There is nothing like eating your own dog food. At the recent AoEC Trusted Executive training day, I completed my own self-assessment exercise based on the nine habits of trust. It was a revealing experience which I then had the opportunity to de-brief with another coach in the AoEC team. I expected we would focus exclusively upon my weaker habits of being open and being kind, but, to my pleasant surprise, we also worked on a hidden strength – the habit of evangelising. As a result of the coaching, I committed to being more open to share my personal stories of being a successful evangelist. So, in writing this blog, I hope I am exercising two habits for the price of one!
Evangelism in business is about ‘spreading the good news’. As author Guy Kawasaki says in the ‘The Art of Evangelism’ – ‘In the social age, evangelism is everyone’s job’. If we do not take the time to spread the good news then we will drown in the sea of negativity and cynicism that is spun around us 24 hours a day. We need great evangelists if we are to keep the faith and if we are to keep the trust.
The Trusted Executive self-assessment questionnaire describes evangelism as involving three core behaviours:-
- Having a passionate and inspiring vision
- Bouncing back quickly from disappointments
- It being obvious to others that you love what you do
So how have I fared against these behaviours on my own evangelistic journey? Let’s focus on the example of writing books. That journey started with a vision. Back in 1997, I pulled into York station on a commuter train. I looked out of the window and saw a woman reading a leadership book on the station platform. At that point, I heard a voice in my head say, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if you pulled into a station one day, looked out of the window and saw someone reading a leadership book that you had written?’ I was hooked.
Fast forward to 2008, my business partner, Ian Day, and I attended a book-writing event at Warwick University. Driving back home afterwards, Ian turned to me and said, ‘Shall we write a book?’. ‘Why not?’ I replied. And so the vision took another step forward. In 2009, we self-published ‘Where were all the coaches when the banks went down?’ It was terrifying but not quite as terrifying as having a book published by a mainstream publisher. That happened in 2012 when ‘Challenging Coaching’ was published by Nicholas Brealey.
Despite all the highs of achieving the dream, there were many lows on the writing journey. Maybe the biggest disappointment was when Ian and I hosted a challenging coaching conference in London shortly after its publication. In the audience were some trusted ex-colleagues of mine who took the opportunity to criticise the thinking in the book on a public stage. It hurt me. Not the criticism itself but the motivation behind it. Writing involves ‘getting naked’; showing vulnerability and putting your neck on the line. When others take opportunity to exploit that vulnerability it is tempting to crawl back into your shell and shut up the shop, but that is not what evangelists do. Evangelists bounce back. Hence, I ploughed on and ‘The Trusted Executive’ was published last year by Kogan Page and later shortlisted as the CMI management book of the year.
How about the final behaviour? Is it obvious to others that I love writing? Fellow author, coach and master evangelist, John Whitmore, once asked me ‘How do you feel when you write?’. It was an intriguing question. After a long pause, I replied ‘I feel loved’. It is true. I love writing because when I get into that place where I commune with the muse in me I feel loved. In that sense, writing has been great therapy. It has connected me with a cause bigger than myself. In that sense, I love what I do.
So there you have it. That is me trying to be more open to share my experience of evangelising through writing books. The vision, the bouncing back, the loving what I do. I hope that in sharing my story I still honour that other trust habit of being humble. My motivation for sharing is not to ‘big myself up’, it is to inspire others. For if someone as flawed and as normal as me can write books then just think what you might be able to do if you put your mind to it. Maybe you could pick up a pen or open an app and start tapping out your own heartfelt thoughts and feelings? Maybe you could get naked? Maybe you could be an evangelist? Trust me – it is the best thing you will ever do!
John explores the three pillars and nine habits of trust in his book, ‘The Trusted Executive’, which is available to order now via Amazon UK.