Friday 27 December 2013

The Importance of Holiday Traditions, Old and New

I had a flashback of my childhood when I was exchanging Christmas gifts with my friend. As he unwrapped his gift he said, "Save the bow." 

My mom said "save the bows" every year on Christmas morning.  Every time she said it we laughed and replied "save the bows, save the bows" as if our lives depended on it. A related tradition was feigning surprise when we opened a gift that didn't have a reused bow on it attached with scotch tape. 

A few days later, my brother, Steve, laughed when I instructed him to save the bow on his gift. It recalled memories of our family tradition and good times.  

I realized how important these traditions are to people's behaviour when I co-facilitated an innovation workshop on candy canes in 2003. It was a fascinating project where Mel and I explored Christmas traditions with a cross-functional North American team to develop new products ideas. 

As participants shared their family traditions, someone said that his uncle always carved the turkey before their Christmas dinner. Mel asked who would carve the turkey if his uncle couldn't. He immediately turned red, tensed his body and shouted out, "My uncle will always be there and he will always carve the turkey! That's just the way it is."

There are strong parallels between how holiday traditions and organizational cultures work. People act and behave according to pre-established, accepted patterns. They are likely to respond similarly to things in the future based on how they acted in the past, unless something changes that motivates them to change their behaviour. 

An effective way to positively change people's behaviour is to offer new behaviours that give something better than what the old one provided. As long as the new behaviour make sense, the benefits are clear, and it is easy to do, most people will try it. If not, they won't. 

It explains why that guy's uncle most likely is still carving the turkey‒nobody does it better. It also explains why my family has stopped saving bows‒the scotch tape on used bows wasn't strong enough to keep them attached and a package of twenty-five new bows only costs two dollars.

Our 'save the bow' tradition is now a memory of how things used to be and that's for the better.


Friday 20 December 2013

12 Ways You Know that a Team is Ready to Take On Change

A must-answer question before people take on a change is "Are they ready to do so?" It may seem like simple logic but I have witnessed many teams who haven't asked the question,who aren't ready and whose initial outcomes are poor.

In any change project, there is pressure to be 'on track' according to the implementation plan. Not being on plan triggers greater scrutiny and reporting. If they can't get back on track, then their abilities come into question too. People learn quickly that life is better when they are on plan and may say they are on track when they aren't.

This dynamic intensifies just before taking on new ways of working because that's when risks are the greatest - will the systems work, will people know what to do, will performance drop, will the business run? Scrutiny, reporting and concern about abilities are the greatest when there is little time solve problems.

At this time, is important to conduct an independent assessment of readiness to minimize personal biases. In change management lingo, a 'readiness assessment' needs to be conducted to validate that things will work properly and people are able to operate effectively in the new environment. 

One way to assess readiness is to hold department or team-based question and answer sessions for leaders to address outstanding questions people have before taking on new ways of working. This helps determine how prepared they are and reduces confusion about their roles and how they interact with others. 

There are many indicators of readiness at these sessions:
  • Tone: Is there a positive or negative orientation to the questions?
  • Number of unknowns: Is there a long list of questions?
  • Level of awareness: Should people already know the answers?
  • Breadth of knowledge: Are there answers for all of the questions (or do people know where they can be found)?
  • Confidence: Are the leaders confident in their answers?
  • Attendance: Is there good attendance at the sessions - do people show up?
  • Participation: Are the sessions one-way monologues or two-way conversations?
  • Creation mindset: Do people support and expand on the answers that leaders give?
  • Visual cues: Is body language open and positive?
  • Humour: Are people smiling and/or are jokes being shared?
  • Realistic expectations: Do leaders set fair expectations for post-change performance - is there permission to learn by doing or is 'perfect' mandated?
  • Acknowledgement: Do leaders thank people for their efforts - is anything being celebrated?

I facilitated a readiness Q&A session this week. It was one of the best I have seen. It was a good conversation about how the team will work together and all indicators confirmed their ability to do so. They are ready to go.

Perhaps the most telling indicator is if people ask you why you are asking if they are ready to take on change - why wouldn't they be ready?


