October 17, 2017

Don't Give Up

Companies that invest in their employees know personal development translates into organizational success.

Not surprisingly, the list of corporate clients that have turned to longtime management consultant Dr. Kay Potetz for leadership training is vast. Think Cleveland Clinic, Marriott International, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Rubbermaid, Kent State University, the American Lung Association, and more.

After hearing her speak, people within these organizations would ask Kay if she’d written her ideas down. For a long time, the answer was no. Kay had a huge barrier to overcome before she could publish the first two books in her personal leadership trilogy: her own self-described “stinkin’ thinkin.’” 

Negative self-talk in the form of “I’m not a writer; how can I do this?” gave her a decade’s worth of trouble. This experience was not merely frustrating, Kay reveals. It was the worst part of crafting and publishing her two books.

Yet Kay persevered. Eventually, like many authors, she found that the process of writing was in fact a creative one. She explains, “Now I’m always interested in seeing what emerges as I write.”

With the aide of a writing coach, Kay published the acclaimed Take It Back: The Personal Power You Give Away Each Day in 2012 and Don’t Ever Let It Go: Hanging on to Your Personal Power in the Turmoil of the Twenty-first Century in 2017. She expects to publish her third book, What’s Your Part in It?, in 2019.

 Kay explains that when she published her first book, she had no expectations regarding its impact. She merely wanted to be able to respond affirmatively to those clients who kept asking if she’d written any of her tips and insights down.

What she found was that being a published author promptly gave her presence and authority. She explains, “People think you’re brilliant if you’ve written a book. It gives you an immediate air and makes your business more acceptable.”
Now semi-retired but still in demand for her leadership training seminars and management expertise, Kay finds it convenient to sell her books at conferences and lectures, through her website at drkkp.com, and in eBook form on Kindle and Amazon.

She expects to begin her third book in early 2018, again with the help of her writing coach. She took out an ad in Psychology Today to publicize her first two books. This time, she’s considering hiring a marketing firm to help with promotion.

She muses, “People are thrilled to associate with those who have written a book. That’s why I tell first-time business book authors, ‘Don’t give up. Don’t let your own stinkin’ thinkin’ prevent you from putting your ideas down on paper.” She adds, “Like me, you might be surprised at what a difference it makes in terms of your credibility and in meeting the expectations of your clients.”

Kay’s advice to organizations—“Invest in your employees … Invest in yourself!”—are words she clearly takes to heart. 

February 24, 2017

Book for "High Potentials" Practices What It Preaches

The best business books address a compelling issue, and there’s a doozy of a problem making the rounds at corporations all over America: lots of talented people assumed to be “on their way up” aren’t paying attention to their growth or advancement.

High Potentials Boot Camp…The Ultimate Playbook for Winning at Work offers a cure. Having worked with executive leaders in the C suite of Fortune 100 companies for two-plus decades, author Chuck Berke contends that taking responsibility for their development and advancement is the single most neglected element in many executives’ work lives.

In fact, Dr. Berke explains that a surprising number of the most talented and determined men and women are too busy with work tasks to pay attention to their own growth. This can be catastrophic, because personal development is crucial to long-term satisfaction, fulfillment, and retention, not to mention the success and competitiveness of goal-driven business ecosystems.

High Potentials Boot Camp began as a general compilation of ideas related to common leadership challenges. After conducting a series of workshops emphasizing the collective struggles of mid- to early senior-level executives on the rise, Dr. Berke realized he wanted to target this specific group.

How great is the need for such a book? Dr. Berke says new clients began contacting him as soon as word got out that he was writing it.

“The topic resonates. High potentials seem to realize they’re good at tasks but don’t know how to manage their careers. CEOs may not be the target audience, but this easy-to-read guide can still help them understand some of the challenges common to people coming up now,” he says.

Even before he sold a single copy, Dr. Berke was using the book to create workshops based on specific chapters such as listening, work/life balance, reputation management, the art of saying no, and branding.

I’m thinking of the book as a business card in a lot of ways. As a thank you for some clients but also as a way to introduce myself in a compelling way to new businesses. It’s a business development tool.”

