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writing

The Eagle Has Landed!

We did it! Last Tuesday, I met with my executive editor and editorial assistant to sign a global rights contract with Wiley for Change with Confidence. From their website: “Wiley has evolved into one of the world’s more respected publishing and information services companies. We strongly believe in the enduring value of collaborative relationships, built in a solid foundation of trust and integrity.” Perfect fit.


My book with be under the Jossey-Bass imprint. 
“Jossey-Bass publishes books, periodicals, and other media to inform and inspire those interested in developing themselves, their organizations and their communities.” Another perfect fit!


Change with Confidence will be available worldwide in 6 x 9 trim size hardcover (and e-book) in March, 2013. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

My new team members were very gracious and understanding about my excitement. I laughed when my executive editor said that in her twenty-seven year career, I was the first author to request a picture of the contract signing. Hilarious!

As I left the office, I was overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude for everyone who has helped me along the way, including those who have read this blog (you!). The intensity of appreciation is hard to capture in words. Perhaps it is best just to say “Thank-you from the bottom of my heart.”

A new phase of my journey has kicked-off and I have a lot to do. Firstly, I need to read my manuscript one last time before I hand it over to the Wiley team on Monday. There are a few insights I have learned during my recent consulting assignments that I am keen to share with my readers.  The heat is on!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Phil

Advice From the Big Chair

The empty ‘Big Chair’

On Wednesday, my friend Mel and I attended a “meet the author” session with Wayne Johnston, a celebrated Canadian writer. He is one of my favourites and I intended to ask him for advice on approaching publishers, my next mountain to climb.


Everything was going well: I confirm the session, my camera was charged, and we arrived twenty minutes early. As we were waiting in our second row seats (we chose not to run when the doors opened), I decided to buy a copy of “The Custodian of Paradise” for Wayne to sign. I also was going to ask him to include his favourite motivational saying, something I had asked Mark Tewkesbury, gold medal swimmer from the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, when he was a mystery guest at a business conference. He wrote, “Why not me?” It didn’t really make sense until I started writing my book. 

Mel at the book seller’s table


At the start time, an empathetic co-ordinator informed us that Wayne had not yet arrived and they were trying to locate him. Every ten minutes she updated us on their efforts to find him until forty minutes had passed when she said they still could not find Wayne and  she would try to reschedule him for the fall season (she did a great job). 

My new paperweight

All was not lost: I had a great time with Mel and we discussed a few open items about my book. You can find advice and inspiration in many places and often the best guidance is not planned.


Phil
                                                                                   


How good is good enough?


I am writing this post after an inspiring conversation with Ken, my editor. We both had worked into the morning hours finishing our respective homework before our 10 a.m. Starbucks meeting.


Around 3 a.m., I paused for a few minutes wondering how we would know when my book is finished. How good is good enough? From my experience, when you think something is finished you still have a way to go; there is always something to change to make it better.


I remember a story about the making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. After he and Quincy Jones recorded the songs, they listened to the entire album and cut the three songs they liked the least. Michael wrote three new ones including the number one single ‘Beat It.’ I have borrowed this approach to upgrade the stories in my book. How did they know three was the right number of songs to replace before the album was finished? 


I will keep editing until the edits are less valuable than what they are replacing. At that point, quality will speak for itself and good will turn into great. Great is good enough. 


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

Looking at the Stars and Finding the Constellations

This week was very productive. I spent it absorbing feedback I received from my reviewers. An author friend cautioned that reading feedback “…is both exhilarating (because you are making the final product that much better) and frustrating, especially when reviewers offer contradictory advice.” I found it exhilarating and exhausting, but not frustrating. There were more common themes than individual threads. 
                                                                                                                                                                  
The great news is that I am on track to completing the book I wanted to write. Equally great news – there are many ways I can make it better and I still have a lot of work to do.

Reviewing multi-source feedback feels like the role Tom Cruise played in Minority Report; your job is to look for patterns across multiple pieces of information. The challenge is to keep everything in your head while you find the connections. I wonder if Tom got headaches while he was filming these scenes.


Speaking with my reviewers to clarify points and test solutions has been a great help.  Halfway through these discussions, here are the changes I am making:

  • Audience: clarify who the book is written for
  • Navigation: be more directive on how best to use the book
  • Structure: categorize chapters by theme – results, the plan, resources, and communication
  • Format: add graphic elements to help the reader find the information they need
  • Content: open each chapter with one or two quotes and remove the ‘Words of Wisdom’ section
  • Content: Delete the stories that don’t illustrate ‘What works/What doesn’t work’ sections
  • Writing Style: Make it more personal, more ‘Phil’ – some parts read like a text book

Reviewing feedback is like searching for constellations. The stars are in full view, but you need to look hard to find the patterns. Having a team of generous astronomers helps a lot.

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

Becoming a Platinum Member of My Own Rewards Program

Over the past five months, I have received tremendous encouragement from friends and family. It has helped me stay on course through the twists and turns of doing something new. Just yesterday, I received an incredible note from someone I haven’t seen in eight years. He said, “…keep on with your passions. Know you have people cheering you on from the sidelines. Be sure to leverage those people on the sidelines when you feel a need for perspective…” What a powerful message and kind gesture – I will reread it often.

I realize, however, that I need to take accountability for my motivation. Motivation is inspired from outside but built from within. I must be my number one cheerleader. I must be responsible for fanning the flames of my passion and ambition.

Rewards are an important element of any change project. Whether for celebrating milestones achieved or acknowledging the hard work of the team – rewards matter. This is contrary to an article I read recently. The author said you must be wary of rewards and to use them selectively. On the surface, this partly makes sense. They should be used to reward specific events or behaviours and not handed out without merit. What I don’t see is the implied caution in using them. It reminds me of a quote from the early 90s TV show ‘Twin Peaks.’ Kyle Maclachlan says, “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.” Everyday seems a bit much, however the spirit feels right.

I only have witnessed two situations where rewards and recognition were not motivating. The first was in a unionized manufacturing environment when the individual was teased for being positively recognized. The second was when someone didn’t like the reward she had been given: “What am I going to do with a utility knife?” Every other situation left people feeling appreciated and recharged. 

If rewards are an important part of change project management, then why shouldn’t it be an important part of a project to write a book on change management? I need to build them into my work plan so I can celebrate milestones achieved and acknowledge hard work.  I must build my own rewards program of which I am a platinum member.

The two rewards I have planned are a new technical t-shirt for my first marathon in October, and the CD and DVD of  A-ha’s final concert. They may not be on your list of rewards but they definitely have me excited. Now, I must keep doing the work that will earn them.

Phil

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