Here is my straight up confession: I am not very good at books which tell me to do something in a linear order. This one takes the reader from Day 1 activities, to Day 2 activities and so on in a logical progression to Day 100. My natural instinct is to start at page 56 or Day 56, then leap across to find out what the first day tells me to do, and then maybe have a sneak peak at Day 100. Then I dip in: working from something in the 10s to something in the 20s.
Having made my confession, I am pleased to say that I was absolutely delighted with Julian Stodd’s “Social Leadership My First 100 Days”. If you can imagine half an A4 page on its side, in landscape format and wiral bound, with nice big chunky wires, so that each page can sit flat. Then imagine opening the book to a two-page spread. On the right-hand side is the activity for the day in question, on the left-hand side one of Julian’s famous illustrations drawn specially for the book to explain and illuminate as well as illustrate the process in hand. So for example Day One tells you to look at the organisation around you and asks if you are you content with what you see. Is it fair? Is it equal? Is it innovative and successful? Is it ready to face tomorrow? There are more prompt questions, and then the activity. What would you change? You are nudged to ask the same questions of someone else, in order to see if their responses are similar or different.
The next day: Day Two is about power. It asks you to reflect on what power you have to make the changes you felt were necessary in the Day One reflection. On goes the handbook building day after day. The Day’s activities are not random but lock together into a kind of scaffolding where you build a firm foundation, and then you start to reach into more and more complex and nuanced areas. Without knowing it (almost) you begin to dig into the heart of social leadership and organisational change. Not simply for insight but mainly for action. If you want to understand social leadership, then read the Handbook. If you want to actually DO something then the 100 Day challenge is for you.
This book helps you think and organise your thoughts and ideas. There is a huge advantage to going with Julian’s flow, and letting him get the blocks in order and allowing him to narrow your focus down before you build up to something bigger and more detailed. And in this way the book turns into a really good action plan.
One of the additional beauties of it is that you should start at the beginning, (note to self) but you can stop at any place, once you have got some actions to implement. For some people the first five days will give them months of activity, for others the 100 days will yield the best master plan. It is really up to the reader to decide. So it works for the curious beginner, as well as the Stodd loyalist (and there are many of them). This really is a book like no other. It is attractive, and beautifully designed in an artisan way, but also intensely practical. So this is a book to have on your table, rather than on your shelf.
And my favourite day? It has to be Day 36, reciprocating and saying thank you. A moment of pause and reflection, and a time to express gratitude. And my expression of gratitude is to Julian for producing such a compelling book, and proving its value by crowdsourcing the production costs!