Interview with Best Selling Author Mike Barnes
Mike Barnes – Barnes Leadership and Strategy Coaching LLC
Mike served as Executive Vice President / CRO in the exciting beverage alcohol industry. With more than 38 years of leadership, he passionately supported serving others to pursue and achieve their full potential, which brought energetic meaning to every day. Mike recently started Barnes Leadership and Strategy Coaching where he has been a keynote speaker on authentic servant leadership (Engage the Heart Challenge the Mind). He is also the author of three children’s books. Find out more about Mike at Mikebarnescoaching.com and Mrbsbooks.com.
Please briefly describe the book?
Hardwired To The Heart is intended to help others discover their own self-awareness as we differentiate the impact of an influential leader versus the authoritative leader. It is intended to encourage the reader to self-reflect on the reality of their past and present in search of a couple of gold nuggets that enable how others experience them as an authentic servant leader as we seek never ending continuous improvement. The proactive intent is to drive an awareness that as responsible selfless leaders we have a moral duty to serve others as a community of human beings with hearts minds and souls with heartfelt feelings just like you and me. When our inner hearts drive our authentic outer being we have every opportunity to build trust with each other and a loyalty so strong we won’t let each other down. Hardwiring what we already know and what we learn our heart and then expressing them through careful actions and words in the workplace is the key, treating your peers and subordinates as people first and coworkers second. The question is how? This is a book that encourages how do exactly that through seven core competencies accompanied by activation exercises that will encourage how others experience you in an authentic and genuine way.
What inspired you to write this book?
During my career, it is the people I care so much about both personally and professionally who encouraged me to have the vulnerable courage to write this book. With the support of my wonderful personal and business family, friends, and other business associates who are also amazing friends, I was inspired to write a book with the intent to encourage all levels of leadership and teammates to learn and serve each other while building trust and loyalty with every interaction in service of each other as human beings. Others are aware of my passion for servant leadership, and I can only hope the experiences they had with me were the selfless evidence I was always committed to a life in service of them and others.
How do you make sure the information for your nonfiction books is accurate and up to date?
To the best of my ability, it was important for me to reflect on my 38 years of leadership with true real-life stories and examples of the impact on human emotion, both my own as well as others. In other words, really tap into myself and what I learned both personally and professionally. I like to think of my career as a learning career, whereby all my experiences both personally and professionally had some profound impact on how I “worked forward” with the impact of the meaning of those experiences. I would add that the certifications with Marshall Goldsmith, Stagen Integral Learning, Church and bible study classes, and Enneagram Training and The Life Coach Training Institute were not just certifications, they are also communities of amazing people whereby those learnings, and practices are never in neutral. They provide on-going opportunities to learn and grow. They also consistently encourage us to take what we learn to the world with a conscious capitalism mindset. In my case, what I have learned and will continue to learn encourages me to serve my higher purpose in service others both personally and professionally.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success to me is very simple. If Hardwired to the Heart encourages the reader to become more self-aware or even a better version of themselves and they can find just a couple of gold nuggets that provide self-improvement in service of not only themselves but others the book is successful. I would like the book to be like a running river that never goes dry.
Do you outline your books beforehand?
Why or why not? I white board my thoughts first. The points of origination for what I write is from my journaling about my experiences, translations of what I learn in pursuit of an all mind-set understanding and then I go to a white board and write. I certainly source the information I have learned in my classes I have referenced as the intent is to unpack my life as a servant leader as well as what I learned and practiced. I believe it is so important we take what we learn to the world, in a very unassuming way. Everyone interprets information differently. With our Stagen work we called this the Ladder of Inference.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned while writing?
What are some publishing tips?
As a new author, I found the need to be very patient and believe in myself with courage. I found it very important to lean into 3- 4 business confidants and friends that I knew would challenge me with the readability and understanding of the content. I would add that it was also important to encourage the publisher and particularly my project manager to challenge me which happened, and I am tremendously grateful. In other words, my most valuable tip is to show up as a learner and allow your publishers subject matter experts to do their work in service of the best outcome possible. Allow your ideas to come to life the way you felt the experiences, understand what you have learned and the realization that we all interpret information differently. I made every effort to find simplicity in the understanding for the reader on the other side of complexity with personal stories, quotes from other authors and sports coaches and activation examples that encouraged both learning and practice.
