Every January, I page back through my Goodreads.com lists to celebrate the books I found most meaningful during the past twelve months. I prefer to call myself a bibliophile, not a reading addict, but squeezing in 120 books last year…
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett is a perfect example of the Truth with a capital T that fiction conveys in ways that nonfiction cannot. In the closing pages of this crazy novel, where... Well, I won't tell you how to do away…
Once a year I look back through my list at goodreads.com to ID the top five books that most inspired me. As an author and consultant, just about any book might be “THE book” that inspires my own work. That means I can…
“I have to hold their hands.” “They need constant supervision.” “They don’t think!” “They aren’t creative.” Have you heard leaders and managers pass these kinds of judgments on employee abilities?
Frequently, as I conduct employee focus groups or review 360 results, leaders who make these kinds of statements receive the following kinds of comments: “What a micromanager!” “Constant meetings and checklists and interference keep us from our work.” “We’re treated like children!”
“But I tried giving more autonomy and it was a disaster,” many leaders say. Frequently, they provided autonomy without clarity of goals or the benefit of wisdom learned from the past. There’s a happy medium of structure AND autonomy, a polarity that leads to results AND happy employees!
I read everything. The best in every genre has something to offer, even if the overall genre doesn’t match my core tastes (after all, at its heart Anna Karenina is a romance novel…). Thus it always surprises me when people proudly say, “I only read nonfiction.” The result of bad experiences in high school English courses? Perhaps, but I also wonder whether they’re aware of what fiction has to offer:
- The Truth.
I once had the great privilege of attending a writing seminar taught by Madeleine L’Engle. Perhaps best known for A Wrinkle in Time,she won awards for both her fiction and nonfiction books. She pointed out that often through fiction, the truths about human motivations and the causes of events, both personal and historical, can be much more deeply explored and conveyed than in nonfiction. Nonfiction, remember, is written from a point of view that doesn’t convey all sides of an issue, event or idea. If learning truth from fiction seems crazy, try The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. It’s a deep exploration of the mindsets, motivations and emotions of the generals on both sides at the battle of Gettysburg.
- Emotional Intelligence. Studies are showing that reading fiction increases our ability to empathize with others, one of the key components of emotional intelligence that is tied to overall leadership success. Fiction helps you step into other people’s shoes and understand why they did what they did. As more research concludes that the “soft skills” of leadership are truly the hardest to learn, adding high-quality literary novels to one’s reading list may make more sense than another tome on leadership (the ones I’ve written being an exception, of course!)
- Creativity. Let’s trust Einstein on this one–he recommended that to develop a scientific mind, children should read and reread fairy tales. Why? Because true science requires imagination, creativity, and a drive to understand, all of which are found in fairy tales. You’ll be hard-pressed to find careers that don’t require creativity these days–even assembly line workers are encouraged to and rewarded for finding ways to improve systems and processes. Fiction allows you to envision what might happen, what might be, and other big what if’s in ways that nonfiction can’t.
Every so often, I work with clients who seem more stuck in their difficulties than usual. And my usual toolkit seems to be missing whatever would help them. Changing on the Job has given me a new way to approach…
According to goodreads.com (join me there—it’s great for keeping track of what you’ve read) I finished 117 books in 2013. I read just about anything, for if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that ideas, and new knowledge, and “aha’s”, and creativity, and laughter, and profound insights, can come from the strangest places. Here are five books that kept me thinking long after I closed the covers.
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. The author, a pottery artist, traces the history of Chinese figurines he inherited from an uncle, and thus learns of his Jewish ancestors’ rise to the very top of Parisian and Viennese society, their fates during World War II, and how they rebuilt their lives. I constantly found myself thinking, “How would I have handled both the triumphs and the tragedies? How would my family talk about it all?” If you decide to read it, I’d suggest
By chance….Have you noticed that right now, intelligent people are polarized on issues? They’re holding polar opposite viewpoints? We all do. We think we’ve carefully vetted our positions and are in the right. So how much should we trust our own wisely-thought-through views?
Not much, actually, if one considers the research on how we form our viewpoints. A recent slew of books asks us to ponder this and perhaps change how we interact with those who hold opposing views.
Jonathan Haidt, in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, guides us through the neuroscience and psychology research on how we form our opinions. And it’s humbling. Or should be. Not only do we consistently pay attention to information that reinforces what we believe, but the more intelligent we are, the better we are at spinning one-sided arguments.
In Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Katheryn Schulz uses both research and humor to help us understand just how wrong we can have the facts and thus how flimsy our arguments can be.