Orrin Woodward is founder and Chairman of the Board of Life Leadership. He is also a New York Times bestselling author with over a million books sold in six languages. Mr. Woodward has years of entrepreneurial experience and a lot to tell us. He recently shared some great things with us in an exclusive interview with MILE Madinah.
- You are the bestselling author of many leadership books. According to you, what do your books offer that has kept so many readers enthralled?
I believe that best personal development books start by building hope that the reader can change and then offering a plan to change. Because I modeled the example of change first, my message of how to change is believed by others.
- Many budding authors lose hope after multiple rejections at the beginning of their career. What kept you going at the start of yours?
I started building my business first and only began writing after I had achieved uncommon results. In writing on leadership and personal development, it helps to have a personal story of success. In other words, be the best model of your success system before messaging this system to the world. I focused on improving the model and only after getting the model right did I focus on capturing the leadership system into book form. After my co-author Chris Brady and I self-published our first leadership book, it was less than a year when the major publishing houses (Time-Warner books at the time) reached out to us to republish our book under their banner.
- What was your inspiration behind writing these wonderful books?
My goal is to learn truth, live truth, and share truth. I have found that when people live their lives with the proper principles, they accomplish more and enjoy life more. Therefore, I started a lifetime quest of learning and living truth and once I felt I had the proper system of living in place, I began writing more to share with others.
- What is the one piece of advice you would like to give to new authors?
Most people overestimate what can be accomplished in one year and underestimate what can be accomplished in ten years. If writing is your passion, never give up. The greatest accomplishments in life take time and you should be willing to invest the effort and time to master your craft.
- Now coming to your leadership skills, how did you get the concept or idea for your businesses?
After working for over a decade building and leading in someone else’s business, I felt it was time to start building my own business. I had many ideas that were rejected by the owners of my old company and I needed a platform to attempt several innovations. Our leadership team decided the best way to do so was to start our own company and see if our ideas would take hold in the marketplace. Fortunately, leadership and financial literacy are ideas that practically everyone needs in order to lead personally and professionally.
- What was your mission from the outset?
LIFE Leadership’s mission is to Have Fun, Make Money, and Make a Difference by helping millions of people learn how to think entrepreneurially by starting a home-based business where they can achieve based upon their efforts regardless of their current financial situation.
- What were the main challenges you initially faced when you launched your business?
The biggest challenge we faced in starting our company was learning how to message leadership products in the marketplace and developing the right leadership team in the corporate office to execute our mission. It took several years to get our messaging and execution right before we reached critical mass.
- How did you overcome those challenges?
The marketplace (your customers) will tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong if you are willing to listen. So many people do not like to hear criticism, but I have learned that honest feedback is necessary in order to make the proper adjustments. We learned to cater our business model around our financial products through trial and error in the marketplace. Once we developed our financial literacy based products, the business and leadership to support the business fell into place. Leaders make decisions and then they make decisions right. One of the most important decisions was asking Chris Brady (Inc. Magazine Top 40 leader and twenty-plus year business partner) to take over corporate leadership as CEO of LIFE Leadership while I continued to lead the entrepreneurs in the field and maintain my Chairman of the Board position. This division-of-labor change to unite the corporate office and field leadership under the common vision and friendship of Chris and myself has led to major improvements in the speed of change at our company.
- What do you attribute your success to?
I may not be the best at much, but what I have learned is to surround your self with the best people and get them in the right spots that magnify their talents, skills, and passions. This has led to results beyond anything I could have accomplished on my own.
- How do you find the people who really care about your organization as you do?
Vision is tomorrow’s reality expressed as an idea today. By leading with your vision, high-achievers are drawn to your business when they realize they can accomplish their dreams and goals by partnering with you. Then, leadership boils down to serving others and helping them accomplish their dreams which ensure LIFE Leadership accomplishes its mission and purpose.
- What do you do to hire and retain high performing employees?
