Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

Daniel Markovitz’s A Factory of One

Imagine you’re a performance coach or consultant who wants to write a book. You’re aware of the “competition” in the form of well-known efficiency experts including David Allen, Julie Morgenstern, and Tony Schwartz. You also know that the basic advice of scheduling rather than constantly checking email and keeping your desk organized has been done to death. What can you contribute to the conversation that’s not only new – but truly transformative for the reader?

What would you do when faced with that challenge? Throw in the towel?

Not necessarily. You could do what Daniel Markovitz has so deftly done in A Factory of One: Applying Lean Principles to Banish Waste and Improve Your Personal Performance (CRC Press, 2012). You could turn your topic on its head and ask: If it were that easy, why aren’t we all more efficient? Maybe it’s not more tools that people need, but a different strategy? One that’s focused on the root cause of poor performance, not just its effects.

Markovitz has successfully illustrated one of the approaches every nonfiction author needs to consider today, unless you’re content to languish among the “me-too” authors whose books are gracing the remainder tables; combine your core topic with something no one else would think of associating with it.

In the case of A Factory of One, it’s Lean principles, a concept that originated in Japanese manufacturing to “dramatically boost quality by reducing waste and errors.” As the back cover of Markovitz’s book states, “(U)ntil now, few have recognized how relevant these powerful ideas are to individuals and their daily work.”

By cleverly combining personal performance, Lean principles, and self-awareness exercises inspired by the Japanese concept of gemba, this author has succeeded in offering a compelling read that actually works. Shortly after closing this quick and entertaining book I was eagerly on the hunt to spot “waste” in my own working day. And, yes, there was plenty – which otherwise would have remained invisible had I not reviewed this book.

You may already be familiar with the international best seller, Blue Ocean Strategy, which focuses on ways to make the competition irrelevant. This is an issue for all thoughtful authors, many of whom worry that with so many books being published these days it’s becoming harder to produce anything truly unique.

Not so! For a start, most authors (self-published or otherwise) have no clue how to market themselves, so their books don’t even come to their target audience’s attention, which reduces the competition somewhat. But by taking the approach that Markovitz so powerfully illustrates, you need never worry ever again about someone else duplicating or even “stealing” your book idea.

This question is part of my 7-step book development process: What other idea(s) could you combine with your basic concept to strengthen your book and make it uniquely yours? When you think of the permutations, you’ll realize there are endless opportunities for anyone creative enough to do this.

Just think of the ways in which this approach has produced innovations in daily life:

  • Journaling + computer technology = blogging.
  • Coffee + Italian café culture = Starbucks.
  • Wizards + school + and childhood rites of passage = Harry Potter series.
  • Ginger + chocolate + wasabi peas = Terry’s Toffee Asian Accent.™
  • The Roman republic + Montesquieu’s checks & balances + John Locke’s philosophy + English common law (Magna Carta) = The US Constitution.

If you want to avoid worrying about whether someone, in your industry or field, is writing a book identical to yours, you need to adopt a “Blue Ocean Strategy.” Which means going that extra mental distance to come up with unusual concepts – as Daniel Markovitz and others have done – that will make your book uniquely yours.

Next Up: The Teenager’s Folly: The author who only thought he had something new to say, and how to avoid making the same mistake.

To read interviews with many of the authors I’ve reviewed for this Thought Readership column, please go to my Articles page.

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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I met with a team of engineers yesterday. Up until now I’ve been meeting with them individually as each was facing dilemma’s that affected their personal and professional life. Over the past couple of months all of them have gained greater degrees of emotional intelligence and greater degrees of clarity of intention and accountability for what’s showing up in their work lives. They all realize that how they are being impacts on them personally and professionally – they can no longer assume they can act on behalf of their own personal desires without negatively influencing the team, the organization as a whole and on their professional aspirations.

An exercise I do with teams is a context exercise, where we explore a specific context, such as team, to reveal  beliefs, assumptions, expectations and judgments – essential what is true – in this case about teams, which has members act the way they do in relation to each other, to the team and a whole and to the organization. In this particular group, we included sport teams and teams in business, seeing the parallels and differences, and then we put together a list of what’s impossible given what’s true about teams. The process unfolded a couple more levels by exploring what needed to shift in order for the impossible to become possible and what needed to be practiced to consistently bring that into the workplace on a day to day basis.

