HOW WOULD I SAY THAT?

Writing scripts is one of the most, if not THE most important parts of my job. Our scripts, although they are not long, are the foundation of every video we produce.

Short or long, the same concept applies: if the message isn’t clear it won’t be received. You have to take the time up front to write it well because the video won’t be good if the script is poor.

“It’s possible for me to make a bad movie out of a good script, but I can’t make a good movie from a bad script.” – George Clooney

I thought I had done a good job my first time out. I practiced due diligence by following the ABC guidelines of accuracy, brevity, and clarity — but when we went into the studio to record, it just didn’t sound quite right.

Voiceover is tricky — appropriate inflections must be chosen, Ds and Ts have to be enunciated clearly, and you have to establish an appropriate pace. Together, these elements create the atmosphere that enables the listener to understand the message easily. But even an experienced voiceover artist can’t fix a bad script. There’s more to it than just the ABCs.

When we started recording, I wasn’t sure I understood what was being said — even though I had written it! Each sentence seemed to require too much thought. To get it right we had to stop, adjust the script, and then begin again.

Each time we stopped I found myself saying “How would I actually say this if I was having a conversation with someone?” Once I came up with a better (and usually shorter) version, I crossed out the original text and scribbled in the conversational version.

Long sentences were broken into smaller pieces. Parentheticals were eliminated. And the script got a lot shorter.

A lot happened that day. By the time we gave up, the script had more changes than original text. It made sense to schedule a re-record for the following week to allow time for a rewrite.

I’ve written a lot of scripts since then. I still do rewrites in the studio, but there are usually a just a few. It’s the nature of the beast.

When you begin your process (and it is a process), remember to ask that pivotal question “How would I say that?” – and when you answer yourself, say it out loud.

until nxt time …

10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM MY FORMER BOSSES

During my career, I’ve had twelve managers. Eleven out of the twelve got the job done, but only five were leaders. And out of those five, three were inspirational because they displayed empathy.

According to psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman, there are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate (Bariso, 2018).

  • Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand how a person feels.
  • Emotional empathy happens when you share the feelings of another person.
  • Compassionate empathy moves us to take action.

A lot of people belief empathy is personality-based — which means you either have it or you don’t. That may be true, but I believe it can be learned if it is modeled.

In this short video, I share the ten things I’ve learned from my empathic leaders.

Smart leaders can choose to develop an empathic culture. When they do, they will be rewarded with successful, collaborative teams and improved employee retention rates: a win-win scenario.

until nxt time …

References

Bariso, J. (2018, January 7). Google spent years studying effective teams. This single quality contributed most to their success. Retrieved from: https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/google-spent-years-studying-effective-teams-this-single-quality-contributed-most-to-their-success.html

Krznaric, R. (2014). Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It. New York, NY: Perigee.

PechaKucha. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved from:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PechaKucha

State of Workplace Empathy. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.businessolver.com/resources/state-of-workplace-empathy

PUT THE RECOMMENDATION FIRST!

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Contrary to the pace I experienced when I began my career, business communications now travel at lightning speed. I don’t know about you but I have become something akin to a human scanner; it’s the only way I can get through the blur of emails that race across my inbox each and every day. But like Alice, I must make my way through the madness and balance the need for speed with the ability to convey important information.

Judy Steiner-Williams, senior lecturer at Kelley Business School, points out that the vast majority of business writing is informal. That has been my experience as well. Knowing people have limited time and short attention spans, business reports are often kept short — often no more than one page. Even so, a good report should include the following components:

  1. Executive Summary (the whole report in a nutshell)
  2. Introduction (purpose)
  3. Body (problem, background, research, and analysis)
  4. Conclusion (evaluation)
  5. Recommendations (practical, actionable items for the report)

It sounds like a lot of information, and it certainly can be. The trick is to make it as brief as possible without cutting corners. Remember, your audience is a decision maker who probably doesn’t have a lot of time. That could be your boss, a peer, or anyone who needs more in-depth information regarding a specific problem or issue.

If you feel constrained by the five-part structure, don’t worry; you can expand your sections to meet the specific needs of your audience. This business report goes into detail while remaining one page in length. Notice that it uses the seven headings listed below.