Friday 13 December 2013

The First Time is for Learning, the Second is for Success

"There's nothing better than being embraced by your peers. People who know what it takes to do that, who said, 'We think that you deserve to be nominated.' I mean, it doesn't get better than that'." That's what Oprah Winfrey said this week when she learned of her Screen Actors Guild supporting-actress nomination for The Butler.

I didn't think such noble thoughts when I found out that my blog was nominated for a Canadian Weblog Award. I thought, 'Wow, I got nominated!"

The Canadian Weblog Awards are judged by a volunteer jury that rates blogs according to: 

  • Usability and accessibility 
  • Functionality
  • Interactivity
  • Aesthetics
  • Originality
  • Intelligibility and clarity
  • Currency (is the content timely)
  • Transparency and authenticity
  • Attention to detail
  • Engagingness

Making Change was nominated in the Business & Career category  that had twenty-one  nominations. The competition was steep.

I didn't make the top five shortlist. This didn't discourage me; it ignited a challenge for next year. Throughout my Change with Confidence journey, I have learned that trying something for the first time is about learning how it works. Taking action on these learnings is how you succeed. 

Here is what I will do to prepare for next year's competition:
  • Review the winning blogs - what can I learn from their layout, content and style?
  • Learn about the jurors - this a dedicated group of volunteers - are they bloggers?
  • Speak with the creator of the Weblog Awards, Elan Morgan - he is a fountain of knowledge on the awards and past winners
  • Investigate other blog awards - what does good look like?
  • Study statistics on my blog - what posts are most popular, who reads them, etc.?
  • Survey my readers - what do people like and what could be improved?
Until then, congratulations to the shortlisted and top-three winners of each Weblog category. I am look forward to reading their blogs.


Friday 6 December 2013

Are you still searching for your dream job?

This week, our son Sam and I had one of those philosophical discussions that you never forget. We talked about how to lead a fulfilling and happy life.

Sam saw life as a quest to find activities of higher and higher value. Happiness was achieved by substituting activities of higher value for lesser ones. 

If each activity has a personal value rating between 1 to 10, then he would, for example, substitute a 5 rated activity for a 7 rated activity. We agreed that it gets tricky when you perceive an activity as an 8 that turns out to be a 2 once you do it. That's life. 

This quest applies to all aspects of life including friends, partners and careers. From a career perspective, people would substitute a higher rated job for a lower rated one until they found their dream job. I wondered how people knew when they had found their dream job, the one that gives them maximum happiness. 

Later this week, I spoke with someone who said that the last Change with Confidence newsletter really helped him  with an issue he was facing. He said he reread it many times and thought about how he could best use it to lead change.

The three concentric circles of a dream job popped into my head: using your personal strengths on something you are passionate about that people value. Getting feedback like this gave me maximum fulfillment and happiness. At that moment I realized I had found my dream job.

Sam would say that the quest never ends; you never know when you will find a higher valued activity. That's life.


Friday 29 November 2013

How to Work in a Hostile Environment

I bumped into an old friend whom I hadn't spoken with in years. It was good to catch up on our families and careers.

She told me that work was not going well. She worked in a hostile environment and although she was working hard, she was not doing her best. There was little to celebrate and she was drained.

The more she described her work culture, the more caustic it appeared: personal interests and agendas guided actions and behaviours; there was little trust for and between executives; and people were focused on covering themselves. Many people had disengaged and, like the 80's Loverboy song, were "working for the weekend."

I knew my friend was a team player who thrived on stretch goals and collaboration. Her focus was on finding the best answer no matter who came up with it. Not a success factor for her current environment.

She asked me what I would do. Here are the highlights of what I suggested:
  • Assess your situation. Are the benefits you are getting worth the personal costs of working in this culture? Is the net benefit better than your best available alternative?
  • Quit taking it personally (QTIP). Everyone's performance is impacted by the environment in which they work. The next person who holds your role will be treated the same way. 
  • Create a sub-culture based on the values and behaviours that make you successful. Who among your peers and team want a better culture? Build it within your areas of influence.
  • Map the key stakeholders and plot what actions trigger their behaviours. You can encourage or limit behaviours by activating or avoiding these actions. 
  • Raise awareness of how the current culture is lowering productivity. This is a long-term strategy but  in time it may limit some behaviours. Money talks.
  • Talk it out with friends. It broadens your perspective, provides advice and reduces stress.
  • Know your limits. Define the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Bad behaviour intensifies over time and your confidence will erode. When will you say "I don't think that is appropriate? 
  • Create new options to assess. The more options you have, the more empowered you will be.
I am planning to talk it out further with my friend.