We had consensus regarding trust, collaboration and effectiveness, being three aspects of team work that needs developing. This was all very positive. There was a high degree of exposure as each one spoke, as I hoped would happen. No one deferred, held back or was withdrawn from the conversation. This tells me that there was a degree of trust in the room that brought us to this level of disclosure and sharing.

Pride go-ith before the fall.

Their desire to elevate their own personal standing within the company is still a primary intention. Though, we talked about healthy teamwork they haven’t yet truly bought into the actualization of committing to being a good team player. Most wait until the other proves themselves trustworthy.

Meeting together as a team, with me as their coach meant they stepped into a greater degree of visibility, accountability and hopefully credibility; saying what they mean and meaning what they say. It all sounded good and I was heartened by what I heard from them, as they described the values and practices essential to being the team they see themselves being. It was a good start!

My last comment to the group before ending the session was that they will each witness the others not walking their talk. “You can get mad, disappointed; you can yell at them and blame and shame them for not showing up as they said they would; however, the practice is not how to get the other guy to do what he said he’d do; It’s focusing on you being accountable for walking your talk; looking at your response or reaction to the other’s behavior and communication in the highest good of everyone. That’s the only practice that matters – live into your own highest truth in service to your own highest good and the good of the team.”

I met with each member separately after the team meeting. It was interesting to hear feedback from each member reflecting how so-and-so said this, but doesn’t walk his or her talk – they don’t act in alignment with what they are saying. I had no doubt this was going to be part of the process. Though trust was at the top of the list of priorities for this team to be most effective, little trust has truly been earned by any one member.

Communicating from an objective point of view

Each of us face the dilemma of wanting to look good and say the right thing, yet, at the same time we are invested in having things go the way we want them to. We hope to look like we are in integrity but the fact is, people who know us and know when we are not walking our talk have no business trusting us. They are fools to believe us when they’ve most likely experienced degrees of inconsistencies consistently. How do we break the stalemate for ourselves, and how do we do that for others too.

We can’t change what we can’t acknowledge. Having a thinking partner or coach to empower you to cultivate awareness is almost essential to seeing how you operate and getting clear that the way you operate is either working in your favor to advance your career or it’s not. Pretending to be who you say you are never worked and will never work, so you might has well give it up as a way of growing yourself or your business. You’ve got to be that person you want to work with. It’s no longer possible to hope people will trust you with greater degrees of responsibility and power if you aren’t reliable with the power you have. You will inevitably find that saying yes when you mean no is a pretty unsatisfying way of doing business. You don’t like it in others – why keep believing that they don’t mind it in you?

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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“Blogging isn’t writing, it’s graffiti with punctuation.” ~ Line from the movie Contagion.

You’ve seen them, haven’t you? Those pseudo-Successories posters that wags often buy to adorn their office walls?  One of my favorites depicts a capsized boat with the slogan: “It could be that the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others.” In the same spirit, we should be grateful to James Altucher for publishing I Was Blind But Now I See (CreateSpace, 2011).

His book plays an important role in warning aspiring authors of what can go wrong when you write a book in three days (one of the pieces of advice the author offers for improving your life!), upload it to CreateSpace, and think that there’s merit in sentences like:

“Over time these exercises compound and similar results as I describe will develop. What’s different below from my prior writing on this is the modifications.”

“Money is the most external manifestation of the spirituality that’s the 10th commandment above.”

Altucher’s book (which he calls “my best book ever”) is a bloody mess, if you’ll pardon my French. A hodgepodge that one Amazon reviewer succinctly sums up as having,  “no direction, no structure, is riddled with typos… The entire book is basically an angry rant.”

If only Mr. Altucher had been aware and taken note of freelance editor and literary agent Susan Rabiner’s sage advice from 2002 when she wrote, “A book that knows why it is being written, for whom, and most important what it wants to say is well on its way to successful publication.”

Of course, that was penned back in the days when “gatekeepers” largely determined what got to be published, successfully or otherwise. Now all we’re left with is our own judgment. Which is fine, but here’s a piece of advice:

Know what your book is about before you start writing.

One of the activities I commend to any author before they begin to write is to complete the following sentence: “The question I answer with this book is…” Then, as you gather your material, you can check to see what, if anything, that content contributes. No relevance? Then it’s extraneous to needs!

I have no idea the question that Mr. Altucher posed before cobbling together I Was Blind. He offers us The 10 Commandments of James-ism, essentially diatribes on religion, home ownership, a college education, the US Constitution, the FDA, and the Media, among others. There follows a string of reconstituted blog posts with titles like: Abolish The Presidency, It’s a Useless Job Anyway; 25 Dates Until I Met Claudia (his wife); and Why I Write Books.

