Here at Breathe we have a company culture that we’re proud of; we believe that a good one is absolutely crucial to employee retention, productivity and, ultimately, business success.
And we’re on a mission to spread the word: Last year we launched The Culture Pledge initiative, produced an in-depth report on how bad company culture is costing the UK economy billions of pounds and highlighted the businesses that are doing it right by identifying the UK’s Top 25 Culture Leaders.
But changing your culture can seem like a daunting task… where do you start? How can you get your people more engaged and productive? What should your top priorities be and how have business leaders tackled it in the past?
As a nod to World Book Day, we’ve compiled our favourite company culture reads that answer these burning questions (and many more) and that we think you should get your hands on if the culture of your business is number one on your priorities list.
Top 10 company culture books
- ‘Superengaged’ by Nicki Gattenby
- ‘Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility’ by Patty McCord
- ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek
- ‘Delivering Happiness’ by Tony Hsieh
- ‘Creativity, Inc.’ by Ed Catmull
- ‘Good To Great’ by Jim Collins
- ‘Principles: Life and Work’ by Ray Dalio
- ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ by Daniel H. Pink
- ‘Time To Think’ by Nancy Kline
- ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable’ by Patrick Lencioni
Now let's do some digging into the areas each of these titles explore.
Our top 10 choices in detail
Superengaged - Nicki Gattenby
In #1 Best Seller Superengaged, Managing Director of Propellernet Nicki Gattenby discusses what being people-focused can do for your business along with the ‘value of having values’. Superengaged is filled to the brim with top tips, advice and guidance when it comes to engaging your employees and living your values while increasing your revenue and driving your business forward. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an HR director or a CEO, this is a must-read.
Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility – Patty McCord
Named by The Washington Post as one of the 11 Leadership Books to Read in 2018, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility sees McCord talk about her time as Chief Talent Officer at Netflix and how she helped create a unique and high-performing culture at the tech-giant. McCord shares her learnings, such as saying ‘goodbye’ to employees who don’t fit the company’s needs and motivating employees with challenges rather than perks and bonus plans. Powerful promises to change how you think about work and the way a business should be run.
Start With Why – Simon Sinek
In Start With Why, Sinek looks at infamous leaders such as Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King Jr and discovers a common thought process amongst all of them: they all began with the question ‘why?’.
Sinek explains what businesses need to do to move past knowing what they need to do to succeed and how they’re going to do it, and encourages them to ask themselves why they’re doing it.
Most importantly, Sinek explains that leading an inspirational business is easier than you might think, and anyone can learn how to do it.
Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh
Would you pay brand new employees money to quit their job? Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh did, and now his business is turning over $1 billion annually in gross merchandise sales. He also focusses on company culture as the #1 business priority and dedicates time to growing his people both personally and professionally.
In Delivering Happiness, Hsieh shares his learnings during his entrepreneurial career, from running a worm farm right through to his great success at Zappos and explains how this type of company culture is crucial for business success.
Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull
Ed Catmull started off as a young man whose ambition was to make the world’s first computer-animated movie. After pursuing his dream and studying a Ph.D. at a specialist university, Catmull eventually founded Pixar with Steve Jobs and Jon Lasseter in 1986. This lead to his dream of changing animation being fulfilled, with Toy Story being released nine years later.
Creativity, Inc. is a must-read for managers who strive for originality in their leadership and want to build and maintain a positive, creative culture amongst their team (and if you’re fan of the Disney Pixar classics!).
Good To Great – Jim Collins
Your company culture is good and things are ticking along, but how do you take it to the next level and create a culture that you and your employees are really, genuinely super-proud of?
In Good To Great, Collins explains that ‘good to great’ really can and does happen and explains the different underlying factors that need to be considered for a business to take their culture up that extra notch. The book is based on a five-year research project he carried out, and you’ll be surprised (or maybe even shocked) by his findings.
A fast-paced and very engaging read that any manager will love.
Principles: Life and Work – Ray Dalio
Ray Dalio is one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs. He founded his business, Bridgewater Associates in 1975 in his two-bedroom New York apartment, and forty years on the business is the fifth most important private company in the US and Dalio has been named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Times magazine.
In Principles, Dalio shares the unique principles that he adhered to throughout his journey and that he believes were the backbone to his extraordinary success.
And, If you don’t quite have time to read the whole thing, Dalio has condensed his thoughts into an 8 episode animated series which you can watch here.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink
New York Times bestseller, Drive is a thought provoking insight into what truly motivates leaders. More often than not we believe that the best way to motivate ourselves is with materialistic rewards, such as money. However, in Drive Pink explains that the secret to high performance at work (and in life too) is quite the opposite. He delves into 40 years of scientific research on human behaviours and what motivates us and shares the three elements of true motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Drive promises to change how you think towards motivating yourself and others and is full of fantastic ideas.
Time To Think – Nancy Kline
Written by Founder and President of The Thinking Environment, Nancy Kline, Time To Think explains how the power of effective listening makes for great management. The book includes a step-by-step guide that can help you achieve this, and offers a wealth of advice that can be applied to many situations.
If you’re looking to boost productivity and build stronger relationships with your team, this book is one to get hold of.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Patrick Lencioni
Patrick Lencioni is well known for his storytelling methods – and this time he turns his focus to the concept of teams in the workplace. The main subject in the book is Kathryn Petersen, Decision Tech’s CEO, who finds herself in a very tricky predicament with a team that could cost the company dearly. Throughout the story, revealed are five dysfunctions which drill down into the reasons why even the best teams face their struggles at times – and how to overcome these hurdles.
This book is a really gripping story that reminds us of the importance of courage in leadership and provides some really valuable advice in building a strong, effective team.