Following are a list of books personally recommended by the founder of the Institute, Tim Autrey. Many of these books have played an instrumental role in synthesizing the approach to Next-Level Human Performance now known as Practicing Perfection®. The books designated with an asterisk (*) are currently used as text materials in the PPC Certification process. Each of the books is linked to its detail page on Amazon.com, so you can click through and order any of these that you would like to add to your personal or corporate libraries.
You will find our recommendations within the following categories, provided below in this order:
- Leadership / Influence / Psychology
- Personal Development
- Accountability / Interpersonal
- Human Error Reduction
- Initiating and Sustaining Change
You may find it interesting on this website, a website dedicated to an Event-Free world, and designed to provide resources to help dedicated professionals in that pursuit, that the section of Recommended Reading on Human Error Reduction is placed fourth within the five categories. The reason for this is simple, is directly aligned with the Practicing Perfection® approach, and is indeed, a bit counter-intuitive.
In order for you to be impactful at influencing and helping others, you must first take care of…yourself. In order for any direct efforts to reduce human error to be truly effective (and most importantly…sustainable), you must transform your culture. In order to transform your culture such that it is healthy, vibrant, and event-free, you need true leadership, a high level of Proactive Accountability™, and you need to proceed in a manner that promotes discretionary effort (rather than mere “compliance”).
This is exactly how we do it when we help our clients implement the Practicing Perfection® approach to rapid and sustainable human error reduction. For example, in our two-day Mastery Training, which is the training that all organization members attend, we do not begin talking directly about human error reduction until the afternoon of Day Two. Prior to that, we’re building the foundation of context, thought, and attitude that will lead to proactive positive choices by the participants.
The order of this reading list is intended to do the same for you. Once you’ve expanded your context, and you then grab some hearty content regarding the reduction of human error, we then hit the final section of Initiating and Sustaining Change.
We will be adding books to this list from time to time. When we do so, new additions will appear in the New Recommendations category, as well as in their associated topic category. Finally, if you are aware of books that you think should be added to this list, let us know by either sending us an email via the Contact Us page, or through one of the Forums in the Membership area.
We wish you good reading!
6 Hour Safety Culture : How to Sustainably Reduce Human Error and Risk, (and do what training alone can't (possibly) do)*
6 Hour Safety Culture : How to Sustainably Reduce Human Error and Risk, (and do what training alone can’t (possibly) do
Author: Tim Autrey
How do you get workers to [consistently] do the ‘right things’ at 3:00AM when no one else is watching? The answer to this question provides the ultimate (yet little understood) solution to rapid and sustainable improvement in safety, reliability, and efficiency. The great news is- it’s not complicated. In 6-Hour Safety Culture, Tim Autrey offers tangible insight into how to achieve and sustain next-level performance in any organization. Using stories and anecdotes drawn from his experiences within the US Naval submarine service, nuclear power generation industry, and as Founder/CEO of the Practicing Perfection Institute, Inc., he breaks down the underlying science of human performance into simple understandable ‘chunks’. He offers a great deal of ‘simplicity on the far side of complexity’. In Part I, you will be enticed to think different as Tim Autrey takes you on a journey of awareness into the world of human performance. Building upon a foundation of four simple precepts, and a four-part ‘system’ for leveraging positive aspects of human nature, he then takes you into Part II, where you will learn how to truly influence the hearts, minds, and souls of your organization members. Moving from insight, to strategy, to action, Tim will teach you the Individual Performance Model™, the same model used by leaders throughout history to influence human behavior and develop high levels of personal accountability. He then takes this model into the third dimension, providing a proven recipe for rapid and sustainable team, department, and organizational culture transformation. In Part III, you will learn to do different as Tim directly explores and develops the tenets of human error, safety culture, and just culture. He breaks through the hype, teaching you what’s important (and what to avoid) in any performance improvement effort. He then develops a simple four-step ‘recipe’ for engaging organization members on an ongoing basis; a method that directly promotes alignment with organization principles and a one team approach to doing business. He ties everything together with the Human Performance Blueprint- a step-by-step implementation guideline for achieving and sustaining next-level performance within any organization. Tim wraps up the 6-Hour Safety Culture journey with a challenge- a challenge to you and everyone else who chooses to learn…and take action. A challenge to make (as Steve Jobs put it) a dent in the universe; to truly help make your organization, and ultimately the world, a better and safer place.
*Required reading for Certification Class
Category: Leadership/ Influence/ Psychology
Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
Authors: Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzer
This book provides practical insights into leading change and influencing behaviors. The authors use several case studies, including the success of the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, the eradication of the Guinea Worm in west Asian and sub-Saharan villages, and stopping an AIDS epidemic in Thailand. In doing so, they detail how the identification and promotion of a small set of vital behaviors generates phenomenal results.
