Three Words Are Too Small: Passion. Execution. Sell.

John Spence, the author of Awesomely Simple, sent me an email today to share with me his latest blog post. For the past 20 years or so, John has been reading 100 business books a year. He has taken notes and highlighted everything he has read, synthesizing and distilling the work and incorporating into his thinking and the training he offers his clients.

I don’t need to retell the story of how John came to visualize the data points of the highlights of his lifetime of reading business books in a beautiful word cloud. You can go here and read it yourself.

The result of the visualization is a display of  the words from his notes and highlights based on the frequency of how often they occur in his highlights. The bigger the word, the more frequently it appeared. Some of the big words include, people, talent, customer, focus, culture, listen, and transparency. Great and fundamental truths are revealed by these words.

But some words are far too small.

Which means business books, for at least as long as John Spence has been reading and taking notes, have been shamelessly remiss in three of the biggest drivers of success in business.

Everybody I Know Needs Some . . . Passion

Search the wonderful word cloud for passion. I assure you that it is there. Keep looking. It is tiny and somewhere close to the bottom.

The word “people” is enormous and the word “culture” is gigantic. There are a whole bunch of other great words, none of which mean what they might mean to business and success without passion.

What do you want from your people? What do you want underlying your culture? More still, what do your customers want from your people and your culture?

If you would succeed wildly, if you would help others to succeed wildly, then passion is one of the most essential of essential elements. The sad fact that it is so small explains a great deal about why so many in management and leadership park their passion at the door, and why their people do the same.

Let the Execution Begin

The word “execution” is easy to find. Even though it is way, way too small. It just happens to be in the middle next to big words.

From hundreds and hundreds of business books, the word “execution” ends up being emphasized less than vision, without which vision is worthless. The word “execution is smaller than “innovation,” without which innovations never come to market. And while “transparency” is certainly worth a prominent place, without execution your honesty and integrity will not build or sustain business success.

Execution is the pathway to results. Most strategies are fine. Most tactics are fine. Most fail because they fail to execute, plain and simple.

Execution is the game.

A Tiny, Tiny Sell

Did you find the word sell? It is at the top of the word cloud, and it is remarkably small. Unfortunately small. The channeling of the passion, the ideas and their execution, begins and ends with selling. Mostly selling inside your own organization. We sell to our customers, and the service issues, the delivery issues, and all of the change management and transformational work that we do are all based upon the ability to sell.

Anyone in business is in sales. Anyone who works in business—and who expects to succeed at any level—is required to be great at sales. If you are passionate, and if you want to execute, you are going to sell. If you want to succeed for and with your customer, you are going to sell. If you are going to do anything breathtakingly, earth-shatteringly important, I assure you that you are going to sell.

Those who succeed get what they want and need to succeed. They don’t get what they want and need by the force of their authority or their power. They get what they need by utilizing their power to persuade, to sell.

What John did is remarkable. He read hundreds of books and culled the main themes and ideas. He highlighted and took massive notes. He has gained much from his discipline (and you can gain much from his work). Had these words appeared more frequently, had these themes been emphasized as much as the others, they would appear larger in John’s word cloud.

But, they weren’t. And they should be. That means for 20 years, business books have woefully short on three of the key drivers of business success: passion, execution, and sales. Don’t you be personally short on any of the three keys!


    1. What are the fundamental ideas that you believe success in business is built upon and why?
    1. How important is passion to your success in business and sales? Do your dream clients expect you to passionately serve them, or is it enough to go through the motions? How could you be more passionate and channel that passion to produce greater results for you and your dream clients?
    1. Success in sales requires execution. It requires outcomes? What do you have to do to be more effective at managing the execution after you have made a sale? How do you manage the outcomes that you sell? What are your dream client’s expectations regarding you and your role in the execution of what you have sold?
  1. I don’t have to ask anyone reading this blog about the importance of sales. But I would never miss the chance to ask a few questions about to who it is we sell. How important is it to your success to be able sell inside your own organization? How important is it to your dream client that you be able to move your own organization to serve them? How important is that you be able to translate the skills and attributes you use to obtain commitments and agreements outside your company on the inside of your own company? What are you doing to develop that ability and to sell inside?

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