At h³, we host a book club every couple of months, broadly focused on topics like adult development, leadership, change and business psychology. A diverse group of coaches, change agents and leadership development professionals meet in the basement coffeeshop of a large bookstore for a ranging, relaxed discussion about a book that has captured the group imagination. If you'd like to join us, just let us know.
Recently, we invited each member to share with the group a book that has had a profound impact on ourselves, our work and our clients. In many cases, we found ourselves recommending or giving away these books often. In case you're
looking for ideas for presents or something to read over the break, here are our recommendations.
Switch (Chip and Dan Heath)
I love the power of the simple model at the heart of this book. Picture your “rational” side – the Rider - hanging onto the reins of your “emotional” side, the Elephant, rampaging down a Path you haven’t chosen...
To achieve change, the writers tell us we need to just do three things: direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant and Shape the Path! Aha! The rest of the book unpacks a framework to achieve this and as it works through the framework there are tips and great examples for doing just that.
Each chapter is filled with case studies both at macro level (government and corporate change), as well as small individual examples which bring this model to life and make it very practical. I use this as an optional text when teaching coaching and working with new coaches and have recommended it to various clients.
Your Body is your Brain (Amanda Blake)
An easy to read, science-based book providing new insights into the power of the mind-body connection, demonstrating the unique wisdom that we each hold in our bodies.
There are compelling case studies of individuals who have developed stronger purpose, built resilience, and deepened their capacity to empathise and inspire through tapping into this wisdom and establishing new embodied practices. It made me aware of the yawning gap in our education system, and that overcoming this gap needs focused attention and daily practices over time. Fortunately, there are a practices outlined throughout the book, many usefully summarised in an Appendix. It’s influenced my own habits so that I have a random reminder on my phone to ‘centre’, and I am much more attuned to how I walk and when I need to unclench my jaw!
Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life (James Hollis)
James Hollis has written a deeply moving and insightful book on what we will all face as developing adults, namely the separation of our own hopes and expectations for ourselves from the hopes and expectations of others. Viewed through the lens of family, work, intimate relationship with others and of course ourselves, The notion of soul rumbles away throughout the book, and it concludes with chapters on the shadow and on healing.
He has a humanities/English background, and is a highly experienced Jungian psychoanalyst. The combination makes for a lyrical and highly expert read. It is a book that invites the reader to ask the really big questions, and to reflect, ruminate and contemplate. It suggests and nudges towards potential answers, recognising that the process of enquiry is the real point as we will all have a unique response to what is written. It offers an expanded framework for thinking and feeling, which may or may not lead to deeper personal work.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen R. Covey)
The 1980s are back in fashion, so let’s dust off this vintage book of wise gems. Often over the years since I’ve read this, when someone shares a new leadership development concept, I think, ahh that’s one of Covey’s habits.
So I recently reread it and was surprised by links to vertical development and conscious leadership which clearly passed me by when I was 25.
Often recycled, but maybe never bettered - why not revisit this great source?
Coaching for Resilience (Adrienne Green and John Humphrey)
This is a really accessible book on what can often feel like a pretty overwhelming and intangible subject. There is a good overview of some of the key theories and principles of positive psychology and resilience, but the main focus of the book is on making this practical and applicable - suggesting simple and realistic ways we can reduce stress and build resilience through "seven keys".
The keys focus on building our awareness of ourselves, our patterns, our triggers and our responses, and on different ways in which we can change something externally, or something internally to reduce stress and help ourselves thrive (if we put in the time and practice!).
A great book to dip into and draw on as a coach, and also a good recommendation for clients to work through themselves.
Benedictus (John O' Donohue)
As our world has become more complicated and fast paced, John O'Donohue offers a sanctuary of wisdom and blessings from the Celtic tradition. In this book of poetry, he captures, with such ease, the natural beauty in the different parts of our life's path, from our beginnings to our callings, to our states of the heart. It is a reminder that plenty have travelled to these unknown places before us, so both the joyful and painful offers us wisdom and possibilities.
Our very presence is a blessing. He travels with us offering shelter and comfort on our individual journeys. He can describe so many of life’s moments so accurately, we can start to understand none of these are new, only new to us. In knowing that he inspires us to continue and move forward, keeping our inner light glowing for the gift each day can bring. This book can be picked up and put down over many years, as and when you feel the need for it. That is its beauty.
Sprint (Jake Knapp)
This book is a hyper-practical guide to building working, tested product prototypes in five days. It’s part handbook, part case study, part toolkit, structured as a five-day workshop with checklists, guidance, and examples. Though it's based on Google’s product development methodology, it can be really simply applied to the ever-present question of 'how might we work more effectively together as a group?'
The process in this book is an energising, deliberately messy antidote to corporate pseudo-perfection and polish. It embraces experimentation, challenge and failure, and encourages bravery, contribution and participation. I've run half-day, whole-day and two-day versions of the workshop; and adapted parts of it for team conversations of five colleagues and offsites of over 70 people.
Parzival and the Stone from Heaven (Lindsay Clarke)
Lindsay Clarke retells Wolfram's medieval Grail story in a thoroughly engaging emotional and uplifting parable on life.
If you’re looking to make sense of the range of challenges you are facing, and how to process a range of puzzling emotions; something all of us face in different times in our lives, Parzival is on that journey too.
“In a world ravaged by war, a world in which men are ruled by fear, hatred and distrust, there is a need for a champion who is innocent of heart and pure of spirit. Arthur's knights are proud and corrupt: none has yet succeeded in finding the Grail, the stone of healing which has the power to make life whole again.”