Spotlight or Area light?

We have been doing “Spotlight on the Art of…” for 3 books now, We have 3 in the works: 2 that are not Spotlight books and one that spotlights Fear, and we’re in the conception phase of another one. You have been to plays and concerts where they had a follow spot on the main players. In using a spotlight you are illuminating a “spot” on the stage.

If you are running the light, you really HOPE that your artist is Standing in that light. My friend, Ruth, was an expert in follow spot, and her favorite saying was, “If there’s a dark spot on the stage, my guy will find it.” The problem with using a follow spot is that performers and actors especially tend to move about the set. The director does the blocking saying, “You must be at This spot at This point in the scene.” Now how the actor gets to that spot is somewhat an adventure. Ideally, the follow spot operator is in on the rehearsal and has the notes on the blocking. Why? Because if you FOLLOW the actor, you MISS the actor. You have to anticipate his moves so you’re not trying to catch up to him.

What does this have to do with writing? When you set your theme for your book, and choose the main point, you are effectively putting a spotlight on it. You add the characters or the information you want to include to bring your readers’ attention to the thing standing in the spotlight.

Area Lighting

You do NOT spread out the spotlight so it’s an area light in order to include everything you’re writing. There are some things in your book that are interesting but not vital. There are things that are not essential that may pull your audience’s attention away from the spotlight. This may be useful in a mystery. If you do not want the readers to guess the ending, you do not put too much foreshadowing or too many hints in. You don’t want them to solve the mystery before they’re half way into the book! But if you’re trying to guide people to a conclusion and make a point, you need to keep that spotlight small and evident.

Maintaining focus

In the International Speech contest for Toastmasters, one of the techniques the winners use is a “tag line” that keeps pointing to the spotlight of their speeches. You can do that in your book as well. You must have a purpose in your book. It can be to simply entertain, or to make a point, or to discover another level of awareness in the reader. If you have your purpose firmly in mind, figure out a reminding device that keeps people’s focus on what you’re spotlighting.

A reminding device can be as simple as a recurring phrase, “I had never noted his shifty eyes before.”  It can be a location or description, “Nothing ever good came of a new moon, and tonight was no exception.”  It could be a recurring character, “When I was low, Bob, you were there.  When I broke my leg, you were there.  When my dog died, you were there.  Bob?  You’re a jinx!”  Remember, you’re always trying to focus your readers’ attention to the main point of your book.

When you have written your first draft, take a look at how many times people can see the focus of your story.  Are you getting to the point?  Do they know it?!  Then you’re off to a great start!



When writing a book, a speech, a song, or blog or any type of communication to members of the community, the presentation can make or break your message.  Picture a Lobster dinner with pasta and a lovely green vegetable.  Can you see it on the plate?  Are you starting to drool?  What happens when you take the lobster meat, the butter, the pasta and the lovely green vegetable and throw it in a blender 1st.  Is this something you want to eat?  YIKES NO!!!!  The presentation of the food is what opens up our senses of smell and sight and gets our salivary glands working and our tummies prepared for a marvelous feast.

You first have to capture the imagination.  You have to make people curious enough to take the next step…take a bite, turn the page, get out the notebooks, get out the checkbooks.  In Toastmasters master speeches, they say something loud or shocking, or present a question to the audience; then they introduce their topic with a few tantalizing statements and finally say, “Mister Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and honored guests…”  The writer has an opening line, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”  The song writer starts with an introduction.  Even if you are writing a text book, your tester needs to be captivated on opening the book.  If you bore the teacher, the class will fall asleep.

I went to a seminar on mentorship.  What catchy opening were we, the audience, expecting?  I don’t know.  Some were expecting a story about how the speaker met his mentor.  Some were expecting a statement or a story about why mentoring is important to seek out.  Some were thinking they might get some how-to tips on how to mentor other people.  The expectations were all over the field.  We were surprised.  He opened up with his background, where he lived and where he grew up.  It didn’t serve any purpose except give us information about him that was not germane to the topic.  That lasted nearly 5 min and it was supposed to give us some insight into his background so we could connect.  At this point, some of us were not sure we wanted to connect with this guy.  He hadn’t said anything that would make us want to turn the page.

