24 Sep 2012
- Michael Hyatt
When I was in the publishing business, the sales staff often wanted to correlate a book's length with its value. They believed that books with more pages should be priced higher. Books with fewer pages should be priced lower.
But is this true?Yesterday, I got this e-mail from an unhappy customer about her purchase of Writing a Winning Book Proposal, my e-book for authors:
I felt hugely ripped off by your 'book.' You didn't say anything I didn't already know and didn't address any of the questions I actually had. You used a big font to pad the pages, but your content was truly sparse. No publisher in the country would have published this 'book' and charged $20.
What you wrote was more of a pamphlet and should have been advertised as such. I was totally disillusioned that a Christian man of your caliber and reputation would burn me like that. I know we all have to make a living, but we need to make an honest one.
Let's set aside her perception of the quality for a minute. If you go to the sales page, you'll see about 20 endorsements from leading agents and about 1,200 from satisfied customers. These speak for themselves.
Let's also set aside her charge that I somehow mis-represented the length of the book and was thus dishonest and ripped her off.
I explicitly say in the sales copy the book is only 32-pages long. I also say the price is not based on the page count.
I offer an unconditional, money-back guarantee with no time limit. All she had to do was ask. (In fact, I volunteered to do this again in my reply to her yesterday.)
The issue I want to focus on is the length.
Personally, I don't think the value of information products, including books, is in their length. In fact, I could make the case that brevity is a benefit, especially in a world where we are so busy. If I can get what I need in a shorter amount of time, so much the better.
Like you, I have read long books that were worthless and short books that were invaluable. I don't buy page-count, and I'll bet you don't either.
The issue is whether or not the content helps me accomplish my goals and provides a sufficient return on my investment.
Consider the fact that some of the shortest works in history had the greatest value as measured by their long-term impact.
The Gettysburg Address is only 256 words long—a little more than a page.
The Declaration of Independence is only 1,100 words long—about four pages.
The Sermon on the Mount is about 2,500 words long—about eleven pages.
I'm not equating my e-books to these great historical works. I am simply making the point that there is no necessary correlation between length and value.
When I was first starting in my publishing career, a salty old publisher told me, "A book should be like a woman's skirt—long enough to cover the subject but short enough to keep it interesting."
Though sexist by today's standards, the last half of his counsel is right. When we write or say anything, we should first focus on the message not the length.
Michael Hyatt is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. It is also a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Amazon bestseller. www.michaelhyatt.com
24 Aug 2012
- Michael Hyatt
What does leadership have to do with playing a game? If your leadership style still reflects the industrial revolution, perhaps very little.
Fifty years ago, leadership was often about command and control. Business leaders were like generals, directing their troops into battle. "Don't ask why, just follow orders—or we'll replace you with someone who will!" Loyalty, respect, and fear created compliance.
But with the strengths movement of the last two decades, we know there is a better way. Treat people like the individuals they are. Align their responsibilities with their talents and equip them to pursue their potential. Voila! Exponential gains in productivity, engagement, and results, right?
Well, not so fast. Uncovering one's talents may be easier than ever before thanks to tools like The Birkman, Strengths Finder, and Myers-Briggs or leading talent development firms like Talent Plus, Talent Quest, or Gallup.
But here's the rub: talent itself only suggests potential. For talents to become strengths and for strengths to yield impact, you have to get people using them—consistently and relentlessly.
That means sustainable behavior change. And, how do we change behavior? "Tell them to do it, or else!" (Uh oh. Sounds like we just regressed fifty years!)
There is a better way: games.
Games are fun. Games allow people to achieve a feeling of significance among their peers by mastering skills through repetition. Games allow the players to encourage and police each other, relieving the leader from much of the heavy lifting. Bottom line: games are great for creating sustainable behavioral change.
And, all the while we've been learning about strengths, another trend has been under way—the application of game theory and game mechanics to solve business problems. It is a method known today as gamification.
Gamification started with driving consumer behavior. (Remember collecting bottle caps, UPC codes, or game pieces to earn prizes?) Today, smart companies are using gamification inside the firm.
In his recent article in Forbes, Dan Woods describes gamification as "a CEO's best friend."
Want to reinforce behaviors consistent with your mission, vision, and values? Create a game. Want to get your sales force making more calls? Create a game. Want to elevate key service behaviors? Gamify it. Encourage a healthy lifestyle? Yep, gamification.
Here are five steps to adding games to your leadership toolbox.
Objective. Identify exactly what behaviors you want to reinforce. The game is about action, not just results, so think behaviors. By whom, when, how, and for how long? Be sure to include your team members in this process. They will play harder if they have a role in defining the desired behaviors. (Also, be careful! Games are powerful. Test your game for at least a month with a pilot group before releasing it organization-wide.)
