Thursday, March 31, 2016

Webinar Review: Micro-Coaching

Micro-coaching takes the successful elements of formal coaching and applies them to situations where a more immediate result is needed.

Micro-Coaching Webinar

The presenter of the Micro-coaching webinar was Ray Jimenez, PhD, the chief learning architect for has been in the learning industry for over 25 years. He is an international consultant and author on e-Learning systems and instructional development. Dr. Jimenez worked Top Fortune 500 companies and medium size organizations - including Cisco, Microsoft, Boeing, Countrywide Home Loans, Dollar Tree Stores and others. - From the Vignettes Learning website

Vignettes Learning company is an e-learning and technology services company which assists clients to develop and convert content to online learning, implement Learning Management Systems and learning platforms. - From the Vignettes Learning website

The webinar focused on micro-coaching, when the formal coaching process may not be effective or expedient.

Formal Coaching Process

Formal coaching consists of four main processes: Identify and define goals, Define strategies to reach goals, Establish timeline and milestones, and Follow-up/Monitor plan for action.

Formal coaching is challenged by:
  • Virtual environments
  • Event-driven actions
  • Rapid change
  • Unwilling participants
  • Variation from schedule


Micro-coaching takes the successful elements of formal coaching and applies them to situations where a more immediate result is needed.

Opportunities for micro-coaching
  • Quick assist
  • Least effort
  • Minimal time
  • Most effective

Assumptions of micro-coaching
  • Every work situation is a learning opportunity
  • Help learners/workers discover answers
  • Help learners/workers to self-coach
  • Help learners demonstrate work

Scripts for Micro-Coaching

Roger Schank developed a theory that our minds use scripts – routines or algorithms – to rapidly solve problems. The two micro-coaching scripts below are based on these scripting theories. The coaching process should focus on which question is most relevant to the current situation.

Script questions for discovery
  • Are you meeting your goals?
  • What do you know now?
  • What should you know more?
  • How to you go about it?
  • How do others experience the same situation?

Script questions for fixing & improving things
  • What results are you getting?
  • What does your customer say (internal or external)?
  • What is the history and what are you hearing?
  • How efficient are you in the process and production?
  • What is the quality and cost of your resources?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How to stop worrying and start living

Review of How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.

In 1913 Dale Carnegie began teaching a course at a YMCA in New York City on how to help men communicate more effectively. Carnegie wrote about many of these techniques in his well known book, How To Win Friends and Influence People.

How to Stop Worrying

Another book Carnegie wrote is How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: Time-tested methods for conquering worry. I first learned about this book when I participated in the Dale Carnegie Course on Effective Communications and Human Relations, a twelve-class series on improving communication techniques, working more effectively with others, and making better life decisions.

How to Stop Worrying is divided into eight sections:
  1. Fundamental facts you should know about worry
  2. Basic techniques in analyzing worry
  3. How to break the worry habit before it breaks you
  4. Seven ways to cultivate a mental attitude that will bring you peace and happiness
  5. The perfect way to conquer worry
  6. How to keep from worrying about criticism
  7. Six ways to prevent fatigue and worry and keep your energy and spirits high
  8. How I conquered worry - 31 stories

A Magic Formula

One of the best chapters is, "A Magic Formula for Solving Worry Situations."
  1. Ask yourself, "What is the worst that can possibly happen?"
  2. Prepare to accept it if you have to.
  3. Then calmly proceed to improve on the worst.

I have used this three-step formula on multiple occasions to prepare myself for a situations with a potentially negative outcome. At the time I took this class, I was dealing with some problems at work, and accepting the worst brought me some peace in the situation.

Amazon Description

According to the description at Amazon, you can achieve the following by reading this book:

Discover how to:

  • Eliminate fifty percent of business worries immediately
  • Reduce financial worries
  • Avoid fatigue—and keep looking you
  • Add one hour a day to your waking life
  • Find yourself and be yourself—remember there is no one else on earth like you!

This is an excellent book, and one you should add to your library. It is available in print for as little as $0.01 (that's 1 cent) from Amazon used books. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Classes That Mattered

What classes from school were helpful over the years? This is my list.

