I have been a conflict resolution strategist and communication expert for over forty years now and have been growing my brand for the last six years. Having a TEDx talk was a first step in gaining some visibility for me and then writing this book allowed me to really showcase my expertise in this work.
As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynne Maureen Hurdle.
Lynne Maureen Hurdle (she/her/) is a communication expert and conflict resolution strategist, diversity, equity and inclusion facilitator, speaker, and leadership coach with over 40 years of experience in blending the connection between communication, conflict and culture into her unique style of engagement for leaders. She has contributed articles about Breaking Culture: Conflict and Cultural Breakthroughs to Psychology Today. She is the author of the best seller, Closing Conflict for Leaders: How to Be a Bold Leader and Develop a Kick-Ass, High-Functioning, Happy AF Team.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?
From the time that I was 3 years old, I knew that I wanted to be an entertainer. I loved acting, dancing, singing and creative writing. I knew that when it came time for college, I was going to major in theater. When I was 7, my parents moved my sister and I from a neighborhood that was all African American families to a predominantly White neighborhood. When I was 17, I was coming home from school on a New York City bus when it was suddenly surrounded by a mob of young White males wearing red bandanas on their heads and carrying baseball bats. They were screaming a racial slur. There were only 3 Black people on the bus including the bus driver and they wanted us to come off the bus. When the bus driver would not open the door, they started to try to tip the bus over. The only thing that stopped them is that another bus pulled up across the street filled with young Black teens and the mob ran across the street to get them. As I ran off the bus with another African American teen, this thought came to me that I was supposed to bring people together around the issues of race and difference. I didn’t know how but I was really clear that this was my purpose. I went on to Syracuse University and majored in Theater but then changed majors in my junior year to their new program in Non-Violent Conflict and Change.
Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?
My mom died from breast cancer in 1994. That was one year before I became a first-time mom. In the midst of my grief, I discovered that I had the opportunity to parent differently from the way my mom parented us. I saw this as a chance to use the communication and conflict resolution skills that I had been teaching to others. While I was using a lot of the skills in my life, I had never used them as a parent, and I had a sneaky suspicion that it was going to be a huge challenge. I knew I would be going up against, what had been modeled by my mom, what had been instilled in me and cultural norms. Those are all strong influences. Once I made the commitment to do it, my business changed. I started to teach by example and rework the skills to fit real life situations. I created programs that became more relevant to everyday life situations and my client roster grew.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?
I am writing a television script that shows characters who experience and handle conflicts in a variety of ways. I believe that we need to see conflicts experienced beyond just fighting and shutting people out. This show is about difficult and complex conflicts and yes there is arguing and tension but there is also tough, honest and vulnerable conversations. I am also finishing up a book on parenting based on my experience using conflict resolution skills while raising my two sons. Two years ago, I was asked to create a program for White people who want to learn about racism and have a safe place to learn, listen, discuss and then take action. The six- month program has grown from one group to now seven. I am also expanding my business by bringing on a team that will focus on delivering communication and conflict resolution workshops that specifically serve Gen Z and Millennials entering or currently in the workforce.
Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book?
In my book I use my Leadership C.O.R.E. framework to lay out the strategies and ways of thinking that teach leaders how to understand and engage in conflict skillfully, confidently and powerfully in order to lead themselves and successful teams. C.O.R.E. stands for:
With every major business magazine and journal reporting on the importance of leaders building healthy relationships and diverse, high functioning teams, social skills are fast becoming the primary tools for success. The number one thing that is present in every business, especially when you have a team is conflict. Unmanaged conflict can make work miserable for everyone, kill productivity and create a great deal of stress. Conflict is not going away and yet that is the very thing that most leaders wish for. It is the Bold Leader that can lead by heading straight into conflict with the mindset and skill set to master it.
Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?
Building your C.O.R.E.
Bold Leaders know that they must skillfully and willingly engage in conflict, because it is both inevitable and necessary. Conflict can bring new ideas, opinions and perspectives to the workplace creating greater productivity, but only if we as leaders are confident in our ability to face it and manage it.
Bold Leaders anticipate and set the table for conflict knowing that putting it on the table for discussion before it blows up only makes the workplace stronger. That means we run into the fire of conflict while others are busy filming it or running the other way.
Bold Leaders continuously go within themselves to search for and own what they do to escalate conflict. We all have the potential to escalate, because we all have triggers. Triggers are fueled by emotions which set off reactions rather than responses. Bold leaders know that in order to take triggers off our plate we must examine our own feelings toward conflict and discover the root causes for them.
Bold Leaders add to and strengthen their conflict resolution skills with highly effective communication skills. This means that we are not just listening, but we are mindfully and strategically listening beneath the words in order to get to the source of conflict.
Bold Leaders examine the conflicts created by the cultural norms of the workplace and create conversations around them.
Bold Leaders, no matter where they are, home, office or community, are not just talking it out but hosting fearless conversations with the resolution of conflict as our goal.
