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One of the keys to the success of anyone’s leadership development is knowing how to read a book. For years, I would set a goal of reading 52 books between January 1 and December 31. And for several years I accomplished that goal. I still think that’s a good discipline for a young leader, but as I grew older something inside told me to slow down. I sensed I was at a stage where I needed to focus less on information and focus more on transformation. So I started reading fewer books. But that still wasn’t having the growth impact I was longing for.

It took a while, but I finally developed a 6 Question System for reading that seemed to take me deeper into the content and impacted my thinking in a more tangible way. Today when I read a book, I start by reading the table of contents and dividing it into sections. Sometimes a section is one chapter; sometimes it’s 2 or 3 chapters. Instead of applying all six questions to every single chapter, I apply the questions to the larger sections.

The following six questions force me to read each section on a deeper level.

What stood out to you the most?

I don’t actually write the answer to this question. But I answer this by using a highlighter to mark every sentence that stood out to me. In a 10-page chapter this may be as many as 40-60 sentences that stood out as important or as key thoughts. Continue Reading…

I’ve noticed that great senior leaders typically are tenacious readers. I’ve also observed that those who do a great job developing leaders are typically taking one or more of their leaders through a book. In fact, I would go so far as to say if you’re not developing your team to be readers then you’re probably not developing them as leaders.

If I were bringing on a new staff member who had little leadership experience, there are five books I would spend the first six to eight months taking them through. Over the years, I’ve taken several people through these books and they always have a great impact.

One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard

Why this book?  Blanchard boils leadership down to three simple disciplines: One-minute goal setting, One-minute praising, One-minute reprimands. In fact anytime I hire someone new this is the first book I give them. If you practice what Blanchard suggests it will align your expectations with those you lead. As you’ve probably heard me say before, “If you don’t have shared expectations, you’ll have shared frustrations.”

How long will it take?  About 3 sessions (one session per discipline). Continue Reading…

Do you ever find yourself wanting to get better at a skill, ability or talent, but you can’t seem to make any progress?

You don’t have to struggle your way blindly through mediocrity there are actually things you can do to get better faster. Here are five tips that might help.

Tip #1. Exposure -Get exposure to experts

I just finished reading Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon. (Check out his TED Talk)   To refine a skill he recommends you find an expert and exhaust yourself studying that one person. Hey says, “If you try to devour the history of your discipline all at once you’ll choke. Instead, chew on one thinker- writer, artist, activist, role model – you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them.”

Tip #2. Goal Set: Write two to five goals

Establishing a few goals will cause your mind to focus on progress. Think through why you want to learn this skill? What would it look like if you perfected it? How would it benefit you and those you lead? Picture what good performance looks like and then set a few goals you can strive toward. When you write down goals it makes you more accountable especially if you make the goals public by sharing them with a friend or small group. Continue Reading…