Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I help individuals, teams and organisations transition to new ways of working.
I’m an international keynote speaker, author and a master facilitator and have authored 6 books including the latest:
‘ish: The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough’. The others are:
- Agile-ish: How to Create a Culture of Agility
- Leader as Facilitator: How to Engage, Inspire and Get Work Done
- Making Sense: A Handbook for the Future of Work
- Create Change: How to Apply Innovation in an Era of Uncertainty
- Visual Mojo: How to Capture Thinking, Convey Information and Collaborate Using Visuals.
I work with executives, senior leaders and project teams on their major change and transformation projects.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
Each of my books tackles one of the elements of what I’d identify as new ways of working. Leadership is changing, the workplace is changing and people need to change and update their skills, mindsets and ways of interacting with others.
Visual Mojo – this book is about learning the powerful skills of sketching to add to your thinking and communication skills. I followed that book up with Making Sense which responds to The Institute for the Future’s projection that we would need sensemaking skills by the time 2020 comes. This is our ability to make deeper sense and meaning of what’s going on.
The Leader as Facilitator book is about helping leaders adopt some of the nuanced, practical and collaborative skills of facilitation. They don’t need to become a full time facilitator, but they do need to be able to lead more effective meetings, engage people in more interesting ways and tackle challenging situations. Facilitation means ‘ease’ and this is a capability that’s really giving leaders greater confidence.
If we fast forward to my most recent book : ‘ish: The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough’, this shows how the problems of perfectionism are on the rise and they occur in our personal lives with our own standards and expectations … and it has a flow on effect at work where we wasted inordinate amounts of time tinkering with projects, reports and presentations, trying to make them ‘better’. But this is a sure sign that perfectionism could be at play. I’m a reformed perfectionist and I’m sharing some of the ways that have helped me make progress while still delivering things to a high standard as required.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I’m inspired by walks, nature, reading, conversations, exhibitions, music, theatre … a rich mixture of things that I enjoy doing. From that I find I feel happier and calmer and then creativity comes. I can be reading another book or an article and get a bunch of ideas come flooding into my mind. I make sure I capture them in a small notebook or in a notes app to make sure they don’t get away from me!
How do you deal with creative block?
I don’t ever see it as a block. It’s part of the natural up and down of creative thinking and creative projects. Rather than thinking you’re ‘blocked’, waiting for something perfect to show up, just keep working on your stuff and stop judging it so harshly. I think we expect high standards of ourselves that are mostly unrealistic and unattainable. Thinking we are creatively blocked is one of those. We’re all creative; a creative block is possibly an excuse for not continuing to work on your project and expecting too high a standard.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I’ve mentored many people in the writing of their non-fiction books and the thing I see the most is people starting with one topic, structure and list of chapters, they write a bunch of words and then doubt kicks in. This is a natural part of the creative process. But it doesn’t mean you should change the direction or topic of your book. I’ve seen it time and again when people shift and change and change again the title and topic. All that work they’ve done they dismiss as they keep starting again, thinking what they’ve done isn’t ‘right’. But it was fine and they were simply doubting themselves, rejecting what they’d done … that’s one of the ‘symptoms’ of perfectionism. It’s better to just keep writing and worry about the editing later.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Spend an hour or two in a large bookshop. Have a look at what’s on offer and how people present their thinking. See what the current trends are and whether that’s something you want to follow or you want to lead off in another direction, setting another trend. The main thing is to not expect perfect on your first draft. Or to spend endless hours thinking the title or the cover is the most important thing. The writing is the most important thing. Get that done and you can tweak over time both the cover and title while you’re writing and editing.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’m less hard on myself. Again the pursuit of perfection is a dangerous thing and doesn’t help us when we’re making and creating things. I’m more interested in progress over perfection and so therefore I’m able to pull together research information quicker, do the writing quicker and get the whole process done quicker. After six books you’d hope I’d have learnt something!
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
With the latest book ‘ish: The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough’ I worked with two editors – a structural editor and then a copy editor which was about slashing the waffle I’d already written and refining it, adding my own story … yet maintaining my voice and style of writing. Both of these editors helped make things easier in the long run, even though the process takes a bit longer.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I’m writing about things that interest me. That ‘write the book you would have liked to read’ is good advice. If you’re interested in reading it, it’s likely someone else is too! Instead of stressing over whether a reader will be interested, get on and write the thing.