I spent last week at GILD, the Global Institute for Leadership Development, in Palm Desert, California. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience firsthand some of the world's most prominent thought leaders on the subject of leadership. Speakers were many and varied, and ranged from Roger Nierenberg and his orchestra, to Patrick Lencioni, Marshall Goldsmith, Gary Hamel, and many others.
Many of the presentations were thought-provoking, some challenging, and not just a few at least somewhat confirming of the practices I've tried to follow over the years. In digging through my personal notebook afterward--the easy-to-hold blank book that's become my mostly constant companion over the past year or two--I found a quick essay on leadership I'd jotted there a few months back. I was pleased to discover that what I'd written there was pretty much on the mark with most of what we heard last week. For anyone interested, here's what it said:
As a leader, it’s your job to lead. Not necessarily to do the work, but to guide, nurture, cajole, and convince those who do need to do the work to do it effectively, in a timely manner, and in full cooperation with those around them.
Business is not a singles game, it is a team sport. It’s critical not only to win the individual contest but also to win—or maximize the finish—of every contest. It’s a matter of cooperation and coordination. Of all parts working and playing together and of everyone playing their part. It’s selfless at the same time it’s ruthless, and the team needs to get along to work along.
A well-coordinated team working together is a wonderful thing to behold. It’s smooth and organized, even amid the inevitable clutter of crisis. Everyone knows their job and their position and it is your job—as the leader—to let them do their jobs. To interfere as little as possible. To be a coach more than a dictator. To trust those in whom you’ve put your trust to do the things you expect them to do.
A team is a family.
As a leader, it’s your job to remove obstacles. To provide the tools—in the form of equipment, training, knowledge, or funding—to allow your people to do their jobs.
Long ago, managers were seen as traffic cops, or maybe parents, whose job it was to keep the unwashed masses that were their employees from wasting company time, company resources, and from being the lazy, slovenly, stealing creatures their nature made them.
But that’s not how you lead, that’s how you police. Leadership means creating a shared vision of success and sharing it in a way your people can both understand and embrace. As a leader, it’s your job to inspire, not to force. At gunpoint, you can make anyone do pretty much anything, but the motivation lasts only as long as the threat. And, once the threat is removed, the motivation is replaced by resentment, anger, and thoughts of reprisal. We need only to look to the events in the Middle East to see exactly how that works.
So, rather than demand or force or threaten, the only sustainable long-term strategy for leadership is to lead. Rather than force, inspire. Create an environment in which people not only want to do the things their jobs require, but in which they search for more, both for themselves and for the organization, to do.
Long gone are the businesses able to survive on a single, un-varying idea. In today’s world of roller-coaster economics, instant worldwide communication, and the voice of everyone, everywhere, always, companies have to invent, improve, extend, and rework their products, and even themselves, constantly.
Where do these new ideas come from? From you? Maybe. Certainly some will, or should, but ideas come from everywhere, all the time. And, your first and best source of many of those ideas are your people. Your team. Those below know as much or more about these things than those above.
Necessarily, those at the top in most organizations are insulated form that which is below, but it is often from below that ideas are generated. You’ll never hear those ideas—ideas that might transform the organization, might become the next killer product, might prevent the next massive problem—unless you create an environment in which people feel both welcome and empowered to share. In which they are not paralyzed by the fear of rejection or reprisal. In which they’re given an open and honest chance to share their thoughts, and in which those thoughts are respectfully accepted and considered.
Eventually, after all the writing and editing and looking for agents and all that, eventually, in my case at least, it was time to give up on the agents (for now) and self-publish the book.
Not very long ago, self-publishing meant the author would have to dig into his or her own pockets to find the money to pay for a print run of books. That's not just printing, that's typesetting, page makeup, proofing, page and cover design, printing, binding, shipping...you get the idea. What it was, was expensive.
Back in a prior life, when I owned and ran printing companies, we used to say it was the first copy that was the expensive one. Once all the equipment was set up and running, making more copies was incredibly cheap. But it was getting the equipment (and the typesetting and the page makeup, etc) set up that cost all the money.
So, back in the day, you had to buy larger quantities to bring the unit cost down to something manageable. Self-publishing authors would typically buy a thousand or two of their books and then work their butts off for who knows how many years trying to unload them. And, all the time--or at least most of the time--they were out of pocket the full production cost.
It was a hard way to make any money.
But today, that's all changed.
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I'm thrilled to say, early reviews of my book Loss of Control have been overwhelmingly positive. Here are a few of the comments I've pulled from both Amazon.com reviews and Facebook:
!!!! I loved it...and I read a lot of thriller/mysteries. I loved the characters. The plot set in/around the race track was great. I didn't figure out "who dun it" until you told me!!! I keep trying to figure out what actor plays which character in the movie.
