Shortly before our staff took their well-earned two-week holiday break, I gave our team leaders a Christmas present. Each received a different business-themed book I hand-selected for them.
As I passed them out, I joked that I felt a little like the person that hands out toothbrushes and toothpaste for Halloween instead of giant-sized Snickers bars. Following that premise, the candy may be more immediately gratifying, but the toothbrush -- or book -- will be better for you in the long run.
While I secretly wished that each person would fall in love with their gifts, I had in mind a very strategic intent beyond their reading enjoyment. The goal was simple -- by reading the book, they would boost their business acumen, helping them as leaders.
If your organizational goal is to be a great company, then you need great leaders. It's simply not enough to provide only on-the-job training, invaluable as it is. To break free from the pack, it takes resources beyond what you can provide for your team. It requires individual leaders to develop a personal and business growth mentality.
A good book can be a catalyst to help spark the process. Here are seven compelling reasons to gift a book.
1. Helps create a culture of learning and sharing
At our company, each recipient drew a slip of paper after receiving a book. These listed randomly selected dates on which each would deliver a book-report style message to their peers. The goal was two-fold -- to hold each team leader accountable to read the book and to help reinforce a culture of knowledge-sharing. We did this with a group of nine leaders. Besides having the benefit of reading his or her own book, each team member got insights on eight others.
2. Helps to encourage creativity and new solutions
As good as your team is, it's susceptible to group-think. Reading books from outside sources, such as top industry or leadership experts, can help to infuse new ideas into your organization.
3. Forces leaders to take quiet time
Reading is a task best done in a quiet -- or even solitary -- environment. Chances are that all your leaders are constantly being pulled in a variety of directions, and that's just at the office. Factor in the daily commute, family, exercise, etc. and it's rare that 15 minutes of peace can occur organically during the workday. A commitment to reading helps ensure that relaxing and de-stressing does happen.
4. Compels action for those who dread reading
Requiring a book report may seem like a third-grader's homework, but actually, it's analogous to throwing someone in the deep end of the pool to teach them to swim. I've found that the thought of reading intimidates many smart, ambitious people. The book report concept is just the healthy nudge they may need.
5. They always enjoy the process in the end.
If you carefully choose the book and topic for each of your team members according to where they are professionally, they almost always will be appreciative. Even if they don't enjoy every page, they know it's good for them and understand the "why" behind it. In fact, I've often found they will duplicate this exercise with their respective teams – and even request another book for themselves.
6. Many people want or need guidance.
Because the team I work with knows I both write and read a lot, they often ask for book recommendations. Taking the time to put thought into each book you choose for your team is a very powerful way for you to express your appreciation for them as well as to steer them down the right literary path.
7. There will be a trickle-down impact throughout your organization.
Even if your team leaders choose not to repeat the book report exercise, the whole team still will feel the impact. Your leaders will have better material and resources to review with their teams, and referencing them will help inspire others to read themselves.
About 20 years ago I was in the reluctant reader category. At that time, one of my managers recommended I read The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen R. Covey. While I struggled to hold myself accountable to finish it, I eventually did -- and it fueled my passion for reading.
Start a healthy habit for your team by getting them a book today.