Yes, Leaders are Readers!


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.


At this stage of my life, I’ve gone way beyond book nerd.

What started as a boyhood practice grew into an adult passion, and is now a deliberate, daily practice.

The turning point came when I entered seminary – a friend who was in his last year of a doctoral program told me I needed to learn how to read.

I thought that I had that one pretty much covered; after all, I had been reading since before first grade.

I was wrong; he was right.

That book recommendation, and for decades now my go-to book on helping someone deepen their love of reading used to be “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer Adler. It’s still a great book – but now I have a new recommendation:

Read to Lead, by Jeff Brown and Jesse Wisnewski.

With this book, Jesse and I have attempted to make the case that reading – specifically book reading – is the simplest and one of the most important habits you can develop, especially if your goal is to expand your audience and boost your career.

Jeff brown

It’s the common habit shared by many successful people throughout history. It’s responsible for unlocking limitless creativity and influence. It’s known to reduce stress, improve decision-making skills, and make you a better leader. What is it? Reading. And it’s the single best thing you can do to improve yourself professionally.

Reading more and better books creates opportunities for you to learn new skills, rise above your competition, and build a successful career. In Read to Lead you’ll learn

– Why you need to read like your career depends on it

– The five science-backed reasons reading will help you build your career

– How to absorb a book into your bloodstream

– A technique that can double (or triple!) your reading speed

– Tips on creating a lifetime reading habit

– And more!

If you want to lead a more satisfied life, have more intelligent conversations, and broaden your mind, you need to read to lead!


Reading the Table of Contents (itself one of the simplest but most overlooked starting place in reading a book) reveals the breadth and depth of advice and encouragement found in Read to Lead:

Introduction: Why Read a Book about Reading Books

Part 1 Why You Need to Read Books

  1. Why You Need to Read a Book Like Your Career Depends On It
  2. Eight Research-Backed Reasons Why Readers Do Better in Their Careers
  3. The Slow Death of Readers: Three Big Reasons Why People Are Reading Less
  4. The Eight Biggest Reading Excuses Holding You Back

Part 2 The Books You Need to Read

  1. Six Ways to Know What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Read
  2. Too Busy Not to Read: Nine Ways to Free Up More Time to Read
  3. How to Build Your Reading Plan

Part 3 The Smarter Way to Read Books

  1. How to Absorb a Book Into Your Bloodstream
  2. Double (or Triple) Your Reading Speed in Minutes
  3. How to “Read” a 220-Page Book in One Hour
  4. How to Create an Unchangeable Reading Habit
  5. The Key to (Nearly) Mastering Anything
  6. Fifteen Tips on How to Read Smarter
  7. Why You Should Join (or Start) a Book Club

Conclusion: Growing as a Reader and Leader

Pick any single chapter and you will increase your reading skill by the end of that chapter.

Read the book through, take its admonitions to heart, and you will change the trajectory of your life.

While the knowledge gained from reading is important, the real benefit is from the habit of reading. When you are continually reading, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for new connections it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. Frequent reading fires up your neural activity, even during the periods when you aren’t reading.

Reading is a gift that you can unselfishly give yourself, one that truly keeps on giving. I can think of no better start to deepening your love of reading than with “Read to Lead.

How to Lead with Gratitude

It’s easy to talk about enhancing performance, improving efficiency and being a more influential leader. So why don’t we do it more?

Maybe it is because leadership books often feel stale. It’s often a same-idea, different-author experience. Leadership is a set of abilities, and it can be learned and improved on a regular basis. But we have to seek that improvement.

Does boredom keep you from scheduling time on a regular basis to grow your leadership skills?

THE QUICK SUMMARYLeading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Workers want and need to know their work is appreciated. New research shows that gratitude boosts employee engagement, reduces turnover, and leads team members to express more gratitude to one another—strengthening team bonds. Studies have also shown that gratitude is beneficial for those expressing it and is one of the most powerful variables in predicting a person’s overall well-being—above money, health, and optimism. 

Despite these benefits, few executives effectively utilize this simple tool. In fact, new research reveals “people are less likely to express gratitude at work than anyplace else.” What accounts for the staggering chasm between awareness of gratitude’s benefits and the failure of so many leaders to do it—or do it well? Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton call this the gratitude gap. In Leading with Gratitude, they identify the widespread and pernicious myths about managing others that cause leaders to withhold thanks.

