Here’s something I hear a lot from companies ranging from IT to manufacturing: “we have a great group of managers but most of them don’t have any experience as managers.”
Translation: we promote our best individual contributors to be managers, have them attend a two day management training course and some of them do a great job while many flounder.
There are a lot of ways to address this sort of management skills deficiency (hint: another two day course on how to be a good manager probably isn’t one of them) but I’ll give you five reasons here why a managers book club is one of the better options to actually develop those skills.
#1. Reading is One of The Best Ways to Grow Professionally
Reading about how to be a better manager and leader forces people to think about what they do regularly and how to improve it. It’s a way to gather knowledge from different perspectives to see what others have done that works. This is critical for new and old managers alike to improve their work. Put another way, reading about other people’s experiences and paradigms for being a good manager is one of the best ways to learn without taking years to figure out what works through trial and error.
#2. High Quality Content and Low Cost
There aren’t many content options that offer as high a level of quality for as low a cost as books. Authors spend years researching, writing and testing their message to create an effective book and many of the best management thinkers charge tens of thousands for training and consulting but have excellent books available for less than $20. Furthermore, best selling management books are well edited and highly readable which makes them both valuable and enjoyable to learn from.
#3. Books Deeply Explore Management Topics
By their very nature, books tend to explore topics in more detail and with more nuance than other mediums. That’s why the phrase “they wrote the book on the subject” is such high praise. For managers, there are great books out there that deeply explore critical skills like coaching, giving feedback, having difficult conversations, creating a positive culture, keeping staff engaged and so much more.
#4. Book Clubs Allow For a Dialogue Between Managers
The first three reasons focus on the benefits of books themselves but book clubs also organize managers to discuss what they’re reading and connect with each other. This structured conversation helps managers learn best practices in the organization and get additional insights that are missed when people read on their own. It also opens the dialogue of how to apply the ideas in a book and what the organization can do to support positive change.
#5. Continuous Learning is Built Right In
A book club also has the significant benefit of having continuous learning built right into the structure of the program. When the group finishes one book, it selects another and continues learning and connecting with each other. This continuous learning approach creates a positive culture where managers are regularly learning and applying new thinking to improve the way they lead their teams. There is also the positive social pressure a book club offers that helps keep people “on the wagon” of regular reading, learning, discussion and application. You certainly can (and should) build this type of continuous learning format into other learning programs but a book club offers it right out of the box.
Have you ever participated in a professional book club (management or otherwise)? Did you find these principles to hold true from that experience?