Build Your People First and They’ll Build Your Company

Build Your People First, and They’ll Build Your Company:  How Book Club Changes Employees’ Lives

Over 95% of our nation’s managers miss one powerful, career-building principle and by doing so fall far short of the greatness they were meant to achieve in life.

That principle is: “Educate your employees”.

Educating your employees, and/or providing opportunities for them to educate themselves, is one of the best ways to communicate the fact to them you care about them as individuals.

Now, let me clarify something here before we go any further.

I’m not talking about your employees knowing and mastering their job responsibilities within your business.

Not even close!

What I’m talking about is helping your people take their lives to the next level.

No one is in a better position to inspire change in an employee’s life than their manager, their leader.

Typically, the average employee will spend more time with you than with their spouse, family, and friends, so you really see them for who they are.

Why does it matter that you take an interest in lives of your team members?

It shows you care.

Gallup Research found roughly two-thirds of your employees are ‘passively’ or, even worse, ‘actively disengaged.’

In other words, they have absolutely no loyalty to you, or to the company.

You, their manager, have the power and influence (and dare I say the “responsibility” as their leader) to help each of them change their thinking.

If you truly want to become a Top 10% Manager in your company, this one thing will set you apart from the pack: Book Club Meetings

How it all began

I’ve always been interested in improving my knowledge and skills by reading books and attending seminars.

It all started when my father, the late Rev. Dr. J.W. Long, Jr., handed me a book by Dale Carnegie, titled How to Win Friends and Influence People when I was 14.

I distinctly remember how reading that book helped open my eyes to certain principles of dealing with other people, and how I could improve my relationships with practically anyone.

Then, in 2005, I read a book by my friend, Dr. Tony Zeiss, titled The 12 Essential Rules for Becoming Indispensable.

After reading and highlighting his wonderful book, I knew I had to share what I had learned with my own employees, so I ordered them each a copy.

I called a brief meeting with the entire team, handed out the books, notebooks, and a highlighter to each of them and said:

“I want you to each read chapter one of this book by next Wednesday at 11:30. As you read it, please write your thoughts down in the notebook I gave you, and come prepared to talk about what you, personally, got from this chapter. I will have pizza delivered so we can enjoy lunch together as we share what we learned with each other.”


Dead silence…

Nothing but blank stares coming my way…

In fact, several of them were rumored to be rounding up the villagers, with torches and pitchforks in hand, searching for the evil monster who came up with the idea!

About ten minutes after our meeting had adjourned, two of my rather introverted employees privately came into my office together, and told me they were “uncomfortable talking like that in front of others.”

I listened, thanked them, and replied;

“I appreciate the fact that it makes you uncomfortable, but you’re among friends here, and we all be will sharing, so relax and enjoy our time together as we eat lunch and learn as a team.”

They reluctantly said they would try, and promptly left the office.

That first book club meeting

During our first Book Club meeting, people didn’t know what to expect.

As we ate our pizza, I set the example for our group by sharing stories from my own past to help reduce their anxiety.

That first chapter of Tony’s book happened to be on “Attitude.”

I shared a story of how having a negative attitude had affected my life for a few years after losing a job.

I wanted them to see I have been-there-done-that, too.

I showed them I was human, and I had made many mistakes along the way.

After hearing my stories, others started to share their story.

Then, it happened

Over the next few weeks, one by one, each member of the group felt compelled to speak up, and began to open up about themselves and their experiences in life.

It was fascinating to see how it just started to flow out of them.

We laughed, and sometimes even shed tears together, as each chapter reminded us of stories from our own lives.

By the fourth week or so, every employee’s reservations to share had all but completely evaporated.

We were coming together as a team.

People, who had historically ignored employees from other departments, soon established new friendships.

Some even started doing things together away from the office, such as going to the gym together.

Occasionally, you could glance around and see others begin to get a little misty-eyed as someone recounted their personal struggles in life.

OK, I’ll admit it.

I did myself a few times too.

Hey, I’m human!

Remember those two employees that came into my office and said they were uncomfortable sharing and speaking in front of the other employees?

Well, after only a few weeks one of them came and said, “Thank you for making us participate, Dave. I would have hated to miss these meetings, and if you would have made it optional I would not have come.”

You are taking your people, sometimes kicking and screaming I might add, to places they never would go in their lives and they will remember you forever for it.

I have hundreds of comments from employees, former employees, friends, and family telling me how the time we’ve spent in our Book Club meetings has changed their lives.

Yes, these Book Club meetings are powerful, but ONLY if you make them happen with YOUR team.

Here’s a little more of what you can expect when you open up with your team:

When you share, they share

As soon as you dismantle, brick by brick, that false wall of separation between yourself and your employees, that’s when the magic happens.

Your employees get to see the real you.

The changes are subtle at first.

You’ll see the welcomed progression as time passes, and as you share more about yourself and the lessons learned in life.

The beautiful thing is, you’ll do it together, working alongside each other as you work to improve your lives and incomes.

This one hour spent together each week greatly amplifies the work accomplished in the other thirty-nine hours remaining (if they’re full-time employees).

What does this mean for Employee Engagement

“Why does it matter whether, or not, my employees get to know each other?”

Because it’s been proven, over and over again, “If you have several good friends (or even one) at work, you’re less likely to leave that job for another one.”

The more you do to improve the skills and attitudes of your people, the better they will take care of your clients and customers.

Higher sales and profits will take care of themselves when that’s accomplished.


Wake up, and as I said, “Quit thinking short-term!”

Remember, we’re planting seeds and they take time to grow into an abundant harvest of superstar employees.

Let’s do what we can to help build loyalty between our employees to ourselves as managers, and ultimately to the companies we each work for.

Expect to see leaders emerge in each group and prepare to see, first hand, how some of your more quiet employees (and even some new hires) will handle their time in the limelight.

If you invest the time needed to help develop their skills—and show them they matter to you enough to spend quality time to help them become successful in their careers—there’s no limit to how high your career will soar!

It’s genuinely empowering to see them growing right before your eyes.

Please send me a note and let me hear the feedback you get, and how you’re helping people change their lives! It will make my day, I assure you! I’m also happy to answer specific questions on getting your Book Club started, share tips on saving money on buying books, and best practices for scheduling. Send me an email me at

Hear what some of our employees have to say about book club.


Check out a video of one of our book club meetings at MyEmployees Book Club.


About the Author:

David Long is Founder/CEO of MyEmployees, a 26 year-old firm in the Top 1% Worldwide in the Employee Engagement and Recognition industry. His firm specializes in helping managers build stronger, more engaging relationships with their team members, while linking the rewards and recognition program to the desired goals of the company.

David believes (and lives to his very core) what Zig Ziglar said was required to become truly successful in life. He said, “You can have ANYTHING you want in life IF you will FIRST help others get what THEY want!” As a result, David has touched untold lives through the years, including employees, clients, friends and family, while reaching the Top 10% in three separate industries, and the principles he teaches are universal, regardless of your industry.

David Long is also a best-selling author. His book, Built to Lead: 7 Management R.E.W.A.R.D.S Principles for Becoming a Top 10% Manager, reached #1 on Amazon’s Bestsellers List five times and #10 on the Wall Street Journal Bestsellers List. Built to Lead is a “get-in-the-trenches with you, no-holds-barred” discussion about maximizing your ability to have an amazing management career. It tackles, head-on, the lies you’ve been told about how to reach the top in your company, and shows you what REALLY WORKS!


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