What I’m Learning From My New Book
This may seem like an odd title for a post from me (e.g., Wait – what? Don’t you already know the stuff in your own book?), but I’m talking about all the things I’m learning from the experience of publishing it.
Over the last six years, as I’ve lived through 5 pub dates (hardcover and paperback of my first two books, and the hardcover of the new one), the main thing I learned is that an author has to be the CEO of his or her own books. Nobody else will be. You are the person with the most to gain or lose, and you need to be the keeper of the flame; to be the primary person responsible for assuring success (of course, that also implies that you have to know what success looks like for you – but that’s a whole other post). I feel as though I’ve gotten better and better at this, though I believe I still have lots to learn.
I had a big new ah-ha with this book, though. I experienced much more than in my previous book-CEO incarnations that – just as for the CEO of any company – the team around that person is critical to the success of the endeavor.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a truly talented and dedicated team on this book. Now that the initial push for the book has calmed down, I have the bandwidth to reflect on how supported I’ve felt throughout the process – and how well the team has created a foundation for the continued success of the book.
Here’s what I mean. At the beginning of the project, as soon as the deal with Jossey-Bass was finalized, the core team – me, my agent Jim Levine, my editor Susan Williams, publicists Barbara Cave Henricks and Kaila Nickel (traditional media) and Rusty Shelton (social media), my business partner Jeff Mitchell, and my assistant and social media wingman Dan Camins – got together to do a ‘mini-vision and strategy session’ for the book. From that we created a six-month project calendar that included every key deliverable, who was responsible, and when it was due. (Just to give you a sense of the complexity of the endeavor – there were about 120 items on the project calendar.)
But that was just the core team. There was a whole separate subteam working on creating and validating the Accepted Leader Assessment, based on the six attributes at the core of Leading So People Will Follow. That team included Sue Gebelein, a great resource who gave us good counsel and connected us with DSI, our assessment partner (they built and manage the assessment online), and their point person/project manager Carol Brekke, and with Marcia Sysma, our validator. The assessment team also included Cindy Franklin, my lovely Proteus colleague who gave of her time to support the validation effort, and Kishauna DeCarmo in our New York office, who is now the administrative queen of the finished ALA assessment.
And that’s still not all! My savvy, smart and supportive editor at Jossey-Bass, Susan Williams, has brought along her excellent publishing team, as well – Rob Brandt, Amy Packard, Brian Grimm, Alina Poniewaz-Bolton, Bernadette Walter, Adrian Morgan, Carol Hartland and Sophia Ho: marketing, publicity, sales, art, editorial…all so competent, easy to work with and supportive.
And then there’s my own team: this time, there was a lot more collaboration internal to Proteus, as well. Jeff and I stayed connected throughout, to focus on how best to support the book’s launch with products and services. We worked with our consultants to update our half-day Leading So People Will Follow training module (which has been a part of larger Proteus training programs for a number of years), and to create and begin testing our full 1.5 day Leading leadership development program. We also refined our Leadership Coaching offer, a version of our executive coaching program targeted to very senior leaders and including the Accepted Leader Assessment, and will be making that available through all our executive coaches.
Yet another effort in support of leaders – we started a LinkedIn group, Leading So People Will Follow, to offer a community online for experienced and aspiring leaders to ask questions, offer insights, and share learning – and my team mates on that part of the project are my daughter Rachel Van Carpels, who manages and moderates the site, and Cindy Franklin, who (once again out of the goodness of her heart) offers discussion topics and supports conversations.
And the whole Proteus team came together to create and staff our great book launch and awards ceremony party on October 1st – definitely a community effort!
And finally, there’s my darling husband Patrick. He is core to the success of this book and any other success I might have, in more ways than I can possibly express. His unequivocal and continual support, joy and love, and his daily efforts on my behalf, make all of this possible.
As you can see, it really has been a team effort. And, back to the title of the post, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the power of team throughout this process. And I also like to think that I’ve followed my own advice: I’m doing my very best to be a fully followable CEO — to be far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy. It’s a lesson well worth learning, and I’m making the effort every day.