Summer Reading List: Eleven books for attendee gifts, personal growth, or a little insight into corporate America

Chocolates on the Pillow Aren't Enough
By Jonathan M. Tisch, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2007
As chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, Tisch knows a little something about hospitality and he puts his working knowledge to good use in this book, subtitled Reinventing the Customer Experience. He walks readers through modern examples of companies that go above and beyond to appeal to customers, and explains why the strategies have been successful, using hard numbers, facts, and humor—including a great story about Tisch being confused with John Tesh by local news anchors. The book is sprinkled with sidebars titled "Your Big Aha's" that distill the larger discussions into a few salient points. This book is both useful and a treat—the gilt jacket is even reminiscent of the wrapping on a chocolate.

How to Recognize and Reward Employees
By Donna Deeprose, American Management Association, 2007
A simple "thank you" can increase productivity and employee satisfaction. Find that hard to believe? According to Deeprose, it shouldn't be, although recognition often goes far beyond simple words. This book is divided into three parts: Part One focuses on reasons to recognize employees, Part Two offers reward guidelines, and Part Three explores 150 ways to inspire peak performance. Deeprose uses specific examples from well-known companies to illustrate how recognition programs have worked for other organizations. This is recommended reading for managers who want to understand what will keep their employees and employers happy in the long run, whether it be points in a reward system, pizza lunches, or two hours of time for personal calls.

Thiagi's 100 Favorite Games
By Sivasailam Thiagarajan, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2006
Attendees and planners alike are tired of the same icebreaker games played year after year after year after . . . Thiagarajan's book offers a fresh perspective on games—which he says are actually training exercises—as he divides 100 of them into 11 purpose-driven sections: Openers, Closers, Review, Communication, Sales and Marketing, Teamwork, Leadership, Diversity, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, and Corporate Training Topics. Each game is then further broken down to describe its purpose, participants, time needed, supplies, preparation, flow, and, when necessary, debriefing. For example, an exercise called "Equal Air Time" in the Teamwork section explores how to encourage equal participation among meeting attendees—drawing out the lurkers while reining in the excessive talkers.

The Power of Feedback
By Joseph R. Folkman, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006
Folkman's book, subtitled 35 Principles for Turning Feedback from Others into Personal and Professional Change, delves into how people can put feedback to use. It's one thing to hear how you can improve or be more effective, but once the sit-down review is over, it's what you do with that information that counts. The book relies heavily on examples ("David received feedback that those who reported to him wanted more involvement and participation in decisions") to explore behavioral patterns and how to begin changing them. Hypothetical situations are followed by practical steps for readers (". . . if you are trying to improve your abilities as a coach or mentor, ask if you could coach a Little League baseball team"). In addition, Folkman discusses the value of building on strengths versus eliminating weaknesses.

The 10 Best of Everything: An Ultimate Guide for Travelers
By Nathaniel Lande and Andrew Lande, National Geographic, 2006
Don't give out this book when you need someone's attention focused elsewhere. It's impossible to stop flipping through the pages. The guide covers everything from the 10 best cigars (don't despair, only five are from Cuba) to the 10 best sporting events to the 10 best hideaways and inns. Part One is divided into sections that cover sports, places, products, travel, things to do on a Sunday afternoon (by city), and food. Part Two is called "The New Grand Tour" and offers 20 literary or historical adventures including "Unexpected Turns and Culinary Pleasures of the Amalfi Coast" or "Norway: From Bergen to the Fjords". At eight inches by eight inches, this inspiring little number is the perfect size to toss in a suitcase.

Sales Training Solutions
By Renie McClay, editor, Kaplan Publishing, 2006
This book is a compilation of advice and information from leading sales trainers, and operates under the assumption that sales training is a different animal from all other types of training. Chapters include "Getting Leadership Support," by the vice president of training and development for RR Donnelley, Jim Graham, and "Making Sales Training Fun, Interactive, and Educational," by the book's editor, McClay, who used to serve as sales training manager of Kraft Foods. Charts, worksheets, and a plethora of bullet lists are scattered throughout the text, and all chapters end with a summary; many also provide recommended reading lists. The contributors section includes contact information for all the writers, so readers with additional questions can follow up as needed.

The New American Workplace
By James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler III, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006
A modern-day companion to Work in America (MIT Press, 1973), this book explores the changing landscape of corporate America. Topics range from work/life balance to outsourcing to training and development. O'Toole and Lawler explore how the workplace has transformed since the 1970s, and step back to look at global issues that impact the current work environment for Americans. Because "the American worker" is a blurry character at best, the authors delve into issues specific to subsets of the population, such as working women, or how executive compensation compares with pay for lower-level employees (today the average Fortune 500 CEO earns 400 times what an average employee does; in 1973 the ratio was 40:1). Susan R. Meisinger, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), wrote the foreword; SHRM provided financial support for research behind the book and conducted member surveys.

Thinkertoys: Second Edition
By Michael Michalko, Ten Speed Press, 2006
This "handbook of creative-thinking techniques" has the admirable goal of encouraging readers to look at problems, challenges, and situations with a fresh perspective. Each chapter begins with a quotation from Sun Tzu's The Art of War, then explores a challenge and possible ways to tackle the problem using real-world examples, brain teasers, and a "Blueprint" outlining specific takeaways for readers. The book is divided into "Linear Thinkertoys" and "Intuitive Thinkertoys", followed by a section on Koinonia—the spirit of fellowship—and one on "Endtoys", including how to establish your own Murder Board (for an explanation, you'll have to read the book). Thinkpak, a deck of brainstorming cards, can be purchased separately, and would be an easy way for meeting attendees to work on creative problem-solving techniques.

The Productivity Handbook
By Donald E. Wetmore, Random House Reference, 2005
What may seem like a business-focused book is actually whole-life oriented. The Productivity Handbook: New Ways of Leveraging Your Time, Information, & Communications looks at everything from how to choose outfits to how to remember people's names. The author takes a first-person approach throughout much of the book, offering advice about efficiency through examples from his own life. The layout makes the text easy to skim. There are abundant bullets, numbered lists, and headings within chapters. While some of the information may be old hat for professional planners, Wetmore devotes all of Chapter 20 to "Meetings with Meaning: How to Get the Most Out of Every Meeting."

Unlock Financial Value With Corporate Barter
By John P. Kramer and Clarence V. Lee III, TMW Press, 2004
Short chapters, illustrations, and judicious use of color make this book much more user-friendly than the title might imply. The authors give specific, if unidentified, examples of how companies have benefited from corporate barter. They also explain the important difference between corporate bartering and what people traditionally think of as bartering. Although Kramer and Lee acknowledge corporate bartering doesn't make sense for every company, they estimate that four out of five Fortune 1000 companies can implement the strategy at least occasionally. So even if your company doesn't quite make the Fortune 1000 list, the topic might be worth checking out; with 20 years of experience with corporate barter, Kramer and Lee have some significant knowledge to pass on.

he Only Negotiating Guide You'll Ever Need
By Peter B. Stark and Jane Flaherty, Broadway Books, 2002
Did you know that "These Boots are Made for Walking" isn't just a song, it's also a negotiation tactic? Stark and Flaherty's guide focuses on everyday situations that could benefit from negotiating skills.The book is divided into two parts. The first describes what every good negotiator should know, including how to read counterparts through nonverbal cues and how to work with a "carp," "shark," or "dolphin" personality. The second section offers real-world examples and helps readers understand different methods for negotiation and conflict resolution using quirky titles like "salami" and "these boots are made for walking," which means that the person at the bargaining table who can walk away from the situation has the most power.