Friday 22 November 2013

What I Learned From Making a Book Trailer

This week, I received the final version of a book trailer for Change with Confidence that was filmed after I completed my Building Your Change Capability course for Soundview.  

A book trailer is an important promotional vehicle because it provides the potential reader with an overview of the book and the author. I had filmed six 'author tips' videos for Wiley last April but I didn't have a promotional piece about my book, which was a gap. 

I really enjoyed discussing filming options and script choices with Jen and Jackie, Soundview's creative videographers. We weighed the benefits of different camera angles and supporting graphics against the objectives of the video.

Jackie and Jen
Initially, we tried using a Powerpoint slide as a guide for me. This worked well when filming the course because I knew the material well and a reminder of the sequence points was all I needed. 

The support I needed  for the book trailer was different. Since it would be one minute long, I needed extra help to deliver each point precisely and succinctly. 

We opted to use a teleprompter. I had only used one once before while on vacation at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. Being a pretend newscaster with my friend Dan was not a lot of experience.

It took about fifteen takes to make the video. I spoke quickly for my first few takes as if I would not be able to keep up with the teleprompter that Jackie was controlling manually. I needed to relax and focus less on the screen (an ipad).

What worked best was a mixture of reading and talking freely. I started each point by reading from the teleprompter and then ended it with a follow-on thought. For example, I read "...illustrated by real world examples" and added "many of which I actually experienced in my career." This approach felt natural and captured the key points about the book and the author. 

Jen edited the video and added the graphics. I loved the initial cut. We only made one small adjustment on the banner and it was done. 

Here's what I learned from the experience:
  • Skilled professionals do excellent work - work with the best;
  • Experiment with different options - one will outshine the others;
  • Be yourself. The buyer is buying the book and the author who wrote it;
  • Test the final product with trusted advisers. They know what good looks like for you; and
  • Use it - distribute it broadly - Youtube, blog, Amazon, website, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.

So here it is. I hope you like it.

Friday 15 November 2013

Life is Best When You Are Ahead of the Curve

Preparing for a Journey
I wasn't sure how my week would begin when I landed in Philadelphia last Sunday night. I was there to film a course call Building Your Change Capability for Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

Soundview had awarded Change with Confidence "30 Best Business Books of 2013" status earlier this year and had created both Executive Summary and audio versions of my book - a huge honour. They also hosted a webinar with me in June that was a great experience.

Andrew, Executive Editor and
Ursula, Director of Business Dev.
In August, Ursula and Andrew approached me about a new product offering called SoundviewPro launching in January. It is a series of online courses by their authors that stream to subscribers' computers, tablets and smart phones.

The invitation intrigued me. Online courses, called MOOCs (massive open online courses) is a hot trend in leadership development and I wanted to be a part of it. Doing so with a progressive and enthusiastic partner was even better.

I started writing my course a month before the shoot. I thoroughly researched the format, educating myself on consumer style preferences and the elements of engaging content. A successful course needed both. 

My biggest challenge was creating a narrative arc across all 'classes' to provide viewers with insights on change and a map of the phases of a big change project. I  spent the last two weekends creating slides and writing speaking notes. Building Your Change Capability was completed two hours before the taxi picked me up for the airport.

                    I Couldn't Resist
Like most new experiences that stretch your capabilities, this one was amazing. The entire Soundview team, including the owners, Josh and Rebecca, were welcoming and supportive. They too were excited by the possibilities of this learning format. It felt like we were building something ahead of the curve, something that was big, exciting and not completely known.