I completed eighteen years of school. Certainly, many have achieve success with twelve or fewer years of school (my grandfather only completed 8th grade; my father dropped out in 10th, but went on to complete a master's degree in education). Others, such as medical doctors, complete many more years of education. A physician with a sub-specialty is typically in school for 25 or more years (8 elementary, 4 high school, 4 college, 3 medical school, 3 residency, 3-4 specialty fellowship, and 2-3 sub-specialty fellowship).

In my case, I completed 8 years of elementary, 4 of high school, 4 college, and 2 master's-level. However, out of all the classes, from the standard reading-writing-'rithmetic classes in elementary school to specialized classes in my clinical psychology master's degree program, there are honestly only a handful of classes that really made a difference.

1. Handwriting (6th grade) 
Instead of regular handwriting classes that in previous years focused on improving cursive, my sixth grade teacher taught us calligraphy. We learned basic calligraphy and Old English styles of decorative writing. Beyond penmanship, what I really learned was the basics of layout for graphic design. Although my calligraphy pens are long gone, I utilize graphic design skills every day.

2. Geometry (high school)
Even though I use statistics extensively, my favorite math class was geometry. My school wouldn't buy the book back at the end of the year, and I still own this book, my only one from high school. Although I occasionally reference it for basic calculations for area and volume, what this book really taught me was a form of philosophy, critically analyzing a situation with theorems and postulates.

3. Chemistry (high school)
As I struggle when helping my daughter with her junior chemistry this year, I am reminded of my own high school chemistry experience. I learned all of the same concepts, and after a little studying, was able to pull some of this long-forgotten information out of the recesses of my brain. However, what I really learned in chemistry was an approach to thinking. My teacher, Mr C., frequently encouraged us to take a break after reading a chapter, sit back, and think about what it all meant.

4. Typing (high school)
My typing class occurred at a time when electric typewriters were en vogue. The Internet as we know it today did not really exist in 1986. Our typewriters did not have any type of correction abilities. However, learning to type with the proper fingering by far was the best class I took in high school. I type every single day.

5. Principles of accounting (college)
I was unsure of a major when I started college. My father suggested I start with a general business degree. One of the first classes I took was principles of accounting. The basics of accounting apply to many situations. The concept of balance is important in accounting and life. However, what I really learned in accounting was that I did not want to be in business. I radically changed from business to psychology in the middle of the semester. Interestingly, my former 6th-grade teacher was now at the university, and discouraged me from switching majors. Of course, stubborn student, I did not heed his advice.

6. Learning theories (graduate)
With a focus on clinical psychology, I completed several behavior-related classes. Learning theories was a joint upper-level college course and lower-level graduate course, the only difference being an extra research paper. A knowledge of behavioral principles is applicable to all situations. I also had to complete a series of experiments in the university's pigeon lab, and working with live animals in an experimental situation came with some life experience as well.

In think about your own academic experiences, what classes were the most meaningful?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Presentation Design: Before and After

This is a real example of how slides can be redesigned to appear more visual in nature.

This week, one of my clients sent me a PowerPoint she created for a face-to-face presentation with a senior executive. When I opened up the slide deck, I immediately saw several problems. The image below displays the slides as sent to me.

The table of contents for the slides included:
  • Overview
  • Report sources
  • Organization of data
  • Reporting process
  • Examples of reporting


Even with out seeing the detail, it is clear that there is far too much detail for a presentation slide deck. Slides should have a minimum of words and supplement the narrative you provide as a speaker. Additionally, even when printed at one slide per page, some of the smaller text remained unreadable. It can also be a temptation to simply read the text on the slides, thereby lulling your audience in a coma.

I advised my client to take the existing slide deck and print it out as a handout. Handouts are perfect for details as they can be saved for reading later.


I made the following slide design recommendations to my client.
  1. Replace the pixelated image on the title slide (not shown here) with a word cloud consisting of the title of the reporting system and the various data sources. This slide could then work as the title, for the overview, and for some of the reporting details.
  2. I suggested that the client tell a brief story of how the reporting system provided assistance in the decision making process. By starting with a story, you can engage your audience and establish a framework for why the presentation is important.
  3. Instead a of detailed slide for the report structure, I suggested a simple visual starting with broad categories and ending with the detailed findings.
  4. I suggested that the reporting process also use a simplified graphic. While this graphic is displayed during the presentation, several different aspects of the process could be discussed.
  5. Finally, I recommended displaying the title slide as the final slide during which questions would be discussed.