He then spent a good 10 minutes on the first section of his hand out.  He was using the 6 human needs that Tony Robbins teaches in his seminars.  He had them divided into 2 columns, and he had 1 word and its “mystery” companion on each row.  The companion word just had a first letter followed by a set of blanks and he spent a good deal of time trying to get us to guess the word he was thinking.  “Think of a word of 7 letters that starts with V and is the opposite of Certainty.”  He was in a room full of Toastmasters.  We know a plethora of ‘V’ words that could be used as opposites for Certainty.  So after a minute of so of guessing, he finally gave us the word. He then did the same thing with Connection.  The last word, Growth, he wanted a word starting with C that would enhance the meaning of the word.  He did the same exercise in the Toastmasters meeting he was invited to the next day.  One person actually guessed the V word because she was a crossword enthusiast.  He was surprised.  This tells me that NOBODY guesses the words.  What was the point of the guessing game?  Was it to improve our vocabulary?  Was it to change our perspective?  Was it to bring out a point in mentoring? It did none of those things.  In fact, 2 days later, people who’d gone to the seminar did not remember the words.

The second part of his presentation had to do with actions teams should be able to do to be successful.  The most interesting thing about one of his points, trust, was in the 5 levels of trust.  That wasn’t on his worksheet.  He then did an exercise in edification. He played the part of the intermediate manager and had a new low level manager that was just learning the ropes and had questions and the top manager who’d been in the business for a long time.  The first conversation was between him and the low level manager where he edified the top manager.  He then introduced the low level manager to the top level manager and then said, “Go.”  What is the point of introducing a low level manager to the upper level manager?

  1. It gives the low level manager the feeling of being valued
  2. It breaks down the wall between the low and high level manager so they see it’s a team effort
  3. It gives the high level manager a feeling for the newest member.

What he didn’t do is give these objectives to the upper level manager.  She didn’t know what the ultimate goal of the introduction was.

  1. You want to take in the qualities of the newest manager.
  2. You want them to go to their immediate manager instead of bypassing them to get the best information and clogging your day with things that could be handled further down the line.
  3. You want the intermediate manager to take a leading role in teaching and mentoring this new manager.

When he introduced the lower manager to the upper manager, she thought she was supposed to answer all the questions of the lower manager.  She didn’t, therefore, edify the middle manager and actually did the opposite.  The assumption of the lower manager was then that the middle manager didn’t know anything and just passed questions up to the top dog and was a middle manager because he didn’t qualify to do anything else.  Would this lower manager be more or less likely to go to the middle manager for wisdom and knowledge?  As far as the presenter was concerned, this upper level manager completely failed in the exercise.

He ran out of time on the third part of his presentation.  We never did get the connection between what he presented and mentoring.  He did not make clear the use of the worksheet in mentoring.  There were no examples or stories about how this information applied to mentoring.  Did I take notes?  Certainly.  Will I use this information?  I have to fix it first.


Practicing your story

I love to tell stories!  Things that happen to me, things that happen to my friends and family, things that amuse me, and things that come to me in my sleep are all fodder for my stories.  I have a story about room service.  I have all sorts of stories about my travels and adventures.

I was recently at a big event in Orlando where I got certified as a John Maxwell teacher/trainer/coach, and one of the activities was standing up and introducing myself to my table mates in a 5 minute speech.  I had told this story to my family, then to my toastmaster club, and eventually to all of my friends.  I published this story on FaceBook.  I had to tell it that many times to refine it.  I found areas of description that did not advance the story and cut them out.  I found conversations and streamlined them to make them an integral part of the story.  I looked for ways to hold off the end of the story so it would come as a surprise.  I crafted the words for the most impact.  Mark Twain once said, “If it is a ten-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.”  Once I have my story just the way I like it, I rarely change my delivery.  My choice for this project was “Don’t worry, I’m a Professional!” and it was a humorous look at my adventures at the last Big Event where I broke my hip.  It came in at 4:47 and I got all kinds of good reviews.

You have to listen to where people laugh.  You have to listen to your delivery.  You have to watch the people in your audience to see when you need to slow down or speed up.  Are they getting the point of the story?  This is a 5 minute speech.  A book is a 5 minute speech stretched out to 3-5 days.  Craft each scene carefully–each character, the setting, the dialog.  You cannot be careless lest you run yourself into a rabbit hole you cannot escape.  Write down your inspirations and expand on them.  Write down your stories and then look at them with a critical eye.  Does it conform to your plot?  Does it get a good reaction from the reader?  What do you want to accomplish with this paragraph?