Gostick and Elton also introduce eight simple ways managers can show employees they are valued. They supplement their insights and advice with stories of how many of today’s most successful leaders successfully incorporated gratitude into their leadership styles.

Showing gratitude isn’t just about being nice, it’s about being smart – really smart – and it’s a skill that everyone can easily learn.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

For leaders wanting to retain great talent and better engage their people, the solution might be right under their noses. Showing gratitude to employees is the easiest, fastest, most inexpensive way to boost performance.

The best leaders positively engage with their teams consistently. But while practicing gratitude is easy, it is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied tools of management. That’s a shame, because it is also one of the single most critical skills for managers to master if they want to enhance their team’s performance and develop their leadership credibility.

The impact of gratitude needs to start within you, radiate outward, and lift up everyone on your team.

Leading with gratitude is not only about giving credit where credit is due, it’s actually knowing where it is due.

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Seeing: Ways leaders can ensure they’ll spot great work being done.

Solicit and Act on Input – This is not new, but few leaders do it. Even more rare is to see leaders follow through on suggestions. Every day workers will face challenges in their work, and each of these problems can spark ideas for improvements.

Assume Positive Intent – Positive intent coaching steps include: 1) Pick up the phone or go see the person if at all possible; 2) gather all the facts before making decisions; 3) take a forward-looking approach; 4) pay close attention to all communication to avoid passive-aggressive language and set a positive tone.

Walk in Their Shoes – One of the great enablers of authentic gratitude is developing empathy for others. The best way to be truly empathetic is to actually walk in their shoes.

Look for Small Wins – Every small step toward an organization’s goals and values is worthy of acknowledgement. This ongoing, cumulative effect of small outcomes can be significant.

Expressing: Ways leaders voice and show their thanks.

Give It Now, Give It Often, Don’t Be Afraid – By checking in with people and helping them see they’ve made appreciable progress each day, leaders can boost energy levels considerably.

Tailor to the Individual – Smart leaders use the knowledge of individual motivators to tailor expressions of gratitude to each team member.

Reinforce Core Values – Expressions of gratitude, when connected to actions that are in line with the company or team core values, offer powerful opportunities to communicate why these grand ideals are so important.

Make It Peer-to-Peer – When employees are grateful to each other, they affirm positive concepts typically valued in their colleagues, such as trustworthiness, dependability, and talent.

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results

A NEXT STEP 

Use the following ideas from authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton in each of the eight areas as a springboard for increasing how you lead your team with gratitude. Review the list below and select three of the axioms to push toward implementation. For each of the three, answer these questions: 

  • What difference could implementing this idea make this week? Conceive it!
  • What is one action or activity currently missing but required for success? Create it! 
  • What will be an indication of success in this effort, as measured by the impact on those around me? Celebrate it!
  • When will I review the results and select another axiom? Calendar it!

Solicit and Act on Input

  • Avoid the over-ask – Asking for ideas out of your team’s purview or asking too many questions at once.
  • Ensure specificity fits – Asking the right question of the right people in the right way.
  • If ideas aren’t viable, openly discuss why.

Assume Positive Intent

  • Creativity requires trust.
  • Use any mistakes as a chance to teach rather than an opportunity to punish.
  • Be aware of factors beyond your team’s control.

Walk in Their Shoes

  • Take time to ask your team about difficulties they may be encountering.
  • Coach yourself to regularly ask your team about how they’re approaching their work and if they could share recent accomplishments.
  • Radical candor has to come with deep empathy and a desire to help others.

Look for Small Wins

  • Notice and express appreciation for small-scale efforts as much as major achievements.
  • Identify top performers and let them know the difference they are making.
  • Encourage team members to give shout-outs to each other.

Give It Now, Give It Often, Don’t Be Afraid

  • Mark important contributions through day-to-day recognition.
  • Positive reinforcement triggers reward signals in the brain, reinforcing the action and making it more likely to be repeated.
  • Frequent gratitude gives team members perspective that any setbacks aren’t the end of the world.

Tailor to the Individual

  • Is the achievement a step toward living your values?
  • Is the achievement a one-time, larger step that reinforces your values?
  • Is the achievement an ongoing, above-and-beyond demonstration of your values in action?

Reinforce Core Values

  • Team members want to know 1) who you profess to be (your brand) and 2) do you live up to what you profess (your culture).
  • Help your team understand common values-driven conflicts and provide ways to deal with them.
  • Help your team understand and respect the values, even if they may not completely agree with them.

