Posts in Books
Emergent Leader Podcast Episode 21: The Importance of Being a Well-Read Professional

In this episode of the Emergent Leader Podcast, I talk about the importance of being well-read.  To be well-read is to not just consume information but to fill your mind with good literature, the news and a varied list of books.  I also recommend the following two resources:

When I interview job candidates, I always ask them what they are reading.  Sadly, many people have given up on reading in their adulthood.  The good news is that you can re-start your reading habit today.  As Emerson once said, "If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads."

Enjoy the cast!


PODCAST, BooksMike StPierre
How to Become a reader Even if You Don't Like to Read

I run into people all of the time who tell me that they don't read.  This makes me wonder how they consume information- Tv? Radio?  Web surfing? After all, we all "get" our information from somewhere.

The mindset of not being a reader is common enough and unfortunately it can start at a young age.  Scholastic has a list of the top 10 reasons why people don't read as much as they would like.  Some of the common refrains sound like this:

  • I'm not a good reader
  • I can't concentrate
  • I can't sit still long enough
  • I don't have the time

Can you relate to any of these?  Even though I'm an avid reader, I can!  It takes discipline for me to sit with a book and read it for more than 15 minutes.  Maybe it's ADD or just a consequence of the "always on" internet world we live in.

Still...I don't want to give up on reading and neither should you.

The benefits of reading are too many to list but here's an example of why I read so much. 

It was a Chinese New Year's party and two people at my table were talking about various things.  One was from China and the other from New Jersey. One spoke of Asian cuisine and another about investing in socially responsible funds.  To my delight, I was able to have really interesting conversations with both people, mentioning things I had read about or heard in podcasts.  Because of my reading, I had an instant connection with them. 

The reading had come in handy... 

For those who don't see themselves "as readers", I suggest five things that can turn anyone into a reader in no time: 

1. Listen to podcasts.  This might include the Emergent Leader Podcast, just sayin'!

2. Listen to books.  Whether it's Audible.com or just audio books from the library, audio books count as "real reading".

3. Combine "reading" with working out. 

4. Read five blogs every morning or evening. I like to start the day with some Seth Godin, Fr. Richard Rohr and Fast Company.  Just as with audio books, blogs "count" as real reading.  

5. Take a day off each week and use this as "permission" to read day.   I started doing this about a month ago and it's been magical. I'm more present to my family and I check a new book out of the library each week, anticipating that I will take some time on Sunday to sit and read- and I do.  

Whether you find reading easy or if it's a struggle, my hope is that you'll try the five steps above and cultivate your reader's muscle.   You can do it!

 

 

Emergent Leader Podcast Episode 11: Interview with Laura Stack

When was the last time that you felt truly productive?  For Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro, every day is an opportunity to get better...

  • Better at time management
  • Better at meeting management
  • Better at achieving goals that truly matter

The fact is that many rising leaders are so focused on "the next thing" that they fail to master the basics of time management and genuine productivity.

Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro

Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro

In this episode, I talk with productivity expert and best-selling author Laura Stack, a.k.a. The Productivity Pro.  We chat about her new book, how productivity has changed in the past 12 years and what emerging leaders can do about it.  Laura's model of "3T Leadership" is both catchy and really helpful.  I think that you'll love our conversation- Laura is the best!

Enjoy the cast!

How to Read Slower and Yet Retain More

The rise of Twitter, Facebook and a host of “read it later” services (i.e. Instapaper and Pocket) make reading a lost art.

Think about it- in the last week, how many articles or posts did you read in their entirety? Notice that I didn’t mention books since fewer and fewer people read them (read: "The Decline of the American Book Lover")

Still, reading accomplishes at least three things:

  1. It humbles us. Trappist monk Thomas Merton once said, "Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." When we read, we bow to the ideas of another.
  2. It enhances our leadership. As the saying goes, “all leaders are readers”.  The best leaders I know have 2-3 books that they devour at one time, hungry for new insights.
  3. It deepens our spiritual core. Reading, in its pure sense, is an old fashioned way of taking in information, making sense of it and then putting it into action.

I noticed, about 6 months ago, that I was reading very little. Sure, I was scanning a ton but as for reading things in full, I was a slacker.

What to do? I decided to declare “Read it Later Bankruptcy” and start from scratch.  I deleted all of my old articles and posts and just started fresh.  Heck, what are the real chances that I'll get to that article that I saved months ago?  Slim to none...

This meant a few practical action steps:

  1. I would empty (i.e. read fully) any article that I had saved in Instapaper within 24 hours.
  2. I would be much more choosy as to which blog posts I would put into Instapaper.
  3. I would take my time and not rush through things.
  4. Hardcover books would become a pleasurable experience once again. As a result, David Brooks’ The Road to Character has been in my hands a lot lately.  It feels slow (and wonderful) to turn the pages and enjoy the author's salient points.

One surprising side benefit to all of this is that I’m now reading other things in more consistent spurts. Our family has the Bible Verse of the Day (said in a Count Dracula sort of way for dramatic effect) just before dinner. Also, my morning devotions have become more contemplative and patient as I’m taking time to really read rather than just scan.  Finally, by reading slower, I'm sitting with the author, getting to know him and his thoughts.

The bottom line: by reading slower, I'm retaining more.

