Do you like to read? I do. I confess to leaving piles of books all over the house. Like these:

Reading is Just One Step in Learning

Reading is a wonderful way to explore new ideas and  be “mentored” by world-class experts. Reading by itself achieves little, however. In order to create change or increase skill, it must be combined with active learning methods, such as recall, discussion, personalization, and application.

Ideas contemplated and understood may revolutionize our thinking and actions

Ideas put into practice can boost our skill and effectiveness

Ideas discussed with others may transform culture

Benefits of Book Clubs

A book club is a good way to activate the learning available through reading. Book clubs provide many benefits:

  • Accessibility: A book club provides a low-cost educational opportunity that can be made available to a wide range of learners.
  • Accountability: For many, the structure of a book club helps in sticking to a learning plan.
  • Continuity: Learning is most effective when there is continuity. Regular meetings provide a means of reviewing  and reinforcing learning.
  • Networking Opportunity: A book club provides an avenue for expanding one’s network and cultivating career relationships. Discussion allows you to really get to know others’ interests, thinking processes, and talents and learn from them.
  • Application/Customization: Your group discussion allows you to explore how ideas might apply specifically to your own field, organization or community, and roles.
  • Bonus Skills Development: Active participation in a book club can provide the opportunity to simultaneously hone key leadership and career skills, such as meeting facilitation and communication skills

Starting a Business Book Club

To start a Business Book Club or Leadership Learning Group in your workplace or career community, begin by defining your purpose, participants, and process. Aim to engage members and provide value.

Define Your Purpose

What will be the purpose of your Leadership Learning Group?

Who is it for?

Typical purposes include:

  • General professional development
  • Exposure to and exploration of new ideas
  • Specific subject matter learning
  • Networking

Your group may be targeted to serve specific types of members, such as:

  • Women’s Leadership Group: Address challenges of particular interest to women.
  • Foundational Leadership Group: Boost the effectiveness of early-career professionals.
  • Breakthrough Leadership Group: Explore issues of interest to forward-thinkers, change agents, and innovators.
  • Working Teams: Improve collaboration and performance.
  • Focused Learning Groups: Upgrade skill in a specific leadership area.

Whatever your specific group’s purpose, a discussion group provides significant learning benefits:

  • Active engagement with content increases retention.
  • Members learn from each other.
  • Continuity increases the likely application of learning.

Form The Group

Who will belong?

What is their common need or interest?

How will they contribute to and benefit from group membership?

The success of the group depends on active participation. Invite members who have genuine interest in your purpose. To produce the most interesting and fruitful discussions, aim for common purpose, but some diversity in background.

Discussions are usually most productive when the group is large enough to include participants with a variety of experience and viewpoints, yet small enough so that each person feels their contribution is important. A group of 6–8 is ideal. A large group can easily be broken down into smaller sub-groups.

Determine Your Process

Where and how often will you meet?

How will books or topics be selected?

Who will lead each session?

What process will be used for discussion?

Make participation as easy as possible. Schedule your meetings at times and places that are as convenient as possible for group members. Ask for a manageable amount of reading and preparation.

Continuity is a critical factor for both learning effectiveness and group cohesiveness. Typically, groups meet monthly, but working groups may find it productive to meet for a shorter time weekly, covering smaller amounts of content. Regularity is the key; if needed, adjust the amount of reading.

It often works well to launch a learning group with a pre-planned popular topic, speaker, or book selection to create some visibility and excitement. Then, increase ongoing engagement by soliciting members’ input: What topics are of most interest? What books would they like to read? If appropriate, whom would they like to invite as guests? What format, timing and location work best? Adjust as the group evolves.

Designate a facilitator for each session. Some groups have one person take on this role for a season, while others rotate the role to a different member for each session.

Get Off to a Good Start!

It’s particularly important that members have a good experience with your first meeting. Choose a compelling book or topic. If members don’t already know each other, give them an opportunity to get acquainted. Briefly review your purpose and process. Solicit input for future meetings. Make sure participants take away something useful. Have a little fun, too.

Tips for Members

Your group’s discussions will only be as productive and interesting as the participants make them. Come prepared to share your point of view, insight, and questions. Listen deeply. Be open to other points of view. Share the floor. Challenge prevailing opinions tactfully: What if …. ? Would you be willing to consider another point of view? I wonder if …  In my experience … From my perspective, …

Resources for Business Books Clubs and Leadership Learning Groups

Leaders Lab: 66 Ways to Develop Your Leadership Skill, Strategy, and Style can be easily used to start a Business Book Club or Leadership Learning Group. Order the book here and also download the complete free Leaders Lab Facilitator’s Guide, including sample book club programs. You’re also invited to check out a wide range of Recommended Reading by topic on our Resources pages.

©New Century Leadership LLC 2017