Rewards. People want to know what they are playing for. Recognition alone may be enough, so a trophy may do the trick. But if you have the budget, consider a little office bling—perhaps an upgraded phone, monitor or chair. Just beware of big incentives. The reward shouldn't tempt participants to sacrifice their integrity to win.
Consequences. I know, consequences may not be popular. But the truth is some people are much more motivated by a consequence than a reward. Have fun with it. Be sure it fits your culture—something light-hearted with just enough edge to dissuade anyone from warming the bench while the more competitive players pursue the rewards. Performing a show tune at the annual meeting should do the trick.
Accountability. Keep the game visible as much as possible—both the progress and the results. Whether you utilize a flip chart or a web-based gamification app, keep game play out in the open.
Communicate. Andy Stanley says leaders need to repeat their message twenty-one times before people hear it once. The same is true with your game. You can't just kick it off and announce the winner months later. You must revisit the game at least every week. Integrate it into your messages, your e-mails, your meetings.
Since the invention of pong, games have driven behavior change. Ironically, from the beginning, games (especially video games) have drawn fire for being so addictive. If you need to drive behavior change in your organization, unlock the extraordinary power of games to grow your people.
This is a guest post by Travis Dommert. He is president of irunūrun, the greatness app. By combining social elements and gamification features, irunūrun helps people achieve their potential in work and life through focus, consistency, and accountability. Travis also writes on the irunūrun blog.
29 Jul 2012
- Michael Hyatt
Earlier this month, my wife Gail and I took a much-needed vacation. We rented a house on a lake in the mountains near Monteagle, Tennessee. We were there for two weeks.
After my book launch and our daughter's wedding, we were both feeling the need to get away. We wanted a place where we could rest, reconnect, and refill our spiritual and emotional tanks.
As a prerequisite to this time away, I decided to completely unplug from e-mail and social media. I wanted to experience a complete "digital detox."
The evening before I left:
I deleted all the social media applications from my iPhone. This included HootSuite, Google+, and Facebook. I planned to simply reinstall them after my vacation.
I disabled all my e-mail accounts except for one. I set up a special "urgent" account that my colleagues could use in an emergency. If there was something I needed to see, I instructed them to text me, then send a message to this account.
I made an announcement on my blog. I told my readers that I would be offline in order to set their expectations.
I set my out-of-office messages. I did this on my e-mail accounts and also in my Twitter bio. I let people know that I was on vacation and offline. I gave them instructions about what to do if there was an emergency.
I closed my social media pages in my web browser. This took discipline, because I still wanted to have access to the Internet for reading and research. Thankfully, this didn't prove to be a problem.
I gave authority to my team to act in my absence. I gave them the perimeters and told them I would support any decisions they made while I was away.
Being unplugged went surprisingly well.
During the first twenty-four hours, I found myself compulsively starting to check my e-mail and social media accounts. I often do this when I am waiting for anything—stopped at a red light (I know, I know), standing in line, or in between projects. But I caught myself, didn't check, and eventually stopped checking.
Almost immediately, I saw my attention span increase. Gail and I spent every morning being quiet, reflecting, and journaling. We did a lot of reading. I didn't feel the usual hurry-up and-finish pressure I experience in my normal life.
Gail and I had several incredible conversations. Without the distraction of e-mail and social media, we were able to focus and dive deeper in our discussions. We were really able to reconnect. We just enjoyed being with one another. (We also celebrated our thirty-fourth anniversary!)
Overall, I felt a huge sense of relief—kind of like when you are in a noisy restaurant and then step outside to a quiet night. I didn't realize how noisy my environment had become. As the first few days passed, I felt the stress drain from my body and my psyche.
I did have one situation that required me to get back online for about twenty-four hours. As you may have read, HarperCollins closed its acquisition of Thomas Nelson. This required a board meeting and some follow-up calls. But it was soon resolved, and I went back offline.
My biggest take-away from these two weeks is that I need more margin in my life. This is something I've known for a while. I've even written about it. But I am determined to be more intentional about it.
Since being home, I have continued to journal every morning. I am also saying No to additional commitments, so I can make sure I have time for those priorities that matter most. I feel like my tank is full again.
If you haven't ever deliberately unplugged for a specific period of time, I encourage you to do so. Even if you can only manage forty-eight hours, it's worth it. Trust me, you need it more than you think. We all do.
Michael Hyatt is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Visit his blog: www.michaelhyatt.com
12 Aug 2012
- Michael Hyatt
We are a culture that is accustomed to thinking in terms of two options:
Republicans versus Democrats
Cowboys versus Indians
Mac versus PC.
Yin versus Yang.