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Background/Rationale
  3. Benefits
  4. Risks
  5. Cost Analysis
  6. Timeline
  7. Recommendation

But wouldn’t it be a bit more fun to shake things up a little?

Get crazy. The Red Queen might say we should put the recommendation first, just in case your reader doesn’t read the whole thing. It’s madness, but I propose that it just might be the most practical thing we can do.

What do you think?

until nxt time …

References

USC: University of the Sunshine Coast. (2017, May 2). How to write a business report. HRetrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=V8uF1EoIneE

STEP OUTSIDE OF YOURSELF

When you begin a new job, you can’t always count on gaining the support of the existing personnel, especially when the organization is going through massive changes. And so, like a child on the first day of school, you appreciate every act of kindness you receive.

I had spent the previous year and a half struggling to connect with my former boss. When it finally became clear that it was time to move on, I quietly asked management if I could be considered for a different position. A short while afterward, I was placed “on loan” with a division across town who could benefit from my skill set as a team leader, trainer, and webmaster.

When I arrived, the staff was in the throes of launching a state-wide electronic learning management system (LMS). My role was to learn the system, deliver instructor-led training classes, run a biweekly user group meeting to troubleshoot user issues, and act as backup administrator when needed. Luckily for me, the system administrator had a kind disposition and helped me learn the ropes. Like me, he was a former trainer and welcomed questions; and like me, his managers had not always been kind.

When you leave a job to go to a new position, sometimes things get worse before they get better. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had stepped aboard the Titanic. Many had already abandoned ship, fragmenting teams and leaving unfinished projects in their wake. Although I wasn’t sure how long the ship would stay afloat, I was determined to make the most of my time there.

ELEARNING SKILLS

About a year later, I was asked to create an online learning module. My humble tool kit consisted of an old eLearning software package and a cheap USB microphone. In spite of my lack of experience, I enjoyed the creation process from start to finish: writing the script, recording the voiceover, designing the storyboard, and adding any free graphics I could find. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had become an eLearning team of one – but not for long.

ABANDON SHIP!

After three years, the project came to an end. The office shut down and I returned to my former work station.

The time I spent had been worthwhile. My skill set had expanded, and I was fortunate to have worked with some good people, even if it was only for a short time and under difficult circumstances.

When I returned, I was grateful that my former boss had moved on. The system administrator had also been assigned there, but we were not working together. That soon changed when it was decided that the two of us would work as a team to develop training modules on the now fully functional LMS.

As time passed and we collaborated on different projects, we developed a mutual respect for one another. Although we sometimes disagreed on how things should be accomplished, we focused on the goal and offered each other constructive criticism so we could help each other grow.

“People are more willing to step in when they share the same values.”  – The System Administrator

NEW SHIP – NEW CREW

About a year later we welcomed a displaced graphic designer to our fledgling team. She brought new life to our projects, and had an unquenchable desire to learn everything about our work. She had also suffered at the hands of a bullying boss, and the system administrator offered her the same kind ear that had meant so much to me when we began working together.

The three of us worked together, always aiming to raise the bar and make each module better than the last. We all made plenty of mistakes, but grace was always offered rather than judgment.

“We help each other without asking. You’re willing to give help and you’re not afraid to ask for help.” – The Graphic Designer

Next we were joined by a seasoned programmer. Due to a radical change in management, seven fellow employees had left her unit, leaving her to keep things running without promise of new hires. She was a proven team player, interested in our work, and we were lucky to be able to bring her on board. As fate would have it, she also happened to be the most empathic person I had ever met.

“We all want it to come out well. We care.” – The Programmer

RECOGNITION

Just three years after our return, we won the first of our awards for excellence. The team had transitioned from a group of loosely-knit professionals to a highly functioning team of eLearning developers. Frequent informal meetings helped build trust, and our rapport remained strong in spite of the pressures of our increasing number of projects.

We were a team with a diverse set of skills. Dissimilar craftspeople from different work cultures who banded together for a common cause: to master the tools required to create high quality training. And not just for the LMS. Video was taking off in the eLearning world, and we rose to meet the challenge – together.

SERENDIPITY

Overall, our work load had increased exponentially. Around the same time, a young call center employee from another division heard about our team. As a former video editor she brought the expertise we needed to continue our growth. She was eager to learn our craft, full of ideas, and played well in the sandbox.

