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.
Former ad man, CEO of both the Granada and Conran Groups and Chairman of Citigate, Roger Mavity is also a renowned author, artist and photographer.
In this conversation we explore the twin struggles of creativity and specifically of writing: the private struggle to articulate the idea, and the public struggle to broadcast it.
And if it's true as Roger argues that 'Virtually everything in the world that happens that's any good happens because there's one really bright person that lights the blue touch paper', how does this Promethean vision of creativity play out in our organisations and collaborations?
A fascinating conversation with one of the world's most colourful and creative business experts.
We've been stuck on the idea of competitive advantage as the key to strategy for a long time now. Paul Skinner thinks it's had its day.
'Where competitive advantage assumes that the way to succeed is by being better than others, I believe the way to succeed is by supporting others and sharing the value that you can create with them.'
Collaborative Advantage is what Paul describes as his 'book-worthy' big idea, and in this conversation he explains how it's unfolded from a principle that he's applied and developed through the various initiatives and enterprises he's worked with over the years into book form.
There's also great advice on creating stories where the customer, not your business, is the hero. Because those are the stories that change lives.
Campbell Macpherson hasn't really stopped grinning since March, when I handed him the Business Book of the Year trophy at the Business Book Awards ceremony. In this week's show we talk about the impact of winning such a prestigious award (or even just being shortlisted), and how your book can plug into the heart of your business.
(We also note how good it feels when, on the night, you come back to sit at your table clutching your award to rapturous applause, and the commissioning editor who turned your book down leans over and says: 'I don't always make the right decisions.')
"I don't want people to buy my book."
That's a sentence I honestly don't think I've heard an author say before, ever. But Barbara Gray's vision for her second book, Secrets of the Amazon, was very different to that of most authors. It's part of what she calls high fidelity, and she argues it's the only response to today's retail economy.
"You can't compete on a functional value basis anymore. You can't compete against Amazon in terms of price, convenience, variety or choice. They will kill you on that. Whether you're retailer or whatever you're doing. So you have to move up one layer; it has to be about creating an emotional attachment with your customers."
Barbara was a guest on this show back in September 2016 talking about her first book, Ubernomics. It's fascinating to hear how her writing and self-publishing journey has evolved since then, and how she's walking her talk as a financial analyst through her books.
Networking is (quite literally, it turns out) a 'dirty word', but Dr David Burkus brings together studies and stories that show how we've got it wrong: we don't 'do networking', we ARE a network.
This is invaluable for anyone in business, but David also describes in detail how he gets from idea to finished, best-selling book, including the systems and tools he uses, so if you're also writing a business book you can't afford to miss this.
"People feel like, if they haven't been 'chosen', then 'Who am I to write a book?'... I just think: don't wait to be chosen. If this is something you want to do, just do it."
Denise Duffield-Thomas, author of Lucky Bitch, helps women overcome their hang-ups about money. In this episode, she helps writers overcome their hang-ups about, well, writing and life in general. It's packed full of practical tips on getting over yourself, connecting to your motivation, finding the title that works for you (even if it's controversial), and organising your life - apology-free - so that you can Get Stuff Done. Including writing the book that will change your business and your life.
Listen up, girlfriend. (And blokes, you need to hear this too.)
"There's this comfortable way of thinking that we're programmed by evolution to enjoy, which is thinking in patterns. That makes life so much easier and so much more approachable, when we rely on lessons we've learned in the past, when we observe other people and we do the things that they're doing, when we create predictability. It all just makes life easy to process. It's pretty good when the world stays still. The problem is, what feels safe is actually really dangerous if the world is changing around us."
And that's what prompted Jonah Sachs, storyteller, author and entrepreneur, to write Unsafe Thinking: How to be Creative and Bold When You Need It Most. In this episode Jonah reveals how he went about researching the book by interviewing high-profile unsafe thinkers ("I realised if I wanted to get them to talk to me I'd have to say I was writing a book...") and explains how he uses stories to translate facts and findings into a narrative that readers will connect with, and therefore understand and remember more easily.
There's some profound wisdom and practical tips for would-be business book writers, and some thoughts on what writing means for a 21st-century business owner.
This is pure gold. Put the kettle on and listen up.
Another helping of best bits from recent episode: we're talking about 'fast books' and 'slow books' - which kind is yours? - writing with a co-author, and how doodling can help you come sideways at a book.
