Last Minute Office Gifts 2020

By Maren Perry, Founder and President, Arden Coaching. Every year we make a list of what we’re reading that you and your gift-list might enjoy. This year… Well, it was different for all of us.  

Many of you spent less time in person with your colleagues this year, and still may be. The wonderful thing is that these books are great regardless. You can even consider sticking with the 2020 virtual theme and going fully digital, offering a book via Kindle or Audiobook. Better for the environment too!

As to etiquette, we suggest that you:

  • Give from the heart, not from obligation.
  • Give a GIFT, not a lesson: DON’T give a gift as a hint — as in “I think you need to be a better listener, so here’s a book on listening.” Instead, give them something they may be curious about based on your conversations with them.
  • Give (overly) appropriate gifts, rather than risk offending someone. This includes not giving alcohol and probably not food…. And certainly nothing political or religious.
  • DON’T give a gift to curry favor. (see first bullet)
  • The thoughtfulness of the item is more important that the item itself. Better to give a thoughtfully chosen token than an extravagant-but-generic item.

For these reasons, and just because they’re generally wonderful, we love giving BOOKS!  Sure, they may not be the most original of items, but chosen well, they can express a lot of thought and care, be incredibly valuable to the recipient far beyond the investment from the giver, form the basis of interesting conversations to come, and are easy to purchase (and to stash in your desk for that last minute gift for the colleague you accidentally left off your list!).

Here are some of our favorite workplace books this year:

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.  A powerful combination of memoir and explanation of racism in its structural elements.  Illuminating the systemic biases and offering us a path forward. For the reader on your list who wants to be moved and challenged (and appropriately so)!

The EQ Edge by Stein and Book. From self-talk to self-actualization, empathy to assertiveness, this book talks through some of the important facets of EQ and gives some good exercises as to how to increase yours.

The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. A wonderful outline of the values of successful team members, how to identify what type of team player you are (as well as those on your team), and how you can maximize the contribution (and minimize the weaknesses) of various types. Give to everyone on your team!

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.  The subtitle says it all: “Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever.” This is a simple to read book laid out over seven basic questions you can practice. Practical, concise, specific.  

Fearless Feedback by Glenn, Handscomb, Kosterlitz, Marron, Ross, Seigworth and Signorelli. Co-authored by our very own Kelly Ross this book explores the process of coaching leaders in a 360 process.

Emotional Equations by Chip Conley. A nice blend of emotional intelligence meets engineering brain. Formulas like “Innovation = Creativity minus Cynicism”  

Immunity to Change by Kegan and Leahy: This one makes it to our list every year for a reason. A dense and valuable read for anyone leading a substantial change within their organization (or themselves.) We use this work as the basis for many Leadership Off-sites. Not a particularly breezy read – but worth it! Great examples and case studies.

Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois Frankel. It’s been around for over ten years and, unfortunately, is still applicable to many. Complete with quiz at the beginning to determine which sections to focus on, this is for the woman who wants to advance but isn’t coming across as executive material. Especially good for the younger ones on your list.  

The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman: Aimed at women, but useful for all, this addresses the nagging self-doubt faced by many. Know someone who wants to crack the code on coming out of their shell? This is the book!

Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Ever wonder what the heck Executive Presence actually is and how to break it into components you can do something about? You’re in luck!

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans: A completely practical guide to anyone wondering “what’s next for me?!” Whether it’s at work or in the rest of life, these Stanford Professors teach this material in one of the most popular classes on campus and you’ll see why. Easy to read, grasp and apply – great exercises!

Remember: with any of these, the thoughtful personal note you provide along with the book will be the true gift and go toward establishing the connection between you, the recipient, and the book. If you’ve read a book you are gifting and enjoyed it, say why. If you’ve not read it but heard it was good, tell them why you think they might enjoy it.

Give from the heart… and you can’t go wrong.

Please send us your recommendations! Email or call us at [email protected] or 646.684.3777. We’d love to add your recommendations to our bookshelf!  Maybe we’ll feature your suggestion in 2021!