The book provides a strategy framework for effecting behavioral change by addressing six key areas:
- Personal Motivation
- Personal Ability
- Social Motivation
- Social Ability
- Structural Motivation
- Structural Ability
Motivation and Personality
Author: Abraham Maslow
For those familiar with “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”, this is where it is fully explained and developed.
This book is not an easy read, but provides the reader with an in-depth understanding of the “hierarchy of needs” and how it impacts an individual’s decision-making process. By understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy, an individual can better understand their own internal motivations, as well as those of others, especially as these evolve and are impacted by a dynamic world where each of us experiences loss or upset during the course of our lives.
I discovered this book in the base library at Naval Training Center (NTC), San Diego. I was a young enlisted person in “A-School”. It was a Saturday and I was (as is often the case for young sailors)…broke. I found this book and couldn’t put it down.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Author: Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D
According to the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, the material in this book is, “…a proverbial goldmine.” And based upon how Dr. Cialdini breaks down the complexities of persuasion within this book, I heartily agree.
Those of you who’ve listened to me much have certainly heard these two things: (1) I love the psychology stuff, and (2) EVERYTHING is marketing. This book brings psychology and marketing together in a comprehensive (yet brilliantly simple) manner. Understanding its concepts (and USING them) will have a profound impact upon your ability to influence on a grand scale.
As Albert Einstein put it, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” In seven chapters, Cialdini outlines the predominant “Weapons of Influence” using stories, anecdotes, and the results of scientific studies to help us understand the six classic approaches used by marketers and advertisers to “inspire” us toward their products, services, and/or way of thinking. The six “weapons” include:
- Reciprocation (If I give you something, you will feel obligated to do something for me in return)
- Commitment and Consistency (Once I have made a choice, I will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with my commitment. The drive to look (and be) consistent generates a potent “weapon” of social influence.)
- Social Proof (We tend to see an action as more appropriate when we see others doing it.)
- Liking (We most prefer to say yes to someone we know and like.)
- Authority (There is an [extreme] willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority.)
- Scarcity (Opportunities seem more valuable to us when their quantities are limited.)
Before you launch another awareness or awards campaign within your organization…READ THIS BOOK.
My Life in Advertising
Author: Claude Hopkins
Claude Hopkins revolutionized the marketing/advertising industry to the point where he was able to influence cultural behaviors within the American society. For example, when he decided to take on the Pepsodent® brand of toothpaste, only 7% of American households contained toothbrushes/toothpaste. By the end of his association with that brand, the number was up to 65%, with Pepsodent® carrying the lion’s share of the market. This is power…power to influence!
I’m recommending this book because it offers great insights into how Claude Hopkins used Third-Dimension Thinking™ to break through existing paradigms and traditions, and do so in a manner that evoked a specified action. Perhaps…just perhaps…this book will spark a breakthrough thought that will help you propel human performance upward within your organization!
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Author: Dale Carnegie
I first purchased a paperback copy of this book at Gemco in Fresno, California when I was ten years old (right after I finished reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill). Having now read this book at least six times, I can easily say that it has given me more insight into how to lead and influence others on a one-to-one basis than anything else I’ve read or studied.
First published in 1936, this book was largely responsible for what would become a series of leadership, business, and interpersonal training courses offered by Dale Carnegie® Training. While some of the examples and stories are obviously a bit dated, the principles and strategies of how to do exactly what the title says are profoundly powerful.
In PPI terms, we teach, “What gets recognized gets repeated.” Dale Carnegie will tell you to be, “…hearty in your approbation and lavish with your praise.” The meaning and intent are the same- when someone exhibits a behavior of which you approve (and want to see more of), offer [positive] recognition of the behavior, and you’re likely to see a lot more of it!
For anyone wanting to influence others, this book offers what Lowell Thomas discusses in his introduction- a shortcut to distinction. This book is a MUST READ.
The One Minute Manager
Author: Ken Blanchard, Spencer Johnson
In 106 pages (a quick easy read), Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson tell the story of a young man searching for an exceptionally effective manager. Through a series of observations by the young man, the book details succinct (this is where the “one minute” concept comes from) yet very effective interactions with people who report to him.
The book provides effective strategies for helping subordinates set goals, as well as for offering positive recognition and constructive feedback. The insights detailed are valuable for anyone wanting to improve their ability to influence in their interactions with others.
