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094 | Summer reads: 3 great books to help your HR career
Episode 9422nd July 2023 • HR Coffee Time • Fay Wallis
00:00:00 00:19:05

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Make the most of the summer by dipping into these 3 fantastic books to help your HR Career. In this episode, Fay shares a book that will help you get the most out of your time; one will empower you to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace; and the other one will improve your ability to create powerful group experiences.

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Laura Vanderkam: How to gain control of your free time

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Fay Wallis:

Welcome to HR Coffee Time, the podcast to help you have a successful and fulfilling HR or People career without working yourself into the ground. It's great to have you here, and I really hope you're going to enjoy today's episode where I'm going to be telling you all about three great books that you can read on your summer holiday this year.

That will be a big help to your career. If we haven't met before. Hello, I'm your host, Fay Wallis, a career and executive coach with a background in HR, and I'm also the founder of Bright Sky Career Coaching. I'm recording this the day after I got back from my own summer holiday where I've been in Spain for a week and a half.

It was lovely to have some family time in the sunshine, but our flight was really delayed coming home, which meant that I didn't get in until nearly two o'clock in the morning on Friday. So I was feeling a bit bleary eyed, and it meant I didn't manage to get this episode released on Friday like normal.

So it's coming to you a day later, but hopefully you won't mind - you're going to forgive me because I'm sure it will be much better me talking you through it today than if you'd listened to me yesterday when I just felt half asleep and like a zombie for the whole day. And thinking back to the holiday, I always love having more time to read while I'm away.

I don't know how you feel, but I always take some books on holiday with me and I've been dipping back into the three books that I'm about to introduce you to to make sure that I was fully prepared for this episode. And dipping back into them reminded me just how good they are. So I'm feeling extra excited to share them with you now.

One of the books will help you get the most out of your time. One of them will help you foster a diverse and inclusive workplace, and the other one will help you create powerful group experiences. So let's move on to the main part of the show. I can't wait to tell you all about them.

Fay Wallis:

My first recommended summer read for you is called The Art of Gathering, how We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker, and I feel like I could read this book a thousand times over.

It has made such a difference to me and my work. Priya Parker is a professional facilitator, and if you are not a hundred percent sure on exactly what a facilitator is, don't worry, or what they do. You're not the only one. I was hazy about this for a long time. In the book, she describes a facilitator as being 'someone who is trained in the skill of shaping group dynamics and collective conversations', and that her job is to 'put the right people in a room and help them to collectively think, dream, argue, heal, envision, trust, and connect for a specific larger purpose'. And if you stop and think for a moment, there are endless opportunities that facilitation skills can help you in your HR or People career. Each time you are sitting in a meeting, you are part of a group. If you've ever had to endure mind's numbingly boring or pointless meetings, or frustrating ones that drag on for too long when you could be busy doing something else, or you just know that there's so much more you could be achieving in that time together.

Fay Wallis:

Then facilitation skills and techniques could be just the thing to make all the difference. They can really help you shine if you deliver any group training as part of your role, or once you find yourself sitting as part of the senior leadership team. A great facilitator can make such a difference in an enabling shared learning to take place within a group or bonding a team together so you can help the senior leadership team bond and work together as effectively as possible.

I had the book, The Art of Gathering recommended to me when I attended some training earlier this year on how to run great online group sessions, because if you listened to last week's episode of the podcast, you'll know that my GC index profile is 'polisher', which means I love improving things and making them as good as possible.

I'm all about continuous improvement and adding value. So a lot of the development activities I've been doing this year for myself have been focused on making my group program Inspiring HR as good as it can possibly be. And I've used several of the tips from this brilliant book.

Her ideas about setting the purpose for the gathering, how to create intimacy, trust, and engagement are some of the things that really leapt out at me. Lots of them are pretty simple and easy to put into practice. So if you go ahead and read the book and you join Inspiring HR you'll have to let me know if you can spot when I'm using her ideas.

The book is divided into eight chapters. Each chapter focuses on a different part of your journey in working with a group, taking you from setting the purpose of the gathering to planning for when it ends. One of the things I love about the book is the fact that she uses lots of her own experiences of gatherings as well as the experiences of other people who hold gatherings to bring the ideas to life.

