Monday Morning Backstory

“How did you come up with the idea of Monday Morning Leadership?”  That is the most common question I am asked. I am not sure why so many people are interested in knowing the backstory to Monday Morning but maybe it is time for me to publically share my story.

Before I get to the Monday Morning backstory, it is important to know that that Monday Morning Leadership is unique in several ways.  It took days to visualize the concept of the book instead of weeks.  It took two days to write the first complete draft instead of months. Final edits took a couple of weeks instead of volleying the manuscript back and forth between me and the editors for months. And, it has been a perennial best-seller for sixteen years.  For all of those unique events to happen, I am convinced that – for whatever reason – Monday Morning Leadership was God’s special gift to me.

Here is the backstory. In 2002, I was traveling on a business trip from Dallas to Atlanta.  During the plane ride I read a book titled Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom.  The book was a true story about an old college professor, Morrie Schwartz, and Mitch who was one of his students at Brandeis University. Nearing the end of the professor’s life, Morrie and Mitch agreed to meet on Tuesdays for the professor to share his thoughts and experiences. I thought the book was interesting in the way that Morrie taught Mitch with weekly stories inside of his major story.  The wisdom shared by the professor was insightful, although not real inspirational. I enjoyed the book but finished it feeling more depressed than when I started.

The following week while I was traveling to Toronto the Tuesday’s with Morrie concept consumed my thoughts.  I could not help but think that we need an inspirational book in the business arena where a trusted mentor guides someone whose career may have hit a snag.  My thoughts were that the book would need to be practical lessons but also provide tools and hope to the reader. The thought would not pass but my more prevalent and realistic thought was “I am not sure how to put that together in a book.”

This trip was during the time when if you travelled on Saturday your airfare was reduced by about half.  I was traveling to conduct a training class and had agreed with my friend, Mark Layton, that I would travel on the weekend to save on his company’s expenses.

So, I was alone on a Saturday night in a hotel room in Toronto scribbling notes about Tuesday’s with Morrie.  Then, seemly out of the blue, a business concept surfaced.  What if I developed two fictional characters who would meet every Monday for several weeks?  Their meetings could address issues faced by every manager and provide a mentor’s wisdom that would encourage and guide the manager through the crisis?  Suddenly, the book concept was crystal clear.

At that time, and even today, the common challenges managers face are obvious: Accepting responsibility without excuses, maintaining focus, staying connected with the team, maintaining integrity, making great hires and coaching, time management, recognition, and continuous improvement.  I narrowed my list down to those eight areas because I wanted the book to be brief so that people would actually read it. Those eight challenges became stand-alone chapter ideas to form the outline of the book.

I have read and heard about many people who have an “out of body” experience, an unexpected touch, or a feeling that God intervened in their life in a miraculous way.   I took those stories with a grain of salt until it happened to me with Monday Morning.

I did not write Monday Morning.  Oh, my hands were on the keyboard but the inspiration was from a power greater than me.  Ideas and words started to flow like never before nor since. For two days, my experiences at Xerox, FedEx, and CornerStone were interwoven tightly together to create one seamless story.  The characters quickly revealed themselves as people that I knew.  The main character was the mentor, Tony Pearce who was named after Tony Van Roekel – the person who promoted me into my first leadership position at Xerox – and Pearce, my father in law. The “student” was Jeff Walters (the combined names of two different guys who I was mentoring at the time).  The rest of the characters were named after family members:  Karen, Michael, Kim, Jeni and several other friends.

I could not sleep.  The keyboard was sizzling.  The chapter on accepting responsibility became Drivers and Passengers that was initiated from a casual conversation with my best friend Louis Krueger. Focus became Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing created from direction given by Jim Barksdale with FedEx.  Staying connected with the team became Escape from Management Land built on a conversation with Dan Amos, CEO of Aflac.  The integrity chapter became The Do Right Rule based on my father’s teachings to me.  Great hires and coaching became Hire Tough centered around a casual conversation with my friend Eric Harvey. Time management evolved to Do Less or Work Faster based on my previous book of 175 Ways to Get More Done in Less Time.  Recognition became Buckets and Dippers based on a private conversation with the late Don Clifton.  Continuous improvement evolved into Enter the Learning Zone – I do not remember what generated that thought.

When I returned home to Dallas on Monday evening, the book was complete.  Done.  The writing process for a normal book is at least six months for the first draft.  Monday Morning was completed that weekend in Toronto.

Monday Morning combined many of my experiences into one short book that has sold well over a million copies worldwide.  How could I do that?  I didn’t.  It was a gift that was given to me.  Most of you do not know the personal challenges I was facing at that time.  Trust me, it was a dark and difficult period.  Everything was tested including my faith.  For whatever reason, God chose Monday Morning to be the catalyst to propel me from an emotional bottom to something far greater than anything I would have ever asked.

Now you know the backstory of Monday Morning Leadership.  Thank you Jesus!