#WorkTrends Recap: Leaders Are Readers

What are you reading right now?

Laurie Ruettimann just wants you to read something other than your Facebook feed. She joined us on the #WorkTrends podcast to talk about how she’s getting leaders to read more with her new project, HR Book Club. She’s curating the best books for leaders and bringing people together to talk about what they’ve learned.

You can listen to the episode below, or keep reading for a recap.

Make Time to Read

It’s ironic, isn’t it? We’re constantly bombarded with new content, but no one has enough time to read. Ruettimann says it’s all about making different choices.

“Our brains are really tired from too much time on our phones,” she says. “When people say, ‘I don’t have time to read,’ they’re just making a different choice with their time.”

When she realized she was spending too much time online and not enough time really learning, she made a big decision. “I’m addicted to my phone, like everybody else in this world. I suffer from a high degree of tech addiction. And I thought to myself, ‘I need to make better choices in 2018.’ I mean, really. I was started to feel the drain of always being on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.”

So she canceled her cable and committed to putting her phone away in the evening to read more. And if she has time to kill — say, when she’s in line at Starbucks or the grocery store — she chooses to read on her Kindle app instead of scrolling on social media. “I’m budgeting my time differently,” she says. “It’s a mindful choice.”

Start Small

If you’re not used to reading every day, Ruettimann suggests starting slowly. “In order to be a reader you have to develop this skill,” she says. “You can’t just jump into ‘War and Peace.’ You’ve got to start small. Find a book that’s 100 pages, or 150 pages. Read 10 pages a night. That’s how we’re encouraging our book club to read at least 12 books a year.”

What to Read

HR Book Club chooses two books to read as a community each month. In March, the two books are works written by women, in honor of Women’s History Month.

The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career” is written by the co-founders of the career advice site The Muse, Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew. “You can’t change the world if you’re in a crappy job,” Ruettimann says. “People who are suffering with their employee experience need a guide to get them to the next level in their career, and this is an exceptional and timely book.”

The second book, “Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lies I’ve Loved,” by Kate Bowler, isn’t a traditional business book. But the author, a divinity professor at Duke, has stage 4 cancer and writes about facing death. “This is a pretty heavy topic, but HR professionals are always in the epicenter of bad news, and I thought it would be interesting to learn about what it feels like to be an employee with a qualifying life event,” Ruettimann says. “It’s a little nontraditional, but I think it counts as an HR book.”

Use What You Learn

But even if you don’t read this month’s book club picks, the point is to read something. “I’m just looking to encourage more thought leadership, and I truly believe that the people closest to a problem are the ones equipped to solve it,” she says. “If we can get HR professionals seeing different points of view and learning about vocation and passion and meaning a little bit differently, when a problem arises at work that they’ve never seen before, hopefully they can hearken back to a story that they’ve read or a book that they’ve consumed and be informed.”

She points to one of her January book club picks, “Braving the Wilderness” by Brené Brown. “She says it’s hard to hate people up close. I would like to bring people closer together. I don’t care who you voted for a year and a half ago. I care that you’re a decent human being with values. For me, the HR Book Club is a way to connect with people and forget about the politics of the day, forget about policy, and start to think about, ‘How do we make the world a better place going forward?’ Because I really believe HR professionals sit at the intersection of work, power, politics and money. And if we’re not aware of it, if we’re not understanding what’s happening within our domain, we’re going to blow it.”