Book Gift Giving Guide (and a giveaway!)

My Favorite Reads from 2015

My absolute favorite gift to give, and to receive, is a thought-provoking book. I’ve got lists and lists of favorite books I recommend over and over. Just in time for your gift giving pleasure, the following are My Favorite Reads from 2015. (Most were released this year while a few are a little older and finally made it into my hands this year.)

AND I have 5 copies of one of my favorites to give away to YOU! Keep reading for details…

I hope this book gift giving guide simplifies your shopping and brings great joy to those you care about!

*Note: None of the authors mentioned below paid me to recommend their books. This post does include affiliate links with Amazon. (Which means if you click on the link and purchase, Amazon will pay me a small “thank you” referral fee which does not affect the cost of your purchase.) 

Lead Reads

 Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller. Written by the VP of Leadership Development at Chick-fil-A, this easy-to-read parable focuses on a proactive versus reactive approach to leadership. After reading this book, I went back to Amazon and purchased a whole Mark Miller leadership library. (And went out for a chicken sandwich with waffle fries.)

 Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’’t by Simon Sinek. First, SIMON SINEK. Second, this book put into words a whole perspective shift on leadership, teams, and culture that I believe with every bit of my being. (How’s that for an endorsement?)

 The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership: The Power of Leading from Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength by Jenni Catron. This fresh leadership voice has given us another powerful read for our teams. I can’t say enough good things about Jenni and am so excited her latest book is finally here!

Soul Care

NIV Bible for Women: Fresh Insights for Thriving in Today’s World edited by Angela Scheff. When I was in college, I received a treasured women’s devotional Bible for Christmas. All these years later, I had the privilege of contributing devotions to a new collection for women. You can imagine how I felt when I received this beautifully designed Bible in my hands: humbled and grateful. I’m excited to give away 5 copies of this Bible thanks to Zondervan! See the end of this post for details.

Bible study product_thumbnailChoosing a Life that Matters: a Bible study on the life of Moses by Jodie Niznik. Take one of the most legendary leaders of all time (Moses) plus practical how-to guides to everyday spiritual practices plus insights from a dear pastor friend (Jodie). Choosing a Life that Matters has become hands-down my favorite Bible study to date.


Live Loved: An Adult Coloring Book by Margaret Feinberg. This beautiful book is a colorful spiritual companion bringing both creativity and contemplation to our prayer lives. (And it’s a great excuse to color like a kid again!)


Brave Enough: Getting Over Our Fears, Flaws, and Failures to Live Bold and Free by Nicole Unice. Because fears, flaws, and failures are exactly what trip me up and keep me from free living and fierce leading.


I read more fiction than usual this year and had a few far-and-away favorites. I was captivated by these challenging novels with commanding and complicated female characters:

 The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell



 The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd



 Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas


Miscellaneous Goodness

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. Perfect for the dog-lover in your life, this was one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. Written by an animal behavior scientist and dog enthusiast, the author gave me new perspective on my sweet lab, Sully.

Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent by Ellise Pierce. I read this cookbook after returning from Paris and wanted to eat every page. The images were lovely, the recipes simple yet delicious, and the stories engaging.


Evertaster by Adam Glendon Sidwell. This was the highly anticipated after-dinner read aloud at the Pierce house this year. Filled with adventure, fun accents, and a picky eater, this was a book our whole family enjoyed.


NIV Bible for Women Giveaway Details 

Two Ways to Enter:

  1. Leave a comment below sharing your favorite read of 2015.
  2. Share this post on Twitter mentioning @julie_pierce

Winners will be chosen at random at 12pm CST on Monday, December 7! This giveaway is now closed.

Congrats to the following winners: Sarah Conner, Sherene Joseph, Judy, Avalyn Hermond, and Tracy Smith! Woohoo!!

Team Building Takeaways

Football team“The more you play, the more creative, productive, connected and stress-free you become.” Rich Largman

Last week, I facilitated team building outings at Group Dynamix for principals and assistant principals from all over North Texas. At the end of each action packed day of purposeful play, I would help them debrief their experience by asking a few questions. See if you recognize you and your team in any of their answers:

1. What challenges were you facing coming into today?

  • “Just taking time away. We have so much going on right now. I know my inbox will be exploding when I get back.”
  • “Not knowing anybody. I came in knowing a few names and that was it.” 
  • “I was a little intimidated by what we might do. I didn’t know if I would be able to contribute that much or keep up.”

