Book clubs are great for pursuing your professional development

Have you ever read an interesting book or article on a workplace issue that you really wanted to share with someone to get their take on it?

Have you ever read an interesting book or article on a workplace issue that you really wanted to share with someone to get their take on it?

When it comes to professional practices, there is an abundance of information available, but what is often missing is an avenue for exploring what is most useful or relevant and why.

For instance, last fall a colleague of mine and I were talking about all the interesting books we had been reading on leadership.

As independent human resources consultants, we shared the desire to discuss our thoughts and ideas that sprang out of these readings with other professional colleagues.

That’s when we decided to form our own book club.

While traditional book clubs involve fiction reading, we were excited to take the same model and apply a professional agenda to it.

Our first step was to find others who were interested in the same experience.

We have since created a small group of like-minded people who have direct or indirect involvement with professional human resource management practices.

Each person was personally invited to join and we have agreed to keep the size of the group to six.

Our group is comprised of four human resources professionals and two lawyers, bringing together experience that is diverse but with a common theme.

There is an equal blend of male and female, and the ages of our members cover three decades.

Participation has been enthusiastic and we all welcome a good reason to read books that we might not normally choose ourselves.

The common theme in our readings so far is leadership, however it may be evolving.

Our book club meets bi-monthly and rotates the venue, which is currently home-based.

The person hosting gets to choose the book and then prepares one or two questions to get the group discussion started.

The group is respectful in sharing the air time so everyone gets a chance to share their thoughts.

So far, our book club meetings have proven to be highly educational and enjoyable.

From my experience to date I can offer three tips to encourage the success of other book clubs.

First, decide on the focus of the reading material.

Reading for professional development is a broad objective so narrowing it down to specific topics and areas of interest will get the group “on the same page,” if you will, right from the start.

It may also help people self select whether or not they want to join.

Second, whoever is starting the book club can feel free to be choosy about who participates in it.

It is important to get a good mix of personalities and also strive for overall compatibility.

To work best, it will have a balanced mix of gender, professional perspectives and even age groups.

The size of the group also matters and six to eight people seems to be the ideal.

Once the group is formed, have a fair process in place to handle any changes in membership.

Third, set ground rules for participation up front.

That means deciding on when and where the group will meet.

If there will be refreshments provided, how is that cost to be shared?

You may also want to set a quorum for meeting; in other words, if more than two people can’t attend the meeting gets re-scheduled.

If any of this sounds intriguing, why not start your own book club?

It is a great way to deepen your learning and broaden your perspective on the world of work.

You may also find that the right kind group is a source of inspiration and camaraderie that just might make your day job more enjoyable.

Laurie Mills is a certified coach and human resources professional. Her company is Lighthouse Professional Development Consulting Services. The subject matter in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional advice.


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