This is not a blog post for the MBAs and “higher-ups.” This is for the entry level folks out there who may not know much about business as a discipline, but want to go beyond what they are exposed to every day. What is the reasoning behind things we take for granted? Where is this wisdom and strategy from coming from?
Try starting with the low-hanging fruit: your boss’ favorites, or what you keep seeing on people’s bookshelves. If you’ve heard of it, you should probably read it, if only to be exposed to common knowledge. There’s a lot of respected books out there, though, and not all of them are entirely comprehensible or relevant to non-C-suite employees.
Good news: I’ve got some author and book recommendations.
You’ll see Good to Great on almost any list of classic business books. Most professionals I’ve met have at least heard of it. Jim Collins’ books are a huge part of why I stopped thinking of business as inherently boring. I highly recommend that you try listening to the audiobooks Collins narrated—it’s an easy way to be productive while stuck in traffic, and he’s an excellent narrator (he gets really emotional in his shorter text How the Mighty Fall–definitely listen to this one). Many of the metaphors he uses are used commonly in business conversations. Find out what is meant by the “flywheel” and the “hedgehog concept.”
Judy Robinett (How to Be a Power Connector)
If you’re not a “people person” but understand that you should probably try to build a network and cultivate professional relationships, you need to read this book. Robinett is an introvert from a small town who has become an extremely well-connected individual and an expert at networking. Even if you don’t implement her “5 + 50 + 100 Rule,” the qualitative advice she offers is excellent, and frankly, inspiring.
Patrick Lencioni (The Advantage)
The Advantage is sort of a recent classic. Lencioni explains his concept of “organizational health” and gives one of the best guides for creating a company “playbook” that I’ve ever read. Even though you’re not leading a company, you’ll get perspective from this book and be much more motivated to perform your rote duties when you know the big picture.
Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
Even if you’ve never read Covey before, you’ve doubtlessly been exposed to the ideas he outlines in the 7 Habits. I myself reference “tyranny of the urgent” and “proactive vs reactive” all the time. Covey’s ideas are broadly applicable—you’ll find them useful both in your professional life and personal life.
Peter Drucker (basically anything)
This guy pretty much invented management as a discipline. I wasn’t even aware that management was anything but super practical advice until I read his work! Try reading any of his work…or do what I’m doing and listen to a 10-hour audiobook of his best books and articles!
There are a lot of educational and inspiring authors that are useful for those who are at the bottom of the org chart but still want to see the bigger picture. I might write another post with more recommendations. What are your favorite works? What do you think of the authors I listed above? Is it useful for entry level employees (“grinders”) to read about lofty business concepts? Comment below or email me—I’d love to hear your thoughts.