2. What was one big “AHA” you had today?

  • “I didn’t realize how much I needed this. I’m always working so hard – just to get away and play was so good for me.”
  • “In all the challenges and games, the stakes were low if we failed. We can’t expect ourselves to perform perfectly the first time every time. (And yet we do!)” 
  • “Everyone has strengths and a part to play on the team. In the challenges we had today, we got to see things in people we weren’t expecting.”

3. What are you taking back to your team?

  • “I need to play more with my team – we need to make it a regular part of what we do. Not taking ourselves so seriously all the time.”
  • “We’ve got to lower the stakes with our teams so it’s OK to try and fail and make mistakes then tweak the strategy and improve the outcome.”
  • “If I do everything on my own, it’s exhausting and not always the best outcome. I’ve got to watch for my team members interests and strengths and encourage them to do more in that strength.”

All that from a day of purposeful play.

Tell me leader friend, when was the last time you played just for the fun of it? Maybe you need to borrow a friend’s dog for a game of fetch, take a painting class, or schedule a stand-up paddleboarding lesson.

What about your team? When was the last time you got away from the everyday schedule to connect and collaborate in a more playful context? Maybe you need to schedule a getaway to a ropes course or a photo scavenger hunt with your co-workers.

We let stress squeeze out playfulness and joy. The reality is that play reduces our stress, helps connect our co-workers, and brings about new awareness. All of this increases our productivity, enhances teamwork, and leads to success.

Leader friend, be the one to put play back on your team calendar.

**Need more ideas? Check out my e-book Play, Team, Play! with 12 themed play days, facilitation tips, and countless activities to help your team connect and have fun!


15 Ways to Build Team Trust

Communication builds trust and trust builds a team.

team buildingThe smallest acts of intentional communication can have the biggest impact on teams. In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni outlines how building trust is the foundation for strong, successful teams.

How do you help your team build trust? Through communication and connection.

One of my favorite ways to connect leaders and teams is through powerful questions.

Here are 5 Questions to Ask Your Team Today:

  1. What are you hearing from our customers/patients/congregants/members/clients?
  2. Who on our team did you catch doing something great today? (Who would you love to brag about?)
  3. What’s getting in the way of our own success? (What obstacles do we need to move?)
  4. If you were me, what would you do differently?
  5. How can I help?

But it’s not enough to just ask the question; you have to listen to their answer, as well.

Here are 5 Ways to Show You’re Listening:

  1. Focus on them. Get rid of distractions and treat them like they are the most important person in the world so you can really hear what they have to say.
  2. Keep listening even if you don’t like their answer.
  3. Respond genuinely.
  4. Follow-up and follow-through.
  5. Thank them for taking the time to share with you.

And after you listen, you need to respond.

Here are 5 Responses to Avoid: 

  1. Allowing interruptions. When you let someone stop by with a “quick question”, you’re saying they are more important. (Same thing is true of answering calls or texts.)
  2. Bursting into tears. Or fits of rage. Basically, any severe emotional reaction will only make your team realize they should never honestly answer your questions again. Ever.
  3. Dismissing their problem or concern. You do this by saying something like, “That won’t be a problem.” or “There’s no reason to be worried about that.” or “It’s stupid/silly/ridiculous to feel that way.” If you can’t relate to their concern, ask them to tell you more about where the concern is coming from. Ask for them to share the solutions they would recommend.
  4. Cutting them off. Realizing you are late for a meeting right in the middle of their response only communicates that you didn’t really want to hear their answers to begin with.
  5. Making promises or offers you have no intention of fulfilling.

What about you and your team? What questions would you add to this list?

Julie Pierce is passionate about two things: empowering leaders to change the world and pursuing pie perfection.
Julie is a leadership coachconsultant and communicator
You can follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


No Trust, No Team

trust3As I was reading through a collection of questions I had received from leaders at a recent speaking engagement, I came across this one:

How do you foster a thriving team dynamic with people who have diverse ages, stages and backgrounds?