As a testament to the value of its contents, this book remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years, and was responsible for sending Ken Blanchard’s career into the stratosphere.
Good to Great
Author: Jim Collins
A five-year project, including over 15,000 hours of research, was conducted to identify the key ingredients that led a handful of US companies to greatly outperform their competition and the stock market in general over a fifteen-year period. In short, the study was designed to determine how these companies went from good…to great.
The results of the Good to Great study identified six key levels/aspects of buildup and breakthrough. In order, the six [steps] are:
- Level 5 Leadership (Leaders more like Lincoln and Socrates than Patton or Caesar)
- First Who, Then What… (Getting the right people in the right seats on the bus)
- Confront the Brutal Facts (You must [honestly] confront current reality while maintaining an unwavering faith that you will prevail in the end)
- Hedgehog Concept (Keeping it simple and focusing on your strengths (more on this one below))
- Culture of Discipline (When you have a disciplined culture, you don’t need hierarchy or bureaucracy)
- Technology Accelerators (Pioneering the application of carefully selected technologies)
The Hedgehog Concept asks three questions: (1) “What are we passionate about?”, (2) “What drives our economic engine?”, and (3) “What can we be best in the world at?”. The strategy is to use the answers to these three questions. Where these answers intersect- this is where the “magic” can happen…IF you use it in your strategic decision-making process and take corresponding action. At PPI, we invoked the Hedgehog Concept at our Directors’ meeting in 2009. Our answers to the questions and their influence on our strategic decision-making since that point have played a huge role in our resulting success (538% business growth).
When working with clients, we help them to Confront the Brutal Facts using the Practicing Perfection® Culture Profile. During implementation, we then help them grow a Culture of Discipline by working with each natural work team to develop their Code of Honor™.
One final note on this book… in Chapter One, Jim Collins begins with an intriguing truth: “good” is the enemy of “great”. Being “comfortable” breeds complacency. Such complacency can be a death sentence for an organization as well as for the career of an individual. So here’s my parting question- how “comfortable” are you? Read this book!
Bringing Out the Best in People
Author: Aubrey Daniels
“If people are not told they are appreciated, they will assume the opposite”
Published in 2000, this book breaks down the psychology (and resultant impact) of both negative and positive reinforcement. It details the perils of traditional “management” in its ill-fated attempts to “fix” people through negative reinforcement, and the resulting [sustainable] changes in behaviors that can occur when positive reinforcement is properly employed. The book identifies the underlying “whys” behind both forms of reinforcement, and puts the associated behavioral psychology in terms that the lay person / practitioner can understand and employ.
One of the precepts of the book is that the behavior of people in business is not another issue to be considered- it is fundamentally important to every business decision. If you are interested in positively changing the culture of your organization, this book provides a great deal of insight into the underlying psychology of how to do so.
At PPI, one of our Key Insights is, “What gets recognized gets repeated.” If you want to know why this is so, Bringing Out the Best in People explains it to you. Another thing that I’ve been “harping” on lately is that you can’t fix people! The great news is that most people don’t need fixing. It’s much more of a case that they need to be encouraged in their positive behaviors and in their underlying creative-make-things-better desires. This book will help you understand the underlying science behind this and give you insights into how to proceed.
The Radical Leap
Author: Steve Farber
In this era where technology has enlarged “management” at the expense of leadership, The Radical Leap offers a refreshing story in “extreme leadership”.
Featured in the “100 Best Business Books Ever Written”, the intro includes a line from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s book, The Leadership Challenge: “Leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations.” This pretty much sets the tone for where the story will take you. If you’re familiar with the PPI discussions of complianceversus discretionary effort and the Code of Honor™, you should pick up on a couple of key phrases contained in this definition of leadership: want to, and shared aspirations.
If you’re interested in reading a fictional story that teaches [very] sound principles of leadership, this book is for you. Following the conclusion of the story, you’ll find, “The Radical Leap: A Daily Handbook for Extreme Leaders.” This is a 12-page compilation of insight offered by the primary characters in the story, William G. Maritime and Son.
I’ll conclude this brief description with the last line of the last chapter of the story… “Here’s the operative question for you and your company: How are we going to change the world?”
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Blink is a book about how we think without thinking. In it, Malcolm Gladwell does an outstanding (and very thorough) job of providing an understanding of how we form instant judgments, make immediate assessments and assumptions, and can essentially mislead ourselves by giving into our “stories” without engaging in critical thinking.
In this era where the masses seem to be wagged about by the media, the insights you’ll gain from reading this book will (1) help you understand yourself better, (2) help you understand how others form instant biases and opinions, (3) make you aware of how great decision-makers tend to make those great decisions, and (4) arm you with awareness that, when properly utilized, can greatly enhance your ability to understand why things around you are moving in their current direction.
