Home » APEX Leadership Coaching Blog » Featured

Category: Featured

37 of the Best Business Books I Read in 2017

I love to read! Ever since I was a little kid with the flashlight under the covers “reading” my Dr. Seuss Green Eggs & Ham, I have been fascinated by words and pictures. Even now when I read, there’s a movie going on in my head! So, here are a few of the movie-in-your-head inducing business books I enjoyed reading this year (going backwards from most recent).

  • Lead with a Story by Paul Smith – over 100 stories to help with 21 of leaders toughest challenges (note, this and the Steal the Show book by Michael Port that I’m about to wrap up 2017 with are both from the new LeaderBox series – check it out!)
  • The 12 Week Year by Brian P Moran – my consultant has been touting this for over a year and I finally read it and am hooked! Look out Q118 – my business tipping point is falling forward!
  • From Passion to Execution by Lyn Scott – Lyn is a client of mine and this amazing book tells you exactly how to build a sustainable nonprofit
  • Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull – this book gives Pres of Pixar’s leadership lessons from Pixar, I’ve recommended this book to a LOT of people!
  • How to Own Your Own Mind, The Path to Personal Power, and Outwitting the Devil, all 3 by Napoleon Hill – I got on a Napoleon Roll! All 3 about mindset to achieving what you want.
  • Rising Strong and Braving the Wilderness – 2 books by Brene Brown – great books on resilience and belonging
  • Fierce Conversations and Fierce Leadership – 2 books by Susan Scott – several of my clients were needing help with those accountable conversations that encourage rather than simply avoiding them! And FL is about 6 “best” practices that are actually wrong and how to correct them
  • The Right Questions by Debbie Ford – 10 questions to ask yourself to get to the motivation behind your decision making
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni – I have taught from this book from years and recently was certified in the new version “The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team” that combines Lencioni’s ground-breaking work with DiSC into a powerful picture of where a team is now and how to assist them in growing in their trust, accountability, commitment, and more (so I bought a lot of these to give away in my sessions! For more info, contact me at Sandi@ApexMastery.com )
  • Blue Ocean Shift by Kim & Mauborgne – I’d read Blue Ocean Strategy last year and they came out with this one in 2017 describing how you can move out of the shark infested areas your industry focuses on and into the blue ocean of possibilities and innovation (I used an exercise from it with my team of executive coaches, consultants, and facilitators in preparation for 2018!)
  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle – growing greatness in our people – the first book we chose in my International Coach Federation book club, good choice!
  • Mind Reading for Managers by Kim Seeling Smith – Kim is a colleague of mine and part of my incredible consortium of experts. This book helps leaders have FOCUSed convos with their teams and, when done right, can actually eliminate the dreaded annual performance review!
  • Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant – another great book on resiliency – I saw them at the Texas Conference for Women and they got me so excited I ran out and read Adam’s other books called Originals and Give and Takefabulous books on creativity and how giving actually makes us successful
  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott – just noticed this is the 3rd author named Scott I’ve read this year, interesting! Love this book! It’s about how we give and ask for feedback but told in a practical, gritty way that my clients are loving!
  • Neuroscience for Coaches by Amy Brann – what can I say, I’m a neuroscience geek and I love how the brain works and affects our choices, our decisions, our actions! So I read 2 more of her books – Make Your Brain Work and Engaged!
  • Conversational Intelligence by Judith E Glaser – I got certified in C-IQ this year and absolutely love the way my conversations have changed and my clients are changing the leadership conversations with their teams, their vendors, their clients, and even their families! So, since you know my pattern of immersion by now, of course I got more of her books – The DNA of Leadership, Creating WE, and 42 Rules for Creating WE!
  • Multipliers by Liz Wiseman – I saw Liz at a conference earlier this year and loved how she described those leaders that see the “smart” in you and through their belief in you, you actually multiply your strengths and output and are ecstatic about it! So, I also read Rookie Smarts.
  • Playing Big by Tara Mohr – I heard Tara on a podcast and wanted to know more about women finding their voices and being heard – wonderful! And she led me to the book Be Still and Get Going by Alan Lew – this little gem is about the different ways our inner critics can take over our lives and how we overcome them
  • Play Bigger by Al Ramadan – a fun, irreverent look at how you can dominate your industry
  • The Tortoise and the Hare – An Aesop’s Fable – no matter how many times I read the book, the tortoise always wins, it’s a great reminder to be purposeful and steady in my business – eye on the prize!
  • Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat – through the untimely death of his son, Google leader Mo learned how the brain works and how to find his joy again (see the theme of resiliency in my choices this year!)
  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown – another book recommended by my business consultant – well worth the read to learn how to focus on the one thing
  • Scaling Up by Verne Harnish – practical tools on scaling your business!

