Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Build This…and They will Come

Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts – Ryan Holiday (Portfolio Books)

In a very simple stripped down way of saying; it used to be take your idea, research if there is an actual market for the idea, build your product to fit the market and then take it to market. This old school approach, while still in practice in some corners today seems to have been abandoned by the side of the road.
Some folks today espouse that it’s all about the customer and not about the product. They claim you should build your audience first and then build your product (service) to fill a need you identify with that audience. That may seem more than a bit counterintuitive and a bit like putting the cart before the horse as old folks used to be fond of saying.
Could the answer lay somewhere in between? Is it ever really a case of “build it and they will come”? Or is it, better put as while you’re building your product, keep your audience in mind every step of the way and build your audience every step along the way…and they will come?
That seems to be what bestselling author and marketing guru Ryan Holiday is putting forth in his new book Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts. Holiday has made a career out of being a provocateur and he sets up his hypothesis with a series of examples to illustrate his thought process.
Has a music fan, recovering radio and music industry guy, I can totally relate to Holiday’s example of heavy metal icons Iron Maiden and the fact that they have built a 40+ year career not by focusing on building radio airplay and creating radio friendly music, but by placing an emphasis on delivering a product that their fans appreciate rather than some weasel radio programmer. They super-serve their fans and the results are, they continue to sell out shows and sell tons of their music to that legion of fans.
The lesson for creators is that it doesn’t matter what your focus is, music, writing, art of any kind, it is your audience that will help you have long term, sustained success and as you craft your deliverables, that audience should be at the forefront of your mindset. Holiday spends roughly two thirds of the book offering a glide path for creators to develop the necessary mindset and tools to build a following for their craft.
Holiday’s ability to write with a level of clarity truly helps to underscore the points he makes in the course of the book as if it is a living case study of knowing and serving your audience.    

Friday, August 18, 2017

Leadership Storytelling

Let the Story Do the Work: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success – Esther K. Choy (AMACOM)

As a leader, I can take what is a very cut and dried subject and give employees a pretty straightforward list of steps to follow, the dos and don’ts and I can check the box and say that I have provided them with training on the topic.
The question quickly becomes; how effective was that “training”? Did I do a good job of connecting that training to the subject that I was speaking about?
Esther K. Choy, president and executive coach with the Leadership Story Lab has authored a new book, Let the Story Do the Work: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success, in which she makes the case that truly effective leaders are those folks who are the most effective communicator among us, the Storyteller.

I know from firsthand experience that when I utilize story I can make a better connection for the subject I am speaking on. For years in my day job I have trained new employees in the basics of HIPAA and patient privacy. It is admittedly not an exciting topic, but it is certainly an important one for those who work in healthcare. I illustrate the need for patient privacy by telling a story that actually occurred prior to my getting into healthcare and it even predates the HIPAA law going into effect.
While I was in college, a LONG time ago, I was visiting a friend who had taken ill and was in the hospital for testing, and I tell the new employees about the blur of a white lab coat and bad checked pants, after all it was the early eighties, and how the doctor proceeded to tell my friend that the test had come back and it wasn’t good news and the diagnosis was cancer. The doctor never bothered to check to see who I was, if the friend wanted me present for this announcement or anything. I impart this story to give them a very real world example of why patient privacy matters.
Without exception, every time I tell the story, eyes widen, lights go on as they take in the connection to the purpose of learning about patient privacy and the story hits home for them; I have succeeded in communicating the importance of the topic.
Choy makes the case that this is how best to engage your audience, inspire them to take action, bring clarity to new concepts and be a more effective leader. This is great stuff and a skillset that Choy gives you the tools to develop and make you more effective out of the gate.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Leadership Buzz

Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life – Tasha Eurich – (Crown Business)

I am endlessly amazed at the cyclical nature of business and leadership trends. Of late there seems to be an abundance of articles that have crossed my radar on the need for leaders to be self-aware and the negative impact the leaders who lack self-awareness have on their companies and their teams.

And like magic, right on cue comes the book, Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life from Tasha Eurich. I am always intrigued by titles like Eurich’s, who is an organizational psychologist and researcher who plies her trade by helping corporate leaders and teams to improve results by improving self-awareness.

The way that last sentence reads it sounds like a whole, healthy, load of business mumbo jumbo, but if you’ve ever spent time working for a leader who is; defensive, a bully, controlling, passive aggressive, who makes excuses, is known for grand flights of fancy, or whose behavior swings and sways depending on which way the wind blows, then you know firsthand the damage these folks can do in the work place. Heck you may have been subjected to some leaders who fall into many of these categories.

Eurich offers, as the title suggests insights into how you can improve your grip on self-awareness and how it can impact your business, which is all good stuff. Here’s the problem as I see it; the folks that NEED this book and all that it offers are also probably the folks who are least likely to be inclined to pick this book up!

I think there is something for everybody in the pages of Insight, that will be beneficial to your work and life. I found the short quizzes located in the appendices to be great tools, maybe leaving copies of the book or the quizzes in the general vicinity of those who would benefit the most would be the way to a sneaky impact.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Uncontested Leadership

Blue Ocean Leadership (Harvard Business Review Classics) – W. Chan Kim and Renee A. Mauborgne – (Hard Business Review Press)

Back in 2005 W. Chan Kim and Renee A. Mauborgne, a pair of business school professors at INSEAD, tipped business thinking on its side by suggesting that a new way to succeed in business was to seek out uncontested market space, which they dubbed “blue ocean space” as a way for businesses to pursue success without focusing on competition. Their book which espoused the theory, Blue Ocean Strategy went on to become a perennial bestseller in the business world.
Kim and Mauborgne went on to apply their Blue Ocean principals to other aspects of business including a lengthy journal treatment on how to apply those principles to leadership. That Harvard Business Review article is now available in a handy pocket sized (literally) book; Blue Ocean Leadership as part of the Harvard Business Review Classics series.

The books premise is based on a Gallup study that shows that only 30 % of employees actively apply their skills and energy to move companies forward. Kim and Mauborgne offer a solution with blue ocean leadership that will unleash and tap into the unexploited talent base and under-utilized energy to help drive business forward.
Estimates of the costs of this level of dis-engagement run to half a trillion dollars annually and the authors serve up a road map with examples of how companies can tap this unrealized resource just by re-thinking their approach to leadership or middle level and frontline staff. The concepts are easily digestible and come with blue ocean strategy maps to help the implementation process.
Simply by the portable nature of his book, it has found its way into a pocket of my business backpack and I have reached for it during strategic planning sessions on a number of occasions and can see it becoming a go to resource for the foreseeable future.