If you’ve not read any of Malcolm Gladwell’s work before, you will find it engaging, entertaining, and incredibly well researched. Drawing upon cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology, Blink will change the way you understand every decision you make. Never again will you think about thinking the same way.
Outliers: The Story of Success
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
I remember hearing a story one time where a man had just witnessed the most brilliant violin concerto he had ever heard. Afterward, he felt compelled to meet the violinist and express his gratitude. “I would give my life to be able to play the violin like that,” offered the man. “I did,” she replied.
In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell answers the question of how the great, those individuals that stand out with exceptional talent and/or performance, become great. The [essential] answer? “lucky” breaks combined with 10,000 hours.
In this story of how success becomes success, Gladwell tells the stories of the Beatles, Bill Gates, Korean Airlines and others to demonstrate that while “lucky” breaks did present themselves, it was what the individuals involved did with those breaks that made such a difference. This is where the “10,000 hours” comes into play. A friend of mine who was working on a start-up internet venture once told me, “Yeah, you work your ass off for years and then things start to pay off. Most people will look at you and call you “lucky” and an “over-night success.” Most observers either do not acknowledge (or are not aware of) the…hard work. The “10,000 hours” is equivalent to five years of full-time effort. And as Gladwell illustrates, history has shown that this is what it takes to become an “expert” in just about anything.
The stories are fascinating. The insights are intriguing. It helps make sense of the super-successful got (and get) that way. It helped me to better understand my journey. It just may do the same for you.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Author: Charles Duhigg
If you are interested in enhancing human performance, you must be interested in transforming behaviors. Interestingly enough, most of our behaviors are borne out of (or at least highly impacted by) habits. In this book, Charles Duhigg does a very nice job of demystifying and simplifying the concepts of (1) how habits become habits, (2) how a habit loop is initiated and sustained (and each of us has thousands of them), and (3) how to change our [less than stellar] habits.
At the core is the habit loop: There is a cue (something that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use), a routine (which can be physical, mental, or emotional), and a reward (which helps your brain figure out if this loop is worth remembering for the future). And while each of us has thousands of habit loops, we all have “base” habits, or what the book refers to as “keystone habits”.
The book first discusses habits at the individual level, then moves onto organizational habits, and finally, to societal habits. All of these come into play for the human performance professional, and this book offers great insight and understanding, not only into habits themselves, but more importantly…how to change them. Keystone habits are essentially the same as vital behaviors, and have the potential to impact a multitude of subservient habits and routines. Development of the Code of Honor™ within the Practicing Perfection® approach helps natural work teams to identify and promote new Keystone Habits.
The Appendix provides a framework for modifying habits. It includes practical guidance on the four steps of the framework:
- Identify the routine
- Experiment with rewards
- Isolate a cue
- Have a plan
Category: Personal Development
Man’s Search for Meaning
Author: Viktor Frankl
“…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychologist in Nazi Germany. Part I of the book offers Frankl’s account of his labor and confinement in four different Nazi concentration camps between 1942 and 1945. Through his horrific ordeal he learned many things about human behavior. One of his conclusions is the quotation at the beginning of this description.
While interesting from a historical perspective, this work provides great insight into the power of the human spirit- a power that lies within each of us. It is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I believe it should be required reading for every high school student. If you have not yet read it, put it on your MUST READ list!
Author: Ayn Rand
This book has had a more profound impact upon me than any other I have read in recent times. In this LONG fictional piece (over 1,200 pages), Ayn Rand draws a vividly depressing picture of a society engorged with a culture of blame and entitlement. Involving political “patsy-ism” and unholy alliances between government, big business, and big labor, the story concludes with the essential destruction of what was once the greatest country on the planet.
The story makes a case for capitalism…pure capitalism…as ultimately the most benevolent system on the planet, for it can only survive where unobstructed trade (for the mutual benefit of the parties involved) exists. If you are paying attention, you will find amazing parallels between the [fictional] story in Atlas Shrugged (which was published the year I was born), and what is happening in the United States today.
One of the key characters in this book has given me my new personal mantra: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I shall never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
Without a doubt, anyone who values freedom should read this book.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Author: Stephen R. Covey
Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits” offer a tremendous recipe for increasing effectiveness and developing/sustaining a quality life. With over 15 million copies sold, this book has offered the “recipe for success” to more people than perhaps any other business book ever written.
