Like many first-time authors preparing to launch their book into the world, I’ve been studying potential ways to make my book stand out from the crowd. After all, there are thousands upon thousands of books that are released each year. If you’re not a celebrity or promoting your book on your show every day, do you stand a chance?
Complicating my goal is the fact that my book is in a rare class of books that is difficult to categorize. It’s a self-help and a success book for you personally or your business, but it’s also written as fiction. I wanted to write a book that you would read on a plane, and I know that most professionals want an escape from the typical business book—not to mention that the research shows we remember a story much more than we do a list of facts.
Violate the Imagination Rule
Brainstorming promotion ideas with a small team, we landed on one that is somewhat controversial: the book trailer. Many authors will tell you that a book should allow the reader to start from a mental blank slate. A book trailer goes against that rule, pushing images into your thoughts before you’ve had the chance to create and connect characters and settings. Business book authors also tend to have trailers that are more explanatory or even a mini-lecture.
I’ve decided to do both, violating what I call the imagination rule.
First, I allowed leeway in the making of the trailer. It isn’t a replica of the script, much like a movie isn’t always duplicative of the book. In this way, you can watch the trailer but, because of the difference in the words, create your own version. I hope you watch and enjoy the trailer above to The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future.
Second, I am releasing videos that explain the book in a more non-fiction way. These will be more descriptive of the benefits of reading the book. They will include reasons: we more naturally learn from others’ mistakes instead of their successes. We often are frustrated with not achieving our goals.
(Compare the two videos above and below and see how each targets a different audience.)
It’s a skill that anyone can learn. And Samuel B. Bacharach, the author of The Agenda Mover: When Your Good Idea Is Not Enough, is an expert in execution. He is also co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group, which focuses on training leaders in the skills of the Agenda Mover, and is the McKelvey-Grant Professor at Cornell University.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Sam about his newest book and turning ideas into reality.
Develop the Qualities of an Agenda Mover
Having a great idea is not enough. You teach a process for taking an idea into actionable reality. Before we go into your process, what leadership qualities are essential to being an effective agenda mover?
First and foremost, Agenda Movers keep their egos in check. They are aware that – no matter how good they think their idea is—there may be other perspectives out there. They understand that confidence is one thing, but they know ego can lead to delusion.
Second, Agenda Movers are deeply empathetic. I use that word in a very specific way, meaning that Agenda Movers are capable of standing in the shoes of other people and are capable of seeing the world from varied perspectives. They can see their agenda not only from their perspective but also from the perspective of others.
Third, Agenda Movers tactically focus. They are mindful of small details and tactics. They understand that charisma, bombastic ideas, and grand promises work only up to a point and that what is really needed to get things done are micro-behavioral skills.
Lastly, Agenda Movers understand that they can’t do it alone. To get anything done they need to have others in their corner. They understand the importance of coalitions, and they are able to adopt a coalition mindset.
If you look at the great Agenda Movers out there—these are the characteristics they all share.
“Agenda Movers understand what it takes to move things forward.” –Samuel Bacharach
The first step of your strategic blueprint is to anticipate others’ agendas and know where they’re coming from. I recall one person just totally missing it, oblivious to what seemed to be obvious signs. How do you help aspiring leaders to be more situationally aware of others and their motivations?
I think this is the number one mistake leaders make: They don’t spend enough time focusing on where others are coming from.
I remember years ago a student of mind was asking for advice on defending her dissertation in front of five faculty members I knew. The main advice I gave her was to stop focusing on her dissertation and instead to focus on the dissertations and research that the members of the committee had done. Simply put, I told her, “You know where you’re coming from. Make sure you know where they are coming from.”
Good Agenda Movers do their homework and I mean that literally. They dedicate time to figuring out there others stand, how they think, and what they want. They don’t presume they are born with situational awareness—they develop it and work on it.
Too often we look for shortcuts in trying to figure out the agendas of others. We think that if we understand their background or their personality, we can generalize their motivation and intention. This belief is both lazy and wrong. For most people, whether in organizations or in politics, motivation is determined by the specific agenda, not simply by personality.
An individual may be a staunch traditionalist on one issue and a complete revolutionary on another issue. Leaders who make quick summations about the agendas of others and don’t do their homework are bound to make mistakes.
“Leadership is about building a coalition that can turn an innovative idea into reality.” –Samuel Bacharach
Gaining traction and initial support is crucial. If you’re met with resistance, what do you do?
First of all, resistance should never come as a surprise to anyone. All leaders, all organizational actors, will face resistance—it’s just a question of when and how much.
In our political and organizational systems, resistance is part and parcel of the checks and balances that improve what we’re trying to accomplish.
So for starters, don’t let resistance throw you for a loop. Don’t let it shock you. Don’t let it root you to the ground. Instead, you should expect it and have a plan to deal with it.
I argue in my book that there are only a handful of ways people can resist an idea. To the surprise of my students, this really isn’t a daunting challenge. There are a limited number of ways resistance can argue against any idea and leaders can easily defend against these arguments with a little preparation. Once you’re able to categorize the arguments of resistance, you will be able to apply your counter arguments of justification.
Leadership Tip: Know where you want to go and whose support you need to get there.
The first thing you need to understand is what type of resistance you’re facing.
In my book I look at three main types of resistors in an organizational context: active resistors, passive resistors, and internal resistors.
While I always support leaders building a wide swath of support, they might have the hardest time convincing active resistors to join their coalition. At some point, an Agenda Mover should move on and not waste his or her time.
