Posted by: Kristen Ridley | July 10, 2013

Ultimate communicator’s bookshelf

Comm bookshelfI was lying on the floor of my living room the other day (no, it wasn’t a case of too many glasses of wine 🙂 I’d just finished my workout and hadn’t yet summoned the energy to get back up) and it happened that the book shelf where I keep all my business books was at eye-level.

Now, I assume that most communicators love books and that they read more than the average bear (if you don’t fit that description this post probably won’t interest you). Personally, while I read all kinds of books, because my work is important to me, I want to be as knowledgeable about it as I can. So I have a fair number of books on communication.

But in the general way of things, I find the majority of “business” books are not worth the time it would take to read them [I wrote a post about the titles of business books and how silly they are some time back). Still, I’m sure there ARE some great business books that I just haven’t come across. With the number of smart communication professionals out there, I decided (while I was lying there looking at my bookshelf as an excuse not to get up just yet) that we could probably build the ULTIMATE communicator’s bookshelf if we worked on it together.

So, I’m suggesting that we all submit one or two of the best books we’ve ever come across on communication and pool our wisdom. I’ll get us started with some of my favourites:

Why Business People Speak Like Idiots by Brian Fugere, et al. If you think the title is funny, wait till you read the book! It is written by three former employees of Deloitte and they finally got so fed up with what they called “the epidemic of bull” that is corporate writing, they decided to do something to change that and the result is this book. This book will make you laugh out loud all the way through it! But it will also give you really useful examples of “what to do instead” of the ridiculous [but sadly, too real in business today] nonsense-speak that they call out.

KEY GEM: Truthfully, this entire book is a key gem, but I especially loved the “Bull Spotter’s Guide” in the resources which is a glossary of “Bull Words” you find in corporate, and what they *really* mean to the average, normal human. Absolutely hilarious!


The Leader’s Way by the Dalai Lama. I know what you’re thinking! You’re thinking: “What could a buddhist monk POSSIBLY know about leadership and communicating in a corporate organization?! Well, the truth is he knows a surprising amount, and he offers surprisingly – at least, it was surprising to me – incisive, intelligent and usable insight. I actually wrote a whole post about this book a while back, so if you’re looking for more detail, you may want to check that out.

KEY GEM: Business CAN be successful, while at the same time behaving in ethical, responsible, inclusive ways. The book shows you how to do that.


Why should the boss listen to you? by James E. Lukaszewski. This book is especially good for communicators who struggle with how to convince their leaders to take their advice, or, in some cases to even get in front of leaders long enough to GIVE their advice! I wrote a full post on this book too, so if you’d like more detail you can decide if this one’s for you.

KEY GEM: Leaders think about issues and communication from a very different perspective than others in the organization do, and if you want them to listen to you, you need to understand how to think about things and talk about things in the way that will work to convince and connect with them so they will consider and take your advice. The book has worksheets to help you do it.


Getting Things Done When You Are Not In Charge by Geoffrey M. Bellman – The title got my attention, because how often is a communicator in that situation? Only nearly everyday, right? The book lives up to its title too. It give tips on how to enlist help from people in other areas of your business, how to manage politics, and how build support from management for initiating change.

KEY GEM – A 10-step process for internal consulting success. I’ve been using it since I bought the book some years ago – it works!


It’s your ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff. Think YOUR company is rigidly set in its ways and reluctant to try new things or change? Try working for the U.S. Navy! I heard Captain Abrashoff speak at a leadership conference for a previous organization some years back. His presentation was a shocking breath of fresh air – no PowerPoint, in fact, no “presentation” at all, just him, standing on the stage telling us, simply, clearly and very engagingly, about the lessons he learned in the process of taking the ship he captained from the absolute worst in the Navy to the amazing “go-to” ship for it’s spectacular calibre of sailors and readiness. While this book is more of a focus on leadership, Abrashoff offers many lessons about how to communicate with your “employees” to get their commitment to your objectives.

KEY GEM: It doesn’t matter what kind of company you work in, or how resistant to change and new approaches it may be, there are ALWAYS ways to create a positive, collaborative environment where employees feel respected, trusted and valued. You just have to be creative and thoughtful about identifying and implementing them. If it can work inside the U.S. military environment, it can work anywhere.


E-Writing (21st Century Tools for Effective Communication) by Dianna Booher – When I bought this book and started reading it, I was highlighting what I thought was the really good stuff. By page 60 I realized I was highlighting almost everything. The 5 sections include: Email, E-writing culture, writing on paper or online, Editing, and Guidelines for writing all types of documents.

KEY GEM – The “MADE” formula which allows you to build a clear concise message using four simple components for any type of document in any format (email, written, etc.)


Say It In Six (How to say exactly what you mean in six minutes or less) by Ron Hoff – This book promises “no more everlasting meetings” which by itself was enough to get me to buy it, but the communication process laid out in this book really is fantastic. It shows you how to communicate absolutely ANYTHING – including a major business case presentation – in no more than SIX MINUTES. The author notes that the Gettysburg Address was 2 minutes, 42 seconds. While most communicators won’t be delivering such august messaging, don’t we want people to read and understand what we write? I know I do.

KEY GEM– The say it in six worksheet which is simple to use and helps to clearly structure your presentation (any presentation) quickly and effectively to do what you need it to do . . . in under six minutes!



Well, those are my contributions to our ultimate comms. bookshelf. Now it’s your turn. What communication books would you suggest we really can’t live without?


I'd love to hear what YOU think! Please share.

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