Many are familiar with this work. If you are not, it came about through Covey’s study of truly successful people throughout history while doing his work as a graduate student. He was able to identify seven common behaviors (habits) of the highly successful individuals he studied. He then crafted what he had discovered into this book, including stories, anecdotes and observations, providing us with the opportunity to model the same behaviors that created the foundation for the truly successful.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, “I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity on the near side of complexity; however, I’d give my right arm for simplicity on the far side of complexity.” Stephen Covey accomplished the “simplicity on the far side of complexity” with this book. Not only is the content brilliant, it is understandable and…doable. Everything we teach in the Practicing Perfection® approach aligns with the Seven Habits.
If you’re not familiar with the Seven Habits, they are:
- Be proactive
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
- Think win-win
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood
- Sharpen the saw
The 8th Habit
Author: Stephen R. Covey
As much as I enjoyed the Seven Habits, I enjoyed reading The 8th Habit even more. In my opinion, this is Covey’s finest work. The subtitle for the book, “From Effectiveness to Greatness,” should give you a flavor for its content.
Building upon the Seven Habits, Covey introduces the concept that “Leadership is a choice- not a position.” He develops sound principles of how to influence and be a true leader of others (no matter what your title or position on an organization chart). This directly aligns with the Practicing Perfection® definition of what it means to be a leader: “Anyone who takes full responsibility for his or her actions, and who positively influences the behaviors and actions of others.”
Part One of the book is entitled, “Finding Your Voice,” which is a prerequisite for those wanting to lead. In Part Two, he then develops the principles for how to, “Inspire Others to Find Their Voice.” This is all in keeping with the concept of discretionary effort which lies at the core of the Practicing Perfection® approach.
Once of my favorite concepts within this book is Covey’s “Whole Person Approach.” This is the reality that each of us has four intelligences (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual), and where these intelligences converge creates our Unique Personal Self (UPS). Tapping into the UPS is the key for anyone wanting to maximize the synergy between a worker and his/her job.
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Author: Benjamin Franklin
My brother Larry gave me a copy of this book when I was twelve years old. Following Think and Grow Rich, and How to Win Friends and Influence People, (which I had already read by that point), this book was next in line as most impactful in my young view of myself and the world. Thanks, bro!
In this book, Benjamin Franklin, considered by many to be the most successful American of all time, tells his personal story. He was born the youngest son amongst 17 siblings in Boston, was indentured to his brother’s printing business, and went on from there with resolve and tenacity to achieve great success in business, personal wealth, government, and diplomacy.
Of his experiences, the one to which Benjamin Franklin attributes much of his success was his efforts to model thirteen “virtues”. Upon identifying these virtues, he then focused on each for a week at a time, keeping a journal of each instance where he did not fully live up to the virtue. Once he worked through all 13 virtues, he started over at the beginning and worked through them again. He did this for many years. His Thirteen Virtues were:
Think and Grow Rich
Author: Napoleon Hill
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
This is the book that started it all for me. At the age of 10, I rode my stingray bicycle over to Gemco (a “discount department store” near our home in Fresno, California) to buy a book. For some reason, this particular book caught my eye and I bought it. Then I read it. From that point, I would never turn from the idea that any human being has the power to create whatever life he or she wants.
Similar to the Seven Habits, where Covey identified key personal “habits” of highly successful people, Napoleon Hill studied the super-successful of his day, some 500 individuals in all, identifying thirteen “steps to riches”. Each of these steps is provided with its own chapter, wherein the author uses specific individuals as examples of how it was employed in the user’s efforts to achieve successful ends.
The key message of the book, what Earl Nightingale referred to as “The Strangest Secret”, is this: You become what you think about.
Author: Seth Godin
A “linchpin” is one that serves to hold together the elements of a complex [system]. In the Practicing Perfection® approach, we identify that your “linchpin” to success in any human performance enhancement effort is the one who had the greatest impact on how work is actually done on a day-to-day basis: the front line supervisor. In this book, Seth Godin is coming at the concept of how YOU can be a linchpin in virtually any situation- how to make yourself…indispensable.
I couldn’t describe the intent of this book any better than Seth does in the Summary:
“Today is a turning point, a once-in-a-lifetime moment in time when you get to make a choice. Every day, people like you are choosing to go down a less well-defined path, one in which they make choices and make a difference. Instead of focusing on complying with management as a long-term strategy for getting more stuff and being more secure, we have a chance to describe a powerful vision for our future and to actually make it happen. This new dream isn’t about obedience, its about vision and engagement.”
