The headline and subheader tells us what you're offering, and the form header closes the deal. Over here you can explain why your offer is so great it's worth filling out a form for.
I read at least one book every week. Some I enjoy more than others, and some really stand out for the quality and depth of advice they offer. The books I'm recommending in this list have helped me expand my mind, look at my business (and life) from a new perspective, and feel more confident about how to approach new challenges.
I believe every consultant could benefit from this selection of books, so if you only read 10-15 books in 2021, I strongly recommend to add these to your list.
Without further ado...
This book explains how to build and unleash your personal brand in the digital age.
A quick summary: In this book, Mark Schaefer points out the difference between being known and being famous. Being known is about being in the position of authority and having a targeted audience that sees you as a thought leader in a specific field. "Becoming known is about approaching your digital life with an intent that establishes the authority, reputation, and audience to achieve your goals."
This book gives its readers a step-by-step plan to become known – a path that has been followed by the most successful people in diverse careers from banking to education to real estate. The book engages its readers via numerous examples, case studies, and exercises.
My favorite quote #1: "Being known is not the same as being famous. It’s not about having millions of fans and red carpet appearances. Being known is about having the proper authority, reputation, and audience to realize your potential and achieve your goals"
My favorite quote #2: "Failing to find a meaningful, uncontested space is the primary reason people fail in their effort to become known."
How to create products and services customers want - it's all on the cover.
A quick summary: This is a must-read book for every consultant. Way too often, consultants are focused on their skills-based offering: this is what I/we can do for you (and I am the best!).
This is exactly the opposite of what Osterwalden & team are teaching in the book: your consulting offering should be problem-resolution-focused instead of skill- or activity-focused.
The core of this book: What is the output of the transformation you are delivering for the client?
The book lays out an all-inclusive approach for identifying what your potential clients value and explore how best to deliver it in a way that meets their expectations. Top book, beautifully illustrated!
My favorite quote #1: "Relentlessly test the most important hypotheses underlying your business ideas in order to reduce the risk of failure. This will allow you to pursue big bold ideas without having to break the bank."
My favorite quote #2: "Remarkable value propositions focus on jobs, pains, and gains that matter to customers and achieve those exceedingly well."
This book describes the steps – or proclamations – that owners of professional service businesses can take to distance themselves from their competition and regain the high ground in their client relationships.
A quick summary: Here's a bold statement: if you wouldn't read this book as a consultant, there will be a gap in your expertise! I am 100% sure this book will change the way you do business as a consultant.
As consultants we are all familiar with 'The Pitch'. In this book, Blair Enns shares the problems associated with what he calls 'the traditional way consultants pitch'.
And of course, he shows you how to eliminate those problems by...yes...ELIMINATING THE PITCH altogether! Fasten your seatbelts! His strategy is outlined in his '12 proclamations' of the Manifesto.
Guess what proclamation #1 is: specialize! I love that!
My favorite quote #1: "Expertise is the only valid basis for differentiating ourselves from the competition".
My favorite quote #2: "We must simply choose to take control, first by specializing and shifting the power back from the client towards us, and then we can begin to shape our future".
As the full title of the book clearly states, it offers an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones.
A quick summary: I am a big fan of James Clear’s writing (see also my newsletter #18 with some great business advice from James). He always addresses topics head-on and does not hesitate to give difficult advice.
His article, A Scientific Guide to Saying “No”: How to Avoid Temptation and Distraction, is something I recommend every consultant reads.
In this book, James Clear teaches how to create a system that will support the development of good habits, while eradicating the bad ones. It’s a complex topic, yet, Clear manages to explain it in such an organized and straight-forward fashion that it will reshape how you think about your daily life. Clear’s style is very relatable and easy-to-follow. An excellent read.
My favorite quote #1: "Habits are like the atoms of our lives. Each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement."
My favorite quote #2: "When attempting to change behavior, awareness is of utmost importance. You must be fully aware of the behavior and the habits that contribute to it"
The book invites you to take a look at your own interactions with people and assess your style. Are you a giver or a taker?
A quick summary: No wonder this book has received so much praise. The likes of The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and others raved about it.
Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and Wharton’s top-rated professor, examines the notion of success in the context of how we interact with one another.
There are givers and takers.
Takers tend to focus exclusively on their own self-interest and exploit others to achieve their personal goals. Givers, on the other hand, are those who feel accomplished when supporting others, sharing their own knowledge and expertise freely and generously.
My favorite quote #1: "The fear of being judged as weak or naive prevents many people from operating like givers at work."
