3 Reasons Why Every Company Should Have Reading Time
Have you ever had one of those days where nothing goes right?
Maybe you tore your pants on the subway, overlooked a pressing deadline, or spilled your coffee on your boss’ paperwork.
Before flipping your desk in sheer frustration, take a deep breath and pick up the book "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson. It will change your life.
I like to think that’s what happened to my lead link (Zappos' organizational version of a manager), which prompted him to order the book for our entire team. He was having “one of those days” and thought it’d come in handy when we’d inevitably need to reference the author’s sage advice.
It turns out the book was a fantastic read. And it got our team thinking: Can one book start a revolution? Or if not a revolution, can it start a book club?
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t book clubs for tottering old women sitting on floral imprinted sofas and chairs, sipping tea and discussing the latest Harlequin romance novel?
Absolutely not! Book clubs can, in fact, happen outside your grandma’s rambler. It’s a tried and true phenomenon that companies have embraced wholeheartedly — including Zappos. Now the question you may be asking yourself is why start a book club at all, or what benefit does this serve my team or company?
The answers would fill a library.
“You cannot open a book without learning something.”
1. Book clubs help employees
As a fellow Zapponian, I’m lucky to have the best of both worlds. We have a CEO that’s very passionate about books and procures a lending library of all his current favorites. I also have a lead link that’s passionate about learning and wanting to pass along knowledge in any way, shape or form. (Including books with swear words in the title!)
In a book club, reading as a group may invite conversations that might not otherwise have taken place. For instance, when we finished Manson’s book, a lot of discussions ensued regarding the ending, how he coped, how he turned his life upside down and how we could incorporate his ideas into our own lives.
Books can spark debates among coworkers, encouraging everyone to offer their opinions and perhaps change the way their team project or organization runs. Debates don’t have to be detrimental. There are often good ideas that come from differing viewpoints, which helps foster healthy working relationships.
As we know, business books can feel stagnant and dry. But they aren’t all like that, and it doesn’t have to be the only genre your club chooses. Current titles on my team’s reading list include: “Death by Meeting,” “Get Off Your ‘But',” “Calm” and “Winnie-the-Pooh.”
Yes, you read that last one correctly. So, I asked my lead link why he pre-selected these books, and his response was as honest as Eeyor himself:
“I intentionally picked titles that were wide-ranging. No one wants to read a collection of dull business hardcovers,” he said. “I find books with seemingly no relevance to everyday work can often be the best antidote to professional success and personal wellness.”
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
- Harry Truman
2. Book clubs help leadership
As team leaders, regular participation in a book club can help you become more comfortable and confident in personal discussions, as well as gain direct insight into your employees.
Create a club that includes a variety of employees from across the company and at all levels. This can promote new ways of thinking and new ideas to improve everyday work activities. After all, work should be fluid. Just because something has been done one way for years doesn’t mean it’s the be all end all. The fictional characters in “Death by Meeting” did just that.
Books also enhance your knowledge base and will help you better communicate with your employees. And the most common way to gain knowledge is by reading articles and books by successful business owners, corporate giants, marketers and entrepreneurs. Our CEO, Tony Hsieh, wrote a great book called “Delivering Happiness,” an upbeat page-turner that shares Zappos’ story.
Publically committing to a book club can also help leaders develop a habit of reading. Throughout 2015, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg committed to reading 26 books and posted his findings as a sort of virtual book club to keep himself accountable.
Book clubs can also challenge yourself to read genres you might otherwise leave on the shelf. Reading diverse content may pull you out of your day-to-day rut and inspire you to do something amazing. The moral of this story: Get out of your comfort zone!
“Book clubs help you build your culture and develop your employees.”
- Scott Kriscovich
3. Book clubs help your business
Neil Blumenthal, the cofounder of eyeglass retailer Warby Parker, recounts how his company’s book club “happened very organically.” According to a 2014 “Fast Company” article, in the early days, he and his coworkers started exchanging books and also shared their thoughts and opinions. That soon transformed into a company-wide book club where each week someone would read a book and present key takeaways.
“The hope was that if it was fiction that it would spur creativity and that if it was nonfiction there would be inherent lessons from other industries and walks of life that allow us to be better at designing eyewear,” said Blumenthal. “From a team dynamic standpoint, it helps build stronger working relationships. It helps build trust when you create what is a safe environment to share ideas or to debate ideas.”
Rex Huppke, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, believes that companies should encourage all employees to read specific books. Maybe even launch discussions about those books or use them to drive home aspects of the company's culture. Case in point: Zappos.
So here’s the bottom line: A company-sponsored book club is meant to help employees build long-lasting relationships. Creating stronger ties amongst your peers can make them feel more invested in your company’s goals which also provides better service to those that matter most — your customers.
Remember that club books are subjective according to who is participating, and what you hope to gain by it. For our team, we wanted something uplifting and inspiring and, being Zappos, a little fun and weird, too.
As for "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" ...
Buy it. Buy it now.
Manson will tell you that improving your life doesn’t hinge on making lemonade out of lemons, but teaches you how to better stomach lemons. He will guide you to stop being positive all the time to become a happier person.