As you may have heard me say before, when it comes to organizational influence…everything is marketing! Seth Godin offers great insights into aspects of marketing ourselves, as well as in creating and promoting vision. He offers short, pithy, and [often] very insightful blog entries on a regular basis. If you’d like, you can have these sent directly to your email absolutely free by subscribing to his blog here: http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/subscribe.aspx
Author: Phil Stutz, Barry Michels
This book was recommended to me by my good friend, Kevin Harris. Upon reading the book, I liked it so much that I gave a copy to everyone who attended our 2012 Users’ Group Conference in Galveston. The reason this book resonated with me is because it offers simple tools for overcoming those sources of internal resistance with which we all must deal.
Written by a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist, the book chronicles the authors’ combined discoveries of simple yet effective tools to transform problems into courage, confidence and creativity. Beginning with the concept that real [personal] change requires changing your behaviors, not just your attitude, Stutz and Michels then develop five simple internal tools for overcoming fear, procrastination, and the need for instant gratification. In Chapters 7 and 8, they bring things together in a very inspiring way.
The five tools include:
- Reversal of Desire
- Active Love
- Inner Authority
- The Grateful Flow
If you’re looking for some tangible tools that can help you get out of your comfort zone and become more of what you are capable of becoming…get this book, and [most importantly] USE THE TOOLS!
The Brower Quadrant
Author: Lee Brower
I am happy to say that Lee Brower is my coach. If you ever saw the movie, “The Secret,” Lee is (as I refer to him) the “gratitude rock guy.” By the way, if you haven’t seen “The Secret”, do so as soon as possible. The movie does a great job of revealing the Law of Attraction, which is alive and well (for better or worse) in all of our lives.
Lee Brower has spent much of his career as a wealth management consultant, eventually developing the Brower Quadrant, a system for preserving and passing on not only material wealth, but core assets such as health, family and values. It offers a holistic approach to leaving an enduring family legacy.
In its graphic form, Lee illustrates the four elements of the Brower Quadrant: financial, experience, contribution, and core values. It offers a much more comprehensive (and I believe healthier) view of planning what we want to “leave behind” for our children, grandchildren, and beyond, than does simple estate/financial planning.
Category: Accountability / Interpersonal
The Power of Truth
Author: William George Jordan
I learned about this book in one of my Strategic Coach sessions. My coach, Lee Brower, indicated that it was one of the most important books he had ever read. I ordered a copy immediately, and found it to be enlightening and incredibly insightful. It’s the type of book that allows you to flip to virtually any page on any given day and find just the right piece of insight for whatever is going on at that moment. I carry my copy with me when I travel. It sits on my desk when I’m in my office.
One of the things we highly encourage within the Practicing Perfection® approach is for you to engage in critical thinking. In doing so, what we mean is to question, to reason, and not to simply accept whatever’s being fed to you by the media, or…whoever. The intent of critical thinking is to determine your own truth. This book provides great insight into the concept and power of [honest] truth. As an example, here’s the opening line in Chapter One:
“TRUTH is the rock foundation of every great character. It is loyalty to the right as we see it; it is courageous living of our lives in harmony with our ideals; it is always- power.”
The Oz Principle
Author: Roger Connors, Tom Smith
As far as I am concerned, this is the best book ever written on the topic of…ACCOUNTABILITY.
The authors use the story, “The Wizard of Oz,” as a parable for the different aspects and attributes of accountability. The book is easy to read and easy to understand.
In the “old school”, the word “accountability” has been pretty synonymous with “culpability”. In this world, when something goes wrong, the initial words out of management’s mouth has typically been, “Who are we going to hold accountable for this?!” In other words, “Who are we going to…punish?” Such knee-jerk attitudes fly directly in opposition to having a just culture and everything that the Practicing Perfection® approach promotes and develops.
In order to have a prayer of having a healthy relationship between two people, there is one thing you absolutely must have- trust. The way this translates into an organization is that in order to have a prayer of having a healthy culture, you absolutely must have a high level of…accountability. HOWEVER…I’m not talking about the old-school “who are we gonna whack?” method of “holding people accountable”.
The Oz Principle offers a different approach to accountability– a proactive approach. We use this as a textbook not only for our PPC Certification Training, but for our Leadership Training as well. When we teach the topic, we call it Proactive Accountability™ to clearly differentiate from the old-school association with punishment. The concepts, however, are identical.
If you are in any position of leadership within your organization and you have not read this book…READ IT.
Journey to the Emerald City
Author: Roger Connors, Tom Smith
As a sequel to The Oz Principle, Journey to the Emerald City offers insights into implementation of the precepts of [proactive] accountability into an organization in order to achieve a “culture of accountability.”
For those looking to translate their understanding of the Oz Principle into tangible organizational culture change, this book offers insights into how to do so.