My favorite quote #2: "If you're a self-sacrificing giver, you'll find plenty of insights for ascending from the bottom to the top of the success ladder...But if you do it only to succeed, it probably won't work."
Watch Adam's awesome TED presentation here...
If you are struggling with protecting yourself from saying Yes to everything, the Altuchers' book is a great starting point.
A quick summary: This book conveys my long-held belief that we should actively train ourselves to say ‘No’. It’s not always easy – in fact, as consultants it always feels like we’re going to disappoint our clients if we say those dreaded two letters.
However, as James and Claudia brilliantly explains in this book, learning to say ‘No’ at the right time (or, rather, to the wrong things) will give you back your power and save you time and trouble. It will give you a better understanding of yourself and those around you.
My favorite quote #1: "Being grateful is the bridge between the world of nightmares and the world where we are free to say no. It's the bridge between the world of delusions and the world of creativity."
My favorite quote #2: "Often you hear it's not about the end; it's about the journey. This is not true. It's not about the journey, and it never was. It's about right now. It's about choosing to be healthy in the four areas right now and saying no to everything that blocks that. Right now is the only place you'll ever be. Choose not to waste it."
"Follow your passion" is a terrible advice. It's dangerous and often leads to chronic job hopping. Becoming highly skilled at something – that's what will allow you to love what you do.
A quick summary: In this book, Cal Newport argues against passion. We are used to thinking that if we follow our passion, we will eventually succeed. Newport makes an interesting argument that first comes your work. Passion only comes after you put in the work and start excelling in it.
An interesting new perspective!
My favorite quote #1: "Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion."
My favorite quote #2: "When you look past the feel-good slogans and go deeper into the details of how passionate people like Steve Jobs really got started, or ask scientists about what actually predicts workplace happiness, the issue becomes much more complicated. You begin to find threads of nuances that, once pulled, unravel the tight certainty of the passion hypothesis, eventually leading to an unsettling recognition: "Follow your passion" might just be terrible advice."
We live in the world of endless tasks and endless distractions, with us, bouncing back and forth between the two all day long. The book explains how to break free of this pattern and focus on what matters.
A quick summary: Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky are the creators of Google Ventures' renowned ‘design sprint’.
They are the masters of organizing and managing time. This book is spot-on when it comes to the struggle that I witness many consultants experience – constantly being busy, overworked, and programmed to be reactive towards any and all incoming requests as if your life depends on it. Never achieving the 75/25 to grow their visibility and their consulting business.
As the authors explain, ”Make Time is not about crushing your to-do list, optimizing every hour, or maximizing personal productivity. It’s about rethinking the defaults of constant busyness and distraction so you can focus on what matters every day.”
My 3 biggest takeaways from Knapp and Zeratsky
What’s worse is, says the book, that the Busy Bandwagon and the Infinity Pools have joined forces to become a monster-like duo of time destroyers. The book really made me think about those moments, exhausted by the Bandwagon and the risk I start passively soaking up the Infinity Pools content.
My favorite quote #1: "The best tactics are the ones that fit into your day. They're not something you force yourself to do; they're just something you do. And in most cases, they'll be things you want to do."
My favorite quote #2: "Perfection is a distraction – another shiny object taking your attention away from your real priorities."
This book addresses a big problem many consultants face: generating a solid volume of relevant content.
A quick summary: In this book, Meera Kothand presents a fantastic guide to generating new content ideas, explains which types of content can deliver different kinds of results, introduces readers to the notion of a ‘brand voice’ and how you can develop one for yourself, and so much more.
I have learned many of the things Kothand explores in her book (and several other of her great books) through trial and error, through years of experience. So to read it all in a structured, easy-to-consume, logical order will certainly be a timesaver for consultants who want to get it right from the start.
My favorite quote #1: "The problem isn't that you have no content ideas, or you don't know what to create. The problem is that you don't have a system for coming up with content ideas".
My favorite quote #2: "Whatever your goals are, your content has to contribute to inching the reader forward in the direction of your end goal. And this is something that you may be sorely missing".
This book is your guide to creativity. But it’s definitely not another book on creativity!
A quick summary: Seth's latest book is another New York Times bestseller. What an inspiring read! I’ve sent it to all my clients as a Christmas gift.
Many believe that creativity is something one is born with. It’s something that’s exclusively the domain of artists, musicians, designers, etc. I believe – and that’s probably why I loved Godin’s book so much – that creativity is a skill. Like any skill, it needs to be nurtured and practiced. And, like any skill, it has applications in a variety of fields and professions.