“Our team is successful because everyone brings a different skill set. Everybody has a concept of what each person can do, but they specialize in their own area.” – The Video Editor

Success is often rewarded by being given new responsibilities. When a colleague from another area retired, I was chosen to take over half of his duties while maintaining my role as manager of our development team. My reward came with an additional employee: a former Marine. Among other things, he possessed great customer service skills – and it was clear from his demeanor that he had a heart for helping others.

“If I have a Marine that’s falling back on me, it’s going to affect the whole team. You have to reach out to them. You’re trying to understand where they’re coming from. It comes down to showing someone that you care.” – The Former Marine

So, what do a webmaster, system administrator, graphic designer, programmer, video editor, and former Marine have in common?

EMPATHY

“To listen with empathy is the most important human skill.” – Stephen Covey

Empathy is a word many people use but few understand – because it’s often confused with sympathy. If I sympathize with someone, I retain my own point of view. When I empathize, I step outside of myself to experience the other person’s point of view.

“You’re experiencing a fraction of their emotions and feelings because you see things from their perspective” (Kramer, 2018).

3 TYPES OF EMPATHY

According to psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman, there are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. (Bariso, 2018),

  • Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand how a person feels.
  • Emotional empathy happens when you share the feelings of another person.
  • Compassionate empathy moves us to take action

Empathic people are good listeners and they withhold judgment of others. They also offer help without asking for anything in return (Rube, n.d.). Showing empathy helps us communicate with our fellow humans in a deeper way. Displays of compassionate empathy build trust between team members, which helps them thrive.

In his book Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, Roman Krznaric explains the importance of showing empathy at work.

“Empathy in the modern workplace is not just about being able to see things from another perspective. It’s the cornerstone of teamwork, good innovative design, and smart leadership. It’s about helping others feel heard and understood.” (Krznaric, 2014).

So, if empathy is so valuable, how do you cultivate it in the workplace? Some people are naturally empathic, but others not so much. Can it be learned?

The answer is yes.

MODELING EMPATHY

Empathic leaders bring out the best in their people, and they create an environment that fosters the level of trust high-functioning teams require.

In my twenty-five-year career, I have had twelve managers. Eleven out of the twelve got the job done, but only five were leaders. And out of those five, three were inspirational because they displayed compassionate empathy. Here’s what I learned from them.

  1. Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. This will provide you with the insight you need to help them grow.
  2. Find out what’s important to each person so you can help them achieve their career goals.
  3. Be with your team. Make it a point to talk with each team member every day.
  4. Be accessible. It’s difficult to balance this with your own workload, but it’s critical to the group’s success. Never forget that you’re a part of the team.
  5. Have meetings, but keep them short. If they can’t be short, bring food (a valuable lesson I learned from my very first boss). And try to keep the tone informal.
  6. It’s all about the small stuff. Birthday cards are a given, but how about National Pretzel Day? Who doesn’t love a good soft pretzel? Be creative.
  7. Share all the information you can as often as you can. Nobody likes to be kept in the dark.
  8. Share your own stories, but only if you think they would be interesting AND beneficial.
  9. Congratulate individuals and the team for a job well done. Each and every time.
  10. If you can, work on projects with your team. You shouldn’t stop being a team player just because you’re the boss.

Someone with empathy pays attention to the actions of the people around them – and performs acts of kindness accordingly. On our team it happens every day. It can be a small act, like sharing a funny story when someone’s having a rough day. Or it can be something more time-consuming like helping someone who has a heavy workload, even if their own plate is full. Or noticing when someone’s not quite themselves and letting them know you’re there if they need to talk.

Author and empathy expert Brené Brown believes that “Empathy fuels connection” (The RSA, 2013). I agree. It is the empathic connection that marks the difference between a good team and a great one.

PROJECT ARISTOTLE

In 2012, Google began a study to determine how to improve their teams. Using data from within their own company, the researchers discovered that good teams shared two behaviors: “equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking” and high ‘‘average social sensitivity,” or what most people would call empathy. When combined, these two characteristics resulted in a shared sense of psychological safety, which “more than anything else, was critical to making a team work.”

” … Google’s intense data collection and number crunching have led it to the same conclusions that good managers have always known. In the best teams, members listen to one another and show sensitivity to feelings and needs” (Duhigg, 2016).

