Friday 28 December 2012

Catching Excellence

I spent my post-Christmas break rereading my book (which passed the holiday gifting test!). I had received the "first pages" typeset version from my production editor on December 18th with a two-week deadline to make corrections. 

Since this was my last chance to make changes, I asked my personal editor, Ken, to review my book one last time and he worked night and day to give me his suggestions on Christmas Eve. Now it was my turn to review and transfer his changes and mine to the master document.  

Boxing Day morning kicked-off a twenty-nine hour editing marathon. There are so many content and format elements to check and cross-reference. I can understand why errors sneak past publishing teams and authors. Here are the ones I found in the 57,000 word draft:

- Spelling
- Extra and missing words
- Punctuation
- Capitalization
- Singular and plural forms
- Continuity of formats 

There is a lot to get right and I have made these mistakes on earlier drafts. I realize that the probability of having errors in the printed version of my book is high, regardless of all precautions taken. I will not be someone who focuses on the 1 percent that we didn't get right; doing our best and taking pride in the 99 percent will be my orientation.

There are many quotations about excellence. My favourite is from Vince Lombardi, the U.S. football coach: "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."  My next step is to complete the Change with Confidence website with my designer, Kro, and communications specialist, Mel. We are going for excellence!


Friday 21 December 2012

Let the Happiness In

The other day, a new acquaintance and I talked about how new perspectives had shaped our lives and how these influences appeared when we needed them the most - as a source of inspiration or a solution to a challenge. We shared stories about chance meetings, bizarre "Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation" connections and found resources that helped us along our paths. Most people have had similar experiences and hold views on what causes them, whether spiritual, physical or psychological. Most agree they are not random. 

I experienced this phenomenon while Christmas shopping. I was looking for a gift for a friend when The Happiness Project caught my eye. It was perfect because she is super positive and is devoted to self improvement. 

*Rubin, Gretchen 2009 The Happiness
Project, HarperCollins, N.Y., P. 85
Since I was not the only late holiday shopper,  I waited in line for about twenty minutes, just enough time to get absorbed in the book. I came across a passage that spoke to me: "When I find myself focusing overmuch on the anticipated future happiness of arriving at a certain goal, I remind myself to 'Enjoy now.' If I can enjoy the present, I don't need to count on the happiness that is (or isn't) waiting for me in the future."* I have recently been focusing all my efforts on my book's launch without appreciating each step that will get me there; when the goal becomes your only goal, the present becomes subservient to the future and activities become things to complete versus things to enjoy. It's time to rebalance my focus.

Coincidence? I think not. It turns out that The Happiness Project was a perfect gift for me. 

Happy Holidays everyone!


Thursday 13 December 2012

When Push Comes to Shove

Things are heating up as my March 11 launch date approaches. I met the Wiley marketing and publicity team this week, which was a highlight. The pieces of the marketing mix are coming together, including contact lists, press releases, sales team briefings and a launch party. Plans are being worked, milestones are being set and my to-do list is growing.

I am feeling the heat as my book and consulting commitments rub against each other. Both are important and both must be done well. Sleep has suffered but I am staying on track.

At the top of my book-related list is the '' website. My web designer and I mapped out the site and selected a template that will be customized with my content. 

Now it is up to me to write the content and for my designer to organize it in a clear and engaging way. The bulk of my work is to write chapter summaries and record videos. Each one will be accompanied by blank versions of the templates in my book that people can download for their change projects. The e-version of Change with Confidence will include embedded links so that people can retrieve them as they read. 

I am excited by the work that is before me. Often I do my best work when push comes to shove. 


Friday 7 December 2012

If it looks like a duck...

A Duck
At a meeting I facilitated last week, someone mentioned that she had referenced the 'duck test' (if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck,  and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck) to her team and no one knew what she meant.

I feel like I am going through the duck test now as the hard cover version of my book is being assembled. I asked my Wiley production supervisor if she could send me a sample of the layout design and she kindly sent me a few pages. 

