Category Archives: Reading and Writing

Read This Book: Predictable Success

“Any group of people can reach a state where they will consistently (and with relative ease) achieve their common goals – a state that I call “Predictable Success.”                               Les McKeown

Whether you’re a seasoned leader or just starting out in your career, you need to be able to analyze the business dynamics playing out around you.  This book will help you do that.

Drawing on a deep understanding of organizational behavior, Les McKeown describes the seven stages he considers common to all businesses.  He then provides a step-by-step guide for leading your organization into Predictable Success and offers a practical blueprint for achieving sustainable growth.


Visit the Reading List for more book recommendations.


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January: Reading, Writing, Thinking.

I’m reading about…

Convents and the Spanish Inquisition.  The Sisterhood is my book club’s selection this month.


I also just received Deconstructing Penguins, a guide for discussing literature with kids.  I found the Goldstones’ Used and Rare oddly riveting for a book about book collecting, so I’m optimistic about this one.

I’m writing about…

Management.  Startling, I know.  But the real news here is that I’m trying to do most of my writing on paper.  Too much screen time has been giving me some wicked headaches.  I’m in slight denial that my eyes are failing me, but I am certain my office ergonomics are off.  I’m intrigued by the idea of active sitting and wonder if this chair would help my neck and back.

I’m thinking about…

Homeschooling.  My kid is only 2, so I have some time to think about this one.  But I believe self-directed, project-based learning is the best preparation for tomorrow’s careers.  And test-centric public school just isn’t providing that.

Penelope Trunk makes a pretty persuasive case for why homeschooling is the best solution for balancing work and kids.  But then there’s the primal fear that my kid will turn out weird.  Or that I will have to learn to knit.

If you’re interested in homeschooling, The Year of Learning Dangerously is insightful and laugh-out-loud funny.  As is Quinn Cummings’ blog.


This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.


Read This Book: Writing That Works

“How to write memos, letters, reports, speeches, resumes, plans and other papers that what you mean – and get things done”

Writing That Works is a practical guide to effective business writing.  Clear, concise and easy to read, it practices what it preaches.  I picked up a copy after reading Maria Popova‘s “10 Tips on Writing from David Ogilvy“.  Ogilvy knew a thing or two about persuasive communication and he encouraged his staff to read Roman-Raphaelson three times.  I recommend you do the same.

I’m reading the 1981 edition from my local library, which is charmingly pre-email.  The more recent version contains an “I Love My Computer” chapter and other updated information.


This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.


Read This Book: The Back of the Napkin

“There is no more powerful way to prove that we know something well than to draw a simple picture of it.  And there is no more powerful way to see hidden solutions than to pick up a pen and draw out the pieces of our problem.”                           – Dan Roam



Approaching complex problems in new ways is an important element of deliberate practice for managers.   In The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, Dan Roam explores how we can work through complex business ideas with visual tools.  This entertaining manual explains visual thinking, ways of seeing and how to focus our ideas.


This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.


October: Reading, Writing, Thinking.

I’m reading about…

Human cell culture, cryptographic cults and Scottish schoolgirls.


I’m writing about…

Mental maps, formal outlines and free writing.  Getting ideas out of my head and onto paper is always challenging and I’ve found that different techniques work on different days.

I’m thinking about…

Segments, rays and angles.  One of the few things I remember about my high school coursework is doing proofs in geometry class.  I loved them.  Weird, I know.  I guess my brain just likes logic and structure.  So, fully embracing my inner nerd, I purchased a geometry proof workbook.  And I’ve found working through it to be strangely meditative.  Who knew?


And speaking of school, do you remember your Trapper Keeper?  I love this article on the market research behind the product.


This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.

Reading. Writing. Thinking.

I’m reading about

Eleanor Roosevelt.  My book club is reading My Year with Eleanor and I like to read a series of books based around a theme (or as in wine tasting, a flight). I’ve always wanted to learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt, so this is the book flight I’m trying:

I’ve found Franklin and Eleanor a bit dense and have only been able to focus in small sittings.  I also made the mistake of jumping ahead when I got bored and now have to go back and piece together what I’ve missed.

I’m also finally getting to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.

I’m writing about...

The “us vs. them” mentality between management and staff. This is something I’ve found particularly prevalent in manufacturing environments.

I’m thinking about…

The science behind why we are more creative and productive in some spaces than in others. Our work environments affect our behavior, so as managers, paying attention to space planning and basic design can have a big impact on organizational culture.

At home, I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated office space (although it’s shared with my husband and often barricaded against the toddler). It’s super functional but not particularly inspiring. So I’m using Pinterest to gather ideas for my dream office.


Functional but boring.

Have you created an inspiring workspace, at home or at the office? I’d love to hear about it!


This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.

Best Management Book You’ve Never Heard Of

Charter School Leadership: Elements for School Success by Cameron Curry

I’ve been meaning to recommend this book and Modern Mrs. Darcy has given me the perfect motivation with “The Best Books You’ve Never Heard Of” series.

Charter School Leadership is built around inspiring team members through a focus on mission, culture and values.  In taking an organization from ordinary to extraordinary, Curry focuses on the need for leaders to stay mission-minded and to use the mission as a filter to align priorities.  He emphasizes that leaders should create a culture that is definable, manageable and meaningful.  Curry offers examples of how to translate culture into tangible actions and how culture can then become part of the feedback and assessment process.  He also explains that leaders need to be specific and strategic in their communications and emphasizes working from a plan, in everything from assessing performance to sending emails.

If you’re not a charter school leader, you’ve likely overlooked this book.  And yes, there are elements that are specific to the school environment (managing teachers, parents, etc.).  However, Curry’s extensive business background informs his charter school leadership and in this book, he offers a brief, readable guide that is applicable for all organizations.


Modern Mrs Darcy


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