Make It Peer-to-Peer

  • In the best teams, employees feel free to speak up, share ideas, and know they can ask others for help.
  • Peer recognition can help build bonds outside of immediate teams, break down silos, and help workers in different locations feel connected to one another.
  • Online systems to facilitate peer-to-peer gratitude.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

August 9 is birthdate of my father, who was born in 1927.

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lined the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful my father instilled in me.

Monday 8/9 will be Book Lover’s Day – not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter and happier people.

Book Lovers Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lovers Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I’m also celebrating this Book Lover’s Day as a part of my vocation – Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader at Auxano. My role requires me to read – a lot – and then write book excerpts, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent conversation with a teammate, I was able to pull a half-dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books about a specific topic that helped him work with a client. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love (and practice) the 4 different levels of reading as espoused by Mortimer Adler in his great book, How to Read a Book, but I really like to latch onto a topic and practice Syntopical Reading. Also known as comparative reading, it is where many books are read, and placed in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve.

For many years, an ongoing topic of syntopical reading has been about Walt Disney and the “kingdom” he founded. My current Disney library is over 430 books – and I’m still actively researching the subject, and discovering new authors and books regularly. Here’s a few of my latest acquisitions:

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In addition to the pure enjoyment of reading on the subject, these books provide a constant reference for illustrations when I’m writing about Guest Experience.

Speaking of books, I have begun an office renovation project that required the removal of over 2,000 books before renovations could began. That’s a future post or two, for sure!

In addition to Disney syntopical reading, I’ve always got small threads of other, diverse, syntopical reading going on, often spurred by a library book or two I’ve checked out. For example, the history and development of the railroads during the mid 1850’s through the turn of the century are a recent, and fascinating thread. Did you know that Los Angles probably owes its existence (or at least prominence) to a long, bitter feud between two railroad tycoons? Or that the transcontinental railroads were the first corporate behemoths? Or that in an effort to capture repeat customers traveling from the outlying towns and villages (soon to be suburbs) to their offices in the city, the full fare was “commuted” or discounted, and the “commuter” in name, at least – was born.

27gen-080621-Post-1

Sadly, a long-running syntopical project, SUMS Remix, came to a close earlier this year. You can read about it here.

Even with that big change in my reading habit, there’s always a book at hand!

There’s current reading for Auxano social media (Tweets, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook posts), preparation for Guest Experience and First Place Hospitality development and consultations, other internal Auxano writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading – a nightly occurrence. Currently a few topics I’m reading for pleasure include the story behind the Winnie-the-Pooh books (including exploring the real world forest that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood); several newly-published leadership books; a few volumes on the differing views of patriotism; designing and curating a home library (related to the office renovation noted above); and of course, there’s always some Disney history in the mix!

So, on Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”


If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station, I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest experiences. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

As Leaders of Remote Teams, We Need to Prioritize Outcomes, Others, and Ourselves

Your team has probably been working remotely for most of the last year now, and even as discussions about “opening up” begin to become more prevalent, it’s likely that remote work will continue in some form for the foreseeable future.

That’s the question Google is tacking with a new set of policies recently rolled out by the company’s CEO. They center around just three words:

Flexibility and Choice.

What may have been quick emergency actions like having the basic tools and defining remote processes is now moving toward a new normal.

To make it through the current crisis and return to that new normal, you and your team will need to be resilient. The good news is that leaders can help create the conditions that make this possible.

As Bryan Miles, CEO and cofounder of BELAY, a leading U.S.-based, virtual solutions company says:

“Productivity comes from people completing their tasks in a timely, professional, adult manner, not from daily attendance in a sea of cubicles and offices.”

How will you lead your team through both this changing tide and likely new normal?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Long-Distance Leader by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel

As more organizations adopt a remote workforce, the challenges of leading at a distance become more urgent than ever. The cofounders of the Remote Leadership Institute, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel, show leaders how to guide their teams by recalling the foundational principles of leadership.

The authors’ “Three-O” Model refocuses leaders to think about outcomes, others, and ourselves—elements of leadership that remain unchanged, whether employees are down the hall or halfway around the world. By pairing it with the Remote Leadership Model, which emphasizes using technology as a tool and not a distraction, leaders are now able to navigate the terrain of managing teams wherever they are.

Filled with exercises that ensure projects stay on track, keep productivity and morale high, and build lasting relationships, this book is the go-to guide for leading, no matter where people work.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Leadership has never been a simple task. Factor in the many complications of leading your team remotely, and it would seem that leadership difficulties have magnified exponentially.

