Category Archives:

business change

The Best Stories Must Be Told

Have you ever had a belief that slowly changed until it became the opposite to what it was? I have had a few of them, and my most recent one was about the stories I am including in my book. I wanted all of them to come from my personal experiences and it took a lot of thinking to identify 100 stories (two stories per chapter).


Just because you can do something one way doesn’t mean its the best way. Limiting the stories to my experiences meant that some industries, like health care, natural resources, and transportation were missing. Also, most of my experiences have been in packaged goods, which felt skewed. My readers and editor had counselled me to research new stories, and although my mind was in agreement my heart wasn’t – but what about all my exciting adventures? These stories have to be told!


This week, I came around and started researching new stories. I am glad I did. There are so many fascinating scenarios from all continents and industries, where people have made good and bad decisions around change. It is true that change is universal, regardless if you work in a retail group in China or a telecommunications firm in Argentina – change is about people.


Finding relevant stories has been an adventure. Some I found quickly and others took more than half a day. The search can be discouraging but when you hit the jackpot it’s worth it. The secret is to never give up. Never.


I thought of sharing some of the stories here but I think it’s best to wait for the book. They are worth the wait. Phil

Be Careful What You Wish For

When I was 11 years old, I watched a TV show called Make a Wish.  I recall it being the only program on Sunday mornings that was made for kids. Each show profiled a different topic such as an animal, an invention, or an occupation. Tom Chapin (brother of musician Harry) was the host who narrated film clips and sang songs about that week’s topic. Make a Wish opened with Tom singing the title song that had empowering lyrics about pursuing your dreams. I think I liked the song more than the show and often sang the first few lines of the title song:


“Make a wish, have a ball, dream a dream, be it all, 
If you want it, you can get it, but to get it, you’ve got to want it,
Anything you want to try, just let go, fly high,
Make a wish.”  


Make a Wish came to mind when I caught myself wishing for my detailed editing work to be over. It’s been a long haul and day and night editing loses its novelty over many weeks. I immediately caught myself because the experience of writing is part of my “wish,” where learning a new craft and articulating my beliefs on change management are as important as the completed book. The old adage, “be careful what you wish for because it might come true,” is good council for most aspects of life, including this one. Wishing that a part of an incredible lifetime experience is over is missing the point. I am “having a ball” and “being it all,” so I must remember that it’s all good.


Phil

What does your wallet say about you?

I told my son Sam that I was late writing this week’s post, and I had to stay up late to do it. He replied, “If you weren’t you, would you read your blog?” My first response was, “The personal ones, where I show a part of me.” Then I added, “Since I’m into change management, I would read all of them but only enjoy the personal ones.” Sam gave me a look that only a teenager can give: “Are you crazy?” or “What are you doing?” – more like “Are you crazy?” I decided to change my topic to something more interesting. 


It was very cold on Sunday (-13 C/8.6 F) when I reluctantly headed out for a 20 mile run. The thought of running for 3.5 hours outside was not “interesting.” Once I got started my mood improved and it was fun waving at the sprinkling of fellow frozen runners along Lake Ontario. 


As I passed the half-way mark  my mind wandered. I thought wouldn’t it be great to find a wallet on the trail. Four minutes later, right before my eyes, was a huge wallet on the path. I couldn’t believe it. I picked it up and opened it. Everything looked in place: credit cards and I.D. were in their side slots, money and receipts were in the back compartment, and a picture of a loved one was behind the protective plastic cover. I looked around, saw no one, and put it in my pocket. 


As I ran home I wondered who had lost it, how he had lost it, and what he was doing now? “Was there any foul play?” my over-active mind wondered. Once home I looked through the contents to find a phone number or email address by which I could contact him. I found an address but no other information. His number was not listed so I was stuck. Taking a closer look I found a yacht club membership. I called the club and eventually they got in touch with him. 


That evening he came to our home to retrieve his wallet. We talked for a few minutes, which told me more about him than his wallet. Later on, I looked through my wallet and realized it was similar to his (except for the yacht club membership). It could have been anyone’s wallet.


This theme of identity and personal expression has been raised about my writing. My readers and editor have counselled that I need to create more of a personal narrative so that my book will be more reflective of me and be more interesting. I am now making edits. You never know where you will find inspiration – even a wallet or a perceptive question from my interesting son.


Phil

Diegogarcity – I’ve got it and I want to keep it!

Have you ever been exposed to something new, say a word or a product, and then you see it everywhere? You buy a car and then see the same model on the road. “I didn’t know they were so popular,” you might say.


