One of my favorite stories is that of an engineer named Jamie. He works in a demanding, fast-paced industry that isn’t known for its focus on human-centered leadership. He saw a need to support leaders and managers in his company with positive leadership development. He found three other people who felt the same, and together, they started a community of practice dedicated to positive leadership. Their grassroots effort now includes half the managers in the company. You may feel alone as you set out to do your work or build a Courageous Culture — but there are people who will join you, support you, and take the journey with you when you look for them. Find others.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Dye.
David Dye, President of Let’s Grow Leaders, works with leaders to achieve transformational results without sacrificing their humanity. As a former executive and elected official, he inspires audiences with practical leadership inspiration you can use right away. The award-winning author of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul, Courageous Cultures (Harper Collins 2020), The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say, and Glowstone Peak, David is a sought-after international leadership speaker who believes everyone can master the essentials of influence.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
Iwas serving as an executive in an organization I’d worked in for 16 years. One day I needed to look at my personnel file and as I did, I saw my own performance reviews throughout the years. Consistently, for all those years, I had answered “What do you most enjoy about your work?” with a version of the same answer: Helping leaders become the best version of themselves. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to focus entirely on that work. That was the start of my writing and leadership development business.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
We had two weeks to mobilize 4000 people to show up at a fun community event. The communication and transportation issues were challenging in that short time frame, but our team pulled together and made it happen. It was inspiring to see what people can do when they pull together and ask “how can we make this happen?”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
My biggest challenge was wondering if I had anything worth sharing. I never wanted to re-write what had already been written. I attended a conference where I heard a speaker tell aspiring non-fiction writers that you’ve got two roads to take. Look at all the books out there on your topic and either say “Yes, and here’s what else you need to know…” or “No, and here’s why…”
That approach helped me realize that I did have something to add to the conversation and could help leaders be effective through my voice and experience.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Our first co-authored book went through several iterations. The original working title was Brown Bag 2.0. I cringe when I look back at that concept. Fortunately, we kept working until we had a good title. That eventually became Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. That book has done very well and has an international following. One of the lessons from that experience is that you have to start somewhere and then edit, revise, and improve. Realize that it’s not going to be perfect (or even good) at the beginning, but if you’re open to looking at your own work and improving it, you’ll get there.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We’re in the middle of launching our new book, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates. It’s an exciting project because the world is changing. The days of people doing the routine, automatic work are fading. Organizations that will thrive need every person engaged, contributing their ideas, solutions, and making things better. Helping leaders build that culture is exciting work.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
One of my favorite stories is that of an engineer named Jamie. He works in a demanding, fast-paced industry that isn’t known for its focus on human-centered leadership. He saw a need to support leaders and managers in his company with positive leadership development. He found three other people who felt the same, and together, they started a community of practice dedicated to positive leadership. Their grassroots effort now includes half the managers in the company.
You may feel alone as you set out to do your work or build a Courageous Culture — but there are people who will join you, support you, and take the journey with you when you look for them. Find others.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
That people matter more than ever and you can be a leader that builds a team and organization where everyone contributes, every day.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Add to the conversation
When I started writing non-fiction, I struggled to figure out what I had to say that was unique or meaningful. One technique I learned that helped was to read widely in your area of interest. Then, thinking about what’s been said, respond with “Yes, and…” or “No, and here’s why…” Either of those approaches adds to the conversation.
2. Lots of Butt Glue
There’s no way around time at the keyboard or with your pen. I think of it as butt glue — glue yourself to the chair and write. I’ve been inspired over the years by authors who have their own routines for achieving a certain word count before they do anything else. My schedule doesn’t always allow writing to go first, but you’ve got to put yourself in the chair if you want to get it done.
3. Turn Off Your Editor
When I started writing, I would get bogged down criticizing and editing my writing. You can’t create and edit at the same time. My solution was to blindfold myself. I found that without being able to see what I typed, I could keep moving forward and let the creativity flow. You can always edit later.
4. Find Your Jennifer
Another challenge I had was worrying about the people who wouldn’t like what I was writing. Nothing will shut you down faster. One solution (and a source of much better writing) is to “find your Jennifer.” Jennifer was a manager in my network who frequently asked great questions. Whenever I wrote, I would picture Jennifer and write directly to her. It made my writing more personal and I knew I was writing for someone who needed it and would appreciate it. Who is your Jennifer?
5. Ship Your Work
I’m borrowing this one from Seth Godin. You can edit and refine something to the end of time, but it doesn’t serve anyone. Ship it. Get it out to readers. Then start again. Ship it. Then do it again. Your 100th article will be better than your first. Your third book will have something new to say, but only if you write and ship the first two. It’s easier than ever to take your work to market. Write it and ship it.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
Writers write. Yes, the study has helped. I’ve learned and am still learning how to be a better writer, but there’s no substitute for writing. Recently, I was feeling very tapped out…empty…writer’s block, whatever you might call it. Knowing that “writers write,” I sat down and started writing my emotions and thoughts at the time. Soon, they coalesced into an article “This Is Not Useful Advice.” It got me writing again and, based on comments I received, helped people in the process.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
Many kinds, but I’ve always loved speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy) because they ask important “what if” questions
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Leave it better than you found it. This is one of my life slogans. If each of us would commit to leave one another, our world, our work, and friends, communities, and families better than we found it, we’d achieve amazing results together.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!