Fonts: Blumner MTStd, Minion Pro 
and Ocean Sans
Here's where the duck test comes in. The layout looks like a hard cover business book, the fonts are similar to other hard cover business books, and the dimensions are common to most hard cover business book. Therefore, Change with Confidence will look and feel like a hard cover business book. I am getting more and more excited as I see the physical elements come together. Each one is a 'pinch myself' moment, a small win that needs to be celebrated. Celebration is an important factor of successful change management and I am seeing my motivation spike every time I have one.

Two observations came to mind when studying the layout: It will be easy to flip through my book to find specific information, which has always been a must-have requirement. Also, the templated examples are shown exactly as they were created during big change projects, which reflects the experience-based, practical nature of my book. 

 The cover is the final element of the design phase. As long as it looks like a business book (the duck) then my book will be in good shape.


Friday 30 November 2012

What's on the Cutting Room Floor?

I was excited to see my edited manuscript in my inbox, which kicked off the next step on my path - making publisher edits. My editor said there were no  major changes, which was a relief, but how many edits would there be? There were 152, which isn't that many for a 257 page (52,000 word) book. Or is it?
I felt like a kid getting back a test. Did I pass? I decided to jump in and read through the changes before making the edits. My first impression was that the edit comments were really well written. It makes sense that publishing professionals would be excellent writers but I kept saying, "that's a really good way of explaining the point. This is really well written." Here is a breakdown of edits:

  • Clarification of meaning                 52
  • Reword/word substitution              31
  • Quote source                                 22
  • Formatting                                     13
  • Request to add text                       10
  • Confirm spelling of name               12
  • Define term                                      6
  • Bullet point order                             5
  • Compliment  to the author               1

I was asked to comment on each edit and make changes using Microsoft Word's "track changes" feature. I usually find this way of editing a file to be messy but this was a high-end version which worked really well. There were only five edits I did't make because they would have changed my intended meaning. That seems like a small number and is a sign of amazing editors. 

It took twenty hours to make the changes and by the end of the process I felt I had a personal connection with my editors. The final editing phase was a good one: I had a better manuscript and had learned a few tips on writing. It doesn't matter what's on the cutting room floor. What's left on the table is what counts.


Thursday 22 November 2012

The Long and the Short of It

I started night running last week. It's exciting and a bit dangerous. 

My version of night running involves running in unlit ravines using a headlight to guide me through the pitch black night. Occasionally, I pass lone walkers who aren't visible until my light hits them. Each time I wonder what they are doing walking in the dark. Perhaps they are wondering why a guy is running with a light on his head. It's good to wonder about what you don't understand. 

I got my headlight from the Energizer Night Race, where 1,000 people ran 5 and 10K races to raise money for a local hospital. It was an incredible experience seeing 1,000 points of light moving in unison against a starless sky.

Solo night running is a different experience. The only source of light is on your head and you need to position it well to avoid falling. Loss of visibility leads you off the path and onto unsteady ground. This is the dangerous part.

On my run tonight, it struck me how similar night running is to leading organizations. If your headlight, or focus, is pointed directly in front of you then you can't see what is coming next; if it is pointed  too far in the distance, then you can't see what is immediately in front of you. Both approaches are risky with significant consequences. After some experimentation, night runners and organizations are able to find a sweet spot between short and long-term focus. You need to do both to be successful.  You can't lose sight of where you are going and you must manage what is in front of you along the path. 

As I was thinking of this metaphor I lost focus and went off the path. That's what makes night running and leading organizations exciting and a bit dangerous. 


Thursday 15 November 2012

If He Can Do It So Can I

A universal truth of change management is that leaders must model the new behaviours they ask for before their team members will adopt them. Leaders define organizational cultures through their actions, inspiring people to think "If she can do it so can I." If they don't, however, little will change for the better and some behaviours may change for the worse.

