Moving from dreams to reality through accountability

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Do you struggle to turn visions for your magazine into a real plan of action? Moving from dreams to reality is often where people get hung up. According to the article “Business Plan Toolbox: Business Planning with Accountability” by Stephie Althouse, most companies face these common obstacles:

  1. There is a significant skill gap between the company’s core expertise and the ability to convert that expertise into money.
  2. Many visionary founders find building and running a team challenging.
  3. The core expertise lives only in the brain/s of one or a few key people.
  4. High-expertise leaders often prefer to do the work themselves instead of delegating it to others.
  5. Investment monies are difficult to impossible to get due to lack of scalability.

In her article, she offers solutions to each of the obstacles, including finding accountability to carry them out. Some ways to the create the accountability needed include:

  • Involving your team in creating the business plan.
  • Treating the plan as a living, breathing document.
  • Agree on an accountability SYSTEM with your team and follow through.
  • Define “Success Behaviors” that support you and your team in using the accountability system and have a thriving and fulfilling experience in your work (and life) – we will talk about that in the next article.

Continue reading to discover Althouse’s plans for accountability to make your dreams a reality.

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The use of quotes can either be deathly dull or breathe life and interest into your article. There are so many things to consider: the interview of your subject, attribution, when a quote is powerful enough to use as the lede or conclusion, which parts of the quote to use, and more.

Below are some resources that will help you with each of these decisions, which will, ultimately, get you to the heart of the story with the use of powerful quotes.

Continue reading for more tips:

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By Shane Parrish, founder of Farnam Street

The best advice I’ve ever gotten about thinking came from a private-company CEO who has a thirty-year track record that’s up there with Warren Buffett’s. One day he said to me, “Shane, most people don’t actually think. They just take their first thought and go.”

We’re all busy. We’ve got meetings, phone calls, texts, kids, spouses, parents, friends, and of course the ever-present email. Busyness has become an end in itself, and nothing is more dangerous. What my CEO friend meant was that people are losing the ability to think through a problem.

Most people schedule themselves like lawyers. They work in five- to eight-minute increments, scheduled back to back. The best part of their day is when they manage to sneak away for a quick coffee with a friend before heading into the next meeting they haven’t had time to prepare for.

I actually schedule time to think. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I protect this time as if my livelihood depended on it because it does. Sometimes I’m in the office and sometimes I’m in a coffee shop. I’m not always thinking about a problem that I’m wresting with. I’m often just thinking about things I already know or, more accurately, things I think I know. Setting aside time for thinking works wonders, not only for me but also for most of the people I’ve convinced to give it a try.

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I was in church, singing along with the worship songs, when I almost choked on my words. The song was based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (NIV)

But the lyrics on the screen at church said, “My yolk is easy and my burden is light.”

As I tried not to laugh, I looked around to see if anyone else was as distracted by these words as I was. Nope, everyone else was focused on worship, while I was thinking about breakfast and an “over-easy” egg yolk.

Yoke or Yolk.

When Jesus was talking to the people in his cultural context, the analogy of a yoke made sense to everyone listening. Undoubtably, they could look at animals plowing a field on the edge of town and see two animals yoked together, pulling a plow.

But in our modern setting the word “yoke” is not in common usage, especially in the U.S. where city dwellers have little appreciation for farm life, and farm tasks are mechanized with tractors rather than animals. The concept of a “yoke” that distributes the burden of plowing is foreign to most people. When the word was incorrectly used in the song lyrics, no one seemed to notice the mistake.

However, modern people do know what a “yolk” is – the rich yellow center of an egg. What did people think Jesus meant in this verse, if they were reading it as My yolk is easy and my burden is light? Most likely, people were just singing along, not thinking about the specific words.

This error of intermingling yokes and yolks points out the importance of going beyond spell check in proofreading material. The word wasn’t misspelled in the lyrics, the wrong word was used.

Also, the yoke/yolk error suggests that we choose analogies carefully for our audience. Jesus knew that people saw yokes in their regular lives. I’m not suggesting we re-write Scripture, but when we write fresh content, it’s important to use analogies that are meaningful to our audience rather than recycling analogies that are no longer relevant.

–Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

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When you are working to engage a reader and to elicit a response, the tone of an article matters.

How Strong?

Recently I was editing an article for a client who had a great article with a prophetic voice. He was calling out people who said they put God first, but in actual life, others things seemed to take the top place.

