"We sometimes forget the value, or the power, or the impact of words because, 'Hey, we're speaking the whole time, or we're writing the whole time... it's only me, how powerful can it be?'
So we say things that are the wrong things to say, or we miss our opportunities. If you have an opportunity to get a message across and you just treat it casually or you fluff it or you don't prepare, then that's a shame."
This insightful comment from Jeremy Kourdi was the inspiration for this Best Bits episode, in which I look back over the last few conversations in this podcast and pick out the sparkliest moments, stringing them together to create fairy lights for your mind.
With powerful words from:
Words matter. Use them, and use them well.
'Why would you write 28 books? To get good at some of the stuff that you're writing about.'
As well as writing those 28 books, Jeremy Kourdi has experience of senior leadership at The Economist, Duke University and the CMI. It's fair to say he has an all-round perspective on the value of content in business thinking, and in this fascinating conversation he reveals his own approach to writing as well as his thoughts on the value of words more generally. As content creators, we have a responsibility to use our platforms well: what does that mean for you?
Using words well is a core business discipline, as fundamental to effective leadership as financial management or strategic direction, and this is a masterclass for any leader wanting to go from good to great.
'I would encourage every author to have their own-book-shaped plan and their own-marketing-shape plan that is theirs, because that is what creates the books that really reflect our own message and that are really full of integrity.'
If you're tired of formulaic approaches or cynical marketing tactics, this will be a breath of fresh air. Alice Sheldon had a powerful message to share but found the obvious writing route and standard marketing tactics didn't sit well with her. So she created an Alice-shaped way of authoring and promoting her book, a way that drew on her strengths and drew in help and support from a whole team of 'book friends'.
In this conversation we talk not only about the transformational Needs Understanding framework, the 'surprisingly simple secret' of the title, but also the way that by understanding your own needs as an author you can create a way of writing and marketing your book that is not only effective but also joyful and authentic.
'The individual is a research project, every time we try something new we're being a kind of scientist in our own life.'
Megan Hayes studied the links between writing and happiness, and the first thing she discovered is that it's both more powerful and more complex than we think. Yes, 'getting it all down on paper' is a great way to process a difficult experience, but it turns out a writing habit can also help us be more creative, more energised and more effective OFF the page.
We talk about accessing the full range of voices within you - not just the shoutiest - to resource yourself fully, self-efficacy and sense-making, the ghost of the English teacher, the power of NOT being a writer, and so much more.
If you listen to nothing else this week, listen to this.
When you're writing a business book - or indeed any business writing - WHAT you're saying is the most important thing, of course.
But HOW you say it can make all the difference as to how people read it. I asked a group of editors what really pushed their buttons, and compiled this run-down of mistakes to avoid if you want to make a good impression. This is especially important if you're submitting a book proposal, but nailing this stuff will improve your credibility with all sorts of readers.
Spoiler alert: these might not be quite what you expect...
'They need to be able to 'get' the concepts that I'm trying to convey in whatever space they have available on the top of their phone screen.'
Used to writing for an academic audience, Dr Jen O'Ryan quickly realised that she needed take a very different approach for her business book if she wanted it to make a difference. And she really wanted it to make a difference.
In this episode we talk about diversity and inclusion, in the workplace in general but also in publishing, about relearning how to write, about sweariness, and about the fact that you need a really big table to write a book.
'How can we fall back in love with the idea of enough as a way of living, so that we stop striving and start thriving?'
The Art of Enough is the challenge of our age, says Becky Hall: as individuals and as a society we're beset on the one hand by scarcity (feeling inadequate, being under-resourced) and on the other by excess (overwhelm, over-consumption). Our personal and business goals are dictated by a relentless growth imperative that neither we nor the planet can sustain.
In this powerful conversation, Becky shares how she translated her profound message into a book, and the difficult decisions she faced about keeping its integrity.
A treasure of an episode.
Humans don't easily 'get' exponential growth - we've evolved in a linear world, and the pace of change we're facing now can leave us wrong-footed and disoriented. But Azeem Azhar argues that we need to get to grips with it, and fast, if we're to thrive in the modern world.
We also talk about synergistification, aligning your content creation and community to build your brand and your business (ok it's not a word, but it should be).
Insightful and intriguing, this is definitely not an episode to miss.
'Author-speakers... are often people who are true thought leaders, on a mission to share their knowledge. And yes, there are people who blog and there are people who post on social media and there are people who do podcasts.
But... to really achieve that thought leadership, visionary status, there's got to be a book.'
