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Stretching, Learning, and Growing

Brad

This is the second installment in our new SUCCESS in Action series (#1 here)

I received the following email from Brad Pedersen, President of Tech 4 Kids Inc. and one of the CEOs participating in my HIGH-PERFORMANCE FORUM. The idea contained in it is one any business can—and should—implement into its company culture… if you want to create a high-performance environment.

“Thought I would pass this on to you as a great idea that we have implemented into our business that was a part of my takeaway plan from HPF. In support of one of our company’s core values of ’Stretching, Growing, and Learning,’ we started something called Book Club.

The idea is that we would read a book every month and then get together for one hour one morning at the end of the month to discuss the book and the insights gathered.

I gave all the members of our company a copy of The Compound Effect for Christmas (in my offices here in Canada as well as in Hong Kong), so I decided this would be the first book we would discuss in Book Club.

I notified team members about it—the format to expect and that it was voluntary but with the caveat of anyone wishing to be a part of the strategic leadership in the company (nudge, nudge) needed to be part of it.

I expected to have three or four people show up since it was before work hours and most people are not looking for another extracurricular activity.

I was blown away that 60% of our office showed up for the meeting. I asked one person to summarize the book and then gave each person an opportunity to give me the Top 3 lessons learned and the single greatest “Aha” learned from the book.

It was AWESOME! I was so impressed with the dialogue. In the end we pushed passed the allotted 60 minutes and ended up spending another 30 minutes discussing the book. Everyone was highly engaged, and you could see genuine excitement about key lessons that were being discovered.

To top it off… we had a new employee who attended the meeting. He said it was one of the best things he had ever seen in a company and he was glad to have been a part of it. This guy is a CPA who came to us from Nestle and prior to that was an auditor with KPMG. You would think companies of this caliber would offer their teams opportunities for growing and self-improvement! It was very gratifying to hear from him that what we had offered with Book Club was extraordinary.

It also helped me separate the wheat from the chaff by the level of preparedness and the detail of the questions and comments the attendees had. I now have a better idea of who wants to develop and who is content to stay status quo. It will help direct me in who I will be investing myself in to help develop the leadership of the company.

The amazing ’ripple effect’ that I did not expect when we got back to the office: those that had attended had an extra skip in their step and were excited and highly engaged in their work. Their enthusiasm was contagious and they promoted Book Club to other team members of the company that did not come. I felt that just that one meeting helped create a deeper connection with the team members who attended. It shows we care for their personal development and growth, and that the words of our core value are not just empty but dynamic as we live them out.

While we have only had one meeting I am really excited about this concept, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next meeting. I personally was positively affected in that I found myself being like a proud papa watching our team members articulate from their notes the key learning points of the book. You can tell when it has gone from their heads to their hearts.”

Next month is going to be a classic: The Magic of Thinking Big.”

How about you? Got a book club going in your organization?

If having highly engaged and excited team who become enthused about stretching, growing and learning sounds like a good thing, give it a try.

If you want to ask Brad a question—or give him kudos—please do so in the comments section below.

Brad Pedersen is the President of Tech 4 Kids Inc., a privately owned Canadian company ($25M+) that develops and markets fun, innovative, and educational toys for kids. For more information, go to www.tech4kids.com.

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16 Responses to “Stretching, Learning, and Growing”

  1. @Andee B, Thanks for the comments. The early start is not about being a “prude” on compensating our staff. It is simply my belief in that is the best time of the day to get the best from people is early in the morning before they get “bogged” down the chaos of the work day. We go out of our way to give our staff flexibilty in their schedules when it requires it assuming they have proven they are responsible.

    I doubt it is possible to review any book well in a single meeting, especially a book as rich as the compound effect. My job is to be a “catalyst” to cultivate curiosity to learn and grow. We are all responsible for our own personal growth and there will be some who left the meeting that park the book on the shelf and there will be others who go back and become students and review and or look at ideas differently based on the conversations had.

    This is not designed to be an accountability group but rather an opportunity for team members to belong, to live out one of the companies core values and to express themselves and be heard. It is early days and we may decide to modify over time….. but all I know is that today I received feedback from 2 staff members who told me that they have almost finished the next book mentioning some of the ideas they had already picked up. My companies value just went up!

  2. @Steve H., Agree wholeheartedly. Hearing from someone who was a former exec with big firms that this was the first time he had been able to be part of something like this really resonated with me. By being part of this and giving your team an opportunity to express themselves is that people will grow and become more valuable members of the team and the result is a more valuable company. Great companies are made up of great teams!

  3. @Anita Jefferson, great point Anita. I agree not every great member of your team has to be a type “A” personality. That said the comments are really not what I am looking for but rather the action. The simple action of reading the book and showing up prepared tells me everything I want to know. Being able to articulate ideas from it in a group only exposes one’s particular set of gifts. As you know we need multiple gifts to make a complete team no different than I need arms, legs, eyes and ears to be part of a complete body.

  4. @Lynne Wallace, Thanks for you comments. Glad to hear about your ongoing success and I look forward to cheering you on!

  5. @Walt Mameniskis, Thanks for your question. Of course the most important way to teach others is in how you live out your life in from of them. Assuming you have a team of achievers, it is the example you set as a leader that ultimately provides the best determination of what you can expect from your team. I have found that for me I need to lead from the front and be prepared to do the things I tell my team to do otherwise the words are powerless.

