The Business Book Club and Leadership

Twice in the last eight years I have attempted to start business book clubs among the leadership teams I was working with. The first time, while CEO at Canal Bridge Consulting, we actually succeeded. It was not a spectacular success, but we kept it going for a couple years, participation was consistently good and everyone was just a bit better informed for participating. The second time was while I was managing director of a Boeing business unit. That club never got off the ground. Zero interest. In fact, one manager suggested we have a ‘sitcom club’!

Tim Sanders recent blog “The total confidence reading plan” got me thinking about this topic again. Sanders argues that “readers are leaders” and that carving out time to read books relevant to your profession on a regular basis will expand your mind and give you the foundation to make better business decisions. Who can argue with that!

So why did the Canal Bridge book club work and the Boeing book club never get off the ground? It has taken me about five years to arrive at the conclusion but here is the net-net. Canal Bridge was a bunch of management consultants and we all craved knowledge on the business topic of today. Our core competency was business process and strategy.

At the Boeing company, engineering and program management are right up there with life and liberty. As the leader of Boeing’s Maryland Operations, I was trying to push leadership and management books to a crowd much more interested in engineering and topics around estimating, scheduling and program management. You know, that square peg and round hole discussion.

I still think book clubs are great ideas for the workplace and can work if the topics are relevant. Better advice is to stick with the Tim Sanders line; “readers are leaders”. Just pick the topics relevant to your team!

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