Why does adversity make some leaders and break others? Dr James Kelley stumbled across the answer - he thought he was going to write a book on corporate wellness, but what emerged from his conversations with over 100 CEOs was a pattern of how effective leaders choosing to redefine a critical moment of adversity as the source of growth and strength.
James's strength is the spoken, not the written, word, so he developed a brilliant methodology to write a chapter a week using a smart mix of writing and speaking, which he sets out in detail in our conversation.
Karen Morley knew there'd be no problem writing about the principles of leading like a coach, and she found it relatively easy to structure her ideas and practice into a methodology. But how to bring that alive for a reader?
The answer of course was to use stories, and Karen developed a brilliant system of writing as reflection woven into day-to-day practice that allowed her to find the stories as they happened and transform them into business book gold. Find out how in this fascinating conversation.
A few of my favourite moments from the last few Extraordinary Business Book Club episodes, and this time we're thinking about grit, which comes through in different ways through all these conversations.
Writing a great book is a good start. But it's only a start. After that comes the marketing, which is every bit as important as the writing.
'If you're not going to be the biggest champion for your book, who is?' asks Pete Williams. The author of several best-selling books and head of Preneur Marketing, Pete knows a thing or two about marketing books, and you might be surprised by his advice.
He also knows that writing a business book can bring unexpected benefits for the business itself, including setting it up to be able to scale. A fascinating conversation packed with practical inspiration.
Elaine Halligan has an extraordinary story. Her journey to becoming one of the world's leading parenting experts began with her own son's difficulties at school and her determination to do whatever it took to allow the amazing potential she saw in him to flourish. But when it came to writing the book so many people had begged her to write, she didn't know where to begin. How do you turn lived experience into a coherent story that will engage and move readers? And how can you make that story meaningful and helpful to them?
My Child Is Different tells how the boy written off by so many schools became the successful, grounded, entrepreneurial young man he is today, and what his parents learned in the process. In this podcast, Elaine explains how she began not by writing, but by talking out the story in partnership with Sam, and how deeply the process affected them both.
'While we're doing one thing, let's just do it as well as we can and make sure we are spending our time, of which we have so little, let's spend it wisely.'
Ben Hunt-Davis knows a bit about focus. As part of the 'Sydney 8', who revolutionised the approach to rowing training and brought home Gold, he learned powerful principles about performance and process that he now brings to the business world in his business - named after his book - Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?
In this conversation, he talks about how that single-minded focus translates into the messy real world, and how writing the book (in collaboration with executive coach Harriet Beveridge) clarified and deepened his message and ultimately transformed his business.
'A 20th-century leader was very analytical, it's all about the drill-down into detail and numbers. But frankly, that did not serve us very well, and that's partly what led to everybody being blindsided by populism. So we say, in the 21st century, you can do analytical, but you have to do parenthetical... you have to be able to not just drill down, but look across. To understand how to connect the dots between silos that were previously independent. To understand, what's the feel. It's not just the math that matters now, it's the mood also.'
When they wrote The Leadership Lab, Dr Pippa Malmgren and her co-author Chris Lewis structured their cutting-edge analysis of 21st-century leadership on a device that's more than 2000 years old. She explains why this navigational tool - the Kythera mechanism - is not only an effective way to communicate complex issues more effectively, but a metaphor for understanding that everything we think we know could be entirely wrong.
This is essential listening for anyone in a position of leadership in the 21st century, and anyone who want to write about it.
"You've got to ask yourself what is more important. Is it selling books, or starting a movement?"
Sam Conniff Allende is in the business of movement-making. A young entrepreneur himself, he’s since inspired a generation of young entrepreneurs and hustlers, and when he decided it was time to write a book he began by writing ‘the worst book on earth’.
Luckily it didn’t end there: find out how he found the metaphor that transformed his message from worthy to world-changing, how he learned the secret of translating the energy of the stage to the page, and how he stayed true to his pirate principles in the marketing as well as the writing of the book.
'Now, I look at work and life and what I know in a different way, it's almost like I'm attuned to looking for opportunities to bring my thinking together and get it out there by way of a book.'
Michelle Sales never thought of herself as a writer. She didn't even particularly enjoy writing her book, The Power of Real Confidence (though she LOVES having written it). Maybe you recognise how it went:
'How I had thought to structure my writing was to block out my Fridays and I would get to Friday morning, and I would do a 9:00 Pilates class. That would finish at 10:00, and I'd do it with a girlfriend, and we'd say, "Oh, we might as well have a coffee." So we'd hang around and have a coffee and a chat. And inevitably it'd be about midday before I'd get home, and then I'd think, "Oh, I have to start writing now." So I'd open it and close it and open it and close it and think, "I'm not really sure I'm into this chapter." Then at about 2:00, I'd think, "Oh, it's Friday afternoon. I think I'm done."'
