How to work with anyone: 10 must-read books

How to work with anyone: 10 must-read books

Leaders know that every person on a team has different motivators and pain points. Learn how to work with - and bring out the best in - everyone on your team with these books

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Today's teams are becoming more diverse: They may include people from Millennials to Baby Boomers, with backgrounds and work histories of all kinds, working in geographically dispersed locales. That's a strength, since people with differing perspectives and experience bring different ideas to the table – helping teams solve problems in new ways. For the team leader, it also means you want to bring out the best in a wide range of people.

How do you learn to nurture all of them as a leader? Encourage them as a coworker? Communicate with all of them in the ways that work best? Respect individual strengths?

On a separate and different note, what about co-workers whose behavior choices rattle the team? For example, you may encounter people who attack your ideas, or hold back their own, to the detriment of your team's work.  Another common behavior challenge is people who talk over other team members in meetings. How can leaders address interpersonal issues and find team harmony?

We’ve rounded up 10 books to help leaders work better with anyone and everyone on their team. These books teach essential leadership qualities – like communication skills and relationship building – that can help create stronger, more meaningful connections. Let’s dive in.

[ How does your EQ stack up? Read also: Emotional intelligence test: 5 self-evaluation tools for leaders. ]

How to Work With and Lead People Not Like You: Practical Solutions for Today’s Diverse Workplace

By: Kelly McDonald

Book description (via Amazon): “The people you work with may be from a different generation, different culture, different race, different gender, or just a different philosophy toward work and life in general, but you need to work together toward a common goal. How to Work With and Lead People Not Like You explains how to dial down the differences, smooth out the friction, and play upon each other’s strengths to become more effective, more productive, and less stressed.”

Why you should read it: By the end of this year, Millennials will outnumber Baby Boomers. This shift represents just one way the workforce is changing. If you struggle to understand people, cultures, and values that are different from yours, you will struggle to achieve high performance at the individual and team level. This book promises to provide the steps, guardrails, and even the specific words you need (and the ones you should never use) when leading a diverse team.

An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization

By: Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

Book description (via HBR): “What if a company did everything in its power to create a culture in which everyone – not just select ‘high potentials’ – could overcome their own internal barriers to change and use errors and vulnerabilities as prime opportunities for personal and company growth? This book demonstrates a whole new way of being at work. It suggests that the culture you create is your strategy – and that the key to success is developing everyone.”

Why you should read it: A deliberately developmental organization, or a DDO as the authors refer to it, is one based on this guiding conviction: Every single person’s strongest motive is to grow, and organizations that tap into that motive will prosper. This book argues that typical people-development programs focus disproportionately on high-potential employees. Learn how to take people development from a once-a-year offsite to every day – for everyone.

The Neurodiverse Workplace: An Employer’s Guide to Managing and Working with Neurodivergent Employees, Clients and Customers

By: Victoria Honeybourne 

Book description (via Amazon): “This practical, authoritative business guide will help managers and employers support neurodiverse staff, and gives advice on how to ensure workplaces are neuro-friendly. The book demonstrates that neurodiversity is a natural aspect of human variation to be expected and accepted, rather than a deficit to be accommodated.”

Why you should read it: Some of the biggest companies today are rethinking workspaces, culture, and recruiting practices to make their company more inclusive of different ways of thinking. If your company is following their lead, this book offers ideas for how to support and empower neurodiverse people – benefitting not only the neurodiverse employees, but the business overall.

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

By: Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

Book description (via Amazon): “Receiving feedback sits at the junction of two conflicting human desires. We do want to learn and grow. And we also want to be accepted just as we are right now. Thanks for the Feedback is the first book to address this tension head on. It explains why getting feedback is so crucial yet so challenging, and offers a powerful framework to help us take on life’s blizzard of off-hand comments, annual evaluations, and unsolicited advice with curiosity and grace.”

Why you should read it: Sometimes the most difficult conversations we have at work stem from a good place – like when someone tries to give you constructive criticism or feedback. “Even if the feedback is negative, the person providing the feedback is giving it because they care,” points out David Egts, chief technologist, North America public sector, Red Hat. “You can’t control the other person – the only thing you can do is control your reaction to the feedback.” Egts recommends this book to learn how to receive feedback (both positive and negative) in a more constructive way.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

By: Susan Cain

Book description (via Amazon): “At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so.”

Why you should read it: Some enduring myths about introverts – like introverts can’t be leaders or they don’t take risks – can cause leaders to underestimate or hold back their team members who fall into this category. If you are an extrovert, Cain writes, you should get to know the traits that make introverts different, and how those traits bring unique value to the team. Read this book to learn more about the power of introverts on your team.

The Relationship Economy: Building Stronger Customer Connections in the Digital Age

By: John R. DiJulius

Book description (via Amazon): “In spite of (and because of) the advances in tech, we’ve become a less connected society. We have dramatically evolved away from face-to-face communication, and the skill of building rapport is evaporating. This book reminds readers of the importance of personal connections and shows them how to attain meaningful, lasting relationships with their customers.”

Why you should read it: The quickest way to turn a co-worker into a trusted colleague is to forge a personal connection with them. And in this day and age, we need this skill more than ever, the author believes. “Being able to build true sustainable relationships is the biggest competitive advantage in a world where automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are eliminating the human experience, which is what creates the emotional connections that build true customer loyalty,” says DiJulius. Get this book to learn how to make stronger, more meaningful connections at work.


Carla Rudder is a writer and content manager on The Enterprisers Project.

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