According to author Kevin Eikenberry, “It may have always been lonely at the top, but now we’re literally, physically, by ourselves much of the time.”

Being a Long-Distance Leader may feel radically different from how you’ve led in the past, but the core part is still the same: you are a leader, first. 

Accept the fact that leading remotely requires you to lead differently.

What’s needed is a change in mindset from time-based working to results-based working, which calls for evaluating output rather than hours.

Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel

There are three areas of focus all leaders must recognize and use to reach their maximum success.  

  • Outcomes—you lead people with the purpose of reaching a desired outcome. 
  • Others—you lead with and through other people to reach those outcomes.
  • Ourselves—you can’t leave yourself out of this model. While leadership is about outcomes and other people, none of that happens without you whether you like it or not.

At the highest level, organizations exist to reach outcomes of one sort or another. As a Long-Distance Leader, this focus on outcomes is, if possible, even more important and can definitely be harder. There are three reasons for this difficulty:  

  • Isolation. When people are working remotely, they are likely alone more of the time, often leading to silos of the smallest nature – people acting as if they are a team of one, and forgetting how their outcomes are part of the larger whole.
  • Lack of environmental cues. Working from a home office or remote location, people do not receive the very clear clues and cues that reinforce the organizational focus.
  • (Potentially) less repetition of messages. Unless leaders consistently, and in a variety of ways, communicate and reiterate the goals and outcomes for the team, people may get lost in their own bubble.

Long-Distance Leaders must also focus on others. Here are seven reasons why: 

  1. You can’t do it alone anyway. Leadership is about the outcomes, but those must be reached through others.
  2. You win when they win. True and lasting victory comes from helping others win, too.
  3. You build trust when you focus on others. Focusing on others and showing them you trust them first will build trust with others.
  4. You build relationships when you focus on others. When you’re interested in, listen to and care about others, you build relationships.
  5. You are more influential when you focus on others. Since we can’t control people, only influence them, our focus on others will help be a positive influence.
  6. Team members are more engaged when you focus on them. People want to work with and for people who they know believe and care about them.
  7. You succeed at everything on “the list” when you focus on others. Whatever your to-do “list” contains, by focusing on others first, achieving that list will be more successful.

The great paradox of leadership is that it isn’t about us at all—as we have just said, fundamentally leadership is about outcomes and other people.

Finally, who you are, what you believe, and how you behave plays a huge role in how effectively you will do the other things. Here are three reasons why Long-Distance Leaders must focus on themselves:

  • Assumptions. You have assumptions about what it means to work remotely. We could give you the statistics that show teleworkers are more productive, but if you don’t believe that, or assume people are multitasking on non-work items while they are at work, you will operate based on that belief rather than the facts.
  • Intention is important, but not enough. Throughout this book we talk about being intentional with nearly everything. Here, though, the challenge lies in the gap between what you want and mean to do, and what you actually do.
  • Making a decision. As a long-distance leader, you will face many choices and have lots of ideas. But none of them will work until you decide to act.

Kevin Eikenberry and Gary Turmel, The Long-Distance Leader

A NEXT STEP 

Use the following questions by author Kevin Eikenberry to honestly evaluate how you are practicing the three “O” principles listed above: Outcomes, Others, and Ourselves.

  • What do you feel are the most important outcomes expected of you as a leader?  
  • How has working remotely impacted those outcomes for you and your people?  
  • What do you feel are the most important ways to focus on others in your organization?  
  • How has working remotely impacted that focus?  
  • How do you see yourself in your role as a leader?  
  • How has leading remotely impacted your beliefs and behaviors?

All Endings Set Up New Beginnings

Among the many, many lessons from 2020, one certainly has to be that the pace of everything has accelerated.

At Auxano, we always strive to serve church leaders to the best of our ability

When the last two intersect, it’s time to make changes…

As we, like every church leader right now, assess everything we are presently doing in order to maximize future impact, it’s clear that even some of our best resources need to change.

The last issue of SUMS Remix was delivered Thursday, April 22*.

If all you’re doing is the jobs you used to do, you’re certainly missing out on the contributions you’re capable of.

