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Reading, Listening, Watching – Your Prescription for Recharging

Is it just me or does the bad news seem inescapable? You don’t need to answer that. I know it’s not just me. Sigh. That’s why we have to find good reasons to step away from the bad news. This list is my contribution to that cause.

Here’s what I’ve been reading, listening to, and watching lately:

Reading

On Leadership Skills

A few months ago, I came across this article: “Curiosity, Not Coding: 6 Skills Leaders Need in the Digital Age,” from Harvard Business School, and I’ve been re-reading bits and pieces ever since. It’s the third article in a series on Leading in the Digital Era – all three are worth checking out.

A survey of 1,500 executives in 90 countries highlighted in this article asked leaders to identify the leadership traits most critical to success. 71% said that adaptability was the most important trait. Respondents also ranked creativity (47%), curiosity (48%), and comfort with ambiguity (43%) as highly desirable traits. The article goes on to detail six recommendations based on the research.

My big takeaway here: So-called “soft skills” are the key to effective leadership, and these are the traits your people are talking about when they evaluate culture. Instead of worrying about having a regimented plan in place, ask how you can be more adaptable and comfortable with ambiguity. I’m a work-in-progress here. 

How to Avoid Meeting Overload

As Audacia continues to grow, I’m struggling to find more time to GSD (get sh** done) – it’s easy to let the urgent overtake the important. I’m especially resonating with the idea of using meetings as commitment devices and encouraging better meeting hygiene with agendas, outcomes, and commitments and sharing those back after the meeting. But, sticking to the routine is hard when you’re in back-to-back meetings, so… this is all the more reason to get some of those meetings off the calendar!

Despite the fact that managers in one survey reported that 83% of the meetings on their calendars were unproductive, organizations seem to be addicted to endless check-ins, Zooms, and all-hands. This article does a brilliant job of digging into the psychological reasons behind meeting overload.

“How to Forget About Work When You’re Not Working”

Work-life balance seems to be outmoded now that most of us spend at least some time working from home. One thing I’ve been working on is disconnecting from work when I’m done working and setting good boundaries around both work and personal life. 

I have a hard time shutting off my phone entirely (How do I take photos of my kids? What if my husband or parents or camp calls?), but I have set up a custom Do Not Disturb when I get home. It makes a difference.

I’m also going to try some of these small actions from this Harvard Business Review article:

  • When work thoughts creep up during down time, have a plan. Read a novel, do a crossword puzzle (Wordle is fun), or phone a friend.
  • If something is really bothering you, take 10 minutes to write down whatever it is. It’s often helpful to get whatever is bothering you out of your head.
  • Turn your devices off – yes, all the way off!
  • Set up one designated space at home where you will never do work. Use the space exclusively for non-work activities, e.g., yoga, reading.
  • Notice that disaster doesn’t strike when you set healthy boundaries for yourself. Leave your email unchecked for a whole weekend (gasp!) and discover that others managed just fine without your response.

Untamed

I’m late to the Glennon Doyle party, but if you also missed reading this NYT #1 bestseller when it came out, I recommend you circle back. Doyle offers a refreshing way of looking at the world. While I was frustrated by some seemingly revisionist history in the book, I am reflecting quite a bit on how much our children are watching us, how much language and actions matter, and how I show up for and around my girls.

Listening

Capital Allocators Podcast with Chris Voss

This podcast episode rocked me. I’ve listened to it twice now, and I’ll likely listen to it again on my next walk. The host interviews Chris Voss, former FBI agent and founder of the Black Swan Group. Their discussion covers techniques in listening and conversation that evolve from Voss’ deep understanding of human nature. They talk about setting the stage, mirroring, labeling, decision fatigue, “no” oriented questions, and overcoming fear. Then the conversation shifts to preparing for a negotiation, reconciling negatives, and positive demeanor.

The episode has given me great insight into managing myself, my team, and my clients. My next step is listening to Voss’s book, Never Split the Difference.

Watching

WeCrashed

This docudrama on Apple TV+ is all about the rise and fall of WeWork and is based on the podcast WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork. Inspired by actual events, this series tells the story of how WeWork grew from a single coworking space into a global brand worth $47 billion in less than a decade before dropping to $40 billion in less than a year. It was hard to look away – lots of teaching moments here.