Craft your stories as you would a vase.  Don’t leave anything to chance, and do not assume you can just wing it and get it right.

What’s on your mind? Write it down!

What IS on your mind?  You have a story you just have to write because you cannot share it one on one with everyone fast enough. You have an issue that needs to be in the forefront of everyone’s mind. You have a ground breaking idea. You have a hero you want to write about. There is something on your mind that you cannot share unless you write it!

Then you sit down to your blank page and write the 1st sentence. Then you erase it. Then you try again, and again, and again. How do you start?  How do you get what’s on your mind on paper?

Every writer goes through a different process. There are some that have not only the 1st sentence but the whole 7-book series blocked out in their heads! There are some that are stream-of-consciousness and just sit down and write, and later organize it. In between those extremes, there are a plethora of different processes. You cannot assume everyone writes the same way. But you have to start somewhere.

The first thing many do is get down on paper the main reason they need to write this story.  Is it to explore a character?  Is it to change someone’s mind?  Is it to place beings into a new and alien setting?  Is it to instruct?  I know one writer that uses this model exactly, and then writes an outline and keeps adding detail until his book is done.  Then he erases the I’s and the II’s and the A,B, and C’s of his outline.  Another author writes down what’s on his mind: the subject of his book.  Then he goes off on bunny trails and collects his stories and illustrations.  He next eliminates or at least puts aside the parts that are irrelevant to his subject, organizes and reorganizes these pieces until he has what he wants.

“That Guy” is a cute little fellow in bright yellow Hawaiian shorts and an unmatching shirt that stands on his front lawn watering his flowers and waving at everyone that drives by.  We will take him through several scenarios and see that in the end, he is a very wise man.

So you think you’re a leader because you are the one with the whip?  After reading this book, people will take a new approach to leadership.  We take a look at who real leaders are and why they command their followers so well.

It was just hours before the second sun would rise and it was already hot.  What kind of challenges would humans face on an extraterrestrial planet with two suns?  We will explore different challenges and aspects of life in a non Earth environment.

Which end do you blow into?  We will explore the first steps in learning to play guitar and be delighted that we don’t have to blow into anything!

Try coming up with some things you’d like to write about on a legal pad and why you want to write them.  See what happens!

Resilience vs. Persistence

This was an interesting conversation:  Can you have Resilience without Persistence?  Can you have Persistence without Resilience?  Are they interdependent?

Let’s assume that you are reading this because you are or want to become a leader.  Does an organization or a corporation need resilience?  It would be difficult to be successful without having faced and conquered some setbacks.  When would you need resilience?  Financial challenges?  Staffing challenges?  Economics of the area?  Time commitment problems?  Let us look at some of these.

Let’s say that you have a good organization going.  You have committed people, a great vision, and goals you can reach…until a financial fiasco happens.  Your treasurer suspiciously takes a trip to the Bahamas and isn’t planning to come back.  You are not ever going to get that money back.  Do you throw up your hands?  Some do.

What if you have a great product and all the resources you need to produce it, and cannot get anyone willing to work for commission to sell it.  How do you recruit people to commit themselves and their time to working for your company?  What if, after many months of success, your best sales person is lured to another company for a more stable income?  How do you fill that hole?!

What happens if you have a great group of people that love getting together and learning some skills and performing, and the national organization raises its dues?  Will your membership shrink because of the economics?  What if you sell luxury items and the bottom drops out of the local economy?  How do people afford your products?

If you want your group to survive, it must be persistent, and it must be resilient.  To be resilient, the goal has to be worth something to the people who pursue it.  When a ball bounces, it flattens when it hits the ground and then, in regaining its shape, it ALMOST returns to its starting position.  In regaining its shape, the energy moves it back up.  If it doesn’t regain its shape, it is splattered all over the sidewalk.  The resilience comes 1st.  But in order to get back to its starting position, it has to continue to add energy when it comes to the apex of its trajectory.  Something has to keep boosting the ball or it never gets all the way back up.  That would be persistence.

The resilience of the organization with the missing treasurer begins when the group decides it will replace the money by raising funds in some way:  soliciting donations, garage/bake sales, performing a service of some kind would slowly bring up the treasury of the group.  Do the vision and the goals expressed by the group move them to act on these suggestions?  Only if they mean enough.  If the group decides it is worth the effort, persistence kicks in to help them continue even if it looks improbable that their projects will ever succeed.

