5:30 pm 20 April 2018

The tale of a New York book party (The Strengths Book officially crosses the pond!)

2018-04-21T14:46:52+00:00 20 April 2018|Categories: spreading word of the strengths revolution, The Strengths Book, writing a book|

performance management conversations sally bibb blog

I was extremely nervous in the lead up to this event. Not just because the person interviewing me is one of the world’s top journalists and among his previous interviewees are Bill Clinton, Bono and Angelina Jolie!  What would he think of The Strengths Book? What questions would he ask? Indeed, would he even turn up? I was also rather anxious because a lot was riding on the event. This was my first USA launch. My publisher believes in the book and in me – their team wanted to make this party happen! So, I was feeling the pressure to make it great.

Matthew Bishop (said journalist, former Bureau Chief of The Economist and now MD of The Rockefeller Foundation) did turn up, and said the book was “very good”. He also asked excellent questions, not pre-planned ‘soft-ball’ ones but probing ones that called on me to prove that what I talk about in the book actually works in real life.

Matthew delighted the audience and made them laugh right away, quoting shocking statistics and, much to their delight, revealed some secrets about his former employer!

‘This is going to be lively,’ I thought.

Having complimented The Strengths Book in its style, content and accessibility he set the scene by quoting some alarming facts about the world of work; only 13% of people are happy at work, 50% are disengaged and 18% are actively trying to destroy the company. Hardly conditions in which people (to quote Warren Buffett) start ‘tap dancing to work’.

Matthew posed some provocative questions.

If something’s very enjoyable, can it really be work?

Why do people climb the ladder and end up doing work that is less and less interesting to earn more and more money?

Why don’t employers let people do more of what they’re good at instead of trying to make them into ‘jacks-of-all-trades’?

Commenting on people he’d met while researching his book Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World, he said a lot of people who had made a vast amount of money didn’t feel fulfilled.

Judging by our guests’ reactions, his observations and questions resonated with them. This was a room full of successful, reflective people, and the discussion got to the heart of important questions such as how we find fulfilling work, how we identify careers that are right for us and how organisations re-orientate to a strengths approach.

The guests that evening were a diverse mix of genders, ages, backgrounds and sectors, including legal, retail, consulting, media, engineering and telecoms, so it was great to hear different experiences.

I have long wondered whether North American organisations are more strengths-oriented in their mindset than UK or European ones. Judging by the questions and conversations it seems that organisations in both continents are at more similar stages of thinking than I had imagined.

Michelangelo said that every block of stone contains a statue and it’s the sculptor’s job to reveal it. To my mind, organisations and every leader in them are sculptors. Their job is to see people’s strengths and create the conditions for them to use those strengths to the max and thrive.

When I saw the engagement and interest in the room, my nervousness quickly turned into excitement about the connections made and what might result from such a wonderful evening.

I’m grateful to everyone who came to the party in New York and delighted to have met fellow strengths revolutionaries over the pond!

Images of the launch with thanks to Martin Gardner.
Thank you also to Marion Bernstein for shooting this video on her iPhone, it gives a great flavour of the evening’s discussion about strengths.

The Strengths Book by Sally Bibb cover image

Sally Bibb’s latest book The Strengths Book: Discover How to Be Fulfilled in Your Work and in Life (for individuals) is out; now EVERYONE can discover the power of strengths.

Strengths-based Recruitment and Development by Sally Bibb cover image

Sally Bibb’s book Strengths-based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results (for organisations) is available from Amazon worldwide, or use discount code HRSBRW at the Kogan Page website.

4:06 pm 5 April 2018

Love it or leave it

2018-04-05T16:30:15+00:00 5 April 2018|Categories: being in the right job, being in the wrong job, strengths at work|

performance management conversations sally bibb blog

One of my favourite restaurants closed down recently.

For many years the place was so special that people would go there every night when they were in town.

It was run by a husband and wife team. Then they retired and their daughter took over. The food was just as good, but the whole experience didn’t feel as welcoming or enjoyable anymore. The daughter is a really lovely person, but her heart wasn’t in running a restaurant, and it showed. She handed it on to her brother. Sadly, things didn’t improve, because he didn’t really want to run it either.

