5 books that have influenced how I think about leadership and team culture

In a series of 3 posts, I’m sharing some books that I’ve found useful on the topics of community management, online interactions, and leadership and team culture. In this post, I recommend 5 books that discuss being an effective leader and creating a collaborative, open culture of learning within your organisation.

1. “The first 90 days” by Michael Watkins

This is really a book about change management – how to make a positive impact in the first 90 days in a new management level role. Given that most employees change their role in some way every couple of years – whether that’s acquiring new direct reports, additional projects or moving elsewhere – effectively managing change is key to a successful career.

Managing change: first step – a nice cup of coffee!

Continue reading

Reading for Leading #4: Check-in with your calendar

Check-in with your calendar

Check-in with your calendar. Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dafnecholet/5374200948/

When you have a quiet moment, take a seat, make yourself comfortable and make sure you’re going to be undisturbed. Then open your calendar for next week. Starting with Monday, slowly read through each day, appointment by appointment, noticing how each one makes you feel.

What are you looking forward to? What fills you with dread? Are you ever double or triple-booked? Have you allowed time for lunch? Are there days that feel about right?

Our calendars reflect how we choose to spend our days. Do you feel in control of yours or as though its scheduling is down to others? What would it take for your calendar to be an ally not an obstacle to getting your work done?

Source of inspiration: Janice Marturano’s “Finding the space to lead”

Reading for Leading #3: If you feel helpless, help someone

If you feel helpless, help someone

Helping hands
Image credit: author’s own


Next time you feel blocked – struggling with finding the right phrase for a crucial email, frustrated by a technical issue or feeling unsupported by someone you considered an ally, instead of giving in to the feelings of disappointment, anger or resistance, what happens if you put the issue down and look for a way to offer a hand to someone else?

It could be changing the toner cartridge in the photocopier, replenishing the printer with paper, proof-reading a colleague’s latest report or reviewing a collaborator’s newest results. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture – start with something that feels manageable right now.

How does being helpful in a hopeless moment make you feel?

Reading for Leading #2: Going long

Going long

Next time you’re frustrated you can’t explore something in more detail, “go long”.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/smallquan/14858212406/

How many times in a given day or week do you and your team members think “I wish I could dive a little deeper into this topic, problem or new tool – but I just don’t have time right now.”?

Next time that happens, pick up a post-it note or scrap of paper, note down the item and then put it away somewhere. Perhaps stick the post-its onto a plain sheet of paper in the corner of your office, or post the scraps of paper into an empty tissue box on your desk – whatever works for you. You can do this electronically too, if you prefer – maybe using a Trello board and making cards for each new item that crops up. But no browsing when you post the new items! Simply file and forget.

Next, block out 90 mins in your calendar at some point within the next month. When that time arrives, empty out the box, pull down the paper covered in post-its or re-open the Trello board and pick something that calls you. Then spend the 90 mins exploring it.

You can either do this alone or as a team exercise. How does this work out?

Source of inspiration: Janice Marturano’s “Finding the space to lead”

Social intelligence – and what’s missing in online interactions on social media

Social intelligence is the ability to navigate complex social relationships and environments – something key to being a successful community manager or facilitator. However, on reading recently about some of the components of social intelligence proposed by Dan Goleman it struck me how poorly we optimise for many of them on social media.

Goleman proposes that there are two broad categories of skills that comprise social intelligence – those of social awareness and those of social facility. Social awareness includes paying attention to others so that we develop empathy, attunement and cognition, whereas social facility is about how we regulate our own interactions with others – including how we present ourselves and exert influence.

Could some of the problems that we’re seeing with anti-social behaviour online be attributed to two related issues? 1) Platforms being better optimised for social facility traits and 2) Technical limitations that seriously restrict social awareness online. I unpack these ideas in this post.

Nerd, dork, geek or dweeb? Where do you sit in the Venn diagram?
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk/3350940973/

Continue reading

Reading for Leading #1: Illuminate the marginalia

Illuminate the marginalia

What’s going on in your marginalia of your meeting? Are you fighting demons or playing pranks?
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/medmss/

Next time you’re sat in a meeting and find yourself disengaging from the conversation, instead of reaching for your phone, your inbox or a daydream, try to determine what the script and accompanying director’s notes are for your character at this point.

Are you silently having a different conversation to the one that’s actually taking place in the room? Maybe you’re re-enacting last month’s meeting which left you feeling road-blocked. Is there something going unsaid that maybe needs for you to suggest a one-to-one check in with someone in the room – or even for you to be brave and speak out while everyone is still in it?

Taking time to examine the marginalia around the edges of your current script could tell you a lot about why this particular scene isn’t working out for you today – and what you can do to address it.


Source of inspiration: Mental models chapter of “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge.



Introducing “Reading for Leading” – Monday morning pithy prompts

Want to be a less robotic, more connected leader? Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/katy_tresedder/4902216441/

Recently I’ve been thinking about the balance between consumption and creation or synthesis. And while I’ve been enjoying translating some of my thoughts into blog posts once again, there have been many more ideas shared at events, and in books, papers and podcasts than I’m ever going to convert into full-length posts.

However, exploring ideas doesn’t always have to go long form!

Two examples: Seth Godin’s daily blog posts are one of my favourite reads – little nuggets of marketing and management inspiration, they’re often a good prompt to stop and rethink your project work. Likewise, I’ve enjoyed exploring Zen koans over the years – short pithy phrases that you reflect on for a period of time in order to distill their wisdom for yourself.

And so I’m going to combine bits of both to create a new series of short posts every Monday morning – “reading for leading“. Each post will share a question, a tip, a definition or something else to ponder as you start your week. I hope you enjoy these small, straight doses of inspiration on the topic of modern leadership.