It may be one of the grabbiest titles in recent memory for a business/self-help book — even though its underlying purpose is serious.
“You have to have some fun with it,” acknowledged White Rock entrepreneur, motivational speaker and business consultant Likky Lavji of his cheekily-titled new book Death by B.S.
“I haven’t had anybody complain yet.”
While, to some, the title might also suggest a mystery thriller, Death by B.S is not so much a whodunnit as a whatdunnit — and it’s a given that the only perpetrators are likely the readers themselves.
As president, founder and lead facilitator for the Vancouver-based Dante Group, Lavji is used to dealing with growth-oriented mid-size companies that too often run the risk of killing their prospects and potential by not identifying and resolving core issues that disrupt day-to-day activities and hamstring long-term growth in the organization.
“The blind spots are our own B.S. – the things we all carry around with us that are holding us back,” he said. “When we’re out driving or walking we’re always checking for blind spots, but we don’t do that in our own lives.”
He noted that while we may believe we have certain strengths, or that we do a good job in this or that regard, others’ perceptions of us may differ radically.
For instance – as the CEO of a successful IT company on his own journey of self-discovery – Lavji was shocked to discover, in a candid discussion with employees, that he presented as “a pompous ass” in meetings, partly because he never smiled.
“I thought I was smiling,” he said. “But I was actually sensitive about showing my teeth.”
Identifying such blind spots – which Lavji outlines in his book – can turn around negative and self-sabotaging company cultures, with ultimate payoffs not only in greater profits, but also in increased employee satisfaction and customer loyalty.
And the message already seems to be resonating with the market – within hours of being launched on Amazon on March 31, Death by B.S. was already one of the top sellers in its category.
But while Death by B.S. may be primarily directed at business leaders, the importance of finding our blind spots, and what they can teach us about ourselves, can have an impact beyond business, Lavji said – including in our personal relationships.
He points out that the book’s subtitle – Navigating your blind spots to become a better leader – can apply to all walks of life. “You could be a (sports) coach, or a leader of any kind of activity or project,” he said.
He said he was prompted to write the book because, in holding workshops for sales teams and managers, he observed they might respond well for the duration of the course, but could soon revert to former negative practices.
“There can be so many underlying beliefs, so many past memories that are ingrained,” he said.
Among the common problems he sees with business leadership is what he terms a “scarcity mindset,” in which making more money is the only driver.
“They’re always pushing people to achieve at a higher level,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with producing, or holding people accountable, but this is pushing for the wrong reasons.”
Another common problem, he added, is a mutual lack of trust among the team, often engendered by leaders’ unwillingness to be open enough with others to inspire confidence.
Lavji – who was born in Uganda and came to Canada, by way of the UK, at age 12 – is not shy about discussing his own past mistakes with candour in the book.
He was as guilty as anyone of being emotionally closed-off and unable to share with others, he said, particularly during some 30 years as CEO of his IT company.
He traces this tendency to experiences in his formative years – his father died when he was three, and his grandfather when he was five, while he lost his closest friend when he was 16.
“I had this feeling that, if I got close to anyone, they were going to die,” he explained, adding that he had other insecurities that came from growing up in the shadow of the memory of his father, also a successful entrepreneur.
He also struggled with a stutter for some 35 years, which he developed after a harrowing experience in his first school in Canada, in Ottawa.
Encouraged by his teacher to speak before the class on his experience of coming to a new country, Lavji stumbled over his words and was jeered by other students who unkindly told him to “go back where you came from.”
Although he has long since forgiven the schoolmates who caused this anguish, he admits he has had his struggles with ‘imposter syndrome” that hampered him both in business and his personal life.
A personal turning point came some six years ago, he said, when he participated in a workshop with best-selling motivational author Bob Burg.
In a discussion group with Burg and nine others, Lavji was moved to tears by others’ description of his positive attributes.
“Bob asked me what was wrong and I told him ‘I’ve never heard these words before.’ Bob said ‘I suggest that these words have been said, but you just haven’t heard them.’
“I came home and told my wife about it and she said ‘It took 10 strangers to tell you what I’ve been telling you for years.’”
Death by B.S. is available in both print an Kindle editions at amazon.ca