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Three Real Reasons to Read Fiction

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!)
  3. 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.
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Emotional Intelligence and Your Profession

Recently, I’ve been working with auditors–my former life as a financial analyst provides insights into work style patterns in their profession and how they compare to many other professions. Below, I’ll be highlighting emotional intelligence sub scales, as described by Multi Health System’s EQi 2.0© instrument, one tool for thinking about these kinds of patterns, so that you can think about how these ideas might apply to the strengths and struggles of your own profession.

Research exists on some of the biggest problems facing the audit profession. The Dallas chapter of the Institute for Internal Audit found that

  • The audit function is often undervalued by other corporate leaders
  • Audit teams often struggle to recruit, develop and retain employees
  • The overall image of the profession needs strengthening; it is seen as less than public accounting and other financial professions.

It doesn’t take much thinking to see how the audit profession’s core strengths, especially independence and assertiveness, might create these issues. Every strength has corresponding blind spots. If you need to be objective and independent, buildinginterpersonal relationships, emotional expression and empathy can seem not only counterproductive but outright dangerous. Think how this might contribute to the first two problems the industry cites.

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The Power of Three

All of us find ignoring feedback quite easy—all too often the source doesn’t really understand the situation, or your intentions, or how different your needs are from others, right? Ignoring results on many psychological assessments or instruments can be easy,…

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Mastery: Are You Doing All You Can?

masteryLast year, I read a book that challenged me at a personal level, Robert Greene’s Mastery. In it, Greene asks, given that so many high-IQ people are pretty much failures at life, what separates the da Vincis and Mozarts–and modern-day examples such as musician John Coltrane, animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, and boxing trainer Freddie Roach–from the pack?

Greene came up with six common factors, all of which should give each one of us to ponder, “Where am I selling my own talents short? What next step would help me make more of the potential I’ve been given? How should I be working harder? Have I searched hard enough to identify the idea/cause/goal that would motivate me to pursue thousands of hours of deliberate practice to reach mastery?” Here are the common factors.

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