This is Part 7 of an eight-part series addressing the value of reading for leaders’ personal and professional development. You can begin the series with Part I: Introduction HERE.
The previous six parts to this series have aimed to inspire and equip you with tools to initiate or improve your own personal reading program to grow as a leader. However, I argue your next challenge is to do the same for your people. Whether in a formal leadership position or not, you can easily influence subordinates, peers, and even superiors alike to engage in professional development reading through simple conversation and deliberate behaviors.
You have a responsibility to inspire and equip them to take responsibility for their own leader growth and to commit to reading. Self-discovery toward improved professional maturity (the Army’s self-development pillar) must be encouraged and supported by caring leaders who invest in their people. Ultimately, this emphasis will improve your organization’s overall professionalism, commitment to improvement (being a learning organization), and ultimately the results you achieve.
Behaviors to Inspire Others
Below are some ideas that will begin to encourage your people to read. I was amazed at the effectiveness of the first bullet alone in my experiences.
- Carry your book around. Carry the book you’re currently reading all the time at work, such as to meetings or formations, even if you don’t plan on reading it during those times; it sends a message to your people. Talk to them about what you’re reading and what you’re learning from it in casual conversation and during your Leadership by Wandering Around time. Usually, I’ve found that they will initiate the conversation and ask you about your book in hand.
- Ask your people what they are reading. The first couple times you ask people, expect to the get the deer-in-the-headlights look since many may not yet read on their own. So, be prepared to ask why they aren’t reading and to discover where their lack of motivation is; work to provide that personal inspiration. Their obstacles to begin reading may be as simple as not knowing where to start or what to read. So, propose recommendations to help them out; even let them borrow your copy of a book.
- After someone reads a book that you recommended, talk to them about it. Discuss what you both learned from it, and how you can enact the new lessons in your teams or organization. Take them out to lunch to have a fun and relaxed discussion away from work. Challenge them with the responsibility to incorporate this new knowledge in your organization to make it, and your coworkers, better.
9 Principles to Read More and to Read Better
Finally, here are my top ideas to help people “read more.” These are simple principles that will reinforce your daily reading habit and make it a sustained, key leader behavior. These can be used to encourage your people as well.
- Get rid of your phone; it is immensely distracting. Put it on airplane mode, “do not disturb mode,” or at least on vibrate and turn it face down so you can actually enjoy some undistracted, dedicated reading time.
- Carry a book at all times, both as a message to your people (as I stated above) and to have something to read during lulls throughout your day. I bring a book on the train while commuting, when I take my dog to the vet, when getting a haircut, and so on. I always have a book with me, just in case.
- Read several books at a time. I usually have 1-2 physical books, an audiobook, and a digital book going at any one time, and I try to keep the books diverse so I am engaged in multiple areas of my life at all times (reading leadership, science fiction, and spiritual growth for example).
- Always have another book ready before you finish your current one. It keeps the train moving and the habit routine.
- If you are not enjoying or learning from your current book, end it. Life is too short, time too limited, and there are too many great books out there to waste them on ones that will not impact you. As of this writing, I’ve already abandoned three books this year.
- If you’re a schedule-driven person, schedule your time (30 min to 1 hour) each day for reading on your calendar like you would a meeting. That, too, sends a message to your people on the value of reading. Further, that encourages the habit and better affords a dedicated reading time.
- Keep a reading log and share it, which I addressed in Part 3 of this series. I even use the “Reading Challenge” in Goodreads to set an annual goal for books read; my goal for this year is 50 books.
- Mark up your book or take notes. Highlight your book. Write down your lessons, ideas, and thoughts from what you read, as discussed in Part 3.
- Identify your trusted book referral sources such as military professional reading lists or trusted public figures. I encourage you to check out the final post in this series to learn more about recommended referral sources.
You can check out the Leaders Huddle podcast (episode #041) HERE to listen more about ideas to challenge others toward reading for professional development. Finally, check out this creative blog post about using the “Pabst Blue Ribbon strategy” to get your leaders and people to read.
Next week, we conclude the “Leaders Are Readers” series by announcing the new 3×5 Leadership Bookshelf! This resource will continue to equip and inspire readers to maintain a sustainable and quality self-development reading program.
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