You buy books. They sit on the shelf. You mean well. You want to read, but you can never find the time. That was me in 2018. I bought more than a dozen books and made it through half of one of them. My goal for 2019 was to read more, which is why I kicked off the Next Level Book Club for my team. Together, several of us committed to reading one book each month—mostly books we could learn from, books that would help us grow. Then, outside of our book club selections, I read a few other books just for fun.
As I look back over the last twelve months, I’m glad I did this. Each book we read helped our team achieve the goals we set in three areas last year: quality, consistency, and calm. And those books I read for fun? They helped me maintain the consistent discipline to create a reading habit, and they offered their fair share of lessons as well. If you have a goal to read more, make 2020 the year you do it.
Here’s a recap of the 11 books that our YMC team read in 2019. They punched us in the gut, helped us rethink our culture and leadership, and led to significant growth among our team members. That’s quite a combination!
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy At Work, by Jason Fried: If your workplace is defined by 80-hour weeks, packed schedules, endless meetings, overflowing inboxes, unrealistic deadlines, Sunday afternoon emails, and the like, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is a must-read. Buy now
- The 8 Qualities of Drama Free Teams, by Dennis McIntee: More productivity. Less stress. Zero drama. The dream workplace. While some things sound too good to be true, a drama-free work environment is not only possible; it’s well within your reach. Buy now
- Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown: “Why isn’t my team engaged?” I hear this question quite often during discussions about empowering the frontline as part of a credit union’s marketing strategy. When we ask the frontline to cross-sell or dive deeper into the member relationship by asking questions, we’re essentially asking them to be vulnerable. If you want to develop brave individuals who work to make things better, you must create an environment where your team feels comfortable being vulnerable. Buy now
- Dying for a Paycheck, by Jeffrey Pfeffer: In the credit union world, we’re people helping people, right? That idea makes a good mission statement, but it often seems like the generosity and goodwill only apply to the members and not the credit union employees. There comes a point where frugality and calculated business practices start to undercut the social justices we wish to stamp out for our members. When the bottom-line numbers become more important than our frontline team members, it’s time to make a change. Buy now
- You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero: “If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.” This quote is just one of the gut-punch truth bombs that Jen Sincero drops in her book, which features the inspiring and challenging subtitle, How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. If you’re ready to take bold steps forward and leave passivity behind, this one’s for you! Buy now
- Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, by Satya Nadella: “When the rate of change outside is more than what is inside, be sure that the end is near.” Even though this cautionary quote from Azim Premji wasn’t initially meant for one of America’s most successful companies, it certainly describes the crossroads Microsoft once faced. And more importantly, it might capture the culture and mindset challenge your credit union is currently experiencing. Buy now
- The Boys In The Boat, by Daniel James Brown: How many times have you heard the phrase “If I could just clone (insert exemplary team member’s name), this would be a great credit union!”? Perhaps you’ve said those words yourself. Maybe you’ve even thought that about I can’t recall who recommended The Boys in the Boatto me, but the story of nine Americans’ quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics turned out to be more than just a pleasure read. It was an engaging account with powerful leadership lessons woven throughout all the history and drama. Buy now
- Everything Is F***ED: A Book About Hope, by Mark Manson: Want to know why your marketing isn’t producing the results you want? It’s because you’re being rational—and most of the time, people aren’t rational. According to legendary marketing pioneer Edward Bernays, “People are emotional and impulsive and hide it really well.” Throughout this book, author Mark Manson draws a critical distinction between the “thinking brain” and the “feeling brain.” Buy now
- Made To Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath: Why are some marketing campaigns so damn successful, while others, no matter the budget behind them, fail miserably? Is it because those dumb, lazy members just won’t budge from their bank? Or, could it be that those of us in the credit union world suffer from the Curse of Knowledge? It may sound like a silly, made-up phrase, but “The Curse of Knowledge” is quite real. Many times, we credit union experts tend to operate under this curse. Whether it’s the melody of a song or the value proposition of our credit union, once we know something, we tend to assume everyone else knows the same thing. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. We have difficulty sharing it with others because we can’t sidestep our own preconceived ideas. (NOTE: I don’t really believe our members are lazy or dumb. I sarcastically used this headline in 2019 for an article, which led to a client firing us without actually reading the content in the article.) Buy now
- A Life Through Letters, by Ashley Davis: While the majority of the books we’ve read this year focused on business and leadership growth, we took a break and read something different in October: A Life Through Letters by Ashley Davis. I learned about this book at a recent credit union strategic planning session. During this session, the board chair was talking about a book written by one of his relatives, a relative who turned out to be Mr. Davis. We’ve read many books this year that have helped me become a better business owner, a better marketer, and a better leader, but this one turned my world upside down. Buy now
- The Bakers Dozen, A Saint Nicholas Tale, by Aaron Shepard: Many credit unions (and businesses in general) pride themselves on giving members and customers exactly what they ask for. No more. No less. They are honest people delivering exactly what they promise. But is that approach enough to ensure longevity and success for the years to come? I know of at least one old lady in a long, black shawl who would say, “No.” This nameless lady is one of the characters in The Bakers Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale. While it may be a seasonal story, this book holds lessons that apply all year long. Buy now
At this point, you might be saying, “But I don’t have time to read!” I understand. I’ve used that same excuse myself. My priorities changed when I replaced “I don’t have time” with “It isn’t a priority.” That small change put things in perspective. While it may feel counterproductive to take time away from checking tasks off a to-do list, investing the time to read and learn can offer incredible returns in the form of personal and professional growth. My team and I have seen it pay off big time in 2019. I hope it will do the same for you in 2020.