Mindset Books

Mindset is the critical secret sauce for a successful agile adoption. Here are some of my favorite books on topics that directly relate to mindset, both at the individual and group level.  Managers who have not ever had a personal coach, and who want to learn how to shift mindset and to help others to learn, this list of books provides ample reading, inspiration and learning for a whole year.  I would be surprised if you don’t come away transformed.  

Mindset, Carol Dweck – defines mindset as the attitude that one has about learning.  She differentiates between Fixed, or Growth mindsets. Managers need to understand the difference and seek out for growth mindset in their staff, particularly if they are working in teams on software projects.

Slack, Tom Demarco – a great book for managers to read to help adjust from a traditional 20th century organization (based on Tayloristic management) to a style that will allow for creativity and re-invention needed for the 21st century. Useful particularly if undergoing an agile adoption but also for any overburdened organization.

On Becoming a Technical Leader , Gerald Weinberg – this is a must read for anyone who is aspiring to lead other people, Much of the book focusses on the aspects of self-awareness and self-control that leaders need, especially in stressful situations. Useful for anyone on a team, but especially those that want to influence, whether in positions of authority or not. 

Time to Think, Nancy Klein – one of my all time favorites on the topic of creating space for a person to ‘think’, Nancy describes the qualities of environment that encourage thinking, what the listener needs to do, and what are the results. Absolutely magical.

What Did You Say? The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback, Jerry Weinberg and Charles and Edith Seashore – giving and receiving feedback is something that most people are never taught. This book is for anyone who interacts with other humans to get work done.  Highly readable, and a must for anyone wishing to change his or her own mindset with respect to feedback.

Words That Work in Business,  Ika Lasater – the subtitle of this book is: A Practical Guide to Effective Communication in the Workplace.  The author shares practices that help you to shift your thinking silently or in partnership with an office buddy. Once you become adept at catching your own thinking, and can turn that thinking into a positive conversation using non-violent communication.  An adjunct book, might be Non-Violent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg. 

Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Granny, McMillan, Switzer – an important guide book on how to have conversations when the emotions and the stakes are high.

Team is an Individual Skill, Christopher Avery – an excellent book to help teams and individuals learn how to work collaboratively and with shared vision. 

Software for Your Head, Jim and Michelle McCarthy – for individuals who want the most advanced explanations of the psychology of group effectiveness, this is no simple read to digest.  Pair it with the website: www.liveingreatness.com or www.greatnessguild.org for more information on The Core Commitments and Protocols.  People who experiment with the Core Protocols are after hyper-growth and typically care a lot about personal growth and group collaboration.

From Contempt to Curiosity, Creating the Conditions for Groups to Collaborate. Caitlin Walker – the use of metaphor is critical to help people shift thinking.  This book documents a 15 year-long journey of discovery, successes and learnings that Caitlin used to help people and organizations reach breakthroughs. Do not skip this if your interest is to help facilitate lasting change in group settings.  Pair with other books on my Clean Language book list, particularly if you are a coach.

Joy, Inc., Richard Sheridan –  a written history and account of the creation and establishment of Menlo Innovations – a company built intentionally to allow people to enjoy and bring joy to the workplace. If you want to learn what it is like to work in an open space, pair with someone every day on the work, collaborate with the customer on the requirements effectively, and deliver high quality code on time, read this book.  

Ctrl-Shift, Jesse Shternshus – a lovely book of short improv techniques that can  loosen up our way of thinking and create connections between people prior to a meeting, or at the start of the day.


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