Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Journey and Birth of "Leaders"

Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words finally launched this past Wednesday. Through recent months we tossed around ideas for the launch, where it would be, and what we wanted to do. For those who come to book signings and launches, show up at a book store, stand in line to have your purchased book personalized, and perhaps have a few seconds with the author, it's a fleeting, impersonal experience that you might remember when you pick up the book to read it.

We wanted something more personal, a celebration of sorts. The launch was that and so much more...but I'll get back to that in a moment. Surprisingly, many of the people who attended asked me about the journey of writing this book, the around the edges story behind the book of stories. I wasn't expecting that.

Was it an easy journey? 

Was it a memorable, lessons-learned one?
Definitely. So much so, that it almost warrants a book on its own to take you through the journey and birth of "Leaders". Bottom line is, I learned it's not only alright to ask for what you want rather than have to live with what you think you can get when you publish but it's mandatory. A book takes a lot of time, focus, energy and commitment. It might not be the most perfect book but it's an expression of you and what you want to bring to light to the rest of the world. It's your voice in print. I know I will do this differently the next time around.

It was a journey of twists and turns, roadblocks and delays, missed deadlines, commitments not honoured, celebrating milestones, and heated debates - the full spectrum of highs and lows. I had to stand firm with my first publisher on the language that was used as these were conversations in our words, not a series of crafted, perfectly constructed sentences which were always grammatically correct. Let's face it. When was the last time you had a conversation with someone and worried about sentence structure and punctuation?

I also stood firm on the spelling, which probably drove my copy-editor batty as I insisted if I were speaking, and speaking to a Canadian leader, the spelling had to be in Canadian English and when speaking to an American, my words had to be in Canadian spelling and theirs in US. The spell check on the computer lit up like fireworks. Honouring cultures is critical to me and in my work. This is a small fraction of how that manifests itself. There were many heated discussions about terminology. Where I grew up in Montreal, we often use words that are direct translations from French, although I'm an Anglophone. So you might hear me say "Open (or close) the lights" rather than turn them on or off and other terms such as "Go to the cash" to pay for something. I'm still not sure how others say it but I insisted I leave it in as that was what I said in the conversation. I constantly found myself telling my editor / publisher "These are our words, not yours." Too often I found the magic of the conversations compromised for the sake of ensuring perfect grammar or sentence structure. I had to fight to protect it.

Finally, due to delays and capacity issues my publisher was dealing with, it was time to sever that working relationship and move on. Was the book going to go to print? This labour of love was in jeopardy. I had to make some tough decisions not to mention do rewrites and design changes if this book would ever get out.

Well it did. After more than 2 actually closer to 3 years of delays and unmet commitments, many lessons learned, some, thanks to Seth Godin's reality check questions around delivering, shipping, commitments, what are we willing to put up with etc., it was ready to go. Now what? I called my son who pointed me in a direction of Copper Canary editing (they are a gift), another suggestion from a colleague to call CreateSpace (Amazon) to self-publish and within 48 hours turnaround time, this book, with its new cover, layout, and edits was being reviewed. Another 36 hours later, a proof arrived at my door. A few more edits and format changes and off it went to print.

A mere week later it was out on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and this book was born.

Like many births, this one wasn't easy but oh, was it worth it!

We celebrated. The location was perfect...even its name "Play" reflected the atmosphere we wanted to create for the event. We talked, ate, reminisced, shared....clients met other clients, and family and friends got a taste of what it is I do through the words of a short reading and through the others who spoke.

So what's next? I'll continue having these conversations. Everyone has a story all their own which shapes who they are today. I'll be using the book to work with high school students in leadership programs to help them see their leadership through the eyes of these incredible stories. I'll be speaking at Catalyst University in Michigan in January on sustainable leadership, how to pay your success forward,and group coaching some of the community's identified rising stars. I'll be guest lecturing at the post graduate level and speaking at conferences and workshops to bring Human-Based Leadership perspectives to the business, government and technology worlds...arenas which often struggle with the human or soft skills aspect of leadership. And I am pondering over what to write next.

What form that writing will take is yet to be determined. I prefer conversations with people rather than lecturing or speaking at them. So let's talk. Tell me your stories and through them, let's see your Human-Based Leadership emerge.

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