Good Agenda Movers focus on talking with passive resistors. They are those actors who aren’t actively undermining your efforts, but certainly are not helping them, either. Since they are on the fence, so to speak, a leader can be clever and find ways to incorporate them into his or her coalition by presenting potential benefits to them.
Lastly, there are internal resistors—those who sneak into a coalition in a Trojan Horse. Agenda Movers can prevent them from showing up by monitoring their coalition and making sure they don’t let team traction and momentum slip after an initial surge.
“Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” -Martin Luther King
Once you get going, you need to sustain the momentum. How do you use small victories effectively? Why do some ideas die in this stage?
Some leaders are great at mobilizing political support for their agenda. They’re great at convincing people of the need for innovation and change. They’re great at getting others to join them. But they drop the ball once they mobilize support. It’s sort of like the politician who gets elected but doesn’t deliver.
These leaders stop doing their homework. They stop thinking about the team. They lose their focus and start looking toward the horizon for another big project or a big career move. As a result, they leave it to their coalition to work out the day-to-day details of implementing a new idea.
Agenda Movers can’t relax once they start building some traction. If anything, they need to work harder to drive momentum by not only celebrating small victories but also by providing the right resources and maintaining optimism. They have to supplement the prudent political competence they have used to gain support with a managerial capacity to make sure that things keep on moving. Like I said, it is one thing to gain support and it is another to deliver.
“People who produce good results feel good about themselves.” –Ken Blanchard
Jesse Itzler doesn’t do conventional. He doesn’t follow the social norms most of us do. He is a bold, risk taking entrepreneur who seemingly tries anything. He once pretended to be a major hip-hop artist to get a meeting with a studio executive and ended up with a recording deal.
But hire one of the toughest men on the planet to get you into the best shape of your life? Jesse did just that. I recently asked the wildly successful and completely unorthodox Jesse Itzler to share some of his experiences. His new book Living with a Seal: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet, is a hilarious account of his physical fitness journey. (Warning: the book contains language that may be offensive to some readers.)
“It doesn’t have to be fun It has to be effective.” -SEAL
I’m not quite sure how to describe you, but you’ve had crazy success from music to business. You cofounded Marquis Jet, invested in ZICO, and your wife invented SPANX. That seems like you would be someone who would make wise decisions. And then I read this hilarious book and wonder about that assumption. For those who want to emulate your success, how do you describe your decision-making process?
We are totally on the same page because I really don’t know how to describe myself either. I have always lived my life out of the box, and it has brought me great rewards. For the most part, my decision making has been based on my gut mixed with a philosophy of let me get my foot in the door first . . . and then figure the rest out later.
“If you want to be pushed to your limits, you have to train to your limits.” -SEAL
Jesse, you see a crazy in-shape SEAL and decide he should move in with you and your family. You don’t know him; you didn’t do a background check; you agree to do whatever he says. ARE YOU INSANE? Why did you do this?
I met SEAL at a 24 hour ultra marathon. I ran the race as part of a relay team, and SEAL ran the entire 24 hour race . . . alone. He was his own team. He had a determination and focus that I had never witnessed before in my life. I decided on the spot that I could learn a lot from that man.
Actors, sports figures, musicians, and even a former United States President have been doused in ice-cold water in recent days. If you haven’t witnessed this, you may be enjoying a summer on a remote island with no connection to any media. For those of us who have watched this phenomenon take off, we may ask what lessons we can all learn from it all.
Why did this take off? What is it about this campaign that made people act?
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is for a meaningful purpose: to raise money to find a cure for a devastating and fatal disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The financial results are stunning. If the challenge were not tied directly to a bigger purpose, it would have failed. Not many people would participate without an important cause. It’s hard to turn down a challenge with a purpose.
“An idea spreads faster when purpose is married to challenge.” -Skip Prichard
Technology has changed everything. It’s easy to record a video, upload it to a social media account, and see what happens. The video brings multiple senses and emotions into play. We can see our friends’ reaction to the water; we can almost feel the cold of the ice; we hear the laughter in the background. It’s a powerful multi-sensory appeal. When you add the emotional appeal of the cause, the call to action becomes almost irresistible.
“An idea spreads faster when more senses are involved in the call to action.” -Skip Prichard
The challenge has a uniquely personal appeal. One person challenges others to join in. Instead of merely forwarding an email or sharing something on social media, it demands participation. That’s where it becomes uniquely personal. If this challenge were a cookie-cutter replication, it would not spread. It’s the personal spin that draws us in. Bill Gates didn’t just have water thrown on him; he sat down and designed a better way to execute. The personality of each participant shines through.
“An idea spreads faster when personalized.” -Skip Prichard
Want to be happier? Try these 12 steps and move in the right direction.
Look for opportunities to compliment others today everywhere you go. Be genuine and sincere. No sarcasm. Write a thank you note.
“Thank you for checking me out so quickly.”
“I appreciate your attention to detail.”
“Your children are very well behaved.”
Studies show that nothing raises happiness more than helping others in need. If you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter, or nursing home, you will be happier. Almost any act of helping others in need will boost your happiness. And it’s not just volunteer activities. Try holding open a door for someone; shoveling a neighbor’s walk; letting someone pull in front of you in traffic. Put others before yourself.
Slow down and listen. Really listen and connect. There’s something magical when you understand someone’s views.
Find someone to express your love and gratitude. Happiness always goes up in the presence of those we love.
Start something new and exciting. When your brain is learning and your body is moving, you will be engaged and create good feelings.
Countless studies show the benefits of exercise. It can get you out of a rut and boost chemicals in your brain to make you happier.
The opposite of starting is accomplishing. When you are crossing off important “to do” items, it will increase your satisfaction.