Talking About Books

Professional reading is a critical part of being a leader, especially when tightly integrated with action.  When we weave together what we are reading with what we are doing, the rate at which we learn can increase dramatically.

To make reading even more impactful, talk about what you are reading.  It is talking about books–with a constant eye for how it applies to our current work situation–that takes reading to the next level. This is in contrast to how many of us have experienced professional reading–as an individual activity.

As I engage with leaders, I like to recommend books that have made an impact on me.  And because I know the power of talking about books, I recommend that teams pick a book to read together.  Yes, like a book club!

When I was in the Army, we created something called the “Pro-Reading Challenge”–which boiled down to: Read a book and talk about it with your team. So simple, and yet so impactful.  It is the kind of simple leader development tool that any leader can put into practice.

This week I got an exciting glimpse into the impact of the Pro-Reading Challenge through a Twitter conversation.  Paul G. posted a message to his former company commander Joe B.:

Not long ago we were discussing this book in a small falafel stand in Mosul [Iraq]. Tomorrow, it’s my turn!

While commanding an Army unit in Iraq in 2010, Joe picked a book, The Past as Prologue: The Importance of History to the Military Profession, and talked about four chapters with his officers.  This, my friend, is leader development in action.  In the middle of a combat deployment!  Joe replied on Twitter with a picture of the four chapters highlighted in the table of contents of his copy of the book.  Paul replied with:

It was those 3 or 4 chapters that changed my outlook on studying history!

And here Paul is, five years later, reading and talking about the same book with his own team of leaders.  Creating time for talking about a book made the unit more effective in combat, it inspired a passion for studying history, and it role-modeled a leader development approach that Paul is now emulating.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick a book and engage in conversation about it with your team.  Focus on how it applies to your work.

And, have fun!

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