Yankees versus Red Sox.
When we view a problem, or the solution to a problem, we typically divide it into two different categories.
You are given a choice of either A or B.
Unfortunately, when we limit ourselves to only two options, we are limiting the possibilities of our solution. The best decisions often come not out of a selection of two choices, but instead out of the discovery of a better, third option.
When two different sides disagree, both are often right. Both have a valid perspective. Both represent possible solutions.
And both are wrong. All at the same time.
If you can find a way to combine the best elements of the seemingly two different solutions into one remedy, then you have found the third option.
This third option is much more than a compromise which gives up something to quickly settle a dispute. The third option represents an elegant solution to a problem. It is the discovery of something better than the first two presented.
Getting there, though, requires skill and work.
When two sides disagree, here are seven steps to help you find the third option:
Be humble. The entire process depends on humility. The only way to find the third option is when two disagreeing sides lay down their egos and work together. Pride always looks for the self-serving solution. Ulterior motives are often in play. The focus has to be solving the problem for the good of everyone involved.
Embrace the tension. Most of us fear conflict. When tension arises we try to quickly solve the problem and make it disappear. Instead of running from it, embrace it. Learn to identify this tension as an opportunity to find a third option.
Learn to listen. If you enter the discussion convinced that you are right, then you have closed the door on any other possible options. The first step in finding a better solution is understanding those that disagree with you. Only through listening can you understand them and what motivates their point of view.
Refuse to compromise. Finding the third option isn't about caving in to the demands of others. If you are convinced that you are right on a certain aspect of the solution, then don't give in. Make your point without unwavering. Everyone needs to hear your opinion.
Liberate your team. Freedom to disagree without repercussion is the most important part of finding the third option. As a leader, it is your responsibility to create a culture where everyone feels free to express their opinion.
Sleep on it. When debating a solution, the intensity of the moment may sway your opinion. Don't feel like you have to discover the answer at once. Give yourself and your team time to digest the arguments. The third option may not be immediately obvious.
Learn through mistakes. The enemy of good is better. Don't waste too much time searching for the third option. At some point make the best decision you can and then carry it out. Often we find even better solutions to our problems once we put them into practice.
Great leaders understand that the world isn't best viewed in terms of black and white. When a disagreement arises, they will lead their team beyond the tension and into a better, third option.
This is a guest post by Jeremy Statton. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer.
21 Jul 2012
- Michael Hyatt
There is no doubt about it: Great companies foster high levels of communication. When team members understand what is expected of them and what's going on in the company, you win.
Keep the communication from happening and you will find that fear soon sets in, which is quickly followed by gossip.
Why? Because when team members don't have a clue what's going on, they begin to panic—wondering if their jobs are in jeopardy or if the company is falling apart.
How can you keep it from happening? It's simple ... communicate!
And by communicate, I mean more than just asking how their day is going or what they did last weekend. It has to be intentional.
Here are five ways to start communicating better with your team.
1. Key Results Areas (KRAs). It is vitally important for each team member to know what they are supposed to do each day. While job descriptions are great, we use KRAs to show specific tasks and responsibilities that are required. They define in detail what winning looks like in each position.
2. Meetings. While meetings can sometimes have a bad rap, they are still one of the best ways to communicate with your team. You just have to make sure that you prepare for them ahead of time, set an agenda, stick to the agenda, and that the meetings are static.
In other words, if you don't have a set time every week, the crisis of the day will move it around and keep you from communicating.
3. Storytelling – People respond well to stories. It's just how we're wired. You need to become a great storyteller of how your company came to be and the victories it's had along the way. This will inspire team members and give them hope in the midst of their battles.
4. Weekly Reports. Everyone on the team needs to be turning in a weekly report of what they have accomplished toward their KRA. This is for both the writer and the reader. It allows both to see what the team member has done to win in the position.
The report also gives the team member the opportunity to add a high and a low of the week. You'll be amazed at what they put down.
BUT ... and it's a big but, you must respond to the report. If they have a great high, go celebrate. If there's a bad low, go lead. If you don't, it's just become paperwork.
5. Annual Checkup. I don't believe in annual reviews. Why? Because you should be spending enough time with your team that you already know how they are doing. Therefore, an annual checkup is a great way to go over the year and discuss how well they've done.
Rarely should this meeting include what they need to work on, unless they're still really working on it. Reprimands should be done immediately when something is wrong. Don't wait to discuss it in a checkup.
These are just a few things you can do to add to your current communication process. When done well, your team will feel more secure about their positions and, in turn, be considerably more productive.
This is a guest post by Chris LoCurto. He is a Vice President at Dave Ramsey's, host of the EntreLeadership Podcast, and highly sought after business and leadership speaker.