Author: Vital Smarts
In our training classes, I always like to introduce our discussion of crucial conversations by asking this question, “In our culture in the United States, there are two topics that we do not talk about in social situations. What are they?” Participants always know the answer- religion and politics. Why? Because these are topics that hit all three buttons of what makes a conversation crucial: (1) The stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions get involved.
So…we have a pretty effective way of hanging out with friends who might be of a different religious or political persuasion; however, there are many other aspects of life, both personally and professionally, where other topics also hit these three buttons. What this book does is give us great insights and tools with which to effectively have such conversations.
Communication between two or more human beings is an error-likely situation all by itself. When conversations become crucial, not only are they error-likely, but they can also become emotionally and relationally damaging. It is often also true that NOT having such conversations at all (we tend to avoid them out of fear or discomfort) can be equally, if not more, damaging.
This book is a GEM of wisdom and practical tactics for handling “difficult” conversations, both at home and at work.
Author: Vital Smarts
As a sequel to Crucial Conversations, this book provides insights and tools for how to confront another person on a specific topic face-to-face.
Such confrontations tend to be avoided even more than “difficult” conversations due to elevated levels of fear and/or discomfort. However, as the authors point out, the inability to have [effective] crucial confrontations lies at the root of many family and organizational issues.
The Five Love Languages
Author: Gary Chapman
This may seem an unusual book to be featured on a business website dealing with human performance; however, consider this- people bring the impacts of their personal lives to work with them every day. A better life at home can significantly enhance performance at work.
My wife and I have given away many many copies of this book to family members, friends, acquaintances, and even to participants in some of our Practicing Perfection® training classes. It is a brilliantly simple masterpiece of insight into a key aspect of our primary relationships.
Stephen Covey writes a lot about “the emotional bank account.” If you don’t know what that is, grab and read a copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. What this book does is to teach you exactly how to simply and easily make genuine deposits into emotional bank accounts of the people with whom you have primary relationships (husband, wife, son, daughter, mom, dad, etc.).
The concept is simple: There are five basic Love Languages. They are:
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
- Small Gifts
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
Out of the five each of us typically one that is our primary love language. To figure out what your primary love language is, think about what you do most for the people you care about. Do you buy them presents? Do you give them lots of compliments? etc. And here’s the “magic” key… Whatever your primary love language, when someone does this for you, it makes great deposits into your emotional bank account. If you flip this around, are you seeing how you can USE this to enhance your primary relationships?
The book offers explanations of each of the five love languages, and simple methods for identifying which are your two most predominant (primary and secondary). If you have ANY other people in the world that you truly care about, GET THIS BOOK, READ IT, and USE WHAT YOU LEARNED.
Category: Human Error Reduction
Field Guide to Understanding Human Error
Author: Sidney Dekker
Sidney Dekker hit the scene in a big way over the past few years, offering may great insights about human error and learning from errors that do occur within a just culture.
In this book, Dekker takes us far from traditional “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” and the old initial reaction of “Who are we going to hold accountable?!” when something goes wrong.
One of my favorite points of this book is that in order to truly understand why an individual made a specific choice that led to an error, you must (to the best of your ability) put yourself in the worker’s shoes, at that time, and under the same conditions in order to truly learn. Only by doing this can you uncover the landmines (setups, e.g., unclear procedure step, poor labeling, etc.), traps (conditions of the work environment that make human error more likely, e.g., time pressure, distractions, etc.), and psychological triggers that prompted the choice to take the action that was taken.
The book, as it’s name implies, is written for the practitioner, offering tangible steps and tools for learning post error. Anyone who is involved in safety and/or human error reduction, whether on the performance improvement side or post error/accident investigation side, should read and digest the material in this book. It should be a readily accessible reference on your desk or bookshelf.
Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents
Author: James Reason
James Reason is one of the seminal thinkers of modern human error reduction. His teachings and insights have been instrumental in the successful human error reduction efforts in both the commercial aviation and commercial nuclear power generation industries. Unlike his first major work, Human Error, this book is written for the practitioner. It offers practical insights into workplace hazards and the concepts of creating barriers/defenses against those hazards. It includes some of the first material written on error management and developing a culture of safety (safety culture).
It is within this book that Dr. Reason first introduced his (now famous) “swiss cheese” model of barriers/defenses, which provides an excellent representation of how events are “allowed” to happen. He also offered the Culpability Decision Tree, the first iteration (that I am aware of) of an objective mechanism for determining the culpability of an individual committing a human error.
Just as for Dekker’s book mentioned above, this book should be read and digested by anyone wanting to reduce human error and enhance human performance.