Jen and Jackie, my directors and videographers, were excellent. Beyond putting me at ease, they were very knowledgeable and creative. I loved exploring options and selecting approaches for the different segments. We tried to see the content through the viewer's eyes and created some exercises, which added spontaneity and freshness to the design.

Our target course length was three hours, which I thought was longer than the material I had prepared. I had nothing to worry about because after eight hours of filming we captured just over three hours of content over twelve classes:

  1. Introduction (12 min)
  2. Change Success Factors (28)
  3. The Change Leader's Role (12)
  4. The Confidence Factor (10)
  5. Essential Change Capabilities (10)
  6. Assessing what You Bring to Change (16)
  7. Asking and Answering the Questions of
      Change (16)
  8. The Four Phases of a Change Initiative (10)
  9. Phase 1: Figuring It Out (15)
10. Phase 2: Planning for Change (16)
11. Phase 3: Managing Change (16)
12. Phase 4: Making It Stick (20)

It took me twenty minutes to get comfortable in front of the camera (and Kurt). Jen and Jackie were supportive coaches as I felt my way through the practice takes. 

On the Air
After a while, I noticed that I stopped staring at the camera and began using my peripheral vision. This change dramatically increased my concentration. I focused on speaking instead of being filmed speaking. Whenever I made a mistake, it took me a couple more tries to regain this perspective, something that practice will correct.

We talking about where leadership knowledge and education is going over breaks, lunches and dinners. SoundviewPro is the right product at the right time, just ahead of the curve. The excitement about building something new was electrifying.

I left the Soundview offices at the end of my two-day shoot. I knew I had participated in something important and vital.  Something that I would be proud of for the rest of my life. I also met great people who were a delight to work with. I thought to myself, life is best when you are ahead of the curve. 


Friday 8 November 2013

If You Want a Good Conversation, Lose the Notes

Michele Price
Opportunities are more exciting when they are unexpected. That's how I felt when I hung up my phone last Friday. 

Michele Price called after a Wiley publicist had sent her a copy of Change With Confidence. She said that she was interested in interviewing me on her Breakthrough Business Strategies Radio show

Michele had an opening on Monday but the time conflicted with a client meeting. She suggested taping the interview on Sunday, which was a great option. We agreed on a 2:00 pm start time and she said it would go until 3:00 pm.

An hour. I had never been interviewed for such a long time. All my previous interviews were less than fifteen minutes. I wasn't sure how to prepare for it.

I wanted this interview to be different. I wanted it to be a conversation versus a question, answer, question, answer exchange like I had given before. Michele was warm and fun on the phone so I knew she would be a great conversationalist. But what about me?

My past approach to preparation was to write question and answer sheets and spread them around me in case those questions were asked. It worked from a content perspective but my focus was on giving the right answer versus answering the question. My answers lacked context of the discussion. Since they were independent from the discussion, they didn't lead to dynamic dialogue. 

This interview would be different. I would speak from my head instead of from my notes. The only way to do that was to not use notes.

Michele was wonderful and we had a great interview about the challenges of change and ways to manage them. The time flew by too. Before I knew it, our interview was over. We kept talking after the recording stopped and even then I wanted to chat longer. I am looking forward to staying in touch.

Notes are great for preparation but have no role in live activities - speaking engagements, training sessions or radio interviews, if you want to have a good conversation.


Friday 1 November 2013

You Are the Best Version of Yourself in the Present

A key to delivering results is to stay focused on the present. That is what I tested this week.

My schedule was jam packed with meetings and activities for multiple projects with multiple clients in multiple geographies. 

Last weekend, I shared the weight of my schedule with my friend Matt, who helped lighten my load by saying, "If anything, you are the best version of yourself in the present." I thought about the meanings behind his words. Beyond the "live in the present" connection, I realized that to perform your best you need to avoid being distracted by things that have happened in the past or ones that may happen in the future.

I decided to test my ability of staying in the present as I switched gears throughout the week. Could I remain focused on the immediate task at hand? Could I avoid the distractions of thinking about what I had just completed or what lay ahead after my next one? Would this improve my performance? 

