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How my Book Came Together (and so can Yours)

Over the course of my career, I’ve reported to many people. Some were incredible and inspiring, while others were more challenging to work with. As I advanced in my career, I began to ask myself:

“What makes a good leader? What separates the great from the not-so-great?”

I got obsessed with this question and began to research the science behind what makes a good leader. I read books, wrote papers, and eventually began pursuing my PhD on the topic, and soon found that there were two camps of information: Self-help and leadership books tended to give quick tidbits of advice, but never really explained the why behind them, while academic research focused rigorously on the descriptive qualities that correlate with successful leadership, without any actionable strategies.

This gap has led us to an abundance of mediocre leaders. Around the globe, leaders are acting set in their ways, and not realizing that there is a path to improvement that can impact their teams and their organizations.

I focused my PhD research on discovering the practical actions we can take to become better leaders. It turns out that there are five qualities that we can all develop that will help us lead more effectively at work, in our families, and in our communities.

The problem, of course, is that a PhD dissertation isn’t likely to change the way people lead in the real world. The faculty of Northcentral University encouraged me to focus on academic books and articles based on my research. But I explained: “That’s not why I did this. I want to impact the real world. I need to write a book.”

This was no easy task. When I looked at it honestly, I worried that the book would never happen. It took me three years to write my 120-page dissertation — how many years would a full book take?

And, more importantly, how would I write it in a tone that would feel non-academic and interesting to real-world leaders?

I knew that if I tried to write the book, it would come out looking like my dissertation, filled with great ideas but written more like a textbook than a leadership book. It wouldn’t flow, and it wouldn’t appeal to real-world leaders.

So I pushed off the book project, unsure of how I would create the book I knew I needed to write.

Finding My Team

Soon after, I was at the Financial Planning Conference, and there was a booth for a company that helps people write the book they always wanted to write! The team at the booth saw me eying them and one asked, “Are you thinking about writing a book?”

After a short conversation, it was obvious I had found the team I needed. Scribe would surround me with a team of professionals who would help with positioning, structuring, writing, editing, designing, publishing, and marketing the book, so I could focus just on the ideas.

Not only would this save time, but it would ensure that I have the support of storytelling experts to help write the book in a way that would connect with readers. The whole process sounded like exactly what I needed, and I signed up to work with them.

First, my Publishing Manager (Ellie) walked me through their North Star process to help me define my ideas and get clear on my audience. As an academic, I felt that every idea I’d researched was crucially important. The struggle in creating a great business book, however, is more about what to leave out than what to include. We worked and reworked the ideas until they flowed in a way that would grab the reader.

Then, I worked with my Scribe (Jim) to organize my ideas and get them all on paper in a way that is accessible to readers. I knew the structure was there, but I faced a challenge: How could I balance the thorough and precise language that I tend to communicate in with the compelling way that business books are written?

Once we had a first draft, I had to dive in and think about each and every sentence. This was the hardest part of the process by far, but it was also the most rewarding. Through this struggle, I was able to discover a balance where I could communicate honestly and precisely — in other words, be myself — without losing the reader in academic jargon. More than any of the book’s successes, this is truly the accomplishment I am most proud of.

Along the way, we got support from the rest of their team who helped with proofreading, copyediting, design, layout, and marketing — all the things that transform a great manuscript into a wonderful book.

Every step of the process was delightful. I worried they might go broke doing my book, because they spent so much time with me at each step ensuring we got everything right.

Out Into the World

On December 4th, How Successful Teams Work was published.

From the start, my goal was to create a book that I’m proud of. Even if the book hadn’t spread widely at the start, we’d accomplished my goal of bringing together the best ideas on the science of leadership in a practical way,a way that bridged the gap between the worlds of leadership books and rigorous research.

But the book has accomplished far more than that. In its first week on the market, the book quickly became the #1 Hot New Release in Amazon’s Business Management Science category.

More importantly for me, I’ve been able to get the book directly in the hands of many of the specific people who I respect and want to share the lessons from the book with. My goal with this book was to show people that they really can be a better leader. I wanted to spur them to action.

The book is already accomplishing that goal by changing the way people lead. Within the first week, I was already hearing from friends and acquaintances who were learning from the book. One friend of mine expressed that it gave him a level of depth in his understanding of leadership that he hadn’t received from any of the mainstream leadership books or the numerous workshops he has attended..

As I continue on my journey to share the science of leadership with more people, I’m excited to have the book as a companion. Last week, I had a sit-down with 10 financial planners at a firm here in San Diego, who belong to my Financial Planning Association. Bringing a stack of books to share with these leaders filled me with pride and excitement.

I probably have 10 more books that I could write, ideas buzzing around my head, half-formed. In the past, I would have let the fear of not writing in an interesting, accessible enough way stop me from getting these ideas out. Now, with the confidence that I can strike a balance between rigorous science and accessible material, I’m already starting to toy around with my next idea.

Let me know if you have any questions; I work with my publisher to find new authors!  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

 


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