Friday, November 17, 2023

FALL BACK TO READING SERIES – Featuring Deborah Connors


This year, as the seasons change and we enjoy fall, I’ve launched my FALL BACK TO READING SERIES. The series will feature two dozen leadership and marketing experts, who will share their inspiration in both fiction and nonfiction, and hopefully, provide the impetus to read more. To quote New York Times Bestselling author Kristin Harmel, “If you give a person a book, you give him the world.” For today’s post, I’d like to introduce Deborah Connors.

Deborah Connors is an organizational health and culture expert and researches the latest breakthroughs in workplace culture around the world. She is the author of A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture, through which she has distilled the knowledge of hundreds of business and organizational health thought-leaders. She is the founder of The Better Workplace Conference, a powerful initiative that created a generation of workplace health professionals and a huge community of practice. She is part-time executive director of BCALM (the BC Association for Living Mindfully) in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Through her business, Well-Advised Consulting, Inc., Deborah helps leaders and teams create great cultures where people can flourish.

QUESTION: Which three business books have made the biggest impact on your career?
DEBORAH CONNORS: Here are my three:

Building The Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide for Leading Change by Dr. Robert Quinn: A few decades ago at the University of Michigan, Quinn and colleagues started a school of research called Positive Organizational Scholarship. They recognized that, at the time, organizational research was focused on fixing problems. They wanted to study excellence and what makes some organizations more positive and successful than others. This book is about the transformational leadership required to create positive change in the workplace and was transformational to my thinking as an organizational health consultant.

Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement by Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres: I met Cheri Torres at a conference about positive psychology. This book had just been released, as had mine. We exchanged books and both found ourselves reading each other’s books on the plane on the way home. I was fascinated by the appreciative practices introduced in this book and how effective they were for shifting the tone and direction of almost any conversation. I started incorporating these practices into my work and ended up taking the first facilitator’s program they offered for people wanting to teach these ideas. I have since taught the Conversations Worth Having course numerous times to hundreds of people, and I use these practices in my consulting work every day.

The Truth About Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What To Do About It by Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter: I went through burnout in the winter of 1998, and at the time, it was much less prevalent than it is today. There was a stigma that those who burned out "just couldn’t cut it." I knew that wasn’t true, and when I read this book, I was introduced to the ways that organizations cause people to burn out. There was so much truth captured in the book. Since this time, Maslach and Leiter have written two additional books: Banishing Burnout and The Burnout Challenge: Managing People’s Relationships With Their Jobs.

QUESTION: Who is your favorite author, and why?
DEBORAH CONNORS: Patti Digh. The first book of hers that I read was Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful and Live Intentionally. She wrote this book based on the death of her stepfather, who died 37 days after his diagnosis. The question was, "If you only had 37 days to live, what would you do?" Her writing is poignant, funny, intentional, and hard to put down.

QUESTION: What book did you read in high school or college that, to this day, you still remember vividly, and why?
DEBORAH CONNORS: Mindfulness by Helen J. Langer. When this book was published in 1989, mindfulness was not a well-known concept in North America. I was in grad school. The title jumped out at me, as did the first few pages of the book, so I bought it and was captured by the concept.

Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard, was doing research on "the psychological and physical costs we pay because of pervasive mindlessness" and about the benefits of learning to be mindful. She reminds us that many of the issues we have in the workplace today are due to mindlessness.

Particularly interesting to me was a study that she and other researchers from Harvard conducted with elderly residents in a nursing home. When the residents were given the opportunity to take care of a houseplant and make a few small decisions about their daily routines (i.e., to be "mindful"), they were more cheerful, active, and alert than others who were not given these responsibilities.

Today, my work has gravitated to mindfulness, and the mindful workplace, no doubt impacted by reading this first book on the subject many years ago.  

QUESTION: Do you intersperse fiction with your business reading? If yes, what was the last work of fiction that you read, and what caught your attention about it?
DEBORAH CONNORS: Yes, but I am more prone to read biographies and autobiographies. With fiction, I like stories set in places I want to visit, or have been. The latest work of fiction I read was called One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle, which interested me because it was set in Positano, Italy, where I was going to vacation a few months later. When I visited Positano, I climbed the steps to the actual hotel written about in the book.

I’m currently reading Still Life by Sarah Winman, which is set in Florence, another city I visited last year and fell in love with.

The latest biography I read was Spare, by Prince Harry, which I found fascinating.

SHARE THIS: With fiction, I like stories set in places I want to visit, or have been. ~@well_advised #Reading #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude to Deborah for participating in this year’s fall back to reading series and for sharing her inspiring recommendations!

Image Credit: Maria Bobrova via Unsplash.

Connect with Deborah at these links:

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