Thursday 31 December 2015

3 Words to Ensure 2016 is a Great Year

This is the third time I am using Chris Brogan's "My Three Words" exercise to help achieve my goals for next year.

Here is how it works: in late December, you select three words to direct your actions and behaviours that are aligned with you goals. They are reviewed regularly throughout the year, especially when making decisions that impact how you spend your time.

The words help you keep your goals top-of-mind and on track, increasing the odds of achieving them. As Chris says, "If you learn to use these words, learn to focus with them, learn to point yourself in the right direction with them, you'll see improvements. You'll see growth. You'll see a lot that makes you feel good."

My 2015 words were Choiceful; New; and Flexible.

Choiceful was about being selective on what I agreed to do. My past behaviour was to say yes to everything, which left me over-committed at the end of 2014. The impact of my decisions (or lack of them) was a 24-7 life just to honour the commitments I had made. Being choiceful helped me assess the pros and cons of opportunities and my available time before responding to requests. Now I have a disciplined decision-making process to help me be more choiceful.

New was intended to expose me to different opportunities and avoid falling into old patterns. In 2015, I took on new types of speaking engagements and consulting assignments, which led to personal growth. I even traveled to a couple of new countries for work, which broadened me further. My biggest new accomplishment was publishing my dad's memoirs on Amazon. Through the process, I developed a new skill set I will use in the future.

Flexible referred to my schedule. I was determined to leave room for unanticipated requirements and opportunities. I maintained a buffer of time over the second half of the year that I allocated depending on my priorities. I was more productive and less stressed by doing so.

My three words for 2016 are: ExciteCreate and Focus.

Excite has two meanings: find excitement in everything I do and excite the people I work with to accomplish new and challenging goals. They are related yet will help me in different ways. Finding excitement in everything I do will keep me motivated and balanced when faced with challenges. Exciting people I work with will help me spot opportunities to motivate or inspire them and ensure I take the time to do so.

Create is about building new mindsets, approaches and tools for managing change. I am keen to break new ground in 2016 and this prompt will keep my goal top-of-mind. It will also help me be creative in other parts of my life, perhaps by revisiting hobbies that fell off of my schedule many years ago. 

Focus will help me minimize distractions, whether they're time wasters or low-value activities. My ability to focus was good in 2015, in part due to following my three words for 2015. In 2016, I want to get better. Keeping my three words in front of me will go a long way to doing so. They will be posted on my monitor and in the front of my notebooks so they remain in view.

The "My Three Words" exercise is a excellent way of helping you achieve your annual goals. I am excited about my 2016 goals and the three words I have chosen to help me conquer them. I am ready to succeed!

What three words would help you achieve your 2016 goals?


Thursday 24 December 2015

The Best Gifts are the Ones that Are Unexpected

Last summer, I was looking through a box of old family pictures. It was like opening a treasure trunk full of artifacts of my past. 

The mystery was enhanced by many of the pictures being captured on two inch by two inch slides that needed to be converted to digital images to be fully appreciated. As they were being reformatted, moments in time literally appeared before my eyes. 

For the first seven years of my life, we lived in a small bungalow. My parents had bought a plot in a new subdivision called Rexdale, the first 'bedroom community' of Toronto. New home owners were flocking to this converted farm land because the price was affordable and new highways made commuting to city jobs manageable.

My dad had captured every phase of construction in photos and letters to his parents. Looking at these records, I realized that their new house became a symbol of their hopes and dreams of the future. Each brick laid represented one step closer to the next stage in their lives.

Since this house still exists, I thought the current owners might be interested in discovering the origins of their home. They might even be a young couple like my parents. I decided to create a visual narrative of the building of and early years of living in their home. It would be my unexpected holiday gift from a stranger.

On Tuesday, I created my PowerPoint presentation of the first thirteen years of their home. On Wednesday, I rang their doorbell with my gift in hand.

A friendly woman opened the door. She was on a Skype call and motioned that she would be with me in a second. As I was waiting, I peered inside her home, noting the kitchen wall that had been removed and the other renovations that had taken place. Where was the fireplace?

We had a great conversation. My first home had been converted into two apartments. This woman was visiting her son from Bogota, Colombia and had signed a six-month lease. She told me about her family and I took her through my presentation. 

The main theme of our conversation was the importance of family. Family ties throughout our lives are paramount and help define who we are. Also, everyone has their own PowerPoint presentation about their beginnings and how they have shaped their lives. 

My new acquaintance said she would give my gift to the home owners. We exchanged Christmas wishes for our families and shared a warm handshake. 

As I descended the front steps (for the first time in four plus decades), I realized that she had given me the gift of appreciation. Unexpected gifts are the best, whether you give or receive them.

All the best for the holiday season!

Friday 18 December 2015

Legacies Are Meant to Be Shared by Those Who Have Been Influenced by Them

My dad had often spoken about publishing his memoirs. He had written twenty stories that traced his steps from boyhood to manhood from the early 1920s to the late 1940s. These tales painted a picture of a young dreamer, inventor, poet, optimist, dancer, romantic, friend, pilot, engineer and jokester.

When my dad's health began to fade in the fall of 2014, he gave me his master binder of stories including detailed notes on how he wanted them formatted. In August, I started working in earnest on organizing, editing (very lightly) and formatting his words. I also added photos from his youth to provide visual context for his adventures.