The phrase, "you are the best version of yourself in the present" became a refocusing mechanism when my mind started to wander.  As a distraction drifted into my consciousness, I would reframe my thinking with a single thought. It worked beautifully and was required less and less. I felt focused and in the moment, not distracted by the usual noise that wastes time and diffuses efforts.

As I was living in the present I noticed more details and my concentration was stronger.  My memory of events also seemed to improve.

My next experiment is to be in the moment when I am not as stressed. Will I be able to benefit from this techniques when there is more time to spend?  As Parkinson once said, "Work will expand so as to fill the time available for its completion."

It's worth a try. Who wouldn't want to be the best version of themselves more often?


Thursday 24 October 2013

What To Do When You Aren't A Good Fit For An Opportunity

I was contacted about an opportunity that looked great. It was a speaking engagement at a business conference. The industry was new to me, but was going through massive change, which I knew well. 

The session title and synopsis referred to "change management" and the challenges it would discuss appeared to be ones I had experience in.

Over the weekend, I took a closer look at the session description and the conference agenda. Although "change" was referenced, objectives had little to do with the topic. The session was really about managing difficult relationships where few connections or little trust exists. It was a relationship management session. 

My a-ha moment quickly turned into a feeling of dread. My enthusiasm for an opportunity was leading me down a path I did not know. I had three options:

a) Do the presentation anyway
b) Negotiate a new topic that I was qualified to speak about
c) Decline the opportunity

a) Doing the presentation anyway appealed to my "can do" attitude. With time, research and determination I could figure it out. The problem is that I would be compromising the value I provide, devote an inordinate amount of time researching a topic I wasn't knowledgeable on and potentially damage my reputation. 

b) Negotiating a new topic could work but it wouldn't fit the themes of the conference so what would be the benefit? The poor fit of topic would compromise the value I could provide.

c) Declining the opportunity meant passing on an opportunity to share what I know with a group that might benefit from it. On the positive side, it would demonstrate honesty and integrity. This was the only credible option.

The next time an opportunity arises, I will ask better questions before I enthusiastically say "great". The most important one will be, "Is this a good fit for my skills, experience and goals? I know what I will say if the answer is no.


Friday 18 October 2013

If you didn't care about what people thought of you...

Last week, I presented at the Elevating Results conference. The audience was a good mix of private and public sector leaders and students.

The conference closed with a presenters' panel discussion. Questions had been submitted in advance along with ones taken from the floor.

It was exciting to be part of this group. All of my fellow presenters were highly-accomplished experts in their fields:
  • Ryan Walter, NHL hockey star; author of Hungry and  Fueling Your Best Game; President at Abbotsford Heat Hockey Ltd.
  • Lauren Friese, President and Founder at Talent Egg; awarded Top 100 Canada's Most Powerful Women by WXN, and many other business awards
  • Jocelyn Bérard, Author of Accelerating Leadership Development; VP Leadership and Business Solutions - International at Global Knowledge
  • Jason Atkins, CEO at 360incentives, winner second in the 2013 'Best Workplaces in Canada' awards
  • Jamie Allison, President and Founder at Epitome and conference MC
Ryan Walter
Someone from the audience asked about our leadership philosophies. Ryan finished his answer by mentioning that "He didn't care if someone liked him or what he did." He wished them well anyway." He said it with such confidence and conviction. 

The comment struck me and after the panel I asked Ryan when he came to this conclusion. He said that through his years in hockey and the constant feedback you get during them, he realized that to be great you have to focus on what you have to do and not worry about what people think of you. 

As I was driving home, I asked myself, "If you didn't care about what people thought of you would you do anything differently?" Part of a change manager's role is to call it when you see individuals or teams doing things that risk the success of their transitions, regardless of how unpopular or cross-cultural it is. It's your job, responsibility and duty. But would I do it differently?

My question really was, "Are you not doing things because you want to be liked?" I couldn't think of anything I would have done differently but I thought long and hard. Perhaps the lesson is that you need to keep testing yourself to make sure you are doing what you need to do. That sounds like a good leadership philosophy.


Friday 11 October 2013

Ten Ways to Give a Presentation Multiple Times (and Keep it Fresh!)