“On Sundays we sing passionately about how Jesus satisfies our every need. But even a casual reading of our social media posts tells a different story … ”

I wondered if we should give the reader the benefit of the doubt and say: “But even a casual reading of our social media posts may tell a different story …”

In this instance, after discussing the word choice, we stayed with the stronger voice rather than adding the word “may” to the sentence. But there were several similarly strong statements at the start of this article, and I wondered if the reader would stop reading or tune out before they got to the place of deciding to turn wholeheartedly toward Jesus. There’s a fine line between presenting a compelling thought and turning off the reader.

Positive or Negative?

In a less weighty piece for a different client, I noticed that the writer often stated something in the negative, even if he was trying to elicit a positive response in a marketing brochure: “Our initial consultation is always free, so it can’t hurt to chat.”

The writer was using the words “can’t” and “hurt” while trying to get the reader to take a positive action. There is no need to make the reader think something is going to hurt, when you are offering a free consultation!

I suggested: “Our initial consultation is always free, so let’s chat about your needs.”

In addition to being positive, this sentence keeps the focus squarely on the reader. It told the reader that the company makes their needs a priority.

Another sentence originally touted excellence, but in a way that introduced doubt: “We pride ourselves on excellence and refuse to deliver sub-par results.”

This sentence starts with the implication that this is a great company that does great work, but then doubt is introduced. Why are they talking about sub-par results? Will they deliver sub-par results on my project?

I suggested: “We pride ourselves on excellence and the delivery of high-quality of results.”

The choice of a word or phrase makes a huge difference in tone. This step of editorial polish is important and can make the difference between good content and great content.

–Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

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Attribution is ascribing a work or remark to a particular person. With the popularity of pithy sayings on social media, it is tempting to quickly Google a list of quotes from a famous person, such as Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. or even Jesus.

However, these quickly “sourced” quotes are not always accurate. Here I have placed “sourced” in quotation marks to show sarcasm. Careful sourcing involves finding the original speech, book or other setting for the actual words being quoted. Google “sourcing” can involve a few clicks to find another person who says that a quote is accurate, even if the sources are not reputable or research-based. Simply noticing that many people attribute a particular phrase to a famous person doesn’t mean that person actually made the statement. Volume isn’t veracity in sourcing.

There are several ways that sloppy attribution of quotes can go wrong: Either the person didn’t actually say what is being credited to them, or they might not have said it in the way that it is being used in the shortened version.

While the internet can contribute to questionable attribution, it also makes the words of famous people accessible for research. I can actually listen to the “I Have A Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963 to the people gathered for the March on Washington. Or I can read the text of Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India” speech from August 8, 1942.

The third Monday in January is a national holiday in the United States, honoring the January birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a civil rights leader who played a significant role in the fight for racial equality in the U.S. He was assassinated in 1968. As a preacher and a national leader, his writings and speeches are extensive. Quotes from Dr. King are indeed inspirational. But in the midst of sharing inspiration, accurate attributions are important.

In 2019, on the holiday celebrating Dr. King, I saw two instances of a quotation that I was curious about. The idea sounded good, but I hadn’t seen it attributed to Dr. King before, so I decided to dig in a little and verify the accuracy of this attribution.

The quote is: If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.

When I first read the quote, I have to admit that it sounded a bit like Mother Teresa to me. But that was based just on style, not any research. A quick Google search revealed several instances attributing this quote to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (one in a speech by the President of an Ivy League University). But a number of attributions were to Napoleon Hill, a new name to me.

So who actually said this first?

In the 1928 book, The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons, Napoleon Hill said, “If you cannot do great things yourself, remember that you may do small things in a great way.” I found the actual book online and saw this quote on page 113.

It is possible that Dr. King quoted this phrase at some time during his many speeches and sermons. I did not do exhaustive research on all of his speeches and writing. Wikiquote is not a perfectly reliable source, however, it does catalog many specific quotes and their sources from books and speeches. Working backwards from Wikiquote, it is possible to find the actual source document for attribution. Searching the Wikiquote page for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not reveal the “small things” quote. But Wikiquote is not exhaustive.

Another good source of attributions is LibQuotes.com, whose motto is “Don’t quote it if you can’t source it.” In searching their site, they reference the “small things” quote as coming from Napoleon Hill. That’s how I found the name of Napoleon Hill’s book, and a few more clicks lead me to the actual text. Each quote on the website includes an “i” icon for more information and points to the original source. A writer or editor can then pursue the source document for verification.