As an adjunct to High Potentials Boot Camp, Dr. Berke developed a Career Assessment quiz to highlight growth skills and gaps and provide insights on what individuals can do to promote themselves at work. He’s also thinking about creating an ancillary workbook for teams based on the book.

While it’s too early to assess the long-term impact, Dr. Berke hopes his book will help him become better known. He works closely with a number of companies, but he’s seeking opportunities to branch out. By all accounts, he’s well on his way.

 “Today I have a call with a prospective client who wants to create a leadership program for his entire company. To say I have a book that addresses some of these topics has given me an entrĂ©e.”

Dr. Berke is already considering writing an additional title honing in on the benefits of taking a systemic rather than a linear approach to problem solving.

“Human beings often fail to see context,” he says. “We may acknowledge it, but we seldom embrace it because we don’t understand the whole picture, the way things connect. My new book will tackle the many ways this issue shows up, such as in management.”

But for now, this nationally recognized leadership and career coach is content to help executives who hold themselves to relentlessly high standards take a practical and more intentional approach to their advancement.

He concludes, “Hard work and talent aren’t enough. You have to seize control of your professional growth and development. In a sense, that’s what I’ve done by writing this book."

December 15, 2016

Self-Described "One-Trick Pony" Goes the Distance with Book That Endures

Christopher Avery was known as “The Responsibility Process® guy” long before he wrote his long-awaited book titled The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power.

In the early 1990s, having earned his doctorate in organizational communication, Christopher’s interest in shared responsibility and improving teamwork in high-impact cultures introduced him to the framework that eventually became his life’s passion. Nonetheless, it took him a while to permanently chronicle his groundbreaking work. He co-founded Partnerwerks in 1991 to share best practices for collaborating under competitive conditions and published his first book, Teamwork Is an Individual Skill, in 2001. All the while, his obsession with personal responsibility continued to grow.

The thing was, virtually everyone knew that taking personal responsibility was the first principle of success, but no one could tell you how to do it, or how to avoid the pitfalls so frequently encountered – only that you should take personal responsibility. With hard-earned experience in both eluding and taking personal responsibility, Christopher turned his attention from collaboration to understanding how personal responsibility actually works in the mind. He joined a team investigating the natural mental pattern that helps people process thoughts about taking or avoiding responsibility and then built the knowledge and systems to help them master personal responsibility in literally any context.
For the next decade, Christopher consulted with companies, gave keynote addresses, and wrote about personal responsibility, helping people activate their innate leadership ability with precision tools, practices, and leadership truths, but he still didn’t write a book. He laughs, “I was constantly asked when I was going to write a book on The Responsibility Process. I knew I should permanently document this material, but until last year, I didn’t feel ready to do so.”
By 2015, with his clients steadily clamoring for this amazing material to be documented, Christopher was ready. He organized his material and got to work. The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power was published in October of 2016.

Christopher realizes he went about the book publishing process a bit differently from how most people approach it. He explains, “Usually people have some type of expertise, and then they write a book and begin speaking about it. I did it backwards. I talked about The Responsibility Process for ten or fifteen years before I wrote the book. I am constantly introducing people/audiences to The Responsibility Process. I’m sort of a one-trick pony; I keep presenting it over and over.”

Christopher wasn’t interested in selling his book to a major publisher. On the contrary, he wanted the control and leverage self-publishing gave him. His highest priority once he decided to write the book was to put out a quality product in all ways, from highly polished content to a sophisticated cover to the finished book itself. He comments, “I wanted the final product to be worth the subject matter.” Because the self-publishing landscape is so fragmented, he didn’t feel he could manage all the parts himself. Instead, he sought out a top-notch book publishing firm. He admits, “It was too big of a learning curve for me to manage on my own.”

Since the book’s release, Christopher has been focused on steadily promoting it through a series of blog posts, guest blogging on other peoples’ blogs, and keynote speaking engagements that have proven to be a highly effective method of selling the book. In fact, the first 650 copies went to participants at a conference in Munich Christopher was asked to keynote after the organizers ordered a copy for every participant. Likewise, for an upcoming keynote in Dallas, the organizers are supplying a copy of the book to the first 200 people who sign up.