Yesterday, I completed a two-and-a-half week public speaking marathon: I gave nine presentations in Canada and England. My most intense day was on Tuesday when I gave three presentations across 2,000 miles in 23 hours. It was intense, long day.

One of the challenges of public speaking is keeping presentations engaging. Entertainers face a similar challenge. I remember a friend sharing a quote from Colm Wilkinson's when he was asked about playing the Phantom of the Opera every night He said, "You have to remember that each member of the audience is seeing your performance for the first time."

Mike Mandel, the master hypnotist who I had hired to coach a sales team said, "I always change 10 percent of my material so if people compare sessions they might share different things."

Here are my tips for keeping a presentation fresh every time you present it:

  • Create a bank of stories and examples to mix and match - from different industries and geographies, especially ones you don't know well
  • Customize your presentation for each audience - only present what they need
  • Make it interactive - poll the group, ask for examples, invite people to challenge your thinking
  • Use different exercises to achieve the same objectives
  • Vary the length of your presentation - this week I gave 45, 60 and 90 minutes sessions
  • Rewrite your slides - even the ones you love
  • Prepare different scenarios and ask your audience to pick the one that is most beneficial
  • Move the furniture around - rooms with or without tables have different dynamics
  • Change how you dress - I act differently when wearing a suit and tie
  • Change your introduction including how you represent yourself - the themes you present will carry throughout your presentation
The effort is worth it. I have never seen an audience get excited or inspired by a presenter who isn't excited or inspired. The good news is that you are already half way there; the audience members are seeing your material for the first time.


Friday 4 October 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Attend Conferences

I am writing this post at 12:30 am on a flight back to Toronto from London. The three-day Association of Change Management Professionals Europe conference was excellent. Although it is late, I am still on a post-conference high.

My role was to participate on a 'Best Change Management Books' panel and to lead a session called 'Helping Leaders Lead Change'. 

The panel was facilitated by an avid reader and partner of the CMC Partnership, and included a change management book commissioning editor from Kogan Page and a  partner in a firm that had just published a book called 'New Eyes: The Human Side of Change Leadership'. It was a great discussion and I learned a lot about publishing. 

My session went well. There were six other interesting sessions running in parallel so I wasn't sure if anyone would show up. They did and the room was full. 

Presenting to your community is a heightened experience. Given the expert knowledge and experience in the room, you are fortunate if it turns into an engaging dialogue. I didn't anticipate how much dialogue we had and had prepared too much information. The participants will have the extra slides, which hopefully is a bonus to them. 

Thanks to Luc Galoppin

I have not been a role model for investing time to learn. For most of my career, I was always 'too busy' to go to courses or conferences ̶ knowledge only came through experience and reading.

Conferences are essential for personal and business development. Here are my top ten reasons for attending conferences in your field:
  • Learn of advancements in your field ̶ e.g., neuroscience is still hot
  • Test and expand your perspectives
  • Understand what other businesses offer
  • Reconnect with friends
  • Grow your network
  • Reenergize you excitement for your profession
  • Take time to reflect, when learning takes hold
  • Learn of other conferences that would be good to attend (e.g., Berlin Change Days 2013)
  • Realize how much you don't know
  • Miss and appreciate your family
My next change management conference is in March. I know I will leave it wiser than I am now.


Friday 27 September 2013

Great Britain, You're Invited!

Great Britain's current tourism slogan captures my feelings as I write this post. This week, I flew to London to lead an executive workshop and present at a European conference.

Heathrow airport looked the same as it did when I commuted to Cadbury's head office two years ago. Although my surroundings were the same, I felt I had changed. 

My workshop was with a great group of international leaders. They were welcoming, intelligent and deeply engaged. It was refreshing to discuss insights and approaches to change with people who were about to explore their future. I see good things for them in the future although change is never easy. As for any leadership team, their actions and behaviours will determine their organization's ability to change well.

After an enjoyable team dinner including an engaging speaker, I walked the streets of London. My taxi driver told me that Thursday night is the biggest party night in the week. You could feel it. The streets were crowded with couples, groups of friends and families. The city was alive. 