Seth Godin

Those who know me know my personality style, emotional makeup, and characteristics. If you don’t, this should give you a clue:

  • Myers-Briggs – INTJ
  • DISC – C (almost exclusively)
  • Insights – Blue (deep, deep, blue)
  • Enneagram – 5, wing 6
  • Fascination Archetype – The Archer
  • Strengths Finder – Learner, Intellection, Input
  • APEST – Teaching

There’s more, but you get the drift.

SUMS Remix, and SUMS before it, have been an integral part of my work life since the fall of 2012. The idea of a creating a book summary product was one of my three primary tasks when I joined Auxano earlier that year.

Anything connected to reading, learning, and curiosity about the world around us was a natural fit for me – I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. It was instilled in me and modeled by my father, orchestrated by my mother, and a natural part of my brother’s and my childhood.

By the numbers, here’s where I’ve been:

  • 8 years, 5 months of constant production cycles for SUMS and SUMS Remix
  • 227 issues (includes 6 special, “commissioned” issues)
  • 574 books referenced
  • Several hundred more considered, but not used
  • 6 vertical book towers and two shelves in my office, holding the above referenced books
  • 3 postal carriers, and dozens of Amazon drivers, making regular visits to my house
  • 1 very gifted team: Bryan Rose, Andrea Kandler, and James Bethany – creative input, grammar and style development, and graphic designer, respectively. They made it happen, week after week.

And it’s over.

Better is possible… if we care enough to walk away from what was  and brave enough to build something new. 

Seth Godin

To best meet challenges facing leaders in a post-pandemic, accelerated-pace-of-ministry life, our team is redirecting our resources used to produce SUMS Remix to a laser-focus on these four areas:

  • Vision Clarity – because the post-pandemic church must be even more engaging and focus on accomplishing their unique disciple-making call
  • Visionary Planning – because every ministries and leaders must work in complete alignment toward a collaborative understanding of God’s better future
  • Generosity Culture – because giving has been steady over the last year, but we must grow everyone to be generous disciples
  • Generosity Campaign – because healthy growth requires resources, and how the church funds large-scale initiatives must change

If any of those areas resonate within you or your leadership and you would like to know more about how the Auxano team can help your leadership in this new era, just fill out this connection card and one of our Navigators will reach out and schedule a quick call.

I’ve already jumped headfirst into the world of research and writing for engagement, real-time development of content that leaders are asking questions about, and supporting our Navigators in their onsite and virtual journeys with churches across the country.

When it comes to books and reading, I’m still making weekly trips to the library, still curious about the world around us, and still adding to my “To Be Read” lists, because…

Want to talk books, ideas, and such? Leave a comment below!

* That day is significant in many ways, not the least of which it was the only issue (out of 221 SUMS and SUMS Remix) that was not delivered on our “every other Wednesday” target, which began in October 2012. Just sayin’…

It’s Time to Read the Year Out

2020 was the year of reading for me.

2020 wasn’t the year I learned to love reading; that occurred long ago.

2020 wasn’t the year I read widely because I had to; that occurred first in college, and then, to an extent, in seminary and post-graduate studies.

2020 wasn’t the year I read because there wasn’t anything else to do, because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, lockdowns, and quarantines – though there was plenty of “extra” time because of those things.

2020 wasn’t the year I read because my job requires it, though that IS part of my job, and one I look forward to every day.

So why is 2020 the year of reading for me?

It’s best expressed in these thoughts from Anne Bogel in her great little book, I’d Rather Be Reading (on sale for Kindle for $1.99 through the end of the year!).

We are readers. Books grace our shelves and fill our homes with beauty; they dwell in our minds and occupy our thoughts. Books prompt us to spend pleasant hours alone and connect us with fellow readers. They invite us to escape into their pages for an afternoon, and they inspire us to reimagine our lives. Show me a cover of any book I’ve read, and it will take me right back to where I was when I read it.

Anne Bogel

Books are portals to all kinds of memories.

And so, 2020 is a year full of book-inspired memories.

In 2020, those books came to me like this:

  • Books acquired this year: 287
  • Books borrowed from the library: 173
  • Digital books acquired this year: 12

As I have always been clear to point out, I have not read every page of the 472 books that have been in front of me this year. 

With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me (see below), and knowing there is more to my life than reading, I have to resort to some method of finding out what an author is trying to say without reading the whole book. There’s dozens of the total in which I only read the “highlights,” following methods I’ve learned over the years. In about 15 minutes, I can tell whether I will be reading the book, deep-diving into the book, skimming the book, or maybe just returning it (mainly library books).

If a book captures your attention after using whatever method of “quick review” you choose, you should read it.