Tune in, sit back, and listen to insights and inspiration from these superb writers:
Steve Scott started writing and publishing to build his business, but pretty soon his business became writing and publishing books: he now has more than 60 to his name, all focused on helping internet entrepreneurs succeed.
In this week's podcast this multi-bestselling author reflects on what he's learned about the process and where he goes from here, and generously shares his best tips for producing and promoting books. I learned a huge amount from our conversation - I know you will too.
Something a bit different this week: I interview myself to pull out some of the learnings from the process of writing This Book Means Business, a book about writing a book to build your business written to build my business. Meta, huh?
Discover how and why this podcast began and some thoughts on how podcasting might work for you, what happened when I faced the fear and took the advice of my guests, and what's next now the book is out.
You can also listen in to the short talk given at the launch itself on 26 March at the Free Word Centre in London, and join in the toast to us - may we be the authors our readers need.
Leadership expert Jurgen Appelo's advice to first-time authors is simple: 'Iterate.'
He goes on to explain: 'You need a feedback cycle. You need to know as soon as possible whether it is making sense, what you're writing. People have to read it.'
Jurgen walks the talk, building his community as he wrote #Workout and selling 5,000 highly illustrated books immediately to his own fan base, before it was picked up by a traditional publisher.
This interplay between traditional and self-publishing is one fascinating aspect of this interview, as is the importance of building a platform and community as you write, but there are many other gems such as Jurgen's approach to illustrating his own book and his up-front permissions policy.
On 16 March 2018, the inaugural Business Book Awards ceremony took place in London. It was an extraordinary occasion, bringing together the top names in books and business in the UK and beyond, and with shortlists including books from the biggest traditional publishers to the smallest independent presses and even self-published authors.
This was the culmination of founder Lucy McCarraher's vision, and as Head Judge I was closely involved in the journey. In this week's episode I talk to Lucy about how she turned the idea into reality in partnership with ThinkFest, the details of the judging process, how it all turned out alright on the night, and the lessons we learned along the way.
The 2019 awards will be even bigger and glitzier, so if you're planning to publish your business book in 2018, find out more and maybe next time we'll be talking about you...
Something a little different this week: a report from the bleeding edge of the publishing industry, also known as the IPG Spring Conference. This is one of the most exciting and diverse events of the publishing calendar, bringing together publishers from all genres of publishing and from all sizes of houses, from one-person microbusinesses to key players such as Bloomsbury and Kogan Page, and with an outstanding reputation for big name keynote speakers with big ideas.
It's a packed programme over three days, and this was the first year I've managed to attend from start to finish.
Here are the key messages I came away with - essential listening for anyone interested in publishing, but with many interesting insights for entrepreneurs in any discipline:
DISRUPTION - what's happening out there, and what might it mean for publishers?
DIVERSITY - how can we better reflect the full range of expertise and experience in the world?
DIGITAL - what's next in the transformation of our businesses?
DATA - why does it matter, how do you get it and what the heck do you do with it?
DEDICATION - the secret weapon of independent publishing: passion, creativity and entrepreneurial flair wrapped up in steely determination
DISTRIBUTION - how can we get books to the readers who need them?
Have you ever thought of business as art? Edgar Papke and Thomas Lockwood, experts in organizational culture and design respectively, wanted to encourage leaders to design their businesses consciously for innovation and collaboration. And what better way than to write collaboratively? This is a masterclass in writing with a partner, which when done right can create a whole that is so much more than the sum of the parts.
Discover whether you need a 'writing partner prenuptial', and why post-its and coffee are central to the collaborative process.
Music notation may seem a world away from business books, but the parallels are striking: when music editor Elaine Gould wrote what was to become the classic reference work Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation, her focus was relentlessly on the musicians who had to use those marks on the staves in performance. Good notation allows the composer's vision and the performer's skill to be translated without interference into the music the audience experiences.
'My greatest joy is going along to a concert, and the composer dashing up to me from the other end of the room and saying, "Thank you!"'
When you're translating your expertise into a book, that focus on how the reader is going to experience and use your message is equally important. Her rigorous attention to detail is inspiring, and her reaction to seeing the finished book heart-warmingly honest - I for one can empathise with this:
'When [they] handed me the first copy off the press, I was just so overwhelmed. It was wonderful. I hugged that book all the way back on the train to London, and I think I slept with it beside my bed. And in the morning, I looked up to see, was it really there? After all these years, was it there? And then it was there, and I thought you know what? For the rest of my life, I haven't got to write that book again.'