In the scenario involving staffing after the best salesman quits, the resilience comes in when you bring the matter before the other members of the team.  They must be convinced that the effort involved in doing commission work will be worth it.  What are the rewards of getting paid directly for your efforts?  Can you earn more than someone that relies on a salary?  YES!  Can you earn less?  yes. Can you work your own schedule?  YES!  Can you not work your own schedule?  yes.  Can you work your own schedule on a salary?  No.  Can you not work the schedule you’re handed on a salary?  Definitely Not.  Do you have the choice here?  YES!  Do you have the choice there? NO!  Then you give the same speech to your prospective employees.  The ones that opt for safety will not be good at commission work.  You must restore the faith in the group to regain the “shape” of your group, and then be persistent in recognition of your current crew and in hiring and training new people.  Resilience first, followed by persistence.

If you cannot affect the economics of your area, you have to be resilient enough to handle setbacks such as rising dues or a diminishing market, and creative enough to find solutions that will keep the spirit of your people up.  Once the resilience kicks in, the persistence keeps it going.

He could have quit.  He should have quit.  The resilience inside him got him to a standing position, and he hopped and limped down the track.  His hamstring was torn.  The recovery time for a torn hamstring is 3-6 months and surgery.  He’d be lucky to get back to a condition where he could run competitively again.  He knew he couldn’t win, but winning at that point was not the goal.  Crossing the finish line was the goal.  Finishing the race to the best of his ability was the goal.  But as you can see, he had support.  His dad gave him the courage and the will to persist to the finish line despite excruciating pain.

People will persist if they can see the goal is worth it.  They will be resilient if they know they have the support of those around them.  They will work to succeed because what gets them into the group or the corporation is what keeps them working toward the goal.  The desire to help someone, the need to be appreciated for work well done, and the compensation and the rewards/bonuses have an effect on their families.

Resilience and Persistence go hand in hand.  You can be resilient, bouncing back time after time from setbacks, but without persistence, you just get tired and quit.  You can be persistent and continue to work for a goal, but every setback will put you further behind, and unable to regain your “shape”–your goal and your desire to reach it, it will be easier and easier to quit.  To Truly be successful, you must have both resilience and persistence working together.

Finding the Right Dynamic

We in ABC are so happy on the publishing of our 1st book!  It’s not because it flew off the shelves, and not because it made the NY Times Best Seller list.  It is because the dynamic of the group has propelled us into sequels!  We already have titles for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th installment on the Grace series and are deep into our second book:  Spotlight on the art of Resilience.  As you may have heard from other leadership books, the physical/mental/spiritual goals that we set for ourselves are not the end of the quest.  It is what we become to achieve them that is important.  I personally have seen amazing changes in each participant of this writing collaboration.  We have all grown in many ways by writing this book.

What changes did we see?

Our wall flower grew by learning new skills such as formatting, proof reading, editing, moderating and project management!  What was her reward?  The book is listed as Spotlight on the Art of Grace by JONES.  Yes, she got her name in capital letters on the binding of the book!  Her husband learned how to stretch his thoughts from 600-700 word sound bites to thoughts going deeper and more descriptive requiring 5000 words to communicate.  One learned the art of organizing her thoughts into coherent, understandable, and cohesive progressions to best get her point across instead of through-composing and letting her thoughts develop as she writes.  I learned to concentrate my efforts into making a single point at a time to support a general idea.  Regardless of what we did to grow, it was How we accomplished the growth that launched the thoughts of sequels and bigger projects.

What was different about this dynamic

The dynamic of this group, the ABC, is quite unique.  I have been a member of many groups:  sorority, musical groups large and small, Toastmaster clubs and leadership teams, my team at my place of business, my church, and my bible study.  The only group that has come close to this was my bible study and then not on this scale.  What is different with this group?

First of all, we had a common goal: to becoming accomplished professional speakers.  Are you surprised?  We went to seminar after seminar, and we had numerous one on one conversations with successful speakers…the kinds of people we wanted to emulate.  The one thing they all said was, “Write a book!”  That shot a lot of us down.  We soldiered on trying to find ways to get to our goal by sharing information we each had.  One had expertise in technology and publishing.  One had expertise in marketing and promotion.  Another had expertise in entrepreneurship and business with emphasis in law and finance.  Each member had a unique gift to share with the others.  The dynamic held us together.