Tellingly, Christopher has no advice for first-time book authors. He believes emphatically that effective leadership starts with self, and The Responsibility Process taught him not to give advice. He explains, “When you tell other people what they should do, by putting you in a position of authority, they stop thinking for themselves.”

Nonetheless, he notes that when he wrote his first book, he didn't spend much time thinking about how he would recoup the value of the investment he was making. With his new book, he’s spent a lot of time positioning himself as a speaker and of building a brand around the book and its title. He’s even looking at rebranding his business around The Responsibility Process, eliminating his personal website and using the name of the book as the website instead. He asks, “In a world of brand building, do I need to build a brand around the corporate name? I think the answer is no.”

The Responsibility Process may indeed be “evergreen,” to quote Christopher, and it’s also prolific – organizing his material helped him realize he had more tools than he needed or wanted to use in a single book. Today, he envisions a whole series as an outgrowth of The Responsibility Process.

Now that’s going the distance, one-trick pony or not.

November 3, 2016

"Touch versus Tech' - a Cardinal Threat to Business Success and a Flawed Customer Experience

Before he wrote The Empathic Enterprise: Winning by Staying Human in a Digital Age, global business performance consultant Mark Brown was one of many independent advisers helping firms and individuals improve their business performance via leadership development and executive training.

Mark wasn’t always as fully intellectually engaged as he wanted to be, but he liked his work. To expand his advisory/consulting business, he toyed with the idea of writing a book, but he wasn’t entirely sure what his core message would be.

He began working with a strategic content advisor/marketing expert, who
looked over his original idea and concluded, “You can do better.”

Mark recalls, “After we looked at the competition, I realized there were thousands of books out there on the very general topic of how to improve business performance. I wanted to create my own original material, and with my consultant’s help, I realized I had the knowledge to write about strategy. This was very enlightening, and it set me on a different path.”

This new path highlighted Mark’s realization, garnered through his consulting work, that the casualty in an era of increasing reliance on technology was the human touch. After careful analysis, Mark concluded that in several industries, people wanted more human touch, while in other industries, they wanted less.

This was a turning point for Mark. He decided to write about the increasing over-reliance by companies on technology, how the customer experience was suffering as a result, and the need for balance between “touch and tech.” In addition to framing a problem many were aware of but no one had defined, he offered a roadmap for fixing the imbalance. 

To further enhance his book’s marketability, Mark took the advice of his marketing coach and created an ancillary tool around his book that would get his foot in the door of prospects, an assessment grid that measured how empathic an enterprise was in meeting the “tech versus touch” needs of its customers.

As Mark had hoped, The Empathic Enterprise was the catalyst for clients to both engage and re-engage his consultancy. His book immediately garnered rave reviews from existing clients as well as prospects who approached him for help assessing and balancing their “touch versus tech” scales internally and externally.

Mark comments, “Almost immediately, the book gave me a right to sit at the table, a right to play, if you will. It moved me into a brand new space, the empathy and technology conundrum. People wanted to talk to me about this idea; they wanted me to be a thought partner with them. Basically, the book expanded my portfolio and gave me more areas where I can serve clients and make money while being fully intellectually engaged.”

Today, in the leadership programs he facilitates, Mark gives away two copies of the book “raffle style” at the end of each program. He already incorporates content from the book into these courses, and participants are always pleased to receive a signed copy. He also gives copies to potential clients and refers editors to the book as well as to his online writing when pursuing opportunities for freelance articles.

Regarding book sales, he notes that word of mouth, his personal networks, and incorporating book content into his client work in leadership and strategy have been the most effective techniques, while online marketing has been less important.

Looking ahead, Mark is in the process of developing a new expertise – coaching for innovation – and is finding interesting synergies between innovation best practices and some of the key concepts in The Empathic Enterprise. He comments, “I expect to meld those fields and resources going forward and to leverage this in my work with clients as well as in additional book sales.”

