Have you noticed that since leaving school you have less time to read books? If you enjoy reading them and want to be reading them, it seems to be harder to fit the reading into your daily schedule. Yet there are lots of articles, which tell you ‘Read these 20/50/100 books’. Who has the time?
Therefore, I have decided to summarise for you just 3 great books that have had a massive impact on my career, how I communicate and work, and have vastly improved my work experience.
Before you start reading a little disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you decide to purchase through this link.
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This is my number one must-read if you are working in a multinational company (or even if you have a couple of colleagues from different countries than you are from). It will not only improve your understanding of where your own behaviors come from and how to communicate with other cultures, but you will also understand why some people act in a certain way, and honestly – you will become more understanding and less angry at co-workers.
Let me give you an example. I am Polish, born and raised, and proud of it. I have lived almost my entire adult life in the UK, so my behavior has adapted over the years, however, some things remained a mystery to me until someone pointed them out.
As a Polish woman, I am quite outspoken and straight to the point. If there is work that needs to be done, it gets done, everything else can wait. We appreciate quick solutions in our culture and we leave building relationships for after the work is done.
On a few occasions, I did exactly that with my English co-workers. I would arrive at the office, learn of a crisis, drop everything and ask my teammates to do something I wasn’t capable of and highlight that it was urgent. To my surprise, they didn’t respond and it took a few reminders for the next hour or so until I eventually sat down next to them and did it with them, to both mine and their frustration.
For years I couldn’t understand what was I doing wrong. If you are English and reading this, you are probably thinking already how rude I was. But in the culture I am from, this is very appropriate behavior at work. However, in the English office you are expected to arrive, say your hi’s, ask people how are they doing and add a little bit of relationship building before you start the work. Maybe ask them what they did last night or what is happening with something you know they had a problem with. After 10-15 min of conversation like this, I would then ask the question ‘Oh, I just learn that [something happened], would you mind doing [xyz] when you have a minute? I am not sure how to do this, but I know you have a great experience with it’.
Back home this kind of behavior would be addressed as wasting people’s time, not prioritizing your work, and maybe even as being lazy and inappropriate. Your boss could potentially take you on the side, and explain that this is a workplace and if there is a crisis, you need to take care of it before making friends.
How interesting is this, isn’t it? Those two seemingly not that distant cultures can have such a massive difference when it comes to working culture.
‘Culture map’ is definitely a book I wish I have read earlier in my career, as it would explain my early career problems with co-workers and why I struggled to have good relationships at work.
You can get it here:
This is another ‘star book’ that I wish I read earlier in my career. ‘Deep work’ shows you the value of the uninterrupted work state and how much more you can achieve by focus.
Let me ask you a question, how many hours a day during work do you switch off your email to focus on a project? I know very few people who do that, even I used to feel awkward when I started doing this. We live in a culture, where we believe that we should always be reachable. If you are at work, it means anyone can contact you, it means you have to be visible on email, Skype, Teams, Zoom, etc. But do you really?
The most valuable work you can deliver is when you actually deeply focus and remove all the distractions. If you are feeling unease about having that ‘unavailable’ status showing, have a chat with your boss first about what you are planning to do. You can agree with your boss that you will switch on your email 2 or 3 times during work to check on urgent matters, but other than that you will be unavailable and focusing on the most important aspects of your role.
If you have a bunch of meetings in your calendar or need to respond to important emails, but you don’t want to be distracted, you can set your Outlook to “work offline”. This mode will let you join meetings and write emails, but once you hit ‘send’ they will be waiting in your outbox to be sent all at once when you switch to the offline work mode.
Let me know in the comments if this tip was useful!
But going back to the book, “Deep work” is a position you should read if you are easily distracted by emails, social media, or squirrels (yup, that’s me if I sit by the window). It will not only give you an understanding of the importance of deep work but also provide you with tools on how to implement it into your work life.
You can get it here:
‘How to win friends and influence people’ is a great book that I wish I read way earlier in my career!
I have grown up believing that doing 100% of your work in high quality is the standard and you are not supposed to get praise for it, it is what you do and that’s it. If you do the 5% wrong or just not in a perfect way, you are supposed to be told and work with your superior on improving it.
What a load of bullshit.
Praise and appreciation are the number one motivators for anyone! Telling people off and pointing out their mistakes is actually counterproductive, and can lead to resentment, less motivation at work, and actually more poor quality work. Who knew?
After reading “How to win Friend and Influence People” I have become much more generous with my praise. Before that, I was focused on improving everything that came my way. If someone would come to me for feedback on any project, I would start pointing out holes in what they have done, without acknowledging first that they have actually done a tremendous job so far! You can guess, that very soon people stopped asking me for feedback and I couldn’t understand why. In my own perception, I was an amazing feedback giver as I actually gave them ideas to improve.
The secret is, that we ask for feedback to get some kind of valuation. We want someone more experienced to acknowledge that we are on the right track and that we are doing the right thing. If you want to share feedback with someone, start with praise. Remind them what they have accomplished so far, how valuable it already is. Before sharing any thoughts about improvements, think to yourself. Is this really going to make the project better, or am I just picking holes? If you think there is a way to make it better, suggest that they could do 1 or 2 things or ask them if they have considered them already. It will go a long way!
If you want to learn more – just grab the book through the links below.
[AMAZON UK] How to Win Friends and Influence People
[AMAZON US] How to Win Friends and Influence People
3 books I wish I read earlier in my career
So there you have it. Three books I wish I read earlier in my career. If you haven’t read them yet, make sure to grab them now.
What was a book that changed your career? Let me know in the comments.