This is called ‘diegogarcity,’ which sounds more like a destination than an affliction. I have been experiencing diegogarcity since I started researching book proposal writing. Books are everywhere – no kidding – and the publishing industry is extremely prominent, too. It seems that every newspaper, magazine or T.V. news program is covering some aspect of this business. 


Diegogarcity isn’t always positive. The publishing industry is going through hyper-change and the printed book is being challenged by cheaper media alternatives, industry consolidation, and shrinking distribution channels. This wave of discouraging news can dampen spirits. It can also awaken the warrior within.


Knowledge is power and the more I learn about this fascinating industry, the better I am positioned to be a part of it. Perhaps I should start thinking more about victory.


Phil

What presence?

Every year during the holidays, a friend and I choose a destination to visit  in the summer. We’ve been to many cities in the US and Canada. Each one has its special attractions and memories. 

Ernest Hemingway’s study, Key West

This year we discussed going to Key West, Florida, the southernmost city in the continental United States. It would be great to visit Ernest Hemingway’s home to see where he wrote ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro.’ 


Why are we fascinated by environments that produce great things? Is it the belief that we, too, can get something positive from these spaces, that something magical will rub off on us? If so, is it the physical space or the spiritual presence that holds this magic? Could we get it by sitting in Hemingway’s writing chair or by closing our eyes and taking in the essence of his study?

Inspiration
Reading

I started thinking about how my environment has played a role in my writing.  What made it productive? What facilitated the connection between intention and output? Perhaps, like most things, it’s a collection of factors versus one ‘silver bullet.’ 


If you get inspiration by visiting famous places, that’s great. If you create your own productive space, that’s great, too. As long as an environment helps you get to where you want to go, you are in the right place. So far, it’s working for me.  Phil

Writing: 1. Source materials, calendar, to do list, and latest draft, 2. Where thoughts turn into words, 3. My plan – front and centre, 4. My printer that churns out numerous drafts, 5. Reference materials

Can you be strategic about holiday reading?

Holiday reading lists are dangerous things. They can lead to disappointment if your appetite is bigger than the time you have to feast. I made this mistake last year. The challenge is that there’s so much you want to read and so little time in which to do so. Since family and friends come first, reading can be relegated to the “I will do it soon” pile.


Here is my pared down list:

‘Hearts and Minds’ is a book written by a close friend, Dan Azoulay, who was an inspiration for writing my book. He captures the essence of romance in Canada between 1900-1930 based on 20,000 letters written to magazine ‘correspondence columns’.  It’s an engaging read. 

‘On Writing Well,’ is William Zinsser’s excellent guide to writing clearly and compellingly. I was half way through it in June when I decided it was time to start writing my book versus reading about how to do it.


‘Writing a Winning Non-Fiction Book Proposal’ is a  ‘how-to’ guide written by the Chairman and former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I’m excited about starting the research for the next phase of my adventure.

There are many other unread books staring at me from my bookshelf. I have learned they need to stay there. I’m enjoying getting back to reading, when I’m not visiting with family and friends.

Phil

Like a Light Bulb

The weeks that fly by are also the ones that spark the most vibrant memories. I had one of those last week. I was driving hard against an aggressive deadline, but falling behind my plan. There are two options when this happens: cut corners or cut sleep. I chose the latter. I wouldn’t have felt right handing over my draft without cleaning up  my sections. It’s like leaving home with coffee stains on your shirt – it’s something you just don’t do.

Seeing the print out of my manuscript for the first time was emotional. Flipping through the 252 double-spaced pages felt like I was holding a real book. I could sense the day when this will be true. The owners of our local UPS Store were friendly and supportive. They even gladly took my picture in their store.


The highlight of my week, however, was meeting my editor, Ken. We spoke for over two hours about my book. He observed that I talked about what I wanted my book to be. Ken wisely pointed out that he might be able to help me discover what it could be. What a riveting conversation we had. I was beaming as I shared a few of my stories and he shared a few of his views on book-making. I am excited by our partnership and look  forward to reading his notes in January.


But now it’s the holidays, a time for family and friends. It’s also time to catch up on my reading. It will be good to focus on what others have to say.


Phil

On Assignment: Chapters Bookstore, December 5, 2011

As I make changes to my book’s content and structure, I am starting to think about its layout. This element of publishing is another important one. It can either make or break a book’s accessibility. This is especially true for the time-starved reader who needs advice fast.  The more I can facilitate quick access to relevant information, the better. 

