Friday 26 July 2013

What I Learned in School Last Week

In high school, my career ambition was to be a history teacher. Although my career path led to business, teaching played a significant part, from training frozen yogurt franchisees, to running a bank's corporate learning and development consultancy, to teaching college courses in my spare time. Teaching has always been in my blood.

My latest teaching experience happened last Sunday when I guest presented at a Master's level change management course at York University. I met the professor, Len Karakowsky, through a mutual friend and I was delighted to share my perspectives on change with his students.

Len is the professor you wished you had in university: friendly, interesting, engaged, intelligent, funny, positively cynical and exploratory. He is also someone you wished you met earlier in your life. What a great person.

The session was entitled "Change Management and the Cultural Connection," which is an area I love. This was a hot topic for the students too who were all human resources professionals with personal change experience from different private and public industries. 

My session was planned for ninety minutes followed by a lunch where I would get the chance to chat with the students. I shared my insights on how people, leaders and organizations change and then asked the group to solve change challenges that I had experienced through the Kraft - Cadbury integration. 

My opening presentation was very interactive including excellent conversations about people's current situations. The time flew and we ended up reconvening after lunch and talking for over three hours. I didn't want it to end.

As I was driving home I thought about what I had learned. I reaffirmed that change management is about helping people move from where they are to where they need to be with the least amount of disruption; it's not about 'being right' about how to change. The business of change management with its frameworks and proprietary methods can forget this purpose. Selling certifications can get in the way of ensuring people get the hands-on experience and support they need to effectively change.

Len kindly mentioned that Change with Confidence will be on the course's reading list next year. I am thrilled because having my book available for students was one of my primary objectives for writing it. 

I learned a lot in school last week. Maybe the biggest lesson is that teachers learn as much or more from their students. I am looking forward to the next time I get to learn from them.


Friday 19 July 2013

Why say good-bye when you can say see you next time?

Journeys are a series of beginnings and endings. Each phase starts with exploration, followed by understanding and capability. Just when you are getting good at something it is time to move on to the next phase, and the cycle begins again.

This has been true for me with the creating and marketing of Change with Confidence. First it was the concept phase, then writing, editing, pitching, formatting and promoting. Each one followed this development cycle.

One of my favourite phases has been the promotion phase.  I hired Media Connect, a New York-based book promotion and author publicity firm to support my book in the U.S. A best-selling author had given me a great reference and my initial conversation was David, Managing Director, was excellent. Have you found that there are some people you meet and just know you will get along with famously? This is how I felt about David. 

Steve Matteo, David Hahn and Eric Glover
I felt like a sponge when I met David and his team members, Steve and Eric at their office. I kept saying, "And what else, is there anything else, from your experience, what else should we do." I also invited them to use me as a guinea pig if they wanted to try new things. 

I learned so much from my five-month campaign. Their expertise was evident from day one. They worked with Wiley to get promotional galley (first-print soft-bound copies  for journalists). They also quickly leveraged their network across print, radio, public speaking and internet media channels. I was in good hands from the start.

Here is what the team triggered for Change with Confidence:

- 6 Reviews                           
- 8 Articles/Guest Posts   
- 3 Interviews                      
- 1 Talk/Event            
- 1 Webinar                      

I am thrilled with the coverage! I won't attempt to pick my favourite experiences. Each one taught me something new, whether it was approach, format or customization to a particular audience. Each one built my promotion skills. 

Beyond PR, the team shared their knowledge of the publishing industry. For example, David said there are two types of authors: one that puts out a book every two years and the other who does so every five years. The first type tends to repeat themselves while the other writes something new and uniquely profound."

Why say good-bye when you can say see you next time? It will be a little while longer than I originally thought. Thanks guys!


Friday 12 July 2013

Less is More When Speaking in London

I received great news last week. My proposal to speak at the Association of Change Management Professionals' Europe Conference was accepted!

This achievement is important in many ways. It's my first speaking engagement outside North America, which begins the global phase of marketing Change with Confidence. Also, it is a premiere conference with excellent speakers, run by a distinguished organization−it's a five star event. Another reason is that it is being held in London where I was based at Cadbury for three years. I will have the opportunity to visit old friends. It's going to be a great week.

The speaker review process was thorough and included a written proposal, a submission of additional information and a Skype-recorded presentation on my content, audience target and level of interaction.

I was intrigued by the focus on attendees' participation. Many years ago, I realized that when leading training sessions, the less I spoke  the more people learned. Their engagement and exploration of concepts is where most of the learning takes place.

The approach I am taking for my session is new to me. After sharing my key insights on change, I will "crowd source" the direction the conversation will take: the participants will determine what real-life scenario we will discuss, what questions we will answer and what approach we will take to do so? Self-directed learning to the power of 75-150 people.

My preparation will take longer than usual because I need to be ready for all combinations of options.  I will also need to design a way for people to interact with each other as they progress through the choices. 

This will be the most adventurous presentation I have given on change: spontaneous, dynamic and perhaps even chaotic. Like dealing with change, the destination is clear but how you really will get there is not. As long as I talk less than the participants, we will learn a lot.


Friday 5 July 2013

What would it take for you to subscribe to a newsletter?

One of the simplest and most important design elements of my web site is the newsletter registration form.

Kro and Mel, the designers of my site, and I discussed how it should look and where it should be located to maximize subscriptions. Our goal was for everyone who advanced past the home page to have the opportunity to sign up. We agreed to put the form on every page that had space for it. 

I have always been a fan of newsletters. They provide relevant information in short, easy-to-read articles. The content is tailored to one of my interests and sourcing them myself would be difficult and time consuming. 

The Change with Confidence newsletter needs to offer these attributes to people delivering change. Our aspiration is to create a clipping service of change-related articles that have caught our eye. Each one will include an introduction explaining the reasons for selecting it and how it could be helpful to the reader. Given this context, readers will decide whether each article is worth reading (if any of them).

The format of the newsletter is important too. It needs to be a clean design that is easily scanable. It should take less than a minute to identify what is worthy of someone's time.

Digg and  Stumbleupon are inspirations for the look of the newsletter. They are simple, easy to read and visually appealing. 

Newsletter Format Prototype
Kro created a prototype that we are populating for the first issue. Each monthly newsletter will begin with a summary blurb of the articles we select followed by the articles and commentary. We will launch a six-article format because nine seemed too long and three seemed too short. Ultimately, the readers will decide what is the best length for the newsletter. 

The first issue will be distributed in less than two weeks. My hope is that readers will find the articles current, eclectic and thought provoking. Ultimately, they will decide what types of articles are best for them.

I am excited by the launch. Our newsletter provides one more way to help people deliver change. If interested, you can subscribe here.