It goes to show that our motivations are our strengths. If we don’t want to do something, it’s never going to be great. And the gap, between someone whose heart is in their work and someone whose isn’t, is always going to be obvious to customers.

If you’re running a business, make sure you select people based on their strengths and motivations – it could mean the difference between success and failure.

I was recently interviewed about strengths and The Strengths Book, the book I wrote to help everyone discover and apply their strengths, values and motivators in their work and in life. Take a look.

The Strengths Book by Sally Bibb cover image

Sally Bibb’s latest book The Strengths Book: Discover How to Be Fulfilled in Your Work and in Life (for individuals) is out; now EVERYONE can discover the power of strengths.


2:18 pm 23 March 2018

The greatest gift an organisation can give its people (and its customers)

2018-03-24T17:19:45+00:00 23 March 2018|Categories: being in the right job, how to live the life you want, The Strengths Revolution, using your own strengths|

performance management conversations sally bibb blog

I went to an event on International Women’s Day and one of the speakers moved me deeply. Listening to her story, I had tears in my eyes. I went up to her afterwards and told her I’d loved her talk.

‘It just came from the heart,’ she said.

The next day, I witnessed a conversation where one of the people asked the other, ‘What do you really care about?’

‘Justice,’ he replied, and started to choke up. I got goosebumps.

In the same week I attended a talk by Tara Westover. Tara is the author of Educated: a memoir, the #1 New York Times Bestseller that tells of her growing up with no education… “kept out of school, she leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University”. She talked about the mountain where she lived as a child and how much she had loved it. Then, one day her brother played her a piece of classical music. In that instant she realised that she wouldn’t be able to get everything she needed in her life from the mountain. Tara’s account of such a pivotal realisation for her, really touched me.

Moments like this, when we witness people speaking so honestly, do touch us. I think we intuitively recognise such authenticity and it makes for more meaningful connections between people.

My colleagues and I see this in our strengths work every day.

When someone is being true to themselves and leading the life that is right for them, it’s obvious. It might be that they are doing work they love, or studying a subject they are fascinated by, or creating a way of life that feels right. While they are doing this, their authenticity means that the people they connect with – including their colleagues, customers and clients – sense it and are more likely to respond with the same. Life becomes easier and happier for everyone concerned.

Knowing and playing to our strengths (including our values and our motivators) is one of the greatest things we can do for ourselves. It’s one of the best things any organisation can facilitate for its people. And, therefore, for its customers and clients, too.

I wrote two books (see below) about strengths to raise awareness and inspire more organisations and individuals to join The Strengths Revolution. Are you on board yet?

The Strengths Book by Sally Bibb cover image

Sally Bibb’s latest book The Strengths Book: Discover How to Be Fulfilled in Your Work and in Life (for individuals) is out; now EVERYONE can discover the power of strengths.

Strengths-based Recruitment and Development by Sally Bibb cover image

Sally Bibb’s book Strengths-based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results (for organisations) is available from Amazon worldwide, or use discount code HRSBRW at the Kogan Page website.

5:11 pm 27 February 2018

Are you in the wrong job? (Find out the most likely reason why.)

2018-02-27T18:29:10+00:00 27 February 2018|Categories: being in the right job, being in the wrong job, how to live the life you want, strengths at work, The Strengths Book|

performance management conversations sally bibb blog

I ran a poll on Facebook recently. I asked people whether they were in, or had ever been in, a job that was the wrong fit for them. Most people answered, YES.

92% said they have been in the wrong job or are currently in the wrong job.

Only 8% said they have never been in the wrong job.

What about you…

Have you ever been in the wrong job?

What was that like?

Have you ever sat in your appraisal, year after year, being given the same feedback on what you need to improve – despite your best efforts, the same topic keeps coming up?

Maybe you were offered training or coaching, but that didn’t help much.

The thing is, you’ll never be fulfilled by trying to fix your weaknesses. You’ll only be fulfilled by knowing and using your strengths.

