Book Recommendations

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The Leadership Challenge (sixth edition)

This should be the first leadership book in any professional’s library. states the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership(R)--the model that Jim and Barry derived from studying personal-best leadership experiences--continues to prove its validity as a clear, evidence-based path to achieving the extraordinary for individuals, teams, organizations, and communities. Real-life examples of the behaviors that all leaders at all levels demonstrate when they are at their personal best are provided, and the book clearly shows that leadership is not about personality; it's about an observable and learnable set of skills and abilities. The Leadership Challenge, Sixth Edition, turns the abstract concept of leadership into easy-to-grasp actions and behaviors that can be learned by anyone willing to step up and accept the challenge to lead.

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The Oz Principle

The Oz Principle defines personal accountability and how one can contribute to the success of an organization through their Steps to Accountability Model: See it; Own It; Solve It; Do It.

This is the first book of three and focuses discussion around the power of personal accountability. This book sets the foundation for the next book in the series, Change the Culture, Change the Game, which addresses how personal and organizational accountability can impact your organizational culture and ultimately help you effectively achieve your goals. The final book in the series is How did that happen? Holding People Accountable for the Results the Positive Principled Way.

While the book was written for the corporate sector, the concepts are easily adaptable for Higher Education and provide the opportunity for engaging discussions with your team.

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Change the Culture, Change the Game

ODE recommends Change the Culture, Change the Game (2012) by Connors and Smith. This book is perfect for any organization that is seeking to change their culture in order to get different results. This book demonstrates how to implement a culture of accountability within your organization. You'll discover how to help encourage a shift in thinking to get the game-changing results you want and explore the steps and tools needed to sustain such changes.

It easily applies to education and the concepts can be adopted by teams, departments or entire colleges who are seeking different results. For example, Lone Star College-University Park in Houston, TX utilized the concepts from this book in their effort to increase student graduation rates. Individual teams can also adopt the concepts from the book to increase engagement and personal accountability.

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How Did That Happen?

Holding People Accountable for Results the Positive, Principled Way

This book is the third and final book in the accountability series by Connors and Smith. “peels back the onion on achieving sustained accountability." -Jeff Brundage, senior vice president of human resources, American Airlines. In this book, the authors base their tools to increasing accountability on three basic axioms: “the accountability assumption,” “the accountability fallacy,” and “the accountability truth.”

Higher education is often hesitant to have discussions about accountability, However, the three books, beginning with the The Oz Principle followed by Change the Culture, Change the Game and now How Did it Happen, lead us to examine our organizational culture and help provide a framework for discussion, for example on topics like increasing graduation rates, alumni participation, and efficiency in student services.

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The Speed of Trust

Trust is the foundation that great teams are built on. Author, Stephen M. R. Covey, asserts that it is “the most overlooked, misunderstood, underutilized asset to enable performance. Its impact, for good or bad, is dramatic and pervasive. It’s something you can’t escape.”  However, the author also asserts that trust be gained, built, and rebuilt, thus giving hope that trust is something that can be worked on or improved upon in relationships and on teams.

ODE recommends “The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything” by Stephen M. R. Covey. The author takes a practical look at how trust develops and/or is destroyed. He provides a guide to help individuals address their personal trust issues and work toward building stronger relationships. Without trust, healthy teams cannot develop and flourish.

ODE recommends that groups or teams read this book and discuss as a unit.  Through honest discussion on the topic of trust, greater relationships can be developed. Contact ODE for discussion questions if your team would like to read this book.  You can contact us at

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The Busy Leader’s Handbook: How to Lead People and Places that Thrive

By Quint Studer

“Being a great leader means getting the fundamentals right. It also means consistently doing the “little things” that make a positive difference in the lives of employees, customers, and other stakeholders. This is a practical, easy-to-use book filled with gentle reminders of what we should be doing every day—especially when work is at its most intense. The Handbook is packed with proven best practices, tools, tips, and tactics for engaging employees, revitalizing cultures, delighting customers, and building high-performance companies. Short, succinct, and accessible, each chapter is “stand-alone,” offering helpful advice for meeting common business challenges. Plus, the strategies, approaches, and tactics are designed to be put into action immediately.”
This book is a great tool for developing new leaders in your department. The chapters are short and direct, perfect for any team who wants to develop and grow, but is short on time and resources. We recommend reading one chapter at a time, discussing how the information is relevant to your department, and implementing small immediate actions to bring about improvement. 

