Running is a passion of mine. So is HR. So why not marry my love for the two in written form?

Well, that problem is solved. :-)

I recently put together this collection of stories about running, business, and life. More than half of the content is brand new and not published anywhere else, and the book runs about 35 pages in length (which means virtually nothing in the world of Kindle/eBooks, as I’ve learned!)

It’s on sale for $3.99 right now. Here’s who should read it:

  • If you work in HR, are looking for some inspiration for running, and you like to run, then this will give you some of my stories (mostly humorous) to help you with that.
  • If you’re in HR and you don’t care about running, you can still get some great lessons here. You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy this. In fact, you might laugh even more at some of the silly things I do to try to compete in this sport…
  • If you’re just getting into HR, you will learn some timeless truths about this profession (many of which I’ve learned the hard way).
  • If you’re an expert HR pro, this will expose you to some of the deep passion in this field, whether in my story or in the profiles of other running/HR pros, and will help you revisit that spark that made you choose HR in the first place.

A special thanks goes out to those that responded to my recent survey and allowed me to highlight them in the book. They all share their own inspirational stories about how running makes them better at this human resources thing.

Thanks again for your support and I look forward to checking out the reviews. You can get a copy of What Running Taught Me about HR: Essays about running, work and life right here.

the front line leaderRecently I read The Front Line Leader by Chris Van Gorder while I was on a flight. Usually when I’m flying I take something fun/entertaining to keep my attention, but I needed to knock down my review pile so I grabbed this one.

I’m so glad I did.

I read it from cover to cover and made dozens of notes as I did. In short: this book is one of the best and most interesting that I have read in several years. It highlights Chris’ role as the CEO of Scripps Health Network and how he leads the organization, some of the practices they use, and loads of other interesting things about this innovative organization. Get your own copy.

The Front Line Leader Video Review

(email subscribers click through to view the video)  Continue reading

What’s on your leadership reading list?

No thanks, I read a book on leadership already. What else do you recommend?

Someone dropped that comment in a conversation recently, and I wanted to take some time today to dispel this notion about leadership books, courses, content, etc. The concept?

Once you’ve learned about leadership, you don’t need to know any more.

leadership book reading listIf it sounds silly to you to see it spelled out like that, I’d have to agree. Learning about this stuff isn’t a one-time thing. It’s like the great Zig always said: People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.

Different Readers and Different Leaders

Last year I put together a book club to help some local HR leaders by exposing them to good resources and adding in a networking opportunity. One of the neat things I learned was that even if ten of us read the same book, everyone walks away with different ideas that speak to them and their own situations.

In a similar vein, every leadership book is different, because they are all authored by leaders with different experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs. A book on my leadership reading list this month was authored by a former police officer who is now the CEO of a health organization. The insights and ideas I get from his writing are different from those that I get from John Maxwell, Napoleon Hill, and other authors.

Those two perspectives (both the reader and the leader) offer an exciting opportunity: virtually unlimited options for learning and growing as leaders! Continue reading

This topic is a bit controversial, but it’s something that I believe and stand by. Why? Because I’m a fan of reading, for one, but also because I have personally seen this work as a tool in the world of work.

  • I’ve used books within performance discussions, both positive (succession/development oriented) and negative (performance improvement/problem-focused) with varying degrees of results.
  • I have helped to establish a library for employees to help them have access to some of the books that mattered not only to our industry, but also to the type of culture we wanted to have.
  • I have read books that have made me better at work in a variety of ways. Knowledge really is powerful stuff.

Last week I was quoted in the Chicago Tribune talking about this very topic. The article is a good one and worth a read. Here’s a snipped:

It dawned on me recently that reading is not an activity that’s often associated with work. It’s more of a leisure-time endeavor, which is fine — but if it’s so darn good for us to read, why shouldn’t reading be a part of the working world?

I’m not talking about co-workers starting a book club, but rather companies encouraging all employees to read certain books. Maybe even launching discussions about those books or using them to drive home aspects of the company’s culture.

“I think it really applies to the workplace and the kind of environments we want to create,” said Ben Eubanks, a human resources analyst at Brandon Hall Group and an advocate for workplace reading. “One of the things that I like best is when you read it and I read it, and then we get together and talk about it. The discussion that happens afterward. If you’re sitting in a PowerPoint presentation, I’m telling you things and you’re taking things in but there’s really no discussion.”

He thinks reading should be an expected part of any employee’s performance. It could range from books that management picks for all workers to read — ones that get at the company’s core philosophies — to books that managers suggest for specific employees, with an eye toward helping make the employee better.

“I’ve worked with managers in the past to assign them a book that we think will help them learn the things they need to learn or develop a skill they’re not being exposed to,” Eubanks said. “People who are successful are often crazy about reading. They make time for that because they understand how important it is, and it’s kind of like a secret weapon.”

Instant replay

Let’s replay that last part again:

People who are successful are often crazy about reading. They make time for that because they understand how important it is, and it’s kind of like a secret weapon.

Simply put, leaders read. And people at all levels of our organizations can be extraordinary leaders, if we help give them the keys to learn and grow.

I can’t determine causation without some hefty research, so I can’t speak to whether reading makes us successful, or successful people naturally read more. What I can say is that there is correlation there and we can certainly attempt to exploit that for the betterment of our employees and their families.