Perhaps this work seems tedious, but attribution matters. And since the famous historical figures have plenty of strong, well-sourced material to choose from, if you want an inspirational meme for social media, pick something that is traceable to a reliable source!

Of course, beyond the issue of accuracy, there are a flurry of memes for particular holidays and events. In addition to considering the source for a quote, consider the context and your own voice. Are you pulling together a meme to join popular trends? Or is it core to your work and voice? But perhaps that’s another topic for a blog – to meme or not to meme?

In my research for this article, I found some interesting sources and articles on attribution and quotations.

  • LibQuotes.com is a great site for finding sourced quotes. Start here when you are seeking attribution, or even just inspiration.
  • The Anatomy of a Fake Quotation– This article shows how on social media an introductory comment and a quote can start out as accurate, but when the words are reposted and blended together, the result can be inaccurate and spread quickly. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/05/anatomy-of-a-fake-quotation/238257/
  • 9 famous quotes that people get wrong– This is a humorous list of contexts that are often omitted when a short quote is pulled from a famous source. My disclaimer is that I am sharing this link but I did not research each of the particular examples given, although I am familiar with several of them. https://www.businessinsider.com/famous-quotes-2017-6

Carla Foote is an editor and writer who works for a variety of clients through Fine Print Editorial.  This blog is used by permission and first appeared on www.fineprintedit.com. Carla edits Disciple!, a quarterly magazine for The Navigators ministry, in addition to other projects for The Navigators. She manages a blog and social media for an author, and edits books, podcasts and curriculum for a variety of clients. Previously, she was the executive editor and publishing manager for MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers), and was responsible for all operations of MomSense magazine and Connections magazine. Carla served as a trainer for MTI in Kenya in 2018 and in India in 2012 and is a member of MTI’s Board of Directors.

–Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

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By Nzandi Murry, Expressions, India

If you have taught an aspiring writer that had a passion for writing, but didn’t have the knack yet, you might already know that your knowledge (though necessary) is not all you need to help the student. In my experience of teaching teenagers and young adults, I have learned that my curriculum, the facts I know, and my past teaching experience, are not enough to train a young writer. Why is that so? Because every student needs more than a great teacher to become a confident writer.

Here is what my students have taught me:

Always ask questions

You’ll be surprised by their intelligence when you question them. Typically, I teach one student for an hour. After 40-minutes of grammar, quick tips on writing, and a simple paragraph writing, I always spend the last 20 minutes in open interaction. Once I asked my 15-year-old student what topic he would pick if he were given a chance to talk to a room full of young people.

He replied, “Dream Big!”

I was so impressed I shot back, “And what would you talk about if the room was filled with middle-aged folks?”

In less than 30-seconds, with a grin, he said, “How to look young?”

I was flabbergasted, seeing his creativity. That afternoon, I didn’t have to decide on the topic of his homework because I chose one from his answer. His confidence was boosted, and I felt accomplished as a teacher.

Encourage them

Before offering encouraging words it is important to understand your student. While my teenage students see appreciation as an encouragement, the young adults feel encouraged when I assign a more difficult task. This doesn’t mean you will always be encouraging without giving them constructive criticism, but it is important to keep in mind that when encouragement outweighs the correction, students will be able to handle criticisms without losing their confidence to write.

Believe in them

There is nothing more motivating than knowing that someone believes in you. If you are the teacher you are a role model for your student. What you say can either break them down or build them up. Apart from telling them that I believe in them, I also write uplifting letters when I get an opportunity. This happens usually on their birthdays. In my note, I always make a point to let them know that it’s a joy to teach them. Knowing they are being celebrated gives them the appetite to learn from you.

End it on a sweet note

You won’t tutor a student forever. When it’s time for to say goodbye, say or write something nice to them. I love to write, so I wrote to every student in my last class. One of my young adult students, who had to discontinue because he was relocating, was so moved by my farewell letter that he said, “No one has written such a note to me before. I feel capable.” I assured him that he is gifted as I left their house. Sticking his head out through the ajar front door, he waved goodbye as his mom opened the elevator for me.

Looking back, I feel fulfilled by the two years of private tutoring I did because of the knowledge exchange during classes. It was beyond enriching and given a chance, I would do it again.