I'm about halfway through and still riveted. Started taking the book with me into the loo so I can sneak in a few more pages.
Just finished my copy tonight. I loved it….Can't wait for the next one!
The movie will make Scott money, but it will suck. They always do. READ THE BOOK!
Just finished reading this book last night. I found myself sneaking time away from other things to get in a few more pages. Needless to say it was tough to put down. Whether you are a racer, fan, or just love to read, it's a must-have.
Great read that combines a well crafted murder mystery with a very descriptive and exciting foray into the sport of road racing. The story grabbed me immediately and kept me engaged to the intriguing end.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book, and in fact I found myself reading "just a few pages more" until I finished it the second day. It's well paced, with plenty of action. I particularly enjoyed the inside look at racing from a driver's perspective, and I think the racing action scenes added a lot to make the story an interesting one. The mystery itself keeps you guessing up to the end. A great read; I'd love to see more like this one.
Scott Good's debut novel is a fast-paced read that was difficult to put down. Even when I thought I had a pretty good idea whodunnit, I was glued to the page to find out what happened next. Loss of Control is a captivating thriller all the way to the final race against time. It's a must-read for racing fans and fans of the mystery/thriller genre alike.
Well….I think this was a first for me! You may recall that [I bought] a copy of “Loss of Control” at Road America. I also received a copy of “Killing Kennedy” as a gift that Friday evening. I started reading Kennedy Friday evening and finished it Monday evening. I then tore into your novel and couldn’t stop. I don’t think I have ever read two books in one week but I finished “Loss of Control” last night and REALLY ENJOYED IT!!!
I LOVE murder mysteries and this book does not disappoint. It has everything: suspense, romance and great characters. I don't know anything about car racing, but the writer has a great way of making everything understandable…. The technology mentioned throughout the book is really interesting. Reminds me of a Michael Crichton novel where he weaves science and medicine into the storyline. "Loss of Control" provides the same type of information only about car racing.
I had a blast reading this book! I really got into the race action. The author helped me visualize each turn as if I was actually in the race car, and had me visualizing each turn by name. The race action is very exciting, from the opening scene, which sets the premise of the book, to the end….The ending to the mystery is not what I expected, and had a few twists I did not see coming. All in all, a great read from a first time author.
If you haven't ordered your copy yet, what are you waiting for?
Now available in paperback, Kindle, and ePub (like for Nook) formats. Or, if you're near Columbus, Ohio, join us tomorrow at Jeffrey Thomas Clothiers in the Kingsdale Shopping Center for a book signing from 11 until 2.
Get it today (or tomorrow) and spend the rest of the weekend finding reasons to sneak off to the bathroom to read!
There is plenty of advice available to budding new authors. A lot of it. Most is out here on the Internet and most of it--that I've seen anyway--says your only real chance of getting noticed by a publisher is to be represented by an agent.
If one is to believe the preponderance of what has been posted on this subject (and I can't see why not), it seems there is a pretty clear hierarchy at work here, with the publishers at the top because they, after all, have the money.
Beneath the publishers are the agents, of which there are many, who represent many different books for many different authors. Like an auditorium filled with teenage girls, all screaming for the attention of Justin Bieber, the agents clamor for face time and attention from the publishers because, as I believe I have already mentioned, the publishers have the money.
Once you get past the agents, you're down to the talent. The authors themselves. I was tempted to use an analogy of John/pimp/hooker for the publisher/agent/author relationship because there's a lot that works. Both the pimp and hooker, for instance, are working for the John's money.
Where that breaks down is when you get to the authors. In the pimp/hooker scenario, the pimps are doing the work of developing the relationship between themselves and the talent. Although not exactly my area of expertise, I would expect it's a lot easier to convince a pimp to take on a hooker than it is to convince a hooker (or hooker-to-be) to sign on with a pimp.
In the agent/author scenario, the dynamic is the other way around. There, it's the authors trying to lure the agents into representing them. Back to the teeny-boppers and Justin Bieber analogy, Mr. Bieber has a wealth of options from which to choose while each of the ladies in the crowd has a single choice.
Agents are the Bieber in the agent/author relationship, at least at the start which, for most of us, is the only place that really matters. Agents get so many requests from anxious new authors that they can be incredibly, remarkably, cavalier with their attention.
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Once I'd finally finished the first cut of my book, I figured I was just about done. I mean, after all, I'd done a lot of editing as I was writing. I'm a little anal that way (actually, I'm a lot anal that way) and I can't really pick up where I left off without going back and re-reading and re-editing stuff I've already written.
So, by the time I got to the end the first time, I'd already done a lot of editing.
I figured I was nearly done. Practically finished.