Behind the scenes

  • I created the Overview slide by simply inserting text boxes in PowerPoint and formatting the text (font size and color).
  • For the Organization slide, I wanted to use a funnel to depict the process of filtering. I first searched on Bing, but couldn't find a funnel that appealed to me. Instead, I created a funnel by inserting shapes and adjusting the sizes and angles.
  • The source of the graphic for the Process slide is Nancy Duarte's Diagrammer site. Diagrammer is a visualization system which features a variety of diagrams categorized by relationship, style, nodes, and dimensions.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Weekly Update Feb 19-Mar 17

This weekly update is really more of a monthly update. As you can read about in the Writing 365 section, I took a slight detour to become involved with a special writing situation. This resulted in a suspension of my usual writing tasks, including blog posts. Fortunately, I try to stay 1-2 months ahead in writing posts, so this detour did not result in many missed posts (except weekly updates), but my list of scheduled posts has diminished, and I must now get back on track!

Blog Posts

A reality show with real consequences
The quadrennial race for President of the United States is a reality show, but with real consequences for the world.

Massive list of story prompts, Part 2
This is the second post of lists of story prompts. Find a category and pick a work. Take a few minutes to recall a memory centered around the word. Write a story about what you remember or an incident you experienced.

So you think you can write
Harlequin, the premier publisher of romance novels, provides several resources for authors as well as submission guidelines for each category of romance.

Presentation rehab tip 2: write the purpose
This is Tip 2 of several tips to create presentations and deliver them more effectively. This tip today is to write down the purpose of your presentation.

Combine multiple Excel worksheets into one
In this post I share about a project where I needed to combine multiple Excel worksheets into one using Visual Basic coding. The code combined 66 worksheets into 1 containing the entire King James Version of the Bible.

Does it matter how you view a situation?

Tales of a dog named Sex (Dear Abby column)
This is a hilarious story about what happens when a dog has a peculiar name, "Sex."

Presentation rehab tip 3: don't use a script
When presenting, avoid using a script or reading the text displayed on the slides.

Writing 365

Since the beginning of 2016, I have been attempting to write a minimum of 1,000 words every day in the categories of a personal journal, daily devotional, e-books, and blog posts. For the most part, as I have previous reported in weekly updates, I have been able to remain on track.

In February one of my daughter's teachers and I had a conversation about old religious texts. Mr. C told me about a book written in the 1600s that has never been published since. As it is in the public domain, I located a PDF copy of scanned microfilm and began the process of converting the book into a modern publication. The first step in this effort was to type the text into an electronic form. I paused my regular writing (except the daily journal) to focus on typing in the words from this 400-year old book. Because this special project is still writing related, I counted the number of words I typed each day.

As a result, by word counts for the last three weeks have been considerably higher than previously. I am happy to say that the book is now in an electronic form. I now have moved on to other aspects of the book, which I will write about in future blog posts.

Bible Project

The Bible writing project, where I am writing out the entire Bible, was also largely suspended while I focused on the special project. I am currently working in the book of Judges, chapter, where Samson's girlfriend is pestering Samson into revealing the true source of his Hulk-like strength. If all goes as planned, I should be done with Judges by the end of March.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Presentation Rehab Tip 3 - Don't use a script or read from slides

When presenting, avoid using a script or reading the text displayed on the slides.

Television news anchors read the news to us every night. If they are experienced, you may have a difficult time detecting the motion of their eyes as they read the words from the teleprompter. Good news anchors are able to read but make it sound like they are simply talking. This technique takes considerable experience and time to master. It is also easier to read in the controlled environment of the studio.

You are not in a studio, and my guess is you are not trained to read from a teleprompter. This is actually a good thing. There are several reasons why it is much better to limit the text notes in front of you.