I witnessed this leadership dynamic when I discussed Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, with a friend. He said that Daniel Craig's high level of fitness had inspired him to increase the intensity of his workouts (he's already a rock) and that he downloaded Daniel's Skyfall workout regimen to incorporate into his. 

It had a similar effect on me. Although I hadn't thought of downloading his plan, I did add a few exercises to my morning routine, calling it 'Project Skyfall' (hey, whatever works). When I did search for the Bond workout, I was surprised at how many sites came up - we were not alone. 

Leaders, both at work and in the movies, have huge influence on how people behave. What they do (versus what they say) encourages others to take on mindsets and behaviours that may be new, uncomfortable and difficult to master. 

Leaders who share their challenges adopting behaviours are more inspirational than the ones who do so with ease. James Bond's struggle to get back into shape intensified my "If he can do it so can I" conviction. My additional exercises won't give me Daniel Craig's fitness level, but it will change it for the better, and changing for the better is what counts.


Thursday 8 November 2012

Building a Web Site and Getting It Right

The web site is the hub of my marketing plan. It will be my 24/7 global ambassador, representing my book, consulting company and beliefs on change management. I have to get it right.

So what does getting it right mean? It doesn't mean complex, flashy and promotion-laced; it means simple, easy to navigate and helpful. It has to communicate what I do and how I do it in a way that reflects my personality. 

To prepare for my first meeting with Krishan, a graphic and web designer who is known for crafting organization identities, I took screen shots of internet sites I liked. I deleted them all when I saw the Very Cool Life web site because it demonstrated all of my site requirements better than any of them:

- Simplicity
- Quick loading
- Ease of navigation
- A 'human,' personal feel
- Use of different media including video
- Consistency of format
- Lots of white space
- Generous giveaways
- Good positioning of the owner's book 

Krishan is now mocking-up a test site. My task is to start writing content for the following sections:

- Home
- About
- The Book
- What We Offer
- Contact

I expect that headings and content will change prior to launching my site, which is part of the creative process. The balance between art and science will take a while to get right. The best sign of success will be people effectively and efficiently accessing information. "Simple and easy" are complex and difficult goals.


Friday 2 November 2012

Small Things Aren't So Small After All

You can tell a lot about a company's culture and where it is headed by how it celebrates. This week I had the opportunity to experience a new organization celebrate Halloween. They celebrated it well. Here is what I saw and heard:

- The office was well decorated in all areas
- Most people dressed up
- The CEO and the rest of the leadership team dressed up
- A party was held and everyone who wasn't on a call attended
- Employees were invited to bring their children for "trick or treat"
- Parents got the opportunity to introduce their kids to their colleagues
- The emcee was fun and considerate about the children ("Let's not clap too loudly in case it scares our little ones.")
- There was audience-based voting for best costume contests
- Premium parking spots were raffled off to employees who were nominated by peers for being helpful
- People had a great time and were smiling a lot
- Next year's party is on the 2013 calendar

In a meeting I was facilitating, someone noted that a company's culture is defined by thousands of small things that shape how people feel about the company. Not long afterwards, a person came into the boardroom asking if she could take the team's picture in costume. She wanted to add it to a recruitment brochure with the caption, "Do you want to work for a company like this?" Small things aren't so small after all.


Friday 26 October 2012

When You See the Big Picture, You See It

The author's photograph is a key elements of cover design. It needs to convey personality characteristics that are aligned with the biography, content and writing style to help the reader decide whether the book is worth reading (and buying).

I first had my picture taken professionally, when I was twenty-four. I was approached by a "drama instructor" who was convinced I had a career in advertising. All I needed to do was invest in a $100 photo shoot (and drama lessons) and I would be set. I took the bait and visited her photographer. He took seventy-two shots and two weeks later I returned to review the proof pages. He had difficulty finding a "good one," which was a signal that the advertising world was better off without my contributions. I didn't take the drama lessons.

