July 4, 2013

People regularly exclaim about how much I read. Especially fellow professionals seem admiring that I read so many professional books.

But I can’t imagine being a professional without reading lots of professional books and reading lots of blogs and e-newsletters and and … I figure we’re supposed to read a lot – and not just in our own narrow field but across professional fields. I periodically quote some consultant who said that if you read lots you’re knowledgeable and when you read lots and lots, you become an expert.

I read on airplanes. Sometimes I only take a business book on an airplane, forcing myself to get through the stack in my office. Sometimes I cheat on the airplane and buy a novel.

Mostly I read business books and political books when I’m on vacation. I’m relaxed then. The ranting and raving resulting from the political books is not quite as neurotic when I’m on vacation. My life partner Tom doesn’t think I need several pills and a locked room when my ranting and raving is on “vacation mild.” And I always make sure I read at least one business book on vacation. But I aim for more than that!

I read novels when I’m working. The novels help me relax. The novels are fun. I’m particularly partial to romance novels, science fiction fantasy, and spy/police type novels. I love Judith McNaught and Nora Roberts (who also writes as J.D. Robb). Guy Gavriel Kay and Jennifer Roberson. John Sandford and William Kent Krueger and David Baldacci and …

And I find important meanings in the novels. For example, take a look at my book Keep Your Donors. You’ll see that the chapters begin with  relevant quote from novels. Quotes about learning and data and emotions and more…all from novels.

So today, 4th of July 2013 USA, I just finished The Hit by David Baldacci. And here’s an interesting quote…

  • “The White House. It was often a place of near chaos buffered by moments of intense calm, like the eye of a hurricane. One could tell that inches past the serenity lurked possible bedlam. This was one of the serene moments. The precise location of the possibly hovering bedlam was as of yet unknown.”

Hmmm… Have you ever worked in a place like that? Moments of serenity buffeted by moments of bedlam. The constant imbalance of calm and chaos. The ups and downs, anticipation and fears of instability. The stress and terror of such a workplace.

Do you thrive in that environment? Some people do, I suspect. But do they burn out quickly? Or do they explode or implode, taking out others and themselves?

Does leadership allow this serenity and chaos? Does leadership promote this corporate culture? Do you consider this good management and a healthy workplace? What does business literature say? Is there a difference between good management and effective management? Can effective management be bad management? Does this serenity/chaos management produce creativity and innovation?

What kind of planning and managing and thinking does an organization do that has lurking corners – or corners with lurking stuff? What kind of planning and managing and thinking and oversight and insight is going on in an organization where chaos and bedlam are just a few steps away…down a hall, around a corner?

How do your staff experience (or describe) your organization? Any hints of serenity awaiting chaos? What would your board members and other volunteers and your donors think if your organization were described that way? That way that David Baldacci described the White House?

(And by the way, do you think that is a fair description of the White House? Do you suspect that? How does that make you feel?)

What have your novels been suggesting to you lately?

By the way, I’m heading back outside with another one…a novel…this time a romance. Or maybe the new Guy Gavriel Kay book.

Filed under: Nonprofit Management

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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