Charlie, my accomplice

A couple of my reviewers suggested I go to a bookstore to see how other books in my genre are formatted, so I went on assignment. I flipped through books in the business and self-help sections. I felt like Goldilocks before she tried the third bed: some were too academic, some were too playful, and none were ‘just right.’


Traditional layouts included blocks of text that were hard to scan – they looked like work. Highly illustrated books were fun but difficult to navigate. What struck me was that a book was either easy or hard to navigate – there was no middle ground.

Phil, looking inconspicuous 

Here are guidelines that will help me select an effective layout:


Titles need to stand out – they are the key navigation markers
White space is good – the less on a page the easier it is to navigate
Elements need to balance – lopsided pages look wrong
Icons are effective signposts – too many are confusing and gimmicky
Text boxes prioritize content if used sparingly –  too many are confusing 
Different fonts and text sizes communicate order – too many are confusing
If pages aren’t inviting and easy to digest,  they need to be simplified

Charlie’s reward
…not in my genre



Now, I find myself assessing the layout of every book I pick up: Where is my eye directed to? Is there a logical order to the page? Is it easy to navigate? The biggest question, however, is ‘Do I want to keep on reading?’


Phil 




An Author by Any Other Name is Half as Sweet

Last week, I attended a ‘Change Management Roundtable’ session hosted by the Strategic Leadership Forum. It was the first industry function I had been to since starting to write. The registration form had asked for my title; for the first time in my career, I didn’t have one.  I thought about using my old title, but that didn’t seem right. I thought about leaving it blank but that also didn’t seem right. I settled on ‘Author’ because ‘Author-to-be,’ although accurate, really didn’t seem right.

I received my ID tag on arrival, which included my name and title. My initial feeling was embarrassment. I felt naked among a crowd of clothed business people. I hadn’t earned this title and already I was displaying it on my chest for the world to see. Things got worse. The administrator asked for my card so it could be entered into a draw.  I knew that someone might ask me for my card so I was confident in saying, “I don’t have a card at this time.” She kindly offered to make one for me. Then I thought, what happens if I win the draw and they broadcast that Phil Buckley, Author should come up and collect his prize? I felt naked again and hoped I didn’t win. 

As the evening wore on, I felt more comfortable with my newly adopted title. I also felt clothed again, which was a relief. I met an interesting man who showed a real interest in my book. He said he looked forward to reading it. I also had a great conversation with a woman who was encouraging about my journey. There are many amazing people in the world to cheer you on. Sometimes they are people you have just met.

Looking back at the experience I am reminded of a great quote about confidence by Adlai Stevenson:  “It is hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.” So, here I am, Phil Buckley, Author, typing away with purpose and conviction. My name tag is in front of me on my desk, just in case I forget who I am.



Phil

All feedback is good, but could you include these things?

As I was preparing my book excerpt to be reviewed by a few peers, I realized I needed to give guidance on the feedback I wanted to receive. All feedback is good, however, I don’t want to miss certain aspects.


Overall, I’m looking for feedback from a reader’s perspective versus a content expert’s. The content is built from my experiences of ‘making change,’ so I expect others will have different experiences and views – no issue. What is far more helpful is feedback on how people take in the book. Specifically, its utility and style: “Is it valuable?” and “Is it interesting?” I am also looking for feedback on how the book is constructed. Finally, I’m curious about what I should call the creation. What title will speak to the reader when looking for a practical change management book? 


Here are the questions I included with my book excerpt:


Introduction

  • Does it effectively convey the reader’s challenge?
  • Does it effectively outline the format of the book?
  • Does it make you want to read on?
Table of Contents (each question  is a chapter)
  • Does the order of the questions look right?
  • Have I missed any essential questions? If so, which ones?
  • Too much, too little, just right?
Six sample Questions
  • How useful is the information?
  • Is the style engaging, boring, etc.?
  • Does the format help or hinder the time-starved reader in finding the information needed?

Possible Title Options

  • Rank order the top three options, including any you can suggest
  • How much do you like your top choice?
Possible Sub-title/Tag Line Options
  • Rank order the top three options, including any you can suggest
  • How much do you like your top choice?

You may be thinking what I am thinking: I am hugely indebted to my feedback providers for taking the time to review my material and give me this feedback. I will appreciate every comment. 


Hmmm, maybe I should have asked one more question: “What do you think about the number of feedback questions – too much, too little, just right?


Phil
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