Recent books I read and listened to… happy reading!

Coach the Person, Not the Problem by Marcia Reynolds

The book is a solid foundational read for Executive Coaches, especially newer ones still finding their approach. It focuses on 5 practices of reflective inquiry: Focus on the person, not the problem; summarize what is heard and expressed; identify underlying beliefs and assumptions; unwrap the desired outcome; and articulate insights and commitments. As a coach trained to meet the International Coaching Federation’s (ICF) standards – I found this book complimented ICF’s focus on asking open ended questions with the opportunity to reflect back what was heard to support a client’s processing and limiting beliefs. Sometimes hearing key elements of a story reflected back can help the person experience it in a new way with fresh eyes, and ultimately address it with fresh solutions.

Finding Me, A Memoir by Viola Davis

Listening to this book brought me closer to Viola as she narrated her dynamic story. I honestly didn’t know a thing about Viola, other than I appreciated her acting skills and will watch nearly anything that she’s in. Her story is raw and unapologetic… and why I love to read autobiographies. I find I learn and internalize more about history, economics, injustice, empowerment, faith, grit, and love through personal stories. Her childhood poverty is gut wrenching. Her education impressive. Her growth admirable. Her career incredible, especially when balanced against the systems working against her. But what I enjoyed most what that hers is a story of ownership. She owns who she is, where she came from, and what she did to progress. That authenticity is powerful, inspiring, and refreshing.

Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson

A guess lecturer on meditation and neuroscience from Harvard recommended this book in the Mindfulness Facilitation in the Workplace certification course I completed. Candidly, the book was a slow read, and I even set it aside halfway through. Upon reflection, I laughed that once again my expectations impacted the reality – a mindful lesson that keeps repeating for me. I expected one time of content but got another and it took me half the book to leave my expectation and enjoy what the book provided.

The authors walk through mindful research and the legacy of how mindful practices are passed on, and their benefit. A few things that spoke to me:

  • “We don’t have to believe our thoughts, instead of following them down some track, we can let them go.”
  • “Constant stress and worry take a toll on our cells, aging them. So do continual distractions and wandering mind, due to the toxic effects of rumination, where our mind gravitates to troubles in our relationships be never resolve them.”
  • “Medication slows the usual shrinkage of our brain as we age:  at age fifty, longtime meditators’ brains are ‘younger’ by 7.5 years compared to brains of nonmeditators of the same age.”

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer

Goodness! I didn’t know what I was getting into with this book that Joyce LaLonde recommended. The tragic true story of a young Mormon mother and her toddler murdered by fundamentalists is woven between a historical recount of how the religion develop in America. It was interesting to learn the story of the religion’s formation, key doctrine, and massive growth, especially as it all occurred in modern times. As a preacher’s kid, it’s hard to stomach at a practical human level what occurred in the name of God and faith, from the doctrine to kill anyone in an inter-racial marriage to marrying girls in 5-12th grade. The author does pose a few introspective questions about religion and faith – as neither is “provable,” regardless of the source or longevity. It’s also interesting to think about the rise of religious fundamentalists and their impact on the country – prayer, politics, abortion to name a few – when the U.S. was founded on religious freedom and a focus on the separation of church and state. I’m still processing this one.

Finding the Space to Lead by Janice Marturano

I selected this book as part of my effort to “reset” for the new fiscal year at the firm where I work, Grant Thornton. The author – a former senior corporate executive at a Fortune 200 corporation who established the Institute for Mindful Leadership – does a great job laying out the need for and benefit of a mindful approach to leadership. She then backs it up with small ways to get started from your calendar to your breathing — all in an effort to help you connect more with yourself in the moment, so you can better connect with those around you. Two techniques called out to me:

  • Purposeful pauses – Small calendar blocks (15 minutes) twice a day to simply stop and check in with yourself. Time to digest back-to-back meetings. Time to stand up and stretch. Time to check-in with your body about the knot in your stomach related to an upcoming meeting, a slow-forming headache from too much screen time, or tightening shoulders as your to-do list grows. Time to meditate. We use to have these pauses as we walked the halls to/from a meeting in the office or on a METRO ride to a client site. It’s amazing how refreshing these pauses can be!
  • “Free parking” calendar blocks – This reference came from Monopoly. A space where you can land in the game and hang out and breathe. Marturano recommends putting “free parking” time regularly on your calendar. Throughout the month, write down ideas, issues, or quetions, and when you “land on free parking” spend that time looking at your idea list and thinking about solutions, googling the topic, or calling a connection to chat about it. Just see where your brain creatively goes without expectations.
Book Reviews July 2022

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