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.