What were some of your favorites? I’m putting together my list for 2018 now!

Haley Barnes, Capitol Hill, sponsored by APEX Leadership Mastery

SWE Makes an Impact on Capitol Hill

A huge goal of mine is to ensure every girl in the world gets the opportunity to have an education. And one of the groups I support who helps girls get into and stay in STEM programs is the Society of Women Engineers. In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8 each year), I want to talk about my niece, Haley Barnes. She is a student member of SWE and is a SWEFL (Society of Women Engineers Future Leaders program) – one of just a few in the nation. This enables her to be a part of very exciting events such as the Washington DC SWE Capitol Hill Event held March 2-3, 2016. Here is this bright young woman’s view of the future of women in engineering and the politicians they encounter.

Washington DC SWE Capitol Hill Event by Guest Blogger, Haley Barnes

The Society of Women Engineers Capitol Hill event was a fantastic first experience of national government. The cultural experience, the congressional visits, the networking, and the development I was able to receive all contributed to an amazing experience I will never forget. Special thanks to APEX Leadership Mastery for their sponsorship that made this trip possible for me!

On my first day, I received training that included hearing testimonies from professionals who attended past Capitol Hill events. We discussed the issues we would be advocating for such as:

After researching the senator and three congressmen my group was to meet with, we practiced role playing how we would best address our concerns with each official.

After this session, I attended a Congressional Reception where I was able to network with attending professionals as well as hear from the National SWE President, Colleen Layman, Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson, Honorable Donna Edwards, Honorable Dan Lipinski, Honorable Suzanne Bonamici, and Honorable Robert Hanna. Each congressperson spoke highly of our initiative and work as an organization. It increased my own personal pride in the National Society of Women Engineers organization but also in my purpose in attending this Capitol Hill event. My section was even able to take a UNT SWE photo with our National President!


The following day, I attended a Congressional Breakfast which hosted Christine Merdon, COO and Head Architect of the Capitol revitalization project. She spoke on how she was able to transition her professional engineering skills to project management of the Capitol Hill area. It was extremely interesting learning more about the building details of the Capitol Hill building, as well the details of the underground tunnels of each building and the special remodels they have had to put in place as technology and the visitation population grew in D.C. She was followed by Erin Prangely of the American Association of University Women. Ms. Prangely spoke on how to communicate with Congress and what to expect when first walking into their office. She explained how it is most often even more important to talk to staff than the politicians themselves, as staff ensure the direction of the politician. Her perspective emphasized the importance of well-prepared communication in order to communicate or achieve an agenda, no matter who you are approaching.

From there, my group spoke to the staffs of Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, Rep. Michael Burgess, and Rep. Michael McCaul about each of the issues we were advocating for. It was extremely interesting talking to the Republican staff because they were hesitant to offer any solutions for our issues. Senator Ted Cruz’s legislative aide commented on our work/life balance policies request as “tricky.” She stated “it becomes more complex and difficult when you mandate what all businesses in a state should provide.” Though I personally am an advocate for paid parent leave and/or childcare benefits for all full-time workers, the perspectives I received from the Republican staff challenged my thought process of how to find a solution.  This demonstrated just how necessary it is to view multiple perspectives and analyze as much data as possible before making a decision and taking action.

Shortly after meeting with each of the representatives, it was time for me to fly home. Overall, it seems very surreal that I went to Washington D.C. in the middle of a school week, but I am so happy I did it. The experience dropped me into a new culture (one of strong winds and confusing metro stations) and a new mindsight of possibly pursuing public office in my future. In my opinion, Capitol Hill had a funny way of feeling like home. My voice was listened to by policy makers; my presence was appreciated by the National Society of Women Engineers organization. I feel like I made a difference in sharing our policies and my personal experience as a collegiate engineer-in-training. I am entirely grateful to APEX Leadership Mastery for making this possible for me. Their sponsorship has opened new doors for me in ways I had never previously imagined for myself.

Region C Collegiates and Professionals right before meeting our Texas representatives
Region C Collegiates and Professionals right before meeting our Texas representatives
With Sen. Ted Cruz’s legislative aide (red jacket)
With Sen. Ted Cruz’s legislative aide (red jacket)


With Rep. Michael Burgess’ Legislative aide (skirt)
With Rep. Michael Burgess’ Legislative aide (skirt)
With Rep. Michael McCaul’s legislative aide
With Rep. Michael McCaul’s legislative aide

Emotional Intelligence Skills – Self-Awareness #3

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.

~ Lao Tzu.

