Friday 30 March 2012

What's in a Name?

 "What are you going to call it?" is often the first question people ask me about my book. I answer the same way each time: "I don't know." I have thought about potential names but not one of them has stuck. My book keeps changing and so does it's description.

There is a lot of advice on picking a book title. Sources agree that there is a lot at stake because it is a key influencer on whether or not a reader will buy your book (or someone else's).  

A good title...
- Grabs attention, is intriguing, and pulls the reader in
- Sums up what the book is about 
- Hints at the benefits of buying it (addresses what people need)
- Is relevant to the audience interested in your book
- Is not too obtuse, clever or clich├ęd 
- Does not include hard to pronounce words
- Is positive
- Matches the tone (and energy) of the book
- Is short (less than eight words)
- Stands out from other books in your genre
- Is easy to remember
- Includes a subtitle that further describe what the reader gets
- Includes key words a reader would type into a search engine to find a book like yours
- Does not mislead the reader

I have been tracking my competition through LinkedIn chat topics on the best change management books written. The list is at 243 and counting. Also, I downloaded the table of contents of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. Finding a title that will stand out from these tomes and meet all of the above criteria will be a challenge. There is one more requirement, however, that makes the task a little more manageable: you need to love your title and be proud of it because you will have it for life.


Friday 23 March 2012

You Get What You Expect, More or Less

Last Saturday, I went to the Van Halen concert in Toronto. This was a big event because they had just released their first album of new material in twenty-eight years and had not been on tour for the last four.

I loved the show; it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. The band was more relaxed and tighter than their 2007 show and it felt like a celebration of their songs and long history. 

The newspaper reviews agreed that Eddie Van Halen is still a virtuoso guitarist but were mixed about David Lee Roth: He was described as "an ultimate showman," "interesting and charming," "ragged vaudevillian huckster," and "hokey carney." I wondered how the same performance could evoke such a wide range of perceptions. Perhaps each reviewer was guided by his or her expectations and their views reflected whether they were higher, the same, or lower than reality.

 I know expectations will influence how people perceive my book. Someone once said that expectations equal experience plus hopes minus fears. If the reader doesn't know me, his or her expectations will be set by reviews, title, cover and introduction. It's my job to shape high expectations and exceed them. Phil
Expectations of David Lee Roth?

Friday 16 March 2012

The Best is Yet to Come

In the late 90s, I was influenced by the writings of Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach program, a process for helping entrepreneurs grow. His perspectives helped me manage my career and life. One of his core processes is called The Entrepreneurial Time System where time is divided into three types of days: "free days" (off-limits days to  rejuvenate), "buffer days" (preparation days), and "focus days" (performing days). 

Although I couldn't organize my time in this way, I did benefit from the thinking behind it. In particular, Dan believes that you create breakthrough ideas during a series of consecutive "free days" where you completely remove yourself from work (including emails or reading business journals). Mark, my friend and fellow Sullivan fan, and I would ask each other about our breakthrough idea after each vacation. They were usually good ones.  

I thought of Dan this week when my family went skiing at Whistler. On day 3, my breakthrough idea came to me about half way up the mountain. I realized that my greatest achievements are ahead of me.This is true of most people but declaring it verbally and in writing creates the mindset necessary to make it real. Questions like "What are better achievements?" and "What would have to be true to achieve them?" have started forming the steps to reach them. My book is my next step.

As we left Whistler Village for the last time, a sign in front of the The North Face store captured the gist of my breakthrough: Never stop exploring (to become your best).


Friday 9 March 2012

The Best Stories Must Be Told

Have you ever had a belief that slowly changed until it became the opposite to what it was? I have had a few of them, and my most recent one was about the stories I am including in my book. I wanted all of them to come from my personal experiences and it took a lot of thinking to identify 100 stories (two stories per chapter).

Just because you can do something one way doesn't mean its the best way. Limiting the stories to my experiences meant that some industries, like health care, natural resources, and transportation were missing. Also, most of my experiences have been in packaged goods, which felt skewed. My readers and editor had counselled me to research new stories, and although my mind was in agreement my heart wasn't - but what about all my exciting adventures? These stories have to be told!

This week, I came around and started researching new stories. I am glad I did. There are so many fascinating scenarios from all continents and industries, where people have made good and bad decisions around change. It is true that change is universal, regardless if you work in a retail group in China or a telecommunications firm in Argentina - change is about people.

Finding relevant stories has been an adventure. Some I found quickly and others took more than half a day. The search can be discouraging but when you hit the jackpot it's worth it. The secret is to never give up. Never.

I thought of sharing some of the stories here but I think it's best to wait for the book. They are worth the wait. Phil

Friday 2 March 2012

The Audience has the Only Vote That Counts

A friend asked me to speak with her high school class about my career and my book. I have done this a few times before and they can be tricky, like the time a student folded her arms on her desk, put her head down and slept for the rest of the class. I didn't get her vote.

I asked our teenage sons for advice. Sam recommended using quick games as metaphors of my experiences. Makes sense. When I said I was planning to engage the group in discussions, he said, "They won't say anything unless you reward them, so bring candy." Done. Charlie counselled, "Don't deal with kids who aren't paying attention or acting up because you will just dig yourself a bigger grave." As with adults. He also said "Don't talk in the voice you are talking to me in now: it's too optimistic and has to be grounded in reality." I thought it was both.  

This is what I have learned:
- Identify how my path is relevant to the students
- Let them experience my experiences 
- The less I talk the more fun they will have
- Motivate them to participate
- Follow their interests
- Make it enjoyable

Most principles hold true for my book:
- Identify how my experiences are relevant to the reader
- Let them experience my experiences (provide the who, what, why, where, when and how)
- Motivate the reader to apply my advice to their situation
- Make it easy for them to follow their interests
- Make it enjoyable

I must do everything in my power to get people's votes - one vote at a time.