You saw the book on the shelf at the bookstore, or maybe you bought it online late one night, and couldn’t wait for it to arrive.
It finally gets to your house and you read the first and second page. Maybe you even get through the first chapter.
But then you get busy with work. The book becomes a coaster for your third coffee.
The topic you’d been so excited about is soon forgotten as the book collects coffee stains and becomes more clutter on your desk.
What if we told you there was a way to grow your work culture and read a book at the same time?
Sound crazy? Actually, it’s very doable.
Books create history, and history creates culture. When it comes to work culture, it’s easy to bypass the importance of books. However, here at Self-Publishing School, we believe in the power of writing books and reading books.
Sitting down to read a book can seem a little intimidating to some people. But with a little guidance, purposeful reading can bring you and your company great results.
Starting a book club is the first step in this process.
There are four core steps to creating a successful book club:
Not only will reading a book help you learn about new topics, but it will also widen your interaction with coworkers and deepen your relationships.
That’s why we want to share not only why every company should have a book club, but the practicalities that will make a book club possible for you.
#1 – What are the benefits of a book club?
Not only are book clubs a key part of building culture, but depending on the book list you choose from, conversations will result around topics that are meaningful to you and those you work with.
At Self-Publishing School, we usually host a book club once a month or every other month. This results in roughly 6-12 clubs throughout the year and has greatly impacted our company culture.
The purpose of a company book club is to develop and train employees to be better employees, leaders, and people. Let’s break that down.
When employees are spread out over different tasks and each person has a different job scorecard, it’s easy for a team to feel disjointed.
But the definition of a team is one of unity and collaboration.
When a team comes together to read a book, the result is a central focus on the same topic. No matter what part of the company individual team members work in, their mindset shifts to the same general theme. This ups team morale and ultimately, team productivity.
The benefits of having every member of a team focused on the same topic is transformational, and something we’ve seen at Self-Publishing School.
It’s said that influential people read quite a bit, and this statement has been proven true through the success stories of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders.
The same can be true for your company.
The more widely read your team, the more likely they are to step up in leadership. Regardless of whether you choose a book on leadership, personalities, or another topic timely to your team’s needs, the result will be the same: the more educated your team is, the more they will step up in different situations of leadership.
Every business desires leaders, and the secret is, every business can grow leaders. Maybe your business is a startup or a younger company. That’s ok. It doesn’t always take leadership seminars to grow leaders.
Simply gathering your team around a book with a needed theme can grow your employees from followers to leaders.
When leaders are in the details of a company, the company flourishes.
In today’s world of social media, self-care, and me-time culture, it’s easy to become self-obsessed without trying.
Reading about other people and other topics, universal themes, and the thoughts of leaders around the globe greatly impacts the actions of individuals.
The world is so much bigger than the company you or I work at, or even the company we may run. There are people outside the walls of our homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces that can bring meaning into our lives.
You don’t need to fly your team overseas to learn from world-renowned leaders.
Simply purchase several copies of a book they’ve written. Some white pages with black ink can go a long way in influencing company culture.
When we read we open our minds. When our mind is open we become more aware of others. And when we are aware of those around us we become better people.
We’ve talked about three results of a book club, but how do you actually choose a book? If you’re going to devote company time and the time of your team into the reading and discussion of a book, it’s important to choose the right one.
#2 – How To Choose The Right Book
Here at Self-Publishing School, we usually spend about an hour a week on our book clubs (not counting reading time). At the end of the year, combining reading, meeting time, and time spent scheduling it all out, that’s a good chunk of time.
Some might say, “That time could be spent investing in the company.”
True. But from experience we would argue investing time in a book club is investing time in your company.
Good companies are run by good employees, good leaders, and good people. All these factors result from well-run book clubs.
So back to our original question – how do you pick a book?
Not every team will benefit the same from every book. Choosing a book to fit your company’s current needs is key to making the most out of your book club training time.
Here are a few important questions to ask yourself when choosing a book for book club:
What’s the key message I want my team to understand?
What area do we most need help with as an organization?
What’s a must-read for your team and team goals?
What’s an area your team has been struggling in?
What particular interests does your team have?
How can you encourage your team/how might you be encouraged through a particular book?
Do you know of any authors who can do a Q&A at the end of book club like we do for
Once you pinpoint an area of improvement/focus for the team, search for some book club picks or reading lists online.
A simple way to do this to pick the top three most relevant books from a book club recommendation list or reading list. Determine the most relevant book for your team, then use it as the material for your current book club.
We’ve read topics from leadership books to sales and marketing books.
Currently, we’re working through The Five Love Languages. This has not only helped our company grow in teaching us how we can best work together, but also brought the focus back to the spouses of our team members.