Some people would totally disagree with Lao Tzu’s statement. However, I find in my coaching practice that the more questions I can ask, the more my clients get real clarity and the truth of who they are and what they really want rather than staying stuck on the surface wants/needs.

These last 3 blogs have been emotional intelligence skills that fall under the Self-Perception umbrella – Self-Regard, Self-Actualization, and Self-Awareness. They all focus on the Inner You … understanding yourself and your emotions, and how confident you feel about yourself, what you’re doing and where you’re going in life.

Self-Awareness is being able to accurately understand what you’re feeling – more than just mad, sad, glad, or scared. You can identify a spectrum of emotions. For example, are you mad, critical or skeptical? Are you scared, anxious, or feeling foolish? Each of the main emotional categories contain many numerous nuances that many people fail to consider. Can you identify what you’re truly feeling?

An example is that employee who just heard there were going to be changes in the department and he comes up to you extremely angry. But, if you dig a little deeper you realize he’s not really angry, he’s scared. What if he gets laid off? What if it changes his hours? What if he doesn’t know how to make the change and feel as confident as he does now in his work? If you approach him assuming he’s angry, he’ll stay angry because you haven’t addressed his true emotion of being scared.

It’s the same with you. Once you can accurately identify what emotion you’re having, then it’s easier to address it and/or be present in it. If you can’t recognize your emotion, then you can’t manage it. Just being able to master this one skill will enable you to improve the other emotional intelligence skills much easier.

Another part of being self-aware is also recognizing what impact your emotions are having on the people around you. It doesn’t just affect you when you’re angry or ecstatic! Others feel that energy off of you and it affects them as well!

I’m not telling you that you have to overanalyze your emotions at all. Nor am I telling you to stuff them down, or try to ignore them. If you can identify and get a handle on your emotions, then you have greater choice in the way you think and act; so that you aren’t driven by your subconscious rather than your conscious thoughts.

So, what can you do? Here are 6 questions for you to reflect on to increase your usage of this emotional intelligence skill of self-awareness.

  • What are my strengths? My weaknesses?
  • How are my strengths and weaknesses reflected in my leadership actions and styles?
  • When was a time when I was in the midst of a situation where I was frustrated and/or confused?
  • If I could have handled it differently, what would I like to have done instead?
  • What were three gifts (benefits) that came out of the frustrating situation? (Note, this question helps you recognize the learning in any situation which enables you to grow from it and not get stuck in it.)
  • What can I do today to manage my emotions so they serve me?

There are certain emotions that will kill your drive – frustration and confusion. You can change these to a positive force. Frustration means you’re on the verge of a breakthrough. Confusion can mean you’re about to learn something. Expect the breakthrough and expect to learn.   ~ Kathleen Spike

This week recognize what emotion you’re feeling, what thoughts and actions/behaviors you are having because of these emotions, and how your feelings are affecting others around you. These steps enable you, versus your subconscious, to be in control of your decision making. Not to mention, how positively it affects your leadership style!

As we continue our exploration of the 15 emotional intelligence skills, the next 3 blogs will be skills under the Self-Expression umbrella – Emotional Expression, Assertiveness, and Independence.

If you are interested in a journal/adult coloring book to help you implement emotional intelligence skills into your life and leadership, get my book: Coloring Outside the Lines: A Grown-Up’s Creative Guide to Increasing Emotional Intelligence (on my website or on Amazon). For information on leadership, Emotional Intelligence & Negotiations, Strengthening your Inner Genius, Hiring the Golden Unicorn, or any of our programs, call us at 682.200.1412 or go to http://www.apexlmastery.com/

For the next skill in the Emotional Intelligence series – Emotional Expression, click here

Emotional Intelligence Skills – Self-Actualization #2

You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.

~ Stephen Richards


What’s great about this quote from Stephen Richards is the fact that if you like who you are, keep doing what you’re doing. And if you don’t like who you are, you have the power to change.

People who have their Maslow’s Hierarchy needs met (physiological, safety, love and belonging, and esteem needs) have the need now to pursue a life of meaning. They want to reach their full potential. They want to learn and grow and consistently be their best. They want their life to have a purpose. They want to leave a legacy. They want a mastery mindset. Self-actualization is that pursuit of meaning, striving to achieve personal goals and self-improvement. This emotional intelligence skill tends to be associated with feelings of self-satisfaction. They like where they are in life, and would like even more, deeper, richer meaning.

Whereas the average individuals often have not the slightest idea of what they are, of what they want, of what their own opinions are, self-actualizing individuals have superior awareness of their own impulses, desires, opinions, and subjective reactions in general. ~ Abraham Maslow

How can you get there? Here are 5 questions for you to reflect on to increase your usage of this emotional intelligence skill of self-actualization.