Speaking and writing go together naturally, but how can you make the most of both? Bobbie Carlton has an extraordinary breadth of experience helping writers and speakers - particularly women - be heard. In this conversation she explores the mindset and the tactics that lead to success on stage and on the page, including some genius tips for leveraging your book as a speaker and for promoting it more widely.
Grab a notepad and listen up.
'There's something about the writing process, the words on the page, just holding you accountable in some way to your thinking.'
Jodie Rogers has identified the real competitive advantage for today's organisations: the mental fitness of the people working there. But as she points out, it takes more than an elearning module on how to take an afternoon walk to unlock the benefits of a workforce that's not just avoiding mental ill health, but positively mentally fit.
She also talks honestly and thoughtfully about her own struggle to write this book - not just overcoming imposter syndrome, but rejecting the early, easy answers she came up with for a deeper, more rigorous self-interrogation. And all this against a backdrop of the pandemic coping with running a business, a family tragedy, and two small children not allowed out of the front door for 45 days during the Spanish lockdown.
Absolutely compelling listening.
We talk a lot on this show about the grind of writing business books, and indeed of business in general, but there's a lot of joy to be found in the process too. This Best Bits episode celebrates all those moments, from the creative peace of the early morning start to the excitement of the book launch. Wherever you're at, there's a bit of raw joy here to inspire you on your journey.
With joyful moments from:
Fill your tank and get inspired!
'We wanted to explore how books, which seem to be a real missing link in the corporate world, could be brought in and really used to enhance people's development... If I could step away from everything and invest in myself, what does that look like?'
If there's one experience common to pretty much every business sector in every industry over the last 18 months, it's screen fatigue. Which is a challenge for learning and development professionals who also care about wellbeing: sure, people need to learn new ideas and skills, perhaps now more than ever, but are another few hours staring at a screen for a webinar or elearing programme the best way to support that?
Leanne Hamley (and I'm right behind her) thinks that businesses are overlooking one of the most powerful, lightweight development tools of all: the book. Along with Kate Bowers, she has founded Wot the Book!, a subscription service, podcast and community dedicated to bringing brilliant books to businesses. She's also an author herself, and talks frankly about her own experience of writing a business book.
'Be a bit braver with what you define to be a business book, you don't need to follow a template.'
Why is B2B marketing typically so dull? Whereas consumer marketing is focused on creativity, engagement and originality, B2B marketing all too often consists of a features list.
Mark Choueke is here to change all that. His passionate call for bravery in B2B marketing is transforming the industry, and he applied exactly that same thinking to writing his business book too. Forget the templates and formulae, and write the book that only you can write.
Half an hour that will leave you feeling braver and more human, covering as it does marketing, writing, book proposals, Star Wars, grief and a gorilla.
Penny Pullan was talking about virtual leadership and running virtual events long before it was fashionable - now that the rest of the world has caught up, she's leading the way in making virtual and hybrid events (which are surely the future) not just possible, but powerful.
Most people at work have sat through interminable Zoom meetings over the last 18 months, few of us have experienced the kind of energy and engagement that Penny can bring. In this conversation she reveals some of the techniques she uses to inject vitality into virtual and also some of the potential pitfalls - it's all too easy to subtly exclude members of remote teams.
She also talks about her own approach to writing - highly visual and voice-based - and explains why her engineering background helps her see things differently in business.
Making Workshops Work was the winner of the very first 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge, over 5 years ago: it's been a long time coming, but it turns out to be the right book at exactly the right moment.
Earlier this year, I passed the 1,000-day mark in my #goldenyear running streak. In this week's episode, I reflect on what I've learned from building that habit, and what it's taught me about writing, resilience and when NOT to wear shorts.
A short episode this week, but I hope you'll enjoy it.
Much handwringing goes on over the impact of technology on young people. Many domestic disputes centre on the amount of screentime that should or shouldn't be allowed.
Robert Wigley saw the issue from two perspectives: as a father of adolescent boys, but also as a mentor and investor working with Gen Z entrepreneurs. The results of his research with both are fascinating, and reveal a more nuanced and optimistic story than we usually hear.
As a first-time author, he also discovered much about the process of writing and publishing which will be equally fascinating to other first-time authors!
'You don't have to have everything figured out when you sit down at your computer.... just start writing.'
Jackie Fast sees writing a book just like entrepreneurship - don't let fear stop you, break some rules, figure it out as you go along. And in Rule Breaker: Rebellious leadership for the future of work, she proves that that's the secret of success in the 21st century - the old playbook that so many of us have internalised just doesn't apply any more.
