10:41 am 20 September 2017

My six tips for writing a book

20 September 2017|Categories: how to live the life you want, making a difference, strengths at work, writing a book|

My last blog post about what writing a book is really like attracted a lot of interest and led me to chat with several aspiring authors. It seems that so many people want to write a book, but never quite get to the finishing line.

It got me thinking about why that is.

I’ve just finished my seventh book. With each book I’ve learned more about what it takes for me to get from the seed of an idea to being published and into the hands of readers. Do you have dreams of seeing your book out there in the world? Whether you want to write fiction or non-fiction, read on, I hope my tips will help you.

  1. Be clear why you want to write the book

The more important the book is to you, the more likely you are to finish. This might sound obvious, but, if you feel very strongly about your book, you’re more likely to put the necessary significant effort in to write it and find a publisher who wants to publish it.

Personally, I write about topics that I think will improve people’s experience of work. Sometimes the book has been fuelled by my frustration of what is wrong with the workplace (as in the case of The Stone Age Company). Other times I’ve been motivated to present an idea that will make a positive difference to people – like with my latest book The Strengths Book.

Be clear about the ‘why’ and whenever you feel yourself falter, come back to that reason and you’ll get fresh motivation to continue.

  1. Know what your message is

Once you’ve settled on your topic, clarify in your own mind the main message of the book. This will help you stay focused and stop you drifting into areas that might be interesting but that don’t support the book’s purpose. Deviating too much from your main message in the first draft means you can end up spending a lot of time writing copy that will be edited out later.

And, in terms of book structure and content, it’s important to communicate your message up-front (as well as in marketing materials and in back-cover blurb etc.) otherwise you are in danger of losing your readers’ interest, or attracting readers who won’t actually enjoy your book at all.

Stay ‘on message’ and convey it in all the right places, to save time and ensure you connect with and satisfy your intended audience.

  1. Know your reader

It makes it easier to write relevant and engaging copy if you imagine you are speaking to a real person or people. I always think of a few actual people I know and who are representative of the intended audience for the book. I keep them in my mind and I write my book for them. This technique helps me focus on what my readers need and want to know, and stops me getting side-tracked into areas that are of interest to me perhaps, but not to them.

Write on a Post-it® note the names of the people you are writing for and stick it in front of you while you write – keep your book relevant to your readers.

  1. Write about something you care about A LOT

Writing a book is hard, even when you do care about the topic. If you’re not that bothered about it, it will be far tougher to carry out any needed research or to keep up the motivation to put words on paper day in day out. It will also be more challenging to convince publishers to take your book on. Publishers want to know that they are investing in a book that will actually get finished and attract readers, so be ready to be interrogated about why the subject matters so much to you as well as what you are personally bringing to the topic that others cannot.

Write about a subject you care deeply about, so you’ll want to get the book out there, and increase your chances of convincing a publisher to help you do it.

  1. Set targets

People always ask me how I find time to write when I run a business. The answer is that I set goals. In the case of writing, I set a word-count target and stick to it. At the start of the book project, I divide ‘the total number of words I need to write’ by ‘the total time I have available’. Then I block out writing time in my diary.

For example, if the book is going to be 70,000 words long and I want to complete it in four months I work out how many days I can set aside time to write, and divide 70,000 by that number of days. That gives me my word-count goal for each ‘writing day’. There will always be some days when business takes over and I can’t write at all; to mitigate that risk I might book two four-day writing retreats and set a goal of writing 10,000 words on each retreat. Some weeks I get ahead of my writing schedule but I never allow myself to fall behind.

Set targets up front and you’ll feel confident that you can make your deadline. It will also keep you motivated and focused.

  1. Seek feedback

Without constructive criticism, your book won’t be as great as you would like it to be. It’ll be out there in the world a long time, so I think it’s vital to seek the views of some trusted readers (besides your editor) at various stages of the process.

Upfront, I always draft a chapter plan and ask potential readers and other writers I trust what they think of it. Then I submit it to my editor and get his or her feedback before I begin writing. The chapter plan always changes to a greater or lesser degree as I go, but starting with a plan gives structure. And getting this feedback early means that the book is more likely to be useful to the reader.

