What Am I Reading this Summer?

Jo Ilfeld | Executive Leadership Coach| What am I reading this Summer 2020?

Every few months someone asks me “When are you doing your newsletter on what you’re reading again? I use it to pick my next reads.”

I’m honored that you want to know what I’m reading and enjoying. I’ve actually had a lot more time to read lately (thank you Covid?) but I have to confess, a lot of that reading time has been spent on fiction. I’ll share one of those faves too!

Upstream by Dan Heath

Jo Ilfeld | Executive Leadership Coach| What am I reading this Summer 2020?Written by one of the Heath brothers that brought us best-sellers like “Made To Stick” and “The Power Of Moments” is another well-written and entertaining book that truly makes you think. Heath’s point is that many problems are expensive, yet heroic, to fix once they become problems. Picture the surgeon who saves your Dad’s life after a heart attack and then the insurance bills that arrive for the next year after that. An alternative, Heath focuses on, is to PREVENT problems upstream from even happening. This is usually much less expensive and is often unrewarded work where it can take people years to know if they’re making an impact. Along the way Heath gives us plenty of examples of countries, cities and programs that have dug into the upstream solution and ended teenage drug use, homelessness and majorly impacted high school graduation rates. It’s an inspiring and hopeful book at a time when we’re dealing with a lot of the downstream effects of not acting sooner – here’s how to think about another way!

My One Big Insight: When working on prevention with a population, track people by names rather than only tracking a dashboard of numbers. This allows for more personalized solutions and more nimble adjustment around what’s actually happening.

Leading Change by John Kotter

Jo Ilfeld | Executive Leadership Coach| What am I reading this Summer 2020?This is a classic. It’s old too. But it’s not always the newest, sexiest books that stay with you. This book, an expanded version of a classic HBR article by the same name, outlines the eight mistakes that companies make that lead to failed transformation efforts. Companies these days are crying out for much needed transformation – whether it’s making remote work truly effective, pivoting your product strategy for Covid-times, or helping your organization effectively use their big data. My clients are often leading these efforts, and this oldie but goodie mirrors the same questions that they bring to our coaching sessions; How do you introduce change? How to you get it to stick throughout you organization? How do you keep people from reverting back to “how it’s always been done?” And of course, how do you do this while managing the fear and concern echo chamber throughout your company. This book lays out a plan for what to create, how to not be lulled into declaring victory too early, and how to sustain the effort though engaging stories and many tried and true tips. It’s knowledge every transformational leader should have in their back pocket.

My One Big Insight: Tying the change to it’s purpose repeatedly in meetings on an ongoing basis is a great way to keep the change and the “why” front and center and doesn’t just make it another check box on the to-do list.

The New Corner Office: The New Corner Office: How the Most Successful People Work from Home by Laura Vanderkam

Jo Ilfeld | Executive Leadership Coach| What am I reading this Summer 2020?This audiobook is hot off the presses and just released last week. Vanderkam is an author whose books I already read regularly and whose blog I follow. Vanderkam, an experienced remote worker herself, uses this VERY short book to give many of her best tips on how to be a successful remote worker, whether it’s short-term, occasionally or for the long-term. Vanderkam, a time usage expert, brings straightforward tips and success stories from her field research. I didn’t find this read to be earth-shattering but I did get some great reminders and new tips to explore with clients. (Only available as an e-book or audiobook right now)

My One Big Insight: Instead of the 9am daily huddle which is the time when most workers are most productive, aim for a 4:30 daily huddle. It’s a time when people are generally less focused anyways and can help set your team up for success by planning when and how they need each other the next day.

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

Jo Ilfeld | Executive Leadership Coach| What am I reading this Summer 2020?Yes, I love chick-lit! Thought I’m not a fan of the bodice-ripping romance genre, I love the happy endings and self-discovery that always accompany a well-written beach read. I read the Authenticity Project on an amazon bot recommendation and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was it engaging with lively characters but it was truly unpredictable – not usually a hallmark of this genre. Despite the twists and turns that kept me tapping away on my kindle, the book had, dare I say, authentic characters that grew and stretched themselves, yet still stayed true to their essential nature. And in case you were worried it was just me, my better-read friend recently told me on our Monday walks about this great new book she read… yup – she loved it too!

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below what’s the last book you read (you don’t have to confess when that was) and was it “worth it?” If you do recommend it, I’d adore one sentence why. I’m always looking for great new finds, fiction and non-fiction alike.

Now I’m off to keep reading. . .

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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