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  • Anne

Read A Book Day!

Updated: Feb 27

Today is National Read a Book Day. For all you bookworms, today isn’t much different than any other day. For the rest of us who have a stack of books we’ve been meaning to get to, thanks for the reminder to actually pick them up (or at least listen to them in the car)!

In honor of National Read a Book Day, I’m breaking down a few books I’ve recently read that I think really capture what Strengths University is about and hopefully feed some of your Talent Themes (#input #learner). Some are Strengths specific. Other’s look at topics like engagement, assertiveness, and other areas that are Strengths adjacent and fit with our mission to empower people to become their best selves. All of my choices are books that have been well researched, so those of you who are a bit more skeptical of the latest self-help/feel-good fad can feel free to enjoy them too (#analytical #context #deliberative #intellection #learner).

These aren’t ranked, just alphabetical, so if you’re looking for a good read just go for whatever resonates with you. I’ve put links to Amazon so you can get more information. My apologies to you bibliophiles prefer local bookstores and libraries. Feel free to purchase or borrow where ever you like.

12: The Elements of Great Managing

By Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter


If you’re the leader or an organization or business, this is a great way to better understand employee engagement. The 12 elements are a breakdown of Gallup’s Q12, the twelve survey items their research has shown to really reflect how engaged your employees are. Q3, “At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?,” is specifically related to Strengths. This book is great because it breaks down engagement to twelve things that most supervisors can directly impact. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” This book helps managers better understand how what they do everyday can impact their staff – both positively and negatively. The twelve elements are broken down in a way that helps supervisors make changes to their behaviors and priorities to create a culture that improves employee engagement. That in turn, increases your team’s productivity, creativity, and success.

The Assertiveness Workbook

By Randy J. Paterson, Ph.D.


I LOVE this book. While I was interviewing for jobs many moons ago, I had to do a presentation on a training topic I thought all RAs (resident assistants) needed. It suddenly occurred to me that they needed to learn how to be assertive! Since then I have incorporated it into all of my training. I looked at many books over the years, but this is the one that really stuck with me. It goes way beyond a general description of what assertiveness is and "tips" – which is what you find in most assertiveness books. Dr. Paterson goes deep into what might be preventing you from being assertive. Most people want easy tricks – aka what’s the perfect way to say something so I don’t make anyone upset and everything goes the way I want. Unfortunately, that’s not a thing. Assertiveness isn’t about how you say something, it’s about why you are or aren’t saying it. This books not only looks at the reasons you may be avoiding assertiveness, but also gives you exercises to help you work through those issues. I actually use this book in my assertiveness coaching to help people better understand what’s going on behind the scenes, so they can start using their Strengths to help them become more assertive.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

By Daniel H. Pink


As the name suggests, what we thought motivates us isn’t accurate most of the time, especially given how the economy has changed in the past few decades. This isn’t a Strengths book, but Strengths play a huge roll in motivation. Pink looks at extrinsic vs intrinsic motivators and goes on to break down the three elements of what he refers to as Motivation 3.0 (vs the old 2.0 carrot and stick method). In Motivation 3.0, individuals need autonomy, mastery, and purpose to motivate them. He breaks down motivation research that gives great insights into how to best motivate people, whether those people be employees, volunteers, spouses, children, students, or even you. It’s a great read and really changed the way I understood motivation. I wish I’d read this earlier when I was still supervising my staff, but I'm definitely using it to change how I motivate myself.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


If you really want to understand talent – the basis for Strengths development – read this book (#context). If you haven’t taken the CliftonStrengths talent assessment, looking at flow is one way for you to figure out where your talents are. If you have taken it, this book will give you greater insights into how knowing and using your talents and getting to that flow state are the key to developing Strengths, motivation, engagement, and happiness.

Rising Strong

By Brené Brown


You really can’t go wrong with anything by Brené Brown. If you’re not familiar with her work, she’s a vulnerability and shame researcher/storyteller. (Check out her TED talks for a great intro to Brené.) This book really resonated with me as a new entrepreneur who quit my job and moved in with my sister's family to develop Strengths University. The transition was much harder than I’d thought and I was basically a vulnerable, hot-mess wondering “OMG! What did I do?” This book focuses on the less glamorous part of being brave – the second act – falling down and getting back up. She outlines what her research has shown to help people move past these obstacles in an authentic way by reckoning with the emotions you’re having and investigating them, rumbling with the inaccurate stories you tell yourself to find any false beliefs, and revolutionize your attitude by what you find. If you’re struggling with anything going on in your life, I highly recommend this book.

Strengths Based Leadership

By Tom Rath and Barry Conchie


If you lead or supervise anyone, read this book. It’s actually a quicker read than it looks – the first third talks about what Gallup’s research has shown makes a great leader. As the name implies, most of what makes a great leader is focusing on Strengths – both their own and those of the individuals they lead. The last part of the book is resources including a break down of how to better lead with each of the 34 Talent Themes. This book will help new leaders/supervisors get off on the right foot. If you’re a seasoned supervisor/leader, it will give you a new perspective on ways to create a productive and successful team that will back you up and improve the work you produce together.

Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements

By Tom Rath and Jim Harter


Anyone remember the wellness wheel from way back when? This is a modern, researched-based update on that classic idea. These five areas of wellbeing – career, social, financial, physical, and community – are interconnected and linked to Strengths. Whether you’re looking to increase your own wellbeing, or are a trying to do so for your employees or students, this book will give you a better understanding of how to do so. You’ll also get some great resources and research that will give you ideas on how to change your daily routine – or that of your employees or students – for the better.