This Summer, Pack A Better Beach Book

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Dear Director: I’m looking to bring a few books along for my summer vacation that will improve my leadership and management skills. What can you recommend?

It’s summertime, and who doesn’t love a good book as you sit on the beach or relax during your vacation? I spent my vacation last summer prepping for my board recerts, so I’m definitely looking forward to having a lighter reading load this summer. I don’t get to read as much as I used to or like to, and while I have a variety of favorite fiction authors, I usually try to do a little professional development over the summer as well. As leaders in the emergency department, I think there’s a ton we can learn from other industries. Our skill set needs to include expertise on creating and implementing a vision, management of people, providing feedback, and working with others. Here’s a good mix of books from outside of medicine that can help us develop our managerial and leadership skills. Consider throwing one in your beach bag along with your spy novel of choice.

Simon Sinek
You may already have seen Simon Sinek’s TED video (I’ve written about it a few times), but if you haven’t heard of him, now’s the time to start reading his books (and follow him on social media!). His book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action dives deeper into how people can be inspired by the underlying purpose of your mission. As leaders, if we’re going to change culture or start new programs within our ED, our teams need to understand the why behind the initiative. Over the last few years, I feel like my ED has gone through numerous major programs that required considerable understanding and buy in from the entire team. Think about starting programs related to sepsis, endovascular stroke treatment, providers in triage, and how disruptive or different from our current ways of doing business these programs can be ,and you realize that leadership is more than just pointing the bus in the right direction and hoping everyone jumps on board.


Also by Sinek is Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. I used to work for a Chair where the consensus among staff was that we would take a bullet for our chair. We were that loyal. Meanwhile, there are staffs out there that don’t cover for each other when someone is sick or needs to make a trade. This book will help you get your staff to the former and away from the latter scenario.

Patrick Lencioni
Patrick Lencioni writes in a fable format that teaches lessons while telling a good story. One of the skills that I feel like I’ve brought to the table as a Chair is the ability to hire and develop talent and create a good culture. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize the and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues teaches the framework necessary to do just that and when you have great team players, you have a great culture that can achieve its mission.

No matter what kind of work you do, there’s always someone who’s miserable in their job. And the ER is no exception. As a manager, you’re responsible for improving employee engagement, which leads to more successful outcomes and prevents turnover. The Truth About Employee Engagement: A fable about addressing the Three Root Causes of Job Misery is a great book that helps you do this by teaching you how to recognize the components of a job that makes employees miserable and suggesting ways to address them.   


No “I” in Team—But There Is “Me”
Working in an ER is definitely a team sport, and Help the Helper: Building a Culture of Extreme Teamwork by Kevin Pritchard and John Eliot is the fascinating result of what happens when a former NBA player and coach (Pritchard) teams up with a professor of organization psychology and leadership. Drawing on sports and business analogies, this book takes you behind the closed doors of locker rooms to get your staff functioning like its own “Dream Team.”

Written by the founding sports editor of the Wall Street Journal’s sports section, Sam Walker, The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams explores the common links between the greatest sports teams of all time. Walker studied thousands of sports teams from around the world to come up with a list of the 16 most dominant teams in history (that’s interesting enough for a summer read for me), eventually discovering that each team had “a captain—a singular leader who drove it to sustained, historic periods of greatness.” Walker then identified the seven key attributes that those leaders exhibited.

Everyday Empowerment
With a pay discrepancy still occurring in healthcare, Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck offers women a guide to creating a road for professional success in workplaces that still present obstacles to female advancement. Research clearly shows the benefits of having women at the board table, and this book helps them understand their innate strengths and take advantage of them. As a male and as a medical director and colleague, I want to better understand the challenges of my colleagues and how best to develop and mentor a group that makes up almost half of our work force.

A successful leader needs to be able to influence people. Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change by Joseph Grenny et. al. explores the strategies necessary to influence people and rapidly achieve change. For reasons similar to those for Sinek’s book on “Why,” I see this book as being great for leaders in medicine. Physicians are pretty independent people, and it can be a challenge to initiate broad change within our groups. We should take all the help we can get.


The county next to mine has a popular slogan that uses the words “Choose Civility.” I’m always a little amused when I’m at sports games for my kids and neither set of parents are acting civil, so it doesn’t surprise me when I also see incivility in the workplace. Written by Georgetown University professor Christine Porath, Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, describes how workplace quality and effectiveness can increase by using your influence to improving civility in the workplace.

Although office politics can sound like dirty words, understanding how to navigate hospital administration is an essential skill for leaders. Look for this topic in an upcoming column but if you want an in-depth look at the world of personality clashes, competing agendas, and turf wars, get HBR Guide to Office Politics by Karen Dillon. It will help you supplement your EQ skills as you navigate the unwritten rules and power struggles that exist within your organization.

Speaking of the Harvard Business Review…
With books on numerous day-to-day topics that medical directors struggle with, it’s almost like HBR books were written for the busy emergency physician—short, yet ultra informative, they’re chock full of nuts and bolts information, quick to read, and very reasonably priced. While perhaps not as entertaining as some of the others I’ve recommended, as a series that will broaden your knowledge base and make you better at your job, you can’t go wrong.

Grab a book and a drink this summer—and enjoy your vacation!


EXECUTIVE EDITOR Dr. Silverman is Chairman of Emergency Medicine at the Virginia Hospital Center. He also serves as the Director of the Alteon-Mid Atlantic Leadership Academy. Dr. Silverman’s practical wisdom is available in an easy-to-use reference guide, available on Amazon. Follow on Twitter @drmikesilverman

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