I’m fond of that game where you take two or three disparate things and try to find a way to connect them. In the case of this book, I was stumped, although somewhere the author alludes to offering guidance on the meaning and pursuit of happiness.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so low after reading (well, skim-reading largely) a book, and not because of the subject matter. When I see unsubstantiated claims like, “For every dollar you give to charity about 2 cents a year, give or take, goes to the actual charitable cause you wanted to support,” I suspect the author isn’t one for balanced, thoughtful debate.

My experience while reading I Was Blind was acute embarrassment for the author as much as anything. Mr. Altucher is perfectly at liberty to publish whatever he likes. And, yes, it’s unkind of me to think that the 20 people who’ve written him 5-star reviews on Amazon (many admire his “honesty”) need their heads examining. Some books are like a Rorschach test – one person’s meaning is another person’s ink splodge. But to spew out a stream of consciousness like this and proudly call it a book? I wouldn’t want to. Although take a look and then let me know — would you?

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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Time For a Change #7: Resolving Your Dilemma

by William Reed on March 22, 2012

Make up Your Mind

One thing is certain, at some time in your life you have had and will have trouble making a decision about something important. In your career, in a relationship, a financial decision, or your health, sooner or later you will face the dilemma of a difficult decision.

A dilemma is a choice between equally undesirable alternatives, or a choice that implies sacrificing something you want to keep. Boxed in a corner, facing a predicament, damned if you do and damned if you don’t, our language is filled with expressions that describe this unpleasant bind.

Going back and forth in your mind, you end up going nowhere. This can exhaust your energy with worry, and excessive analysis can lead to paralysis. It is like sitting on a railroad track with the train coming, and wondering whether you should get off the tracks on the right side or the left! The real problem is not which side you choose, but the greater risk of postponing the decision at all.

What appears to be a complex decision is often just a complex state of mind. In the light of day circumstances are simple. There is no need to press the panic button. Better to cultivate a bias for action.

The matrix makes you smarter

When you cannot make an immediate decision, it can be helpful to map out your problem on a 2×2 matrix. Eight Archetypal Dilemmas are described in The Power of the 2 x 2 Matrix: Using 2 x 2 Thinking to Solve Business Problems and Make Better Decisions, by Alex Lowy and Phil Hood. Each of these dilemmas can be put into perspective using a 2×2 matrix.

  • Head vs Heart. The dilemma of being caught between thoughts and feelings is central to the human drama. This theme runs throughout literature and mythology. A matrix allows you to separate the two opposites into four quadrants by matching thought and feeling in terms of whether you give it a higher or lower priority.
  • Inside vs Outside. This can apply to families, to organizations, or any entity that separates itself from other entities. The difference is what defines the identity of the group, and at the same time creates tension when the difference is pronounced. A common theme is where the rate or type of change differs inside and out, and what impact it has.
  • Cost vs Benefit. The key to solving this dilemma is determining whether the benefits outweight the costs, or more subtly, if a cost should actually be seen as an investment that can bring benefits over time. That depends on many factors, such as whether or not the investment is cultivated to create benefits, or simply ends up as a wasteful expense. In the absence of an absolute answer, the decision is often influenced by personal preference.
  • Product vs. Market. Needs and wants are hard to predict. The popularity of a product may depend as much on how well it is promoted as on how well it actually meets consumer needs. The key to making sense of this is to use a matrix that matches product and market in terms of what exists and what is new.
  • Change vs. Stability. Who can say whether it is better to change, or to maintain the status quo? Conservative and progressive are relative terms, and over time one can look very much like the other, as people swing between one extreme to the other.
  • Know vs. Don’t Know. The benefit of mapping issues of known vs unknown is that it can clarify whether or not you actually know something. Knowledge is often a mask for ignorance. People who achieve deep mastery in a field may come to a realization of how little they actually know, approaching the Zen state of the Beginner’s Mind, open to new discovery rather than closed in conclusion.
  • Competing Priorities. A common dilemma is the experience of the pressure to be in two places at the same time, or to dedicate equal time when time is scarce. Both require attention, both are important, and yet there are not enough hours in the day. It takes a creative mind to have both-and rather than deciding between either-or.
  • Content vs. Process. Do you follow the manual, or go on your experience? If what was more important than how then anyone could be a master chef. Knowing the recipe is not the same as being able to cook a masterful meal. And yet processes must be standardized to some degree or they cannot be repeated. Like each of the other archetypes, it is not choosing one or the other, but rather both of the opposites balanced in an yin and yang embrace.