Secondly, we had common experiences.  We were all Toastmasters and had participated in many different aspects of the program.  Nearly all of the members of this have attained the designation of Distinguished Toastmaster.  All of us have served the district in leadership positions.  We had experienced the dynamics of leadership for ourselves, and saw positive and negative dynamics in the organizations we were serving.

Thirdly, we had a desire that focused our emotions into one laser beam of thought:  we did not want to be anonymous or conform to what was around us.  We knew we could not rise above our current situations to become professional speakers if we didn’t stand out.  The dynamics of a group of people striving for a common goal with feeling and desire that could not be denied kept us coming back to our meetings.  There were times that we felt we were going through withdrawal when we didn’t meet!

We had declared our enemy:  conformity and anonymity!  We declared war on average.  One of the events we all participated in became the spark that set ablaze the dynamic of this particular group.

I believe that this dynamic is unique to any group that doesn’t have these three things: common goals, experiences, and emotions.  And it will not move us to action unless we have a declared enemy:  one that is equal in power and strength and intelligence.

Because IN this dynamic group of people are engineers, musicians, philosophers, psychological thinkers, politicians, young and old.  But we all have this spark within us that tells us we can accomplish anything now.  We have written a book TOGETHER, a task we were not likely to have taken on had we not had the dynamics in this group.

Is this dynamic reproducible?  I don’t know.  Will it grow to something much bigger?  Who knows?   Get on board though, it’s going to be quite a ride!


Where do you go from here?

The deeper question is where is “here?”  It can be a location or a state of mind.  Sometimes “here” is both a location and a state of mind.  Are you where you want to be in your life?  Have you lost your way to the place you wanted to be at this point in your life?  Are you in Schenectady?  When we look at our location based on visual or mental cues, we can get confused.

I was on my way to church Sunday and along side of the road, there was the most magnificent display of fall color trees!  I quickly got out my camera and snapped a picture then uploaded it and sent it to my kids.  No one knew where I took the picture.  They asked me if I was on a road trip.  Each of my children has grown up and lived quite a while in this town, yet they didn’t recognize the area where I took the picture.  How does that work in the life journey?  Where is “here?”

If you look around and see your friends and your equipment and your office and feel happy, then “here” is not a bad place to be.  What if you fear for your job?  What if you are working in a career that has nothing to do with your field of study?  What if you dread going to your office, and you watch the clock thinking, “If only I hadn’t given up on my dream to be a…” You are definitely off track.  Does that mean you are broken?  Do you need to be fixed?

What is real change?

People fear change and often stay in the “here” even if they hate it.  What would happen if people saw the word “change” and it meant strengthening some attribute you already have in abundance? What attitude would people adopt if they knew they had the creativity, the resourcefulness, and the adventure within them to go as far as high and as fast as they wanted?  If you are in a position where you are looking to find a mentor or a coach, and you have the presupposition that whomever you choose is going to throw out the old you and rebuild you in their image, no Wonder you don’t want to start!  What you want is a coach.

What is the difference?  A mentor shows you how he/she did what they did.  The assumption there is that you have come to this “here” by the same path they did, had the same education, the same experiences, the same failures and successes.  This is most unlikely.  You have come to where you are by YOUR education.  Even if you took the same classes and read the same books, you have not had the same education your mentor has had.  Two people can read a book and get completely different lessons.  Even if you had the same teacher, if you had this class years apart from your mentor, the teacher has changed with age, the material has changed, and you may have been at a different place in your personal development than your mentor.

It is not possible for anyone to have the same experiences in their lives.  You don’t have the same parents, the same schools, the same activities as anyone else.  Your failures and successes will be dependent on how much risk you took on, how you responded to the situations, and how, based on your experiences and education, you proceeded through these trials to ultimately fail or succeed.  Working with a mentor is very helpful as long as you can recognize the short-comings.

A coach’s first task is to help you find out where your “here” is.  What do you like?  What do you need?  Why do you like and need these things?  How can you get to your goal?  Is it a physical place, mental place, or spiritual place?  Is it a relationship?  What kind of strengths do you already have?  How can those help you?  Eventually you find out where you are!  Then you need to figure out where you want to be.  This is within you, not to be gleaned from anyone around you.