Imagine what would have happened if Manchester United had tried to turn David Beckham into a defender instead of focusing on and capitalising on the innate ‘super strengths’ that made him a natural, world-class striker?

Being in the wrong job is a miserable experience – for you, and for your loved ones who watch you suffer.

One of the reasons I wrote The Strengths Book was to help people to discover their strengths and find work they love. If you’ve had a chance to read it, I’d love to know what you think. Find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, say hello, and tell me.

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) is out NOW.


4:49 pm 6 February 2018

Was that an interview???

2018-02-06T18:11:29+00:00 6 February 2018|Categories: being in the right job, being in the wrong job, strengths-based interviewing, The Strengths Book|

performance management conversations sally bibb blog

Last night I chatted to a guy who is training to be a lawyer and is having doubts about whether he really wants to pursue a career in law after all.

The fact is, he is one of those people who is good at pretty much everything he turns his hand to. He told me that rather than this being a positive thing, he’s experienced it as quite a hindrance, because it’s meant he has never really been “sure” about what to study or what career path to take.

He bought a copy of The Strengths Book and said that, as he’s working through the exercises in it, he feels like a detective gradually piecing together his strengths. His true self is slowly being revealed!

That is what often happens in strengths interviews, too.

As the interview progresses, the candidate gradually learns more about themselves. This means that if they are suitable for the job, they really understand why that’s the case (and indeed, by the end of the interview they will believe in their hearts that the job is right for them). And if they’re not a good fit for the job, they also realise why that is, and that the organisation would be doing them no favours by appointing them – they may not be right for this job, but they gain real insight into the strengths they do have.

And that’s the beauty of the strengths interviewing method that my team and I teach people.

At a conference last week, I heard a woman speak about interviews being a bad thing for people who are chronically shy or who, or whatever reason, become nervous in such situations. She was posing the question, should interviews as a selection method be done away with? I could empathise with her. But, my answer would be, it depends on the type of interview! I wish she could experience The Engaging Minds strengths interview which feels more like an easy-flowing conversation; even shy or nervous candidates enjoy the experience and feel like the interviewers really get to know them. Hear some of them talk about their experiences of strengths-based interviewing in our short video:

If, like the speaker I mentioned above, you are concerned about the impact that your interview approach has on people, or you just don’t think it’s that effective, get in touch. We’d love to chat about how you can transform that situation into a win-win – for your candidates and for your organisation.

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) is out NOW.


1:34 pm 5 January 2018

The dos and don’ts of performance management etiquette

2018-01-05T15:27:10+00:00 5 January 2018|Categories: benefits of strengths-based development, strengths at work, strengths-based management, strengths-based performance management|

performance management conversations sally bibb blog

Happy new year! I’m making this my first piece of 2018 as it seems to be a hot topic and one that managers and HR alike are grappling with.

The title of this post may strike you as oxymoronic. “What etiquette is involved in performance management?” you might ask.

When I got my first role as a manager, I received a fat ring binder that contained a lot of documents informing me about the performance management ‘process’. But it didn’t really tell me how I should conduct the conversations, so it wasn’t very helpful in the real world. And it certainly lacked the human touch, when it came to helping me handle someone who was really struggling.

I was basically expected to conduct an annual review with each of my team that focused purely on outcomes.

What I, and, as it turns out, the people I managed wanted, were ongoing discussions and support about performance and growth.

That was more than two decades ago, but the truth is that not all that much has changed in the way performance management is done. In this piece I would like to propose some simple etiquette that will transform your performance management conversations and make them effective, enjoyable and energising.

Before I do that though, let’s have a quick look at commonly stated objections to traditional performance management practices:

  • They involve a massive investment in time for little proven benefit
  • The focus tends to be on what’s going wrong, rather than understanding and building on what’s going well
  • Mostly they are disliked by all involved
  • There is a heavy emphasis on past performance instead of developing people for the future
  • There is little or no evidence that all the hours spent on performance management make any difference to actual performance

So, here’s some fresh-approach etiquette.