This has grown team relationships as well as their relationships with their spouses, which all contributes to a better team member.
As a company, we love growing our team, but when we can also help our teammates’ personal lives, it’s a win-win.
You know why to have a book club and how to choose a book…
#3 – How To Run The Company Book Club Itself
While we may not read as much as previous generations, reading is still very important, not to mention it comes with the benefits mentioned earlier.
When running a book club, using shorter books help.
What you don’t want are stressed out team members trying to complete a marathon read before the deadline.
What you do want it as low pressure a schedule as possible.
When it comes to the meeting itself, it’s helpful to lay ground rules and then break the meeting down into three parts.
#4 – Book Club Ground Rules
Be sure to create a reading schedule and meeting dates. You can do this in batches where you create all the due dates at one time. You can schedule book club meetings over the course of a calendar month, and meet weekly for 45-60 minutes.
Here at Self-Publishing School, we use Asana to structure not only our company book club meetings, but all our meetings.
You’ll see tips for the following book club meeting structure:
Ask team members to prepare ahead of time by thoroughly reading the chapters and taking notes for reference during the meeting.
To cut down on spoilers, ask book club members not to read ahead of the assigned readings.
As far as running the meetings smoothly, assign a meeting leader for each meeting. Be clear that the purpose of the leader is to facilitate discussion by asking questions, keeping everyone on time, and guiding the conversation. Allow the meeting leader to rotate each week.
If you’re wondering how to effectively choose the next team leader, simply ask the current team leader at the end of the meeting to pick the leader for the next week.
This can be done in “popcorn” fashion.
If necessary, divide book club participants into groups. Try to mix groups with people from different departments and people who don’t often communicate with each other.
This will not only bring the company together but also potentially forge new working relationships and potentially even friendships.
Now that the ground rules are laid, let’s talk about the three aspects of an effective book club meeting.
Book Club Meeting Agenda Part 1: Stories From Out in the Wild – 10 minutes
We like to call this part “stories from out in the wild.”
This is a time designated for team members to share how their real-life reminded them of what they’re learning from the book. Be sure the meeting is open flow and open dialogue. You want this to feel different from other team meetings, more relaxed, and very open for discussion.
The examples/stories should consist of how you’ve seen what you’re learning play out in your work and life over the last week. They are intended to be conversation starters.
During the week feel free to jot down any funny or impactful stories or application of the book playing out in your life.
Book Club Meeting Agenda Part 2: Lessons Learned/Topics For Discussion – 30 minutes
This part can be defined as simply asking what stood out to the team as individuals.
Here are some questions to prompt the book club discussion:
What paragraphs did they connect with?
What point/points stuck out to them?
What were the biggest takeaways?
What did you learn?
What would you like to talk about with the team?
Again, keep this open for discussion and input from all team members. Remember that this doesn’t have to be done in order or turn-by-turn, either.
If someone has something to add, just speak up!
Book Club Meeting Agenda Part 3: Takeaway/Application – 15 minutes
Ask the team based on the week’s reading, what their next steps are.
This doesn’t need to be too stringent, as you don’t want this to become another task to check off the to-do list! Include only one or two things you plan to personally put into action from your learning in the book/the meeting itself.
As a bonus, we’ve brought in different authors to do a short, thirty-minute Q&A. This helps our team connect on multiple levels because they’re already excited about the topic.
Experiencing a live Q&A with the author brings that excitement full circle.
You can check out another one of these we did here:
Book Club Meeting Agenda Final Checks
Here is a reminder of the few points to keep in mind when launching your first book club:
Choose the right book for the book club based on your team’s needs
Schedule all meetings in advance (this can be done in “batches”)
Pick first meeting leader in advance
Open discussion with real-life examples from team members
Remember that book you bought online late one night (or thought about buying) but never actually read?
You just purchased several copies of that book.
Together you and your work team read through the first and second page. During your first meeting, you even have a discussion about the entire first chapter.
Work gets busy but the book your team is reading becomes a central, unifying theme for the company’s busy season.
The topic you’d been so excited about begins to influence your work culture. You even met someone who works in a completely different department and you have plans for next Friday. This coworker will likely become a friend.
Your company’s work culture is growing, and so are you.
Chandler is the host of the Self Publishing School podcast & the author of 6 bestselling books including his most recent book titled “Published.”. He’s also the founder & CEO of Self-Publishing School, the #1 online resource for writing your first book. Self Publishing School made the INC 5000 in 2018 (#2,699) as one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the US. Through his books, podcast, training videos, and Self-Publishing School, he’s helped thousands of people on their journey to writing their first book.