  • What are some of the things I truly enjoy doing?
  • How do I currently make time to do these things?
  • What areas in my leadership would I like to further develop?
  • Why is it important to me to develop these areas?
  • How can I incorporate these things I enjoy doing and these areas of my leadership development into my current lifestyle today?

Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. ~ Albert Einstein

Look honestly at yourself and see what you have accomplished. See where you have limited yourself out of fear. Good leaders have good self-actualization. People want to follow leaders who have the confidence in themselves to go further, and are excited about doing so. These types of leaders make people feel braver themselves.

I briefly mentioned above that self-actualizing leaders want a mastery mindset. I will be talking about this throughout our conversation on the 15 emotional intelligence skills. For this Self-Actualization EQ skill, a mastery mindset means that the goals you set are mastery vs performance driven. Most of us have been taught that it’s about the outcome, the results, and the performance. How many times have you almost achieved the goal, but not quite, so you believe you have failed? When, in fact, you have gone further than you would have if you had not done anything. A mastery mindset creates goals that focus on the journey not the outcome. What I find is that those types of goals actually get me better results than performance driven goals.

An example – I have a vision of running a marathon and today’s goal is to run 6 miles. This is a performance driven goal. During the 6 miles I am simply focused on how much more time do I have, how many more miles? It’s hard work and at the end I may have achieved your 6 mile goal, but I’m exhausted, beat up, and not looking forward to tomorrow’s run.

However, a mastery driven goal is that I will work on my arm placement the whole run – ensuring my arms are in the right position against my body, at the right angle when swinging forward and backward, for maximum push and slicing through the air with minimum pull. At the end of this workout you have achieved your goal, and you may be exhausted, but your long-term goal of the marathon will not be simply running 26.2 miles, you will do it more cleanly, more easily, and have more fun doing it.

A mastery mindset focuses on the longer vision while working on today’s action goal. It’s the difference between running and being a runner – performing and being a master. It’s about the journey. What kind of journey do you want to have in the long run?

If you are interested in a journal/adult coloring book to help you implement emotional intelligence skills into your life and leadership, get my book: Coloring Outside the Lines: A Grown-Up’s Creative Guide to Increasing Emotional Intelligence (on my website or on Amazon). For information on leadership, Emotional Intelligence & Negotiations, Strengthening your Inner Genius, Hiring the Golden Unicorn, or any of our programs, call us at 682.200.1412 or go to http://www.apexmastery.com/

For the next skill in the Emotional Intelligence series – Self-Awareness, click here

Emotional Intelligence Skills – Self-Regard #1

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt.


I love this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. It reminds us that we have choice, we have control over our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

People who decide they like who they are, the way they are, warts and all, these are the people who can succeed in many areas of their lives. Why? Because they have a healthy self-regard – that ability to respect yourself, accept yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses. This emotional intelligence skill tends to be associated with feelings of self-worth, self-confidence, inner strength, belief in yourself and your capabilities.

How can you get there? Here are 8 questions for you to reflect on to increase your usage of this emotional intelligence skill of self-regard.

Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. They just don’t let these feelings stop them. ~ T. Harv Eker

  • What are my top professional and/or personal goals for the next 12 months? Which one is the biggest goal?
  • If I knew I could not fail in a BHAG (a big, hairy audacious goal) of mine, what is the first thing I would do?
  • Why is this goal important to me?
  • What does it look like when I achieve this goal? Be specific in the details (where am I, who is there, what am I doing, – the more specific you are the easier it is for your mind to see it when opportunities to achieve it start coming your way).
  • If I knew I could not fail in a BHAG (a big, hairy audacious goal) of mine, what is the first thing I would do?
  • How can I use my strengths to achieve more of my goals?
  • How can I overcome my weaknesses on the way to achieving my goals?
  • What is the bravest thing I could do right now to move toward my BHAG?

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~ Dale Carnegie

Be brave. Look honestly at yourself and recognize both your strengths and weaknesses. Good leaders have good self-regard. Who wants to follow a leader who doesn’t believe in themselves?

Another self-affirming exercise you can do is to look at your list of strengths and pick your greatest strength. Write it at the top of a new piece of paper. Every night this week write down at least one thing that shows how this strength has helped you in various situations during the day. This will bring your focus onto this strength, growing your confidence in this area, and your awareness of how often you use it. Your self-regard will grow as you become more aware of your strengths!

For information on leadership, Emotional Intelligence & Negotiations, Strengthening your Inner Genius, Hiring the Golden Unicorn, or any of our programs, call us at 682.200.1412 or go to http://www.apexmastery.com/

For the next skill in the Emotional Intelligence series – Self-Actualization, click here.