Move from annual to real-time. Replace the annual performance management approach with real-time conversations and feedback that are based on the natural cycle of each person’s work.

Focus on the end goal and how the person might get there. Make the conversation about which of the individual’s strengths could help them, and possibly about what non-strengths might get in their way and how they could mitigate that risk.

Educate, support and train. Give people the skills, structure and desire. Having meaningful conversations is a skill that needs to be learnt and honed.

Switch to a strengths approach. Make the new approach strengths based (which does not involve ignoring weaknesses, but puts the emphasis on leveraging strengths and mitigating weaknesses). According to research from the Corporate Leadership Council (2005), employee performance is, on average, 36% higher when line managers focus their appraisals on employees’ strengths. It’s a human approach that managers and their people see the value in, and that motivates them.


Put the emphasis on the process. The process and paperwork won’t energise people, real conversations will.

Focus only on outcomes. People want to talk about how they do things and how they can grow, as well as what they are aiming to achieve.

Make it something managers are obliged to do. Instead make it something they love to do, because they have the understanding, skills and confidence to do it well.

A Marketing Manager said to me recently, “the strengths approach is more like a movement than a process”. I think he’s right, in a way. The definition of a ‘movement’ is a group of people working together to advance an idea. Once you plant the seed of an idea, that makes sense to people and that they can see is beneficial, it becomes easy. That’s what the strengths approach does. The details are relatively easy to figure out once the people want what you’re proposing!

What to do next if you’d like to know more

If you’re a person that likes to read, you can find further insight in Chapter 5 of my book Strengths-based Recruitment and Development. Or, if you think this approach would fit well with your vision for great performance management and would like to chat it through, do get in touch – we’d be happy to talk.

John Hofmeister endorsement Sally Bibb book

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 published by Kogan Page.

Use discount code HRSBRW at the Kogan Page website.

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds

11:11 am 1 December 2017

Supporting the Koestler Trust with an Arts Award for offenders, secure patients and detainees

2017-12-04T13:17:47+00:00 1 December 2017|Categories: making a difference|

Am I Laughing, or am I Screaming Inside?, HM Prison Lewes

This year we have been working in five of the UK’s prisons. It has been a poignant experience for my team and me. Although there is a limit to how much we can help prisoners directly, one way is to support the work of The Koestler Trust, a charity which encourages offenders to change their lives by motivating them to participate in the arts.

Back in September, I was in the company of a former prisoner at an art exhibition at the South Bank Centre in London. The exhibition was curated by Antony Gormley, the acclaimed British sculptor. The former prisoner, I’ll call him John, was working as a guide. The exhibition was called ‘Inside’ and the works were created by detainees in the UK’s prisons and secure hospitals.

I found many of the art exhibits powerful and shocking. Some were more hopeful and joyous. All gave a glimpse into the minds and imaginations of their creators.

I asked John whether he had a favourite piece. He took me over to a small statue of a female prison officer. We both stood staring at it for a few moments then I asked him why it was his favourite. He told me that, in prison it can be hard to resist getting caught up in a “competitive, Alpha male, testosterone-fuelled zone”. He said that when a female prison officer walks by “it reminds you for just a few seconds that you have a mum, a partner or a daughter and it brings back your humanity”.

It was this short exchange that led me to decide to support the work of The Koestler Trust by sponsoring one of their Awards. It will be called ‘The Engaging Minds Strengths Award’ and it will be for writing. Check out the fantastic work that The Koestler Trust does here.

“Before prison I had nothing. The Koestler Trust gave me confidence and a platform to build a second chance.”
Koestler Award winner, curator, staff member and student at the Royal Drawing School

Watch Antony Gormley speaking on the theme of ‘Inside’, and about curating Koestler.

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) is out NOW.

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds

5:00 pm 6 November 2017

Six lessons from a great book launch

2017-11-23T19:24:27+00:00 6 November 2017|Categories: The Strengths Book, writing a book|

The Strengths Book launch Sally Bibb October 2017

My latest book, The Strengths Book, was launched at Foyles flagship bookstore in London on the 25th October.

