The global pandemic changed how companies must function. Today, more than ever, the best companies are guided by leaders who promise and deliver an outstanding experience for their entire team. They put their employees first and understand that customers and revenue will follow. And so it is with the best books. The best books are those created by authors who focus on delivering a great reading experience trusting the revenues, word of mouth marketing, and the next book deal will follow.
I’ve learned a great deal in my professional career, much of it during my time leading HR Solutions International, a company I founded in 1995. We specialized in measuring employee engagement and teaching best practices to c-suite leaders and HR teams. I learned because we asked questions, and I studied the answers. Serving thousands of clients and conducting tens of thousands of employee surveys, I discovered what motivates people and how to convey these desires to leaders who want to create a culture in which their employees would thrive, all to the benefit of the bottom line. We focused on implementing a win/win/win model where leaders cared for employees, and employees cared for the company, which of course, means caring for customers.
In 2010, one of my marketing team members approached me, commenting that she had spent years observing me coach clients and offering insight from study after study. Thinking there was a book somewhere in the recesses of my mind, she asked, “If I get you a book deal will you write your book?” I had spent more than thirty-five years as a management consultant conducting employee engagement surveys and aiding business leaders in developing meaningful culture and engaging their people. But it was her vision and enthusiasm that were the catalysts for my book Building a Magnetic Culture: How to Attract & Retain Top Talent to Create an Engaged, Productive Workforce. I’m grateful for her wisdom and expertise because she guided the book through the sales and marketing process, and we achieved best-seller status on six major lists. More importantly, once we earned the moniker “New York Times Best Selling Author,” I was launched into speaking, which I love!
I designed the book to help organizational leaders create work experiences and environments that engage and motivate employees. This focused effort prioritizes the target audience (or what should be the target audience of every organization)—their people. Similarly, when writing your book, you need to do so with your reader in mind. What do they need? What motivates them? What are they trying to accomplish?
When we understand people’s motivation, we can meet them where they are and create a mutually beneficial relationship. Even if you have little altruism in your heart, you must acknowledge the personal and professional desires of every person you meet and care for them well.
Mutually Beneficial Relationships
From a practical standpoint, I always tell professional speakers who are considering writing their first book that event planners responsible for securing talent for keynotes will always prefer – and hire – the expert who has a book. This element of the speaker’s bio lends legitimacy to the lineup, creates an opportunity for a book signing event, and has the potential to increase event revenue. So hurry up and write the book; event planners need you to!
Beyond understanding the mindset of the event planner as a gatekeeper who has their own goals, it is important to acknowledge two more facets when designing your book. First, speakers who become authors should secure endorsements from other speakers. While there are hundreds of thousands of talented speakers globally, the speaking circuit is much smaller. And who you know, and perhaps more importantly who knows you, matters. If you are being considered as the keynote speaker at an industry event, and last year’s speaker has endorsed your book, you’re in! (Hopefully.) And your endorsement of other speakers can help them secure their next big win. The beauty of networking is not what you can accomplish through it, but what you can achieve together.
And second, your new book necessitates new content that is worthwhile to your audience. Don’t waste their time and money. Whatever you write must be developed from a new idea grounded in current wisdom. Connect the dots for people. Create a simple acronym that clarifies a complex process. Bring brevity to comprehensive and complicated matters. Reintroduce wisdom that has been seemingly lost to the ages. If you write a book to serve people, they will undoubtedly buy a copy to give away, tell others about you, share your thoughts on their platform, and the opportunities will come your way.
I pride myself on helping my clients reach their goals. When I give a speech, the money is great, but I don’t do it for the speaking fee—I speak to motivate people and convey ideas that matter. But I know if I serve the audience well—by delivering on the promise to give solutions and best practices that really work—I’ll end up with three more speaking engagements. And that isn’t bad either.
Employee and Reader Engagement
Drawing on my experience helping companies create a meaningful culture and engage with their people, I see a few parallels in the writing process.
Great communication is at the heart of every company’s culture. Great writing is at the heart of every book. Few employees will tolerate bad working relationships for long. Few readers will keep turning pages to endure lackluster writing. Good writing and editing require intentionality and practice. It also requires a brutally honest assessment, again and again. When writing, use words that matter, don’t waste words, create images to convey ideas, and tell stories to explain the journey. And if you want to be a great writer, read great writing.
Employees need to be recognized. Invariably, we all want to be seen and understood. Even the most confident among us need to be invited into conversations, affirmed for their efforts and accomplishments, and honored as individuals. Readers are much the same. I think it is great that you are taking the time to read this book and invest in your professional development. And so should you! Life is hard, and as authors, we need to speak to the reader and not just about a given topic. We must see them, their needs, their dreams, and embrace their story as we write our books. Otherwise, how will they know we care?
Career development is instrumental in fostering an extraordinary corporate culture. Few employees want to remain where they are for the next forty years. We all want to become better versions of ourselves, if not a different version altogether. Richard Branson, CEO and founder of Virgin Group, is widely acknowledged as saying, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.” By focusing on employees’ (and readers’) goals, leaders and authors can guide them through a defined experience with an anticipated outcome. If you are going to write a book, you need to be an expert in why your target audience is reading the book and then deliver, focusing on their growth.
The relationship between employees and their managers is as essential as a company’s mission. It has been said that employees don’t leave companies; they leave managers: this is often true. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. And people want to be connected to people they view as more important or more interesting than they are. Thus, there is a cult of personality in the book world. Readers become emotionally attached to the author they have never met. When you are writing, include meaningful insight into the topic, attend to the reader’s needs, and share a little about yourself along the way.
Purpose matters. Why companies exist is a big deal to employees and customers. So is the purpose of a book. In the same way that few employees want to work for a company with a flawed strategy and a mission only to make money, astute readers will quickly assess self-serving books as such and lay them down. We work for companies that align with our purpose. We read books that help us overcome. The human experience is often motived by self-care. When you are writing your book, write for the reader. Write with noble intent. And celebrate when the money comes, but don’t make that the mission of your book.
Did you know one out of twenty-five employees quits on their first day, and most books are never finished? By focusing on engagement from beginning to end, we can earn the right to serve and influence people well.
Marketing with a Bias Toward Engagement
When you introduce a new company policy, market a new product, or launch your new book, one of the most important keys to success is consistency. There is a lot of noise and confusion, not only in the ethereal marketplace but also in the minds of people. If we want them to hear us—because we have something valuable to say to them—we need to speak clearly, concisely, and consistently.
As you are developing your brand as an author, invest time:
- Blogging regularly on both on your site and as a guest on others.
- Sharing with your followers via a monthly newsletter.
- Connecting with peers on LinkedIn.
- Joining and engaging with industry groups on LinkedIn.
- Learning from authors, editors, and publishing industry professionals.
- Testing various social media platforms.
It takes a lot of time to communicate, which is why so many managers fail. There is always too little time to do what we want to do, never mind telling other people what they need to do and listening to them tell us what we should do. While you need to protect your time, you also need to invest your time, again and again, in the right direction, persevering until you earn the right to have long, meaningful conversations with employees, clients, and readers.