Since then, I have had four corporate photos taken. They are all straight-on head and shoulder portraits with me smiling in front of a "grade school photo" blue background. The uniformity of this style is well-suited for organization charts and i-d badges but lacks the essence of the person. I wanted to avoid that look for my book cover. 

A highlight of my authoring journey has been working with amazing people. Everyone has been a friend or a friend of a friend, which has added trust, connectivity and respect to all activities. I remembered that my friend Shari had asked a friend of hers to take her professional photographs. They are fantastic and captured her warmth, depth and glowing spirit in a way I had never seen before in pictures. I was thrilled when Shari agreed to introduce me to her photographer friend, Marlene.

Fortunately, Marlene agreed to take my photographs and we met at her home for the shoot. I have never enjoyed a photo shoot until now. Marlene's supportive and relaxed personality turned an uncomfortable activity into an enjoyable conversation with someone I felt I had known for a long time. In minutes we were done and I wished we had more time to talk.

I was on a tight timeline because I needed to submit a photograph in  two days to my publisher. Even though Marlene was not feeling well, she sent me the seven best photos within hours. 

I chose my favourite two photos, which conveyed different parts of my personality: the friendly, exuberant guy and the serious, knowledgeable guy. I chose the serious, knowledgeable guy for my cover, which friends and family members also chose. I didn't labour over this decision like others because when you see the big picture, you see it.  


Thursday 18 October 2012

Answer All Questions Before Handing In

Completing questionnaires is not one of my strengths. I find it mind-numbing and challenging to remain focused as I work through the questions. Since this is one of my least favourite activities, I repeatedly count the number of questions remaining, like someone who watches coffee percolate, hoping that it will go faster by doing so. 

I had mixed feelings when I saw an "author's questionnaire" in my inbox. On the positive side, I was excited by seeing "author" and "Phil Buckley" in the same sentence. On the less positive side, I thought of having to work through the questions, repeatedly checking the number remaining.  

I had answered many of the questions in my book proposal, such as "Who are the audiences for my book?", "What are the benefits and features?", "Who are my competitors?", and "In which countries is my book most relevant?". Some, however, were new to me, including "What media contacts do I know personally?", and "What organizations would want to buy my book in bulk?" 

These new questions are opportunities that I need to champion. Perhaps the answers will have the highest yield within my Change with Confidence marketing plan. As most questionnaire instructions state: Answer all questions before handing in.


Friday 12 October 2012

I Am My Own Brand Manager

The highlight of my week was a conference call with my senior publicist and marketing manager at Wiley. We talked about the promotion plan for Change with Confidence. I was keen to share my thoughts but have learnt that when speaking with experts it's best to let them go first and listen really well.

My book is slated for publishing in mid-March and the plan works back from then. We spoke about the press release, promotional copies for media contacts and potential article opportunities. 

Justin, I could use some advice
Although I will get great support from the Wiley team, I know that I am accountable for building awareness of my book and me, the guy who wrote it. I need to be the brand manager of my own brand. This is no surprise because I have heard it many times during my research. What was surprising is that I need to take on this role now. The publicity and marketing stage of my journey has begun and I am already behind. 

Here are my top priorities:

- Design and launch a Change with Confidence web site
- Build my Google+ profile and presence 
- Connect with affiliate publicist teams around the world to gain their support
- Write a series of articles based on the content of my book

The call was as exciting as I thought it would be. Talking about my "platform" and "SEO" (search engine optimization) made me feel like a brand. For Change with Confidence to achieve its potential, I need to become one.


Friday 5 October 2012

Some Things Shouldn't Change

I had a "back to the future" moment this week when I checked into the Sheraton Parsippany in New Jersey, which was a second home for me in the mid-2000s. I asked the front desk clerk if Mary still worked there. The attendant brightened and said, "Yes she does, I love Mary. What a wonderful person. Sometimes I just want to give her a hug to feel better." This response didn't surprise me because I had heard it many times before. 

