Nothing matters until they feel they do: Top books on culture fit

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A lot of the work we do is around “soft skill development”; communication skills, leadership, problem solving, accountability, etc.  These are important skills in the 21st century, no question.

In my experience though, it’s almost a complete waste of time to try to develop these traits if you don’t have one crucial ingredient already in play… desire.  Your people need to want to learn to be better communicators, leaders, problem solvers, etc. To make this more clear, soft skill development only really works when your people:

1.  Know where they’re going as a team,

2.  want to go there,

3.  understand that developing better communication skills will help them get there faster.

Trying to teach soft skills before appreciation of need is established is like pushing a cooked spaghetti noodle up a hill.  Made of sand.

Which is why “Establishing & Understanding Role and Culture Fit” should be the initial objective of any leadership group.  That in mind, here are some of my top books on Role & Culture (links open the related summary in a new window):


1.  Tribal Leadership.   Establishing a common language is an important step in getting a team aligned and clear on what you’re working towards and why it matters.  Dave Logan & company have a great model here, definitely worth checking out.

2.  The Dream Manager.  Understanding how our work advances our personal goals/dreams is often a powerful starting point for helping team members feel Heard, Understood and Appreciated (the core tenants to creating buy in).  Matthew Kelly’s fable is a worthy read for anyone looking for tools to better understand the motivations of individual team members.

3.  The Advantage.  I’ve always loved Pat Lencioni’s propensity to focus on the authentic vs the smart.  The Advantage may be his best book to date on helping leaders (and their teams) “be real” and create a culture of alignment.

4.  Linchpin.  This was a turning point book for me, as it really connected the dots on why employees should want to focus on professional development of soft skills.

5.  Screw Business as Usual. While technically not a book about culture, I’ve found discussion around the ideas in Screw Business as Usual to be particularly powerful in getting people excited about the mission of the organization, giving them reason to want to improve.

6.  Start With Why.  If you haven’t read Start With Why yet, you’re really missing a goldmine of tools, models and resources for getting your team aligned.  The “Golden Circle” model, in particular, is a simple tool for asking the powerful questions on why your organization exists.


That’s it for my list.  What else would you recommend for getting teams and team members motivated to want to develop the rest of the important 21st Century skills?

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