I lead with vision first, because monetary awards alone will not keep people loyal. Top leaders must first buy into the leader, then his/her vision, then, and only then, will they buy into the company. We don’t have employees as much as we have partners committed to the vision, mission, and purpose of LIFE Leadership to reach millions of people with life-changing information to help people escape the Financial Matrix.
- How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organization?
We have corporate and field training which includes seminars, audios, and books which help people understand how we do business. I teach our leaders that they are responsible for creating the culture of the organization and the culture is responsible for the results.
- What challenges you initially faced in terms of putting effective operational processes in place?
There were many challenges as we expected when we started our company. First, we had to hire the right people. Second, we had to develop the right operational systems through trial and error with our customers. Third, we had to institutionalize the right processes once developed where we did it the same way every time. It takes discipline to drive this level of operational execution into your business. This is why I asked Chris Brady to become CEO because I had worked with him for over twenty years and I knew he had the required discipline and drive for excellence in everything he does.
- How important do you think innovation and creativity for a business are?
A company that does not innovate will die. I encourage people to think and be willing to attempt innovation. In fact, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t learning. Thus, I teach people to fail, just be sure the failure isn’t fatal to the company’s long-term mission. The bigger a company gets, the more important you create a culture of innovation where people are not criticized for trying something new, but are rewarded for improving systems through a process I teach in my Top 100 Leadership book of all-time, RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions for LIFE, called Plan, Do, Check, and Adjust – PDCA.
- Were you good at making decisions right from the beginning? If not, how did you improve your decision making skills?
I didn’t have a problem making decisions, but I did have a challenge making right decisions. This reminds me of the story of the executive who was asked by one of his subordinates how he was so wise. His answer was good judgment. When asked how he developed good judgment, he answered, poor judgment. This is so true. If you want to get good at anything, be willing to be bad long enough until you PDCA to mastery.
- What is the process you typically follow to make a decision about a plan of action?
I ask myself what the upside rewards and the downside risks are. If the upside rewards are great enough and the downside risk is manageable, we give it a shot by using the PDCA process. If it works as predicted, then we win, and if not, then we learn.
- How important is effective strategy formulation for a successful business?
I think every company must develop their basic marketplace strategy and then learn to say No to many good things so it can stay focused on great things. Too often, business leaders dilute their strategies by attempting to become all things to all customers rather than serving their niche in the marketplace in a superior fashion.
- How critical you believe that the online marketing strategy is to sustain? Please highlight any particular social media platform have you been using.
In today’s world, every company must have an online presence that shares your vision, values, and mission. We encourage our people to participate in social media because our people are our greatest product. When people improve their finances and improve their leadership, it validates our business where they learned the principles to improve. LIFE Leadership builds most of its business offline, but shares its successes online to expand the scope of our message.
- How do you encourage others in your organization to communicate the “core values”?
LIFE Leadership recognizes people’s success. When a person lives our “core values” and produces success, we recognize them to inspire others to do the same. Recognition is something that babies cry for and grown men die for.
- In terms of self-knowledge, what skills enable us to be better leaders?
In Chris Brady and my NY Times bestseller Launching a Leadership Revolution we developed the Tri-Lateral Leadership Ledger which identified Character, Tasks, and Relationships as the three essential ingredients to all leadership.
- What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Developing leadership is one of the toughest things you will ever do in life. In fact, the only thing tougher is attempting to live a successful life without developing leadership.
- What are you doing to ensure that you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I read 6-8 hours everyday and treat my personal development as my number one job as a leader. How can I inspire others if I am not inspired? Once my candle is lit, it is easy to go and light others people’s candles in our drive to reach millions of people with life-changing information of which I am customer number one.
Orrin’s Major Accomplishments:
Orrin Woodward is the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® Official Record Holder for the Largest Book Signing with 6,786 copies of his book And Justice for Allsigned in just six hours and thirty-three minutes. Orrin is ranked number 20 on Inc. magazine’s Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts. Orrin’s leadership blog has received international acclaim as one of HR’s Top 100 Blogs for Management and Leadership and as a Universities Online Top 100 Leadership Blog. (Visit Orrin Woodward’s leadership blog here.