How do you make non-fiction interesting and engaging while still being informative?
Again, it so important to tell real stories with experiences and include activation exercises that allow the learner to engage in finding meaning in the content. It is important they not only read it, but also feel it with their own self-reflection. It is my hope that the learning reader can say, yes that is me and they can find just a couple of opportunities to seek continuous improvement which I believe they will. When we can acknowledge we are a community of human beings regardless of our gender, ethnicity, or beliefs with the reality we all have living heartfelt feelings, we provide purpose to our leadership in service of that realization.
What is your favorite part of writing?
My favorite part of writing is the continuous reflection of what I had learned from my experiences of the past, but also the significance of what I was learning in the present. I could literally believe I had completed a chapter and suddenly, a new experience occurred that reinforced the message I hoped to bring in the most understandable way. Over the course of the year this happened repeatedly. My favorite part about writing is challenging myself to do all I can to be sure there is the opportunity to learn the information encouraged by one’s own self-awareness, practice it and find change that brings a new impact for the greater good of the person and the stakeholders both personally and professionally.
What do you find enjoyable or difficult about non-fiction?
What I found most enjoyable was the challenge of injecting my real-life experiences of my past and present, but also what I hope to carry forward in the future. As I referenced the book Halftime by Bob Buford, I found it enjoyable to look forward on how I can carry what I have learned, with the support of Hardwired to the Heart as a proactive way to make serve others in some positive way for the future by encouraging others to treat everyone as human beings that have feelings that matter.
Was this topic suggested or was it something you were already interested in?
Absolutely this is something I was very passionate about and interested, but also felt it was what others saw in me as it relates to servant leadership. It was other people and friends that would say, you should think about writing a book which I was flattered but not sure I could do. I started writing the Monday following the last Friday I served my business family. Again, during my career, I was encouraged on numerous occasions to write a book on leadership, or to start a coaching business in my next career. I had a speaking engagement for a group of Next Generation Leaders and the positive response inspired me to really think about the purpose of my next life after my 38-year career with a book and a Leadership Coaching company.
What other types of research did you need to do for this book?
As one can imagine, it was most important to dig deep into my own heart mind and soul with a lot of mental mining of the countless number of leadership experiences of the past, present and the continued impact on what I believe in as an influential leader. Also understanding every new day can impact a new future when we learn from it. My point is it is important to remember that tomorrow today will be the past, so everyday matters and when we are consistent in how we serve others with both our actions and words it becomes our identity, and one that is very positive. I unpacked my own experiences, as well as the leadership styles of other influential leaders I witnessed during my career that I admired as leaders too inside and outside of the industry I worked in. In addition to my own experiences, I was able to attend some great learning opportunities instructed by some masterful coaches to include the following which I reference and credit in my book.
My three primary coaching certifications that have been my core learnings include:
- Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Certification®
- The Stagen Learning Institute Certifications
- The Life Coach Training Institute
I attended these classes, not because I was preparing to write a book or a business, but I wanted to be a better servant leader to the teams I served.
I have also studied Enneagram Program with eight workshops and am now in my ninth. I included several quotes by well-known business professionals and other authors and sports coaches that reinforced the meaning and understanding in the chapters. I also felt it was important to include definitions from various sources to encourage clarity and understanding.
There were interviews and manuscript sharing with other business associates past and present and a lot of self-reflection looking into the past. Remember tomorrow today will be the past so every day is a learning day from the experiences of our own reality. In the book there are so many moments, without exaggeration that were learnings from the way I witnessed other responses to leadership as well as my own.
I would add that because I have chosen my primary sources of learning and am currently enrolled in Stagens Advanced Leadership class and plan to expand my other certifications with Marshall Goldsmith with a goal to be a Master Coach and the Life Coach Training Institute to expand my learning and practice. The lessons in Life Coaching will make one a better leader.
Who will this book appeal to? What age range would you recommend it for?
It would be my hope that the book will appeal to leaders at all levels and coaches, teachers, and parents. While writing the book I had three speaking engagements with the theme being Hardwired to the Heart, Engage the Heart Challenge the Mind. Each engagement included cross functional leaders of all ages. On one recent speaking engagement (whereby I presented a very abbreviated version of my book), I was asked to possibly expand to the presentation to family members of those in the organization.
What is your next project?