The big picture

As I have shared numerous times in the past, reading is something I believe we all could stand to do more of. If you’re trying to read a book per week, learn how to set up a structured reading program within your company, or set up a book club in your local area to connect with other folks who want to get smarter, those are all worthwhile goals.

That’s why I have published dozens of book reviews over the years. That’s why I continue to accept the ridiculous number of pitches from publishers trying to get me to read and review books about HR, leadership, talent, learning, etc. I want to get better, but I also want to share with you so you can get better, too.

I can still remember the first book review I ever did. As I read The Pursuit of Something Better something changed and I really saw how the ideas I picked up from the book could impact my day to day HR practices. This is powerful stuff, and if you learn only one idea from a book that you can use on a regular basis, then it’s worth your time and money to invest.

Thanks for letting me rant a bit. Some of you will take this to heart, pick up a book (maybe one I have suggested), and commit to being better at this HR thing. Others will finish reading this article and move on, making no changes to their own professional growth. I hope I’ve reached you, dear reader, as one of the former.

Check out the short video below to learn more about The Crowdsourced Performance Review (here on Amazon). I’m looking forward to digging in and sharing more about the topics in the book!

Forty-five percent of human resources (HR) leaders don’t think annual performance reviews are an accurate appraisal for employees’ work. And 42 percent don’t think employees are rewarded fairly for their job performance. (source)

How to start an HR/Talent management book club

I’ve talked with our local SHRM chapter in the past about possibly setting up a HR/talent management book club since it seems like it would be fairly easy to initiate and manage. Then a few weeks ago our 2013 president reached out to me again about the possibility of starting this group for real.

I’ll share the info I have and the meeting outlines for anyone who might be interested in starting their own HR book club.

For those of you who were wondering, this is different from the Company Book Club alternative that I discussed a while back. That’s a different concept and while I touch on book clubs there, this post is exclusively focused on the concept. 

HR management book clubHR management book club basics

We’ll look at books on how to manage people. We’ll look at books on managing change. We’ll look at books that laugh at the dumb things employees do that we have to deal with on a daily basis (yes, really!).

The group meets once a month at 8:00am on the third Wednesday morning at a local coffee shop for one hour.

I’m still trying to determine the number of books. One per quarter seems too low; one per month seems a bit much for some people.

Anyone is welcome to come; however, there will be a limit of ten or fifteen participants per meeting to meet space limits and encourage participation/discussion by the group members.

HR management book club agenda

Here’s the agenda I plan to work from:

  • 8:00-8:10 welcome/socializing
  • 8:10-8:50 book discussion (I can develop questions to bring or let the conversation roam; I’ll be prepared for either avenue)
  • 8:50-9:00 prep for next meeting, closing thoughts/feedback, etc.

HR management book club selections

My first rule is this–all of the books should not be HR-related. Some should be, because we can all stand to be stronger in our area of expertise. However, we also need to expand beyond the HR arena into other areas of the business.

I’m a fan of mixing prescribed and self-selected books to ensure the experience is more targeted to group interests while still expanding beyond “comfortable” book choices. 

So how do you let the group pick self-selected books? Using the principles I outline for developing a 5 minute survey with free tools, you could set up a quick voting system to allow anyone in the group to vote for their own favorite options. Just pull a handful of titles from this page and let people vote on what sounds interesting.

Generating interest in your HR management book club

It’s easy to find book lovers. It’s much harder to get people who are on the fence or are crazy busy (who isn’t these days?) to commit. Here are a few tips for creating a book club that engages better than the traditional events:

  • Encourage fluid commitment-people can attend on/off and only when they find the particular book interesting.
  • Offer discussions via a LinkedIn group to allow for greater interaction between meetings.
  • Have ways for people to interact even if they can’t attend meetings (LinkedIn, alternative meetups, etc.).
  • Collect minutes/main ideas and distribute to all interested parties to spread the ideas further than the group and generate further interest (like the HR Roundtable Discussions).

And if all else fails, drop this classic line from selling expert Brian Tracy on the undecided:

To gain a competitive advantage in your career, read at least one hour per day in your chosen field. One hour a day will translate into approximately one book a week. One book a week will translate into approximately fifty books over the next twelve months. If you read an hour a day, one book per week, you will be an expert in your field within three years. Through continuous learning, you will be a national authority in five years, and you will be an international authority in seven years. All leaders are readers. Source

Love to hear some thoughts/feedback. Anyone have a book club they’ve participated in previously? What did/didn’t work?

The other day I mentioned company growth phases in my review of Seeing the Big Picture. I thought it warranted more discussion, because it’s something I honestly hadn’t considered previously. Here’s a quote from the book:

Company growth phases are fairly standard. Startup, growth, maturity, decline. But what about the types of employees required in each phase of growth? I think it can shift over time. New companies look for people to take risks, work long hours, etc. Mature companies want to maintain what they have and reduce risk, which means hiring an entirely different set of employees.

company growth phasesI was mulling that over, and then I remembered another book review I had done on Jolt: Get the Jump on a World that is Constantly Changing. One of the quotes there tied in perfectly:

Growth oriented organizations require growth oriented people.
-Phil Cooke Continue reading