Volunteer Managers: 3 mindset-growing reads for your 2017

Meditate on the content of these books, then act accomplish more in the new year

I’ve noticed something. In just about every workshop, training, and retreat that I hold, there are three books that inevitably enter into the conversation – and they are not books about volunteer management.  These particular titles address those nagging mindset challenges that get in our way when we want to create standout programs.

These three books are SO good that they merit a blog post all their own. Here are the titles and why every volunteer manager should read them.


The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

Have you ever felt like your email is a bad influence, monopolizing your time and making it impossible to get anything done? If yes, rest assured that you are not alone –  most of my clients feel the same way. The dopamine hit that we get when we check email is so darned seductive that it sweeps us right into reactive mode before we can even start to plan our day.

The solution is to establish set times to check your email and alternate them with longer blocks of time to get your high-focus projects accomplished.  That’s a habit – and habits take time to develop.  The Power of Habit walks you through the brain science behind habit formation and gives you a system for developing new habits of your own.  It’s straightforward and engaging – you almost want to read it like a novel, because the case studies are so interesting.  And in the end, you will understand why habits are so important for conquering your email or reaching any goal that you set for yourself.


The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

You’d think that this title was written by the same person, right?  Not so, but these two books complement one another.  The Power of Engagement is all about managing your energy – not your time. The authors argue that time is a finite resource, whereas energy is renewable. Your energy level helps you make the most out of the available time that you have.

This book gives busy volunteer managers hope that there is a way to get more done and still leave the office at a decent hour.

The keys are to develop energy-protecting habits (surprise, surprise), and to work in what the authors call “sprints,” meaning that you don’t work a nonstop day. Instead, you alternate periods of high focus with energizing breaks.  That can be a tough concept for nonprofit folks, who often feel that the only way to manage their work load is to plow through and deal with the stress later. This book will get you thinking about what drains or sustains you in a way that makes you want to take action right away.


Playing Big, Tara Mohr

Readers on my Twenty Hats mailing list* received a link to a Tara Mohr interview as their December skill-builder.  The link was all about how to harness your inner mentor to coach you through tough decisions or moments of doubt.  In Playing Big, Tara walks you through the inner mentor process and shares other techniques to counter the many limiting beliefs that keep us from growing into the kind of person we want to be.

I recommend this book to clients who are in periods of transition (from volunteer manager to a new role, say, or perhaps even into retirement), or clients who want to reconnect with the higher purpose behind their work. Playing Big is intended for women, but any person who thrives on self-reflection, male or female, will gain something valuable from this book.

Instead of making resolutions this year, try something different: start thinking about your intentions for the year – what would you most like to accomplish, what would make you feel proud and excited about your work? Depending on your particular strengths and goals, one (or all) of these reads will help you accomplish exactly what you want.


*Twenty Hats mailing list members receive weekly ‘post is up notices,’ monthly skill-builders (like the Tara Mohr interview), and special offers on TH services. Email me to join the list or use the sign-up form here on the page)

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