Lincoln Lawyer

This is one of my favorite shows when I want to relax and wind down. The Lincoln Lawyer reminds me of late 90’s detective shows like NCIS. Watching it, I’m not prompted to analyze world events and there’s absolutely no existential angst. It’s just an interesting story with a diverse cast who knows how to play “regular people.” Also, it’s a good reminder that we’re more alike than we are different.

Only Murders in the Building

I finished season 1 of Only Murders in the Building just in time for the premiere of season 2. If you haven’t watched this delightful gem on Hulu, it’s a great weekend or vacation binge. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez have amazing on-screen chemistry. The story will keep you guessing, and if you’re a fan of true crime, it’s an opportunity to laugh at yourself, just a little.

I’m sending out all the good vibes for a respite – no matter how brief – over the next few weeks. Whether you’re heading off the grid or staying home, let’s all find a way to recharge so we can return with more energy and better ideas because we took some to relax or at least regroup.

Photo credit: Jacob Lund Photography from NounProject.com

reading, listening, watching

Reading, Listening, Watching — Brain Candy for the Hottest Part of Hot Vaccination Summer

As we enter the hottest part of the summer in the D.C. area, it might be a good idea to retreat to the air-conditioned comfort and catch up on some high-quality media (reading, listening, and watching). I know this will be my plan for the next couple of weeks.

Rather than slowing down (though I have made some time to travel and spend time with family), I’m spending this summer thinking through strategy and gearing up for the end of the year.

Here’s what has been on my reading, listening, and watching lists lately.

Reading

You won’t find any beach reads here. But so often real life supplies all the drama and details we need to keep us glued to a story. For me, the most interesting stories have been about the recent leadership changes at Teneo and IBM.

Teneo

Outsized executive egos, abhorrent leader behavior, and million-dollar monthly retainers (!) aside, this is an incredible story of hubris and fear. What most fascinates me is the way Declan Kelly built Teneo and the messaging that played into the fear — and possibly imposter syndrome — even in leaders at the top of the largest companies where Teneo was hired as a consultancy. 

Will Teneo survive CEO and co-founder Declan Kelly’s resignation? Will Teneo survive this PR crisis? Have we seen the end of the largest companies distancing themselves from Kelly and Teneo? This story is still playing out. I’ll be watching closely.

IBM

I’m the daughter of a retired IBMer (30+ years!) and have always been fascinated by the company, its turnarounds, its commitment to research, and its willingness to invest and bet big (i.e., the Red Hat acquisition). IBM’s recent leadership announcement — including the news that former Red Hat CEO, Jim Whitehurst, is stepping down less than two years after his appointment as president of IBM — may infer quite a bit about culture, leadership style, and acquisition integration.

I’m thinking a lot about the value (*cough* intangible assets and goodwill) that is wrapped up in culture, brand, reputation, and employee engagement as Audacia Strategies prepares to launch our non-financial due diligence offering (coming soon!). Every successful M&A process comes down to pre-acquisition due diligence and clear-eyed integration… whether we’re focusing on the financial or non-financial aspects. 

The IBM case offers us a cautionary tale about the challenges of integration:

“Red Hat’s agility stems from a modern, ready-to-adapt approach while IBM is rooted in its age-old bureaucracy-esque practices. For instance, decisions in Red Hat are taken by the teams themselves — a hallmark of the bottom-up approach — as opposed to IBM’s top-down approach for decision-making.”

IBM is always one to watch and I’m looking forward to seeing their strategy emerge.

New Rules for the Future of Work

I’m also here for all the discussions about the future of work. This pandemic reset has shifted our thinking and every time I read a piece offering innovative ideas for how to get work done, I feel a twinge of optimism. This is my contribution to the conversation.

I also endorse this — all of it! 

Here’s a little taste: “To get more leads, the B2B salesforce needs to meet their potential customers where they are: online, primarily on LinkedIn and Twitter. As part of this effort, your salesforce must become recognized thought leaders in their fields and contribute to digital conversations in new and provocative ways — a role previously reserved for those in the product, customer success, or professional service arms of the company. And they must use client specific and industry-focused solution selling, which is more relevant than ever in a digital environment.” 

Hat tip to Krystle, CEO of Revmade for the share.

And, as we return to offices and rethink our ways of work, Gen Z seems to be speaking for more than their generation. Khalil Greene, senior at Yale University, offers his future employers some sage advice in this open letter to CEOs:

  • If you’re still making the business case for diversity, your company isn’t the place for us. 
  • We want companies to take a stand.
  • We are works-in-progress.
  • We want to be ourselves.
  • We want to make an impact.

