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9 must-read books to make you a stronger communicator
Deliver the right message in conversations, emails, and presentations
The single biggest problem in communication is when someone has the illusion that they have communicated – but their message did not get through. IT leaders need to convey an incredible amount of information to succeed in their roles. However, getting those messages across effectively can be a challenge, particularly with the many demands on people’s time and attention, the varied forms of media you must employ, and the sometimes charged or difficult nature of the communications you have to deliver.
[ Do you make thoughtful decisions? Read also: 4 styles of decision-making: A leader's guide. ]
Thankfully, there is plentiful advice on being a better communicator. We’ve gathered some of the best books out there to help IT leaders deliver the right message, the right way, at the right time – whether you’re having a difficult discussion with a subordinate, delivering critical data to the C-suite, presenting at a conference, persuading a peer, or simply sending a status update via email.
By Rob Biesenbach
“Unleash the Power of Storytelling” offers step-by-step instructions for finding, shaping and telling powerful stories. You’ll learn about the essential ingredients that go into any good story and how to avoid common storytelling pitfalls.”
Why you should read it: Humans are emotional beings, and narratives appeal to that, enabling them to receive and digest information more easily. Effective storytelling, however, often can take practice. This practical how-to explains why stories work, offers a simple three-part template for crafting a narrative, and includes tips on refining stories and delivering them effectively. It also contains examples of how to use a narrative approach in various situations like company meetings, job interviews, and presentations.
Like Biesenbach’s approach? Check out his other book, 11 Deadly Presentation Sins: A Path to Redemption for Public Speakers, PowerPoint Users and Anyone Who Has to Get Up and Talk in Front of an Audience, for 100 tips on saving yourself from PowerPoint hell.
[ Will your organization thrive in 2021? Learn the four priorities top CIOs are focusing on now. Download the HBR Analytic Services report: IT Leadership in the Next Normal. ]
By Carmine Gallo
Why you should read it: Carmine Gallo, the author of Talk Like TED (another great communication read), turns to Aristotle’s three-part formula for persuasion, to which he says all great communicators from the founding fathers to today’s most successful business leaders adhere: ethos (credibility), logos (logic), and pathos (emotion). He also brings in neuroscientists, economists, historians, billionaires, and business leaders of companies like Google, Nike, and Airbnb to show illustrate just how it works.
By Mark Goulston
Why you should read it: How do you get people to listen? Psychiatrist and business coach Goulston offers tools and techniques for breaking down communication barriers whether dealing with “defiant executives, angry employees or self-destructing management teams.” Goulston brings his experience in training hostage negotiators to bear offering instruction on how to build empathy, de-escalate conflict, and get buy-in.
By Celeste Headlee
And the only way forward, says Celeste Headlee, is to start talking to each other. In ‘We Need to Talk,’ she outlines the strategies that have made her a better conversationalist – and offers simple tools that can improve anyone’s communication.“
Why you should read it: Public radio host Headlee has had plenty of difficult conversations – often live and on their air. Here, she shares a number of her best tips for true engagement with other humans in even the most contentious or uncomfortable situations, such as checking your bias at the door, hiding your phone, avoiding multitasking, being ready to learn, and never repeating yourself.
By Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas
Why you should read it: A powerful question, the authors argue, can transform any conversation. It can even make the difference between great success and failure, as they illustrate with the example of how Steve Jobs’s single motivating question led to breakthroughs in the development of the Mac. In another example, an unasked question cost a major company a huge project bid. Sobel and Panas serve up 337 “essential questions” matched to 35 common business-related situations, whether you’re seeking to refocus a meeting or understand someone else’s goals and motivations.