My favorite quote #1: "Creativity doesn't repeat itself; it can't. But the creative journey still follows a pattern. It's a practice of growth and connection, of service and daring. It's also a practice of selflessness and ego in an endless dance."
My favorite quote #2: "Identity fuels action, and action creates habits, and habits are part of a practice, and a practice is the single best way to get to where you seek to go."
Do you want to master a new skill? Or deepen your overall craftsmanship? THIS is the book you read.
A quick summary: The central idea of the book: contrary to public opinion, deliberate practice and not talent is the key to becoming extraordinary.
Ericsson and Pool argue that there is no such thing as a “natural talent” and they present some pretty darn convincing evidence of that. There is only practice. The only shortcut is to practice in the right way. But you still need to put in the time and effort. You absolutely can improve in anything you desire. You can master a new skill.
These 3 keywords are guiding me in my work and life: (1) mental freedom, (2) impactful advice, and (3) mastery of my work.
This is how I find balance in my life and feel tremendously fulfilled in what I do. That’s probably why this book resonated with me so much.
For the past 12 years, I have (at an almost astronomic speed) established and cultivated radically new expertise and created new businesses far beyond my comfort zone.
My favorite quote #1: "Generally speaking, no matter what you're trying to do, you need feedback to identify exactly where and how you are falling short. Without feedback – either from yourself or from outside observers – you cannot figure out what you need to improve on or how close you are to achieving your goals."
My favorite quote #2: "Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress. Oh, and figure out a way to maintain your motivation."
"You can deliver exceptional services and have a long record of high ROI performance with a client and still not grow within the client organically. Why is that?" That's the question this book answers.
A quick summary: Tom McMakin is a fantastic author and expert. This is Tom's second book and it’s a sequel to the first book I summarized last year – How Clients Buy.
McMakin and Parks address a topic that is spot-on for the consultants - how do you expand your existing client relationships?
The book explains how to work with your clients in a way that continuously expands your projects and relationships with them, allowing you to grow your business without being completely dependent on recruiting new clients.
My favorite quote #1: "The world of business is not mechanical. It's a word where people are busy and distracted, but a world where, ever once in a while, we're able to step back with a friend and get some perspective on what we're doing."
My favorite quote #2: "The most straightforward way to grow within a client is to capitalize on previous good work with a buyer to do more of that same work for the same buyer."
We all fall into this trap of thinking and acting inside our own bubbles. These bubbles are defined by social media, our circle of friends and family, colleagues, etc.
A quick summary: Adam Grant sure knows how to write insightful, engaging, and thought-provoking books! I recommended another book of his in the 8th edition of my newsletter - ‘Give and Take’
In this phenomenal book, Grant makes a shrewd observation: we tend to favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt.
We indulge ourselves. We cherry pick which opinions we listen to and, almost always, they confirm our view of the world or opinion on matters. Disagreements are often seen as a threat to our ego rather than an opportunity to learn and grow.
Grant encourages his readers to assume a different mindset - a more productive, embracing way of thinking. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to let go of old beliefs and preconceived notions. Being truly open-minded means making room for the possibility that what you’ve learned may have to be unlearned.
I love this book because it makes me face this reality, and actively and consciously fight my own bubble, looking for knowledge and opinions from those I find myself, at first, disagreeing with.
My favorite quote #1: "Most of us take pride in our knowledge and expertise, and in staying true to our beliefs and opinions. That makes sense in a stable world, where we get rewarded for having conviction in our ideas. The problem is that we live in a rapidly changing world, where we need to spend as much time rethinking as we do thinking."
My favorite quote #2: "We all have blind spots in our knowledge and opinions. The bad news is that they can leave us blind to our blindness, which gives us false confidence in our judgment and prevents us from rethinking."
Recommended reading: I've been writing about Adam Grant's previous book 'Give and Take' in the context of 'The 2021 Trends in Consulting'. Have a look at Trend #9.
Hello, I’m Luk Smeyers and I’m guiding consultants through the journey of growing their business by helping them transform into visible authorities. I have been in consulting businesses for almost 20 years, in very different roles: as European CHRO in a global consultancy, as a startup founder in an analytics consultancy, and as a leader in a 'Big 4' consultancy, post-acquisition of the startup. I had the privilege of achieving global visibility as a consultant and I never had to sell, persuade, or negotiate as a result. I have now bundled all those experiences, expertise, know-how, research, reading, successes, struggles, and failures from managing and growing that visibility in the past years.
The Visible Authority is a brand of:
Luk Smeyers BVBA
Offices in Leuven (BE) and Munich (DE)