Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Reading

Recently, a lot of people in leadership positions have asked me what I am reading. The answer is simple: “Lots, and always.” In particular, people want to know which books. So, here has been my summer reading to date.

I started my summer reading the book, Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg (Harper, 2009) by Michael Perry. This non-fiction book is a humorous and heartfelt memoir of a young man and his family living in a ramshackle, northern Wisconsin farmhouse. With 37 acres of fallen down fences and overgrown fields, Perry is informed by his pregnant wife that she intends to to deliver their baby at home. So, Michael Perry searches through his unusual childhood of being raised by city-bred parents, who took in 60 or so foster children while running a sheep and dairy farm, for clues insights and solutions about how to proceed as a farmer, writer, husband and father. With his trademark humor, I read the book because the man is an excellent story teller. As one who uses stories extensively in my training and executive coaching, it is always good to read the work of other people, particularly fine story tellers. I find it educational and inspirational. It helps me on so many levels. And besides, it was a fun book to read.

Next, I read Christopher McDougall’s latest book, Natural Born Heros: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015). McDougall, the bestselling author of Born To Run, explores the secrets of ancient Greek Heroes and realizes that are still alive and well today on the island of Crete. In particular, the book revolves around the story of a band of Resistance fighters in WWII who plotted the daring abduction of a German general from the heart of Nazi occupied Crete. In particuclar, the author talks about the physical challenges of being a hero and doing heroic feats, including natural movement, extraordinary endurance and efficient nutrition, along with the mental challenges. I enjoyed reading this book because it reminded me to think holistically when helping leaders tackle complex and challenging, adaptive problems. I also enjoyed reading it because I am a former history teacher and it was a good story.

This week, I finished reading Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book called Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts - Becoming the Person You Want To Be (Crown Business, 2015). Considered to be one of the world’s most influential leadership and business thinkers, a top rated executive coach, and author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Goldsmith points out that our reactions do not happen in a vacuum.  They often are the result of constant and relentless triggers in our environment. Still, he notes that we have a choice in how we respond. 

At the same time, he acknowledges that change is hard. We are superior planners but inferior does in an environment that influences us constantly through out the day. Our best intentions and discipline are often drained like water from a leaky bucket. 

His solution comes in the form of daily self-monitoring, hinging on what he calls “active” questions. These questions measure our effort, not out results. As he explains, there is a difference between achieving and trying. We can not always achieve the desired result but we can try on a daily basis.  In particular, Goldsmith offers six “engaging questions that can help us take responsibility for our efforts to improve. They are as follows:

1. Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
2. Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
3. Did I do my best to find meaning today?
4. Did I do my best to be happy today?
5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
6. Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

For those of you who are actively involved in coaching people and working on improving employee engagement, then this book needs to go to the top of your reading list. Practical and thought-provoking, I found his insights very helpful. This is a book I will be rereading during the coming weeks so I can continue to grow from his insights. I strongly encourage you to read it as well.

Happy reading to all of you this summer, and if you discover a good book, please remember to share it with me. Thanks!

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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