The converse is true: if a book doesn’t capture your attention after a few attempts, stop reading it. Pick out another one on the topic – there are always more waiting for you!

With those caveats in mind, my “cover-to-cover” reading for 2020 was 217 books.

For the curious, like picking your favorite child (I have four), or favorite daughters/son-in-law (I have four), or grandchildren (I have ten), I don’t typically make a “Best of” list for the year. I find some value in almost every book I read, and for me, that’s good enough.

I talked about that in a podcast with Bryan Rose. You can listen here.

A Little More About My “Book-Inspired” Memories from 2020

In my vocational role, I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix every two weeks. SUMS Remix is a modified book excerpt in which I develop solutions to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2020 alone means I have gone through over 100 leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 81 used in producing 27 issues this year. All together, we have published 161 issues, covering 482 books, since 2015. We have just released 6 collections, covering all 161 issues, available for purchase as a downloadable PDF. Find out more here.

Other parts of my role require reading current trends books, used for team research, Navigator support, social media content creation, and other content writing.

I have had a passion for Guest Experience for decades. It’s taken a more-refined shape over the last fifteen-plus years of client work, particularly through constant research in the area of customer experience books for application for churches. Through that, an ongoing project is building The Essential Guest Experience Library, currently over 300 volumes.

A project that has been in development for over three years just became public this year: First Place Hospitality. This is a movement to help church leaders “bring hospitality home” through members building bridges to their neighbors. In addition to research needed for weekly posts, white papers, tools, and social media content, I am also building The Essential Home Hospitality Library, currently at just under 200 volumes.

I am a Disney Fanatic, plain and simple (though my wife says there is nothing plain nor simple about it). From boyhood exposure to the magical world of Walt Disney in the early 1960s, to my first of dozens of theme park visits in 1975, and especially in conversations with current and former Cast Members, I am alway seeking to learn more about Walt Disney the man, and the empire which he started. Of course, that extends to building a Disney library, currently over 420 volumes and growing! A lot of that library contains excellent material that can be applied in Guest Experience, leadership development, and organizational improvement.

Finally, there’s just the pure pleasure of reading – an almost nightly hour or two in the late evening reading a wide range of books, both brand new and classics, fiction and nonfiction. A bulk of the library books listed above fit into this category. This type of reading also helps expand the subject libraries also mentioned above, and helps start new ones!

In these closing days of 2020, and the beginning of a new year just ahead, why don’t you give yourself a gift?

The gift of reading.


Be sure to check out my other websites for more information on how to “Read the Year Out!”

First Place Hospitality

Guest Experience Design

If You Think Reading is Boring, You’re Doing It Wrong

They may be hand-drawn animation, or computer-generated imagery, or even real actors in a stage play or musical.

Whatever the media, there’s a powerful story – and life lessons – from the characters in Beauty and the Beast.

To Gaston, a book with no pictures might as well have blank pages.

To Belle, a good story doesn’t need pictures to be understood.

 

No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.

– Confucius


 

Need book ideas? How about trying SUMS Remix?

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Published since 2012, we have looked at over 480 books for solutions to common problems leaders face every day.

Each Wednesday on 27gen I typically take a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publish an excerpt.

>>Purchase an annual subscription to SUMS Remix here for only $48<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

 

The Secret to My Deliberate Practice of Reading

Part Three of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020


During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “The Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Regular reading of both books and magazines remains a part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for writing and publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders.

SUMS Remix is beginning its eighth year – the first two years contained a single book in each issue; the last five years include three books in each issue. If I’ve done my math correctly, that’s 453 books covered in 186 issues since the fall of 2012.

I do like to read!

I’ve recently referenced the “Four Levels of Reading” from a book by Mortimer J. Adler, and how critical they are to my deliberate practice of reading. To help understand, I’m going to illustrate some of the books I’ve read during 2019 by those four levels.

In the process, to close out this “reading week,” I’m taking you back to the very first SUMS book summary…

… because there’s no better place to start than “How to Read a Book.”


You have a mind. Now let us suppose that you also have a book that you want to read. The book consists of language written by someone for the sake of communicating. Your success in reading it is determined by the extent to which you receive everything the writer intended to communicate. – Mortimer J. Adler

 

sums-1-howtoreadabookMortimer J. Adler was an American author, educator, and philosopher who championed the repopularization of the Great Books and Great Ideas curriculum of study. A prolific scholar, he was the author or editor of more than fifty books, including editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It’s very fitting then, that one of his best-known works is How to Read a Book.