It's fascinating reading the stories that she shares. The book is packed with them and they range from examples of gatherings for personal reasons, as well as professional reasons. So actually, if you want to get better at creating amazing group experiences in your personal life as well, there's plenty to think about in the book.

So we go from having an example of hosting a meaningful baby shower, to having an example of building trust and connection amongst leaders ready for the World Economic Forum's global Agenda Council meeting. Gosh, that was a mouthful, but hopefully it shows you or gives you an idea of the range of stories that are in there.

Fay Wallis:

But now let me talk you through my second recommended summer read, and this one is not going to come as a surprise because I mentioned how brilliant it is in last week's episode. It is written by last week's guest on the show, the fabulous Toby Milton, and it's called Inclusive Growth: Future Proof Your Business by Creating a Diverse Workplace.

Now, quite a few people ask me how I manage to fit in reading so many books each year, and one of the reasons is just that I really like reading, so I'll try to squeeze in reading at least a few pages before I go to sleep every night. But one of the other main ways that I managed to read a lot is because I don't always physically read the book.

I'm not always holding it in my hand. Instead, I'll often listen to books as audio books, and that's what I did with this one. So Toby narrates the book himself and has done a brilliant job. It meant that I felt like I'd already met him when I had my first Zoom call with him to talk to him about coming on the show.

I think that the power of audio books is that they can help you feel connected with the author, especially if they're the one who's narrating the book and then a sign that. I've really enjoyed the book is if I then buy it in another format, and that's exactly what I did with this one. So I now have the audio version and the Kindle version because I wanted to be able to easily skim the relevant sections in the book and reread them and pull out some key points, which isn't quite as easy to do with an audio book.

Toby uses the book to explain his Inclusive Growth System, which involves deploying seven best practices, or the seven Cs, and each section in the book delves into one of these Cs in detail. I can only touch on them lightly here because of time. So I'd really recommend getting the book so that you can read them through in more detail as I know I'm not going to be able to do them full justice right now. But to give you a very high level overview, they are clarity. So being clear on why diversity and inclusion are important to the organization you work in culture. So how to define and create a truly inclusive culture in your organization.

Change. And that's all about treating diversity and inclusion like any other important change program colleague experience and design. Cyber, which is all about harnessing the power of technology to be more inclusive. Collaboration. And then finally, the Seventh C is Celebrate to make sure that you're communicating and celebrating inclusion successes.

As with The Art of Gathering, there are lots of stories in the book that help bring the concepts to life, including some of Toby's personal experiences of exclusion at work as a wheelchair user. All of the advice that Toby gives is highly practical and it's often simple to put into practice, which is such a refreshing change to some other advice, which I know can feel a bit overwhelming or vague.

You might have heard one of the very practical examples that Toby and I talked about in episode 93 when he pointed out how powerful visual aids can be in creating an inclusive culture. If you haven't already listened to it, why don't you hop back and listen to it after you've finish listening to this episode so you can hear about the idea in a bit more detail.

I like the fact that he covers the idea of intersectionality particularly well, so. If like I did, this is something you feel you should know more about, or you found it a bit hard to get your head around. Well, okay, I get the concept of intersectionality, but actually how do I really make sure that I'm thinking through this lens when I work on inclusion at work?

Well, this book will just be an enormous help. Now let's move on to my third and final book recommendation for this episode. And the final book is called Tranquility by Tuesday: Nine Ways to Calm The Chaos and Make Time For What Matters by Laura Vanderkam. I listened to this as an audiobook as well.

Fay Wallis:

Laura has narrated the book herself, just like Toby narrated his book. And again, she has done a brilliant job. She has had a podcast for years now, so I suppose she's had a lot of practice at speaking to an invisible audience.

credibly popular one. Back in:

being self-help for busy peole, which I know we all are. She walks the walk as well as talks the talk, balancing having a career alongside sticking to her hobbies and being involved in her five children's lives.

She talks about the fact that life can feel like a slog when you're spinning all of the different plates, and that we have to accept the fact that life isn't going to get less hectic. So her advice is not only to help us to get on top of our workload, it's also to help us enjoy our time more. So it's very different to a lot of other time management books, which can be very focused on just getting the absolute most out of your workday and being as productive as possible.