Reading this leader’s question immediately reminded me of Patrick Lencioni’s bestselling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In the book, Lencioni walks us through not only the root causes of ineffective teams but also the keys to overcoming them. His book highlights the essential foundation all strong teams are built upon:


How do you foster a thriving team dynamic, regardless of how similar or different your team members appear to be? Build trust amongst your team members.

I remember one of my earliest experiences in management where the team was crumbling because of a shaky trust foundation. None of us on the management team really knew each other beyond our titles and general responsibilities. We didn’t have faith in each other’s capabilities, because we didn’t really know what they were. We were a collection of professionals with varying expertise who didn’t trust the other leaders in the room to make good decisions (or carry them through).

If there is no trust, there is no team.

Without trust, you have a collection of individuals–not a team–doing their own things. With trust, you have a team of talent working with each other, not against each other.

As a leader, you can build trust through intentional investment in connection. Help your team members get to know each other and how they are uniquely wired through personality and strengths assessments. Foster environments for purposeful play beyond the office through teambuilding days and retreats. Create space for hearing their stories and passions through intentional conversations over a great meal.

By building trust, you are strengthening your team’s foundation and, ultimately, their potential for success.

How do you build trust on your teams?

4 Ways Leaders Can Share the Love

ValentinesWith Valentine’s Day approaching, grand gestures of affection are at every turn. In the Pierce house, we’ve picked out cards, purchased the requisite conversation hearts, and planned sweet treats to share the love with those around us.

Love is in the air.

But what about in your leadership? How can you share the love with those in your leadership circles?

The following are 4 Ways Leaders Can Share the Love any time of year:

  1. With Your Customers: Extravagant service. As leaders, we can show our unwavering commitment to our customers through an above-and-beyond service experience. Empower your teams to take a step beyond their wonderful “Whatever it takes!” approach to the “What would absolutely make their day?” You will be surprised by the creativity of your employees and the loyalty from your clients.
  2. With Your Team: Investment in their potential. As leaders, we can share our care for our team members by expressing the potential we see in them. Some of the most meaningful conversations have started with, “I see something in you…” But what matters even more than just identifying the potential is investing the time to mentor, train and develop the potential you see.
  3. With Your Team’s Family: Memory-making moments. As leaders, we can extend our appreciation beyond our teams to the loved ones who support them. My husband’s team recently wrapped up a grueling 11-month project. In addition to the accolades they received in the office, Brian also planned a special dinner with their spouses to thank their spouses for their support during this difficult season. The spouses each came to me afterward to express how much the dinner meant to them and how special it made them feel.
  4. With Your Peers, Service Providers or Non-Profits: Recommendations and endorsements. As leaders, we can leverage our influence in order to help others succeed. Simple ways to give a shout-out to those around you doing something special are a mention on social media, an endorsement on LinkedIn, or a recommendation to use in their marketing efforts. You can take it a step further by making a virtual introduction to a prospective client or donor via email or inviting two like-minded connections to lunch.

How do you share the love with those in your leadership circles? Share them with us in the comments below!



5 Fabulous (Free!) Gifts to Give Your Team

gift boxYou’re making your list and checking it twice. You’re considering the Duck Dynasty bobbleheads and books as gifts to give your team. (One word: don’t.) But, instead, you’re buying gift cards by the bundle and baking up batches of your famous fudge. (That’s a super secret gift-giving equation for leaders everywhere: Cash + Chocolate = Christmas Cheer.) 

For some leaders, Christmas gift giving to their teams is a source of great joy. For other leaders, it’s a source of great frustration that leaves them Scrooged. And since I would never want giving to leave you grumpy, I’m here to help. (What can I say? I’m a giver that way.)

In later posts this month, I’ll share my favorite empowering gifts that give back and my favorite books to give this year. Until then, in addition to the surefire gift-giving equation I shared above, the following are 5 Fabulous Free Gifts you can give your team this Christmas:

1. Encouragement: This gift may be wrapped in a word of thanks, a note of affirmation, or a reminder of their potential. Show your team members how much you believe in them and their abilities.

2. Clarity: It’s easy for an organization’s vision to get blurry. Be crystal clear with your team about where you are going and why. Answer any questions they may have as you paint the picture again. Get rid of the unnecessary obstacles that get in your team’s way of seeing the future they are working toward.

