2021 PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT READING LIST

STOICS + CLASSICS

PERSONAL + INSPIRATION

PRACTICAL + EXECUTION

 

MY WRITING

I hope you enjoy reading some of my articles below. Themes range from personal growth to leadership lessons to business frameworks, but all are based in what I've learned over the years and what I learn with my clients each week.

Check out more of my writing on Medium @jasonrwaller, where I'm a top writer in Leadership.

 
Search

How to Read Body Language, According to an Intelligence Officer

I spent the last half of my military career as an intelligence officer. No, I wasn’t doing anything you’d see in the movies (although I guess that depends on the movie). Most of my work was in analysis and data. That said, human intelligence was always a factor. On deployment, I could meet with a few dozen individuals a day. Knowing what to look for and how to read someone — especially across different cultures and with an interpreter between you — was critical. In this artic

How to Delegate Like a Boss

Last week, a client asked me, “How can I delegate more effectively?” It made sense that she wanted to dig deeper into this. Delegation is a superpower for leaders — it’s one of the most powerful ways to scale yourself and your impact. I strongly believe: great leaders delegate better than average leaders. Part of this is causality, though. If you don’t delegate, you’re probably going to burn yourself out as an average leader and never finish the journey to becoming a great le

4 Ways to Manage Change With the McKinsey Influence Model

How can leaders and founders get their teams on board with a big pivot? How do we think about influencing others and creating change in a group? Why do some changes stick, while others fall apart almost immediately? As a consultant at McKinsey & Company, one of the earliest frameworks we learned was called the influence model. It’s a great way to think through how to actually create sustainable change in an organization. See this recent McKinsey article on the influence model

How to Build Psychological Safety (and High Performance) in Your Team

The research is clear and compelling: psychological safety is one of the most important factors in developing high-performing teams. There is no shortage of articles, podcasts, and TED Talks to drive home the value of psychological safety, what I call team trust. But how do we get more of it into our teams on a day-to-day basis? Here, I outline some of the things I’ve learned (sometimes through failure) about what diminishes and what develops team trust. This isn’t a how-to g

A 60-Second Breathing Technique to Calm Way, Way Down

There’s a beautifully simple, yet powerful breathing technique I want to talk about called the 4x4 breath. Chances are you’ve come across it. There are a lot of names for the same thing. Box breathing, square breathing, four-count breathing, tactical breathing, four-kata breath. The Navy SEALs get a lot of credit for developing this, but as ex-Army I’ll never admit it. How did one breathing technique get so much attention? I mean, I breathe every day, what’s the fuss? Well, e

Deciding to Hire if You’re a Small Startup

In the last few weeks, I’ve had a steady uptick in conversations related to small startups and their hiring decisions. Some want to put the hiring on pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some see this as an opportunity to grab the best talent. In either case, the questions are the same: who do I need and when and where should I start looking? There’s no playbook, unfortunately. Every startup is built from a different set of people. Every startup has a different market and

Communicate Like an Executive with a Top-Down Storyline

What I’m sharing is an incredibly simple approach, but also a powerful one. It’s how I was taught to speak as a consultant because it’s one of the most reliable ways to communicate information. It’s also the way great executives talk and think. Note that I didn’t say “best way” to communicate. There are a lot of effective ways to impart knowledge to someone or debate a point. This is just a way that I’ve found to be the most effective in most situations. At McKinsey, we calle

A Beautiful Approach to Making Difficult Decisions

How do you make difficult decisions? Benchmarks, experts, experiments? Do you tailor your approach or see what sticks? In reality, it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Different situations benefit from different approaches. And one way to really clarify this is through the Cynefin framework. What it is The Cynefin (pronounced kuh-NEV-in) framework offers a way to think about the problems and decisions in a very helpful way. It’s changed how I think about everything from human

Do You Need an Executive Coach? Read This

Who needs a coach? What does coaching look like? How does it work, or does it work at all? This article is for people who might want a coach, people who have coaches, and people just curious about the craft. The coaching industry is booming. Depending on how you categorize the service of coaching, its total market size is anywhere from $2B to $15B. The International Coach Federation estimates that coaching in North America alone grew 35% from 2011 to 2015 (updated study numbe

Be a Master People Developer with This One Question

How do we develop your people, our most important assets? How do we know that we’re growing them in the best possible way? Where are we giving them opportunities to stretch and be stretched? Whenever my coaching conversations turn to people development, I’m always curious about their tactics. How do my clients know the right approach to take with a given individual? Is it the same approach, just personalized? Or is it always the same approach? When it comes to growing people,

How Founders Should Start Thinking About High-Performing Teams

There’s a difference between okay teams, good teams, and high-performing teams, but most startup leaders have trouble telling them apart. Sometimes, leaders are too close to their own people to really take stock. Sometimes, the nuance is just too unclear. What is clear, though, is that high-performing teams are critical to success. High-performing teams are associated with a stronger culture, higher profitability, and lower risk. In the book Leading Organizations: Ten Timeles

Five-Step Approach to Giving Powerful Feedback

“Feedback is a gift” I’ve only met four people who are truly amazing at giving feedback. Most of us find the process awkward and forced. Sometimes, it can feel pointless. Which is a damn shame, because feedback is more than just a “gift.” It’s one of the most powerful gifts you can give anyone. I spent years in my last job deep in a feedback culture. Along the way, picked up a process that really helped me hone how I give feedback. I’ll share it below, with what I learned fro

How Founders Can Build Extraordinary Leadership Through Vulnerability

Core ideas: Courage is the main ingredient of vulnerability Vulnerability is the foundation of trust Trust is the foundation of distinctive teams and leaders Vulnerability is a skill, and any skill gets better with practice I recently had the honor of facilitating an executive leadership program in my hometown of Seattle. It was amazing to bring dozens of area executives together under the banner of personal growth and leadership development, but more amazing still was the fo

What I Learned About Leadership at an Open Mic

It was a Tuesday evening when I arrived at the coffee shop in Dallas. The coffee shop was more like a fusion of a café and bar, and as the night moved on the space became more bar and less café. I had my cheap rental guitar with me, in its case. It wasn’t the best instrument. I was in Dallas for work, so it was either try to bring a guitar from home or figure it out when I got there. I chose the lazier option. Although the guitar sounded okay, it was harder to fret than what