Coaching Provides Opportunity for Recalibrating

For the past year I’ve been working with a coach at work. It’s impacted my professional life as well as my personal life.

When I mention this to colleagues and acquaintances, most say, “I want a coach.” Some say it would be great to have someone telling them how to solve work problems. But that’s not what happens.

Being coached is hard work. The person who has the answers is me, and my coach works hard to get me to think about the problem and possible solutions. After a year, I’m almost at the point where I can identify the issue and almost have it identified or resolved before we begin a coaching session.

Jack Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett describe coaching in an article this way:  “The best business coaches  act as a valuable mirror for their direct reports and help them to better assess what they are doing and how they are doing it.” The statement comes from their article, “Coaching as a Management Style: An excerpt from The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow.”

Coaching helps me with the complexities of today’s changing environment. For example, I started out learning that directing a team is the way to go. Today, however, the emphasis is on collaboration and negotiation. Before coaching, I established the agenda of team meetings. Now, I ask team members what should be on the agenda. My role is as a facilitator. Everyone is able to bring issues to the group and seek input from all. That doesn’t mean that we are all in agreement. The phrase we use is that we reach an approach or solution through collaboration, but we aren’t striving for consensus.

One of the best aspects of coaching for me is that it provides me with an opportunity to step back, reflect and reprioritize. Otherwise, sometimes I don’t think I would do this, and yet I need to. When I do it, I may realize I’m off course, and need to recalibrate.

I realize that not everyone has the opportunity to be coached. But we can all benefit from taking time to step back, reflect and reprioritize.

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What Is a QR Code?

Have you seen QR codes in magazines and newspapers or on signs, buses or business cards? Do you know what to do with them?

They are one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network or open a web page in the phone’s browser.

All of the newest generation smartphones come preloaded with QR code reading software, including the iPhone and Android. A free app or software can be downloaded quickly and easily to enable QR code reading in slightly older smartphones. 

During the last six months of 2010, QR code scanning increased 1,200 percent across North America, according to a report from mobile payments and marketing company Mobio Identity Systems.

QR Code poster

See the QR code in his poster? It takes people to a page that gives more information than a poster could hope to. A person would just use a QR reader on their phone and the link would open in their phone’s web browser.

By adding a QR code to a marketing campaign the brands are creating interactive media. They can deliver video, Web properties, digital coupons or even sell their products directly through a formerly static media.

QR codes may be added to print advertising, flyers, posters or invites containing:

  • Product details
  • Contact details
  • Offer details
  • Event details
  • Competition details
  • A coupon
  • Twitter, Facebook, IDs
  • A link to your YouTube video

Have you used a QR code? If so, content did you receive?

Twitter Turns 5

Twitter turned 5 on Monday.

TwitterToday it has 200 million users and is a broadcast channel for major news events, including the plane in the Hudson River and the tsunami in Japan. It’s become a communications tool during political uprisings.

I confess, I am not a big Twitter user, but it has still impacted me, and for the very reasons that Twitter’s cofound Jack Dorsey said about Twitter in a Money CNN.com interview:

“The big thing I learned from Twitter are these concepts of immediacy, transparency, and approachability,” Dorsey says. “I think Twitter’s done a very good job for the communications industry.” 

When I’m communicating I write my headlines and subject lines of emails so that they are concise and that the meaning is clear. I think about what I would say if I had to tweet the article. If I can’t quickly identify the purpose of the piece, it needs to be rewritten.

Twitter may not be for everyone, but its lessons offer solid foundations for effective communications.

Ellen Brown Swept Away By ‘Gone with the Wind’

Ellen F. Brown was not a Gone with the Wind fan until about three years ago when she interviewed John Wiley Jr. about his collection of GWTW memorabilia. “He regaled me with stories,” she said of Wiley who had been collecting since he was 9.

Gone with the WindThe more they talked, the more Ellen fell in love with the book. They decided they wanted to tell the story of the creation and marketing of the book. The two quickly found an agent and a publisher and realized that 2011 would be the 75th anniversary of GWTW and so they researched and wrote, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood.

“It’s been a whirlwind couple of years,” Ellen noted during a book talk. “Fortunately, people saw the value to telling the story.”

GWTW was an overnight international bestseller when published 75 years ago, and one million copies sold in the first six months. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was nominated for the Nobel Prize.

Ellen shares in the book how fame swept over Margaret Mitchell and her husband. They came to terms with it by deciding not to move or change their phone number. The mail came in shifts to their home because there was so much.

