Develop your skills and be noticed – how? Read…

Radical crusading idea #1: Facilitate an executive development book club!

(Please note you need to read the introductory article Be radical; become a crusader! before you go on to the following topic)

Book clubs.  Ever heard of them?  People – usually the ‘more mature’ age group – meet at regular intervals and discuss a book they have all read recently.  It is interesting, constructive and fun!  Now imagine if this wasn’t just a social occasion, but also a productive learning experience?

Some of the more talented and progressive coaches (those who aren’t afraid to admit that people other than themselves are capable of having good ideas too!) use this concept as a very effective coaching programme, with great results.

So take a leaf – pardon the pun – from these forward-thinking consultants, coaches and trainers: create and facilitate a book club. But not just any old book club, and not just any old book… The idea is to use a book which is really helpful in self-development, probably dealing with some aspect of business skills and career progression.  There are so many books available – you have a wealth to choose from.

Choose a book that is likely to appeal to other like-minded colleagues who want to develop themselves and their future, and have the motivation to apply themselves. Avoid asking the non-people that I mentioned in the introductory article on being radical and becoming a crusader.  They will only be dead weight to the group, dampening everyone’s enthusiasm, irritating the people who are there for the right reasons as well as killing off your wonderful idea.

Your objectives with the group:

You will be leading your circle of colleagues through a process of finding ways to develop and advance to more understanding of a subject, developing existing or acquiring new skills, improving working relationships, broadening their vision and generally progressing to a higher level of knowledge (and/or self-knowledge) as well as brainstorming ideas relating to the book’s content and creating better ways of reacting. All this should be done with great respect for each person’s own particular style.

The goal is to leverage the collective insight of the group as well as function as a strong support network for each member of the club. You have to focus on developing a sense of trust so that participants feel comfortable opening up about their ambitions, their experience, their doubts and their ideas, as well as the normal problems associated with day-to-day professional life.

All information/comments/remarks/stories broached during the session should remain STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL and not be repeated outside your group environment.  It is very important that this is 100% understood and accepted by each group member before starting…

As people don’t always find it easy to open up at first, you may have to use yourself and your experience, doubts, ideas etc. as an example until your colleagues become more at ease and trusting in this new experience.

The practical side of setting up the book club:

  1. Contact and invite (by email, and then, if practical, with telephone follow-up) everyone you think would be interested, not forgetting anyone you think would be borderline, as you never know!
  2. Be sure to talk about this with your boss, other bosses and the big boss – even if only by copying him/her in on your introductory email laying out the idea. It is not only polite and respectful, but it is also firmly establishes this excellent idea as yours, so you get the credit (and the big boss becomes aware of a potential rising star within the organisation!)
  3. If you have a human resources department, ask them to forward your introductory, explanatory email to everyone in the organisation.
    1. Even if you are a very large company with several branches all over the country, other like-minded individuals might like to follow your example and you can then help them co-ordinate this and be their mentor to make sure it goes well… all this is excellent experience for you; very supportive to your colleagues and also gets you brownie points towards your career progress!
  4. Decide which day and at what time you will be holding the sessions – often booking a meeting room at lunchtime is most practical, with everyone bringing their own sandwich/salad/drink so you eat together while discussing the book.
  5. Set out which chapters will be covered in each session, together with a general overview of the focus of the discussion.
  6. You need to read the book beforehand and draw up a brief action plan for the whole book: how many weeks to complete, focus points and/or exercises that can be included in each session. If you have very motivated people with good vision and empathy, who want to be more actively involved, it could be nice to have a different person leading the discussion each week.
  7. The aim is for each session to provide one to three actionable points that people can discuss in depth and then apply to themselves.
  8. Give the list of contact details, emails, telephone etc to each participant so they can communicate between sessions if they wish.

Additional ideas:

  • Ask the company to contribute, by paying for a book for each participant, for example, or supplying sandwiches – maybe for you all to attend a seminar on a subject related to the book. After all, this is going to benefit the company as well – not only does it immediately show them which employees are the ones to watch, it also highlights the more motivated individuals who have taken the initiative to think outside the box at the same time as developing their professional skillset and improving team spirit and working relationships.
  • See if there are any related events that you could go to occasionally, such as conferences, seminars, workshops, talks, etc
  • Contact the author. You never know, they might be flattered and interested enough to agree to speak to you as a group via a weblink/video conference on what inspired them to write the book, giving their views and rationale…

So there you go; a quick overview on how you can set up an executive development bookclub – so get going!! 🙂

Let me know your ideas, your choice of book and how it is going; comments in the box below.  I will be really interested to get your feedback!

***Please join me online! I am starting a free online coaching programme, Executives ReadUP, which is the online group coaching version of this idea.  If you are interested, please sign up here Executives ReadUP or send me your email address so I can contact you with more details and the start date (probably end of May).  A new book will be covered each month…

 The criteria for being accepted as part of this programme are: you must be motivated, active and reactive… I only want people who will enter into the spirit of energetic discussion, so lots of interaction between participants in the forum, please!

(Books will probably include some of the following: Essentialism – Greg McKeown; Big 5 for Life – John P Strelecky; Unstoppable Referrals – Steve Gordon; Thrive – Arianna Huffington; The Effective Executive – Drucker; The Power of Focus – John Canfield; Start with Why – Simon Sinek; How Remarkable Women Lead – Joanna Marsh; The Why Café – John P Strelecky; Find your Inner Red Shoes – Mariela Dabbah)

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alc welc2Speaker, consultant, trainer and coach for senior executives in International Relations, International Business Development, Career Transitions, Corporate Gender Balance Strategy and Women’s Career Advancement with over 25 years experience in international affairs (media, import-export, energy and investment/commercial real estate), Anna started her career in the City [of London]. She worked primarily in press, shipping and oil before moving into investment/real estate, spending several years in Bermuda, Spain and France as well as periods in the States, Canada and Italy. Anna is a strong advocate for women and is deeply involved in the cause Libert’Elle, supporting women victims in finding their freedom and new opportunities in life. On the personal front, she is a committed dog lover and accomplished horsewoman,  passionately interested in ballet, and a devotee of adventurous hiking and trekking. 

You can connect with Anna by email, twitter, facebookLinkedIn or join her group International Executives – Transitions

About The Author

Anna Letitia Cook

“Anna Cook is particularly passionate about mentoring women executives, and the 50+ sector, in finding clarity in their career choices to achieve freedom, fulfilment and leadership success. She created and became CEO of her first company in the entertainment industry at age 32. Midlife approaching, hungry for a dynamic change, she refocused her experience, founding WomenUP Ltd, focusing on the challenges of corporate gender balance strategy”. Creator of the process SCOPE for career, fulfilment and success. She is currently working on her first book ‘Liberate Your Career: The Women’s Guide to Freedom and Fulfilment’, with plans for a second, ‘Glass Ceiling Grans’, early next year.
On the personal front: Mum, ‘flattie’ owner, horse lover, ballet fanatic, hiker! Into castle renovations, sculpture, farming, yoga. Drinks tea… Bosslady at @WomenUP Ltd.