Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.

I’ve seen managers recommend employees to read books. I’ve seen managers begging employees to read books. I’ve seen managers commanding employees to read books.

Do you know which method is most effective? The first one.
How effective is it? Not as effective as those managers wanted.

From my personal experience (after extrapolating numbers from discussions with colleagues and friends), about 40% of them say they read the books their managers recommend. Half of the latter WISH they have read those books. Some actually claim they have written the book after they had read an article or a review about the book, outlining the most important things in it.


The chilling truth is, this is not reading the book. Reading essential points is useful, but you lack the context. Consider the following famous Oscar Wilde quote: “Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success.” Stop for a whle and check how do you feel about it.

Now, check the article this has originally been part of. How do you feel this is a part of his theories about Individualism and Socialism?

I don’t claim anything about Oscar Wilde’s theories. By the time of writing that essay the situation in the world was such that this was a new way of thinking, worth exploring. Nowadays, more than a century later, after gigantic experiments with half of the world’s population, we are still trying to prove him wrong or right.

Back to the main topic, this leaves us with 20% of the employees actually having read the books.

How do we motivate employees to sharpen their saw?

My theory is that great leaders teach their employees the books they want them to read. While doing the daily stand-up, or while performing a code review, or while discussing a matter of a kind, look for a related situation in a book you love and recommend and point it out. Quote the important thing you learned. Always mention the name and the author of the book so that it gets sticky. With time you would have created a culture of book discussion and analysis. And, you will have created the curiosity and desire to learn that exact book in your audience. Inspiration is important in teaching. Just like the best teachers you had, be the best teacher for your employees.

Employee book clubs

Yesterday, a good friend of mine yesterday shared that their company have a formal employee book club organized, holding a discussion over a chapter on a regular basis. Quick googling showed that this practice is adopted in a lot of places. This is a fantastic idea to implement shall you ensure everybody on your team truly welcomes the idea.

Happy readings!