Summer reading for accountants – 2018

The consultants at ConvergenceCoaching work with countless accountants and business experts every year – and whenever they hear of a book that’s had an impact, they add it to their growing list of useful reads that they recommend.

When co-founder Jennifer Wilson offered to share the list with our readers, we jumped at the chance – and we’re presenting it this year as our annual list of summer reading. The first half of ConvergenceCoaching’s extensive list follows; the second half will appear later in the summer – once you’ve had a chance to get through some of these.

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

By Patrick Lencioni
Jossey-Bass
$27.95
Lencioni has more books on ConvergenceCoaching’s list than either Jim Collins or Stephen Covey, so you know he’s a big deal. He’s a highly regarded writer and thinker on organizational management; in this one, he talks about why a “healthy” company will outperform ones with more innovation, better strategy, or smarter employees. Healthy, in this context, means unified, and free of politics and internal division, and Lencioni offers a model for building that kind of environment, with plenty of stories, tips and real-life anecdotes.

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Are You Fully Charged? The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

By Tom Rath
Silicon Guild
$22.99
No, the secret to being charged is not Red Bull or 5-Hour Energy. Instead, Rath suggests that it’s about creating meaning by doing things for other people, creating positive human interactions, and taking practical steps to improve your mental and physical health, and he offers plenty of concrete tips for doing so.

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance

By Atul Gawande
Picador
$17
You could be forgiven for assuming this book is just about making hospitals and medical care better, because it is, in fact, about that – but that’s not all it’s about. Gawande’s accounts of the challenges of his profession holds myriad lessons for every other complex profession, so you don’t need to be saving lives to get a lot out of it.

Breakthrough Business Development: A 90-Day Plan to Build Your Client Base and Take Your Business to the Next Level

By Duncan MacPherson and David Miller
Wiley
$32
Aimed at professionals who “think for a living” (like accountants), this book can help you give serious structure to how you bring in new business, which is going to become ever-more important as competition from both within and outside the profession increases. It takes it’s starting point from the Pareto Principle (80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients), and builds its three-month program on four cornerstones: strategic analysis, targets and goals, activities, and reality checks.

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Breakthrough Teams for Breakneck Times: Unlocking the Genius of Creative Collaboration

By Lisa Gundry and Laurie lamantia
Dearborn Trade Pub
$25
It’s easy enough to assign people to a team, but getting them to actually function like one is another. For a profession that relies on small groups of people working together the way accounting does, this book’s 10 steps are invaluable.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

By Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
Harperbusiness
$18.99
Collins’ is a name to conjure with, and this is one of his higher-profile titles. Co-authored with Jerry Porras, it’s the fruit of a six-year research project that examined 18 outstanding, long-lived companies from conception through the pinnacle of their success, identifying the things that make them stand out from their less successful competitors. It offers hundreds of specific examples, organized into a coherent framework of practical concepts to create a blueprint for building something that will last.

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

By Michael Bungay Stanier
Box of Crayons Press
$14.95
As staff development becomes more and more important at firms, and more a part of firm leaders’ daily lives, the kind of coaching skills taught in this book are going to be essential for management. Its rubric of focusing on specific, directed questions will help you move away from the common problem of leadership-by-diktat, and help you to better help your employees.

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Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
McGraw-Hill Education
$20
Most every accounting firm has a couple of conversations that need to happen – with an underperforming partner, perhaps, or a badly behaved clients – but that everyone avoids for fear of confrontation. The ideas and tools in “Crucial Conversations” aim to not only make it safe to talk about just about anything, but to you in a position to get the most from those talks you’ve been avoiding.

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business

By Patrick Lencioni
Jossey-Bass
$24.95
We’re not ordinarily fans of the “business fable,” which generally tend to be a way to stretch out a short article’s worth of advice to book length, but Lencioni, who we’ve met before in this list (and will meet again), is one of the few masters of the form. And frankly, we’ll take any idea that improves the modern business meeting, which is a generally a combination of misery, terror, and miscommunication.

Drilling for Gold: How Corporations Can Successfully Market to Small Businesses

By John Warrillow
Wiley
This one is out of print, but used and digital editions are available online. While it’s aimed at teaching big companies how to market to small businesses, accountants could definitely use some help with marketing to the same group, and Warrillow offers plenty of interesting case studies to help you get inside the heads of the owners of small businesses.

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The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers and Other Professional Services

By Paul Dunn and Ron Baker
Wiley
$29.95
Long before all the current talk about moving to higher-value-added services, this classic was preaching the transition to consulting, with a roadmap, lots of practical “how-to’s” and plenty of real-world examples.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
HarperCollins
$16.99
You know that feeling when everything’s humming along so perfectly that it feels effortless, and you feel like you can do anything? Us neither – but it’s called “flow,” and we’ve heard it’s really nice. Turns out it’s an achievable state, and this book aims to show you how.