I can’t promise that tutoring aspiring writers won’t be challenging, but I can say that it will be rewarding if you are open to learning from them as you teach.

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By: Ken Gosnell

Business appreciation is a paradox. Appreciation is the one employee development tool that costs the business nothing. It is also the one benefit that all employees need and desire. According to Gallup, “Only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.”

Leaders have enormous power to encourage and inspire their teams through their words and actions. If leaders learn this leadership secret, they can improve company morale, employee performance, and communication and teamwork.

Here’s how leaders can start their new role as “chief encouragement officer.”

1. Public Recognition

One of the best disciplines a CEO can develop is to praise people in public.

One way CEOs can do this is through tribal storytelling. Native American leaders would pass down key values from generation to generation by sharing and repeating certain stories throughout the tribe. CEOs would be wise to follow this tradition, giving examples of team members who acted on values and principles that the organization embodies.

2. Written Notes

Written notes have power. Writing a personal letter is a valuable way to give praise, as it serves as a touch point for thoughtfulness. Personal notes touch deep within a person, and a wise CEO uses this tool to appreciate their team.

Doug Conant, the retired CEO of Campbell Soup, used this tool effectively to turn his company around. He explained his process in an interview in the August 2012 Sloan Management Review. He stated, “I would pick about 10 to 20 things every day and I would hand write a note to the person saying, ‘Thanks for the help. I understand we’re ahead of schedule. Nice job.’ Over the course of my career I sent out about 30,000 personal notes, and we only had 20,000 employees.”

Imagine the impact it would have on an employee to walk in and find a personal note from the CEO on their desk or at their workstation. If CEOs wrote just one note a day, they would have written over 250 notes a year to their most important people: their team members.

3. Personal Time

People like spending time with their leaders. When a leader takes a little extra time to spend with their team, it’s noticed and appreciated. Practice the habit of taking team members on special outings as a way of communicating appreciation. A leader should always have someone next to them. These moments provide an opportunity to personally mentor an employee by passing along key leadership principles.

4. Meaningful Gifts

A gift from a leader is not quickly forgotten. These awards can come in the form of books, gift cards or office tokens. Find ways to personalize your appreciation. For example, I give away 100 Grand candy bars to my team with a note saying “You are worth 100 Grand to me.” The team loves it.

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Vera Fesianava is the Associate Art Director of Noiv Kovcheg (Noah’s Ark) magazine in Ukraine, a Christian publication for children. Their mission is to discover the principles of building a happy family life for parents and children through the knowledge of God and his Word. To view the magazine look them up on Issuu. Join us for a Q&A with Vera to learn some tips on how the magazine is working “with” instead of “for” kids:

 

Q: It sounds like you are doing a great job communicating with your audience and involving them in audience research. I’m curious how you involve children in your team from different cities and countries. What is your strategy for getting feedback from them?

A: It is a long story on how we have built communication with our audience.

In 2010, Noiv Kovcheg celebrated its twentieth anniversary. At the same time, we came to the conclusion that it should be radically changed. Victor Kuzmenko, the founder of the magazine, returned as editor-in-chief that same year. We were looking for a new strategy, and we came to the idea: It’s not our magazine; it’s their magazine. Let’s let the children create it. 

The editor’s article in issue 4 of 2010 said:

In the very first issue of the magazine, published in 1990, we expressed the hope that our cooperation with readers will become a joint service to God… During the years of ministry, we have noticed that often adults do a lot of good for children and much less often together with them. However, if we, the adults, ignore this important factor “together with” in the upbringing of children, kids grow up with distorted ideas about themselves, about God, and about life in general.

When our communication with children is filled with joint activity, they see that they are treated with respect, that they are appreciated, and that–as a result–they develop right next to adults, growing purposeful and open.

Sometimes it seems to us, that we (adults) know what children are interested in, what is important to them, what and how we should talk to them, but often it turns out the opposite. Not without reason, Christ told adults that until they change their hearts and become like children, they will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the next issues of the Noiv Kovcheg magazine, we want to listen more to children and see how they live. We are sure that they all aspire to God and dream of the eternal. And we can strive with them and dream about the same on the pages of Noiv Kovcheg.

Thanks to everyone who shared with us children’s creativity. We continue to wait for children’s photos, letters, text messages, poems, stories, humor and funny stories from life, and other children’s treasures.