The art of reading is the process whereby a mind, with nothing to operate on but the symbols of the readable matter, and with no help from the outside, elevates itself by the power of its own operations.

 

The Levels of Reading

There are four levels of reading – so called because they are cumulative in that each level includes all the others, and you can’t progress to a higher level without mastering the levels that come before. They four levels are:

  • Elementary
  • Inspectional
  • Analytical
  • Syntopical

1 – Elementary Reading – What does the book say?

In mastering this level, one learns the rudiments of the art of reading, receives basic training in reading, and acquires reading skills. Our first encounter at reading is at this level; sadly, many people never progress beyond this level.

At this level of reading, the question asked of the reader is “What does the sentence say?” While that could be conceived as a complex question, in this setting take it at its simplest sense.

The attainment of the skills of elementary reading occurred some time ago for almost everyone reading this summary. Nevertheless, we continue to experience the problems of this level of reading, no matter how capable we may be as readers.

Many readers continue to have various kinds of difficulties reading at this level. Most of the difficulties are mechanical, and can be traced back to early instruction in reading. Overcoming these difficulties usually allows us to read faster.

There are four basic stages of Elementary Reading:

  1. Reading readiness’ (early physical development)
  2. Simple reading (small vocabulary; simple skills)
  3. Expanded reading (large vocabulary; diverse subjects; enjoyment)
  4. Refined reading (understand concepts; compare different views)

Almost all of the books I get on a weekly basis from my local library are Elementary Reading. Sometimes, they intrigue me enough that I will acquire my own copy for deeper reading, but for the most part, just the pure pleasure of reading is enough.

2 – Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?

The focus of reading at this level is to get the most out of a book with in a given amount of time. When reading at this level, your aim is to examine the surface of the book, to learn everything that the surface alone can teach you – which is often a good deal.

Techniques for Inspectional Reading of a book include:

  1. Systematic skimming or pre-reading
  2. Look at the title page and preface: try to pigeonhole type of book
  3. Study table of contents: look for structure/road map for trip
  4. Check index: estimate range of terms and topics; look up some passages that seem crucial
  5. Check the dust jacket: read the publisher’s blurb
  6. Look for chapters which seem most pivotal: read opening and/or
 closing passages/pages carefully
  7. Thumb through entire book, reading a few paragraphs and/or pages
 here and there, esp. at the end, looking for the main argument(s)

Some books, whether from the library, or perusing the shelves at a bookstore, by prior experience with the author, or from a recommendation from a friend, require deeper reading – if even for only a short while.

 

3 – Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?

The third level of reading, analytical reading, is both a more complex and a more systematic activity than either of the previous two levels of reading. Analytical reading is thorough reading, complete reading, or good reading – the best you can do. The analytical reader must ask many organized questions of what he is reading.

Analytical reading is hardly ever necessary if your goal in reading is simply information or entertainment. Analytical reading is preeminently for the sake of understanding. Moving your mind from a condition of understanding less to a condition of understanding more with the aid of a book is almost impossible unless you have at least some skill in analytical reading.

Techniques for Analytical Reading include:

  1. Underlining key sentences
  2. Vertical lines to mark key sections
  3. Marginal doodads like asterisks and stars
  4. Numbers of other pages in the margin
  5. Circling key words or phrases
  6. Writing in margins, or top and bottom
  7. Structural notes – about the content of the subject
  8. Conceptual notes – about the truth and significance
  9. Dialectical notes – about the shape of the argument in the larger discussion of other people’s ideas

Many of my books are specifically acquired with the purpose of having a conversation with the author – through the process outlined above. These are for specific projects, deeper levels of interest, or candidates for the fourth level of reading. Here is part of my bookshelves in a large area of analytical reading – customer experience, to be “translated” into the area of Guest Experiences.

4 – Syntopical Reading – How does this book compare with other books?

The fourth and highest level of reading is the most complex and systematic type of reading. It makes very heavy demands on the reader, even if the materials themselves are relatively easy and unsophisticated.

Another name for this level of reading may be called comparative reading. The reader is reading many books, not just one, and places them in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve. Mere comparison of texts is not enough: syntopical reading involves more. With the help of the books being read, the syntopical reader is able to construct an analysis of the subject that may not be in any of the books. Syntopical reading is the most active and effortful kind of reading.

