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July 10, 2017

Together Leader Book Club: Approach #1

It’s July! Which means it’s about that time when many of us have a moment to think about our professional learning. . . And Togetherness is usually at the top of the list.

I myself had a few Togetherness goals for the year, mainly around the transition of this closet. Hello Container Store sale! Honestly, just the daily relief of backpacks, grocery bags, soccer balls, hats, mittens, sunglasses, and umbrellas not falling on my head is making me super happy.

But if you also want to focus on your TIME, July is the perfect month to start a Together Leader Book Club (reminder: free Together Teacher Book Club resources found here). While you can certainly use the book’s Reader Reflection Guide as a starting point, some people find public accountability a bit more helpful.

Hilary S., a nonprofit leader for LIFT in DC, started a Book Club for her organization. [Disclosure: Hilary is also my BFF, which makes this post even more fun to write!]

Here are a few easy steps to make starting your Together Leader Book Club easy-breezy!

  1. Get clear on the WHY and appoint a leader. Hilary started one because “Our leadership team has been looking for ways to make sure we’re focusing ourselves and our teams on our most critical priorities, rather than just what feels most urgent. The Together Leader felt like a good entry point to talk about what we could do differently – and what we could do differently with our teams – by both giving us great suggestions and equipping us with a common language around how to tackle our priorities.”
  2. Invest the team. Hilary had buy in at all levels since people opted in. She was joined by 5 other Leadership Team members (the CEO, President, VP of Program and Evaluation, and two regional executive directors).
  3. Make the logistics crystal clear. After people opted in, Hilary sent them an Outlook invite with the details on what, where and when. Of course, meals never hurt either.
  4. Give focused pre-work. Hilary asked her group to read Chapters 2-5, with a focus on Chapter 4. Remembering her initial motivation for getting started (see #1 above), she hoped Priority Plans would help reduce the “tyranny of the urgent.”
  5. Facilitate purposefully. Hilary reports, “We started by discussing why we opted in, and then shared our ratings on the self-assessment in Chapter 2.  We spent the bulk of our time discussing Chapter 4 – especially whether Priority Plans would be a useful tool for us, and how we could hold each other accountable for using them. I also prepped some discussion questions.”*

Hilary’s advice for other Book Club self-starters? “Do it! It was fun and helpful. We were really focused on activating next steps – I would recommend having a clear follow-up plan!”

Thanks, Hilary! We look forward to seeing those Priority Plans!


*Hilary’s Book Club Discussion Questions:

Gauging Your Togetherness

  • Why did you decide to join this book club? What are you hoping to get out of it?
  • When you skimmed the “Taking Stock” assessment in chapter 2 (page 16) where did you think you fell?  Why? What are your biggest areas for growth?
  • There was a LOT in here – goals, roles/responsibilities, Priority Plans, Meeting Matrices. What, if anything, stood out to you as something you’re already doing well? As something you’d like to adopt? Why?
  • Are any of you creating a 3-month Priority Plan? How might this help you?
  • How might this help you with your staff?
  • How can we support each other in this?
  • In Chapter 3, Maia laid out how to set goals, annual activities, and Roles and Responsibilities.
    • To what extent do you think you are doing this well with your team?
    • Do any of you have a Roles and Responsibilities document similar to what she outlined in pp 45-50? How helpful has this been? How might you introduce it if you aren’t using it now?
    • Are you documenting annual activities (on pp 51-52) for your team? How helpful has it been?
    • Overall, after reading all of this, to what extent do you feel that you can activate these suggestions? What’s holding you back?

Being a Together LEADER

  • What do you think about Maia’s assertion that “Mind-sets and routines matter most?” How much do you think routines and mind-sets are what we need to focus on at LIFT? How much do you think the issue is tools? If the issue is one of routines and mind-sets, where would you want to dig in first with your team? With the organization?
  • Efficiency across teams can often hinge on having a shared vocabulary. Are there terms/shorthands you reviewed in these chapters that you want to start using with your team? Across the organization?
  • One thing I’ve been thinking about is what all managers should be doing in order to be effective. What in stood out to you as things we should require all leaders to do? Why?

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