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phil buckley

What I Learned in School Last Week

In high school, my career ambition was to be a history teacher. Although my career path led to business, teaching played a significant part, from training frozen yogurt franchisees, to running a bank’s corporate learning and development consultancy, to teaching college courses in my spare time. Teaching has always been in my blood.

My latest teaching experience happened last Sunday when I guest presented at a Master’s level change management course at York University. I met the professor, Len Karakowsky, through a mutual friend and I was delighted to share my perspectives on change with his students.

Len is the professor you wished you had in university: friendly, interesting, engaged, intelligent, funny, positively cynical and exploratory. He is also someone you wished you met earlier in your life. What a great person.

The session was entitled “Change Management and the Cultural Connection,” which is an area I love. This was a hot topic for the students too who were all human resources professionals with personal change experience from different private and public industries. 

My session was planned for ninety minutes followed by a lunch where I would get the chance to chat with the students. I shared my insights on how people, leaders and organizations change and then asked the group to solve change challenges that I had experienced through the Kraft – Cadbury integration. 

My opening presentation was very interactive including excellent conversations about people’s current situations. The time flew and we ended up reconvening after lunch and talking for over three hours. I didn’t want it to end.

As I was driving home I thought about what I had learned. I reaffirmed that change management is about helping people move from where they are to where they need to be with the least amount of disruption; it’s not about ‘being right’ about how to change. The business of change management with its frameworks and proprietary methods can forget this purpose. Selling certifications can get in the way of ensuring people get the hands-on experience and support they need to effectively change.

Len kindly mentioned that Change with Confidence will be on the course’s reading list next year. I am thrilled because having my book available for students was one of my primary objectives for writing it. 

I learned a lot in school last week. Maybe the biggest lesson is that teachers learn as much or more from their students. I am looking forward to the next time I get to learn from them.


Why say good-bye when you can say see you next time?

Journeys are a series of beginnings and endings. Each phase starts with exploration, followed by understanding and capability. Just when you are getting good at something it is time to move on to the next phase, and the cycle begins again.

This has been true for me with the creating and marketing of Change with Confidence. First it was the concept phase, then writing, editing, pitching, formatting and promoting. Each one followed this development cycle.

One of my favourite phases has been the promotion phase.  I hired Media Connect, a New York-based book promotion and author publicity firm to support my book in the U.S. A best-selling author had given me a great reference and my initial conversation was David, Managing Director, was excellent. Have you found that there are some people you meet and just know you will get along with famously? This is how I felt about David. 

Steve Matteo, David Hahn and Eric Glover
I felt like a sponge when I met David and his team members, Steve and Eric at their office. I kept saying, “And what else, is there anything else, from your experience, what else should we do.” I also invited them to use me as a guinea pig if they wanted to try new things. 

I learned so much from my five-month campaign. Their expertise was evident from day one. They worked with Wiley to get promotional galley (first-print soft-bound copies  for journalists). They also quickly leveraged their network across print, radio, public speaking and internet media channels. I was in good hands from the start.
Here is what the team triggered for Change with Confidence:

6 Reviews                           
8 Articles/Guest Posts   
3 Interviews                      
1 Talk/Event            
1 Webinar                      
I am thrilled with the coverage! I won’t attempt to pick my favourite experiences. Each one taught me something new, whether it was approach, format or customization to a particular audience. Each one built my promotion skills. 
Beyond PR, the team shared their knowledge of the publishing industry. For example, David said there are two types of authors: one that puts out a book every two years and the other who does so every five years. The first type tends to repeat themselves while the other writes something new and uniquely profound.”

Why say good-bye when you can say see you next time? It will be a little while longer than I originally thought. Thanks guys!


What would it take for you to subscribe to a newsletter?

One of the simplest and most important design elements of my web site is the newsletter registration form.

Kro and Mel, the designers of my site, and I discussed how it should look and where it should be located to maximize subscriptions. Our goal was for everyone who advanced past the home page to have the opportunity to sign up. We agreed to put the form on every page that had space for it. 

I have always been a fan of newsletters. They provide relevant information in short, easy-to-read articles. The content is tailored to one of my interests and sourcing them myself would be difficult and time consuming. 

The Change with Confidence newsletter needs to offer these attributes to people delivering change. Our aspiration is to create a clipping service of change-related articles that have caught our eye. Each one will include an introduction explaining the reasons for selecting it and how it could be helpful to the reader. Given this context, readers will decide whether each article is worth reading (if any of them).

The format of the newsletter is important too. It needs to be a clean design that is easily scanable. It should take less than a minute to identify what is worthy of someone’s time.

Digg and  Stumbleupon are inspirations for the look of the newsletter. They are simple, easy to read and visually appealing. 

Newsletter Format Prototype

Kro created a prototype that we are populating for the first issue. Each monthly newsletter will begin with a summary blurb of the articles we select followed by the articles and commentary. We will launch a six-article format because nine seemed too long and three seemed too short. Ultimately, the readers will decide what is the best length for the newsletter. 