CEOs are you listening?  

SPACs

Special purpose acquisition companies — better known as SPACs — have been all over market news this summer. Are they cooling? Are they hot? Who knows but there is a LOT of money tied up right now that will have to be placed… a few pieces of my reading to stay on top of things:

Listening

Besides all the reading, I’ve also been listening to a couple of podcasts religiously:

  • Pivot is worth the listen every week. Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher are individually incredible minds on all things tech and innovation. Listening to them riff together on the latest issues of the day (and always calling out the Tesla Board to rein in Elon) is great brain candy.
  • The Bakari Sellers Podcast is another great listen. Bakari Sellers gets the most interesting people to open up and talk about important topics. I’m relistening to his interview with Ursula Burns in light of her appointment as Chairwoman of Teneo (see above).

Watching

So very little to share on this front — probably more Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood than is healthy for an adult. Sadly, my brain won’t let me focus enough to binge lately and most movies seem too much like the news. 

Yes, I know I need to climb back on the meditation train. In the meantime, I’m slowly working my way through Schitt’s Creek and tagging into Bravo reality shows (I’m looking at you Million Dollar Listing). Send help… and recommendations.

What’s on your lists? I’d love to know. The air-conditioning is calling.

Photo credit: https://thenounproject.com/flamingoimages/

Businesswoman sitting on bed using digital tablet by Jacob Lund from Noun Project

Reading, Listening, and Watching—Closing Out 2020

We’ve packed so much into this final quarter of 2020 that sometimes it doesn’t feel real. But before I head off to rest and enjoy the holidays, I wanted to close out the year with some of what has been massaging my brain and a lot of what I’m planning to catch up on in the coming weeks.

Reading

Honestly, I’ve had a hard time doing much reading lately. I have a lot of stuff queued up on my Kindle, in my Pocket (loving this new tool!), and in (way too many) open browser tabs. So I’m sharing a bit of what I have actually read and more about what I hope to read.

FutureCast

“10 Lessons form CEOs on How to Manage Corporate Reputation in a New Era of Activism”

This is a fascinating read. The overarching themes are all about action, taking control, and shaping your message before someone else does. Also, I love this line: “reputation is today’s employee pension.”

And if you want a good listen, I had the opportunity to engage in a LinkedIn LIVE conversation about all things reputation and communications with the author of the article, Denise Brien. Denise is the managing director of research operations for Purple Strategies—a corporate reputation strategy firm and Courtenay Shipley, President of Retirement Planology.

Professor Galloway

“The Great Dispersion”

Professor Scott Galloway is the author of the recent NYT bestseller, Post Corona. In this article, he discusses how the pandemic has accelerated trends that were already changing how we think about the future of work. There’s a lot to unpack here. As we work toward the next normal, we will have to grapple with the structural issues that are reshaping our culture, reducing empathy and reshaping our concepts of community.

Making Holiday Memories

The Christmas Parade! 

We read this book a lot at our house. The girls love a good read-aloud and I fall asleep with the cadence of the toddler board book stuck in my head: “BOOM biddy BOOM biddy BOOM BOOM BOOM! What is that noise filling the room?”

Planning to Read

From Wired

“A Mission to Make Virtual Parties Actually Fun”

Because we’re going to be social distancing for a while yet and Zoom happy hours just aren’t cutting it anymore and I’m not ready for virtual reality happy hours just yet.

From the Library of Congress

“More About the Business of Scrooge and Marley: An Ethnographic Approach”

Growing up, my family watched A Christmas Carol (always the George C. Scott version – the best!) during the holidays every year. We can (and do) quote it. I can’t wait to geek out over this article.

Listening

I’ve listened to a lot of business and productivity-type podcasts this year—that’s a separate topic in and of itself. But I’ve needed a little more inspiration lately and find myself turning to interviews and memoir-type podcasts.

I’ve never hopped on a Peloton, but I loved this inspiring interview with Peloton Instructor, Tunde Oyeneyin. In addition to her incredible life story, Tunde’s ability to share her message is a masterclass for anyone who needs to communicate, motivate, or inspire others (all of us!).

Code Switch. Every episode of this podcast teaches me something, expands my perspective, and draws me into their reporting and storytelling. The hosts do a fabulous job of weaving the macro-level (big issues) through the individual stories. It’s Apple’s podcast of the year for a reason.

I’m not running as often as I would like these days, but I’m looking forward to pounding some pavement while listening to this interview with Dr. Mark Hyman about the impact nutrition has on our minds and food as a social justice issue.