Recommended by:
Susan Nichols, Ph.D, BCBA-D
Interim Executive Director
UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center    

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

White Fragility

“The author, an academic who has been involved in anti-racism training, writes about the ways in which whites absolve themselves from improving racism in our society by using defensive strategies that allow them to maintain the status quo. These strategies include statements, beliefs, and assumptions that the author groups under the term "white fragility." She shows the reader what these assumptions are and how to change these assumptions to tackle racism more effectively.”

White Fragility Summary & Study Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2020, from

ODE encourages departments and teams to read this book to provide structure around the discussion of becoming an Anti-Racist.  There are many discussion guides available online if you google “White Fragility Book Discussion Guides.”  By UNT System employees becoming Anti-Racists, they ultimately contribute to a more just and inclusive community.

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Crucial Conversations

Tools for talking when stakes are high

Difficult conversations occur in our professional lives as well as our personal lives. How we communicate during those conversations is critical to getting the message across as well as being heard. This book provides tools to more effectively communicate during difficult conversations.


Crucial Conversations gives you the tools you need to step up to life's most difficult and important conversations, say what's on your mind, and achieve the positive resolutions you want. You'll learn how to:

  • Prepare for high-impact situations with a six-minute mastery technique
  • Make it safe to talk about almost anything
  • Be persuasive, not abrasive
  • Keep listening when others blow up or clam up
  • Turn crucial conversations into the action and results you want
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The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

As we think about increasing engagement within our teams, we must put a strong emphasis on motivating our employees which can be a difficult task. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace can give you insight into individually recognizing your employees, thus contributing to a more engaged workforce.

At work, people express and receive appreciation in different ways. If you try to express appreciation in ways that aren’t meaningful to your co-workers, they may not feel valued at all. This is because you and your co-workers are speaking different languages. In, Dr. Chapman and Dr. White will help you identify the five languages of appreciation in order to:

  1. Express genuine appreciation to co-workers and staff — even on a tight budget.
  2. Increase loyalty with the employees and volunteers in your organization.
  3. Reduce cynicism and create a more positive work environment.
  4. Improve your ability to show appreciation for difficult colleagues.
  5. Convey the language of physical touch in appropriate ways.
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Leaders Open Doors

By Bill Treasurer
“‘I got to open doors for people!’ These seven simple words, spoken by author Bill Treasurer's five-year-old son, cut straight to what matters most about leadership: True leaders open doors for people”.
This book is a game changer. I have used it in leadership development programs and within my own leadership journey. Its simplistic approach to leadership focuses on what really matters. He dives head first into the concept that leaders perceive problems as opportunities and empower those they lead by finding and opening doors to those opportunities. Throughout the text, Treasurer uses stories and examples from his research and career to drive critical leadership points home.
It is also a very easy read. Short, to the point, and full of reflective activities to help me internalize the learning. Anyone, at any point on their leadership journey, will benefit from this book. 
As an added bonus, 100% of the royalties from the sales of his book are donated to organizations that open doors for people with special needs. 
Recommended by: 
Amanda Fisher, M.S., CTP
Senior Learning & Development Specialist
Organizational Development & Engagement (ODE)
UNT System HR

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The Anywhere Leader

How to Lead and Succeed in Any Business Environment

By Mike Thompson
This is a good read for today’s leaders who want to succeed in their roles despite the rapidly changing environment and the many surprising challenges that those changes can bring. The author Mike Thomson, is the CEO of a successful organizational development company who has helped many clients, such as, Walmart and Tyson, move forward successfully while overcoming adversities. 
This book is expertly written as an easy read so that even aspiring leaders can relate. Many of the lessons in this book are from Mike Thompson’s personal experiences with failure. This book consists of a transparent dialogue allowing the reader to take a realistic view of how they are leading (or want to lead) in today’s unstable work environment. 
The concepts discussed in this book can be adopted and applied in the education work world because leadership traits, such as adaptability, inclusiveness, discernment are applicable to every industry. In conclusion readers will finish this book having acquired more insight on how to be a more driven, receptive, and resourceful leader.
Recommended by: 
Paula Bearden, M.A.
Organizational Development Consultant & Employee Engagement Specialist
Organizational Development & Engagement (ODE)

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How Full is Your Bucket

ODE recommends the #1 New York Times and #1 Businessweek bestseller, How Full is Your Bucket.  The book by authors Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton is produced from Gallup and focuses on positive psychology. The metaphor for filling someone’s bucket is used to illustrate how we can “fill your bucket” by making you more positive or “dipping from your bucket” by leaving you more negative than before.