My next round of feedback comes when I have finished a few chapters – I send them out to a small group of readers who I know will be very honest about what they don’t like.

When I’ve finished the first-draft manuscript I send it out to them again.

The final stage, before I submit the manuscript to my editor is to send it to two or three ‘critical friends’. I ask them to give me feedback on anything they think doesn’t work or doesn’t flow.

Build rounds of ‘reader feedback’ into your overall plan to make sure your book is the best it can possibly be.

My new book The Strengths Book: How to be Fulfilled in Your Work and in Life is 22000 words, took me almost four months to write, and involved three rounds of ‘reader feedback’ from a total of ten people not including my editor and deputy editor. I went on two writing retreats and wrote most weekends to get it finished. It will be published in October in the UK and in December in the USA. It’s part of The Concise Advice Series by LID Publishing.

Why have I written it?
To spread the word about the transformative power of knowing and using your strengths, to EVERYONE!

What’s its message?
By focusing on and playing to your strengths, you can become the very best version of yourself, instead of spending time fixating on your weaknesses and trying to be something you’re not. Learn to identify your own strengths and apply them to be happier, more confident, more resilient, less stressed and more successful.

Who is the book for?
The Strengths Book is for ANYONE who wants to be happier or more fulfilled. It’s also for people who want to help others find greater happiness and fulfilment, like team leaders, managers, mentors, coaches, careers advisers, teachers and parents.

Find the book on Amazon.co.uk. Find it on Amazon.com.

Endorsement for The Strengths Book Sally Bibb - Philip Kucharski
Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds

11:15 am 1 September 2017

What’s it really like to write a book?

1 September 2017|Categories: how to live the life you want, making a difference, writing a book|

I’ve just finished my seventh book.

This amazes me, because when I finish each book I always say, “Never again!”

Why? Because churning out the number of words needed (my longest is 98000 and shortest, 22000) is VERY hard.

From time to time, people tell me they would love to write a book and ask me what it’s like. Depending on when they ask me, my response either might completely put them off, or could give them an unrealistic sense of the euphoria that can occur (very briefly usually – for me anyway) when writing.

I am currently not writing a book. I’m at the very pleasurable stage of inviting people to the launch of a book I’ve finished writing. The book is firmly off my plate because it’s gone to print, so I’m not behind on any word count goal and absolutely no more changes are possible!

That means I’m relaxed and can offer a balanced view of the pros and cons of acquiring that coveted status ‘author’.

So, what’s it like to write a book?

Let’s start with the bleak bits.

Here’s what writing a book is not like for me:

Easy. I don’t sit down and feel full of inspiration and start tapping away ten to the dozen. I’ve read quite a few books about writing by famous authors and it seems I’m not alone in that. It might have been Stephen King in his fantastic book On Writing who said you just have to sit down, even when you have nothing to say, and start typing. Preferably facing a wall so you have no distractions. It’s hard graft and mostly feels relentless.

Inspiring. Usually it’s more a feeling of drudge along the lines of ‘I have to write at least 2500 words today because I’m really behind’. Ugh. I get started after several displacement activities are done. I write a few sentences, look at the clock. Have a little burst where it flows, then give myself an unearned coffee break. I get back to my desk and do a ‘word race’ to try and get going again. Then I do a bit of research on the Internet. I realise it’s late afternoon and I’ve only done a few hundred words. Then I end up tiring myself out by working too late into the night to try and catch up. It’s exhausting.

Stress-free. I hardly ever get stressed in life, but I’ve learnt there are many moments of potential stress involved in being an author. When you can’t make a chapter work and can’t see a solution; when you discover lots of errors even after copy editing and proofing have been done; when you disagree with your editor about something and become riddled with self-doubt. And the worst thing ever, when you open your hot-off-the-press book and spot a mistake! Yep, it happens. In the book I wrote on ethics, ‘ethics’ is spelt ‘ehtics’ on one page. Once it’s out there in the world, it’s out there FOREVER.

But fortunately, there are many positives too.