Simply stated, teams achieve impressive results when they step outside of themselves and focus on each other.

“The best collaboration includes empathy … it adds a greater depth to the collaboration.” – The Video Editor

“If you have empathy for one another you’re going to do better at your job. Self-centered people don’t collaborate well. Some people sabotage one another. We operate as one.” – The Programmer

“Whatever we collaborate on is always better.” – The System Administrator

DEVELOPING TEAM CHEMISTRY

What can you do to create a culture of empathy in your organization? Licensed Master Social Worker Tasha Rube provides some practical advice on how to connect with others using empathy.

  • Be an active listener. Avoid distractions and focus on the message being delivered.
  • Open up. To practice empathy, you have to share your own inner landscape with someone else as they reciprocate.
  • Pay attention to the actions of people around you.
  • Withhold judgment.
  • Offer help.      

I AM DIFFERENT BECAUSE …

I asked my colleagues to describe how they’ve changed since becoming a part of the team. Here’s what they told me.

My confidence level is a lot higher because I come to work knowing that I will end the day with more knowledge and the team is there to support me whenever I fall short. ” – The Former Marine

“I have definitely changed in a positive way. I think this is because I don’t feel judged by my teammates; instead I feel supported and accepted. It’s okay if I don’t remember something or if I don’t know how to do something. Someone on the team will show me how or we’ll learn a new skill together.”– The Video Editor

“I feel valued, appreciated, and respected. I’m so thrilled to work with a great group of people and to have the opportunity to learn so many new and exciting media software applications. It’s been a pleasure to collaborate together and learn from one another.” – The Programmer

“Because of my new environment and the comfort zone [I experience] with my colleagues, I have become more positive and productive. Today, I wear many hats – problem-solver, mentor, motivator and teacher. – The Graphic Designer

“This team accomplishes a lot, partly because of diverse talent and work ethic, but more importantly because of mutual respect and care for each other.” – The System Administrator

STEP OUTSIDE OF YOURSELF

This story is about people complementing each other; overcoming their differences as they share a common goal. The respect we share with each other has allowed us to develop a culture of mutual respect that fosters collaboration. That collaboration is fueled by empathy.

“Measure your impact in humanity, not in the likes, but the lives you touch; not in popularity, but in the people you serve. I found that my life got bigger when I stopped caring about what other people thought about me. You will find yours will too. Stay focused on what really matters. There will be times when your resolve to serve humanity will be tested. Be prepared. People will try to convince you that you should keep your empathy out of your career. Don’t accept this false premise.” – Tim Cook, Apple CEO

As my colleague says, “Be kind.” Empathy is contagious. Ultimately, it leads to a happier workforce who work well together and contribute better ideas.

Smart leaders can choose to develop an empathic culture. When they do, they will be rewarded with successful, collaborative teams and improved employee retention rates: a win-win scenario.

until nxt time …

References

Header photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels.

Bariso, J. (2018, September 19). There are actually 3 types of empathy. Here’s how they differ–and how you can develop them all. Retrieved from:  https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/there-are-actually-3-types-of-empathy-heres-how-they-differ-and-how-you-can-develop-them-all.html

Bariso, J. (2018, January 7). Google spent years studying effective teams. This single quality contributed most to their success. Retrieved from: https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/google-spent-years-studying-effective-teams-this-single-quality-contributed-most-to-their-success.html

Duhigg, C. (2016, February 25) What Google learned from its quest to build the perfect team. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html

Kramer, B. (2018, August 13.). The critical difference between sympathy and empathy. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/08/13/the-critical-difference-between-sympathy-and-empathy/

Krznaric, R. (2014). Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It. New York, NY: Perigee.

Rube, T. (n.d.). How to show empathy. Retrieved from wikiHow website: https://www.wikihow.com/Show-Empathy

The RSA. (2013, December 10). Brené Brown on Empathy. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

EMPATHY AND TEAMS

My next blog post is coming soon! Keep reading for a sneak preview in a long, mini or micro format.

SUMMARY

Empathy is often confused with sympathy. If I sympathize with someone, I retain my own point of view; but empathy is the ability to step outside yourself and feel what the other person is feeling.

In business, it is the empathic “connection” that marks the difference between a good team and a great one. That connection is the lifeblood of successful collaboration.