Mary is in charge of the concierge level lounge that offers breakfast and evening appetizers to guests. Her warmth and dedication is felt as soon as you walk through the door. She gives new guests a detailed tour of the lounge and wows returning ones with her knowledge of their preferences. Mary used to save the best bananas for me and once forbade me from eating one because it was below her standards. She then quickly went to the main kitchen to get me the best one on site. Classic Mary!

I wasn't the only one who was in awe of Mary. Our entire project team sang her praises. She called us "the Canadians" and did everything she could to make us feel at home.  At the close of our assignment, we sent her flowers and some money as a thank you. It didn't seem enough for all she had done for us but she loved our gesture. After being transferred from the local office, I visited her when in the area or occasionally gave her a call. When we spoke she asked about each of "the Canadians" by name, just like family. 

It was great to seeing Mary again, especially in a newly renovated lounge that she was proud off. Although the room had changed, Mary was the same. She even saved two bananas for me each day, just like before. 

I decided to write a letter of appreciation to the hotel's manager stating how important Mary is to her customers. It doesn't seem enough for all she has done for me but I hope she loves my gesture. 


Friday 28 September 2012

I Will Be Brief

This week, I completed my first proposal to speak about Change with Confidence at a conference.  It required me to briefly describe what I would say and why it would be of value to the attendees. Not an easy task, especially with a strict limit on word count; being  succinct and passionate at the same time is a challenge.  

Like most struggles, it was a great exercise that required laser focus. It reminded me of the "elevator speech" concept where you provide a gripping topic summary in the time it takes to ride in an elevator. There is no time to meander when you have two minutes to make your point. 

Here are a couple of excerpts from my proposal:

Proposal Abstract (100-150 word limit):

Leaders of change need the most help when they are confronted with questions they can’t answer based on their experience. Most become fearful of being seen as a poor leader, losing respect, failing and not being in charge. What they need is practical advice on making the right choices that are best for their organization and aligned with its values. New and experienced change managers will learn practical how-to approaches to help leaders manage every-day realities of change based on the critical leadership questions that must be answered well to develop and grow organizations. They will also learn different ways to provide support given the circumstances and needs of their leaders. (110 words)

Learning Objectives
  • Know the questions leaders need to answer to successfully manage a big change initiative.
  • Identify practical people-focused approaches to support leaders through change.
  • Learn how to apply the approaches to build leaders’ confidence to manage change-related challenges they must face to be successful.

I am keen to take Change with Confidence on the road and share its practical advice with groups around the world. It's hard to be brief and passionate at the same time, but if that's what it takes, great.


Friday 21 September 2012

The Eagle Has Landed!

We did it! Last Tuesday, I met with my executive editor and editorial assistant to sign a global rights contract with Wiley for Change with Confidence. From their website: "Wiley has evolved into one of the world's more respected publishing and information services companies. We strongly believe in the enduring value of collaborative relationships, built in a solid foundation of trust and integrity." Perfect fit.

My book with be under the Jossey-Bass imprint. 
"Jossey-Bass publishes books, periodicals, and other media to inform and inspire those interested in developing themselves, their organizations and their communities." Another perfect fit!

Change with Confidence will be available worldwide in 6 x 9 trim size hardcover (and e-book) in March, 2013. I couldn't be more thrilled!

My new team members were very gracious and understanding about my excitement. I laughed when my executive editor said that in her twenty-seven year career, I was the first author to request a picture of the contract signing. Hilarious!

As I left the office, I was overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude for everyone who has helped me along the way, including those who have read this blog (you!). The intensity of appreciation is hard to capture in words. Perhaps it is best just to say "Thank-you from the bottom of my heart."