The times that we are in require Bold Leaders who will use all of these skills in order to walk into the fire with confidence every time.
You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Self-confident comes to mind right away. During the time that I was writing my book, I was dealing with a major family crisis that literally stopped me in my tracks. I did not feel like I had the strength or the time to write a book. I spoke with my coach who was helping me to stay on task, learn and get the book done in the time we had set for it to be completed. She assured me that I could do it and I chose to believe her. I had to call on my self-confidence in order to get the job done. I had to really believe in myself, my knowledge and my ability to deal with what was going on in my personal life and write the book at the same time. I completed it before my deadline.
I also had to be brave. In this book, I reveal some personal stories and mistakes I’ve made that have led me to develop and use my C.O.R.E. formula in my own life. Choosing to teach my readers in this way was important in launching my book because when sharing passages at book launches, it showed how relatable I am to them and the conflicts they were experiencing.
Being hard-working was a huge payoff. We all know that books don’t sell themselves, so I had to be willing to put in the work to build the excitement and buzz about my book beforehand. I used social media to put the word out about the progress I was making when I was writing it. I chose deadlines for finishing specific chapters that I was getting potential readers interested in and posted excerpts on those dates. I let people know when my book would be completed and available and made sure that I stuck to that timeframe. A lot of hard work went in to staying on task and posting regularly.
In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book?
I have been a conflict resolution strategist and communication expert for over forty years now and have been growing my brand for the last six years. Having a TEDx talk was a first step in gaining some visibility for me and then writing this book allowed me to really showcase my expertise in this work. I found that it allowed people to have greater access to me and my work. It’s another way for them to learn from me and become even more curious about who I am and what I do. This led to people searching for my website and looking at my offerings and then reaching out to hire me for services.
My book gives them insight into what my brand stands for, mastery, relatability and compassionate, direct conversation. One of the ways I helped my brand to grow was to do live broadcasts on social media where I read from or talked about my Leadership C.O.R.E. formula and how anyone could apply it in their life. This led to a lot more eyes on me and inquiries about my services which prompted me to develop a coaching program for leaders which brought in substantially more business at a higher price.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming an author and promoting a book?
For me, writing a book has added to my credibility. It is also a tool for people to get to know who I am and what I do. I have received a lot more invitations to be featured on podcasts, radio shows and to keynote at conferences. It is so much easier for me to get my message across by referring to or reading from chapters in my book where I spell out the lessons I am teaching. People who have podcasts, radio shows or social media talk shows love when you have a book because they can easily refer to what you have written in your book as prompts for conversation. Having a book establishes you as an expert in many people’s minds and I found that more people want to listen and try the techniques I am teaching. I honestly have to say that it inspired other friends and colleagues to write their own books.
Can you explain to other leaders why they should invest resources and energy into this?
As leaders we spend a lot of time using and sharing our expertise in specific spaces. We lead workshops, lead teams, we blog and speak at conferences and meetings. We reach people but in smaller numbers than if we have written and published a book. Your message can get to people who would not normally be served by you. I’ve had people in Japan and Germany buy my book. I’ve had it written about by some bloggers in France. These are people who found value in my message that I might not have ever reached without my book.
As leaders it is important to share our gifts and talents as a service to as many people as we can reach. Writing a book is one of the best ways to do that. I have had people reach out to me to tell me how much my book helped them. I have even had friends who were buying and reading my book because they believed in me and wanted to support me who shared that it was even more impactful for them than they expected. I believe we are here to help each other. Spending the time and resources to do that in as wide a way as possible is completely worth it.
Can you share a few examples of how writing a book in particular and thought leadership in general can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?
In my experience, I have found that there are people who believe in me and my message enough to want to support me in some way. Maybe they met me in a workshop I led or at a conference where I spoke and they found that what I was teaching really hit home for them. They would talk about me to other people, read my blog faithfully and try to use the skills and techniques I taught.
Once I wrote my book, a lot of those people used it as a tool to support me in a very different way. They started sharing it with people who could hire me to come into their businesses and organizations to do a book signing and workshops or keynote at their conferences. In my case, I know that adding my book to the content I was already producing as a thought leader created paid opportunities that I had not been getting before I wrote it. In many cases where I had been asked to take an honorarium or share my wisdom for free, I was now being asked what my fee is and they were more than willing to pay it.
What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started?
Honestly, I wish I knew how many people were willing to help me promote my book. If I had known that I would have reached out to a lot more people before it was published. I think I missed some opportunities to get additional support because I was afraid to ask. Many people came to me asking how they could help. I wish I would have anticipated that people who knew and supported my message would be happy to help me spread that message through my book.
I wish I knew to be prepared to talk about my book a lot more. I was taught to be humble which is a good thing, but I had to learn that there is a way to have humility and refer to your book as much as possible. Doing podcasts with gracious interviewers taught me that quickly. They would ask a question and I would answer from my expertise and they, having read the book thankfully, would share a quote or passage from my book to back up my statement. I had to learn to start doing that automatically for myself.
