Launch the Best You


Time to Launch

Not too long ago, I spoke with an astronaut about what it takes to launch into space. Since I don’t work at NASA and am not a rocket scientist, we were way outside of my comfort zone. He was patient and talked me through the various parts of a successful launch.

It occurred to me, as he was sharing his extensive knowledge, how so many of the elements in a rocket launch are appropriate for launching things right here on planet Earth.


“We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves.” -John Glenn

Energy Required

The factor that really interested me was the energy required to launch. We talked about the amount of fuel it takes to propel a rocket into space. I learned that the Space Shuttle had over two million pounds of solid propellant in its boosters.

Two million pounds!

All of this is to fire up the engines, create liftoff, and escape the velocity of the Earth’s atmosphere. The rocket must overcome gravity drag.

What may have been a simple, elementary explanation for a non-scientist crystallized some ideas for me.

If we want to launch something big, it often requires more fuel than we imagine.


“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” -Moliere


Feed Your Success

9 Reasons Authors Should Try a Book Trailer

How to Stand Out

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.)

Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength

Leadership Skill: Asking for Help

I don’t even recall how the argument started.

Somehow a simple text message morphed from a few sentences to an arrow that found its mark, spearing into an area that was still inflamed from other hits.

You know how that happens. A few words conjure up deeply-held emotions, past hurts, yet unspoken pain.

We worked it out, my friend and I, and our friendship survived and deepened because of it.

At the end of one difficult conversation, he said something that stuck with me: “Skip, you may think you’re fully transparent, and I guess in some ways you are. But,” his voice trailed off.

I waited, wondering what the next words would be.

“But, you’re not really good at asking for help.”

For many years, I’ve told the people who work for me that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

There is truth to Richard Bach’s quote, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”


“We teach best what we most need to learn.” -Richard Bach


My Request for Help

Keep reading to see my personal request for help. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for the assistance.


Learn to Ask for Help

I prefer to give—to be someone who serves. When I was a teenager, I worked in a restaurant and just felt better when I was the one pouring a drink rather than sitting there getting served. It just makes me comfortable. I’d rather host a party than attend one.

Pride can stop us from asking others. But so can humility. Pride says, “I have no need of anyone because I can do anything.” Humility says, “My needs are not worthy enough to bother anyone.”

So you can’t judge the “why” behind someone not asking.

Learning to ask for help just seems harder for some people than for others. When others ask in a polite manner for something, I’m in awe. It impresses me. I guess because it’s hard for me to do. And it’s a crucially important leadership skill.

Keep reading to the bottom and see what I’m asking.


Asking for help:

Shows vulnerability.

Brene Brown teaches the power of vulnerability. She says that, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”


Increases our connectedness.

Nadeem Aslam writes, “Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” As I ask you to help me, I’m increasing that attachment to you and to others.

16 Ways Leaders Kill Trust

Cracked cement symbolizing broken trust between people or parties
This is a guest post by friend, executive and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor. Follow him on Twitter.


How to Kill Trust

Trust—so hard to gain, yet so easy to lose! Trust is an important part of any relationship, but it is the foundation for successful leadership. Without trust, leadership is simply hollow. There has been a lot written about the importance of trust and how to build trust with others. However, what many leaders do not realize is that trust is often undermined, or even lost, through simple behaviors. After paying so much attention to ways to gain trust, it is often lost inadvertently.

There are many ways that a leader can kill trust. Most are behaviors or actions and not overt statements. It is rare that a leader simply states, “I do not trust you” to someone. Yet, it is quite common that a leader will kill trust with one or more of the following behaviors.


“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” –Warren Buffett


16 Trust-killing Behaviors to Avoid


Delegate tasks, not problems:  When delegating, provide a strict framework and task list while telling them exactly what needs to be done and how to do it. By not providing others with the opportunity to help solve a problem or shape an initiative, it sends a message that they are not trusted and do not have the confidence of the leader.


Leadership Tip: Delegate the problem and let the team shape the initiative.


Micromanage:  Constantly ask for updates, status and progress while dictating more about how to do the task. React strongly if there is any issue or problem. Second-guess any decisions or actions during the project. Constantly ask if they remembered to do something or if they are working on something. If something needs to be corrected, say, “I’ll take care of that” or have some else do it. By not demonstrating any confidence in a team member to complete an assignment, trust will be damaged.


“The ability to influence a leader is at the heart of feeling trusted.” –Bruce Rhoades


Never ask their opinion:  Do not ask for input on an assignment; just dictate what to do. Discount what team members are saying, especially while they are talking. Require more justification with greater detail than expected of others – especially in public. Do not allow them to influence you. The ability to influence a leader is at the heart of feeling trusted. When influence is denied, trust is eroded.


