I’ve put together my top list of the best books on collaboration, with a few communication skills books thrown in too. These are the books that I turn to time and time again.
They are perfect for anyone working in a project environment, but if you are managing teams of any kind you’ll find something useful in here.
I’ve met managers who think that project teams communicate and collaborate by default. Erm, sorry, that’s not right. Collaboration by default certainly hasn’t been the case for all the teams I have worked on.
Don’t assume your project team will know how (or even want to) communicate well and collaborate with each other. This reading list of collaboration books has got some great pointers on the skills, process and experience of engaging people and working together, whether your job is to lead or to follow.
1. Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers
Anthony Mersino: Amacom (2nd Ed). ISBN: 9780814432785
Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers is the book I wish I had written. It centers on the fact that even with the best project management skills in the world, projects still fail without good people management skills.
The author includes practical tools and self-assessments, and I felt it was well-structured with a focus on being able to improve your skills.
I read it a while ago and I still refer to it now. It’s also a book I find myself frequently recommending.
2. Communicating Projects
Ann Pilkington: Routledge. ISBN: 9781472408327
Communicating Projects is a process driven book that fully explains the processes of communicating formally on projects. There is a short section on using social communication tools.
This book on the list is the most aligned to the project management lifecycle, covering the most appropriate approaches to use at various times through the project depending on the stage you are at.
Routledge took over Gower and their back catalogue of excellent project management books; this one is a favorite.
3. Results Without Authority
Tom Kendrick, Amacom (2nd Ed). ISBN: 9780814417812
Now that command and control is recognized as an ineffective way of managing projects, project managers need alternatives that work when they don’t have authority over the team.
In Results Without Authority the author includes examples from his own experience which demonstrate the techniques of getting project work done through others without direct authority. Very useful and highly recommended.
Being able to influence and get results, even when you aren’t in charge, is so important if you want to collaborate effectively with the team. This is one of my personal best books on collaboration.
4. 42 Rules of Employee Engagement
Susan Stamm: Superstar Press (2nd Ed). ISBN: 9780979942884
A short book that includes 42 short ways that you can engage others and communicate more effectively. 42 Rules of Employee Engagement is not rocket science but sometimes we need a reminder about what it takes it work well with others.
This would be a good book for people new to the workforce or taking a team leadership job for the very first time.
5. Business Networking: The Survival Guide
Will Kintish: Pearson. ISBN: 9781292009377
Business Networking follows the story of Brian and his journey into business networking.
I’m not a great fan of business ‘stories’ but it’s a fast read and if you aren’t confident networking in and out of your organization, then it’s a good introduction.
It also makes the point that networking is what your manager expects you to be doing – it’s no longer a nice-to-have element that sets you out from the crowd, it’s your job.
Networking skills might seem strange to include in a list of books about collaboration on teams, but actually being able to build a professional network is a key criteria for being able to influence and demonstrate credibility — all important for helping people work together.
6. Conflict 101
Susan H. Shearouse: Amacom. ISBN: 9780814417126
This book reminds us that conflict on teams is inevitable. The aim of Conflict 101 is to help you manage conflict more effectively by managing it at a lower level. It includes lots of stories to illustrate the points and it’s easy to read. In fact, it instantly made me feel better about my bad day when I started reading in on the Tube.
When people work together, you get clashes. It’s normal, and often leads to breakthroughs that help everyone move forward more effectively. But navigating the conflict takes skill — this book will give you the tools you need for your toolkit.
You can hear Susan talking about her book and conflict resolution on this AMANET podcast.
7. Collaboration Explained: Facilitation Skills for Software Project Leaders
Jean Tabaka: Addison Wesley. ISBN: 9780321630056
Many books talk about how important collaboration is but Collaboration Explained is a pragmatic and practical book about collaboration that actually shows you how to do it. I thought there were lots of techniques in here that I could use.
This is an old book now, but it’s still one I refer to because I like how it breaks down the different ways we can facilitate conversations. There are plenty of practical tips and even if you think you know nothing, you’ll put this one down feeling like you’ve gained a whole toolbox of stuff to help your team work together.
8. Shine: How to Survive and Thrive at Work
Chris Baréz-Brown: Penguin. ISBN: 9781101565810
Shine is an upbeat, pep talk of a book so if you aren’t in the mood to be told how to do more and be more, then put this aside until you are in the right mood.
There are lots of sound bites too, many of which will help you work effectively with others, including making sure you have the information required to be useful and impress others on your projects.
9. Confessions of a Public Speaker
Scott Berkun: O’Reilly Media. ISBN: 9781449388706
Project managers often hide behind their desks or laptops but if you agree that they should be out there, talking about projects then Confessions of a Public Speaker will help you develop the confidence and practical skills to deliver formal presentations, regardless of the size of audience.
Lots of real-world advice on coping strategies, focusing really around thinking through what you are going to say and making it relevant.
Collaboration isn’t just about small meetings: you also need to be able to eloquently express yourself in front of big groups, and I know from my mentoring work that so many project managers struggle with that.
10. Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters – Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work
Larry & Meagan Johnson: Amacom. ISBN: 9780814415764
If you are working with different generations, Generations, Inc. is a good book to help unpick the challenges of collaborating in a multi-generational workplace.
Heavily U.S. specific, nevertheless there are some interesting insights that can be applied to working effectively with project teams in the UK and around the world. A good guide to office politics, too.
Many collaboration books take the approach that you need one set of tools and you need to apply them intelligently based on your situation. This book tells you what might work best in what situations so you can better inform yourself and make the right choice.
You’ll still need to use your professional judgement — obviously — but why not get a few clues?
11. Strategies for Project Sponsorship
Peter Taylor, Ron Rosenhead & Vicki James: Management Concepts. ISBN: 9781567264074
One of your main points for communication and collaboration is with the project sponsor. Strategies for Project Sponsorship will help you communicate and work effectively with them, regardless of their experience at sponsoring projects.
There is plenty of practical advice for new sponsors as well, so you could pass your copy on to them, if you think they would read it!
12. Communication Skills for Project and Programme Managers
Melanie Franklin & Susan Tuttle: Stationery Office. ISBN: 9780113310814
This is probably the most basic, introductory guide on the list, so if everything else looks too in-depth, start with this one. Communication Skills for Project and Programme Managers is tailored to PRINCE2 project environments.
It’s a short book that will help you brush up on the basics and it covers how to communicate and what to communicate when on a project. It’s also very expensive for the amount of pages, so see if you can get your PMO to invest in it!