The book also explores how Mitchell balanced her obligations as a woman. “You have so many obligations no matter how famous you are,” Ellen observed. “You are still someone’s daughter, someone’s wife.”

Mitchell was the first American author that Europeans embraced since Mark Twain. Because of that, Ellen said, Mitchell had to fight to protect the rights to her book. “Thanks to Margaret, copyright protection is worldwide.”

Although the book was an overnight success, it took Mitchell 10 years of work. “You can’t just dash off a bestseller,” Ellen said. “[Margaret] preached that writing was hard work and requires relentless editing.”

Ellen’s book covers so much of the history because she and her co-author had unprecedented access to thousands of Mitchell’s papers. They found answers to questions that gone unanswered for decades, including what Rhett Butler’s middle name was.

When Ellen moved on to another topic, the audience clamored to know what the “K” stood for in Rhett’s name. Ellen teased, “If you want the answer, you’ll have to read the book.” 

Note: Yes, I bought the book. And no, I’m not telling you the answer.

Mystery Writer Recommends Hit List to Improve Writing

A good story is not written; it is rewritten. And often, many times.

Mystery writer Donna Andrews said, “I write okay books and I revise them into good books.”

She works her hit list to improve her writing, including:
  • Looking for forms of “to be” and making the verb active
  • Looking for prepositional phrases that could be replaced with a strong adjective
  • Eliminating “just” and “many”
  • Eliminating “goes” and instead using stronger verbs such as “running” or “strolling”
  • Eliminating “very”

She notes that most of us overwrite so sometimes she will eliminate 10 percent of her copy. “It does wonders for the tautness of the piece,” she says.

Finally, to catch mistakes, she will write using Comic Sans font on the computer. She then prints her piece using a different font. She says, “You see different things that need to be fixed.”

What items are on your writing hit list?

Donna Andrews Revises Books into Hits

Between Thanksgiving and the New Year I read a mystery series by Donna Andrews. The books, starring Meg Lanslow, were a fun, quick read. Imagine my delight when I discovered Donna would be speaking to the Sisters in Crime Richmond chapter.

Donna Andrews

Donna Andrews, photo by Joe Hensen Photography

She is always asked how she goes about writing but before she shared her process she stressed that it differs from author to author. Donna uses an outline as a starting point. “Then I challenge myself to write something even better,” she said.

She begins with a seed. “It could be a unique way of killing or someone who needs to be killed.” From there she looks for humorous situations that also have tension.

An outline enables Donna to not write sequentially. That way if she is ready to write a particular section or has the dialogue ready to go, she can work on that.

She moves from the outline stage to draft mode when one of two things happens:

1)      The outline is great

2)      She is nervous about the pending deadline.

Sometimes she gets stuck and on those days she will read something on craft, such as Robert McKee’s “Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting,” which is often referred to as the screenwriters’ bible.

Donna also creates a spreadsheet determining how many words she needs and how many days she has to write it. Then she’ll figure out how many words she needs to write each day. She’ll discover that she has to write 1,000 words each day for the next three months, for example. “That’s doable,” she said.

She does this because at the end of every day, she said, “You can spend so much doing things that feel like writing but aren’t.” This includes research or finding the right word.

Her goal is to finish her book two months in advance of when it is due to the publisher so she can share it with her critique group. “I write okay books and I revise them into good books.”

Trends Driving PR Growth

Fundamental trends are driving the growth of public relations, says John Paluszek, APR, Fellow PRSA and chairman of the Global Alliance.

 He recently spoke to senior practitioners during a morning coffee before speaking to the Richmond PRSA.

 The three trends are

1)      Growing demand for PR services

2)      Providing a wide range of services

3)      Growing global demand

John Paluszek

John Paluszek discusses public relations trends with senior practitioners.

Paluszek, senior counsel with Ketchum, has counseled on corporate social responsibility and sustainability for severaldecades. He said that the demand for PR services continues to grow. “Almost all institutions now recognize the need for PR,” he says.

This is critical, he says, since PR professionals help to manage the interaction between the company and its stakeholder. 

PR once focused only on media relations, but today Paluszek says there is more specialization and a wider spectrum. Two areas that have implications from social media are issues management and crisis management. “Today it’s about how to get ahead of threats,” he says, “and what to do when the crisis hits.”

The messaging evolution has gone from delivering the message to what should the message be to a company asking what it should do.

The demand for PR services is happening all across the world. He cited MEPRA or the Middle East Public Relations Association as evidence of the need for PR services. His firm has six offices in China, which he said he could not have imagined 10 years ago.

“The world is changing and PR people are a part of it,” Paluszek says.