As a follow up- how do you read each day? What are your routines and habits? How can you slow down your own reading such that you not only take in information but enjoy the ride?

Why We Still Need Books

There are lots of reasons to read things online.  It's a fast way to consume information.  With smartphones in almost everyone's hand, reading has never been easier.  We have:

  • Google Plus posts
  • Articles on news sites
  • Blog posts
  • Facebook posts

And so it goes.  Many people will also advocate for reading online since "online" is now increasingly mobile.  I can read the New York Times on my iPhone while on the train.   

  • And while I'm waiting in the line at the grocery store...
  • And in the five minutes before my next meeting starts... 
  • And while my kids are finishing up their volleyball practice... 

This is all good.  Or, is it?  Having long been a digital learner, I've advocated for as much reading as possible but recently I had an experience which caused me to shift slightly.  The fact is, if I'm honest, I really haven't been reading contemplatively at all.

Let me explain. 

Confession here: I hadn't read a full book in about six months.  Don't get me wrong- I've been reading like crazy since I'm a doctoral student.  Articles, snippets, textbooks, etc.  Lots of reading. Research.  Writing.  More research.  

But not full books and certainly not for pleasure. 

And then something changed.  Somehow I heard about Brad Lomenick's The Catalyst Leader.   The book is really good- down to earth advice from a man who is humbly leading an organization that impacts lives.  What was more surprising was that I really had to discipline myself to read each day.  

You may now be thinking- what's the big deal?  The guy read a book, ok... but be honest with yourself and look in the mirror.  How many full length books have you read in the past two months?  

Turns out, some 75% of Americans have read a book in the past twelve months.  That's good. I just wasn't one of them.  Here are some benefits of complimenting your online reading with full length book reading:

  1. Daily book reading slows you down.
  2. Book reading imprints a book's idea more firmly in your head than a blog post or tweet.
  3. Full length books make you more contemplative.

If you aren't yet a full length book reader, here are my suggestions:

  • Choose a reading time.  This is probably best done early in the morning or right before bed.
  • Go for a little each day.  Like a diet, some is better than none and it makes sense to chip away a little at a time.
  • Reflect on what you're reading.  This could be in a journal or via your blog.

We still need books.  They teach us amazing things, connect us to amazing authors and just might help us become amazing people.   

Execution IS the Strategy: How Leaders Achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time by Laura Stack

My friend and fellow speaker Laura Stack’s newest book, Execution IS the Strategy, hits bookstores on March 3, 2014! Laura has been working with leaders in the areas of strategy execution, employee productivity, and team performance for 22 years, and I’m pleased to highly recommend her work and her books.

I had the opportunity to meet Laura in person when I worked at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore.  Seeing first hand how her productivity strategies work for school folks, I'm excited to see this new book hit bookstores.  The emphasis on strategy is particularly attractive for me and my role as a head of school.

Laura Stack believes a leader’s biggest challenge isn’t creating the strategy—it’s executing the strategy. It’s not about who has the best ideas—it’s who executes their ideas the best. Execution IS the Strategy shows you how to quickly drive strategic initiatives and get great results from your team. Laura’s L-E-A-D Formula™ outlines the conditions that must be present in your workplace for successful execution to occur:

 

L = Leverage: Are you strong enough as a leader, and do you have the right people and drivers in place to achieve your strategic priorities? If not, then you have a talent/resource issue.

E = Environment: Do you have the organizational atmosphere, practices, and unwritten ground rules to allow your employees to easily support your strategic priorities? If not, you have a cultural/engagement issue. 

A = Alignment: Do your team members’ daily activities move them toward the accomplishment of the organization’s ultimate goals? If not, then you have a communication/productivity issue. 

D = Drive: Are your organization’s leaders, teams, and employees nimble enough to move quickly once the first three keys are in place? If not, you have a speed/agility issue

 

What I really like about Laura’s work is the abundance of complimentary educational resources she’s providing with your book purchase (an incredible value for less than twenty bucks!):

 

  • A one-year subscription to her Strategic Execution online video series for leaders. Each five-minute weekly video comes with a transcript and a "training blueprint" with key points, discussion questions, and an exercise to help you take the learning back to your team. These videos provide valuable discussion points for your meetings and performance issues.
  • An excerpt of the book with Table of Contents, Introduction, and Chapter 1 to whet your appetite and forward to your team.
  • A Leader Guide and a Discussion Guide to help you run a book club. 
  • An online assessment of the Execution Quotient from the book, which will help you discover which of 36 obstacles are preventing your team from getting things done. You’ll discover where you’re stuck in the L-E-A-D Formula.
  • A link to download thousands of dollars in additional leadership resources from several expert authors, including Joe Calloway, Liz Weber, Daniel Burrus, Kristin Arnold, Barry Banther, Dianna Booher, and Janelle Barlow.
  • A four-part video series on the Four Keys of Successful Strategic Execution in the L-E-A-D Formula™ to share with your team. Use these training videos over the next month in your staff meetings for a great conversation starter on driving results.  (this one is my personal favorite!)

 

To get this great package with your book purchase, go to http://theproductivitypro.com/execution/bonus. Laura Stack will equip your leaders with the knowledge, skills, and inspiration to help them hit the ground running and turn your strategy into performance!