And they can just feel a little bit soulless or a little bit judgy, and that is definitely not the case with this book. Laura has also tested out all the ideas she shares in the book. She did a 10 week study with lots of participants. I can't remember exactly how many people participated in the study, but I know it was a lot of people.

And the book is divided in into three parts, which between them contain nine rules. Or if you hate the idea of rules, she says, just treat them as guidelines or suggestions for getting the most out of our time and enjoying our time. Part one is called Calm the Chaos. Part two is called Make Good Things Happen, and part three is called Waste Less Time.

As with all ideas, it's often the simple ones that are the best. And this is the case with the nine rules that Laura suggests. One thing I liked about them is the fact that you will probably find you are already following one of them, so you can instantly have a little sense of achievement.

For example, her very first rule within the Calm the chaos section is to give yourself a bedtime so you're getting enough sleep. As I read it, I thought, excellent, I can tick that one off straight away because I love being tucked up in bed by 10 o'clock at night. But if you are far more exciting than me and you stay up later, you might not be able to tick that one off.

But there are probably other ones that you're going to be able to tick off instead that I can't. I know it's highly unlikely I'll ever put all of her ideas into action, but I know that even by implementing a couple of them, they'll make a real difference. So for example, she suggests planning for your upcoming week towards the end of the day on Fridays. And convincingly explains how helpful this can be at then allowing you to unwind at the weekend because you know you've got a plan for the week ahead.

This is one of her ideas that I would definitely like to try. Other rules include taking one night a week for yourself, so giving yourself the opportunity to do something that you enjoy. And again, it's a simple idea, but I can see how being more intentional with your time like this can lead to more joy in your life.

I wish I had time to talk you through all the other ideas in the book, but I hope you enjoy reading about them if you do decide to give the book a try, I know how busy you probably are in your HR or People role and how life can start to feel like a grind. I truly believe that this book can help do what it says on the cover.

It can calm the chaos. Let me know what you think. If you do decide to read it or if you give one of the other books a try. I always love hearing from you and you can reach me on LinkedIn or by emailing me at And you spell my name f a y.

There isn't an E on the end of it for some reason. Like, uh, most people whose name is Faye and I've always got links to my LinkedIn profile and the Bright Sky website in the show notes, so you can easily find me that way too.

Fay Wallis:

I hope you've enjoyed this episode. If it was helpful and has left you wanting to crack open any of the books I mentioned.

There are two other things you might be interested in. The first is an episode of HR Coffee Time that I recorded last summer and is called. Episode 46, my three favourite books to help your career that I've read this year. Also, if diversity and inclusion is a topic you're particularly interested in, I'd highly recommend Dr.

Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey's Book Insights. Dr. Jonathan was a guest on the show back in episode 42, which was called Diversity and Inclusion at Work. Seven Mistakes to Avoid and What To Do Instead. I always think I read quite a lot, but actually the amount of reading I do is nothing compared to him. I was one of the first people to sign up to his book Insights series when he started it.

So if you're wondering what it is, essentially, he reads an entire book from the diversity and inclusion space. And then he sends out a detailed overview of the book by email to you if you've signed up to his book Insights, so that you can take away the key insights covered in the book and decide if you want to put any of the ideas into action.

He also gives his personal view on the book and what it means is that although he encourages you to read the book and make up your own mind, actually, it's such a fantastic way of very quickly getting an idea of all this different fresh thinking within the diversity and inclusion space.

And when I told him how much I was enjoying his Book Insights, he asked me if I'd be happy to recommend it to you. So of course I said yes. This is me recommending it to you now. And if you'd like to learn more about it, there is a link in the show notes for you that will take you through to all the details.

And that brings us to the end of today's show. If you found it helpful, can I possibly ask you for a small favour? And that is, please can you rate and review HR Coffee Time on Apple Podcasts or Spotify for me? Because ratings and reviews make a huge difference. In encouraging the podcasting platforms to recommend the show to people who haven't come across it before, and I would just love to help as many HR and People professionals as I can through this free weekly show. Thank you so much. Have a great week, and I'm looking forward to being back again next Friday with the next episode for you.




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