I have three children’s books, with two already published and for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and a third that will be available early May. I have four more children’s books written and have also written song lyrics. When I have an experience that I feel either positive or negative I like to capture it through writing. At times I will take a picture and then writing / journaling about it. As for business projects, it really depends on the impact of this book in service of others. I am working on a business model called IMPROVE and as you can imagine each letter represents an acronym that with every intent to bring to bring meaning for learning, inspirational understanding practice, and impact. More to come.
Talk a little bit about yourself. What is your background? What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I graduated from college with an Industrial Safety Engineering degree which is where I also met the love of my life. Following college, I went to work in the oil and gas industry for three years selling data and Oil Field Services. When the price per barrel plummeted in the early 1980’s, my instincts told me I should pursue another career. Through an acquaintance I met a man who not only inspired me to want to work for him, but one who gave me the confidence to do things I never knew or even believed I could. He showed me so much care through his actions and his words while also holding me accountable. I never wanted to let him down. He made me believe in myself which really gave me passion to want to do the same for others, which encouraged the value or my purpose as a servant leader both personal and professional life. While there were other opportunities presented to me, I was a loyalist to my mentor, his family, and the business family I served. My life was really very simple. Not only did my mentor inspire me, but also my faith along with my wonderful family. As I grew up my belief in God moved to knowing God and the impact it made and continues to make on my life encourages me to never stop growing up. I served the same wonderful organization with so many amazing people over half of my life. For 38 years I have been consumed with the growth of my faith, loving my family, and being committed to serving the people in my work family with every intent to never be in neutral. I am an exercise enthusiast, for as long as I can remember, working out every morning, running a few marathons and many years ago teaching aerobics which would surprise a lot of people. My weekday mornings always started at 4:00 am with a workout and then an early arriver to the company I served. Today I still tell people “Age is just a number, and the key is how you digest the number”. I do love life and I hope that is how people experience me. My blessings are no doubt my faith, family, friends, and those who allowed me into their lives with every hope my intent was only to make each other a little bit better. That was a long answer to a short question. There are so many people in my life past and present, as I continue to grow up that will ALWAYS be blessings in my life.
Do you have a favorite book – fiction or non-fiction? How about one of your own?
I am currently reading Back From Heave’s Porch by Danny Bader – 5 Principles to Create Happy and Fulfilling Life – I can already tell it will have some impact on my life of learning and practice.
There are so many great books, but I was always in search of books that had easy to understand messages that truly find simplicity on the other side of complexity.
- The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
- The Hero Code by Admiral William McRaven
- What Got You There Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
- Halftime by Bob Buford
- Winning Accountability by Henry J. Evans
- There are so many great books and authors
When I first became a servant leader I presented a book by Pat Riley, The Winner With-In. There were great stories about the legendary players, and how he was always working to bring a team of individual player into the arena of great player. There are stories that for provided me an opportunity to help our teams understand how important it was to not have egos, prevent territorialism which in my terms creates organization “secret handshake” politics, and real stories of situations that brought his winning teams together. He writes about the real and potential adversities he faced as a coach with very simple but very strong commitments with ethics and morals in mind.
I also recall many years ago I was in Barnes and Noble, and as a culture enthusiast I saw a red book, and the title was The Customer Comes Second. I had this instinctive mental message to self – If the customer comes second written by Hal S. Rosenbluth it is because the teams we serve come first. For me the message was again so understandably impactful. When we build cultures whereby our team members can thrive, the stakeholders we serve will be the beneficiaries of the cultures we create because we serve our team members in a way, we never assume their happiness which impact so many veins of productivity. I believe when those we serve work for a company that has a culture that influentially serves versus an authoritative hierarchical culture, they represent the company they work for to all stakeholders with enthusiasm and positivity.
I would add that most recently the Enneagram books I have studied from over the past year include The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile and now studying – The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz studying the nine Enneagram types.
Do you have an author website or other platform where readers can find more information about you and your books?
Is there anything I have neglected to ask that you would like to add?
I would only add that it has taken a lot of courage for me to write this book. There are so many very credible authors who are highly credentialed proven Fortune 500 CEO’s, Admirals and Sports Leaders etc., and we all have our own unique stories and experiences that inspired us to write about what we believe in, which is so wonderful we have the freedom to do so. I believe the common ground for all of us a leaders at all levels are we firmly believe that where the rubber meets the road – is the people we serve and their lives matter just like our own.
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