“People will try to convince you that you should keep your empathy out of your career. Don’t accept this false premise.” – Tim Cook, Apple CEO

Team members who place a high value on empathy enhance collaboration and ultimately produce a better result. This is a story about a group of people who came together, set aside their organizational differences, and harnessed the power of empathy to work side by side as a successful team.

Read first-hand accounts of their experience collaborating together.

  • “The best collaboration includes empathy. If you have empathy and you’re collaborating, it adds a greater depth.”
  • “If you have empathy for one another you’re going to do better at your job. Self-centered people don’t collaborate well. Some people sabotage one another. We operate as one.”
  • “We all want it to come out well. We care. When we collaborate, we may be six people but it’s almost like one person coming up with the product.”

Smart leaders can choose to develop an empathic culture that fosters collaboration. When they do, they are rewarded with high quality results and improved employee retention rates, a win-win scenario.


MINI SUMMARY

Empathy is often confused with sympathy. If I sympathize with someone, I retain my own point of view; but empathy is the ability to step outside yourself and feel what the other person is feeling.

In business, it is the empathic connection that marks the difference between a good team and a great team. That connection is the life blood of successful collaboration.

“People will try to convince you that you should keep your empathy out of your career. Don’t accept this false premise.” – Tim Cook, Apple CEO

Team members who place a high value on empathy enhance collaboration and ultimately produce a better result.

This is a story about a group of people who came together, set aside their organizational differences, and harnessed the power of empathy to work side by side as a successful team.


MICRO SUMMARY

An empathic connection marks the difference between a good team and a great one. That connection is the lifeblood of successful collaboration. This is a story about a diverse set of people who became a great team by harnessing the power of empathy.


Social Media Summaries

LinkedIn

An empathic connection marks the difference between a good team and a great one. That connection is the lifeblood of successful collaboration. This is a story about a diverse set of people who became a great team by harnessing the power of empathy.

#empathyintheworkplace #emotionalIntelligence


Instagram

Collaboration is the key! This is a story about a diverse set of people who became a great team by harnessing the power of empathy. #empathyintheworkplace #emotionalIntelligence


Twitter

Smart leaders can choose to develop an empathic culture that fosters collaboration. When they do, they are rewarded with high quality results and improved employee retention rates, a win-win scenario. #empathyintheworkplace #emotionalIntelligence

until nxt time …

CONSIDER THE AUDIENCE

As long as I can remember, I was told I should “consider the audience.” The rule applies to all types of communication: conversations, emails, presentations, and writing in general. Tailor the message to fit the audience; it’s good advice.

As a writer, the first step in considering your audience is understanding how they factor into the process. Writing consists of three components: the writer, the message, and the reader. All three are equally important, but without the reader delivery is not possible.

But who, exactly, is the reader?

In his book On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, author William Zinsser explains:

“Who is this elusive creature, the reader? The reader is someone with an attention span of about 30 seconds – a person assailed by many forces competing for attention.” (Zinsser, 2016).

Consider your own attention span. How much of your valuable time do you invest in reading a written piece if it doesn’t capture you quickly? Sure, you may hang in there if the subject matter interests you, but you won’t stick around very long if the writer makes it difficult for you to understand their message.

Despite the reader’s attention deficit, it is the writer’s responsibility to keep them engaged. A writer’s words are their tools, and as Zinsser observes, you will lose your reader if you don’t use those tools carefully.

Surely this is the “consider the audience” advice that is so cliché. If we tailor our message according to the demographics of our reader, we’re more likely to deliver the message successfully, right?

Zinsser disagrees. Later in his book he says:

“You are writing for yourself. Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience – every reader is a different person” (Zinsser, 2016).

He admits his advice seems like a paradox and adds, “How can you think carefully about not losing the reader and still be carefree about his opinion? I assure you that they are separate processes.”

It is a difference of mechanics (and semantics). Readers will abandon ship if the message isn’t clear, so the writer must “consider the audience” by mastering their ability to write well. They must plan their message carefully and deliver it straight away as to not waste the reader’s time. Instead, the writer should treat their audience with respect by delighting them with a message that is (hopefully) personal and passionate.

Good writing takes time; writing succinctly takes even longer.

