Read these books to stay relevant in the age of technology

by Melissa Cafiero

Resolutions aren’t for everyone, but around this time of year most of us start thinking about our intentions for the year ahead. Coincidentally, it’s usually also around this time that we are asked to set goals — or provide feedback on direct reports or peers — as part of the annual review process.

As you consider goals for 2020, whether you aim to stay relevant in the ever-changing age of technology, or want to continue to strengthen your leadership skills, books can be a valuable resource. And they can help you formulate feedback and constructive criticism, or even serve as a resource for a team member needing to grow in a certain area.

The books on this list run the gamut — from self-care to professional development — and are a mix of backlist and newly published. But all of them offer tips and teach concepts that apply to all leaders, while still allowing you to remain true to your personality and values. Interested? Read on to learn more.

The cover of the book Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work with 5 multi-colored paperclips interlocking in the center

1. “Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work,” by Melanie A. Katzman, Ph.D.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. That’s a key reason to connect first. To gain an audience for your ideas, first capture your coworkers’ hearts. It’s a long-term investment in your reputation that extends beyond any job.”

With today’s technology, people are more connected than ever before. And "Connect First" seeks to answer (and address) why so many feel isolated and undervalued at work in spite of this interconnectedness.

Organized into seven sections — from establishing respect and growing loyalty to resolving conflict and having impact — the book offers 52 different tactics, one for each week of the year.

Each chapter combines real-world examples, along with checklists to gauge the relevance of each particular suggestion to your situation, and immediate actions you can take.

Some of the tips may seem obvious. For example, one of Katzman’s recommendations is to “see everyone.” Regardless of roles, demographics, or background, everyone in the workplace deserves to be acknowledged, even with something as simple as a morning greeting. Think about how you feel when you’ve been ignored, especially by a peer or someone in a role senior to your own. It’s not a good feeling, and has the potential to both erode a corporate culture and reflect poorly upon you as a leader.

Katzman also offers advice for people-managers, such as setting the stage for people to do their best work rather than doing the work for them, a concept she calls “leaning out” (which may be especially refreshing after being told to lean in for the past several years).

While not everyone is a people-manager, most people report to someone — executives, board members, or even Wall Street. Katzman also covers that ground, reminding the reader that bosses are people, too. Feedback goes both ways; if your manager navigated a challenging business situation, or delivered a killer presentation, recognize their performance!

As a psychologist, advisor, and corporate consultant, Katzman is well-equipped to explore the intersection between technology and people, how an organization’s culture is shaped by transformation, and how each individual has the power to align teams and help companies succeed as they evolve.

The white cover of the book The Technology Fallacy, with headshots of workers in a circular bubble on the front

2. “The Technology Fallacy: How People Are the Real Key to Digital Transformation,” by Gerald C. Kane, Anh Nguyen Phillips, Jonathan R. Copulsky, and Garth R. Andrus

“Our research finds that the human and organizational aspects of digital transformation are often more important than the technological ones. In other words, effective digital transformation may not involve new technology at all.”

Based on a four-year study, “The Technology Fallacy” explores how digital technologies are disrupting the workplace, company cultures, and business priorities. Not focusing on specific technologies, the book instead offers leaders advice for navigating digital transformation and showcases the importance of their people to do so successfully.

Through examples and anecdotal stories, the book introduces the concept of digital maturity, with tips and guidance for organizations to stop “doing digital” and instead start “being digital.” One of the specific examples given is how a chemical company experimented with a project team. Rather than use email, they had the team use a collaboration platform.

The team saw a 25% increase in productivity, as it reduced the effects of turnover. When everyone relied upon email, as people left the company those emails and the context around their work was lost. But with the collaboration platform, all of those discussions and decisions were preserved, making it easy for new hires and new team members to get up to speed.

The authors make the distinction between managing and leading, and offer suggestions for people to shift from a management mindset to one of leading — bringing people along and showing them the way. They also cover necessary leadership skills for successful digital transformation.

The two-tone pink cover of the book Burnout: The secret to unlocking the stress cycle

3. “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle,” by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., and Amelia Nagoski, DMA

“This book is for any woman who has felt overwhelmed and exhausted by everything she had to do and yet still worried she was not doing ‘enough.’ Which is every woman we know—including us.”