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty

By Patrick Lencioni
Jossey-Bass
$24.95
We’ve noted that Lencioni is a business fabulist par excellence, and the message he gives here – of the need to be vulnerable and open and honest with clients – is one accountants need to learn as the profession moves toward more higher-value advisory services.

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Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In

By Roger Fisher and William Ury
Penguin Books
$17
Still relevant 30 years after it was originally published, “Getting to Yes” offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for reaching agreements that work for both sides, whether you negotiating a business contract or a personal dispute.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t

By Jim Collins
Harper Business
$32.50
In “Built to Last,” Collins dove into companies that had always been great; in this follow-up classic, he looked into companies that overcame average beginnings to become superstars. When it first came out, the book’s concepts were counter-intuitive and revolutionary; in many ways they’ve now become the accepted wisdom, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth learning about.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth
Scribner
$28.99
A new take on the old truth that there is no substitute for hard work, “Grit” adds psychological insights and useful ideas for improving your own ability to push on.

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Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies

By Charlene Li
Harvard Business Review Press
$22
Accounting firms, like many businesses, are struggling with how to adapt themselves to social media – and yet they must, if they’re to attract new clients and new employees. This is a good place to start figuring it all out, and to learn how to build a strategy that’ll make sure you’re on top of the groundswell.

Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment

By Tal Ben-Shahar
Mcgraw-Hill Education
$23
Good sense and positive psychology combine to teach you how to be happy, or at least happier … . Happiness, it turns out, isn’t some elusive concept – it can be learned (Ben-Shahar actually teaches it at Harvard, and this book grew out of his popular course there). With tips of how to set up happiness rituals, express gratitude and otherwise pursue practical ways to make yourself happier, this is a great place to start improving your everyday life.

How Full Is Your Bucket?

By Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton
Gallup Press
$24.95
Every human interaction is an opportunity to build people up or to diminish them, and it’s often a simple matter of choice. Rath and Clifton want us to aim for positivity – to fill each other’s buckets – and support the idea with strong evidence for the positive results. It’s a slim, insightful read, but if 128 pages seems like too much for you, there’s a kids’ edition, too.

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The Last Lecture

By Randy Pausch
Hachette Books
$24
Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, Pausch gave a lecture that combined so much wit, wisdom and inspiration that it quickly became a sensation, and led him to expand it into this book-length version.

Leadership

By Rudolph Giuliani
Hyperion
$25.95
Whatever you may think of him now – and opinions will definitely vary! -- it’s hard to argue with Giuliani’s leadership during and immediately after 9-11, and this book gives you an insight into the experiences that shaped him and the principles that guided him to and through that fateful day.

Leadership Jazz: The Essential Elements of a Great Leader

By Max Depree
$16.99
Crown Business
Leadership has always been more art than science, and the art depree thinks it’s most like is jazz, since it calls for constant improvisation, the ability to work with others in different capacities – sometimes leading, sometimes following, sometimes working alongside – and requires constant communication and interaction. The metaphor isn’t the main point those – the many great tips for better leadership are.

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Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

By Sheryl Sandberg
Knopf
$24.95
Even those who have never read the book will have heard of Microsoft COO Sheryl Sandberg’s call for women to “lean in” to their careers, but the book is well worth a read at a time when the accounting profession is struggling to figure out why there aren’t more women leaders in the field.

Managing the Professional Service Firm

By David H. Maister
Free Press
$14.99 (Kindle)
A classic from an early master of better management for accounting and other professional services firms. Maister covers all the bases, from marketing and business development to HR, strategic planning and effective leadership.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

By Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
$15.95
Mariner Books
It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup: The many ways in which we justify our mistakes, failings and shortcoming to ourselves can be as dangerous as the mistakes, failings and shortcomings themselves. If you get to the end without seeing yourself in the authors’ many examples of self-deception, start again – and once you do see yourself, start applying their helpful advice to stop pulling the wool over your own eyes.

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Now, Discover Your Strengths

By Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
Gallup Press
Out of print but available used online, this book makes a crucial point: All too often, what we learn about ourselves are our failings, so we spend our time trying to fix those, rather than capitalizing on our strengths. Buckingham and Clifton aim to help you identify your talents and build them into strengths that you can rely on. It makes you wonder how much better, more pleasant and more valuable the average performance review could be … .

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy

By Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Knopf
$25.95
After her husband died, Microsoft COO Sheryl Sandberg teamed up with Wharton psychologist Adam Grant to find better ways for people to cope with and bounce back from adversity – and better ways for all of us to help them. This book is the result, grounded in psychological research and offering concrete steps we can all take to overcome whatever hardships come our way.

Outliers: The Story of Success

By Malcolm Gladwell
$16.99
Little, Brown & Co.
Gladwell probably needs no introduction, and this is the book that popularized the idea of the 10,000 Hour Rule, which suggested that mastery in any area requires that amount of practice, with the understanding that the unusually successful people we often assume are naturally talented often have vast amounts of hard work behind them. But there’s much more to the book than just that one idea – he dives into the influence of environment and chance and other factors on success, as well.