3. Connection: Introduce a team member to another professional in his or her area of expertise who is a few steps ahead career-wise. Help them prepare for an in-depth conversation with this person over coffee–an informational interview of sorts. This gift provides perspective and a resource for your team member and a potential mentoring relationship for both.

4. Time: In the middle of the rushed holiday season, how could your team members use the gift of time? What about extra time off for errands or their children’s holiday performances and parties? Or maybe it’s time with you or someone higher up in the organization to give an ear to their big idea. How about the space to dream, read, or create?

5. A Check Off Their Bucket Lists: Ask your team members what’s on their professional bucket lists. Consider what connections you might have to make one of their dreams a reality. It may be as simple as calling in a favor or sending an email to get the ball rolling in their direction.

What fabulous free gifts have you been given by leaders you loved?


5 Simple Ways to Thank Your Team

People are blown away by simple expressions of praise, affirmation, and gratitude. I know I am genuinely shocked out of my socks when my kids offer an  unsolicited, “Thanks, Mom!” for something mundane or when they notice major effort on my part.

This past week I spoke at a staff retreat for a ministry I deeply admire. I was moved by the words of thanks that were shared. Their words reminded me just how life-giving affirmation can be. The experience also made me wonder how I can do this even more effectively with the teams I lead.

Here are 5 simple ways to thank your team for a job well done:
  1. Write a note. Get out a pen and actually write out your appreciation. Share the difference their action, attitude, or approach makes to you and your team. (And maybe include a gift card or their favorite snack time treat.)
  2. Tell them face to face how grateful you are to work with them. Go for a walk or treat them to their favorite coffee/lunch/pie spot. Share with them the difference their good work made to you and to the bottom line.
  3. Bring in the big boss. If you are not their direct supervisor, make a call or send an email to their boss sharing your glowing review. If you are their direct supervisor, send a note to your boss about her performance. Ask your boss to say thanks for her hard work the next time they see her or in the next staff meeting.
  4. Praise their efforts to their spouse/significant other/parents/friends. (This is one of my favorites!) I love when I see team members out with friends or family and I get the chance to express my appreciation for their work to those that mean the most to them. Another fun way to do this is to invite their families to join you for a special gathering, and then brag on their efforts.
  5. Talk about them behind their back – in a good way. When sending emails to your whole team, include your words of gratitude for specific people and how they made an impact. Or, share the good news of their efforts in meetings with others – even if they aren’t there.

One final note: Praise and affirmation is more authentic, and appreciated, when specific. Instead of saying a generic, “Great job!” go ahead and tell your team what was so great about the job they did. What was it about their skills, strengths, personal approach or performance that stood out to you?

What can you do to thank your team today?

Leadership Q&A: How to Avoid Team Burn Out

fire extinguisherMy leader friend Gale sent me the following Facebook message:

“God is always going to birth the most passion for a ministry into the heart of the leader He has put in charge. Because of this passion, the leader is usually the one who is willing to go to the most extremes to see results. As that leader, how do I balance the extremes I am willing to go to in such a way that I don’t burn out the people God has called to come alongside me?”

What a self-aware leader! We can all do this – get so fired up about the vision and “getting there” as soon as possible, we burn out or burn up the people who actually make it happen.

I remember one of many instances where I realized I had gone too hard and too fast: I was leading a team meeting to debrief the successful launch of a new event. Their feedback was less than glowing and their bodies were exhausted. I realized our “win” had come at the expense of my team. The timing of our launch was all kinds of wrong – we were now going into our most important season depleted and lacking the enthusiasm and creative energy we so desperately needed.

How do you avoid team burn out as you go after your vision? Here are 3 ways to set your team up for success:

  1. Set realistic goals. A big vision is a great motivator. Not knowing if you are making any progress towards that vision is extremely de-motivating. Establish milestone goals leading to your ultimate destination. These goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Celebrate when you reach your goals: besides being fun, it’s a great chance to reward your team and remind them of how what they accomplished moves you closer to the bigger vision.
  2. Set a pace car. They’re not just for NASCAR: setting a pace car for you and your team pulls back the throttle on your deadlines, your pressure, and your restlessness. One way you can do this is to ask a trusted colleague on your team and outside of your team to speak into the timing of goals and projects. Allow them to be honest about whether you’re trying to accomplish too much, too soon. Faster, better, stronger is not the best motto in this scenario: your team will never be able to meet your expectations.
  3. Set your priorities. Trust me in this: there will always be another exciting opportunity or emergency issue demanding your resources and distracting you from the work at hand. These sidetracking projects usually come straight from the leader – and we never think it will take very long or very much effort. But these are exactly the kinds of things that can derail your progress and crank up unnecessary heat for your team. Put on the blinders and stay focused.