In this episode she describes how she found a different way to write that worked for her, and also how the process, rather fittingly, challenged and built her own confidence.
'The first draft of the manuscript is just ugly. There are pieces, and parts, and this part doesn't match that part. It looks like a Frankenstein monster. And that's why I call it Frankendraft. It sets that expectation low, that this will be an ugly, ghoulish creation with parts and pieces stuck and bolted on here. And we cut that part out and put it over here. It's not supposed to be the finished draft. We just have to make it come to life.'
The Frankendraft is just one of five stages through which ghostwriter Derek Lewis takes would-be business book authors to get the book in their head out into the world (but it's hands down the stage with the best name).
This is a fascinating glimpse into how a professional writer works with a business expert to create a book that is distinctively their own but better than they could have written themselves, and there's lots here that you can put into practice if you're writing your own business book.
'When you're being creative, all you're trying to do is see the same things differently, and from that, see if you can drive new ideas, solutions and new value.'
Ayse Birsel, multi-award-winning designer, decided to try an experiment. She tried to catch herself being creative and reverse engineer exactly what she was doing, and when she'd identified how this design thinking - Deconstruction:Reconstruction, as she calls it - worked, she tried applying it to the most complex, important project of all: her own life.
In this conversation, we talk about why design thinking is a great model for business book writing, and indeed for life generally, and why 'What if...?' is such a great start for a sentence.
And here's Ayse's business book #shelfie for your inspiration...
This is a very special episode for lots of reasons.
Firstly because it's shorter than usual.
Secondly because much of it was recorded live at one of the most memorable book launches I've ever attended.
Thirdly because Michael Brown, the author of My Job Isn't Working: 10 proven ways to boost your career mojo is not only a Practical Inspiration author but a graduate of the very first This Book Means Business mentorship programme.
And fourthly because something unimaginable happened while the book was in production that changed everything.
Books really do matter, and today's episode is a reminder to keep our attention and focus on what matters and not let our life and our life's work slip by.
A hand-picked selection of treasures from the last few Extraordinary Business Book Club episodes, with the focus on other people - how can they help you write a better book, faster, what impact will your book have on them, and how can you make them care enough to read it in the first place?
Money can't buy you happiness - unless you're smart about it. Dr Elizabeth Dunn reveals the surprising ways in which money CAN make us happier, and also why it so often fails to do so. Along the way we discuss the importance of getting rid of the long words, even if you're an academic, because:
'If you truly understand a topic, you should be able to explain it in simple language.'
Academic research can be an invaluable resource for the business book author, and there's lots of tips here on how to find it and use it without compromising the readability of your book.
Hugh Culver has done a lot of stuff in his life - from leading adventure holidays in the Antarctic to giving keynote speeches to companies and conferences all over the world.
For him, writing a book was an opportunity to reenergise and deepen his thinking, to create something distinctive, and it worked. In this week's conversation he reveals how the writing and the speaking work together, the writing mistakes he made first time round, and the speaking mistakes he sees all the time.
If you want your book or your blog to complement your speaking, or vice versa, this is an unmissable episode full of brilliantly practical - and occasionally counter-intuitive - tips from one of the world's top bloggers, speakers and writers.
Horses don’t care what your job title is. They’re not impressed by the car you drive. The only way a horse will follow you is if it trusts you. And it will trust you only if you’re leading authentically.
Jude Jennison discovered the astonishing power of horses to transform people’s approach to leadership when she faced her own fear of horses – now she has a herd of five, and I met them all at her book launch.
But how do you write about something that can only be experienced? And how do you draw out stories of uncertainty and leadership from others? Find out how Jude approached the challenge in this week’s episode, and why her launch was like no other.
'I've finally decided that I really should be writing books backwards.'
Instead of locking himself away in a room to write a book (as he did first time round), or even getting some supporting research in hand beforehand (book 2), top marketer Drew Davis is writing his third book backwards. He's started with a hypothesis and he's testing it out week by week on YouTube, taking on board the feedback, and discovering that the outline for this book looks very different to what he'd originally thought.
This is just one of the brilliantly practical tactics Drew shares with me in this conversation: you can also discover how he overcame imposter syndrome at a stroke, and what he learned from the Muppets.
For many CEOs, 'doing' social media is terrifying. Much easier to hire a millennial to do it for you. But in a world in which trust in corporates is at an all-time low, Michelle Carvill argues the best way to address that is to 'step outside of the boardroom and start having authentic conversations with your audience', not as a faceless corporation, but as a person. Yes, it's scary. Yes, it's hard to see a direct ROI. But there are also massive potential benefits.
