KEN COLEMAN is the Host of The Ken Coleman Show, author of the great new Simon & Schuster book, One Question: Life Changing Answers from Today’s Leading Voices and is a sought after speaker. Ken has garnered national acclaim for his interviews with many of America’s most notable voices from every channel of society. He has been called a “young Charlie Rose” by legendary Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski and talk radio superstar Dave Ramsey has labeled him “one of the best interviewers in the country.”
In Part 2 of this interview with Ken, he speaks further on his great, new book One Question, the Dan Cathy/Chick-Fila controversy and his goals for the future.
Jennifer Williams: How did you decide on those thirty-four leaders or thinkers and how did you decide on those thirty-four questions?
Ken Coleman: I love that question. It is one of my favorite to answer. Before I chose the guests, I outlined the topics. I thought that was very important. So, I went down to my basement office and thought about it for a day and a half and categorized everything. Of course I had about sixty different topics to start with, but the book organically just worked out to thirty-four. It also had to do with who was available for the time-slot because the people I was going after are very, very busy people.
But, I really had to determine my topics first and look at it through my lens. There’s something about Simon Cowell in an authorized biography published years ago… that he didn’t hit real big success in England with his programming and reality shows and as a music executive until he began to sign bands that he (himself) would want to listen to. I think there is a wonderful truth there. So the topics in the book are the questions and topics that I would ask. But, because I’m thirty-nine years old, a father and a human being… there is a lot of crossover. So it is not so specific that it just doesn’t hit a wide swath of people. The topics first and then I had to figure out, “who I thought was best.” Who has the largest platform [plus] experience and expertise to answer the question? This is a little dovetail thought that I think is good to mention to you… we live in a day and age where because of the internet and blogs, experts are a dime a dozen. If you have a bunch of people reading a blog, all of a sudden you are an expert. And I am not discounting that, but I do think that it is important that we don’t just seek out experts. But we seek out people who have a lot of experience in the area that we are looking for answers. The way I put it is that I want to find to find somebody who has walked many, many miles in the moccasins that I’m about ready to slip on.
Ken Coleman: I could have done volume after volume after volume, but I chose specific chapters for the topics that were very personal to me. But the reality is that they may be different in your journey or somebody else’s journey, but the topics and the things that are covered in the book are really what I think [are the] rudimentary kinds of things that are going to happen on your path. I don’t know where your path is going to lead you or how long it is going to take you, but I know that you are going to experience or walk-through every one of these issues. I felt like I could have stretched the book to fifty [questions] and still given you the same answers. These are the basic, major issues and that is what I really wanted to do and so I just sat down first not just thinking of me and the questions that I had but the questions that I asked. It was almost as if I could sit down with my twenty year-old self…
Jennifer Williams: Wouldn’t we all!
Ken Coleman: Yes. And I just thought these are the issues you are going to face and so I was pretty general, but pretty specific to what I absolutely knew people are going to deal with. I can’t think of one chapter of the book that’s not certain to happen at some point.
Jennifer Williams: It is a life cycle.
Ken Coleman: Yes, it is.
Jennifer Williams: I just have a few last questions. You wrote in the book that I have a great worry… “That I will have loved life, but never have made a difference.” Does that worry motivate you to be such a great interviewer or your enjoyment in being an interviewer?
Ken Coleman: It is funny, because I wanted to be raw and honest with that. That is the one thing… of course I don’t worry about it now because know I am having an impact on people’s lives. Particularly on my radio show every day as I get real feedback from people. But I did not want to close my life out and not have made a difference with my life. That is a very interesting question. I do think that [my worry] fuels the type of interviewer that I am. I have received some acclaim for the type of interviews that I do. People have seen some of my live television interviews and say, “you know, this is very different than what we see on TV most of the time.” I think I will always stand out as an interviewer because of my passion and the desire in my interviews. The passion comes across in a few ways. The audience sees it and feels it and they can tell… this guy really cares about what he is asking. And then for the guest, they really sense the passion because they feel that I am trying to learn from them. I do think that comes from wanting to make difference in their lives.
I take every interview very seriously because I want to learn something. At the same time… in my style of interview, if I am learning then the audience is learning. Because of the way I ask questions. I kind of do a different form of a leading question than a lawyer does. Somebody asked me recently, “What is different about your questions?” I’ve never thought about it that way, but I do ask a leading question like a speaker. I’m making a point in the form of a question, but I am asking the interviewee or guest to take the baton I handed them and to run with it. But I’ve already taken the audience and my guest into a key point and I want them to personalize their answer. So that is what makes my style a little bit different. And yes, it definitely comes from a desire to make a difference and help the audience learn something while I’m doing the interviews.
Jennifer Williams: Where are things heading for Ken Coleman?
Ken Coleman: I don’t know. But I jumped out in a big step of faith in a good way through my radio show. I come on after Rush Limbaugh every day and doing positive, impactful radio on a great talk-show station. I definitely want to see the radio show grow to a national level or more realistically, that I move onto a new opportunity. I’m asking God to kind of expand my opportunities and territories this past year.
I’ve appeared on Fox News a number of times. Hopefully, I will be able to move into a host/contributor role. I’d like to move into a full-blown television host role and use the platform that I’m given there to enlighten the conversation and to add value to people’s lives. Because people are sick and tired of all the political yelling and screaming. People are often trying to make a go of it and really live a life of significance and that is where I eventually really want to get. To do a television show that is a version of what I do on the radio and to encourage people by inspiring, invigorating and informing them. I think there is room for that on television now. I’m passionate about people finding their calling and I’m ready to talk about solutions and how leaders solve things in everyday life.Jennifer Williams: Many folks are clamoring, across the board for legitimacy and credibility. They want to watch somebody who is going to give them more and not just “the other side is evil” type of thing. They don’t want it anymore.
Ken Coleman: Yes. Well I got caught up in the whole Chick-Fila thing because Dan Cathy (Chick-Fila’s CEO) said his most controversial comments on my radio show and that was a Saturday radio show when I was doing a two hour show because I wanted to break in. That was in 2012 and I learned a lot from that. I went down to CNN’s studios to talk about it. I coined a phrase on the way down to their studios… it was called “Messy conversations.” We’ve got to be okay having messy conversations and by the way, that means civil [conversations]. But if we have some “messy conversations,” we’ll going to have some healthy conversations. Healthy conversations lead to productive conversations… and now we can begin do something with people we don’t agree with all the time. That is what is missing in the public discourse.