 What would you recommend to help avoid team burn out?

Leadership Q&A: Working Together When Working Alone

woman working on laptopAbout four months ago, I experienced one of the biggest transitions of my career: I went from working in the context of community to working solo. In my previous role as a pastor on staff at a large church, I was a member of multiple teams. My days were packed with our collaborative efforts and the hustle and bustle of a busy office. The shift to working primarily from home, by myself, in a lot of quiet, was a jolt to my system. In fact, I was in a bit of a funk.

I recently received this question along the same lines from a leader friend named Anna:

“It’s tough for me to make new relationships with other young leaders who are also work at home moms. What are ways to connect with other like-minded leaders to share ideas and create new business connections when you work from home by yourself?”

We have all worked from the local coffee shop or even from the library just so we can be around other people. But this question is more than just needing human contact: it’s about connection and collaboration. Here are 3 ideas for working together when working alone:

  1. Work from home together: Find a leader friend who also works from home and work from home with her on occasion. My friend Cara and I were talking about my transition funk and how I really missed the collaborative aspect of my job. She and I both work from home so we decided to work from my home together for a morning. We started out with sharing our goals for the morning (what we were working on and what we wanted to accomplish). We were also available to each other throughout the morning for input and ideas (and shared snacks). Our morning concluded at lunch time by debriefing our progress and troubleshooting where we were stuck over some good Tex Mex. We each found the experience to be super energizing to the rest of our work week, so much so, that we now try to work from home together at least once every couple of weeks.
  2. Host a meeting of the minds: Invite a few other leaders to a once a week motivation/innovation/inspiration meeting. With tools like Skype and Google hangout, it’s never been easier to gather a group of people via video for a virtual meeting of the minds. With a group of 3-5 women, you can share things like biggest challenge or accomplishment. You can also tap into the collective wisdom, resources, and connections on the team by sharing what you’re learning or where you’re stuck. Start by asking one or two like-minded friends and inquiring who they would want to invite.
  3. Join a collaborative workspace: Explore joining places like WELD or Connective Hub where freelancers and entrepreneurs can work in a collaborative environment while enjoying benefits like meeting spaces, constant coffee, and access to other minds. The flexible options and access to other professionals can expand your network and your influence.
How do you collaborate with other leaders if you work primarily alone?

Leadership Q&A: Decision Making and Teams

Rock, Paper, ScissorsIf only leadership decision making and teams was as easy as a game of rock, paper, scissors.

Last week’s Leadership Q&A post shared a question from a leader friend about seeking advice on a decision without sliding into gossip. This week’s question is all about decision making in the context of teams. My friend Christy asks:

“If you’re the leader and you want to make a certain decision but your team wants to do it another way, how do you balance their opinion and yours? How do you know when you need to put your foot down, compromise, or give in and do it their way?”

Leading a team is a great responsibility, particularly when it comes to making decisions. In addition to developing a process for discernment and decision making as a team, the following are 3 tips for making decisions with your team:

1. Be clear on who is making the final decision. Will this be a collaborative decision by the whole team or will one person be making it with the collective input from the team? This clarification can help save a lot of time, energy, and potential frustration from team members.

2. Be specific on what kind of input you need from the team. Do you need more facts and data? Do you need their experience on what has worked in the past? Do you need to know the impact this will have on their workload or volunteers? What do they see that you might be missing? Asking more specific questions than just, “what do you think?” will give you the input you need to make a more well-informed decision.

3. Be selective with your “no”. Just like in parenting, saying yes as a leader as often as possible when the stakes are small, allows you to save your “no” for when the stakes are high. My friend David Grant is a leader, pastor, and father of four. He shared that he often asks if he is saying no out of personal preference, conviction, or wisdom. If your team is collectively advocating for a different direction than you were planning, it’s wise to pause and ask why you are wanting to say no and if you can say yes.

What tip would you add to the list?

What question do you have about leadership decision making?

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