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Recommended Reading for You and Your Leadership Team
October 15, 2010
Written By: Michelle Clark, Ph.D.

I recently worked with a leadership team during a two-day off-site.  In the past year the team had read two books together: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Bounce: The Art of Turning Tough Times into Triumph. Both books are “fables” that use a fictionalized story to describe concepts about teams. They are fast reads; I read Bounce on the flight to the team meeting.

This was my first time working with this team, and I found it very helpful that we had all read the same two books. The shared understanding of the concepts in the book allowed us to discuss complex interactions in short-hand. 

For example, as the team struggled with their own sense of being powerless in the face of corporate decisions, I was able to subtly say two words from Bounce to the leader: “absorb anxiety."  He immediately got my meaning and began implementing one of the strategies from the book in the team meeting. Without the shared language and immediate recognition from the book, those two words would have needed 30 minutes of dialog. 

Another client has recently read the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. In his leadership team, one of the challenges is that under stress, the team struggles to stick to the team ground rules. He found the concept “motivate the elephant” from this book to speak to why he thinks the team stumbles when implementing agreements under stress. We now pause after coming to agreements to ask ourselves “the rider agrees to this, but what will it take to motivate the elephant?”

I have intentionally not explained what those phrases mean here as a teaser to encourage you to read the books and find out.  I found something of value in each of the three books mentioned here, and I imagine you will too.

As a team, you might consider this strategy:

  • Identify a book to read together as a group. Ideally this book is a quick read that has concepts that could apply to your team.

  • Discuss the book as a group.

  • Have each person identify at least one take away message.

  • As a team, agree if there are any concepts from the book that they would like to use within the team.

  • Come up with a few quick phrases that will quickly draw the concept to mind:
    • Switch: Motivate the elephant
    • Bounce: Absorb anxiety or Morale, the army kind
    • 5 Dysfunctions: No buy-in without weigh-in

  • When the team hits a stuck point, pause and ask, “does anything we learned from _________ book apply here?”

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