I was very excited about it but also quite anxious. The Strengths Book means more to me than most of my other books have done because of the subject matter and the difference it will make to people’s lives. As a result, I had extremely high expectations for the launch. I wanted everyone to ‘get’ the power of strengths, feel inspired and leave wanting to spread the word. So, yes. I had high hopes. And, the inevitable accompanying nerves.

I needn’t have worried. The evening was a huge success. Guests have since described it as “amazing”, “a triumph”, “thoroughly enjoyable”, “moving” and “captivating”.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on what made it go so well.

It’s hard to know exactly, but I reckon these six things helped:

1. A subject that everyone could relate to and care about

Knowing and being who we really are is essential to a fulfilled life and mental wellbeing. It’s also at the core of what society needs, to tackle the most important and urgent issues facing us. We must find ways to release people’s true strengths, if we are to have productive and effective organisations that make a difference.

One of the guests sent me an email, saying, “There was a great atmosphere with such a distinguished and captivating panel and questions from the floor about things that matter. I am grateful that smart and composed people are pushing the changes that need to be made in today’s society.” Wow! I couldn’t have wished for better feedback than that.

The questions were wide-ranging. Many were about how we can we help young people to make good career choices and prepare for a world where what children learn in school today may well be irrelevant for the future. The panel were also asked about robotics, artificial intelligence, retirement, personal relationships, values, the decline in arts subjects in schools, and why and how strengths matter in relation to these issues. There really was a sense that we were exploring very important topics.

2. A great panel host

The usual format for book launches is that the publisher introduces the evening by speaking about why they commissioned the book, then the author gives a speech about the book. This time round I wanted to bring other voices in. I wanted the guests to hear about the power of strengths approaches in education, in business and for people with conditions like autism and dyslexia. So I decided to break from the traditional format and put together a panel.

Stefan Stern was the obvious choice for me as panel host. He’s a business and management journalist for the Financial Times and Guardian, he’s interested in the subject of strengths, and he is a real pro when it comes to panel hosting.

He did a superb job. He asked incisive questions himself and, then, when he turned the questioning over to the audience he ‘read’ the dynamic in the room perfectly. He went with the flow and let the panel discussion run over time because the questions kept coming and the audience seemed riveted. It did mean I had to ditch the ten-minute, carefully thought out speech I’d planned, and do a five-minute, improvised version instead! But it was so exciting to see the engagement and interest from the audience, that I didn’t mind at all.

3. Speakers that really connected with the audience

Iain Wilkie, a Senior Partner at EY, a global professional services firm, is a thoughtful person whose belief in people being their whole selves shines through. The moment when, talking about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, he stammered on stage and jokingly commented “what I’m saying is worth repeating” visibly moved the audience.

Millie Townsend, an effervescent and inspiring teacher and careers advisor, told stories of young people discovering their strengths, and caught everyone’s attention when she spoke about one young man who was being steered away from his heart’s desire (to be a blacksmith). Millie’s insight into what helps and hinders young people from being who they really are made for compelling listening.

4. A lovely venue and stylish set up

Aesthetics matter a lot to me. I think environment and design affects how people feel. I wanted a friendly, warm vibe that also felt professional, stylish and fun.

The Foyles event space is beautiful, light and uplifting and provided the perfect canvas for us to create the look and feel we wanted.

A huge amount of design and planning went into the evening.  From deciding to use the Photo Booth to add some fun, to using a black polished grand piano as a book signing surface, it all was carefully thought through.

The right people made everything happen and work. Janet, my PA, and Ruby, the Foyles event manager, both have high standards and a nothing-is-too-much-trouble attitude. With them around it’s like having your best friends organise your birthday party – they really want the event to go well and do everything they can to make sure that it’s a success.

5. Engaged guests

It was such a mixed audience. Family and friends of course, people from the education world, the arts, business, healthcare and prisons. There were many current and former clients and colleagues in the room – all of them interested in the strengths approach to life and work.

Judging by what people said on the night and have said since, they all found the discussion really interesting. As Martin Liu, the publisher, commented to me afterwards, people seemed “verging on super-inspired”.