Here’s what writing a book is like, and why I keep doing it:

Stimulating. Why? Because it’s a challenge. You have to decide what your message is, why you are writing the book in the first place, who your reader is, how to structure the book to make it engaging (much harder than it sounds), what to put in and what to leave out. This is all very creative and I absolutely love the process of working out how the book is going to be.

Exciting. I get to share with more people than I ever could in person about things that I think are important and make a difference. A publisher once told me that one of his criteria for taking on a book was whether the author is genuinely passionate about the subject. He’d found over the years that many people just give up if they don’t care enough about their topic. That turned out to be excellent advice; I could never write just for commercial reasons, for example. It’s the excitement of making a difference to thousands of people that keeps me going.

Rewarding. Not in a financial sense. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done for virtually no financial reward. I mean, sometimes there is an advance (though publishers often don’t give advances these days) and of course there are royalties on sales. But, if you weigh up the amount of time you spend planning, writing and then promoting the book the pay rate is extremely low.

For me the reward comes partly from the learning. Even if I know a lot already I learn still more and go deeper into the nuance. I bring to bear my inner critic and doubter to question and challenge what I think I already know. And I discover new, accessible and engaging ways to convey knowledge to the reader. I become more of an expert in my subject.

But the main thing that keeps me writing is the idea that the book will, even in a small way, make people’s lives better.

My latest book The Strengths Book: Discover How to Be Fulfilled in Your Work and in Life comes out in the UK on 26 October and the USA on 5 December.

The Strengths Book by Sally Bibb cover image

“Whether we’re thinking about our first job or been working for 30 years, in The Strengths Book Sally brings her passion and experience of why strengths matter, deepening our understanding of our own strengths and shining a light towards our true working identity and purpose.”

Iain Wilkie, Senior Partner EY and Founder of The Employers Stammering Network

Find the book on Amazon.co.uk. Find it on Amazon.com.

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds

9:26 am 15 August 2017

The myth of a career being better than a job

15 August 2017|Categories: being in the right job, how to live the life you want, strengths at work, using your own strengths|

job or career myth selection image

There is more status associated with having a career than a job.

When asked what you do, saying “I’m a nurse”, “I’m an architect” or “I’m an accountant” carries more social status than “I’m a cleaner”, “I work in a call centre” or “I work in a shop”.

The notion of a career being superior to a job is probably to do with ideas of personal fulfilment, satisfaction, contribution to society and achievement of potential. A job is often thought of as something someone simply does for the money rather than gaining any intrinsic satisfaction from it.

This thinking is challenged by the strengths movement which, instead of thinking about jobs versus careers, thinks about the level of satisfaction in one’s work. Working in a call centre could be considered ‘just a job’. So could working in a coffee shop or as a delivery driver. But actually, what we’ve discovered in our work with many people in all sorts of organisations is that there are people in all of the aforementioned roles who actually love their job and say things like, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this”. The point is, everyone has strengths, so it makes no difference whether you call your work a job or career. What matters is that you get to love what you do every day.

My new book, The Strengths Book: Discover How to Be Fulfilled in Your Work and in Life, will help you discover YOUR strengths and the route to fulfilment at work for you.

The Strengths Book by Sally Bibb cover image

“How many times have we focused on jobs, areas or tasks at work where we have little interest, skill or enthusiasm? As a result, it can leave us feeling frustrated, sapped, and diminished. But how do we know what our strengths are? How do we learn to listen and trust our strengths in order to rediscover our best work self? Look no furtherDon’t we all have strengths that are worth investing in? Invest in yourself now and buy this book… you’ll be stronger and happier for it.”

Dan Snell, Founder of Arrival Education

Sally Bibb’s new book The Strengths Book: Discover how to be fulfilled in your work and in life (Concise Advice Series, LID Publishing) will be published in the UK in October and in the USA in December 2017.

Find the book on Amazon.co.uk. Find it on Amazon.com.

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds

12:00 pm 1 August 2017

The simple question that reveals so much

1 August 2017|Categories: being in the right job, being in the wrong job, how to live the life you want, strengths at work, using your own strengths|

great coffee is it a chore sally bibb blog

This morning I was in one of my favourite coffee shops. The owner has just come back from the Caribbean. He’d been invited to go to a Michelin star restaurant that wanted to improve their coffee making standards. They had asked him to teach staff how to make great coffee.