May 3, 2016

Working, Speaking, and Making Your Mark

For his 1974 book, Working, renowned oral historian and radio broadcaster Studs Terkel spoke with dozens of working-class people across the United States about what they did for a living and how they felt about their work. The first interview of the nearly 800-page compilation takes place between Terkel and a disenfranchised Pennsylvania steelworker by the name of Mike LeFevre. More a candid conversation than a formal inquiry, the interview covers the gamut of experience, including workplace politics, misplaced aggression, and the division of labor, though perhaps the most poignant part of the conversation concerns LeFevre’s thoughts on recognition for his efforts.

LeFevre says that, as a laborer, he’s a member of a “dying breed.” The work is often thankless, but it pays his bills. And, more importantly, it helps him to provide for his family. He says that, since he never had the chance to go to college, he intends to make sure that his son finds his way into the upper class by giving him a proper education, and so he pulls steel, day in, and day out. And though each day for LeFevre tends to blend with the others in his memory, he finds a way to make his mark on his work, as it were, by dinging up the beams that come across his line with a hammer just to distinguish them from all of the others. He says he’d like to see a foot-wide strip on every building listing the names of those that helped to construct but, as it stands, his method of anonymously signing his beams with the head of a hammer had to suffice for him. “Picasso can point to a painting,” LeFevre says, “…a writer can point to a book.” But, he says, for the general laborer there is no identifier; no pride to be had in the finished product. But human beings need that something tangible, he says: something to prove that they’re impact on the world was real; that they were, in fact, there, and that what they did counted for something. “Everybody should have something to point to,” he says.

And so it goes on the professional speaking circuit, as well.

Writing a book—be it self-published or distributed by a major industry player—is generally regarded as one of the best ways to position yourself as a leader in any field. And with respect to public speaking, having that “something to point to” is a great way to prove to potential clients that you’ve got the know-how to entertain, educate, and influence the audience that they’re hoping will (or, in the case of some business conferences, obligating to) attend. Lisa Tener, winner of a Silver Stevie Award as 2014’s Coach/Mentor of the Year, was once quoted in the Women’s Advantage Calendar as saying, “To be seen as an expert, write a book. To write a book, become an expert.” Thus, the question begs to be asked— where do you start?

The bottom line is this: you are already an expert at something, even if that something is based on the lessons you’ve learned by living your own life. You’ve already failed in some unique way, learned something in that failing that only you can translate to the greater public from your perspective and, finally, you succeeded, if not by becoming a multi-millionaire (yet), then by finding a way to continue surviving. And if that alone is not enough to motivate you to share your expertise with the world, then consider the fact that book signings after speaking engagements are a great way to tack-on a few hundred dollars at each stop while working on the road. And those books you sell will continue to work for you, as well, sending your personal message out into every community you visit long after you take your leave to speak in the next town.

Last year, the National Speaker Association inducted five professional motivators into an elite club called the Council of Peers Award of Excellence (CPAE) Speaker Hall of Fame. Beyond their ability to motivate a crowd and make a living off of it, Simon T. Bailey, Walter Bond, Jeffrey Hayzlett, Stephen Shapiro, and Laura Stack all have something else in common, and it has nothing to do with advanced degrees, a history in politics, or a bunch of letters stuck onto the ends of their names. Rather, in addition to being great public speakers, these people are also all dedicated writers, each with multiple titles to offer under their belts.

Keynote speaker, best-selling author, and contributor to both Forbes.com and Inc.com (often on the subject of public speaking, itself), Micah Solomon is well aware of the connection between authorship and speaker credibility. “While professional speaking is a skill of its own,” Solomon says, “nobody wants a speaker who doesn’t have something to say.” And, says Solomon, “one way to prove to yourself and to potential audiences that you have something to say is to put it in writing.” Naturally, though he’s been published across multiple formats several hundred times, Solomon says he has “no plan of reducing (his) written output.”

After all, talking in front of a crowd is one thing, and professional speaking can certainly be a great source of income for in-demand rhetoricians. Regardless, if those speakers intend to stay in-demand and thus continue to command between $2000 and $50,000 for every 45-to-90-minute speech they are called to deliver, even the best speakers on the planet are going to need something to point to.