Burnout” argues that women face the challenge of being — and doing — enough at home, at work, and sometimes even for themselves, and that women experience this burnout differently than men. As a result of this, women tend to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, and experience negative physical effects thanks to the “biological stress cycle.”

Covering stress response cycles, the “Human Giver Syndrome,” and even beauty standards, the book offers suggestions, activities, and worksheets to help you explore and overcome issues you may be facing.

While geared toward women, the authors work to address intersectionality, taking care to highlight how marginalizations — traits based on appearance or sexual orientation — can affect the degree of difficulty everyone faces in living life.

It’s a valuable exploration for those who experience these challenges this first-hand, and it’s especially useful for those who don’t personally identify with this experience, providing context and creating awareness around issues some may not be aware of due to lack of exposure. This added awareness can help leaders instill a sense of belonging to people on their teams who may not feel welcome in certain places, including the workplace.

Relying on science, research, and data, the Nagoski sisters wrote an accessible, conversational guide to empower any reader to create positive change in their life.

The white cover of the book Rise in red letters

4. “Rise: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life,” by Patty Azzarello

“No one cares how hard you work. It’s about results. Not taking vacations is not something to be proud of nor is it a precursor to great success. This is really only a sign of being so out of control at work that you are demonstrating you are someone who can’t plan and prepare enough to take a week off.”

Rise” is the perfect resource to use as a practical guide for career advancement. The book is broken into three sections: do better, all about how you can have more impact; look better, covering your visibility and credibility; and connect better, giving tips for networking and asking for help.

A former sales engineer, product marketing manager, vice president, and CEO, Azzarello is honest and authentic, diving into what people tend to dislike about their jobs and how to reframe how they think about them in order to achieve more.

As companies embrace technology that brings people together virtually and help employees avoid the dreaded commute and instead drive productivity, remote work has become increasingly popular. While written in 2011, Azzarello was ahead of the curve — the book includes tips to make your presence felt even when you’re not in the office.

In addition to the book, Azzarello is also a career consultant, offering a wealth of ongoing tips via her blog and free educational webinars. She also has a second book available, “Move: How Decisive Leaders Execute Strategy Despite Obstacles, Setbacks and Stalls,” if you want to learn more from her and further your efforts at work.

The cover of the book From the CEO's Perspective inside a black comment bubble against a white background

5. “From the CEO’s Perspective: Leadership in Their Own Words,” by Teri Citterman

“Today’s leaders have to do much more than just deal with the changes happening at breakneck speed. Leaders must anticipate change, plan for change, manage change, and — the hardest part of all — actually CHANGE while not missing a beat. And doing so gets more challenging every day.”

In “From the CEO’s Perspective,” author Teri Citterman interviews 20 top CEOs to learn how they’re working to develop leaders to prepare for the future of work. The book also dives into trends about the multi-generational workforce of today and how each generation tends to view and approach work and their careers.

Executives share their best practices and how they learned to become leaders, as well as how they maintained their personal values while running successful businesses. Learning best practices and seeing positive examples are helpful, but knowing about potential blindspots and pitfalls are equally useful. The CEOs also highlight some of the negative traits that can derail you on your path to leadership as well, such as arrogance, social numbness, and a lack of commitment.

Hear stories and advice from leaders and executives at Alaska Airlines, JP Morgan Chase, and many more. The book also includes prompts, allowing you to consider your own perspective and helping you curate your leadership style in an authentic way. Pick this one up to get the inside scoop on the traits you need today to be a better leader tomorrow.

Prepare for your best year yet

Narrowing a book list down to five is a challenge, so here are two extra books to consider as honorable mentions in the list: “Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy” by Magdalena Yesil, a Smartsheet board member; and “Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes that Stick” by Wendy Wood.

In the whirlwind of closing out 2019, don’t forget to take a moment for yourself. As you make your growth and development a priority for the year ahead, request one of the books in this list from your library or order from your local bookstore. While you wait for your next read to come in, you can get a head start on being more effective in 2020 with our report.