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Books – A Force Multiplier for Improving Communication

June 14, 2024 2:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Authored by Carl Livesay, General Manager, Mercury Plastics

At Mercury Plastics, members of our leadership team noticed several books in my office. When certain circumstances arose, I would recommend reading a specific book. Well-written books provide different perspectives on any given topic, along with foundational support for good decision-making.

So, we started a book club. Anyone interested could participate. People could join or stop at any time, but the books were read in a semi-strategic sequence, so if you started later, you read each book starting with book number 1.

For each book, we allocated a specific amount of time to read it, usually 4 – 6 weeks. Then we met as a group for lunch and a brief review of the book chapter by chapter. The day before the luncheon, chapter assignments were handed out, giving each person an opportunity to prepare to lead a discussion on their assigned chapters.

This is one of my favorite approaches to improving communication and building teamwork among the leadership team for several reasons:

  1. Building Camaraderie: This was an unintended but welcome outcome.
  2. Diverse Interpretations: People learn that each chapter can be interpreted in multiple ways and different details resonate with each person.
  3. Improved Communication: The communication between team members improves dramatically.

Books are chosen for their relevance to our lifestyle of Lean. Everyone is encouraged to suggest a book, provided they have already read it. It is worth noting that we provide the books in the language of the readers’ choosing. We also encourage people to purchase the audio version to listen to on the way to and from work.

Our reading list is always growing:

  1. That’s Not What I Meant – Deborah Tannen
    ISBN: 978-0-06-206299-4
    This short book discusses how conversation style impacts communication. Tannen describes how to choose words that communicate effectively and how to listen to learn instead of listening to reply. I have personally read this book almost two dozen times.
  2. Zap! The Lightening of Empowerment – William Byham Ph.D.
    ISBN: 978-0-449-00282-7
    This story-style book talks about how to build confidence in others and how to help them build confidence in you. The author underscores the value of letting go so others can experience the sweet taste of success.
  3. Who Moved My Cheese – Dr. Spencer Johnson
    ISBN: 978-0-09-181697-1
    When our team at Mercury first read this book, they understood why we keep challenging them. The remarks from team members were hilarious when they realized we were doing everything for a reason.
  4. What Every Body Is Saying – Joe Navarro
    ISBN: 978-0-06-143829-5
    This book describes in easy-to-understand terms how to interpret non-verbal communication and how to communicate the same way. While words are important when communicating, body language is equally important. This book remains a team favorite. It is a game changer for people in a leadership role—very entertaining and educational.
  5. The Speed of Trust – Stephen M.R. Covey
    ISBN: 978-0-7432-9730-1
    As every good leader knows, trust is essential to sustained success. The author explains the essence of trust, why it is difficult to earn, and easy to lose. The book is a little salesy but well worth the read.
  6. Lean – Let’s Get It Right – David Rizzardo
    ISBN: 978-0-367-33507-6
    This is a boots-on-the-ground guide for Lean. Full disclosure, the author is a friend and colleague. When we read this book, we invited Dave to join us for lunch. He kindly participated in a thorough discussion and generously autographed everyone’s book. We had been working towards a lifestyle of Lean, and Dave’s book resonated with everyone. He is direct and to the point with advice, guidance, and warnings. Great book. Great consultant.
  7. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
    ISBN: 978-1-9821-3727-4
    We are currently reading this classic and while it is taking longer than many others, the value is deep-rooted. If you read this book for what it is intended, self-help, the lessons learned are disruptive and exciting. Simply stated, the recommendations of the author work.
  8. Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek
    ISBN: 978-1591848011
    The author articulates the logic behind the U.S. Marine Corps training regimen and why the officers eat last. He explains what it means to serve others, the circle of safety, and the importance of trust in an organization. I am reading this book currently and it is exceptional. Very relevant to the lifestyle of Lean. This will be the next book for our group.

To be successful, establishing trust between the leadership and the rest of the team is imperative. Communication at all levels must be equally successful. Much of the content in these books helped our team learn how to communicate effectively and positively, how to demonstrate trust in their team, and, equally important, how to recognize when others trusted them as their leaders.

When trust is established, and communication is strong, amazing things begin to happen. As team members realize they are encouraged to act in the best interest of the company and they are neither chastised nor punished for failure, their self-confidence begins to grow. After the first few successes, self-confidence and self-esteem begin to flourish. When this occurs, a circle of safety is established. We call that a first-responder attitude. Much like firefighters and police officers head into trouble not knowing what is in store for them, people operating in a circle of safety lean in towards the challenge. This is amazing to watch and exciting to be a part of.

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