I recently read an article in the Economist suggesting that companies use great classic books to train their upcoming senior management as an alternative to the almost cliché, outward-bound style experiences. Dubbed “inward-bound” courses by the author, he favors this more intellectual form of leadership training and team-building over the typical ropes course challenge. The new approach provides time for leaders to focus on the great thinkers, leaving time to self-reflect and discuss the philosophical and leadership lessons of the books in with colleagues. Picture a weekend spent reviewing Nietzsche, Confucius, Plato, even Jane Austen.
At JGA, every new team member is inducted to the work culture with a formalized orientation program that includes regular meetings with other team members. Among other things, new employees find themselves presented with a list of “JGA readings,” books to help understand JGA’s unique culture, learn more about philanthropy, and most importantly how we at JGA do things.
While some of the books on surface may not relate directly to philanthropy, they do have lessons that impact our work in philanthropy and our approach. Reading the books help weave staff into the fabric of JGA. It’s a rite of passage of sorts, we don’t do ropes course and fall into each other’s arms during trust exercises, but we do all read the books.
Here is a sample of past JGA readings:
- Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni
- Flawless Consulting by Peter Block
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Although the JGA assigned books aren’t necessarily Austen, Kierkegaard, and others, they are our classics and they help define our culture and work values.