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Remember the enormously popular science fiction series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Created by Douglas Adams, it sent a group of people on an inter-planetary exploration. The comic adventures led to one destination —the number 42. Seemingly, “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life" was computed by a supercomputer the size of a planet, called Deep Thought, and 42 surfaced as the magic number.

Photograph by Pradeep Gaur/Mint

How to turn prospects into customers, how to increase sales effectiveness, rules for successful collaboration, rules for developing leadership skills—42 Rules has practical solutions for business and workplace-related issues. Case studies, academic theories, personal stories and worldly wisdom, often written with humour and wit, make it easier to understand how work-life functions. The authors include coaches, speakers, business development experts, new entrepreneurs and experienced leaders.

Mitchell Levy, owner and CEO of Happy About, the original publishers of the series in the US, explains the process of creating content that is practical and applicable to everyday life. “Our goal with the 42 Rules series was to bring together a collection of working professionals to write about their expertise, their business, and what they do every day to make a living," says Levy. Getting an opinion from a range of people, rather than just one author, gives the books a comprehensive perspective, necessary for a series.

David Coleman, author of the book 42 Rules for Successful Collaboration, walked the talk. “Writing a book on collaboration all by yourself is a bit of an oxymoron. So I crowd-sourced and got other people to contribute to it," says Coleman, who has written three other books on collaboration, including Collaboration 2.0.

Levy decided to structure the books in such a way that you can pick up a book and start on any rule. “The author works on penning 42, 500-word rules on the topic they are discussing. For the reader, they don’t have to start at the beginning of the book. They can find one that is applicable, read it, apply it, then pick up the book a couple of days later and read another rule."

Skim through the books, and three main themes emerge. First, it’s people that make an organization, and keeping people in good health was top-most. The second recurring theme is of keeping the customer engaged. And third, the hot topic of the time—online success. 42 Rules breaks down the collective wisdom into snappy one-liners, anecdotes and observations.

We take our pick of 42 rules from the series, less as rules to live by, and more as friendly reminders of why we’re working so hard.

For better connectivity with employees

1 Uncovering special people is a skill worth developing. Special people exist everywhere.

2 Parenting, even good parenting, belongs at home, not in the workplace where it leads to disengaged team members.

3 Too often problems are defined in the proverbial ‘ivory tower’, far away from those who know the weak links in the process.

4 No circumstance should distract anyone from the passion inside of them to succeed.

5 A large number of people who call themselves managers appear to invest very little time in their teams whatsoever until there is a crisis.

6 Should any of us be surprised to learn that people don’t like being deceived?

7 Curiosity is a vital risk-free networking tool.

8 Always give a person a chance to prove themselves, they may not know what good is inside them until they need to find it.

9 Consider forming alliances with the so-called ‘competition’.

10 Pay it forward is not‘scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’.

11 Often new leaders neglect to tell their people what they want…and then are frustrated when they don’t get it.

12 Once direction is set, your fundamental job as a leader is a hunter, curator, and builder of talent.

13 You might just close your mouth sometimes and see what happens.

14 Look for the problems that are sending ‘weak’ distress signals.

15 Always look for value in the differences people bring to teamwork.

16 If you develop a reputation as a great boss, you’ll have a steady supply of great people who want to work for you.

17 Just stepping into a position called ‘executive’ or ‘manager’ messes with your mind.

18 For collaboration to be successful, trust does help, but understanding the ‘local context’ of your team members is even more critical.

19 My talents, your talents, everyone’s talents will be recognized if we develop and use our communication skills.

20 Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.

For keeping the customers engaged

21 No one likes to be asked for their preferences or opinions and then have them ignored.

22 Start selling to prospects only after they tell you what they want.

23 Build the foundation first, and the deal will follow.

24 Listening is more than half selling.

25 There’s nothing like a highly effective and productive salesperson with a heart and sensitivity to others.

26 A fundamental skill in effective selling is the ability to ‘draw in’ the customer while you ‘draw out’ information.

27 If you ask great questions and listen well, the prospect will provide you with opportunities to help you sell your product or service.

28 Consistent, small, and steady wins add up to a portfolio of solid, repeat customers.

29 If you want to make selling easy and more rewarding, then sell deeper and wider to your existing customers.

30 Copy can and should change frequently. Messages should not.

31 Most customers would rather know the truth and work with you to find a solution.

32 Keep in mind, just because people inside the company think the messages are ‘on target’ doesn’t mean your customers do.

33 Honesty is not simply the best policy, it’s the only policy for maintaining effective relationships.

For online success

34 Finding the right technology is the art of applying tools to serve a purpose.

35 The risk of using free social media platforms is losing overall control of your presence and access to in-person support.

36 Deciding how much of your intellectual property to make public is a delicate balancing act.

37 Your online visitors are very influenced by seeing how you’ve treated other customers.

38 The average blog has one reader. To survive, you have to be above average.

39 Well thought out, to-the-point media means more than epic, unorganized, four-hour documentaries .

40 A well-linked social media page can mean the difference between being at the top of a Web search, or not being there at all.

41 Success is not based on what you know, but rather, who you know.

42 Each of us projects our brand through everything we do, wear, touch or discuss.

—Collated from ‘42 Rules for Successful Collaboration’ by David Coleman, ‘42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success’ by Bud Bilanich, ‘42 Rules of Cold Calling Executives’ by Mari Anne Vanella, ‘42 Rules for a Web Presence That Wins’ by Philippa Gamse, ‘42 Rules of Social Media for Small Business’ by Jennifer L Jacobson, ‘42 Rules for 24-Hour Success on LinkedIn’ by Chris Muccio, ‘42 Rules of Employee Engagement’ by Susan Stamm, ‘42 Rules for Effective Connections’ by Bonnie Ross-Parker and Cindy Elsberry, ‘42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role’ by Pam Fox Rollin, ‘42 Rules to Turn Prospects Into Customers’ by Meredith Elliott Powell, ‘42 Rules of Marketing’ by Laura Lowell. Publisher: ProLibris. Price: 175 each.

komal.sharma@livemint.com

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