Blessings, Team NK

 

Since that time, we try to involve children in the creation the magazine in many ways:

  1. We use a real child on the cover who tells his/her story in the “Hello from the Cover” column. We use our connections and invite our partners who have children to give their kids this opportunity. We have had several times where the classmate or neighbor of the child on Noiv Kovcheg cover also wanted to get on the cover. For the last 8 years, about 60 children were on the cover, and told their story in the Noiv Kovcheg magazine. We have real children’s stories from many countries, including Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, France, Germany, U.S., Israel, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia, Ghana, Sweden, Canada, and more.
  2. The magazine has a Children’s Editorial Team. Together with adults, members of the Children’s Editorial Team (ages 6-12) take part in the creation of Noiv Kovcheg, discuss the materials, sometimes offer better alternatives, and share the magazine with other children. At present, our Children’s Editorial Team includes two girls from Japan and Moldova and three boys from the U.S., Belarus, and Ukraine. Each of these children is an active reader and writer and has, for several years, sent us their stories, drawings, and photos. Our editor, Maria Levtsenyuk, keeps in touch with them (and their parents) via e-mail, Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp.
  3. In each issue we give materials for various activities–crafts, games, experiments, etc.–on the pages. For each activity, we engage kids who represent it on the page–kids from various Sunday schools in the city, Christian children’s club “Maibutne Ukrainy” (“Future of the Ukraine,” which works with non-believer’skids and teens), and children (from non-believer’s families) with whom we have become friends through camps and festivals. We also have the column “Young Talents” where girls and boys talk about their hobbies (saxophone, acrobatics, painting, hockey, pet care, etc.). We are very happy if children send in their stories and drawings for publication.
  4. We have additional ministries related to the magazine. From time-to-time we arrange an event “Friends Exist” for kids in Rivne (and other Ukrainian cities and villages), which includes competitions, drawings on asphalt, handicrafts, sports, games, and other outdoor activities. Children get acquainted with the magazine and make friends with each other. Every year we hold a one-week Christian camp nearby the office. We also share the Noiv Kovcheg magazine with churches and missions for their children’s Christian camps, festivals, and clubs. We participate in events that are conducted by the town council (here in Rivne and other regions) including exhibitions, holidays, meetings with writers, charity events in hospitals and orphanages, etc.

The most joyful thing for us is to see how the children learn about Jesus through the magazine, start reading the Bible, grow up, and become Christians. It’s not every child, not much, but it’s worth it.

 

Q: You mentioned that you have children give direct input to the magazine. I assume these are Christian children from families of believers. Have you ever done a focus group where you gather some children from the audience you want to reach (in this case children from non-believing families), sit them down with the magazine, and have them tell you what they think the magazine is communicating, what they understand and don’t understand, and what they like and don’t like about it? It might be worth a try and it could be very illuminating. 

A: Yes, kids in our children’s team are mostly from Christian families, or from mixed families where only one parent is a Christian. But, approximately every two years the composition of the children’s team changes, someone grows up, and new children join. Until this year, the team included local children. Now our strategy has changed. We invited children from different cities and countries onto the team, among them there are one or two children from a non-believing family. They share the magazine in their community with other children, collect feedback, and send us photos and drawings.

At least 5 children from the first composition of the Children’s Editorial Team grew up and became Christians and were baptized.

 

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By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

What is the next topic you are going to write about after your current project is completed? Not worried about that yet? Thinking about tomorrow’stopic can make you a better communicator today.

Communication is a process rather than a one-time interaction. So as a communications professional, you should always be thinking about the next next thing. Whether you are communicating via blogs, social media, websites, videos, magazines, newspapers or books, consider where your communications topics are headed. Today’s topic is the burning fire you need to address and get out the door. But the intentional progression of topics from today to tomorrow to the next day (month, year) builds a brand, and a body of work.

Recently, as I was working on a quarterly newsletter for a client, I penciled in the topics for their next two newsletters. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the details of the future topics, since I was focused on the newsletter that needed to get to print. I might not even be responsible for future newsletters; however, the overall communications plan is important for my client. The ability to think ahead to the next topic in a sequence means that the quarterly newsletter topics will build on each other throughout the year. Recipients of the newsletters will have a more complete understanding of the overall organization, rather than receiving random bites of information spread across time.

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