What did you learn the hard way? Can you share a story about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?
I learned to always have books on-hand. I was out of state conducting a workshop on conflict resolution for administrators in education. This was not designed to be about my book although I was able to refer to it a few times in the workshop. The woman who coordinated the event gave me a ride to the airport. We were having a great time talking about the workshop, our lives and work when she shared that she was actually curious about my book and had a meeting with her boss and his deputy and would love to bring them copies if I had some available to sell to her. I had not brought any with me because I had been told that this was not an event where anyone could sell things. The best I could do was give her my copy which I had been using to prepare the points that I would refer to in my workshop. It was not worn, but it certainly wasn’t brand new, so I autographed it for her and gave it as a gift. She was happy to receive it but disappointed that she couldn’t purchase other copies from me because she was sure that if she could put them in the hands of her bosses at the meeting, they would be interested in knowing more and perhaps want to hire me for work specific to the contents of the book. This was an opportunity missed.
Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging a book publicist or marketing expert?
Building anticipation for your book is something that you can do on your own with family, friends, colleagues, followers and even strangers especially if you use social media.
You can use these same contacts to set up book signings, workshops and speaking engagements.
You may want to engage a book publicist or marketing expert if you are gaining very little momentum on your own, have a particular market you want to reach but don’t have access to or need to build a bigger social media following.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.
The first thing is that it is necessary to ask for support. In my experience, people really wanted to help me to promote the book and get my message out there. A lot of us are taught not to ask for help so we take on a tremendous amount of work on our own. When I started building up anticipation for my book, two friends with a tremendous amount of influence and large followings immediately reached out to set up book signings and workshops for their social media communities and their teams. I honestly don’t know if I would have asked them to do that on my own.
The second important thing is to be prepared to make points from your book in all of your presentations, applicable conversations and speaking engagements even if you aren’t allowed to promote or sell. I spent time learning from my coaches about how to teach some of the most applicable pieces in my book without mentioning my book, knowing full well that the audience had access to my bio and my book was mentioned there. My goal was always to build enough intrigue about and desire for more valuable information. This would then lead them to actually read my bio and they would see that I am an author. I received many sales by using this technique.
Always carry copies of your book to sell or autograph as gifts and have copies at home as well. I already talked about the hard lesson I learned around this but let me tell you a story about something that happened after I learned that lesson. I was out of town for a speaking engagement about my book and I was in an Uber on my way to the airport. Yes, I got flown in to speak quite a bit. I noticed that my Uber driver had quite a collection of books on some heavy topics in the car. I struck up a conversation with him and found out that he was a young, struggling student who loved to read and discuss deep subjects. I told him about my book, and he got very excited so of course I was thrilled that I had copies with me, and I gifted him an autographed copy. I took a photo of us with him holding the book and immediately posted it on social media. People absolutely loved it and it led to lots of comments, shares and yes, more sales.
Consistency is the key to success. Promoting and marketing your book takes a lot of work. I found it to be equal parts fun and hard work. The hardest work came in keeping the momentum going. After a while, I would receive negative thoughts that would make me think that I am talking about it too much or the sales are not going to pick up. I had to re-invigorate myself by finding a new avenue. Podcasts have really been my space for promotion. Beefing up my profile on LinkedIn allowed podcasters to start seeking me out more and that provided many more opportunities to either discuss my book or at least mention it and encourage people to buy it. Just when you are ready to give up is the time you need to stick to being consistent with your promotion.
The last thing I would say about this is, there is no such thing as too much promotion. There is a lot of information out there and so much vying for our attention every minute. Attention spans are short even if you are a major influencer. Promoting your book at every opportunity you can is never going to be too much. I can remember having a great conversation with someone about conflict resolution and at the top of the conversation I mentioned my book and she asked me what it was about. She told me that she found it interesting, very applicable to her and said she would love to order it. I shared the link to buy it and we went on to talk about other things. We had a follow-up conversation the next day and again I mentioned my book. She admitted that she had immediately gotten into a conversation with a colleague after our call and forgotten all about it. While we were on the phone, she ordered my book for herself and her team. Talk about it, talk about it and then when you think you have talked about it too much, talk about it some more. People forget things easily, believe me.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Gary Vee. I have followed and listened to him for many years. Most people love his business acumen, hustle and the fact that he is very down to earth. I love and appreciate all of that too but what I have always wanted to have a conversation with him about is the way he values the people that work for and with him and emotional intelligence and social skills. He really gets it and in fact, I heard him say recently that his next book is going to be all about this side of business and he expects it to be his biggest seller yet. Given all of the influence that he has, I am sincerely rooting for that success because it is what my work has always been about and it is what is needed to create real change in business and in life. I think we would have a grand time talking together, so Gary Vee, I hope you are reading this. Let’s make it happen!
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Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.