A new phase of my journey has kicked-off and I have a lot to do. Firstly, I need to read my manuscript one last time before I hand it over to the Wiley team on Monday. There are a few insights I have learned during my recent consulting assignments that I am keen to share with my readers.  The heat is on!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Things Are Going Well

This week, I noticed a change in how I was updating friends on my progress. After listing my accomplishments I qualified them by saying things like "Nothing is certain until the ink is dry." This is true but saying it changes my focus from steps gained to the steps to go. What an energy drainer. Why do we do things like this to ourselves?

Dan Sullivan discussed this phenomenon in his book The Gap. He said that people who measure their achievements against the ideal "will always come up short. You will always feel deficient. (Contrarily) when we measure our achievements by where we have come from, we always have a sense of progress. There is an overall experience of increasing capability and confidence. With each new success, there is a heightened sense of optimism because the future has always turned out to be better than the past."

Claude Bristol, in his book The Magic of Believing, shared a similar insight. He said, "Our thoughts determine our carriage, our facial expressions, our conversation, for what we are outwardly comes as a result of what we think habitually. Whatever you fix your thoughts upon or steadily focus your imagination upon, that is what you attract." Yikes! By qualifying my achievements, I have been sapping the energy I need to earn new ones. 

This is unacceptable and I am stopping it now. From now on I am going to celebrate little wins. Did I mention that recently I had a promising conversation with a publisher? 


Friday 7 September 2012

Looking for Connections

I was reminded the other day of a guest post I had written at Pivot Communication's blog site about my habit of saying hello to strangers as I pass them. This practice extends to waving at fellow runners. No matter how many times I have done this, I haven't been able to correlate the responses I received − smile, minimal acknowledgement, no expression at all or frown - based on traits of the people I was waving at − age, gender, etc. Why did some people respond positively and others not?

A few weeks after I wrote the post, Seth Godin wrote a blog post entitled Waving to Myself  where he suggests that when waving at people similar to ourselves, "we are not waving at the person. We're waving to ourselves." As an enthusiastic waver to fellow runners, I disagreed with his insight: I wave  to acknowledge their efforts and give them encouragement. After a few long runs and many waves, I realized that Seth was partially right. I was waving at people like me because we have something in common and that is what I was acknowledging. 

My first experience of acknowledging connections was on a trip to Florida when I was sixteen.  I was walking across a parking lot by the beach when I heard the song Roundabout, by Yes, playing on a car stereo. I was a huge fan of the band and excitedly approached the two guys in the car, saying "What a great song, aren't they great?" They looked up at me for a second and resumed their conversation. As I made my retreat I heard the DJ announcing the song and realized that they hadn't chosen to play it. Maybe they didn't even like Yes. I was excited by my perceived connection. 

Last Sunday, I continued my 'wave at every runner' pattern when a guy passed me. He was waving at every runner too and received the same random responses. I thought, "He would appreciate the gesture from me." Maybe my readers will feel that way too.


Friday 31 August 2012

To Infinity and Beyond!

I always thought my career could go in two directions after my book was published: consulting or corporate. Either I would apply the advice from Change With Confidence at my clients' or next employer's businesses. Robert Cialdini said "He who has the most options wins." Having two options is definitely better than one, or is it?

Having two options gives you choice but it also implies that you have not committed to one. When I shared my two options with someone in the publishing industry, she wondered if the corporate option would limit my ability to promote my book. She was right: I would be absorbed in the challenges of my new role and team. The consulting option is far more flexible. I can blend speaking engagements and other promotional activities with assignments, giving the required time to both.

This week, I committed to the book promotion/consulting option. I incorporated a company called Change With Confidence Incorporated ("Limited" and "Confidence" don't go together) that matches the business cards I purchased earlier.

When the security guard at a client's office asked what company I was from, I belted out "Change With Confidence!" Buzz Lightyear would have been proud. The security guard paused before writing it in his book. Change with Confidence Incorporated became official!

As I walked away, clipping my guest badge to my belt, I thought, "To infinity and beyond. That sounds about right."