Author: James Reason
Dr. Reason did the world a phenomenal service when he crafted this book. Published in 1990, it offered a culmination of the best thought and research available on human factors and the psychology of human error available at that time. It formed the foundation for much of the human error reduction training still in use today.
This book used to be required reading for PPC Certification; however, we have since stopped requiring it. James Reason was still an active college professor when he wrote this book, and as he explains in the Preface, it was written for the academic (which makes it rather difficult for “normal” people to understand). As an example, here is Reason’s comment regarding the effectiveness of using the Error Elimination Tools relative to whether the worker is using them in the skill, rule, or knowledge-based performance mode:
“Although error correction mechanisms are little understood, there are grounds for arguing that their effectiveness is inversely related to their position within the cognitive control hierarchy. Low-level (and largely hard-wired) postural correcting mechanisms work extremely well.”
Difficult to read or not, this book should be on the shelf (and have been read) by anyone involved in the reduction of human error.
The Industrial Operator’s Handbook
Author: Hop Howlett
Hop Howlett is a graduate of West Point, functioned in anti-terrorist capacities within the US Army, worked within the US Naval Reactors Program, and has done consulting within many types of industrial facilities. Utilizing his extensive background, he wrote this manual for operations, maintenance, and engineering- anyone engaged in the operation or technical support of an industrial facility. It’s intent is to provide insight into the principles and skills involved in systematic industrial operation.
In the first two chapters of the manual, the author covers The Anatomy of an Accident and Common Components of Accidents. He then uses the subsequent chapters to outline a system of strategies, principles, and tools to promote safe industrial operations where the potential for an event is minimized. He draws extensively upon his experience with the US Naval Nuclear Power Program, which is one of the best training and operations programs in the world.
A total of 24 chapters are organized into three major sections within the manual. These sections are:
- Part One: The Nature of Industrial Failure
- Part Two: A Strategy for Operating Success
- Part Three: Vital Operating Skills
This manual provides a substantial foundation of knowledge regarding how to establish systems and routines for safe and efficient operations.
Category: Initiating and Sustaining Change
Author: Leandro Herrero
When we launched PPI and began implementing the Practicing Perfection® approach, we had great success with our clients right off the bat. As it turns out, the process was sound, and it did indeed generate sustainable reduction of human error. When I came across a copy of this book in 2007, I was so excited that I jumped up and down and did a happy dance! (Yes, it was quite the sight to behold.) Why was I so excited? Because I now understood WHY our approach had been so successful.
Leandro Herrero does an excellent job of describing the phenomenon of how true behavioral change develops and proliferates throughout an organization. With support and nurturing from the top, it grows throughout from an initial point of influence (just like a virus tends to emanate from a single infected individual). Using experiences, stories, and anecdotes, he then goes on to explain HOW to initiate viral change within any organization.
The truth is- the traditional (“top down”) change management model simply does NOT work when it comes to implementing behavioral change. Oh sure, if you have enough energy and resources, you can drive change to occur, but if it’s all done in the sense of, “do this, because I said so, because I’m the boss” (aka, compliance), as soon as you turn the energy and resources off, those behaviors are going to return to their previous state.
By approaching things in a manner that appeals to discretionary effort, and using the viral change model, phenomenal results can be achieved, and they’ll be…sustainable. This is exactly the approach that we use when helping clients to implement Practicing Perfection®.
This is a required text for PPC Certification, and is typically cited as the favorite required text by the Certification candidates. If you want to effectively implement behavioral change within your organization, this book is a MUST READ.
The Tipping Point
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
While a staff Writer for The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell wrote this very successful work on how “little things can make a big difference.” As is typical for all of his work, Gladwell’s research is extensive, and his story-telling superb.
The concept well delineated in this book is that just as a single sick person can start a flu epidemic, so can a few fare jumpers or graffiti artists fuel a crime wave (such as occurred in New York City), or a [very] satisfied customer can end up filling the empty tables of a new restaurant. These are social epidemics, and the moment they take off, when they reach their critical mass, this is the Tipping Point.
Gladwell introduces some new terminology in this book in what he refers to as “The Law of the Few”: mavens, connectors, and salesmen. These are key roles in a viral chain that leads to the Tipping Point. Due to the book’s success, you may be familiar with these terms in the context of change, even if you have not have read it.
As one who is working to implement and support behavioral change, you can learn a great deal from reading this book. Your goal should be to have the desired behaviors reach the Tipping Point within your organization, which in the terminology of Practicing Perfection®, is referred to as having achieved Viral Accountability™.