Here in New England we still have several weeks of cold weather and plenty of opportunities to snuggle up with a book, a cup of tea and a warm blanket. If you are looking for a work-related read, I recommend the following selections for their relevance to our current times.
Colleges are experiencing high turnover in key positions. If you (or if you are are working with colleagues) who are new to administration, I recommend The College Administrator’s Survival Guide: Revised Edition. It is the how-to manual we all need when we first step into the “dark side” of administration. Author C. K. Gunsalus mentors you through her compelling, authentic and highly relatable scenarios. She explains in a refreshing level of detail how to handle situations from setting boundaries around your availability, to developing your leadership persona, to how to handle the department bully. Her legal and ethics training provides a perspective that is appreciated when considering sticky issues such as negotiations, personnel matters, and professional ethics. She gives the legal and ethics advice we all need and would rather not learn the hard way.
When I was ten years into serving as a community college administrator, I read Matt Reed’s Confessions of a Community College Administrator. I thought, “where has this book been the past ten years?” Through those pages, he walked me through everything I needed to know and understand to be effective in the community college environment. I was so inspired I got a colleague to partner with me to offer a book discussion with other administrators. Reading about your profession is definitely more fun with colleagues. (This book is unfortunately hard to get a hold of. I recommend checking used book sites.)
These next two books would also be fun to discuss with your work friends. Everyone. is. burnt. out. Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle changed how I approach exercise because the authors explained how exercise helps our bodies complete the stress cycle. Emily and Amelia Nagoski are twin sisters with very different areas of expertise. They are funny and engaging and badass in their approach. They address the science of stress in an accessible manner. Check out their 7-minute video for an overview of how to unlock the stress cycle. The other book I recommend is Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion. These authors are experts in leadership and organizational development. They explain in clear terms how to become a leader who avoids dying of stress. They don’t say that out loud, but that’s my takeaway. They describe power stress, the sacrifice syndrome, and CEO disease that many leaders find themselves suffering from, needlessly. I recognized these conditions because I have seen them play out in real life. It was in these pages that I first read about them as evidence-based concepts. The secret to a long life as a leader? Cultivating empathy, compassion, hope, and mindfulness in ourselves and in the people we work with.
We could certainly use more empathy in the world right now, don’t you think? I’ve spent a lot of time with English professors over the years. They taught me that reading fiction helps people develop empathy. While these next two recommendations aren’t fiction, they are certainly creative nonfiction. I listened to them both and my heart broke for the authors. Zauner’s Crying in H Mart and Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous are reminders of our humanity. Collectively we have suffered so much loss.
Take care of yourselves this week. The world feels heavy right now.
Let me know what you think of these recommendations in the comments section below or send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org; connect with me on LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter; or sign up for my monthly newsletter.
Happy reading, friends.
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