Earlier I confessed that I believe the advice of considering the audience to be good; that I tailor the message to fit the audience. That’s not exactly true.

Instead, consider this:

Tailoring my message to fit the audience makes it sound like I change the content depending on who I’m talking to. And let’s face it – that just wouldn’t be right. At best it would be wishy-washy; at worst it would be lying.

What I mean to say is that I tailor HOW I write to deliver a message that appeals to the reader. I change the HOW not the WHAT. I try to be clear and concise; not verbose. I add stories to make the content relatable. I work hard to keep it interesting.

The bottom line is this. When you write, consider your audience’s demeanor and disposition but capture their attention by mastering the tools of writing. Capture their attention, by writing well.

Consider the audience, but write for yourself.

until nxt time …

References

Zinsser, W. (2016). On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

EASY + READABLE = ENJOYABLE

A good writer can take a complex subject and make it understandable, or READABLE. A good blogger also has to use visual formatting to make the content EASY on the eyes. Both things are necessary to make the experience enjoyable for the online reader.

EASY + READABLE = ENJOYABLE

Let’s take a look at some real world examples of enjoyable (and not so enjoyable) writing.

Example #1

Michelle Linn’s article Why Strong Writing Is a Skill to Prioritize in 2016 (And How to Hire Great Writers) is a great example of readable web content. It also happens to contain some good advice. The piece is located on the Content Marketing Institute’s website, and as their former head of editorial it’s clear Linn knows her audience.

Ms. Linn begins with a statistic that is both shocking and engaging. “[H]aving internal content creators become stronger writers was the lowest-ranked priority for marketers” (Linn, 2015). The lead is followed by an eye-catching horizontal bar graph that shows the gap between the top priority (Creating More Engaging Content) and the lowest priority (Becoming Stronger Writers).

Next she uses quotations culled from a roundtable of five B2B (business-to-business) panelists, who provide practical suggestions on how to make writing a higher priority in the workplace. The quotation marks are oversized to provide visual interest. This style is used eleven times throughout the article, and helps keeps the reader engaged with the content.

(Linn, 2015)

The article is readable because the content is well thought out with short paragraphs that flow logically. She also uses headings and subheadings effectively. To finish, she ends with a strong conclusion that directly answers the “why” in her title.

Example #2

In contrast, How to Improve Your Writing Skills and Grammar in 2018: 31 Easy Tips from the Kajabi blog site breaks some basic rules of good writing. A list of thirty-one things, no matter what they are, is too long. The author’s choice of wording is sometimes unclear, and requires the reader to decipher what is being said. Ironically, grammatical errors are scattered throughout the piece despite their recommendation that writers should proofread carefully and use good grammar. Examples are shown below.

Did you find them?

  • In the first paragraph, the incorrect “two” was used instead of “to.”
  • Under #8 the second sentence references the title incorrectly by using the word “ability” instead of “accountability.”
  • The second paragaph under #9 uses “their” two times. It’s unclear whose writing we’re getting feedback on in the second sentence. It would make sense if the first “their” was replaced with “your.”

Although both blogs are easy on the eye, the Kajabi article should have been edited and proofread more thoroughly. Perhaps next time the author will take #13 from their list more seriously – “Take Several Passes for Editing and Proofreading” (2018).

Remember the formula: EASY + READABLE = ENJOYABLE. If you want to capture your online reader, use clear formatting. Most importantly, make sure it’s readable by taking the time to think about your message. The well-known writing teacher William Zinsser said “Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other. It’s impossible for a muddy thinker to write good English” (2016). It’s good advice for writing well.

until nxt time …

References

Kajabi. (2018, February 14). How to improve your writing skills and grammar in 2018: 31 easy tips. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blog.kajabi.com/writing-skills-how-to-improve

Linn, M. (2015, November 6). Why strong writing is a skill to prioritize in 2016 (and how to hire great writers). Retrieved from https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/strong-writing-prioritize/

Zinsser, W. (2016). On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

THE POWER OF VISIBILITY

As a manager, I have practiced Agile project management in one way or another throughout my career and I can personally attest that it is a powerful way to foster the delivery of high-quality projects.

There’s a lot of information about the Agile approach, but let’s break it down to a basic definition, courtesy of Andrew Conrad’s recent blog. “Agile project management is an iterative development methodology that values human communication and feedback, adapting to changes, and producing working results” (2018).

