Book called Atomic Habits is on a person's lap

The Primes:  How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem by Chris McGoff

I got this book about 5 years ago while partnering with Chris’ company, The Clearing, on a U.S. Department of Agriculture transformation. It was a gift that unfortunately went straight to my bookshelf rather than my reading pile. This book will now be in the small set of recommendations I have when new hires ask what books I recommend for new consultants. I like the “playbook” format that illustrates and explains 46 patterns of high performance – each one in about 3 pages. Does this book give you the answers? No. It gives you the recognition of strategic issues that hinder teams’ and organization success and some approaches to bring it to light.  But, at the end of the day, you’ll need to determine how to apply “the play” in a way that works for that culture and those in it.

I Take My Coffee Black: Reflections on Tupac, Musical Theater, Faith, and Being Black in America by Tyler Merritt

This is definitely an audible listen as Tyler’s voice brings his stories to life in such a personal way. Not sure how I’ve missed Tyler, but I’m glad I found him. As I’ve mentioned in past reviews, I like to read autobiographies because it helps me build my understanding of other’s journeys – and better understand my biases and open up my perspective. Tyler talks about “proximity” and how having it with others (especially those unlike you), and being honest in those moments is a gift, and I agree. His faith journey and application of his beliefs were inspiring to read about.  

Atomic Habits by James Clear

During the COVID lockdown, I converted to audiobooks as I found myself exercising more outside and away from Orange Theory Fitness. However, it’s always a treat to hold a book in my hand, crack the spin, and mark it up as a read. Thanks to the recommendation by Sami Tewolde, I got this book in hardcopy which was a great “reset” book to read on vacation. The book offers four ways to build stronger more meaningful and sustainable habits. Key points that jumped out at me were:

  • Motion vs. action: “Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get something done.”
  • Show up: “The point is to master the habit of showing up. The truth is, a habit must be established before it can be improved.”
  • Time: “The costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.”
  • Reinforce: “It like creating a loyalty program for yourself.”
  • Non-scale victories: “Measurement if only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you. Each number is a piece of feedback in an overall system”

Interestingly enough, my two favorite nuggets from this book are not centered on habits but rather the context in which you think about them. The first is about is around being different. “When you can’t win by being better, win by being different. You can shortcut the need for a genetic advantage (or for years of practice) by rewriting the rules.” Second, is to revise your identity. “When you cling to tightly to one identity, you become brittle.” You can revise your identify from “I’m a great soldier” to “I’m the type of person who is disciplined, reliable, and great on a team.”

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I don’t want to say much about this book so that you can fully experience it without bias. It’s about a shepherd’s journey as he searches for his “personal legend.” I think, much like a parable in the Bible, each reader will take something personal from it, and find new elements with each re-read.

The Grit Factor by Shannon Huffman Polson

Church friend Louise Tucker Anderson gave me this book on “courage, resilience, and leadership in the most male-dominated organization in the world.” I found it refreshing to read a book exclusively on female leaders that was more than just “look what she did.” Each chapter spotlighted a  challenge, the grit (approach), and leader’s story,  as well an associated personal reflection activity for the reader. The book, broken down into three parts (commit, learn, and launch) covers eight leadership grit components:  your story, your purpose, your network, listening, resilience, resistance, being yourself, and adaptability. The book was also a clear reminder that everyone needs support – from clear feedback by a supervisor to an advocate in a formal position of power – and everyone is in a position to provide it.

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

For all the hype of this best-selling book, it didn’t grab a hold of me like I expected. The premise and content is valuable – don’t think what you know is true, even if it use to be. I think this is a good read for organization leaders who are looking to reset their teams or organizations, and feel the reminiscent pull of “the way it use to be” pre-COVID (assuming it was truly great for employees) rather than do the work to redefine the why, what, and how a group works now. A few nuggets that gave me pause:

  • Understand our personal identities within a system… As a person in a story he shared stated, “It’s not part of my job, but it’s part of me”
  • Practice unlearning… teach folks how to examine the evidence (facts and sources) and reject false claims
  • Approach quality from a lens of celebration… make rethinking, reworking, and polishing something that is rewarded not punished
  • Form a critique group… a small group of experts and diverse people who provide critical thinking and recommendations on your key projects to help you create the most meaningful product
  • Create a learning culture where growth is the core value and rethinking cycles are routine… because staff in learning-centered organizations constantly rethink, innovate, stay curious, and make fewer mistakes due to a culture of psychological safety and accountability

Happy reading.

Books – August 2022

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One thought on “Books – August 2022

  1. Emily —
    These suggestions and insights are so refreshing!

    Grateful to receive these posts. Just reading the reviews gives me a lift.

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