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April 22, 2022

What Books Have Shaped Your Career?

Abi Radford


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Twenty years ago, when I was 8 years old, I went to school wearing a huge, homemade Winnie-the-Pooh book – draped over my shoulders like a promotional sandwich board. It was then, as it is today, World Book Day, and we were tasked with wearing "fancy dress" to honor our favorite fictional characters. 

Growing up, I loved reading. Getting lost in the world of Harry Potter remains one of my favorite childhood memories and I still remember staying up beyond my bedtime trying to finish "The Goblet of Fire."

Embracing World Book Day 

World Book Day (WBD) was established by UNESCO in 1995 and takes place every year on 23 April. WBD is a registered charity that aims to promote reading and provide books for children. According to WBD, “Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success.” And the mission of the charity is to, “Give every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own.”

Still remembering my school World Book Day shows the impact the charity had on me, and my love of reading didn’t waver as I grew up. As I left Winnie-the-Pooh and Harry Potter behind, other books have appeared on my bookshelf.

One that has particularly helped me in my working life is Thomas Erikson’s “Surrounded by Idiots.”  Someone recommended the book to me while on a management training course and it has done a lot to shape my understanding of my own behavior as well as those around me. 

Surrounded by Idiots

In the bestselling book, Erikson explains how there are four main behavior types. These types define how we perceive and interact with the people around us. These behavior types are categorized by different colors in an easy-to-understand way.

  • Reds – are ambitious, strong-willed, and results-oriented.
  • Yellows – are talkative, creative, and expressive.
  • Greens – are loyal, modest, and considerate.
  • Blues – are systematic, logical, and reserved.

Of course, none of us sits entirely within each of these categories. Our personalities are made up of a mix of these traits. However, the book helps you to understand where you, and your colleagues, predominantly sit within the categories. And it recommends methods for communication between you.

The book isn’t just for managers. It’s great for anyone that works as part of a team – and I’d highly recommend picking up a copy!

What Books Have Shaped Your Career?

We asked our followers on social media what books have shaped their careers, and we got some great responses. 

On Twitter, Debbie Denyer told us that “Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind” by Nancy Kline has changed the course of her career. It's a book about the power of listening, and how it can transform team management. Debbie said, “As a coach, it’s shown me the value of listening and giving people the space and time to think.” 

Jeremy Stephens told us how Dr Bruce Weinstein’s “Ethical Intelligence” prompted him to go back to school to start his MA in Philosophy. It's a book that argues for the importance of "ethical smarts" in a world where ethics in the workplace is undervalued.

Jeremy also mentioned that he’s sharing the love by giving his peers Erik Palmer’s “Own Any Occasion” for their birthdays – an 11-step guide to great public speaking.

In our Career Community Facebook group, Bijal Bhagwan opted for "The 1-minute Manager" by Ken Blanchard. This management classic from the 1980s was updated and re-released in 2016. It promises three "one-minute secrets" that will transform your management style for the better.

And on Instagram, Mehdi Ashtari couldn't choose just one. But at the top of the list right now is Simon Sinek's evergreen "Start With Why" – a book that challenges us to find our "why" and explores the power it can have on both individuals and organizations alike.

Books the Mind Tools Team Love

Mind Tools’ head Coach, Yolande, told me she has a mile-long list of books that have shaped her career. But she chose “QBQ: The Question Behind the Questions,” by John G. Miller, and “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey, as standouts. Yolande pondered, “... what a parallel study of my life/career would have looked like without these two books.” 

Mind Tools writer Jonathan Hancock shared his love of Simon Singh's best-seller "Fermat's Last Theorem." What makes it so special? "It's about intellectual curiosity, ambitious learning, and both personal and professional resilience," said Jonathan. "It's beautifully written, and taught me a lot about making complex topics accessible, relatable – even exciting!"

Head over to the Mind Tools Store to view our collection of ebooks. The hand-chosen selection is designed to help you to develop your career skills, to become a better leader and team member. Just download them onto your device and learn whenever and wherever you like!

Books have the power to change our lives and inform how we work. What books have shaped your career? Comment below!

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