Watching

I’ve been terrible, utterly terrible about watching television. I just want escapism in my T.V. viewing these days and there is much too much reality on T.V. I’m open to recommendations but at the risk of sounding Grinch-y, no Hallmark Holiday movies please!

I do hope to watch The Social Dilemma and I’m definitely looking forward to the new Wonder Woman movie!

I hope you get a chance to do some reading, listening, and watching during the holidays. And from all of us at Audacia Strategies to you and yours cheers to a very Happy New Year!

Photo credit: Jacob Lund from Noun Project

reading list

A List for the “Next Normal”—Reading, Listening, and Watching

If this were a normal summer, I’d be busy trying to decide what to pack for our next family trip out West or south of the border. Alas, this is not a normal summer. What does a vacation even look like during a global (or more accurately, a national) health crisis? I’m not sure.

Instead of thinking about vacation plans, we’re all thinking about what we want to take with us into our post-COVID world. Still, we could all use some time to step away from the home office, occupy our brains with something other than work—and no, #doomscrolling does not count as a break. 

Personally, I’m taking note of how the media inputs below are impacting my thinking about the “next normal” for Audacia Strategies. Here’s a peek inside my reading, listening, and watching lists: 

An Anti-Racist Reading List

I’m making my way through this anti-racist reading list. This is the time for reading, learning, evolving, and taking action. Let’s not let the peaceful protests against police violence fade into the background.

Anti-Racist Podcasts

In addition to reading, when I want to listen, I’ve enjoyed these podcasts for learning and thinking more deeply about our social structures and how we can reshape them toward justice:

Anti-Racist Viewing

13th, the documentary on Netflix about over-criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom is devastating and so important. I couldn’t turn away.

How I’m Thinking Differently About Business

The items on my reading, listening, and watching lists are really just the tip of the iceberg, though. I could easily spend the rest of the year immersed in anti-racist resources. But because I know educating myself about anti-racism is only the first baby step to bringing about change, I’m also investing in training about implicit bias and “whiteness at work” with the Adaway Group

The only way to bring about the destruction of oppressive systems and build up equitable workplaces is for all of us to focus on changes we can make together. As a leader and business owner, I’m ready to do the work. How about you? 

The Research

It’s clear that we need more womxn and BIPOC in leadership roles. The results are obvious:

  • America’s Black female mayors are doing what leaders are supposed to do during a national crisis: “they are promoting strength, unity, and above all, they are showing empathy and understanding.”
  • And some of these leaders are even defying the governor’s orders to do what’s right for public health.
  • Then, there’s this fabulous interview with the first female and first African American mayor of Ferguson, MO, Ella Jones. 

I’m also thinking a lot about storytelling and data in the midst of so much debate about statistics surrounding the pandemic. This tweet from @JamesClear caught my attention:

‪”The two skills of modern business: Storytelling and spreadsheets.‬ ‪Know the numbers. Craft the narrative.”‬

The success of the “Flatten the Curve” chart drives home the power of storytelling through data to get people to take positive action. The 4 Lessons in this article show how organizations and corporations can refocus their stories as we move into the “next normal” (coined by UNESCO, who is running an amazing marketing campaign around this concept now). I’m considering both how I can take these lessons into my own firm as well as how I can use them to help my clients shape their communications.

For a True Brain Break…

That was a lot. I know! The world can feel totally overwhelming in one moment and wildly open to possibilities in the next. I think my reading, listening, and watching list reflects this tension.

So, in an effort to release a little stress and focus on something entirely different:

  • I’m nurturing a sourdough baby/starter. I’ve named her Gertrude and she’s produced delicious bread, pancakes, muffins, and other goodies. I am also actively following numerous #sourdough accounts on Instagram these days. 
  • I’m working on capturing that summertime feeling at home too. This recipe for Summer Spaghetti and fresh Limeade was easy, delicious, and uses the best summer produce. The pasta tasted even better with a glass of rosé…
  • I’ve been watching (maybe) too much mindless, escapist television (i.e., anything on Bravo or HGTV). I’d love good recommendations for new, slightly smarter shows!
  • Brain break podcast: LeVar Burton Reads If you remember Reading Rainbow (a childhood favorite!), you will love this podcast.

No matter where your summer adventures take you—home or elsewhere, stay safe, stay sane, and #WearADamnMask!

Photo credit: TORWAI Suebsri