Holiday books offer executive inspiration

The holidays are fast approaching. Shoppers search for that special gift. While choices seem endless, choosing is simple: Give gifts that keep on giving: knowledge, motivation and self-improvement. They’re gifts they’ll thank you for many times.

Here are three suggestions in the $4.95-$26.95 range:

“Make Waves – Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life” by Patti Johnson (Bibliomotion, $26.95).

Waves begin as ripples of “What if…” thoughts. The open mind begins creating waves when it defines purpose. With a defined why, the individual can look inward and outward for the knowledge and credibility needed to create change.

Wave-makers see change as opportunity, not as a problem or risk. They challenge the status quo because they know you can’t get to Point B with Point A thinking and actions. They know what they don’t know — and look for people who can help connect their dots. They also understand that action does speak louder than words.

Why aren’t there more wave-makers? Johnson cites five reasons:

1. Fear. It emanates from thinking about what others may think of your idea.

2. Lack of personal accountability. You think it’s not your job; someone else will do it.

3. Assumptions (i.e. “facts” without validation) create self-imposed obstacles to action.

4. Procrastination, which always delays action. When you’re breaking trail, it’s often too easy to put off doing the hard work in front of you.

5. Perfectionism makes you think that you have to cover all bases before making a wave. Because waves create other waves, finding the solution becomes a fluid process that evolves over time.

The bottom line: You have two choices — make things happen or let things happen. If you choose to make things happen, get out of your way.

■■■

“Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion” by George J. Thompson and Jerry B. Jenkins (2nd edition, William Morrow, $14.99).

The power of persuasion finds its roots in respect and dignity. Show disrespect and the other party will discount or disregard your message – and you.

How can you show respect? Ask, don’t tell. When you ask, also explain the why behind your request. Extend ask by requesting others to provide how options. When people know their input has value, they see themselves as part of the solution and respond with positivity.

Respect extends to second chances, too. Everyone makes mistakes; everyone experiences an off day. Offering assistance rather than criticism, makes you an ally who understands their situation.

Respect plays an important role in conflict resolution, too. Samurais practiced mushin (the still center) to ensure they had the neutral perspective of a situation. By maintaining self-control (i.e. don’t get emotional, keep an open mind,) you can address and defuse and/or diffuse someone’s issue. Tactical statements like “I understand your position” and “I appreciate your concern” keep the situation from escalating.

The clear message: When you overreact, the overreaction controls you, the other and the issue. By staying calm, you can take control of the issue and build a bridge to resolution.

■■■

“The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper.

This classic can be found in the children’s section of any bookstore. Prices range from $4.95 to $17.95 for the “executive” pop-up version. It occupies a special place on my bookshelf. You may have read it as a kid. Read it again.

Piper’s message is not kid’s stuff. Its “I Think I Can” message of inspiration and perspiration should be remembered and applied every day if you want to get from where you are to where you want to be.

When I became a corporate vice president, I gave a copy to each person in my area and every new hire. Quarterly, I recognized individual performance by giving out “Little Engine” awards — models of old-fashioned locomotives.

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