Lead from “Among” Not from “Above”

Stewart Emery (Success Built to Last) was over my house a few months ago.  At breakfast one morning he told me about an interview he did with a well-known billionaire in the computer industry.  The billionaire shared an intriguing story with Stewart about an experience he’d had when the senior executives of a company interested in purchasing his company visited his office to discuss the possible purchase.

Stewart Emery

 

At lunch, the billionaire told the senior executives of the company he was negotiating with that he was going to take them to the Executive Dining Room.  They followed him to the dining room which was very nice but not extravagant.  But that wasn’t the big surprise.  The surprise was that the dining room had a buffet line.  Moreover, the billionaire walked up to the buffet line, picked up a tray, and stood in line behind everyone else.  The executives looked around the room as it filled up and they realized that this room was not an “executive dining room” but was the company dining room.  The boss stood there in line with all the employees.  He spoke to everyone.   No one was afraid to talk to him.  In my opinion, he didn’t lead by being above them; he led by being among them.  Stewart told me that the billionaire said the management team was surprised by the fact that he and all the executives ate with all the employees.  One of them commented that this would have to change.  For the boss, it was a test.  This was not the kind of company that he wanted to sell his business to.  The negotiation ended that day.

Companies have a choice.  They can move toward exclusivity in their organizational culture or they can strive, commit, honor, and embrace inclusivity in their organizational culture.

Sometimes when people meet me, they say that they are surprised that I am approachable.   I find that interesting.  I think they feel this way because sometimes we, as leaders, act in a way that people perceive as unapproachable.  We act “better than” to other people.  I believe people should be surprised when a leader is unapproachable, not when they are approachable.  The problem is that we live in a world where success sometimes creates a sense of separation (with both the organizational leaders and others).  One of the key things to embrace in a successful company is the sense that the boss, the owner, the senior executive(s) are, in fact, approachable.

What are your thoughts on this matter?  Please feel free to share any relevant stories and experiences you may have.

Fear of Rejection–Don’t Let It Stand in the Way of Your Success

Back in 1994 I authored the first edition of The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret.  I was out promoting the book and trying to get bookstores to carry it.  Back then, one of the ways to do that was to go to book stores and do what I liked to call “drive-by signings” (what can I say – I’m from L.A.).  A friend of mine said there was a local neighborhood bookstore that didn’t have any copies of my book. The store was literally on my way home one day so I stopped off there but couldn’t seem to talk myself into moving from the seat of my car—I was too paralyzed to actually enter the store.

I wanted to ask them if they would mind carrying a few copies of my book.  However, I just sat in the car, too nervous to go in.  I thought, what if they say no?  What if they say they don’t want the book but thanks anyway for asking?  It wasn’t a big bookstore and I wasn’t sure that they’d be willing to carry a book from an unknown author.  I sat there too embarrassed to make any moves toward the entrance.  I swear I almost put the key back into the ignition, turned it on, and backed out.

I was so close. Then I thought, okay . . . if I don’t go in, what’s going to happen? I decided chances were pretty good that if I didn’t go into the store, absolutely nothing would happen and they’d continue to not carry the book. If I did go in and ask, there was a possibility they’d tell me they didn’t want the book and then I’d still be in the same position I was currently in.

But then I thought, what if I go in and ask and they say yes?  That made me realize that the only choice which would most likely lead to a positive outcome was to go in. Doing nothing would get me the same thing that I had now, which was nothing. So I literally sat in the car and said to myself, “Suck it up and go on in. This will be over in ten minutes. Nobody is actually going to get injured. There will be no hospitalization involved. It’s not that big a deal. It’s just a possibility of a ‘no.’”

So I went in. I brought a copy of the book and said, “I’m the author of this book. Some of the stores in your chain are carrying it. I live locally and I just wondered if you would mind carrying a few copies, maybe three or four.  If so, I would be more than glad to sign them when they come in.”

They said, “Oh great! You’re a local author! We’ll get 20. Will you come back and sign them for us?” I was like, yeah, I’d be glad to come back and sign them. So they ordered 20 copies and I came back in a couple of weeks and I signed them all. I remember thinking back, that the experience was sort of a nexus point in terms of rejection for me. I could do something or I could not do something. Not doing anything would have put me in the same situation that I began with, which was having no books in the store. Only taking the risk could result in success.  So, this is one of the reasons I tell people, “Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from doing what you are excited about. If you are excited about your business, don’t let rejection stop you. You have to just know that when it comes to asking somebody to do something; some will, some won’t, so what?  It’s not the end of the world.”  For me, I just had to put myself in the frame of mind that what I was facing was simply not that big a thing. I now do this same thing whenever I’m faced with a situation which opens up the possibility for rejection.  I just tell myself that if someone doesn’t want to do what I’m asking, that’s fine. God bless them. I love them. It’s not that big a deal.

A good friend of mine, Dr. Mark Goulston likes to say: “We have a lot less control over winning or losing at something than we do over trying or quitting something. Always try. You can eventually win. If you always quit, you can never win.”

When people give up, even in their thoughts, it’s game over. I make a point to remember that I may not be the most successful man in a room and I may not be the smartest man in a room, but I am pretty confident that I am usually one of the most persistent men in the room. That commitment to always trying has helped me succeed. I think it is one of the things that consistently helps anyone have long term success. The whole process has to begin with the old axiom: if you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’ll be right.

I’d love for you to share a story with me about a time that you had to take leap of faith to do something and it turned out well.  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Using Writing to Grow Business: Why Storytelling Is So Important

Just last month I posted a blog about how to grow business and derive identity-building, brand-boosting benefits through writing (CLICK HERE to view the blog post) and today I want to piggyback on that concept.

Whether you’re an experienced writer or you’re just beginning to dabble in writing in an effort to build your personal or business brand, understanding the importance of storytelling can transform your writing into highly effective material.

In this video, professional editor and author Jeff Morris and I explain why storytelling is so important in writing and we reveal the four key factors that define an effective story.

Get ready . . . you’ll want to have a pen and a piece of paper on hand for this one!

By the way, if you’ve had some experience (whether just a little or a lot) with writing to achieve brand recognition and business growth, I’d love to hear what tactics, writing venues, etc. you’ve had the most success with as well as some of the best stories you’ve used to make your most important points.  Please leave your feedback in the comments section–thanks!

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