I thought about the discussions held during the day, and how the dynamics of change are true across industries, geographies and cultures. Change is change. I also thought about how fulfilling it is to see a team begin to shape its future and how the leaders are already better off by doing so. 

It was a good day and excellent preparation for the conference. It's great to be invited to anywhere that you are welcome and can do some good.


Friday 20 September 2013

My 'My Dinner with André' Moment

Business dinners are interesting because you get to experience people outside their work setting. Even though business is discussed, the conversation always drifts to personal territory. 

The best conversations are the ones that go deeper than casual talk. People discuss personal challenges, life lessons and future goals, topics typically reserved for family or friends. I call these conversations My Dinner with André moments. 

My Dinner with André is a film about two old friends having an extended dinner in a high-end restaurant in New York City. They talk about their experiences, beliefs and expectations; it's a film about their deep conversation.

Tonight I had a My Dinner with André moment. My fellow facilitator and I were invited to a team dinner after a leadership workshop. The day had been a good one. Even though the session had been extended by ninety minute, the team remained passionate, engaged and fun. By the end, everyone was exhausted. 

The man I sat next to has a fascinating life and career. The more I learned, the more questions I asked. We talked about success, the qualities of a good leader and life lessons. It was clear that his life lessons were gained from experience and reflection. Part of me wanted to write them down and part of me didn't want to miss the moment, like the vacationer who risks missing the experience by photographing it.

The evening ended about ninety minutes after I thought it would. I felt that something important had happened. I had a deep conversation with someone I had met for the first time. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's a moment I don't want to forget.


Friday 13 September 2013

How do you count success?

An envelop was waiting for me when I arrived home from the airport on Wednesday.  It was my first sales and royalty statement from Wiley. 

Sales is a key indicator of success for many authors. "How are sales going?" is the number one question I am asked about my book. 

Wiley's Canadian Sales VP had educated me  about how this market worked. She said that unlike fiction books that have a six month launch period, business books have an 18 to 24 month selling window. "Don't expect huge sales from your first book in the first three months," she counselled. This was good to know, but I wanted them anyway. What better way to define success?

My publicist had also shared that 95 percent of business books sell less than 500 copies in total. Good to know. Not what I wanted to hear, but good to know.

In the first three months, Change with Confidence had sold 1,484 copies, 1,286 in the US and Canada and 178 in other countries. I felt relieved and grateful. 

The next day, I noticed that this good feeling wasn't as pleasurable or intense as  the ones I experience after reading an email from a reader or review . 

Perhaps the difference between them is emotion. There is little emotion in a spreadsheet, but  a huge amount in hearing personal stories, reading someone's views, or forming relationships. They are full of meaning and their effects last longer. 

In life, we are taught to set goals and measure progress. Our sense of achievement is tied to our ambitions and how we measure them. Perhaps we should spend more time identifying the dimensions of progress and then measure all of them. The numerical ones are important but the emotional ones are too.


Friday 6 September 2013

A Builder's Approach to Doing So Much With So Little Time

For me, the first week of September represents the beginning of school and an intense period of work. This year, that includes webinars, conference workshops and client engagements in Canada, US and UK. 

My biggest challenge is that I have eight distinct speaking commitments within a two-week delivery period starting in late September. The topic of change is the same but the objectives, audiences and formats are different.  How am I going to create so many sessions in such a short period of time?

I have decided to use  a builder's approach to doing so much with so little time:

  • Start with a macro view of all projects - take a big picture view across all projects to identify similarities and differences 
  • Aggregate common activities - it is more effective and efficient to complete like tasks
  • Draw out the work - blueprints aren't Word text documents, they are pictures
  • Reuse blueprints - reuse component parts if they meet the specifications of the job 
  • Test your work with a peer - quick draft reviews take less time  and are more productive than long  solo design sessions
  • Compartmentalize delivery - the second presentation is irrelevant to the first audience so meet the first deadline first
  • Capture learnings, then move on - document what worked and didn't and then move on to the next deadline - the clock is ticking

I am at the blueprinting phase of my work and already feel a sense of momentum. My projects are informing each other, and the thinking is consistent among them. Each one is customized but with a common foundation. It feels like the builder analogy is working.