Mike Figliuolo is the the founder and managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC, a professional services firm specializing in leadership development, and a nationally-recognized speaker and blogger on the topic of leadership.
His book One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2011) can help any leader cut through the crap we’re all guilty of succumbing to when we haven’t fully thought through what we stand for, or about the experiences that have shaped who we are. (Read page 15 of the book to get a flavor of what that sounds like. It’s cringe-worthy!).
For more on the specifics of the book, check out Figliuolo’s many five-star reviews on Amazon (I wrote one of them).
We emailed recently about his experience writing the book:
Dr Liz: What was it that prompted you to include your army experience in the book, rather than just focus on your consulting career?
My leadership style has been influenced by the entirety of my personal experience. From my high school days as a wrestler and soccer player to West Point, to the Army, to McKinsey, to corporate, to running my own business, all of those experiences have informed how I show up as a leader. I learned things at McKinsey that I would have never learned in the Army (corporate strategy, innovation, etc.) so including experiences from those roles helped illustrate how I’ve grown up as a leader. Additionally, if the book was 100% military experiences, many readers would have a hard time relating to the content. By covering leadership in many different industries and roles, the book became more accessible to a broader readership.
Dr Liz: How long did the book take you to write and what was your biggest challenge during that writing period?
The book is based on a course I’ve taught for several years so most of the stories, the framework, and the content already existed in my head. The act of writing the first draft took two months. The first round of my edits took about 3 weeks. Final edits were another few weeks. All-in, from getting the contract to books on the shelf was 14 months but much of the latter portion of that was promotion preparation, production, marketing, etc. I think the biggest challenge was not having a stroke when I got the first round of edits back – it was 286 pages of red ink! Truth be told, though, those edits made my book exponentially better than it would have been without my editor’s input.
Dr Liz: What was the biggest surprise – maybe something you didn’t expect or thought would be different — from the whole publishing experience?
The biggest positive surprise was the quality of the editing that was done. I like to fancy myself a decent writer but I was blown away with how wonderful the editors were and how much more compelling they made my work. It’s not just typos and spelling that they fix – they helped tremendously with structure, clarity, and brevity too. The other surprise was how much of the promotion of the book falls on the author. It was a lot more than I initially thought it would be. Arguably, writing the book was the easy part – promoting it is a lot of worthwhile effort.
Dr Liz: Which business book (if any) has had the greatest influence on your thinking, your writing style, or both – and why?
It’s not a business book – it’s The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. The one line in it that states “but man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” has gotten me through more turmoil and difficult times in my life than you can believe. That notion has deeply affected my thinking and my approach to the world. To me, defeat is about giving up – it’s something you choose to do. Destruction is out of your control and imposed upon you by another. I never, ever, ever, ever give up.
Dr Liz: Why did you think it important to write a book and in what specific ways has it contributed to the ongoing success of your business?
Writing the book is a great way to affect the lives of others. It has given me a tremendous reach across the professional community. I love teaching, learning, and leading. The book enables me to teach a much broader audience than I would otherwise get to interact with. As far as its contribution to my business, it has clarified my own thinking in many ways and it has brought new clients to my door. What’s really fun is now teaching the course that the book is based upon after people have read the book. The conversation in the classroom is exponentially richer than it was before the book existed. That happens because people are now coming to class having read the book and they’re already deeply immersed in the content before we start the conversation.
Dr Liz: Finally, if you had one piece of advice to offer aspiring thought leaders — what would it be?
Do. Just shut up and do. I’m so tired of talking. People talk incessantly about all the things they want to change or that should be different. In my experience, true leaders just go and do. They make stuff happen. Shut up and do. You’ll be amazed by what you’re capable of changing in the world around you.
Dr Liz: Love it, Mike — great advice. Thanks for the interview and good luck with the book!
My Thought Readership review of Mike’s book can be found on ActiveGarage.com here.
If you’re interested in how to capture your leadership philosophy on one piece of 8.5 x 11″ paper, Mike teaches a course based on the method outlined in the book (or, to be more accurate, the book is based on the course he’s taught for years – which is arguably why it’s so well conceived).
More details of that course can be found here:http://www.thoughtleadersllc.