This is a fascinating reflection on her own remarkable journey from broke founder to MD of one of the world's most successful sponsorship companies, and how the process of writing a book mirrored that exercise in courage, exploration and action-taking.
"I don't care how big of a following you have, who your publisher is, what kind of marketing plan you put together, how big of an influencer you are: if you don't sit down and write, then there will be no book."
This is the game people, and this is how you do the work. Dre Baldwin didn't find basketball magically effortless, but he turned himself from high-school reserve to pro by doing the work, and now he teaches other people how to bring that pro mindset to the work that matters, whatever it is.
In this conversation we talk about basketball, writing, using the full range of social media channels (well, almost) and how books fit within a content publishing empire.
If you're looking for magic bullets and excuses this is probably not for you. If you want to be inspired and challenged - hit play.
'Taking an all-seeing, all-knowing, conquering, dictatorial approach to managing people is going to land you in a world of pain.'
Philip Levinson always dreamed of becoming a CEO, and thought he was ready. But when he got there he realised the truth: nothing can prepare you for this.
In Three Peaks Leadership he shares the lessons he learned, including the fact that leading at the highest level means not just surmounting the initial challenge of securing the role (the first peak), but embedding the changes for the long term (the second peak) and charting a course for the future, including your own exit from the role (the third peak).
He's disarmingly honest about the lessons he's learned in humility along the way, both in leadership and in writing this book....
'What elements of your imperfection are you going to bring to the table?'
That's the powerful question that strategist and storyteller Minter Dial poses about writing, but it could equally well be applied to leadership. Having all the answers is no longer what we need from our leaders: in a disrupted, uncertain world we need leaders who are willing to admit that they don't know everything and to show up as their whole selves.
This is a thoughtful, wide-ranging conversation and it is pure audio gold.
It's one of the great paradoxes of business books that they're written by experts, but the process of writing them is itself what builds expertise.
In this Best Bits episode nine recent guests reflect on how writing their book changed them - often in unexpected ways.
'This experience has taught me, like a lot of the work I do in life, that where you start isn't necessarily where you'll end up... the book we've written is much more practical and purposeful for our readers as a result of us really listening to [their feedback] and not being afraid to change our minds.'
Diana Marsland and Julie Nerney began their work on Own Your Day just before the pandemic hit, and with a hypothesis that they were pretty confident about. Over the course of the next year, everything changed: their rigorous research disproved their original hypothesis and revealed a different path, and their close collaboration had to shift online as lockdown hit. For some authors that could have been the end, but Diana and Julie found a way of working together that transformed those setbacks into a new creative energy.
In this conversation we talk about how management is changing and the issues faced by those with the Herculean task of translating strategy from the top into results on the ground, and also about those processes of research, pivoting and collaboration. The result is a masterclass for anyone wanting to write a book grounded in the real world, and particularly for anyone thinking about writing with a partner.
'One of the first principles to make progress in writing is to have the courage to be rubbish because all writing, literally absolutely all of it, starts rubbish.'
If his first book, Essentialism, was about prioritization, Greg McKeown's second book, Effortless, is about simplification. And this is no theoretical treatise: the truths behind the book were born out of a deeply traumatic personal experience, and Greg and his family's conscious decision to choose the 'lighter path'.
Profound wisdom about life and robust advice for writing that might just change your life (and your business book).
In our fascination with tech start-ups and big corporates, we might be tempted to overlook the family business. Keel Hunt describes Ingram as 'the quiet company' - 50 years young, still family owned, and still quietly partnering with all the other players in the book supply chain to innovate and do business better.
If you love books, chances are you'll have benefited from an Ingram service perhaps without even knowing it. And as books have faced the challenge of the digital revolution, it's perhaps down to Ingram rather than other flashier, more famous companies in the book supply space that the book industry continues to thrive, and in particular to their habit of asking: 'Why are we doing it this way?'
Keel Hunt also reveals some hard-won journalistic secrets of interviewing and research, and how you find 'the story that hasn't been written yet'.
'I think we're going to have another watershed moment... there's going to be business pre-pandemic and business post-pandemic. And I wonder how many business books are going to feel out of date.'
As a woman founder in publishing, Judy Piatkus is one of my heroes. Working from home long before it was fashionable, navigating caring for a child with special needs alongside the casual sexism of the 1980s, she quietly built up a pioneering company specialising in self-development. And along the way she transformed her own consciousness through the books she brought into the world.
Her story reflects many common themes of entrepreneurship, women at work, the digital revolution and the the power of books and of bringing people together.