(This is where you should shake your head back and forth with a knowing look while thinking, "That poor, poor boy. He really has no clue, does he?")
Over the course of the next 14 months, depending on how you count them, I did at least 8 full edits. That is, front to back, full printout, read the whole thing, mark it up like I've got stock in companies that manufacture red ink. The whole lot.
And, then fully update the book and make the changes, and rearrange the text, and add the new ideas, and re-write or delete whole sections. Heck, between the time the e-books were first made available and the paperback came out (the matter of a week or so), I did yet another full edit and deleted two whole chapters.
Somewhere in there, very late in the process, I even had a good friend who is even more anal about these things than I am do a slow and thoughtful edit of the thing.
What I know from all of that is I could probably edit it ten more times. I could probably edit it forever. But, at some point, you have to just pull the trigger. It is what it is.
At least, until the next revision...
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I started writing my book seven years ago, in 2005, with those nine words.
I felt the explosion before I actually heard it.
They were literally the first words I typed and, amazingly, after six years of admittedly on and off writing, and another fourteen months doing eight full edits of the book, that line is still the opening sentence.
Almost everything else has changed or been reworked or rearranged but that line has somehow remained both in place and intact.
It's still there, I guess, because I like they way it makes you say What explosion? and want to read just a teench further.
That's how it works for me, anyway.
I'm still learning how to write. That might sound funny to some who know me. I've published more than 70 articles in technical publications--hundreds of thousands of words--and I've written numerous white papers on racing and racing techniques. I write long and detailed (and, hopefully, interesting) recaps of racing weekends that read more like prose than reporting, but, well, there's still plenty of room for improvement even though I think my writing is not too bad these days.
That's one of the things I discovered over the long course of writing this book: That my writing style became better. It had more flow, and the ideas came out more easily, with more interesting sentences. After I'd finished, I found that when I read the book, the second half was a lot better than the first. Not the ideas, so much, but the way they were expressed. It was like you had to drag yourself a little bit through the first third of the thing and then suddenly it just grabbed you and took off.
So, of course, I rewrote the first half.
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As anyone unfortunate enough to be a Facebook friend of mine knows all too well, I recently published my first novel, Loss of Control. What they may or may not know is that I've gone the self-publishing route, meaning I don't have an agent or a "real" publisher. For now, at least.
I've done this for a couple of reasons but the most compelling of these, to me, is that I got tired of trying to find an agent. It turns out that the game for publishing the conventional way pretty much requires you find an agent to represent you to the various publishing houses. If you're a celebrity or have done something incredible (think: cut off your arm to escape a mountain) or, I suppose, if you're sleeping with a publisher, you may not need an agent. But the rest of us do.
Agents are both plentiful and blind to your desires. I've read more than one "How to land an agent" essay which suggests you should plan on submitting to somewhere between fifty and 100 agents before you find one who'll have you.
That's probably true, but I gave up around 30.
As recently as a few years ago, not having an agent and not having a publisher would have been the death of an author's ambition unless said author had a pile of cash she was willing to spend on printing her own book. As someone who used to own a pretty substantial printing company, I can tell you firsthand that printing your own book is not an inexpensive way to go.
But today, that's no longer required.
In today's world, more and more authors are self-published, partially because of the difficulty finding agents, partially because self-published authors collect a vastly higher percentage of the dollars from their book sales, and partially because it is so darned easy to do.
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After much too much time writing, editing, searching for agents, and worrying, my book Loss of Control is finally available.
Originally titled The Clause (see my original post from about a year ago, below) it is a mystery/suspense story about Jake Berwyn, an amateur racing driver who blames himself for the violent death of his best friend, David Reid. After discovering that David's accident was no accident, Jake becomes determined to identify his friend's killer.
His efforts embroil him in a plot which twists its way through real estate development, finance, and cell phone hacking, while Jake endures both physical and emotional threats to himself and those around him.
Resisting both his own temptations to throw in the towel, and the apathetic disinterest of the authorities, Jake's quest of fits and starts is complicated by his own very personal history with the grieving widow. The story culminates in a riveting race against time and the quickly-depleting battery of his own stolen cell phone.
Loss of Control is a 106,000-word mystery/suspense story told in the first person over a 12-day period. Set in and around Columbus, Ohio and the Mid-Ohio race track, it highlights the extent to which even close friends will go when the stakes involve sex, money, or both.
Although the story line includes some auto racing, this is not an auto racing book. If you've ever read any Dick Francis mystery (which all revolve around steeplechase riding), think of this as Dick Francis with cars in place of horses.
Hard-copy books should be available later this week.
It's a good story (if I do say so myself) which has gotten great reviews by a slew of early readers. If you give it a shot and like it, please go back to Lulu or Amazon and give it a nice review/rating.