Pictures and diagrams are preferable to bullet points and text on your slides. One of those reasons is that you want to focus on the audience, not face away from them reading the text word-for-word from the screen or lean over a podium reading from your computer. Even if you use notes based on the slides, there is a tendency to focus on the text. When your focus is on reading your presentation, you can't connect with the audience to ensure they're engaged or even awake.

Many presenters choose to read prepared text - either on slides or notes - in order to stay focused on the message and avoid meandering off topic during the presentation. However, if you are locked in to a specific set of words and these are the ones you've practiced, it is very likely that a slight distraction could derail the presentation. Much like a train, focused practice in order to memorize a talk or read can easily cause you to lose focus and not be able to get back on track.

When my daughter was taking piano lessons, with the goal of performing memorized classical selections at a recital, the teacher encouraged her to pick random places within the song to start playing. That way, if something my daughter stumbled in the middle of a piece, she could find a place from which to keep playing.

Usually, the tone, pacing, and expression are different when reading as opposed to simply free speaking. The same holds for memorized text. Most people can immediately sense when you're not talking to them but using a script. If you've ever called a help desk number and been transferred to an overseas call center, you likely have experienced a scripted conversation. Because English is a second or third language for the staff, they must refer to their scripted notes in order to communicate and ensure a standard response to problems.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Tales of a Dog Named Sex (Dear Abby Column)

Several years ago I came across this story as shared in a Dear Abby column. Dear Abby is an advice column started in 1956 by Pauline Phillips under the pen name Abigail van Buren. Today, Pauline's daughter, Jeanne Phillips maintains the column.

This is a hilarious story about what happens when a dog has a peculiar name, "Sex." Enjoy!

A Dog Named Sex

By Morty Storm

When I went to City Hall to renew my dog's license, I told the clerk I wanted a license for Sex. He said, "I'd like one, too!"

I said, "But this is a dog."

He said he didn't care what she looked like. Then I said, "You don't understand. I've had Sex since I was 9 years old." He winked at me and said, "You must have been quite a kid."

When I got married and went on my honeymoon, I took my dog with me. I told the motel clerk I wanted a room for my wife and me, and a special room for Sex. He said, "You don't need a special room for Sex. As long as you pay your bill, we don't care what you do."

I said, "Look, you don't seem to understand. Sex keeps me awake at night."

The clerk said, "Funny, I have the same problem."

Well, one day I entered Sex in a contest, but before the competition began, the dog got loose and ran away. Another contestant asked me why I was just standing there, looking disappointed. I told him I had planned to have Sex in the contest. He said, "Wonderful! If you sell tickets, you'll clean up!"

But you don't understand, I said. "I want to have Sex on TV." He said, "They already have that on cable. It's no big deal anymore."

Well, my wife and I decided to separate, so we went to court to fight for custody of the dog.

I said to the judge, "Your honor, I had Sex before I was married." The judge said, "The court is not a confessional. Please stick to the facts." I told him that after I was married, Sex left me. He said, "Me, too."

Well, last night Sex ran away again, and I spent hours looking all over for him. A cop came over to me and asked, "What are you doing in this alley at 4 o'clock in the morning?" I said, "I'm looking for Sex."

My case comes up Friday.


Thursday, March 10, 2016


Back in 2012, I shared a post on The Right Kind of People. Does it matter how you view a situation?

Read the poem below and consider if you've ever felt this way.


Today was the absolute worst day ever
And don't try to convince me that
There's something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don't last.
And it's not true that
It's all in the mind and heart
True happiness can be obtained
Only if one's surroundings are good
It's not true that good exists
I'm sure you can agree that
The reality
My attitude
It's all beyond my control
And you'll never in a million years hear me say that
Today was a good day.

Now read from bottom to top. 

One of my friends shared this on Instagram. The poem was written by Chanie Gorkin.


In another post, I shared about a ship's captain who burned his ship to inspire his men to fight. Having the correct motivation, the proper perspective, definitely makes a difference your view of life.

My wife and I have one child, a daughter who is now seventeen years old. When she was younger, it was sometimes difficult for her to be excited about doing some activity her us. She would drag her feet, walk slowly, and appear disinterested. However, if we brought along a couple of her friends - in the same situation - she was a totally different individual. She was animated, alert, and happy.