You can make sense of these eight archetypes by downloading here a DECISION MATRIX Mandala that summarizes the 2×2 matices on a 3×3 matrix.

Unity of thought and action

The Mandala Chart, or 3×3 matrix helps you step up to a higher perspective. To paraphrase Einstein, it shows that a dilemma cannot be solved at the same level it was created. The insight which solves your problem is often the realization that it cannot be solved just by thinking about it. The Japanese word 覚悟 (kakugo) means to resolve, literally to wake up 覚 and realize 悟. An awakening triggers the resolution to action.

The confusion clears when you are decisive enough to no longer separate thought and action. Variations on the philosophy of unity of thought and action can be found in the culture of the Samurai, in the life and works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, and Peter Drucker.

The next time you face a dilemma, give it some thought but take some action, and it will be much better for you if you maintain a blend of the two.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Thought Readership #2: Er, Who Did You Say You Were?

by Liz Alexander on February 20, 2012

We all know the three pillars of marketing, right? Know, Like, and Trust. Then why do so many non-fiction authors, many of whom intend to use their books as marketing tools, ignore this when they write? They dive straight into their material as if that’s enough for us to trust what they have to say.

Sorry, but it isn’t.

Perhaps such authors think that back cover blurbs or page upon page of “praise” from third parties will do the trick. But that’s like asking me to do business with someone because they’ve come highly recommended, without being able to discover for myself whether we’re a good fit.

Superior nonfiction authors never segregate themselves from their topic.

Mike Figliuolo accomplishes this skillfully in One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach To Powerful, Personal Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2011). This book takes you through a series of provocative questions from which you can express your leadership philosophy – not in a document the size of War and Peace – but on a single sheet of 8.5- x 11-inch paper. And in a way that not only makes that philosophy unique and easy to remember but ensures it more effectively engages your audience.

The “leadership maxims method” that Figliuolo shares was something he says he “stumbled upon” after graduating from West Point and serving in the US Army as a combat arms officer.

To establish his leadership without resorting to meaningless jargon that inspires nothing in no-one, Figliuolo learned to communicate two clear expectations to his soldiers: work hard; be honest. He further developed his approach as a rookie consultant with McKinsey and Co., before launching his own professional services firm specializing in leadership.

It didn’t take me long (by page 10, actually), to get a clear sense of who this author is (know) and to admire his openness and honesty (like). Certainly, the clarity and confidence of his writing style helped engender a sense of trust, but also the way he shared his own development story.

The author could have limited referencing his military career to the dust jacket and simply focused on telling me about his extensive consulting experience. That wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting or engaging. To successfully differentiate yourself as an author these days, when so many coaches and consultants are publishing books, it helps to have something to share that goes beyond bog-standard professional knowledge.

For example, in Chapter 6 of One Piece of Paper, Figliuolo explains that one of his maxims (and to get a full appreciation of their power either read the book or someone’s review) is “What would Nana say?” (Nana was his grandmother). He relates the story of how, as a young platoon leader, he discovered his unit had “lost” a tank tool that would have cost $2,600 to replace. But this isn’t the usual whitewashed story; Figliuolo reveals that he didn’t follow Nana’s example of integrity but opted instead “to reinforce a culture in which barter and white-lie extortion were acceptable behaviors.”

It’s that kind of human frailty, and admissions of such, that endear us to others because we recognize the same tendencies in ourselves. That’s what makes the method Figliuolo shares so authentic and motivational.

Know. Like. Trust. That model works for marketing products so why not use it to better engage with your readers? After all, if I don’t know who you are, I can’t determine if I like you or not. When I do, I’m of a mind to forgive authors a heck of a lot more than if they never bothered to introduce themselves at all.

Coming Next on Thought Readership: What’s wrong with “chocolate fireguard” books — and what to do instead.

Stay tuned.

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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Time For a Change #2: Lighting Your Fire

by William Reed on February 17, 2012

Make no mistake about it. Goals start and end with Passion, the essential ingredient in motivation. Passion is the energy that feeds the flame, without which your project is doomed to falter.

