Thursday 21 February 2013

How Would You Tell Your Story in 2 Minutes and 49 Seconds?

This week I completed a video for the Change with Confidence  website. It was more than that; it was my story. 

The goal was to share my views on change and the best way to help people through it. Mel and Kro did a great job creating the video including design, image selection, script, music and production. Each element was handled with care to ensure it  supported my message.

We decided on a rock climbing theme to illustrate the realities of leading change. The challenges and rewards are similar. The need for confidence and ability are too.

The metaphor also works well in terms of support for success. The role of the guide is to coach the climber to get to the top, not to climb the cliff for them. Excellent change guides do the same thing: they help leaders lead change, they don't lead the change for them. I have seen some consultants do the leading for leaders, which doesn't build their skills. The next time the leaders need to lead change, they are no more capable than they were the first time. This is a miss.

As we built the video I was struck by how personal my story was. Watching old video clips brought back memories of past projects, and the crises and victories I had shared with team members. 

It also reminded me of the first change I led and how my circumstances are similar to people who I support now. Having climbed a similar mountain, I know how I can help them climb theirs.

Here is the video of my story.

Friday 15 February 2013

What is it about covers that beg to be judged?

I am delighted to share the cover for Change with Confidence, although I can take no credit for it. I can't think of any other cover that  could capture the contents of and inspiration behind my book. 

Cover design is critical to a book's success. It must entice the reader to pick up the book or click on it on a screen. It also has to communicate the main benefit of reading it, which for Change with Confidence is building confidence to lead change. 

Two months ago, if you had asked me what the perfect cover would look like I wouldn't have had a clue. I just knew that there was a perfect cover waiting to be discovered.

The first time I saw my cover I liked the rich blue colour and the white and orange text. I also liked the blue-tinted sun beaming into the meeting room. I didn't, however, get the significance of the meeting room. As friends pointed out, it is a place where futures are created, decisions are made, and actions are taken. This is true for private and public businesses around the world. I didn't get that this is an universal image of change and progress.

I tested the cover on everyone and almost everyone liked it. Many even said they loved it. It was a hit. They like the modern look of the room and thought the bank of windows suggested unlimited possibility. They saw the sun as a symbol of a new day where anything could happen and the empty chairs were seats that the reader could take, where he or she could build a better future. The cover represented hope, aspiration and confidence. It represented Change with Confidence.

My Wiley team members were extremely understanding of my request for more design options even though they all loved the cover. They were equally supportive when I finally realized that the one they had expertly designed was the perfect cover for Change with Confidence. What a team. 

The book jacket is a beauty, too. Here is a breakdown of each panel from left to right:
  1. Back Inner Flap: Author's photograph and bio
  2. Back Cover: Front cover image and testimonials form people I admire
  3. Front Cover: Title, image, author's name and publisher's imprint
  4. Front Inner Flap: Overview of book and sample content

I dropped into Hudson Booksellers in Newark Airport on Monday night to study the business book covers that lined the wall. I noticed a range of styles from full-page author photos to all-text covers. I was pleased that there was only one blue cover.  I was also pleased that Change with Confidence would stand out from the rest. It was a cover that could entice the reader to pick it up. It was the perfect cover for Change with Confidence.


Friday 8 February 2013

My New Best Friend Meghan

This post was going to be about my exciting cover for Change with Confidence. That was until I met my new best friend Meghan. I first saw her dancing in front of the Air Canada ticket counter at Newark airport. I have tried many tactics to get home after my flight has been cancelled, but have never tried dancing. I thought: flights cancelled, people on standby, she is a better dancer than I am, prognosis "difficult".

I learned I was number nine on a standby list for a plane that had eight open seats. I decided to wait and test my luck because you never now when you will catch a break. Meghan had overheard me speaking with the attendant and exclaimed, "You are on standby too, then you are my new best friend. Hi I am Meghan." We shook hands, she said, "Good-bye my new best friend," and she bolted off  to security. 

I didn't see Meghan at the gate because she also was on standby for an earlier flight to Montreal. I watched as each standby traveller was called to receive his or her ticket. It wasn't looking good. As the plane was boarding, the attendant picked up the microphone on last time and called my nane and Meghan's name. 

Out of nowhere, Meghan bounded over to pick up her ticket. I said, "Hey my new best friend, we got on." We hugged and shared our delight at being the lucky chosen ones. The guy behind us said that he too had been on standby but didn't get a new best friend out of it. We became a group of three.

It turns out the Meghan and I had seats together at the back of the plane. What luck. I found out that she is completing her PhD in Anthropology, has published many articles in archaeological science journals, is interviewing for exciting jobs, and is being interviewed next week by a major newspaper. Life is good for Meghan.

We talked about two organizations she is affiliated with that are going through a big change. It was exciting to hear the details and to reconfirm that the behaviours around change are universal. I switched into consultant mode as I listened to scenarios  I have lived many times before. Change becomes difficult when it isn't managed. They were in the "Figuring it Out" phase and we discussed a couple of questions from my book. 

We agreed to swap a few of her articles for a copy of Change with Confidence and said good-bye at customs. 

Meeting intriguing people is a highlight of life. They brighten your day, broaden your perspectives, and can make impressions that you will never forget. And sometimes, if you are lucky, they become your new best friends.


Friday 1 February 2013

Ten Things I Didn't Know About Great Publicists

This week I met my publicist team members at their office in Manhattan. It was a great experience. Even getting there was an adventure: a 4:45 a.m. taxi ride to the Toronto airport, a 6:30 a.m. flight to Newark, an 8:30 a.m. train to Penn Station, and a 9:15 a.m. taxi ride to Mid-town East. I stood at the corner of 57th Street East and 2nd Avenue feeling like I belonged there.

It was good to meet David, whom I had spoken with by phone. I also met Steve and Eric who had complimentary areas of expertise. Our ninety-minute meeting flew by. We talked about my goals, their impressions of my book, strategies and possible tactics, and how they would partner with the Wiley publicist team. We also talked about the publishing industry and the changes it is going through. I couldn't help becoming absorbed in the discussion, forgetting for a few minutes the purpose of our meeting.

I left the meeting refreshed and a lot more knowledgeable  about publicity and what the team will do for Change with Confidence and me. Here are the ten things I didn't know about great publicists. They:
  1. Come highly recommended
  2. Work in teams
  3. Ask for and listen to your goals
  4. Read your book before writing a proposal
  5. Are realistic about expectations
  6. Are honest about what benefits should not be focused on
  7. Are well connected
  8. Provide advice on areas beyond publicity
  9. Call in personal favours on your behalf
  10. Are confident in their abilities

Most experiences are better when shared. This is true of my trip. My friend Peter made the journey with me before we both headed to New Jersey to work through the night on a consulting assignment. As we boarded the train back to Newark I thought to myself, "I'm in good hands."