Business World Rising
A Deb Boelkes Company Since 2009


TMI: How one book magically becomes two

March 2019

You may be familiar with the colloquial term “TMI” (too much information). Well, that’s what happened with “the book” Dr. Mark Goulston and I have been collaboratively working on for the past couple (or more) years … although in this case, you will definitely want to know the information we have to share.

For those of you who may be new to Business World Rising, and for anyone not yet familiar with “the book” Dr. Mark and I have been working on, here goes:

My book collaboration adventure with Mark Goulston, M.D. began about eight years ago when I read his now international best-seller, Just Listen, for the first time. I thought it was so stunningly insightful, I simply had to meet him. Fortuitously, I was invited to attend a women’s leadership conference where Dr. Mark was slated to be the keynote speaker, so off I went.

Upon arrival at the conference registration desk, I immediately recognized the gentleman walking toward me. He was obviously the speaker I had come to hear, Mark Goulston, M.D. 

I don’t recall the exact words I said, but I reached out to shake his hand and explained why I had come to the conference (I just had to meet the man who had such incredible insights into so many different kinds of people, in so many kinds of challenging situations). That conversation began what the two of us now jokingly refer to as our “mutual admiration society”.

A few weeks later, we met for a business lunch.  I shared a story with him about my recent participation on a business executive panel discussion about passion and engagement. While taking questions from the audience, a man from the audience ridiculed me, saying “you obviously lead from your heart” and then went on with “we all know there is no room for that in business.” I was totally stunned anyone would have the audacity to make such a claim, especially when the topic was “How to drive more passion and engagement into the workplace”.

Upon hearing my story, Dr. Mark immediately did a quick Google search on his smartphone. To our surprise, we found these two words—Heartfelt and Leadership—had never been put together, up to that point, as a web domain, a book title, a training program, or an online community.  We saw an opportunity to collaborate.

Shortly thereafter, we established a Heartfelt Leadership group on LinkedIn.  With that, we found many people, from all over the world, intrinsically knew what the term “heartfelt leadership” meant. Many eagerly pointed out to us someone they believed to be a heartfelt leader, but sadly, we found very few who claimed to report to one at work. Not surprisingly, some people (especially men) expressed fear of being viewed as one, lest they be ridiculed or scoffed at, just as I had been during the panel discussion.

Some months later, we produced a full-day Leadership Vistas Symposium dedicated to Heartfelt Leadership. We invited our first few identified heartfelt leaders from the southern California area to join us in onstage interviews. We also led the audience through a variety of one-on-one and group exercises to explore the many ways just one person might begin to change pervasive negative (and even toxic) management cultures. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The entire audience and the speaker line-up were clearly hungry and anxious to learn more.

That was the catalyst that energized Dr. Mark and I to embark on a multi-year research project, interviewing dozens upon dozens of potentially heartfelt business leaders who were either recommended to us by customers, or by the people who worked from them, or others who simply knew of them.  A few turned out to be some of the most amazingly down-to-earth yet dearly beloved and highly successful business leaders you could ever imagine.

Ultimately, the project turned out to be one of the most personally fulfilling missions I have ever pursued. We met so many amazing people, with so many fabulous insights; it just wasn’t possible to fit all the great learnings into a single book that busy working people would be able to digest on one coast-to-coast airline flight. So… what started as one book became a two-volume book series. Voila!

The first book, The WOW Factor Workplace: How to Create a Best Place to Work Culture, is due out this fall. The second book, Heartfelt Leadership: How to Capture the Top Spot and Keep on Soaring, will be published in spring 2020. I cannot wait to share what we discovered with you. Stay tuned.

By the way, if you happen to work with or know of a leader (at any level and in any industry) who you love, respect, admire and trust so much that you would want to work with them or for them forever, please let me know. I would love to interview them, too!  

With this in mind, let’s make this topic our Mentoring Moment.

If you don’t relish the thought of attending networking events, or if you shy away from attending professional gatherings for fear you may not know anyone, consider reframing your concept of business networking.  Instead, think of these events as opportunities to build wonderful relationships.  Anticipate truly valuing the connections you will make and consider how you could be of value to those you meet.

One of the best pieces of business advice I ever received was from a very insightful woman who spoke at our very first Leadership Vistas Symposium (eight years ago!), Terry Goldfarb-Lee, Women’s Advisory Board member for the University of California Irvine (UCI) Merage School of Business - Executive MBA program. Terry has long been renowned across southern California as a true connector and relationship builder.  Terry’s advice was this:

“Whenever you attend a gathering where you don’t know anyone, tell yourself ‘this is my party’. Assume all these people are waiting to meet you. Pretend you are the party host and go up to the first person you see who is alone, welcome them, and introduce yourself. Ask them what brought them there and see where the conversation leads. Surely you will find something in common to discuss, even if it’s simply the color of their shirt.”  

I can honestly say, Terry’s advice has never failed me. In fact, I now believe virtually everyone is amazing. Everyone has an incredible story to share. I have found most people love to talk about themselves, and they are happy to do so if I just ask the right questions. My husband never fails to be amazed that I can learn more about someone in five minutes than he might learn in a lifetime. You just have to ask the right questions … and listen with interest.

So give it a try. You’ll be amazed at what could happen. It might even change your life. 

Deb Boelkes