⛵ Set Sail on a Summer of Learning
Our Guide to Podcasts, Books, Communities and more from 16 leaders
As summer approaches, learning is on my mind. 📖
Traditionally, these warmer months have been a time to intellectually explore, beginning with my local library’s summer reading program many years ago. Over time, I’ve taken courses, attended conferences and connected with cohorts during June, July and August.
When I started to make a list of what I wanted to learn this summer, I returned to the conversations I’ve had over the past year and a half for The Switchboard. I’ve asked every featured leader this question — how do you continue learning? I gathered responses from 16 leaders and added my recommendations.
These are the top seven learning resources mentioned and below are recommendations for each area:
Newsletters and Blogs
Projects and Job Descriptions
🪢 #1 Industry Peers
I started The Switchboard to learn from leaders. This project began with my curiosity as a professional development goal, and it’s grown in meaningful ways to share that knowledge with all of you! Along the way, I’ve discovered that many leaders participate in or create their own communities to inspire and challenge them.
Here are examples from three leaders:
“I’ve recognized that relationships matter a whole lot to me, so I’ve developed a mini ‘braintrust’ of friends and peers who do similar work at companies of various sizes to swap notes with. Because none of us went to school to do this type of work, none of us believe that there is a playbook of tactics that always work, so we’re all open to learning and experimenting together.” -Adrian J. Hopkins
“I’m currently part of a private peer group with women of color in internal communications. We meet monthly around hot topics and share our learnings of how we're handling situations.” -Nicole Neal
“Five years ago, I was introduced to a philosophy that’s been transformational for me — creating a Challenger Network. When I saw this post by Erica Alioto on LinkedIn about how she's created that network, I immediately loved the term! We all have a network that pumps us up. It feels good and cheers you up, but is it really going to help you? This challenger network takes a subset of your network to truly challenge you — they're not just friends that always say nice things, but they will push you. -Ken Shuman
💬 #2 Employees
I enjoy conversations with colleagues in different departments. Over the years, I’ve learned from engineers, product managers, marketers, designers, and many more fields. I’ve gained insights into internal communications from different perspectives. It’s interesting to learn the ways different people approach ideas and challenges. Consider setting a goal of trying to meet one employee a week to learn about their work, keep a log of what you learn, and you’ll have some great takeaways.
Here are perspectives from two leaders:
“Our profession is directly correlated to what happens in the world – socially, economically, politically. We are constantly called upon to stay connected. A trait of great communicators is a natural curiosity which ensures that we never stop learning: about best practices in communications, about how business works, what’s happening in the world and learning as much as possible about our organization. To that end, I like to go out and experience what my employees are going through; I like to spend time in the field.” -Gina Laughlin
“One of the most important ways I continue to learn about internal communications and employee engagement is by talking to and listening to my colleagues. They’re who I work for, they’re my audience, and my relationships with them make a stronger colleague and communicator.” -Samantha Hillstrom
📻 #3 Podcasts
As a former part-time podcast producer and podcast club organizer, I listen to a lot of audio. I’ve previously published a list of inspiring podcasts for internal communications. My favorite podcast is “How I Built This,” and I find the lessons I learn from the featured entrepreneurs, innovators and idealists are relatable to our work.
Here are podcast suggestions from four leaders:
“I love Adam Grant’s podcast, Work Life. He has had Esther Perel as a guest who always makes me think, which is what I’m after. I don’t want someone to confirm what I already know, I want someone to push me to think about something slightly differently.” -Laura McCafferty
“I recently listened to an excellent episode of HBR’s IdeaCast about building successful hybrid teams, which has been helpful as we determine the future workplace of PBS and how we communicate our plans with employees.”-Brianna Barker
“I really enjoy listening to podcasts. I never miss an episode of NPR’s Code Switch. There have been some one-time shows such as The New York Times’ 1619 about slavery that really still haunts me. Also, Crooked Media’s This Land was very powerful and really helped me understand indigenous groups.” -Soon Mee Kim
“Because communication is so fundamental to who we are as people, I appreciate learning about relationships. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts on these topics. Glennon Doyle’s We Can Do Hard Things is my favorite.” -Cath Anderson
📚 #4 Books
This is by far the most popular learning category for leaders featured on The Switchboard. If we have ever been on a video call together, you know that I love virtual libraries because I aspire to read all the books on the shelves.
