At Strategic Coach, one of my main priorities in delivering our business training programmes is to release a book every quarter. Our business coaching books run the gamut, covering everything from the concept of WhoNotHow to eliminating procrastination, and even how I plan to live to be 156 years old.
And while these books might say they’re written by Dan Sullivan, my work is really just one small piece of the puzzle. Our business coaching books would never come to life without our in-house illustrator, Hamish MacDonald, as well as the nine other team members on this project who do everything from audio recordings to writing, editing, and publishing.
The key to it all is Unique Ability Teamwork. This is a concept I’ve previously discussed in-depth with Shannon Waller and, to put it simply, it’s the foundation for next-level collaboration. When everyone is utilising their own Unique Ability, while working together towards a common goal, amazing things happen.
The inception of Strategic Coach books.
I never planned to write books for Strategic Coach, but over the years, they’ve become so well-associated with the Strategic Coach brand and our community that some people probably couldn’t imagine our business coaching programmes without them.
The idea for creating the quarterly Ambition Series books came out of a conversation with Hamish at my home in Toronto. As he lives in Prince Edward Island, we don’t get to spend too much time together. When he’s in town, we always have fantastic conversations about life, the universe, and everything in between.
But a few days after this particular conversation, Hamish sent me something new: He’d sketched a recap of our conversation in a style that we all now associate with Strategic Coach books. I was floored.
When I saw this sketch, two things immediately came to my mind:
1. This was clearly Hamish’s Unique Ability. Not only was it a brilliant sketch, but he created this on his own, without anyone asking him to do it.
2. We had to do something with this.
To me, there was a clear opportunity here for Hamish and me to each use our Unique Ability to create something that would really benefit people. But at this time, there was no “Dan Sullivan writing process.” At first, the process—if you could even call it that—was quite rudimentary. It was difficult, time-consuming, and stressful.
Looking back, I now understand that it was difficult because I wasn’t using Unique Ability Teamwork.
A squandered opportunity.
When Hamish and I first started working together, our process was disjointed to say the least. I would write out chapters for the book, and I was constantly being pushed by Hamish and the team to get my chapters written.
Hamish would then sketch up the chapters, scan them, and send them to me. I would then have to print out the sketches, mark up changes, scan them, and send them back. It would take weeks of back and forth to get a small book done.
This didn’t work for me. I don’t like being isolated or being forced to produce results out of thin air. I also wasn’t able to accurately convey my thoughts to Hamish. When he would send me his initial sketches, I’d look at them and think, “This isn’t quite what I had in mind … “ The result was that both Hamish and I wasted a lot of time going back and forth, making corrections due to miscommunication.
At one point, I even had a fellow team member tell me that one of the books we were working on just didn’t hold together. It wasn’t coherent and didn’t flow correctly, which was clearly a by-product of this disjointed process.
Needless to say, this was frustrating for both of us.
I knew something needed to be done to fix this. We had a great opportunity here, but we were squandering it with a less-than-optimal process. One day, I realised the crux of the issue: although Hamish was clearly working within his Unique Ability, I wasn’t!
Unlocking Unique Ability Teamwork.
The first thing I did was stop writing. One of my Unique Ability activities is conversation, but I wasn’t using it in this process. So instead, I started having my team interview me and pull thoughts out of my head. It was a much easier process for me, and it resulted in clearer instructions for Hamish.
I also started using The Impact Filter to structure my thinking around each book. This allowed me to think through the entire book concept and create an outline extremely quickly. It helped Hamish and me get on the same page from the beginning, so each book would be cohesive and coherent.
And finally, Hamish and I started to use screen sharing via Zoom to discuss sketches, give feedback, and iterate on our ideas. This was a brilliant revelation for the two of us. I’m a visual thinker, and Hamish could quickly receive my feedback and ideas without our having to send sketches back and forth.
This process allowed us to work together in real time and figure out all the rough ideas for the book. After our screen sharing sessions, Hamish could go back and create the final artwork. This simple change eliminated all of the back and forth that had previously dragged on throughout the course of each book.
In the end, we were able to turn a two-week process into a one-day process, all because we created a system that utilises both of our areas of Unique Ability.
Using Unique Ability Teamwork in your own business.
People often ask about the “Dan Sullivan writing process,” but it’s really just an iteration of our Unique Ability Teamwork concept. As you’ve seen, it works because each person involved in the process is using their Unique Ability. There are no secret hacks or groundbreaking techniques; it’s just a small team where everyone is doing what they do best.
For a complete overview of my book-writing process and Hamish’s illustration process, check out these links:
The Strategic Coach Ambition Series books are just one example of this concept in action. We try to use Unique Ability Teamwork in everything we do at Strategic Coach. It’s the key to unlocking next-level teamwork and maximising efficiency as a business.
My hope is that by seeing this example, you’ll be able to find areas in your own business where you can begin to implement Unique Ability Teamwork. If a process isn’t using your Unique Ability or those of your team members, something needs to change.
Often, entrepreneurs and business owners get stuck in the mindset of “this is how we’ve always done it.” But any process can be changed, and there is always a way to use each person’s Unique Ability to the full. This is one of the most powerful concepts you can implement in your business to make everything you and your team do more efficient, enjoyable, and effective.