There were seventy in the group, so he realised he couldn’t possibly teach them all in a week. He knew he needed to spot the really great ones – the people who would be able to help him teach the others. I asked him how he did that.

His number one test? He watched them making coffee and asked himself “Is it a chore for them?”.

That’s a brilliant question to ask to help figure out whether someone is a great fit for any job.

Is it a chore to them? Or not?

If someone really wants to do a job, gets energised by it and doesn’t see it as a chore, then it’s likely that they’re a natural fit for it. They still might have to work hard to excel at what they do, but they’ll be off to a flying start!

Loving what you do is a clue that you’re in the right job.

So, what about you… is your work a chore, or do you love it?

If you’re not sure what floats your boat and what job would be a great fit for you, my new book The Strengths Book: Discover How to be Fulfilled in Your Work and in Life will help you find out.

The Strengths Book by Sally Bibb cover image

“This book gives a refreshingly simple, yet powerful, new way to think about your life and what you’re suited to career-wise. It’s the sort of book that anyone, from a young student to a retired person could benefit from. Understanding and playing to our strengths makes such sense and is so much more motivating than fixating on our weaknesses. This book could indeed change your life.”

Nigel Russell, Distribution Manager, BBC

Sally Bibb’s new book The Strengths Book: Discover how to be fulfilled in your work and in life (Concise Advice Series, LID Publishing) will be published in the UK in October and in the USA in December 2017.

Find the book on Amazon.co.uk. Find it on Amazon.com.

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds

5:28 pm 20 July 2017

Why we sometimes behave unnaturally

20 July 2017|Categories: strengths at work, strengths-based talent management, using your own strengths|

Some companies focus on their staff’s ‘behaviours’. They write down which behaviours they want staff to display, and measure people on these behaviours in performance reviews.

This is understandable. Their intention is to have people behave in a way that is conducive to great customer service, colleague relations and high performance.

Unfortunately, this focus on behaviours misses a trick.

Let me tell you a story that illustrates how.

Some years back, we were studying great Ward Sisters to discover what made them great. One of the things we’d been told about the great ones was that they were naturally assertive. To some people’s surprise we discovered that in fact none of them were naturally assertive.

But we did observe plenty of assertive behaviour!

How could that be?

One day I was standing by a nurses’ station in a hospital. A senior doctor swept onto the ward. The Ward Sister in charge of that ward blocked his way. He was wearing a watch, and that wasn’t allowed for infection control reasons. He didn’t take kindly to being asked to take off the watch, but the Ward Sister clearly wasn’t going to allow him on to her ward wearing it. The conversation between them was uncomfortable to witness. The doctor seemed very put out about being challenged. The Ward Sister seemed nervous confronting him, but her determination was clear. In the end, he took the watch off.

The Ward Sister was displaying assertive behaviour BUT she’s not a naturally assertive person. Rather, she was being assertive because she has natural strengths and values concerning ‘doing the right thing’ and she has very high standards. What that means is in this context is that she displayed a behaviour that was unnatural because of her natural strengths. She wouldn’t be assertive in situations that didn’t matter to her that much, for example, if she was served a cup of coffee that wasn’t very hot.

So, the important thing is to look at what drives the behaviour – the reasons for it. Not at the behaviour itself, as that can be misleading. This is one of the powerful things about the strengths approach. It looks beneath the surface.

The strengths-based approach to talent management is simple and common sense in concept but is also nuanced and can have a profound impact on individuals and organisations. You can find out more in my book Strengths-based Recruitment and Development (see below).

sally bibb strengths book published 3 May 2016

Sally Bibb’s book Strengths-based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results (the first on the subject) is out, published by Kogan Page.

Use discount code HRSBRW at the Kogan Page website.

UKBA 2016 Finalist logo
The Strengths Book by Sally Bibb cover image

Sally Bibb’s new book The Strengths Book: Discover how to be fulfilled in your work and in life (Concise Advice Series, LID Publishing) will be published in the UK in October and in the USA in December 2017.

