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7 Must-Read Books For Packaging Executives

The best books on recruiting and managing top talent address the common struggles that every industry faces - including packaging. Although these books have different core elements, the common theme is the relationship between good management theory and strong organizational growth. Here are a few you'll want to read.

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: John C. Maxwell

A primer on how leadership is learned and not necessarily inherited. Maxwell explains one of the main elements of strong leadership is earning the trust and respect of those you lead. For packaging firms, this means being:

  • Honest and open in your communications 
  • Treating your employees equally and fairly at all times 
  • Using good judgment in dealing with others and their concerns. 

Maxwell says it’s tempting to “bend the rules”, but that only leads to problems down the road. He goes on to say that earning trust is a continuous process and you can never take for granted what’s already been earned.

The only way to sustain this level of respect is to keep putting yourself out there and leading from the front. A similar concept to how military commanders operate.

Lastly, the author demands never considering anything less than victory. Plan B’s and “maybe next times” are not valid options for true leaders.

The E-Myth Revisited: Michael Gerber

A classic recruiting book that embodies the concept of working on your business instead of in it. Gerber explains that being technically proficient at a skill does not equate to becoming a good business owner. Because it’s counterproductive to focus solely on a single area or business function while neglecting the rest.

Instead, Gerber advocates maximizing your operational efficiency while documenting each process along the way. Creating sound operating manuals removes you from the equation and allows employees to take ownership and work independently.  

This, says the author, is the foundation of building a business that grows on its own without you having to do all the heavy lifting.

The E-Myth also emphasizes the importance of recognizing “soft” systems as well. Like how you treat your employees, the benefits and growth opportunities you provide, and the ways you earn (and keep) brand loyalty.

The One Minute Manager: Blanchard/Johnson

The premise here is incorporating three simple tools to improve your managerial style and influence. As you might have guessed, each of the three concepts takes no more than 60 seconds each to implement. However, when done properly, these actions can have long-lasting effects.

Step one involves goal setting for employees. No more than three to six per year - describing each in 250 words or less. This kind of brevity makes it easier for employees to understand their responsibilities and for management to assess their progress.

Step two is implementing swift (but authentic) praise when employees perform well. The authors explain that management often fails to recognize employee contributions beyond formal reviews. This stopgap avoids the problem and keeps employees motivated to do more.

The final step covers how to deliver negative feedback or criticism. Again, completing the process is a minute or less. The key is to address problems immediately after they occur, in specific terms, but with an element of praise included as well.

Tell them what they did wrong, how to fix it, but without crushing their ego in the process.

The Effective Executive: Peter Drucker

The Effective Executive examines some of the most important aspects of what it means to be a great leader. The book’s seven chapters cover everything from decision making and time management to understanding (and applying) your biggest strengths. All highly-relevant topics to modern packaging firms.

Drucker explains that great decisions are rooted in doing what is right vs. what is acceptable. Because without knowing the difference between the two you’ll compromise in the wrong areas. He also notes that continuous feedback and adjustment is as important as the decision itself.

Peter deep-dives into the subject of time management calling out some of the biggest sinkholes of this limited resource. Like not knowing how your time is being spent in the first place. Or squandering its impact because of poor organizational structure or too many unproductive tasks.

This information, along with his explanation of the five element decision-making process, is a worthwhile read for anyone looking to hire packaging executives.

How to Win Friends and Influence People: Dale Carnegie

A pillar in the personal development and leadership space, How to Win Friends and Influence People is the quintessential guidebook on effective communication and working with others.

For starters, Carnegie talks about always coming from a place of authenticity and putting your best foot forward in every interaction. Take the basic expression of smiling, for example. The author explains how smiling when you speak - even on the phone - makes others more receptive to your message and helps to build rapport.

He also astutely describes how everyone has one subject in common they love to talk about - themselves. Carnegie says that allowing others to dominate the conversation with their own stories and accomplishments makes them happy (and you more likable).

Finally, the book examines the concept of positioning yourself for the easy “yes”. Instead of blatantly barking out orders or trying to convince everyone your solution is the best, let them arrive at that decision on their own.

How? By asking questions to understand their point of view, steering them toward your desired conclusion, then offering praise afterward for their actions.

More than just a business book, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a manual for everyday life.

How Successful People Lead: John C. Maxwell

Another great recruiting book, How Successful People Lead describes the five different “levels” of leadership one passes through on the journey to mastery. Each step focusing not only on the leader but how they interact with those around them.

Level one is position - mainly a placeholder where others follow you because they have to. Typically, because you're the boss and that’s just the way it is.

Level two is permission - where others follow you because they want to. By way of building personal relationships with them and earning their trust and respect.

Level three is known as production - earning loyalty because of what you do for your organization. Improving morale, profits, or the overall direction of the business.

Level four is people development - like level two, people development is centered on helping others improve themselves or their position within the organization.

Level five is the pinnacle - others follow you because of who you are and what you have become. You represent an ideal that others aspire to, so following you becomes the natural choice.

Maxwell notes these five steps are not standalone units, but combinations of the levels above and below them. All of which must be continually cultivated over time.

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People: Stephen Covey

Another stalwart in your personal development tool chest. This classic describes how to achieve meaningful long-term goals vs. wasting time on minutiae. There are so many great ideas in this book, but here are a few of the most popular.

Starting with the end in mind - Covey talks about creating your own personal mission statement to help guide your daily activities. He says clearly defining what you want to accomplish, and eventually be remembered for, becomes the guiding compass of your life. And that all decisions should be filtered through this lens.

He also talks about the liberating power of saying “no” to opportunities that move you away from your goals vs bringing them closer. Covey explains that the best way to avoid the guilt associated with saying no is by cultivating a stronger internal fire of yes.

Which, again, points back to being clear about what you want in the first place.

Mr. Covey also covers in detail the practice of “seeking first to understand, then be understood.” Meaning, that you should always listen and empathize with others before offering advice or guidance. This practice earns the other parties trust and allows you to provide better and more specific suggestions to their problems.

Conclusion

Although finding and keeping the best packaging talent is never easy, there are ways to streamline the process. Reading (and learning) from seasoned business experts is one of the best ways to go about it. Not only to help with hiring and retention but to increase your managerial skills as well.

And while each of these books has a slightly different focus, all agree on three main points. Set the example, put others first, and never stop learning or growing.

Now that’s good advice for anybody.

What are some of your favorite business books? 

Leave a comment below and let us know!

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