The quintessential question is how can you light this fire in yourself brightly enough to inspire others to help you achieve your goals? You cannot do it alone, and people need more than just a reason to help you, they need to share your passion.

The quintessential challenge is finding intrinsic motivation, love of the thing itself, which is the only kind of motivation strong enough to overcome obstacles and sustain your energy to achieve your goal. Many people get trapped in the pursuit of a goal which may not even be their own, agreeing to exchange their time and life energy for money or rewards of convenience.

As Daniel Pink points out in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, motivation is an evolutionary process. It started out with what he calls Motivation 1.0, the survival instinct which drives us to escape danger and protect ourselves. It evolved into Motivation 2.0, the carrot and the stick, the elaborate system of reward and punishment by which most people live and most companies manage. However, there is a far more powerful and sustainable force which he calls Motivation 3.0, that of intrinsic motivation, the passion that drives you regardless of rewards or restrictions.

RSA Animate created a remarkable 10-minute animated video presentation of Daniel Pink’s Drive, which he calls whiteboard magic, illustrating part of a talk he did for TED.com. This is the science and persuasion behind Motivation 3.0. That is fine for those lucky enough to have figured out and committed themselves to their true passion in life.

What is needed is something to help light the fire for those who haven’t. Some suggest starting with a blank sheet of paper to write out your ideas, but when your mind is blank, then blank paper looks…blank! It is easier by far to start with a template to assist and seed your thoughts. To help you find and focus your passion you can start with a Mandala Chart that you can download here: Lighting Your Fire.

This Mandala Chart contains questions that will help you frame the East, West, South, and North of your Passion, the WHAT, WHY, WHO, and HOW that help you position where you are and where you want to be. It doesn’t matter if you are not able to answer the questions in detail. At the beginning, asking the question is more important than answering it.

You may find yourself in a job or career that doesn’t feel right for you, even though it is how you earn your living. Don’t simply quit or change jobs without deeply considering where you are and what you want. You may find in your new job that some things are better, some things are worse, but overall you are worse off than before due to acting without clarity.

Once you find your Passion, even if only in a hobby or volunteer project, then you naturally gain more energy to pursue it, more solutions to implement, and meet more like-minded people who can help you. The ring of fire is a virtuous circle of success. It is only when that flame dies that you find yourself in a vicious circle of defeat.

4 Rs to reach your goals

As important as Passion is, it requires focus to get results. You can be long on enthusiasm and short on results. There are many factors that come into play in making things happen, but if you take care of four fundamentals, then you will have a start. These are also included in the Lighting Your Fire Mandala Chart.

  1. Rewards. The key thing to determine here is whether you are motivated by passion, or by promises and threats. It may take you ten years to figure out how to live by passion rather than compromise. However long it takes, it must be better than wondering at the end why you wasted the years of your life. At the same time, there is no need to be a perfectionist in your pursuit of your passion. Enjoy the journey as much as the destination, the process as much as the product.
  2. Restrictions. Most people can come up with more reasons why they cannot pursue their passion than why they should. They have got it backwards, because the largest obstacles are those which you cannot see, those formed by your own assumptions and lack of knowledge. One reason why education leads to achievement is that it broadens horizons and opens up opportunities for new ways of looking at and doing things. Even if the obstacles seem obvious, write them down and take a closer look. You may find with Pogo that, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
  3. Rituals. Repetition is the key to reinforcement, and ritual is the means to repetition. Your rituals are your habits, the things that you perform regularly without effort, and that you return to, to remember and reinforce your passion. Rituals may be formal or informal, but should not be an empty routine. When you train in a martial arts dojo, you are performing a ritual to take you deeper on the Path. Top athletes have rituals that they create and perform to get into their zone of top performance. All cultures create rituals for the survival and continuity of the culture. Be flexible in how you think about and perform rituals, but include them to keep your Passion burning strong.
  4. Resources. Assuming that there is a gap between your present state and where you want to be, you will need resources to help you realize your Passion. It is worthwhile to take an inventory of what you may already have, and ask yourself if you are putting it to the most effective use. As you meet people with like-minded passions, you will be able to share and contribute resources. One plus one in the right combination equals far more than two. If you want to achieve something great, then you will need a great strategy and superior tools to match.