When the Agile method is used, projects are broken down into tasks that are tracked on a physical display placed near the development team.

I have always been drawn to the “smash the watermelon” approach of breaking a project into smaller tasks. Unfortunately, however, my attempts at tracking projects have been less than effective; that is until about three months ago when I discovered Kanban.

In Japanese, Kanban means signboard or billboard. It is a visual scheduling system that “takes its name from the cards that track production within a factory” and was developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota (Kanban).

About three months ago I implemented Kanban within my team using a whiteboard and multi-colored post-it notes – a different color was assigned to each member of the team. We divided the whiteboard into three columns: TO DO, DOING, and DONE. When new tasks are assigned, the responsible team member uses their colored post-it note to jot down a brief description of the task along with the project name. The note is then attached to the board and moved across the columns as the work progresses toward completion.

Kanban makes the work visible.

Following another form of Agile project management called SCRUM, we recently began a new ritual we call the “Monday Morning Roundup.” Every Monday we have a brief early morning team meeting to discuss and determine the priority of current project tasks. The priorities are recorded by hand and then placed in a spreadsheet that is e-mailed to each team member. A hard copy of the spreadsheet is also delivered to their desk. Any changes in priorities are reported to the supervisor and relayed to the team members as needed.

The weekly priority list that results from the roundup meeting is another visibility tool. Together, the whiteboard and the paper priority list provide the clarity that is needed to perform the highest quality work in the shortest period of time. It also protects against duplication of effort because everyone knows what everyone else is working on.

Visualization increases collaboration. Once things are visible it becomes a lot easier to work together on something. – Ben Linders (2017)

I don’t have a whiteboard at home, but I do use web-based project management software. While researching a tool to organize my graduate work, I explored three free-to-use packages: Asana, Trello, and Podio. After a bit of experimentation, I found the Trello interface to be colorful and easy to use, feeding my desire for visibility.

Trello uses three levels for your organization: boards, lists, and cards. Sounds like Kanban, right? Actually, it can be used in a very similar way and it’s a great tool to help you organize and schedule your personal tasks.

Here’s a final example of the power of visibility, albeit in a different form. In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport recounts a story told to him by Brad Isaac, a writer and comic. Isaac was working an open mic night and had an encounter with Jerry Seinfeld, who was busy juggling his stand-up career and his new network show. Isaac asked Seinfeld if he could give him any tips. Seinfeld obliged. At that time, Seinfeld’s personal goal was to write a joke every day. Seinfeld told Isacc that “The way to be a better comic was to create better jokes,” and “the way to create better jokes was to write every day.” When Seinfeld wrote a joke he marked the date by placing a red X on his wall calendar. The calendar served as a visual reminder to pursue his goal daily (Newport, 2016, p. 110-111).

“According to the Project Management Institute, more than 70% of organizations have incorporated some Agile approaches” (Conrad, 2018). Regardless of the approach you choose, be sure to consider the potency of visual tracking methods for yourself or your team.

“When you visualize, then you materialize.” – Denis Waitley

until nxt time …

If you’d like to learn more about SCRUM, check out this YouTube video of a Tedx talk given by organizational expert Jeff Sutherland. Sutherland was one of the seventeen people who worked together to write the Agile Manifesto in 2001.

References

Beck, K., Beedle, M., van Bennekum, A., Cockburn, A., Cunningham, W., Fowler, M., Grenning, J., Highsmith, J., Hunt, A., Jeffries, R., Kern, J., Marick, B., Martin, R., Mellor, S., Schwaber, K., Sutherland, J. and Thomas, D. (2001). Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Retrieved from http://agilemanifesto.org/

Conrad, A. (2018, April 27). What exactly is agile? A definition of Agile Project Management. [Blog post]. Retrieved from  https://blog.capterra.com/definition-of-agile-project-management/

Linders, B. (2017, March 7). Agile Practice: Visualization. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.benlinders.com/2017/agile-practice-visualization/

Newport, C. (2016). Deep Work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.

TEDx Talks. (2014, July 7). Scrum: How to do twice as much in half the time | Jeff Sutherland | TEDxAix.[Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4thQcgLCqk

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, February 16). KanBan. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban