You want to hire and constantly develop the best leaders around, but it often gets hard to focus on the development of your leaders amidst the everyday demands that your team faces. Yet, ensuring that your executive team and managers are consistently growing and developing as employees and leaders is essential to the long-term health of your company, and to retaining your top talent.
A recent Google study, Project Oxygen, set out to prove that managers didn’t make a difference to the overall health and performance of companies. To their surprise, they found that good management matters, and that the characteristics that make good management are less focused on technical ability and more focused on leadership skills. In order of importance, the study found that good managers, are good coaches, know how to empower their team, show an interest in their team’s success and well-being, are productive and result-focused, are good communicators, have a clear strategy and vision for the team, and finally – and least important – have the technical skills needed to support the team.
This data-based conclusion provides a compelling argument for ensuring that your leaders are growing in those soft skill-sets that make them effective managers. One important way to do this is by ensuring that your company has structures in place to help develop these skills.
Why Your Team Should Prioritize the Habit of Reading for Professional Development
One easy structure to implement is regular reading for your executive team. While we all know that reading has many benefits, it’s still worth noting some of those that are most applicable to your team – reading increases intelligence, helps lead to innovation and insight, is a quick way to learn and share important information, and can help inspire creativity and innovation.
A Forbes article on the topic advocates reading as an essential component of growing as both an employee and a leader. The article goes on to identify three ways that this happens:
- (1) Reading reminds you to keep important concepts at the top of your mind.
- (2) Reading challenges you and forces you to think creatively and logically.
- (3) Reading gives you an opportunity to interact with others by sharing insights, ideas, thoughts, and questions.
If these benefits alone aren’t compelling enough, the amount of time that some of the most successful leaders spend reading is a powerful argument for it. While as a whole Americans are steadily reading less and less, Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day, Bill Gates reads 50 books a year, and Barack Obama reads at least an hour a day, just to name a few.
The conclusion: good leaders make reading a priority. By having your executive team regularly reading books together, you help to make this habit part of your culture while also enabling your team to share insights and practices from what they’re reading. Whether you have a formal discussion about the book or not, consider having monthly (or weekly or quarterly) books become part of the DNA of your executive team.
Books that All of Your Leaders Should Read
There are many great books to help inspire and develop your team, sometimes making it difficult to know where to start. Here are five books that will change the way your team functions from the minute they’re read, making them a good choice for your team’s first few books.
In Mindset, Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, provides a powerful discussion on the effects that mindset can have on results. The book discusses the distinction between a fixed and growth mindset and the ways that having a growth mindset can lead to both increased motivation and productivity. Understanding a growth mindset can help your team better receive constructive criticism while also better equipping them to be coaches who effectively inspire their team to realize their full potential.
One of Simon Sinek’s five books about leadership, motivation, and organizational success, Start With Why is a good read to center your team and organization. The book’s premise is simple – the best way to inspire your team and leaders is to constantly put the purpose – or the why – before either the process or the product. Reading this will help your team remained focused on your why, and help equip them to spread this mindset throughout your organization.
3. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
In Getting Things Done, David Allen argues that our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. He asserts that to perform at our highest, our mind needs to be clear and our thoughts organized. This is a concept that makes good sense, but is hard to implement. Getting Things Done gives some practical tips to make this an organizational priority and habit.
4. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out Of The Box by the Arbinger Institute
Leadership and Self-Deception looks at how blind spots and self-deception are at the center of most all leadership problems. The book helps readers identify their own self-deceptions, and provides advice on how to eliminate them. Also helpful for teams is the book’s research-based studies about an organization’s self-deceptions. This book is insightful, and provides a powerful subject matter to help your team better get to know themselves and each other.
5. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
In Drive, Daniel Pink upends much about what we think motivates employees by arguing that humans are not motivated by salary or other extrinsic factors but instead are motivated by intrinsic factors. Based on research done at MIT, Pink concludes that extrinsic motivators – salary, bonuses, fear of punishment – only provide motivation for the most basic tasks. To motivate employees beyond these, managers need to keep three factors in mind: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Keeping these intrinsic desires central will help lead to increased satisfaction and performance.
Whatever the book, article or subject matter, reading should be a priority for all of your executive team (and organization). Model this by being a prolific reader and regularly sharing about what you learn. Further help make this a part of your culture by having all of your executive or leadership team regularly reading and discussing a book. Time is precious, but the minutes your team spends reading meaningful articles and books will be well worth the professional and personal development that comes from them.