On December 3, My Best 80 Years: The Lifetime Recollections of Donald Charles Buckley was published in soft copy and electronic versions on Amazon using its CreateSpace platform. By year's end, the electronic version will also be available on Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and other book retail sites.

I learned a lot from the long, detailed and sentimental process of publishing my dad's memoirs. I have a greater understanding of his essence, including his values, personality, motivations and humour. I also learned a lot about how I have been influenced by my upbringing, especially how my dad, mom and brother have shaped my essence. Finally, I learned a lot about self-publishing, skills I will use as I write my next book. 

This week, I have been sending copies of my dad's memoirs to family members and friendsthose who knew Don as a brother, uncle, wartime sweetheart (can you believe it?) or friend. I have also contacted historical societies that may learn from my dad's reflections. The more people who can benefit from my dad's words the better. 

After fifteen reads, I still find my dad's stories fascinating. They are etched in my memory and are still influencing me. Maybe this is what leaving a legacy is about: to positively influence people who remember you for it. 

I attended a cousins' reunion last month. When I shared the news about my dad's memoirs, one of his nephews said, "Uncle Don," with a smile, "Everyone loved him." That sounds like a legacy to me, one that is important to share to all.


Saturday 12 December 2015

How to Research an Organization on LinkedIn When You Are Pressed for Time

I have been researching multiple organizations this week with little time to do so. I realized that LinkedIn was my best source of information. Here's how I did it:

Organization Research

1) Go to the Companies section (Interests - Company)

2) Type the organization's name in the search bar at the top of the screen  

3) Select the organization you are looking for from the list of similar organizations (the logo help spot the one you are looking for)

4) Click the blue 'Follow' button. This creates a feed of new information posted by the organization

5) Skim the posted articles and read as many as you have time for including linked information 

6) Note names of leaders who you want to research

7) Note the people listed in the 'How You Are Connected' section who are in your network. They are people you can ask clarifying questions to or request an introduction from

8) For the people who are in your network, place your cursor on their names and click the 'Send a Message' button to ask any questions you have; for second or third level contacts, place your cursor on the name and click the 'connect' connect button to invite them into your network. You can also click on the 'View Profile' button to see if you know some in their network who can introduce you

People Research

1) Search for the people you have noted on the organization page: 

- Who do you know that is also in this person's LinkedIn network? These people can introduce you. Also, you can ask them questions about this person by clicking on your contact's name on the left-hand side of the page

- What do you have in common with this person: employers, schools, associations, charities, interests? These commonalities are potential sources of information and relationship builders if you connect with him or her

- What skill endorsements have he or she received? These are the skills that people in his or her network have recognized (that may be different from the ones listed in the profile)

- Who has endorsed themare they mainly colleagues, industry peers, suppliers, etc.?

2) Note the people listed in the 'How You Are Connected' section who are in your network. They are people you can ask clarifying questions to or request an introduction from

3) Place your cursor on someone's name and a link will appear below it that will send a message to them with your questions about the person

4) Follow step 8 above

It's fascinating what you can learn about an organization and the people who work for it through LinkedIn. When you are pressed for time, this is the fastest and most detailed approach to finding the information you need. Making more time for research is a good idea too. 


Friday 4 December 2015

Images are better communicators than words. Take PowerPoint presentations, for example

PowerPoint has been the go-to business communication software program since its launch in 1987. Almost anyone can easily create a presentation to inform, educate or sell others. 

There is a lot of advice on how to effectively use PowerPoint – focus on one thought per slide, limit the number of bullet points to 3 or 6 ('power of three'), use the least amount of slides as possible, etc..

There are also many tips on how to avoid misusing this tool  don't use a small font size, don't include complex, hard to read information like spreadsheets, don't use full sentences, etc.

The latest brain-related research has triggered a step-change in how PowerPoint presentations can convey meaning and gain influence:
  • The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than the time it takes for the brain to decode text (SAGE Handbook of Political Communication)
  • People retain almost 65% of visual information compared to 10-20% of written or spoken information (Dr. Lynell Burmark)
  • 40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text (Zabisco)
  • Using bullet-pointed text requires people to switch between reading and listening, exhausting their cognitive capabilities and decreases the likelihood of retaining the information (Dr. Chris Atherton)
  • 90% of information entering the brain is non-verbal (Psychologist Albert Mehrabian)
  • Presenters that use visuals are 43% more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action (3M)
So if the case for visuals over words is so conclusive, why do we create presentations that focus on words instead of visuals? One reason may be habit  I have always done it this way. Another may be limited access to compelling visuals or skills to use them. The biggest reason may be the lack of confidence in the ability of image-based presentations to support us. After all, a picture of a tiger may not remind us of the six bullet points we could use to convey agility. 

A colleague and I are presenting a change management overview to a potential client next week. We decided to substitute most of our text with compelling visuals. We included just enough words to support a take-away deck. 

I don't think we have gone far enough. For future briefing and learning session, we will use more visual metaphors and short phrases to help our audiences navigate the content and inspire conversations about it.

PowerPoint was a tool created to help convey information leading to a desired outcome. Doing so with only words is like trying to to write a story with 35 percent of the available letters. Greater use of visuals will give you the benefit of the whole alphabet.