Iceberg icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds

7:05 pm 12 June 2017

Exceptional people

12 June 2017|Categories: being in the right job, strengths at work, using your own strengths|

Have you ever had that experience of witnessing someone who is so brilliant at what they do that you feel like you’re seeing a master at work?

I had it when I saw Benedict Cumberbatch on stage as Hamlet.

I had it when I saw Seth Godin, the author and entrepreneur, live in New York City.

And I had it last week when I saw a nurse talking to a very poorly patient.

These three are very different people doing completely different jobs. But it was obvious to me that they have two things in common – they are extremely good at what they do, and they love doing it.

My team and I have met many people who fit this description. Nurses, care workers, sales people, drivers, baristas, contact centre customer service people. It doesn’t matter what the job is. When you see someone who is in their element, doing what they love, it’s impressive, it’s uplifting and it’s inspiring.

Exceptional people, doing what they love. They are in all walks of life, and if you are one of them, you’re fortunate. If you’re not – find something you love and work hard to be great at it.

It’s so worth it.

The Strengths Book by Sally Bibb cover image

Sally Bibb’s new book

The Strengths Book: Discover how to be fulfilled in your work and in life

(Concise Advice Series, LID Publishing) will be published in the UK in October and in the USA in December 2017.

Image of Benedict Cumberbatch by Fat Les (bellaphon) from London, UK (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds
5:10 pm 23 May 2017

Solving the challenge of interviewing young people

23 May 2017|Categories: benefits of strengths-based recruitment, early talent management, recruiting young people|

Giving young people a fair chance in an interview can be extremely difficult. Because they are young they have a limited amount of experience, so it can be hard to know what to ask them. I’ve heard recruiters say that they struggle to eke the interview out beyond five or ten minutes for that reason.

The other thing that companies struggle with when they are using a competency approach is that answers can be Googled and practised. So, it then becomes tough to distinguish one person from another let alone see the ‘real’ person when what they are doing is trotting out rehearsed answers!

A strengths approach changes all that.

Read about Paul Dilley’s experience of introducing strengths-based selection for apprentices at Lloyd’s Register.

“We wanted to be able to identify that in our potential Apprentices (traditionally school leavers or people applying for one of their first jobs), even when they don’t yet have a lot of work experience. We wanted an approach that would enable the individual’s natural passion to come through. And, we wanted a fair process that would give us concrete evidence to back up our recruitment decisions for the new Apprenticeship Programme, even when these inexperienced candidates weren’t able to give many (or any) examples of when they had displayed different competencies in a work environment.” Paul Dilley – Early Talent Manager, Lloyd’s Register

Find out what happened. Read the full interview with Paul, here.

sally bibb strengths book published 3 May 2016

Sally Bibb’s book Strengths-based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results (the first on the subject) is out, published by Kogan Page.

Use discount code HRSBRW at the Kogan Page website.

UKBA 2016 Finalist logo
Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds
12:26 pm 2 May 2017

An ordinary man, an extraordinary man

2 May 2017|Categories: extraordinary people, making a difference, using your own strengths|

Panayiotis Tetsis was a Greek artist. He died last year age 91.

I remember seeing Tetsis, as he was commonly known, some years ago walking his little dog. He looked so ordinary. How do you recognise a great artist from appearances? Here was a kindly looking man in his eighties, tall and plodding. A man who would go unnoticed except for his height, long limbs and disproportionately small dog.

His house, high above the port in the Saronic island of Hydra, is perhaps like him. Extraordinary in its ordinariness. His studio, a cool white space on the first floor, has been left as it was when he died. It contains very little – a few large canvases on the wall, a formal sofa which would look at home in a 19th century lady’s boudoir and a smallish table cluttered with an artist’s detritus.

The rest of the house is also simple, under-furnished and unfussy. Few of its contents look like they were bought after about 1950. Some old photographs, some traditionally embroidered pieces of table linen and less than half a dozen of his paintings are personal pieces among few non-essential items of daily living.