Before you get too deep into planning and implementation, make sure that you are working in the service of your Passion. Trade your time for money if you must, but reinvest your time and money in the things that will make your life worth living, and your legacy worth loving. All of the efficiency in the world will not light your fire if you are missing the quintessential flame of Passion.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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The Soul of a Project #4: Project and Poetry

by Gary Monti on February 16, 2012

How do you “grab” team members’ attention? What gets them going to the point they maintain a positive, aggressive sense of completing the project even when there are difficulties that seem insurmountable. Simple, use poetry.

For technical fields dominated by men this may seem counter-intuitive, almost strange. There is a legitimate magic (for want of a better word) to being poetic. Now, before you go off thinking this is about picnics in the spring, puppies, and flowers spend a minute here and see if what follows makes sense.

More and more about less and less

Prose says more and more about less and less. Think of how many pounds of paper reports could be printed or the number of hard drive gigabytes used tracking project information. Is this the soul of the project? No more than pathology reports are the soul of the patient. Yes, it is good information but, no, it fails to grasp the essence of the person.

Prose and detailed reports are outside facing. To grab team members’ attention communications need to be inward facing. Now that sure sounds like a paradox! It isn’t. And this is where poetry comes in.

Less and less about more and more

When we strike a cord with someone the musical metaphor is very apt. The listener resonates with what is being said! There is a harmonizing with what excites, angers, scares, etc., the listener. This inward response leads to listener to feel they are being seen. What is on the inside connects with the outside.

The poetic aspect is the ability to choose a sentence, phrase, or word that nails the situation. Think of someone saying “Beuller” repeatedly with a deadpan tone. If that doesn’t bring a grin to your face I don’t know what would. It ties in to the entire angst of trying to make it through high school while keeping your sanity…something that happens to be quite similar to making it through some projects. That one word is poetic. There are other such examples such as Quisling for someone who flatters those with power so they can get a piece for themselves and abusively dominate those under them.

In the book, Mythical Man Month, by Fred Brooks, there is the classic poetic admonition regarding crashing schedules, “Avoid thinking that if one woman can have a baby in 9 months that 9 women can have a baby in one month.” There is nothing to add to that! It defines the possible insanity of crashing exquisitely.

So where does this leave the reader? If you need to connect with the team find your poetry and share it. Think of what you resonate with and see if it can be distilled to a common experience, a word or phrase, some visual, etc. and put it out there for the team. With that at the core you can then spin all the necessary prose. With everyone getting a good read on the patient…er…project, the reports find their place and add to the teams’ ability to gauge what the next best move should be.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Thought Readership #1: An Introduction

by Liz Alexander on February 6, 2012

When copywriters are stymied on coming up with attention-grabbing headlines, compelling landing pages, or “killer” sales letters, they turn to their swipe files. Well, the smart ones do.

Rather than start from scratch, trying to figure out what works by trial and error, today’s savvy content creators and communicators look at what exemplars have done. Not to copy them, but to generate new ideas and learn some subtle tips and tricks.

Applying the concept of the swipe file to authorship inspired me to create this new series of articles we’re calling “Thought Readership.” It’s a hybrid concept: book reviews that illustrate how good manuscripts are created.

Instead of focusing only on what a selected book is about, I’ll be highlighting one or two approaches the author(s) used to produce a better-than-average business book. Think of it as a behind-the-scenes look at how books should be crafted, by folks who are not professional writers, but C-level executives, consultants, coaches, and other knowledge experts like yourself.

The advantages of regularly reading this series are two-fold:

  1. At some point you may wish to write a business book: to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field; to help promote your business or service; or to leave a legacy so that the knowledge and wisdom you’ve accrued over the years is passed on to others. This series will give you the inside scoop on what’s involved in conceiving, developing, and writing a book you can be proud of.
  2. As a reader of business books you’ll gain a new perspective that will hopefully enhance your reading experience. As Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out, “The human mind once stretched by a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.” You’ll find, as you’re made aware of the techniques exposed in this series, that your appreciation of books changes. The series title, Thought Readership describes the hope that you’ll not only quickly differentiate between skilled, thoughtful authors who offer you superior insights, and those who just “knock out” their manuscripts, you’ll also better understand how this difference was achieved.

For the past 25 years I’ve been a professional writer and the author of over a dozen traditionally published and self-published non-fiction books. I work with aspiring authors who are serious about putting their names on quality business books. My passion – and theirs – is to positively contribute to other people’s reading experience with material that is thoughtfully conceived, skillfully organized, and compellingly written.