The book shows you how to increase positive moments in your personal or professional life. Employees and Supervisors can both benefit from this book. Employees can reflect on how they can bring positivity to their team or department by “filling other’s buckets.” Supervisors can increase engagement through “filling the buckets” of their employees.  Supervisors can benefit from this book by learning how to focus more on encouraging and motivating their employees.  Reading the book as a team can create awareness of bringing positivity and motivation to workplace.

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Dare to Lead

Dr. Brene Brown has studied vulnerability and leadership for over 20 years. Her research has led to Dare to Lead. The three main lessons from the book are:

  1. To be a daring leader, you need to be vulnerable
  2. Being transparent with your team creates respect
  3. Sharing values builds trust throughout a team

Higher education staff and faculty can benefit from learning from Dr. Brown by being more vulnerable and transparent with our teams and departments while building trust through shared values.

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The Big Book of Team Building Games

By John Newstrom & Edward Scannell

While ODE is always available to facilitate teambuilding for any department, there are times when you might want to do it in house. The Big Book of Team Building Games by John Newstrom and Edward Scannell is sure to inspire you to motivate your team through team-building games. The games are organized by a theme for each chapter. It is divided into 12 chapters with these themes (pack with activities to support the theme):

•    Ice Breakers: Getting to Know Each Other Better
•    Who Are We? Creating Team Identity
•    What can Teamwork achieve? Demonstrating Its Value
•    Who Can We Trust? Building Mutual Support
•    How Should We Proceed? Setting Team Goals and Norms
•    How Are We Doing? Improving Teamwork
•    How Can We Stretch Our Minds? Problem-Solving and Creativity Games
•    Can We Get Along Better? Learning to Communicate and Cooperate
•    Can We Work Together? Energizing Team Members
•    What Lies Ahead? Coping with Change
•    How Can We Have More Fun? Talking Time  to Play
•    How Can We Build Self-Esteem? Affirming Ourselves Through Games

This book can be a great source to build team spirit, communication, and trust by choosing one of 70 activities.  If you enjoy this title, you might enjoy another book from the series such as The Big Book of Team Motivating Games, The Big Book of Virtual Team Building Games, and The Big Book of Leadership Games. 

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Multicultural Relations on Campus: A Personal Growth Approach

By Woodrow M. Parker

This is a great workbook for individuals looking for activities to promote personal growth around diversity awareness.  It is especially geared to student affairs practitioners.  The author covers such topics as Stereotyping, Developing Sensitivity, Identity Development, Multicultural Communication, and finally Multicultural Action Planning.  With each topic, the author explains the associated theories or issues and then offers supporting activities to promote individual growth. In addition to those in the student affairs field, supervisors, trainers, faculty, and diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioners can utilize this book and the exercises and activities in it to promote a better understanding of diversity and identity development, and increase awareness around diverse perspectives. For example, in chapter 3 on stereotyping, the author discusses the stereotyping process, ethnocentrism, and overcoming stereotyping. He then provides activities designed to encourage participants to identify and discuss campus stereotypes. As we work to become more inclusive at UNT System, this book provides a workbook-style guide to help build individual awareness around topics that can sometimes be uncomfortable to discuss. allows you to take a look at the chapters in the book to gain a better sense of what is covered within it.

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1001 Ways to Engage Employees

Help People Do Better What They Do Best
By Bob Nelson, PhD
Engagement is more than just a survey that we take once a year at UNT System. Engaging employees is an action or process that is intentional. Bob Nelson, author of best-seller 1501 Ways to Reward Employees, has now written 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees: Help People Do Better What They Do Best. 

1,001 Ways to Engage Employees:
•    Categorizes specific research-based factors proven to impact employee engagement.
•    Cites hundreds of examples of what other companies are doing to enhance employee engagement—ideas you can use right now.
•    Offers practical insights and advice from hundreds of clients Dr. Bob has worked with.
•    Highlights the key research on employee engagement you need to know and use.

This book can be utilized to generate ideas around supporting engagement on teams. This book supplements the work ODE has done around the Gallup Engagement survey and provides additional insights as we strive to be a “Best Place to Work