His aunts’ shop is part of the house and adjoins one of the only two sparsely furnished bedrooms. The shop closed long ago, but remains intact in its charming old-fashioned style and walls lined with wooden display cabinets and shelves. The museum man remembers shopping there as a child.

The spirit of Tetsis seems to live on in this peaceful, simple and cool place. I’m familiar with his paintings. But to accept his open invitation and quietly wander through his home gave me an idea what the important things in life were to Tetsis.

The lady in The Lazaros Koundouriotis, the museum to which Tetsis bequeathed his house, spoke of how ‘human’ and down to earth he was. The young men in the other art museum – the Historical Archives Museum of Hydra – said he would tell them off if they treated him as a “great artist”. “I am just your friend,” he’d say.

Tetsis’ work is impressive. I always imagine artists such as him to be so unlike ordinary people. That they can create pieces that defy the imagination and that they touch others so deeply through their work. I wonder what kind of person is able to do that.

Thank you Tetsis for letting us into your house and thereby revealing to us a little more of the man you were.

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds
5:51 pm 11 April 2017

How to buck the trend and halve staff turnover in months

11 April 2017|Categories: benefits of strengths-based recruitment, Engaging Minds strengths videos, how to reduce attrition rates / staff turnover|

Last week a contact, who knows about the strengths work we do at Engaging Minds, sent me a newspaper clipping. The headline read:

“Firms hit by rise in staff turnover as workers get bored with their jobs”

The article was by Shruti Tripathi Chopra, City A.M.’s deputy news editor, and she went on to say,

“A third (36 per cent) of HR directors have seen an increase in staff turnover in the last three years, according to a study by Robert Half UK. Boredom and frustrations with their current role or company (35 per cent), poor work-life balance (31 per cent) and stagnant career prospects (30 per cent) were the key reasons why employees chose to move on.”

But, we know it doesn’t have to be this way!

Firms can adopt strengths-based recruitment; done right it means you select people who are a great fit, are high performers, love their jobs and STAY. On average, our clients’ turnover halves within six months.

Watch one HR Director talk business benefits of the strengths approach, see what she says about staff turnover in Saga at 1.06 minutes into the video.

sally bibb strengths book published 3 May 2016

Sally Bibb’s new book Strengths-based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results is out now, published by Kogan Page.

Use discount code HRSBRW at the Kogan Page website.

UKBA 2016 Finalist logo
Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds
5:15 pm 22 March 2017

The secret ingredient of an effective talent management strategy

22 March 2017|Categories: strengths at work, strengths-based talent management|

I had a conversation recently with a researcher who is investigating game-changing talent management approaches. She told me that she hasn’t found any yet! For all the books that are written and conferences that are run on the subject, it’s one of the most confusing and difficult issues that businesses encounter. And she says that she has spoken to lots of organisations and all are struggling in one way or another.

Let’s assume that the purpose of a talent management strategy is to ensure that an organisation has the right people in the right jobs to enable it to thrive now and in the future. That means you have to have a good grip on where you want your business to go and the context in which you are operating. And it means staying tuned into that. So, if, for example, consumer behaviour starts to change, you are aware of it and can adapt accordingly.

That’s the first challenge.

The second challenge is knowing which people will be able to help you deliver your strategy. What are they like, what are they really good at and where can you find them?

Few organisations find it easy to answer these questions.

This is where the secret ingredient comes in.

If you know who your great performers are and know why they are so great, you can find more of them and you know how to motivate them. If you are not really clear, then you will always be taking pot luck, to some degree, when you make appointment decisions.

Figuring out what makes great performers great is crucial. Knowing what the great ones have in common allows you to identify others like them. What are their innate strengths, what do they love doing what energises them? What are their values and what motivates them? Once you have that profile you have the foundation stone of an effective talent management strategy.

If I were to give one piece of advice to talent managers it would be to invest in acquiring this insight.

sally bibb strengths book published 3 May 2016

Sally Bibb’s new book Strengths-based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results is out now, published by Kogan Page.

Use discount code HRSBRW at the Kogan Page website.

UKBA 2016 Finalist logo
Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds