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About Jacquie

Jacquie Molloy guides senior leaders to develop and display leadership authority (what she calls Authoritas); helps Boards to discover the power (and imperative) of exploring differences of opinion through Debate; and shares the practices for personal authority, high-performing teams and cultural excellence with individuals and organisations so they can be Visible in all the right ways.

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Tuesday
Feb092010

Writing: my rule of 5

The best thing about having a system or approach in place for writing is that, after a little while, it ends up saving you a HUGE amount of time. And though there are definitely other benefits, that one is enough to sell me!

Here are my 5 steps for writing prose documents — and they work regardless of whether your document is a 1-page report or a 15-page white paper.

 

  1. Know your reader and purpose. Get crystal clear before you start to write on who your intended reader is, why you are writing for them (be specific!), and what you need to know about your reader for this particular communication to be a 'lock'.
  2. Craft your introduction. Get this piece wrong and you've lost before you've started. Consider your introduction an essential part of your narrative or 'story' so don't just pull together a bunch of ancient history and stick it under a heading called 'background' or 'context'. Ugh.
  3. Outline your content — clearly & logically. Use a tried-and-true approach to structure your main points, supported by relevant facts and examples. This step, done well, will mean you won't get caught repeating great information throughout the doc because you couldn't find the right place for it.
  4. Write! Now pull it together, writing in Plain English of course. This might feel strange and unusual if you've only ever (over)used jargon and corporate cliche but it will be liberating (albeit initially confronting!) to write simply and cleanly. Other benefits? Your work will stand a higher chance of being read carefully (= the goal) and your reader or readers will be grateful. 
  5. Revise & polish. Just because you have followed Steps 1–4 doesn't mean you are done! This could be your most important step of all. Practice putting yourself in an objective frame of mind and reading your work as if written by someone else. Read it out loud and see how well it flows. Ask yourself 'why?' or 'how?' or 'what?' at the end of every sentence or paragraph to make sure you have all the links that are needed. Check spelling, punctuation and grammar, especially tenses. Review your reader and purpose to make sure you're still on track. These are all some of the ways you can revise and polish your work before you distribute it.
Do these steps match up with your own process for writing? Do you have a system or approach when you need to write prose documents? Do you think you might benefit from adopting one?
I'll certainly be talking more about this in future blogs and in my newsletter (sign up here if you'd like to receive my newsletter). Feel free to let me know what else you would find helpful.
Cheers

 

Thursday
Feb042010

From my Bookshelf #1

Here are some recommendations from my bookshelf to yours. This is something I will do every couple of weeks. Hope it gives you some ideas when you have some time to read.
What the CEO Wants You To Know — Ram Charan
‘The universal laws of business success . . . no matter whether you are selling fruit from a stand or running a Fortune 500 company.’
— A nifty little book by a gifted business adviser who knows how to keep things simple & crystal clear.
The Complete Plain Words — Sir Ernest Gowers (Penguin Reference)
‘The essential guide for anyone who needs to express themselves clearly, fluently and accurately in writing.’
— And it is too! There’s a well thumbed edition of this book on the bookshelf of every writer and editor I know. There are some now-almost-obsolete entries (it was written in 1948) but it is, and always has been, surprisingly contemporary & sharp — and very helpful.
And some fiction:
Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series. Set in Venice, these are beautifully written ‘police procedurals’ with a twist (don’t expect gratuitous anything or a plot that sacrifices character development and subtle narrative arcs). The first is Death at La Fenice. If you read it and love it (who wouldn’t?), then, lucky you, because you’ll have more than 16 others to read straight after.

 

Wednesday
Mar182009

Farewell Bruno Gianelli — and rest in peace Mr Ron Silver

Sadly, the actor Ron Silver passed last weekend after 2 years with oesophageal cancer. If you saw recent photos of him, you could see how much a toll the disease had taken on him physically but, by all accounts, he was as rambunctious and passionate as ever until the end.

He is one of those actors whose work I seem to have always known. I’m pretty sure the first time I saw him was either in Hill Street Blues or in Silkwood. But when I really got to know him was in Wiseguy (I absolutely adored that series!!). The next time I really took notice, in awe of his performance, was Reversal of Fortune as Klaus von Bulow’s (Jeremy Irons) lawyer. Great stuff.

Imagine my glee when he joined the cast of my no-contest, all-time-favourite TV series, West Wing.

Here he played a character perhaps more aligned with his true character than ever: a very passionate and political animal! In the show, he played Bruno Gianelli, a savvy campaign director who, when we meet him, had already got 5 senators, 3 governors, and the prime minister of Israel elected; in life, he was a democratic liberal activist who wanted to use his celebrity status to do a little good in the world. Perhaps the more apt description is ‘radical centrist’. He actively supported Clinton and voted for Obama. But he also was a fierce supporter of Rudy Guiliani’s mayoral (and presidential) campaigns — and he gave what is often referred to as a barnburner of a speech in favour of Bush at the 2004 Republican Convention (even when he was still a registered Democrat). He followed his heart and trusted his instincts even when it lost him work in Hollywood and made him unpopular. You have to admire someone who stands for what they believe — no matter what.

Remember WW Season 3, when Bruno says to Sam:

. . . I am tired of working for candidates who make me think I should be embarrassed to believe what I believe, Sam. I'm tired of getting them elected. We all need some therapy, because someone came along and said that liberal means "soft on crime." Soft on drugs. Soft on communism. Soft on defense. And we're gonna tax you back to the stone age because people shouldn't have to go to work if they don't want to. And instead of saying, 'Well, excuse me, you right-wing, reactionary xenophobic, homophobic, anti-education, anti-choice, pro-gun, Leave-it-to-Beaver-trip-back-to-the-fifties!' we cowered in the corner and said, 'Please. Don't. Hurt. Me.' No more. I really don't care who's right, who's wrong. We're both right, we're both wrong.

Mr Silver, I have enjoyed so much of your work during my life but when you brought your charm and class to WW and were given the great savage wit of Bruno Gianelli to play with (thanks, Aaron Sorkin) — well, I lucked out.

May your spirit be blessed and may you rest in peace. Shalom.

Friday
Feb272009

Colour me clever . . .

 . . . because genius is all around us.


I love the TED site. If you haven't come across it, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. And its 'tag line' is ideas worth spreading.

You can view any number of interesting talks and presentations.

My current favourite is a talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame — and indeed more on the stickiness of that fame business in the talk): www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

And while you're there, take a look at a talk of Jane Goodall's from 2007. If you  have never had the opportunity to see this woman speak in person, this is a good way to see what all the fuss is about. She is, quite simply, an amazing (and incredibly sane) force for good in this world: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jane_goodall_at_tedglobal_07.html

Enjoy — and take a little time to wander around the TED site for some everyday and extraordinary inspiration. 

Better yet, do what I do and subscribe for updates so that you have the links in your inbox — I would tell you how uncanny it is that often the links I receive tend to match up exactly with questions I've been thinking about or conversations I've just had over a bottle or two with friends . . . but then we know what they say about coincidences now, don't we :-)

J

Tuesday
Feb172009

Our Victorian summer

This month, many Victorians have been in shock as we have sweated through a heatwave of 3 days of 42+ degrees celsius — and I don't know how many days in total that were over 30 degrees. (Although spare a thought too for what Adelaide went through — and those who are battling floods and their aftermath in Queensland — yes, we are indeed a land of extremes.)


Then came the knock-out punch of our 46.4 degree day on the 7th — and that was in metropolitan Melbourne (!!!). 

Many experts could see that we were now had all the conditions in place for the 'perfect fire storm'.

And, of course, they were right. Nature delivered, helped by the hand of arsonists.

This is where we are now, 11 days later: still trying to get our heads around that which cannot be comprehended, only experienced, felt — and for so many — suffered. 

It's not over. As I write, 7 fires still need to be brought under control.

Everyone knows someone. No-one here has been untouched by these firestorms.  

I have, however, had the very great fortune to help out at the Wildlife Victoria office, fielding calls and emails so that the experts can focus on organising and responding to this, pretty well, state-wide emergency. I have also trained up to be able to staff the animal emergency hotline (during the year, not just now, and you can too if you're interested). And last week I worked a shift at the Red Cross call centre (certainly in the first week open to anyone who wanted to help).

Some of you know that my main volunteer job is as a guide at Melbourne Zoo. Last weekend, with my colleagues, I helped raise money for the Australian Wildlife Health Centre at Healesville (even though the Sanctuary is closed to the public at this time the Hospital is as busy as ever — it is, after all, on the 'frontline').

I share all this to highlight the gift that comes from getting out there and helping. When you do, you experience first-hand the overwhelming love and support that continues to build in the community. Through that you experience hope. And then you can feed some of that hope and calm back into the community and to those who need it most. It certainly does not diminish the seriousness or poignancy of these events but it does help to counter the fear. 

My other reason for sharing this is to inspire you to offer a few hours, if you haven't already, in your chosen field or just as a pair of hands and a willing heart in an area you love or want to know more about. Contact Volunteering Australia or visit their website to see how you can help — not just now but throughout the year, for the long haul. It's because of my existing volunteer work that I was able to quickly step in and assist when this disaster befell our state. And that felt good.

It really is the most life-affirming and life-changing step you can take in your life. Ask anyone who volunteers and they'll tell you that they feel they get more out of the experience than they contribute. It's a very common sentiment. 

God Bless all those out there doing it tough and we wish them the strength and courage to keep going. They are Angels all.