This isn't a message only for leaders of multi-nationals, however. It applies just as powerfully to SMEs and even solopreneurs:
'If you are the owner of a business, you are the brand. You are the heart and soul of that business... you're the brand champion. You are the voice of that business and people want to know what you've got to say.'
Discover what getting social looks like for leaders, and also why Michelle - ironically - gets very anti-social in the process of writing itself. (And why she's never without a post-it pad.)
Most business book authors aren't professional writers. Martin Norbury failed his English O-level twice, but he knew that he had a story to tell that mattered. In this week's conversation he reveals how he went about turning the stuff in his head into a brilliantly readable book - from interviews with clients to interviews with himself to a supersmart process of consciously catching himself 'doing the right stuff' as he works with his clients to scale their businesses.
And you'll never look at Fridays the same way again once you've heard his story.
What's your mission statement?
We can get caught up in business - and indeed in business writing - in showcasing ourselves. We airbrush the version of ourselves that we present to others. And in doing so we unwittingly lose the emotional connection, vulnerability and authenticity that actually give us the power to make change that matters.
Sarah Windrum is a very successful, high-profile business woman, but her book The Superhero I was Born to Be is a deeply personal account of what she's been through, including her struggles with mental health, and how she developed the resilience and energy that underpin her success.
Here's HER mission statement:
'My mission in life is to touch as many people's lives as positively as I can, and that is what makes me happy. It's what brings me joy.'
This is a conversation that will encourage you to reflect on how you portray yourself, and maybe find the courage to connect more honestly.
I also talk about the Extraordinary Business Book Summer Reading List - are you in?
In the 1960s, Professor Laurence Peter articulated the famous Peter Principle: that an employee in a hierarchy tends to be promoted to 'his level of incompetence'.
As he looked at the evidence of women outperforming men throughout education and into the workplace, in the face of the ongoing gender pay gap and promotion statistics, Professor Tom Schuller was compelled to formulate a corollary: 'Most women tend to work below the level of their competence.'
The Paula Principle investigates the reasons for this oddly persistent inequality, and puts forward an agenda for change. But is this a book that should have been written by a man? Several publishers thought not. And do books like this make a difference anyway?
Tom Schuller and I discuss education, equality, writing, breaking out of the ghetto and, er, Bridget Jones.
'The more people you know, the more stuff you get done. It's as simple as that.'
But reaching out is an art: targeting the right people, approaching them in the right way, getting over yourself in the first place. In Reach Out, Molly Beck shares her simple, brilliant system for creating a network of connections that will turbo-charge your professional growth.
Molly is a master of social media, and reveals how blogging and podcasting enable authors to build the readership for their book long before the book itself is published. She's also helpfully honest about what a slog the writing process can be if, like her, you're 'not a natural writer', and has some great tips for getting through it!
If you're thinking of starting a podcast, this will be invaluable: Molly is the founder of Messy.fm, 'the Wordpress of podcasting', and explains why podcasting is so powerful and how to get started.
Highlights from the last few Extraordinary Business Book Club episodes, with a focus on fixing the problem every writer cares about: how to get going and keep going. I guarantee you'll find at least one idea here that will get you unstuck, and one thing to make you go 'ew'.
Think that what you say on the internet has no impact? Euan Semple says think again.
'An avalanche only ever happens because the last snowflake falls. If it doesn't, an avalanche doesn't happen. Each of our conversations could be a last snowflake.'
Despite the fact that he's been blogging for 16 years and has written several successful books, he still recognises the resistance we all feel: 'this is obvious', 'who am I to write this', 'who's going to read this', 'who cares'... But his answer is simply this:
'Just sit down and write it and let other people work at whether it's worthwhile.'
Because not only does the process of writing force you to clarify what you think, putting that writing on the internet turns you from a passive consumer to an active participant in shaping our world.
(There's also some incredibly practical tips on structuring your book and muscling through procrastination, and possibly the best tagline for this show EVER if I can just summon up the courage to use it...)
The gig economy - flexible and empowering, or exploitative and uncertain? Sarah Kessler is fascinated by how work is changing, and her book Gigged follows five very different people over three years and tracks their experiences - good, bad and downright terrifying.
In this week's conversation, we discuss the difference in writing an article (Sarah is also a reporter at Quartz, and before that Fast Company and Mashable) and a book, with the sustained timeline that implies, and the opportunity to explore not just the stories, but the context in which they're taking place.
'I wanted to have relationships with people over a long period of time rather than just talking about the hot new thing they were working on for this month.'
Sarah also has some great advice for writers which involves NOT writing. This might just be my favourite tip so far.