Here are three recent books that have inspired me this year along with their book reports — The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life and Do/Story/ How to tell your story so the world listens.
Here are book suggestions from four leaders:
“I am a firm believer that internal communications helps build strong teams so I read tons of articles from Harvard Business Review and books about culture. One book I highly recommend is The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups.” -Holly Nicola
“I’m currently reading, Erica Dhawan’s book, Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance.” -Brianna Barker
“I recently picked up some of Ed Schein’s work — you might call him the godfather of organizational development. The Corporate Culture Survival Guide and Organizational Culture and Leadership are on my nightstand right now, as well as Daisy Auger-Domínguez’s Inclusion Revolution and Jacqueline Novogratz’s A Moral Revolution.” -Jared Taylor
“In terms of books, my nightstand is filled with a tall tower of books that I try to read. I’m interested in history or history that I might have missed is what I am focused on right now. I recently finished “Just Us” by Claudia Rankine and “Freedom is a Constant Struggle” by Angela Y. Davis. I’m currently reading “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson, and next on my list are “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982” by Cho Nam-Joo and “The Sum of Us” by Heather McGhee.” -Soon Mee Kim
📰 #5 Magazines, Newsletters and Blogs
For magazines, I’m a fan of Fast Company’s Work Life, First Round Review and MIT’s Sloan Management Review. I follow Deb Liu’s Perspectives for her insights into careers. I gain advice and best practices from Atlassian’s Work Life blog.
Here are recommendations from two leaders:
“I also follow internal communications thought leaders like Rachel Miller closely—she initiates such rich dialogue about the state of the industry and does so alongside IC shakers and movers.” -Sean Langston, Jr.
“Shane Parris runs an incredible blog called Farnam Street which is all about decision making, learning, and knowledge. He’s also written a few books on mental models…I love reading Make Work Better — Bruce Daisley’s newsletter that compiles articles on these topics and gives his own commentary on the field.” -Jared Taylor
There are many organizations that bring communicators together for webinars, conferences and mentoring. While this isn’t an internal communications group, there’s a lot to learn from the CreativeMornings community. I appreciate their virtual FieldTrips and live speaking events which feature experts on a range of creative themes.
Here are community recommendations from three leaders:
“I'm a part of the Arthur Page Society, specifically their Page Up program. It’s a wonderful organization for CCOs and their leadership teams, and I’ve learned so much from the communications industry’s most esteemed leaders. There are also associations such as IABC and PRSA who are sponsoring virtual events where I tune in to hear best practices”. -Lisa Chen
“In the UK, we have great professional bodies like the Institute of Internal Communications (IOIC) — where I am also a mentor — and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).” -Laura Colantuono
“I just joined Chief, the women’s network. I’m excited and honored to be invited to join this robust community of female leaders. I’m really looking forward to learning from all of the great women in this group.” -Cath Anderson
📝 #7 Projects and Job Descriptions
Volunteering to take on new and exciting projects is a great way to learn. I’m also a fan of side-projects to gain new skills that you can apply to work.
Here are ideas from two leaders:
“Most importantly, you have to throw your hat in the ring and take on projects that you’ve never done before. Learning is about growing, and growing requires stretching yourself beyond what’s comfortable. I am never afraid of doing something I don’t know how to do. After all, that’s what communications is all about! -Tiffin Jernstedt
“One interesting thing is that I always read internal communications job descriptions to learn what organizations are looking for and how I can enhance my skills.” -Mona Nabil
Thank you to all of these leaders for their learning recommendations. 🙏🏼