Techniques in Syntopical Reading include:

  1. Find the relevant passages
  2. Establish a common terminology
  3. Clarify the questions
  4. Define the issues
  5. Analyze the discussion and look for the truth

The final level of reading, Syntopical Reading, I break down into two categories. The first is best illustrated by SUMS Remix. After developing a problem statement, I research and read books that will provide a solution to that problem. I am searching for the “best” three for each issue – “best” being defined in some combination of recent publication, unique solutions, or something that is worth considering but comes from left field. The timeframe for this type of syntopical reading is very compressed. With a biweekly publication schedule, the research, reading, first drafts, reviews, initial design, final design, and shipping mean that at any given time, twelve books are in the pipeline for inclusion in a SUMS Remix.

The other category of Syntopical Reading I use is for longer-term projects, in which I am continually researching for both current application and future use. An example is shown below: First Place Hospitality. Other examples I could use would be a specific part of Guest Experiences, like the Journey Map; or, maybe ongoing research into the life of Walt Disney, viewed from early accounts from the 1930s-40s, as well as more recent efforts.

That’s it – the Four Levels of Reading illustrated above are the secret to my deliberate practice of reading.

Reading and the Growth of the Mind

Active reading is the asking of questions and looking for answers. Good books stretch our minds, improve our reading
 skills, and teach us about the world and ourselves. Good books make demands on us.

But there is a world beyond good books – that of great books. Good books need have no more than one meaning and one reading
. Great books, on the other hand, have many meanings and need to be read over and over again.

The test of a great book:

  1. If you were marooned on a desert island, which ten books would you select?
  2. Does the book seem to grow with you?
  3. Do you see new things every time
 you re-read it?
  4. Is the book is able to lift you over and over again?

Seek out the few books that have these values for you.

Reading well, which means reading actively, is not only good in itself, nor is it merely a means to advancement in our work or career. Reading keeps our minds alive and growing. – Mortimer J. Adler

 


 

> Part One of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

> Part Two of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

 


 

Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix from the past year and publishing an excerpt.

If you like those, you will probably be interested in current and/or past issues.

>> Purchase a current subscription to SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

How to Read Effectively to Deliver Powerful Leadership

Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading.

As a boy in elementary school, I remember with fondness the Weekly Reader Club, a newspaper of sorts as well as an opportunity to buy books. My parents, especially my dad, were always happy to accommodate my asking for books to buy and bring home.

I recently gave new meaning to that idea, creating a Wednesday Weekly Reader series, in which I post a portion of the SUMS Remix book summaries I create as Vision Room Curator for Auxano.

 

Reading is my passion – but I don’t just read for reading’s sake.

The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for critical thinking.

Al Mohler

leaderslibrary

Reading, for me, is a chance to have an ongoing conversation with the author. The image above, taken from a new addition to my reading list, reflects the inside cover of almost every book in my library.

  • The large green Post-it® notes are for writing down important ideas from my reading of the book.
  • The smaller yellow Post-it® notes are for bookmarking important ideas in the pages of the book itself.
  • The four symbols are my “shorthand” for use while reading, indicating additional action needed.
  • I also usually highlight sections in various colors.
  • And on occasion, I will write longer notes in the margins.

When I’m finished with a book – particularly one that has really engaged me and caused me to think – the result looks something like this:

hatchbooknotes

I’m an active reader, working on becoming a more critical thinker, which will help me become a better leader.

What – and how – are you reading?

Summer Time is Reading Time!

What’s on your bookshelf for reading this summer?

Here’s a couple of new books for your consideration:

Who’s the Leader of the Club: Walt Disney’s Leadership Lessons, by Jim Korkis

Who's the Leader of the Club

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz, by J. Jeff Kober

DHS from Show Biz to Your Biz

Korkis and Kober are no strangers to the Disney organization – both are former Cast Members, and both have written extensively about various aspects of Disney.

Who’s the Leader of the Club is Korkis’ first venture into a business application of his vast knowledge of all things Disney, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint. He provides a section on Disney and Leadership and then follows that with seven leadership lessons as exemplified by Walt Disney. The final section is a collection of quotes, bad leadership examples, and stories by and about Walt Disney’s leadership.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is Kober’s second Disney-specific book with a business theme, and takes the reader “behind-the-camera” to understand and apply the Disney magic to any organization. The book contains over forty chapters of park history, Disney trivia, and business best practices designed to help your organization get ready for its closeup.

Remember: Leaders are Readers!