Figuring out your “There”

It is to be implicit that once you know where “here” is, then “there” can be fixed in your head.  What do you want to be in the next few years?  You choose a goal not to set an end point, but because of what it will make of you to achieve it.  You must be worthy of the goal, and the goal must be worthy of you.  In the process of your coaching experience, “here” will progress along a set of action steps you take to get you closer to your goal.  It will not be a straight line, but the journey will be amazing.  Your coach will act as your radar.  Are you on task?  Are you heading the right direction?  Have you come across a situation you didn’t anticipate?  Your coach will help you by asking questions so that you can determine what your next step is.  If you determine it, wouldn’t you be more likely to go after it?  Of course!

The answer, then, to “Where do you go from here?” is obviously…”There!”  Take the first step in your journey!

Earn Your Promotion: Guidance on Getting the Job You Want

workplace, team, business meeting

Self promotion in the workplace

I bet you thought I was going to go on and on about social media and bragadocious things you can say about yourself.  HA!  Most people never promote themselves because they cannot!  What do I mean by that?  When was the last time you walked into your boss’ office and said, “See that corner office over there?  I want it.  Give me a promotion!”  Would the boss respond positively or negatively to that?  Who knows?

The usual promotion process is completely different.  You work at your desk or visit your clients in the field, or deliver your products and install them, then go home at the end of the night, only to start over in the morning.  If you do get a promotion, it may be due to someone above you quitting or retiring or (God forbid) getting fired.  The boss looks around and you just happen to be close to what he wants in that position and you get promoted.  Some promotions are proscribed due to length of service.  In rare cases, the boss finds someone he wants to promote, goes to them and tells them what classes to take, how to improve their service, what questions to ask and mentors them into a position.

Getting more pay 

In the sit-coms of the 1960’s and 70’s, one of the plot points in common was going to the boss to ask for a raise.  This plot point was considered good comic material because nearly everyone in the work force could identify with this situation.  They were not asking for promotions because that was a change in the type of work they enjoyed.  They just wanted more money for the work they were already doing.  No one seems to be doing that now.  We seek to get group raises.  We seek to get new benefits as a group.  Imagine everyone in a company going in individually to the HR department and negotiating a new wage and benefit package tailored to individual situations!  “I’ll take a 2% raise if you throw in 20% more in health benefits.”  “I need a 5% raise, my wife is pregnant.”  “I don’t really need a raise, but if you could get me an extra week’s vacation so I can see my kid graduate from Harvard, that would be great!”  If you are doing relatively better work than those of your colleagues, shouldn’t you get relatively more money?  Businesses pay the position, not the worker for the amount of work completed.

That brings up the question, “How do I get more money if everyone in my department gets the same?”  Some companies have a Pay For Performance benefit–a bonus paid for going beyond the expected output.  One business I worked in, this was the case.  They set a standard, and watched as all the workers changed their emphasis to fulfilling the requirement for PFP.  The frustration came in when the company changed the standards and the areas for PFP randomly.  The standard for processing accounts was 350 in a day.  One person did 734.  (The record still stands…)  The company reviewed this process and changed it to require more steps, then they raised the standard to 500 in a day.  Subsequently, no one got the bonus.  Then, ten days later, the PFP was based on the number of phone call clients serviced.  There suddenly was no purpose in processing accounts efficiently and quickly. The focus changed to getting orders quickly and getting off the phone so you could take another call.  The PFP changed again a mere six days later.  In a short time, the workers were ignoring the new PFP emails containing the new standards. The PFP slowly disappeared.

The solution is to get promoted

The way to get more money in a company that pays by position is to change position–go into management, get a promotion.  Most companies, however, do not have a chart that says, “If you do this, this, that, those, this, this and this, you can get promoted to Manager 1st class.”  This is silly.  When you are in elementary school, if you spell your words correctly, do your arithmetic correctly, do 5 book reports, get good scores on your social studies, then you will pass on to the next grade.  It’s true in each school system up through college.  When you are in scouts, if you complete these badge requirements, do this leadership project, and help at least 15 little old ladies across the street, you get promoted.  In sports, if you come to practice every day and do all the required exercises and improve your technique, you get to play varsity.  Of course in every activity, there will be some requirements that need to be met outside of group practices, but generally this is the assumption.

But in the corporate world, if there is no chart, how do you know what to do to get promoted?  Research!  What qualifications are required to get the promotion to the next level?  You can get that by going on line to find out what they are in the company you work for, and for companies in the same type of business. What are the education and experience requirements?  Are there certification tests to be passed?  Are there management positions available?  What qualities do you already have?  Can you develop these qualities, or learn the skills?  Can you join activities or clubs that will develop these skills and qualities?

