At CCM, we try to encourage all staff to read as much as possible. We have a library in the office where we store all of our physical books and all staff have access to a pool of around 50 audiobooks that people can listen to on their way to work or during their personal development time. It has been hard trying to convince people to do this, never mind get them excited about it, but over the last few weeks the tide may be turning.

Personally, I’m a huge reader. Mainly for the reason that I am blessed to be in the position I am at the age I am, so I need to learn as much about myself, business, life and leadership as quickly as I can. After months of hard work there have been a few cases recently where staff members have told me that they may have done something, or are taking a certain view because of new insight from a book. Alongside this, they have expressed that they are enjoying reading and they never thought they would say this. Feedback like this is a pleasure to hear.

During a very unique time when things are a bit strange to say the least, I thought it might be a good idea to share three of my favourite books in case people are seeking some ideas and inspiration. Working from home can be a nightmare and people may think they are going a little crazy - however, getting lost in a book really can make time fly whilst also potentially offering the chance to learn something great.

Bringing Out The Best In People - Aubrey Daniels.
This book is relatively old and quite short but it is valuable in the teaching of how to see, and get the best out of people. The overall theme of the book is; if you see the good in someone or expect them to do good things, most of the time they will live up to that expectation. The evidence of this is in the way we are taught to train dogs. It is much more powerful to recognise the good behaviours and reward them rather than highlighting all of the negative ones.

Relating that to businesses, it boils down to the choices and infrastructure put in place by the management team that will be key in the formation of culture. Culture is so elusive and hard to master due to it being based on people's thoughts and behaviour, which can be hard to understand and  can be rather erratic.

If a company places strict rules and regulations on employees based on the premise that they will not adhere to policies and take advantage then all it will do is encourage the employee to do exactly that. People will always put in more effort into an organisation that they care about, which won’t be the case if they feel like they aren’t trusted or respected.

A natural human instinct is to try and live up to the expectation of others. This expectation can either be 1) If we don’t tell you exactly what to do then you will do nothing. Or 2) You are a valued member of staff that is an integral part of the company.

Additionally, relating to the current situation at most businesses, if an employee has been told that they must come to work at all costs unless they are seriously ill, even if they have the capability to work from home, it will generate distrusting thoughts within that person. Companies may send out statements to try and justify it, but it will always boil down to trust and the issue with this is that when the day comes and they have to work from home that person might think, “Well they don’t trust me anyway, so I might as well put my feet up.” It's a vicious circle.

People are by default, good people. If a business can create a working environment that can complement this then they are onto a winner. This was the first book I asked senior management to read as it is how we want CCM to operate. With the home/work balance shifting and intertwining all the time because of technology, we can’t expect people to put up with being mistreated or feeling unimportant. If people love their work then they are much more likely to commit to the company and are less likely to leave, as we all know - a high staff turnover can be very detrimental to staff morale.

The Infinite Game - Simon Sinek and Principles - Ray Dalio.
I have combined these books as they are both superb and cover a lot of the same ground. Both books help with generating a purpose and principles for a business, guiding everyone in both their behaviour and doing things which feed into the long term vision.

At CCM, we have recently replaced our ‘mission statement’ for a ‘purpose statement’. I think it is a lot more appealing to know why you exist as a company and what you are bringing to the world, instead of having an unachievable long-term goal. In 30 years’ time, if we have stayed aligned with our purpose we can all think both as individuals and as a company that we have been successful. However, if we have a mission statement like Coca Cola; “To Refresh the World in Mind, Body and Spirit” then we could view our time as a failure. This specific example is poor in my eyes, as they are being blind to the fact that they are a huge factor in the global obesity epidemic.

Back to the books - both books mentioned delve deeper into the ‘why’ and ‘purpose’ of both people and organisations. They phrase them slightly differently, but they are both talking around having a deeper reason for being. The principles in Ray Dalio’s book mirror the values that Simon Sinek talks about in his. Simon challenges the values a lot of current organisations currently have by saying values should be verbs as they are the things we do and behaviors we show. Quite popular examples of company values are trust and innovation. The issue with these is that you cannot ask an employee to be more trusting or innovative without detailing what this actually means or what they therefore need to do. If those values are tweaked to 'always tell the truth' and 'look at problems from a different angle', then people will know what is expected of them. One of our values was ‘Togetherness - We are a family’. The first problem with this is that it isn't a verb - it isn't something we could do as employees. But also, having thought about it more - being a family is the result of behaviours which are determined by values, not a value itself. We cannot go up to a member of staff and say - 'BE MORE FAMILY!"

Ray’s principles are a result of decades founding and growing a company into the largest hedge fund in the world. Although one of his books is aimed at the investor, the life and work principles can be applied to anyone or anything. 

Both of these men are hugely inspirational for me. Their leadership, language and philosophy is the one I aim to lead by throughout my career.