If you’re anything like the old me you have an awkward stack of half-read books balanced on your bedside table. Among them are at least 2 professional development “required reads” that you aspire to tick off your list by mid-year. If you’re anything like the old me, you’ll finish one of them by 2015.

Cue Management Cafe, a virtual Cause Planet Page to Practice Book Club that I’ve had the privilege of participating in through Boulder County’sNonprofit Cultivation Center (NPCC). Management Cafe provided me with access to professional development book summaries (which I’ve heard described as “sparknotes”) and a series of one-hour webinars to discuss the books’ key points with my professional peers. I’ll admit that when first introduced to the program, my ego and my desire to achieve stopped me from getting on board right away. In the recent past, I’ve powered through the most excruciating of novels just to have the satisfaction of not giving up. So it felt like I was acting against my nature to knowingly sign-up for a painless short-cut to the wisdom hidden in Management Cafe books.

However, I was a quick convert. Once I started participating in the series, I soon discovered that this so-called short-cut was paved with riches in large part thanks to the excellent webinar facilitation (note: I’m a major skeptic of webinars too so the fact that I enjoyed them means a lot), as well as to hearing my peers’ perspective on the books we were tapping. Perhaps I found comfort in the fact that I was not the only one in my field who was “cheating”. There is a thread of peer learning that ties Management Cafe together. And for me, there was high value to being pulled out of the isolation of my two-person Development Department to find camaraderie in a discussion among a diverse network of colleagues.

Often, as I slog through a book on professional development, I find myself getting anxious. I can’t take in the information fast enough, nor implement what I learn in what feels like a timely fashion. Participating in Management Cafe helped solve this problem for me: It saved me a ton of time and enabled me to put new practices to work right away.

The stack of books on my bedside table is a little less precarious now. If the trajectory of a book just isn’t carrying me along, I dump it. No guilt. No remorse.  I simply read the things I love (even an occasional professional development book) with ease. It’s nice.

This spring Cultivation Center is partnering with the Nonprofit Cultivation Center and Foothills United Way to stage a 3-book Management Cafe series. Our first webinar takes place on March 6th. I hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity and enjoy it as much as I did.