Ask questions!

Get an appointment with someone in the position you aspire to.  Ask him/her for help!  How did that person get the job?  Was it from an outside company or from school?  Was it from within the company?  What does this position entail?  Is it something you could do?

Get an appointment (or just coffee!) with the supervisor in charge of the department and tell him/her that you are interested in a promotion.  Ask this person, point blank, what you would have to do to get a promotion.  Most importantly, take notes!

Take Steps

Now that you know what it takes, start by finding places to get the skills and qualities you need.  If you need to improve communication skills, for instance, then you should take communications classes.  You could join a speaking club.  You could get self-help books from the library, or you could buy them and place them in a prominent place in your office or work space.  (Hint:  you need to actually read them.)  If you need leadership skills, work with an organization that develops those skills.  Scouts are always looking for more adult participation.  Charitable organizations and churches are places to practice your leadership.  Think about community involvement, classes in management, or just hanging around a really good leader and watching him/her in action.  Check Leadership blogs. is one I read.  There are many others.

In conclusion, if you want that promotion, you need to promote yourself first.  Become the person it takes to fill the role, then improve on that until you are more than what’s required.  Ask what it takes and then do what it takes.




What if you have nothing to say?

Writers don’t start out being writers.  They start out as thinkers.  Unfortunately, most thinkers don’t have that sounding board; the ideas are bounced about inside his own skull.  It’s not unlike singing in the shower, you sound like you should be in Carnegie Hall, until you’re IN Carnegie Hall and Simon Crowe is holding his head in his hands.

The writers of the “Spotlight on Grace” were all thinkers.  They were adept at coming up with topics for short articles and presentations, so they each knew how to be efficient and to the point.  They just didn’t know they were going to be writers.  How did this book, this writing exercise, this monumental learning experience come about then?

We were sitting in a Panera’s discussing our upcoming plans for a club we all belong to when the discussion turned to leadership.  Many of us felt that our club was being singled out for being creative, enthusiastic, seeking and filling needs of the district as necessary, and exhibiting a rapport among members, intelligence, long term planning, and dedication to the concepts and precepts of the parent organization that few, if any, other clubs had.  This should have been a good thing, but instead, we were getting censured.

Transition to book writing

The conversations got more detailed and specific incidents came out that had upset our sensibilities.   Then the fateful question was asked, “How would you have handled this situation differently?”  What was surprising is that each and every member looked at a different aspect to either the situation as it was posed, the long-term consequences of the action, reaction, or inaction taken by the subject of our conversation, or the motives behind the actions.  The main overarching theme of all the answers was that each of us would have handled the situation with more grace.

You could see the light bulbs popping up.  Slowly it dawned on us.  The purpose of our club was to help us transition from club members to professional speakers, trainers, coaches, and facilitators. Our adviser, Sheryl Roush said that the first step on this journey was to write a book.  We had a THEME!!!!  Writing a book together might be just the vehicle we needed to get our collective feet into the water.

The meetings we were having would allow us to get together on a regular basis and provide enumerable benefits to the members.  We could each corral our thoughts into a chapter instead of writing a full book.  We could get used to how book writing and publishing could be accomplished, therefore, if we decided we wanted to, each of us would have the ability to do a project individually as well.  Our newly formed group didn’t have to depend on luck or charisma or contacts from a personal standpoint, we could work with the expertise and connections of the members!

“Spotlight on Grace” project was born!  Each member chose an idea to base a chapter on, and each member reviewed and edited the other members’ contributions.  We gained a great deal of insight into our fellow collaborators, and a deeper understanding of how our lives intersected.  Most importantly, it was fun!  The bouncing of ideas around the table, the wide interests and approaches to the same subject were stimulating.  This collaboration opened the doors to help us transition from thinkers to writers.  Up until now, our writing had been limited to 500-700 words, and now our minimum was 5000!  Yet, the words flowed.

We were now writers!  But we also learned about publishing, copy rights, corporate law, accounting issues, and much more than just the writing.  We even got to the point where more ideas started flowing.  We started promoting our book, getting endorsements and testimonials, and marketing our group as a resource for other aspiring writers and professional speakers, trainers, coaches, and facilitators.  It is exciting!  It is fun!  It’s a great start. Get a hold of the book.  See what a group of thinkers turned writers can do with some proper collaboration!