Let’s consider this the beginning of a two-way conversation. As you read these Thought Readership posts, I’d like to hear from you about the business-focused books you’ve enjoyed and why. Give me the heads-up on books that couldn’t hold your attention beyond the first few pages and I’ll explore them to explain why. If you’re an author and open to a no-holds-barred assessment of your book–feel free to get in touch to send me a review copy.

You can contact me at info(at)drlizalexander(dot)com.

Together we’ll unpack what it is about some non-fiction books that grabs our attention, compels us to keep reading, and leaves us feeling satisfied that the effort was worth it.

The first review will show up in two weeks and continue bi-monthly until you let me know that you’d like them weekly. Don’t be a stranger in the meantime. Just remember that it’s how that author(s) wrote their book, not what they wrote about that’s our focus. This isn’t another book review page…it’s a “swipe file” for people who want to learn how better books are built.

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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12 Ideas and Tips for Finishing Your Book on Time!

by Roger Parker on December 12, 2011

Here’s a list of proven daily writing ideas, habits, and tips for finishing your book on time & with minimum fuss.

Writing a book doesn’t have to take over your life! Your book doesn’t have to prevent you from participating in the activities that are important to you. Nor, do you have to suffer the stress, embarrassment, and costs of missed deadlines.

The following ideas & tips based on my experiences, the experiences of my clients, and the experiences of the 500+ successfully published authors I’ve interviewed during the past 10 years.

1.    Visualize your success

Remind yourself why you’re writing a book. Visualize yourself signing books at your local Barnes & Noble. Think how pleased you’ll be speaking at your local Chamber of Commerce, watching your friends—and your competitors–taking notes. View your growing online presence and the growth of your e-mail mailing list.

The more you visualize your success, the easier it will be to keep yourself motivated.

2.    Avoid “binge writing”

Commit to consistent progress based on short, frequent, writing sessions. Avoid the temptation for heroic gestures, like staying up all night or sacrificing weekend or vacation time with your family.

You’ll get more done in 30-45 minutes each weekday day than you would by sacrificing your Saturdays or Sundays.

3.    Make “appointments” to write

Schedule your daily writing sessions in advance. Don’t expect to write your book in the time “left over” from your daily tasks and family obligations. Identify your most productive times of the day. Commit specific starting and stopping times for your daily writing sessions. Develop your own writing habits and rituals.

4.    Prepare to write before you start

Review your writing goals as early in the day as possible. Before you leave home, or as soon after arriving at your office as possible, look over what you wrote the previous day, and review the next topics you want to address. Looking back and looking forward engages your mind, so your brain will be processing ideas while you’re driving or performing routine tasks.

5.    Isolate yourself from interruption

Engage the support of your co-workers and family. Share your writing goals and progress with the people around you. Let them know how important your daily writing goals are, and the benefits that all will share.

Close the door to your office and use your telephone answering machine to shield you from all but the most important interruptions. Avoid incoming emails until after your writing session.

6.    Focus on quality, not quantity

Express your ideas as clearly and concisely as possible. Two pages of unique content are better than ten pages that restate the obvious. Prospective book buyers will be more impressed by the relevance and helpfulness of your ideas than the weight of your book.

7.    Realistic expectations

Avoid unrealistic comparisons with published authors. Don’t compare your first drafts with a published book. You’re not in competition with them. In addition, it’s very easy to forget that published books have usually been extensively edited and rewritten. Plus, you don’t know how long they took to write their “classics.”

8.    Set a time limit for each writing session

Avoid burnout. After 45 minutes to an hour, most authors find their productivity tapers off. Leave something for you to write tomorrow!

In addition, use a timer to alert you when the end of your session is approaching. This saves time to tie up loose ends before returning to your other tasks and concerns.

9.    Avoid premature editing

Resist the temptation to self-edit yourself during your writing sessions. Your goal is to get the first draft written as efficiently as possible. There will be time, later, to review your work from a fresh perspective, making any necessary changes. Often, authors unconsciously use perfectionism as a delaying tactic to avoid

10. Avoid unnecessary risks

Always make a back-up copy of your work at the end of each writing session. In addition to backing-up your working file, print-out your latest work on 3-hole paper and add it to the 3-ring binder where you’re storing your manuscript.

11. Share your ideas with your followers

Immediately explore ways to convert latest into marketing opportunities. After backing-up your work, make a list of topics for articles, blog posts, speeches, or tip sheets based on what you’ve just written. Take action by adding these ideas to your marketing editorial calendar creating drafts of future blog posts.