I once read that a good speech inspires people and a great speech causes people to take action. Given some of the follow-up messages we have received, I am thrilled that the launch fits into the latter category.

Many people have told their friends and colleagues about the book. Some bought copies for them on the night. Others have connected us with organisations who may be able to help get the book into the hands of young people. And some have asked us to help them introduce a strengths approach into their organisations.

6. Magic moments

You can’t plan these, of course. But, there were two very special ones that night, for me.

An American woman arrived and greeted me warmly. I knew that I knew her but could not place her. Then another lady stepped forward, and it dawned on me. I had met these two women (who live in Dallas) last year on a train from Toronto to Vancouver. We’d got on really well. They knew I had a book coming out and had contacted my PA, telling her they wanted to surprise me by coming to the launch. They’d sworn her to secrecy, and so it was one of the most touching moments of the whole evening when I realised who they were and that they had come all the way from Dallas to help celebrate my book.

My second magic moment came right at the end of the evening when I learnt about Alex, one of the barmen. Alex hadn’t wanted to work that evening, but he did because they were short-staffed and his boss begged him to. When our guests had all left and everything was being packed away, he sought out his manager. He thanked her for pushing him into working at the launch party because, he told her, that what the people on the panel said had inspired him and made him feel better about himself.

I want this book to help many more people like Alex.

As I said in my speech on the night, The Strengths Revolution is about helping people to understand who they really are and what they want to contribute. It’s about putting humanity back into the workplace. This book matters and the launch seemed to convince people of that and inspire them to do something about it. I couldn’t wish for more.

Images of the launch with thanks to Martin Gardner

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) is out NOW.

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds

4:26 pm 13 October 2017

Are you missing out?

2017-10-13T16:28:11+00:00 13 October 2017|Categories: benefits of strengths-based recruitment, how not to miss out on the best talent, recruitment, strengths-based recruitment, strengths-based selection, strengths-based talent management|

Years ago I recruited a guy with long hair and a nose stud. He looked every bit the surfer.

The place we worked was a ‘serious company’ where most people looked fairly conventional and the Oxbridge-educated were favoured.  My new recruit didn’t have a degree. It wasn’t necessary for the job and my colleagues didn’t seem too concerned about that. However, I did get a lot of criticism for the appointment, and it was based on how the person I appointed looked.

In my naivety, I was shocked at the comments about his hair or his nose stud. I’d hired him because I thought he was the type of person who would be great at the job. And, he was. His natural ability to connect with others, his humour, his passion and warmth meant he lit people up and inspired them. Gradually people stopped commenting on his appearance and started asking for his help. But, it took a while.

This week I was having coffee with Ana, a Spanish executive. She told me she wanted to appoint a woman – who’d been a temp and was “brilliant” – into a permanent role in her company. Ana needed to get her boss’s seal of approval for the appointment. But, her boss said he didn’t think the woman was right for the job. Ana disagreed and “dug and dug” to try and understand his reservations, but he just couldn’t come up with a good reason for not wanting to make the appointment. A close colleague shed light on the matter –  the woman had an East London accent. Ana told me that because she’s not a native English speaker herself, she can’t usually tell when someone has an accent. She had no idea that having an East London accent could potentially go against her preferred candidate.

It happens all the time – our biases kick in and we miss out on talented people.

It’s one reason I carry the banner for the strengths approach. It means to see the person for who they really are – their values, their motivations and what they are great at. We are human and so, we will never get rid of our biases, but with a strengths approach we have a way of moving beyond them quickly. With strengths we see beyond things like long hair, piercings, accents or whatever those cues are that lead us, sometimes unconsciously, to make assumptions about a person and perhaps rule them out for something they’d be absolutely perfect for.

Surfer dude is now on the board of a big company, by the way. I wonder how many people like him are blocked from reaching their potential because of a recruiter’s bias.

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) is out on 26th October (UK) and in December (USA).

Sally BibbDirector, Engaging Minds

10:41 am 20 September 2017

My six tips for writing a book

2017-09-20T12:22:14+00:00 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