Criticize in public:  Point out mistakes and/or belittle others in public. Constantly point out mistakes and never tell them what they are doing right. Bring up past mistakes often. Public criticism not only belittles the team member, but it makes the leader look small-minded. Others on the team will also begin to wonder if the leader can be trusted.

5 Communication Mistakes Too Many Leaders Make

This is a guest post by Alison Davis, CEO of Davis and Company, an employee communication firm helping companies improve employee engagement. You can also follow her on Twitter.


5 Communication Mistakes

Congratulations! You’ve been promoted or successfully built your business, and now you’re a leader.

But now the hard work is ahead, especially when it comes to communicating with your employees. That’s because almost everything you learned as a manager doesn’t apply any more.

While manager communication focuses on the task at hand, leaders have a broader role: to articulate where the organization is heading, clarify what employees need to do to help the organization succeed, and share progress and accomplishments.

The good news is that when you fulfill your communication role, employees become motivated to do their best work. Employees want to connect with their senior leaders and feel engaged in the company’s strategic direction. Hearing from the boss is a key driver of satisfaction.

But leaders often lack the clarity, time and skills they need to communicate effectively. As a result, they make these 5 communication mistakes:


“Communication is the real work of leadership.” -Nitin Nohria


Mistake #1: Disappear.

You feel like you spend the whole day in meetings: one-on-one sessions, team meetings, large-group conferences. So it seems you’re always in front of the people who work for you. But if you analyze who you spend time with, you’d realize that you’re visible to only a small percentage of employees. And the larger and more spread out your organization is, the greater the likelihood that many employees rarely see you.

What to do differently: You need a communication plan designed to provide maximum visibility, given your time available. The best practice is to schedule a mix of:

  • An all-hands or town hall meeting at least once a quarter
  • Briefings with managers several times a year
  • Informal sessions (you can call them “coffee chats”) with small groups of employees at least six times a year. These chats are more about hearing from staff members than delivering a message.
  • Presence on electronic channels. For example, if you’ve got an internal social networking platform, participate in online conversations. Or create written or video messages on an intranet site.
  • Showing up and walking around. These informal “sightings”—having lunch with a few people in the cafeteria, touring a new facility—are very valuable for demonstrating that you’re in touch with what’s happening.


“Presence is more than just being there.” –Malcolm Forbes


Mistake #2: Use “CEO Speak”

One of your key functions as a leader is to think about the long-term strategy. But because you focus so much on the big picture, it’s easy to forget that although employees are smart, they’re also overloaded with information. And employees don’t see issues from the same 35,000-foot perspective leaders do—they’re standing at ground level, trying to focus on what they need to do right now. So when you share information that’s strictly high-level, it doesn’t resonate.

What to do differently: Make your messages simple, tangible and relatable. Ask yourself, “What is the one thing we need employees to know this month, this quarter or this year? To understand? To do differently?” Then focus on providing employees with the core information they need most.


Communication Tip: Focus on providing only the core information people need.


Mistake #3: Get the timing wrong

One of leaders’ toughest communication challenges is managing timing. If you wait too long to share information, you run the risk that employees already know what you’re now revealing—which affects credibility. But communicating too soon can also be a problem. For example, when leaders have been working behind the scenes on a big change like a reorganization, they start to become impatient, feeling they should tell employees something. So they announce that the company will reorganize soon and more will be shared later. The result? You create anxiety because employees don’t know exactly how they will be affected. It’s better to sit tight until all the details are set.

What to do differently: Focus on how and when employees will be affected, and time communication to meet employees’ need to know, not your need to tell.


“Life is about timing.” –Carl Lewis


Mistake #4: Do all the talking

Many leaders associate “communicating” with sharing information. As a result, they plan town hall meetings that have 50 minutes of presentation and 10 minutes of Q&A. But when my firm asks employees what they need from leaders, here’s what they say:

  • “More open dialogue with top management.”
  • “I obviously want to hear from leaders, but it’s also important that leaders listen to us.”

What to do differently: One of the most effective ways to create more employee engagement is to communicate in a way that encourages employees to participate. And a key ingredient is the ability of leaders to engage employees in two-way communication.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the least effective way to begin a Q&A session is by saying, “Does anyone have any questions?” This question sets the expectation that only people who don’t understand something that has been shared will speak up.

Instead, try saying this: “Based on what I’ve just told you, what will be the hardest aspects to accomplish?” This approach creates two-way communication in a way that makes people more comfortable about participating.


Leadership Tip: Don’t ask for questions. Instead, encourage an immediate two-way communication.