    I would also say important to the company was to identify our values, what are our absolutes the things we aspire towards and as the leader one of those values was to constantly seek to grow stretch and learn. If that is a company value and part of your constitution it becomes pretty easy to talk to and promote whenever their is an opportunity. Likewise if you see evidence where this value (or for that matter any one of your values not being manifested) you can ask the question of your team as to what are they doing to live out these values.

    I am an achiever who is looking to grow and as such I am plugged into books and CD’s on a daily basis. I do not hide it from my team but rather I let them know whenever I get a chance what I am plugged into and what I am learning from. I want to create a culture of idea people who want to expand their ability to think. I quote from things I have heard or read whenever I get the chance.

    My experience has taught me that your people will only ever do about 80% of what you do right and 110% of what you do wrong. So the importance of living it out first in front of your team creates credibility with your team and then you have the ability to influence.

    I would also say that I really did not want all the team to show up. I really was looking to separate the wheat from the chaff and as such when I suggested that people who want to be apart of the leadership should show up…it was an IQ test. Those that showed up made the cut. The next test will be who show up at the next several meetings. As we know it is easy to start it is hard to be consistent. Those that do show up will not only get the compounded effect of personal growth but also the benefit of increasing their value to the company and as such increasing their likelihood of receiving a promotion.

  6. Great job Brad. I relate to your surprise about other, “more prominent” companies not having decent programs in place for staff engagement and growth and development. My take on that is that they do not want to offend anyone, both HR and legal have weighed in and have thwarted any attempts to engage staff at a deep level. I am bypassing that approach here where I work by not involving them, they know that I am promoting staff engagement and growth and development but only from arms length, and that is the way I hope it will stay. While I may be stuck in a large organization who prefers to protect itself against any litigation rather than developing staff who are engaged, I will do my part to keep promoting and encouraging a high level of engagement by providing means for growth and development. My goal is to break out on my own and not have any restrictions!! Thank you for your courage and willingness to invest in growth and development!

    Bill

  7. Great concept.  I just wonder about the mixed “voluntary-but-mandatory” message and the before-hours timing. As Darren often eloquently points out, we humans need “success balance” and cannot neglect family/personal matters. 

    An early a.m. uncompensated hour seems to favor a certain subset, and not necessarily those with the maturity to balance competing demands. Have you considered hosting it as a working lunch too? Or even a compensated hour to show how the company is also vested in this idea?  Imo, one group of early a.m. chatters aren’t necessarily the cream of your crop… 

    Btw, understandable enthusiasm aside, going beyond the set time is not conducive to promoting future attendance.

    One question – did the group decide a single meeting was enough for this material or was it your decision to move on? Merit in both approaches, but I’d want to know if subsequent reflection built into the value, e.g. principles applied to work tasks or team-building.  In my small system, a few minutes at the start of a next BC might be sufficient to flesh that out; for others, might be a difft paradigm. 

    Great food for thought! Thanks for sharing. Much success…
     

  8. A couple of thoughts here:
    1. Love the idea of a book club. So powerful to share ideas.
    2. I’ve heard another idea is to offer to pay participants a bonus of the retail price of the books as an incentive to read.
    3. I put together a checklist for organizers and participants in case that might be a value add for those who are considering starting a book club in their organization.

    Hope this is a blessing to you. Thank you for sharing these ideas.

    Regards,
    Tom Cooper

  9. What I get from this story isn’t so much that book clubs are needed. It’s that people in corporate environments often feel like a cog in a machine that doesn’t get to think or express themselves creatively and actually be heard. Talking about the book was an opportunity to speak off the cuff about deeper inner feelings and thoughts and have people listen and value them. I think THAT is what many people crave at work.

  10. Brad, reading is still fundamental to every growth process. The added layers of high level conversation and continuity are two of the building stones for internal team unity which then cascades out to better performance,leadership scanning and better customer service.

    I do caution that overt attention to the talkers is not always the best gauge for the mentoring/promotion scope of your choices of those who will “help develop the leadership of the company.” The less vocal should not be discarded, but coached through broader consultation to share their deep, often recessed, value comments with the group.

  11. Excellent concept…I actually gave out The Compound Effect to our management team (and also a few sets of Living Your Best Life Ever)…the conversation over the concepts is powerful and really works to unite the team. Thanks for a great replicatable concept!

  12. Dear Brad,

    I enjoyed reading about the way you used your “Book Club” to both motiviate your team and also uncover those individuals that you will target for future leadership roles. I have a question that I would appreciate your comment on. How can I best implement “Book Club” with a mature sales team? I am an enthusiastic reader of “Success” and a practitioner of positive visualization which has brought me individual success in many life areas. I have tried to pass this way of living on to my tream with little buy in. The “Book Club” process appears to be a great way to have each person take away segments that will impact their lives. Thank yuo veyr much and i look forward to hearin your insights.

    Regards,

    Walt Mameniskis
    Director of Sales
    Pacor, Inc.

  13. Great post and a great reminder. A real estate investment group that I was involved years ago did the same thing and it was really helpful to share and discuss the different topics and how they could be applied to our work. Nowadays I would wear out my Kindle if it was made of paper but I’m inspired to start a book club on our blog. Thanks for sharing-