What we are reading

As tax season winds down, summer kicks in and we’re stepping into the “new normal” with COVID-19, you may find a little more time on your hands or in need of extra inspiration.

To help you with that, we wanted to share a list of what associates are reading in our firm.

Sumanth Padival, Wipfli India A&A LeaderLeadership and Self-Deception from The Arbinger Institute has been one of my handbooks on people matters for many years now. The authors have done extensive research on human behavior and use very simple examples from work and life situations to explain why we behave the way we behave, how we are also a part of the problems we experience, and most importantly, how we can change ourselves and solve problems. Easy to understand examples, and stories explained in the book, help us understand the concept of self-deception very well, and we can put them to great use in our day-to-day life at work, home and in our other relationships. The benefits that have flown out of this book and other books of Arbinger, to me in my personal and professional life, are huge.

Dale Muehl, M&A Partner – A book that helped me understand how to effectively lead people is First Among Equals by David Maister and Patrick McKenna. The book centered on concepts as to how to effectively lead professional colleagues/partners when you lack formal authority. The authors makes the case that leaders will best enable their people to achieve peak performance not by managing them, not by leading them, but by inspiring them. For me, working in a professional services partnership when there are many “owners,” it can sometimes be unclear as to where individual authority starts and stops, the advice provided in the book was helpful to put some of my challenges in perspective. The book discusses how to actually add value as a leader and induce people to accept your guidance, even with professionals who are also business owners who may be accustomed to having significant autonomy to work with little oversight. Another important theme is how to connect with talented professionals who occasionally exhibit attitude problems or can be difficult to work with. The learnings for me provided insights and tactics that helped me inspire people to achieve their full potential.

Kurt Gresens, Managing Partner – Patrick Lencionci’s book Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I have read this book a couple times when I find myself contemplating team dynamics, challenges and opportunities to improve. Each time I read it I recall or take away an idea or practical advice that can be applied in the teams I have been a part of. We are a firm filled with such talent and energy — when someone is looking to realize the full potential but team dynamics are holding back great progress, I would recommend giving this book a read

Lauri Roberts, Board of Directors, DEI Council Leader – I would recommend the book Own It by Sallie Krawcheck. Krawcheck is currently the CEO of Ellevest and Chair of Ellevate and previously held positions as CEO of Merrill Lynch and CFO at Citigroup. She gives advice, strategy and real-life examples of how to succeed in the business world today as a modern woman and explains the female strengths that are now recognized as key elements of success. The investment gap and pay gap for women are additional timely topics addressed intelligently and with solutions. While this book will appeal to many women, I’d strongly recommend men also consider reading this book as it provides insights to the many strengths your female co-workers bring to the workplace.

Stephanie Cavadeas, A&A Quality Control Partner – For me, it was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. While it isn’t a business book, it carries a lot of lessons that I have applied to be a better person for my family and my co-workers. One line resonates with me most: “Happiness is a critical factor for work, and work is a critical factor for happiness.” Some key takeaways for me were learning how to “enjoy the fun in failure” (though I apply it to learning from my failures), working smarter, enjoying the now, and acknowledging the reality of people’s feelings.

Robert Cedergren, Risk Advisory and Healthcare Consulting Services Leader – There are two books that had a significant influence on me. The books are Jack Welch and the GE Way and Jack, Straight from the Gut. When Jack Welch was the CEO of GE, the company was highly envied and set the bar for excellence. These two books highlight the culture and discipline that was instituted in order to make it a high performing organization. Two key concepts have stuck with me throughout my career including that leaders need to be held accountable and that once you believe in a system or process, it needs to become part of the organization’s culture.

Steve Lipton, Nonprofit Practice Leader – One that has stuck with me for the last few years is Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Along with this Simon presents an excellent TED Talk highlighting why this is important. The book shares a theory and stories that great leadership begins with creating a why that followers can believe in. One example he uses is Apple (at least in the old days). Apple started with if you believe in great design, solid performance and a cool factor, we have a great computer for you. The alternative is what. Hey, we’re Apple. We have computers that will do what you want. Buy one. When great leaders start with why, they will find those who also believe in the why and will follow them through execution. Alternatively, those who say what they have, do not get the same level of following and inspiration. For me, this book helped me better understand that leadership starts with finding and emphasizing shared beliefs. That is inspiring. It’s a much more fun and successful ride.

Michael Pynch, Technology Partner – The book that was pivotal for me was The Balanced Scorecard by Robert Kaplan and David Norton. They taught that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” which can have a profound effect on how one solves problems and makes decisions. Most importantly, they encouraged holistic thinking about an organization and offered an advanced level of insight into scorekeeping in a balanced manner. By linking strategy to execution this book helped me become a better consultant and leader and formed a foundation to many other business books and topics that have helped me advance my career.

John Schwab, Real Estate Practice Leader – Mine is The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra.  I have read other works by Deepak including Perfect Health and You Are The Universe.  I am fascinated with the essence of human potential and whether success is merely random or perfectly orchestrated by the universe. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success is a straightforward read that renders a very common-sense link between one’s spirituality and one’s success.

Dan Szidon, Core Services Leader – I am going to say Arbinger – Leadership and Self Deception. For me it was learning how certain actions can lead to treating people as objects. No one ever wants to say that they do, but all too often that is what can happen if you are not careful. The book and the related training have been very impactful on how to sort through issues by focusing on those around us.

Erika Young, Human Capital Management Partner in Charge – The book that really changed my professional like was Harvard Business School Confidential by Emily Chan. I was fresh out of college and my boss at the time recommended I read it, and I have read it every 2 -3 years since then. The author takes you through engaging, real life stories to explain critical business concepts. She also gives tools and applications to be able to use the information outlined in the book and apply it to practical situations. Every time I read it, I learn something new.

Jessica Mac Naughton, Madison Market Leader – The book for me was When by Daniel Pink. The book looks at the science to see if there is a perfect time to do certain things. It really helped me plan my day to be more productive.

Steve Jordan, A&A Lead Trainer - For me it was Good to Great by James Collins. The book was in essence a research study of companies that were able to outperform the market average over a sustained period and the common characteristics that those companies shared. The most impactful takeaway for me was the concept of the “Level 5 Leader” and the difference between leaders who look out the window and blame problems on external factors versus looking in the mirror and determining what they can do to turn challenges into opportunities.

Brian Blaha, Growth Partner – I have a whole list of books that have spoken to me throughout my career. Of these, my favorite, is American Icon, the story of how Alan Mulally saved Ford Motor company during the Great Recession. Alan led with an outward mindset throughout and was able to inspire his leadership team to do the same. An additional takeaway was how he used his business plan review meetings to drive accountability, enforce cooperation and ensure execution. This book is used in our own Outward Mindset training and was an inspiration to me in setting my own leadership principles.