It has always struck me that we regularly acknowledge that people learn in different ways, however in terms of the professional development of our senior leaders, we lack a diversity of approach.
I suspect I know why; us charity folk love a get together! Often in our new hybrid home/office worlds, the webinar or workshop is our go to option. For the auditory learners among us this works well. Even the visual learners get a boost. But what about team members that learn best through reading?
In my organisation (although our Senior Leaders have all thrown themselves into all the ‘talking’ methods of development: coaching, mentoring, courses and buddying), I sensed that sometimes – they just want a good book! So, before the summer holidays, I thought it would be fun to work with the amazing Directory of Social Change – my go-to provider of all things training and development – to provide each of our 16 Associate Directors with a ‘summer leadership read’.
But what to send to who? I didn’t particularly want this to be a ‘book club’ approach of buying everyone the same book and then debating its merits. I also didn’t want it to be prescriptive (I could feel the horror of the kinaesthetic learners on opening the package!). If this activity wasn’t for them, they were encouraged to swap their books around and eventually for them to all end up back in our London-based corporate library.
Given it was a summer read, I thought it might be fun to also stimulate their curiosity into an area that they weren’t used to. So, Stephen Pidgeon’s excellent ‘How to Love your Donors (To Death)’ went to our Services Lead. And Ken Burnett’s ‘Storytelling Can Change the World’ went to Finance and Compliance! In fact, the selection was completely random in the end – as my daughter filled and addressed the envelopes to each of them without my interference. The topics varied from Governance to Project Management, Strategy to Rule Breaking.
The feedback has been great. Our Corporate Evaluation Lead got Debra Allcock Tyler’s phenomenal bestselling book – It’s a Battle on the Board. Here’s what they said:
“There’s a gift in each chapter and that’s not just the ABBA references. Most valuably, it’s another reminder, and in our busy professional lives we need to be reminded often, that effective governance depends on investing in relationships, exploring differing viewpoints, and having great conversations about our charities. It will stay with me.“
This whole exercise was meant to be a bit of fun with a serious message underpinning it – professional development must be continual, consistent and creative. It costs significantly less to do than most courses or coaching opportunities, with the bonus of continuing to fund an incredible organisation in DSC – that we would all be poorer without.
We also bought some sets of the excellent Management and Leadership Speed Reads, which we will share at our up-coming retreat for employees under the age of 25. Each person will get a guide from Performance Management to Project Design that will not only help them develop the ‘Science of their role’ but also the ‘Art of work’. Their challenge will be to ensure their book gets shared 3 times among their cohort, which also creates a fun reason for employees from across the three nations to remain in touch post event.
As Margaret Fuller said, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” Never underestimate the power of the humble book.
About the Author
Kate joined Alzheimer’s Society as Chief Executive in March 2020, and is dedicated to providing help and hope to people affected by dementia to face some of the most frightening times of their lives.
Prior to this role, Kate was CEO at children’s cancer charity Young Lives vs Cancer for four years. During this time, she rebranded the organisation and grew income from £20m to £30m, including overseeing the Morrison’s Partnership. She successfully lobbied Government to fund the funerals of all children under the age of 18 and founded the Children and Young People’s Cancer Coalition.
Kate will be running a session at DSC’s Tough at the Top: Good Leadership Matters conference on ‘Getting your strategy right’.