Book Group, What I'm Reading

A Book for These Divisive Times

IMG_6372I’m going to admit: whenever someone is mainstream enough that Oprah endorses them, it usually prompts me to turn and run in the other direction. It’s not that I don’t like Oprah – it’s that I prefer to carve my own path and avoid things that seem trendy.

As a result, although I loved Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability when I saw it (around 2010), the fact that she got drafted as an Oprah darling in 2013 was a signal to me that she had potentially jumped the shark, so I’ve avoided her for the last six years. (Yes, there’s a lesson in here for me about bias!)

How fortunate for me that one of my clients was reading “Braving the Wilderness” and kept referencing it in our work together. I picked it up so I could better understand what was resonating for her – and in the process discovered that Brené Brown has managed to put words on the page for much of what I’ve experienced in recent years.

In a nutshell, she uses “braving the wilderness” as a metaphor for belonging so fiercely to yourself that you’re willing to be vulnerable, take brave stances and go it alone when necessary to honor your inner truth. In addition to sharing a “checklist” that conveniently is the acronym BRAVING (boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity. non-judgment and generosity), she outlines four seemingly paradoxical practices for braving the wilderness:

  • People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
  • Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.
  • Hold hands. With strangers.
  • Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

This book is beyond an individual self-help book centered on the idea of belonging first to ourselves; it’s a good guide for we can get back to a place of civil discourse and greater appreciation of what it is for us to all belong to the collective humanity on this planet. It might not be an explicit “how-to” for leaders, but I would argue that it’s hard to lead others well without first belonging to yourself.

And yes, now that I’ve overcome my initial prejudice, I’ll happily dig into her other books to see what else my bias has denied me!

Book Group, Resources, Review

Bite-Sized Book Review: Rework

Finally! A business book that I didn’t abandon at the 40% mark. There are three main reasons for that:

  1. It’s too short to abandon. Technically 288 pages, it’s served up as bite-sized essays with lots of illustrations and a lot of white space, so I moved through it in a breeze.
  2. It’s really well written. The authors use simple, conversational language and they don’t mince words or hide behind corporate-speak.
  3. It’s full of great advice. In challenging conventional thinking about what makes copmanies successful, the authors systematically tick through (almost) everything that has struck me as backwards about business.

Intrigued? I’m talking about Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

While the target audience seems to be entrepreneurs (or “starters,” as they prefer to think of them), leaders in every organization that aspires to be innovative or agile would benefit from giving this a read. It might not contain many wildly new ideas, but serves as  a kick in the pants to think about unproductive habits, beliefs and behaviors that govern most organizations, including the assumptions that bigger is always better and growth is always the goal.

This will likely join Radical Candor as a book I recommend to every leader I coach. And I can’t wait to read their next release (coming this fall), which – based on title alone – should have a pretty immediate fan base: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.

Nutshell: Read it. You’re welcome.

Book Group, leadership, What I'm Reading

Is TIME the biggest barrier to your development?

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Since I moved into coaching full-time, I’ve found that leaders often get a bit sheepish around me. “I know my development is important,” one recently confessed, “but I just can’t seem to find the time to focus on myself.” I assured him that he wasn’t alone – I actually hear that a lot.

In fact, just this week I was talking with a friend whose organization has been participating in a peer group for start-ups. “I don’t think we’re going to renew,” she said. “We’re just finding the time commitment to be a bit intense – it takes around 8-10 hours each month and we’re already going a mile-a-minute.”

I get it. Like going to the gym, leadership development is one of those things we know we should be doing – but it’s tough to find time for it. And also like going to the gym: if we CAN find the time, we see tangible results and become more likely to make it a habit.

I’ve been wrestling with this idea, trying to figure out how to break the cycle and make personal development an easier habit for leaders to embrace. After many conversations to test the idea, I’m excited to launch the “Bullet-Point Book Group” this fall.

Here’s the idea in a nutshell: 

  • It’s a group that meets VIRTUALLY (via laptop video) for 90 minutes each month
  • We’ll discuss one book over the course of three sessions
  • You’re encouraged to read the book, but I’ll provide a “bullet-point” summary of key ideas in case the clock gets away from you
  • Our discussion will tie the book to REAL-LIFE challenges, so each session is more about application than the book itself
  • You’ll have a chance to connect with other leaders from outside your organization through the monthly discussion
  • You’ll walk away from each session committed to trying something new on the job

In addition to keeping it “bite-sized” so it’s no a huge time commitment, I like that this format will allow people to test some ideas and report back on them. From a learning perspective, this tends to be a more effective approach than simply plowing through a book and moving on to the next thing – or even attending a two-day seminar and returning to work without a chance to apply the learnings.

Pilot Information

To test the concept and get feedback, I’m running a pilot this fall. It will just focus on a single book (as opposed to a year-long membership) and pilot memberships will be discounted to $150, which includes the book, a summary of key points, three virtual sessions, and related assignments. (Not to mention the camaraderie!)

The book I’ve selected for this is Kim Scott’s “Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.” The ideal participant for this book is a seasoned leader (or manager-of-managers) because we’ll look at not only our own personal practices, but also ways we can help our team leads become more effective in their roles.

If this sounds fun to you, please complete this form to express your interest! And if you have any feedback or thoughts on the concept, I welcome those too – just email me at alison@exploreyouredge.com.