12. Review your progress at the end of each day

Review what you’ve just written and your writing goals for the next day before you go to sleep. Reviewing what you’ve written will reinforce a feeling of progress. More important, reviewing your next day’s writing goals will re-engage your mind. While you’re sleeping, your brain will be searching for connections and organizing ideas. When you start to work, your brain will be primed for action.

Bonus. Don’t be a loaner

Remain open to new ideas and resources. Get help when you need it. Olympic athletes and Fortune 500 CEO’s regularly employ coaches to help them improve their focus and performance. Why should authors be any different?

What are your writing habits?

How do you keep on schedule, so you can finish writing your book on time? If I’ve overlooked an idea or tip that’s an important part of your favorite daily writing habit or ritual, please share it, below, as a comment. And, let me know how these ideas and tips work for you. We can all learn from each other’s experiences.

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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As the Paradigm Shifts #N: Noticing

by Rosie Kuhn on July 20, 2011

Noticing is the most powerful tool for cultivating awareness and for bringing valuable spiritual concepts to the workplace. Most importantly though, is having the intention to notice, in order to notice whether you are noticing or not.

Notice, for a moment, what is occurring within your work environment. Notice the lighting, the sounds, the smells and what the space looks like to you. As you are noticing, notice what senses you are using to notice. Is it just your hearing, sight, smell and your touch? What other senses are engaged through noticing? What’s happening inside your body, what emotions or sensations are present in this moment. Notice sensations, such as hunger, fatigue, stress, anxiety, worry, guilt, anger or aggravation. Notice where are you putting your attention. Notice if you are avoiding, distracting and delaying and what it is or who it is that you are avoiding, distracting yourself from or what specifically you are delaying. Notice, too what it takes to be you in this moment as you notice and bring awareness to your reality.

Lot Going On!

There is a lot going on, isn’t there? By bringing attention to your reality you are able to get clear about what it is that you are creating. By gaining clarity you are then able to notice what choices you are making and the results and consequences that ensue. What’s the quality of experience you are having in this moment? Is this the quality of being you’re wanting to have throughout your day?

Bringing spirituality to the work place is an inside job. It starts with noticing how you be who you be, then deciding whether this is a reflection of the environment you wish to create. Ask yourself this question: Do you really want to be the change you wish to see? If so, what needs to shift within you, then begin to notice how you, yourself is in alignment with that you wish to create. You can only change what you are conscious of, and you can only become conscious by cultivating awareness through noticing.

On a Similar Note

My sweetie and I were playing Backgammon the other night, which we do on a regular basis. This particular evening we noticed that when rolling the dice, there were a phenomenal number of doubles. The odds were against us for rolling as many doubles as we did. Something was being brought to our attention – we couldn’t help but notice it! We played six games and all of them were filled with vast amounts of doubles.

After Backgammon we decided to play some cribbage. Again, we couldn’t help but notice that Todd’s hand or mine had consistently held three of a kind – again, way beyond the odds of it happening. There was no logical or rational reasoning. We had to go outside our current paradigm to understand the phenomenon that was undeniable.

Our world is full of events like this and they are occurring far more often than ever before. We are being asked to look and notice what was once inaccessible to us. The cultivation of consciousness comes when at first we least expect it. Now more than ever we have an opportunity to witness a paradigm shift right before our eyes, at work, at home – everywhere. There is no doubt that this phenomenon is world wide – Universe wide.

Each generation that has gone before us has facilitated a greater and greater degree of consciousness. Many of you have heard, I’m sure that we are standing at the precipice of a paradigm shift. We are generating this shift and at the same time it is being foisted upon us by cosmic activity far beyond our wildest imagination – at least for most of us. Cosmologists – scientists who study the cosmos, totally understand what is causing such a rift in our world. It all makes sense to them.

There’s two ways one can respond when considering this unfoldment of the Universe. We either allow ourselves to be scared out of our wits and bury our heads in the sand, or we watch the extraordinary evolution of our time with fascination and curiosity. Some call it the time of the apocalypse, when we will be paying for the sins of our fathers and their fathers before them. Some call it the end times, but perhaps it is the end of the concept of sin and fear and war and sickness. Perhaps if we take on a practice of noticing we can begin to see the many opportunities to participate in this shift – cultivating awareness that will bring about a different way of being human; shifting from a fear-based paradigm to one based on our essence of being – love, kindness, compassion and creativity; one that inspires each of us to empower others to live into their fullest potential – no holds barred!

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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