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It’s officially summer: a time for booking vacations, weekends on the coast and Sunday cookouts. While you may not miss the required summer reading of school days past, it's worth checking out the best titles to stay up-to-date on management inspiration and insights. Here are some personal recommendations from industry influencers (as well as a couple of my own) to include in your beach reading list:

Inspire Leadership

Recommendations from Jay Forte, President and founder of TGZ Group, a provider of talent-based tools to help people organizations achieve results, and author of "Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition" and "The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform the World”:

The Leader Who Had No Title, by Robin Sharma

Leadership starts with initiative. “I use this with all of my clients to help them see that all employees should own their title of leader of their work, their life and their impact," Forte says. In his book, Sharma introduces the concept that we all have the ability to be leaders in our own lives. It's not the job title that makes an individual a leader, it's their commitment to personal and professional success. 

Linchpin, Are You Indispensable?, by Seth Godin

Leaders without a strong sense of self-awareness may be letting themselves down along with their organizations. In his book, Godin makes a case for why everyone should discover what their greatest talents and abilities are and use them to become indispensable in the workplace. Forte says, "It inspires me and the students I teach to own our performance and to choose wisely about work and work environments.”

Identify Team Dysfunction

Recommendations from Carol Anderson, principal with Anderson Performance Partners LLC and a 20-year veteran of human resources roles in the healthcare, financial services, retail and military industries:

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni   

A conceptual book based on Lencioni’s own experience and observations in the real world, it's an easy read that tells the story of a newly-appointed CEO and her interactions with her new leadership team. Although Lencioni's book isn't based on what Anderson calls "sound" research, she explains that the situations and issues that come up are often seen in the real world. The storyline, which gives readers insight into a CEO's mind and explains the emotions that occur when a change in top leadership happens, is more memorable than a theoretical text on this topic would be. 

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, by Patrick Lencioni

The truth-talk in this second Lencioni title may make you take a hard look in the mirror, but it's a fun and easy summer read. Anderson explains, “Of course, readers might squirm just a bit as they recognize others’ and their own behaviors that build barriers to effective communication in organizations." Lencioni's book follows a young management consultant on assignment as he encounters barriers and looks for opportunities to destroy the barriers.

Ongoing Education

Recommendations from Bill Cushard, a learning experience designer, Training Lead at ServiceRocket, and co-author of the book "Critical Skills All Learning Professionals Can Put to Use Today":

How to Speak Tech: The Non-Techie’s Guide to Technology Basics in Business, by Vinay Trivedi

This no-frills guide can help anyone learn what they need to keep up with the constant changes of the tech world. Today, leaders in the learning space are challenged with implementing learning management systems, eLearning, performance support, social learning, simulations and mobile learning — just to name a few. Cushard says that the goal "is not to be a software developer or networking engineer, but to know what web and cloud technologies can do so you can speak intelligently with technologists to get your learning technology projects completed."

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

The title says it all. Leaders who pass on their knowledge get more out of their teams and give more back to their companies. According to Cushard, all managers should have this on their must-read list. "By reading 'Multipliers,' you will learn that great leaders get more out of people than bad leaders, and you will learn how they do it. Great leaders multiply genius. Don’t you want your leadership team to do that?” 

The Future Workplace

While you’re on vacation this summer, the workplace is probably the last thing you want on your mind. But these two titles — one that delves into the history of the workplace and the other that paints a picture of its future — are well worth your leisure time. Together they offer a strong case for looking at the past and future as a guide for managing in the present. 

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, by Nikil Saval

Saval explores how workplace design has evolved over the years to increase efficiency and enhance productivity. Using humor and including fascinating facts (ever wondered who invented the vertical file cabinet?), Saval guides readers through the often subtle details of what makes or breaks an office.    

HR From Now to Next: Reimagining the Workplace of Tomorrow, by Jason Averbook

This book by the chief business innovation officer at Appirio, a technology company, explores the current state of the human resources industry with an eye to the future. Averbook’s opinion: we’re in trouble. According to Averbook, HR professionals have earned a bad reputation as paper pushers, instead of making a case for the valuable resources they provide for employees. Humorous and engaging, Averbook’s forecasts a path for the future and makes suggestions that are worthy considerations for all.

From the Learning & Motivation Desk

Our own resident learning and motivation guru is Jeff Miller.  Check out Jeff’s posts on this blog about employee motivation when you have a chance, but for now browse his summer reading list, which is a smorgasbord of interesting titles about learning, rethinking organizations and transformation:

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, by Rosamund Stone Zander

The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability, by Hickman, Smith and Connors

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, Tim Brown

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, by Shawn Achor

Photo: Can Stock