What do Books@Work participants read? The short answer: books, short stories, plays and more. Rich narratives – from literary fiction to memoirs – introduce us to new ideas, build genuine connections and foster more inclusive workplaces and communities. Before each program begins, we survey participants for their preferences, consult with professors and draw upon the knowledge and experience of Books@Work staff to choose the readings.
While some groups prefer books, others stick to one short story per session. Over time, we’ve found that certain short stories succeed with a wide variety of groups – executive leadership teams, police officers, healthcare workers and veterans alike.
One particularly successful Books@Work story is Chinua Achebe’s “Dead Men’s Path,” the tale of young, energetic Michael Obi, who takes a new role as headmaster of a Nigerian school in 1949.
“In your career, you’ve worked with numerous companies on cultural transformation. Is there anything about Books@Work that is new for you? Is there anything different in how the program nurtures individuals and the community?”
There are several dimensions that are different. In my McKinsey days, the cultural transformation was always embedded in a business transformation and a performance imperative. We would ask what role culture played in achieving tangible business goals, whether that is sales growth, cost reduction, responsiveness, whatever it is.
I was initially skeptical about Books@Work because it did not tie directly to a business outcome. How would I know that I was actually making progress?
Renowned and prolific science fiction writer Tom Godwin’s short story “The Cold Equations” takes place aboard a cargo spaceship bound for a far-off planet in need of medical supplies. The ship’s pilot finds himself – and his ship – in an unexpected predicament when he discovers a stowaway on board.
As you read, consider the many hard choices we must make in our lives – should decisions be rooted in reason or emotion?
Happy Friday! We’ve scoured the web for thought-provoking articles and essays for you to enjoy over the weekend.
In The Atlantic, Bouree Lam interviews Susan David, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of the book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life which looks at “how companies and employees can acknowledge uncomfortable experiences and react appropriately.” How can negative emotions like grief, fear or resentment actually benefit our workplaces?
Forbes outline nine leadership lessons about workplace diversity and inclusion that we can learn from this year’s top-grossing Oscar nominee “Hidden Figures.” One tip from the movie that leaders can put into action? Removing obstacles for your workers:
“After realizing that Katherine Goble (played by Taraji P. Henson) had to spend half an hour walking across Langley each time she needed to use the bathroom, Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner) uses a crowbar to smash down the sign that identifies the only bathroom at Langley reserved for women of color. In so doing, he effectively removes a significant obstacle to make Goble’s work easier. And, as is often the case, by identifying and fixing the problem for one person, he removed an obstacle that was impacting a large number of talented people.”
What other obstacles can we remove to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace?
Writing for the Harvard Business Review Amber Lee Williams addresses why it’s important to speak up when we witness instances of bias in the workplace: “Failure to acknowledge and address bias or offensive behavior validates the conduct and may create an impression that the behavior is acceptable, and even to be expected, in the workplace. Moreover, normalizing offensive conduct in this subtle manner tends to have a chilling effect on other potential dissenters, and communicates to those who are offended, regardless of whether they are targets of the behavior, that their perspectives and voices are not valued.”
Williams offers advice for how to speak up most effectively, and emphasizes that we should “create the opportunity for dialogue.” How do you foster dialogue at work?
You don’t have go far to read impassioned references to the American “skills gap.” A recent survey published by Adecco found that 92% of American executives believe that American workers are not as skilled as they need to be. Although reasonable minds do differ as to whether the “skills gap” is a real problem or not, one thing is very clear: technical expertise is critical to running a successful business in every sector of the economy. But expertise has a shadow.
In a recent piece explaining “How Senior Executives Find Time to Be Creative,” The Happiness Track author Emma Seppala points out that “the number-one attribute CEOs look for in their incoming workforce” is creativity. She goes on to pack her article with tips for fostering creativity day in and day out – even on a busy schedule. Read about Seppala’s research – and find links to pieces on energy at work, listening well, literature and mental health and more.
In a recent piece for the Harvard Business Review, Pat Wadors, Senior Vice President of Global Talent Organization at LinkedIn, argues that storytelling is key to belonging at work. Learn more about the case she makes for belonging. We also include stories on the key to listening well, employee-led learning, a poet-turned CEO, hope and living wisely.