The first issue will be distributed in less than two weeks. My hope is that readers will find the articles current, eclectic and thought provoking. Ultimately, they will decide what types of articles are best for them.

I am excited by the launch. Our newsletter provides one more way to help people deliver change. If interested, you can subscribe here.


One Thing Leads to Another, and Another…

On June 6th, I gave a webinar about the biggest questions of change. It was sponsored by Soundview, a company that provides professionals with business intelligence in time-efficient ways. It offers business book summaries, author webinars, and video interviews to build awareness and skills on the latest business thinking.

A webinar is an on line seminar where participants hear your voice and watch your slides on screen. They also have the ability to ask questions and leave comments. There are both benefits and challenges to this presentation format.

On the benefits side, you are presenting in a controlled environment with the freedom to review your notes and pace your talk. Also, it is easier to answer questions and discuss comments because the moderator frames and sequences them. Another benefit is that you are not distracted by the participants because their phones are muted and they are invisible, which is helpful, especially when the audience is in the hundreds, like this one.

On the challenges side, you are talking into a speaker phone for forty-five minutes non-stop. Your voice needs to modulate to make points and create excitement so that people stay engaged. 

My friend, Michael, who is an excellent speaker, suggested I adopt a conversational tone. He also suggested that I ask people to reflect on my points and invite them to consider their relevance based on what they were experiencing.  Both tips were helpful and made my talk sound more personal. It felt like a conversation every time I posed a question to participants.

It’s always helpful to be a member of a great team. Ursula, the executive producer, and Andrew, the moderator, were incredibly helpful. They shared presentation tips and examples of other successful sessions. They were also very supportive and personable. By the time we went “live,” I felt like I knew them personally although we had never met in person. 

The 3-2-1 countdown before starting a presentation is always a “time stands still” moment for me. This is when I straddle between  preparation and action just before I take my step into delivery. I started my talk with a story about my first change project and went on from there. My time flew by and forty-eight minutes later I asked Andrew if there were any questions.

The participant questions were ones that I had answered in Change with Confidence. It was good to see that people were interested in what I had dealt with. They included changing priorities during a change project, dealing with resistance, and avoiding slipping back into old ways of working. This part of the session was the most dynamic and enjoyable.

Attendees were invited to leave a comment on my website if they wanted a copy of my slides. Over seventy-five people left comments and received my Powerpoint slide deck. I thought about  sending a PDF file of my slides but my goal was to help people delivering change, not to protect my work. I hope they use my slides in their change presentations. 

A couple of weeks before my presentation, I got the great news that Soundview had awarded “30 Best Business Books of 2013” status to Change with Confidence. This means they will write an Executive Book Summary and record a twenty-minute audio version of it. They will also record an author interview that will be distributed to all members. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

The Soundview experience has been tremendous. One thing did lead to another and another. It may even lead to another. That’s how it works.


Everyone has a fifth gear. When does yours kick in?

I realized I had a fifth gear in 1987 when I took three months off to travel Europe. It had been four years since graduating and I felt I wasn’t achieving my life goals. Traveling by backpack alone was one of my goals.

I had arrived in Brindisi, Italy to board a ferry to Santorini to meet some new friends. There was one more ship leaving before the port would be closed due to a general strike. If I missed it I would miss my friends. 

The ticket office was mayhem. I push my way (a new behaviour) to the counter and bought a ticket. With ticket in hand, I ran a half a mile with my heavy backpack to the ferry.  Exhausted, I presented my ticket to the attendant but something was wrong. My ticket hadn’t been stamped. No stamp to entry. My look of horror had no effect on the situation. With a shrug the guy started unwrapping the ropes holding the boat to the dock. They were about to set sail. 

 I hoisted my pack on my back and bolted back to the ticket station. It was blistering hot and humid and I was wearing a jean jacket. I was drenched. I ran up to the counter (most people were now on the boat) and waved my arms wildly in large “stamp my ticket now” motions. My look of horror didn’t speed up the process. 

When I finally got my stamp I dashed out the door, more hunched than when I arrived. I had no energy left and there was a moment when stopping seemed like the only option. Suddenly,  my pace quickened. I was just as tired but energy surged through my body. 

When I got to the boat it was inching away from the dock. The same guy that had sent me away was on board shaking his head. I flung my pack through the air onto the deck. I then took a running jump and fell onto the deck. The guy started screaming but it was too late to eject me. I had made it.  It was great to see my friends.

Since then, I have used my fifth gear many times, both personally and professionally. It can take the form of operating on little sleep  or attempting something I have never done before. 

I also use my fifth gear in the same way that I found it: through running. No matter how tired I am in races I always bolt to the finish. In the last 400 metres, I will select a fellow runner to pass and then speed up. It’s never let me down and usually I pass my mark unless his fifth gear is faster than mine.

My fifth gear kicks in when the odds are steep and my resources are low. The trigger could be the realization that I need help, the thrill of the adventure, or the need to test that it’s still there. Whatever the motivation,it has always been there when I need it. It doesn’t always lead to success but it has made me more successful. That’s what counts.

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