innovation and equality. He goes through each value to illustrate how it is a clear component to the organization’s culture and how it drives the change necessary to keep the company relevant and competitive.