What are you building?

Another classic story of perspective features three men on a construction site. A visitor approached the first man and asked, "What are you building?" He replied, "I'm laying bricks." The visitor proceeded to the second man and asked the same question, "What are you building?" The second brick layer responded, "I'm building a wall." As the visitor walked along, he came to the third worked, "What are you building?" The third man paused from his work, stood up straight, and said, "I'm building a cathedral."

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Combine multiple Excel Worksheets Into One

In this post I share about a project where I needed to combine multiple Excel worksheets into one using Visual Basic coding. The code combined 66 worksheets into 1 containing the entire King James Version of the Bible.

I have started to work on a book project which requires several texts from the King James Version of the Bible to be included. Rather than type each text into the book, I wondered if there might be a better way.

KJV Bible in Excel Format

I searched online for "King James Version Excel," and found the following link to be helpful:

The Spreadsheet Page > King James Bible

However, when I viewed the Excel workbook after downloading, I realized that each book of the Bible (a total of 66) was included its own individual spreadsheet. In ordinary circumstances multiple spreadsheets would not be a problem, but 66 spreadsheets - far too many.

Combining Multiple Worksheets

Thus, I returned to the Internet to search for some technique to combine multiple Excel worksheets into one. The best option I found is the one listed below. The Visual Basic code combines all of the worksheets into a new worksheet entitled "Master."

VBA Express > Combine All Worksheets Into One

The code as written works well for the Microsoft Windows version of Excel. However, it only merged the first column of data on the Mac version of Excel. The Visual Basic code automatically calculates the number of columns to import. When I manually entered the number of columns (2 in my case), the code worked perfectly.

All of the worksheets should have the same structure with neatly arranged data and the same number of columns. A large number of worksheets takes a few seconds to process, but the end result saved a lot of time.

You can find my combined file at the link below.

King James Version Bible

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Presentation Rehab Tip 2 - Write the purpose

This is Tip 2 of several tips to create presentations and deliver them more effectively. This tip today is to write down the purpose of your presentation.

“Along the journey we commonly forget its goal. Almost every vocation is chosen and entered upon as a means to a purpose but is ultimately continued as a final purpose in itself. Forgetting our objectives is the most frequent stupidity in which we indulge ourselves.”—Friedrich Nietzsche

Academic Studies

Nearly every book and article on goal setting recommends that goals be written. Follow-through on goals is much more likely to occur when they are transformed from thoughts into printed words.

In a study that addressed poor academic performance, researchers divided the subjects into two groups. One group completed an online program focusing on setting and writing goals down. The other group, the control group, did not participate in the online program. At the conclusion of the 4-month evaluation period, the participants from the goal-setting group displayed significant improvements.

Another study looked specifically at the effectiveness of written goals. The participants were divided into five groups –
  • Unwritten goals
  • Written goals
  • Written goals with action commitments
  • Written goals with action commitments to a friend
  • Written goals with action commitments and progress reports to a friend

After the four-week trial, the participants were asked to evaluate the effectiveness of their experiences. There was a statistically significant difference between the unwritten goals group and the other groups.

Where are you going?

Taking the time to write out the purpose of your presentation is the first step of a multi-part process to capture the planning for your presentation in writing.

Imagine starting on a long journey without knowing the destination. While taking a leisurely, Sunday drive might occasionally be pleasant, it would be impractical to take a journey with no end in mind. How could you even anticipate how long such a journey would take? It would be impossible to plan for an endless journey. A destination is needed when traveling and a presentation also requires a destination, better known as a "purpose."

Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, describes the very first habit as "Begin with the end in mind." Despite its banality from overuse in the business community, this is still excellent advice when planning a presentation. At the end of the day, what do you want people to take away from your presentation?

Complete this sentence: "When people leave my presentation they will _____________" to help determine purpose of your presentation. For example,
  • "When people leave my presentation they will know how to create a flow chart."
  • "When people leave my presentation they will agree to fund my project."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

So You Think You Can Write

Harlequin, the premier publisher of romance novels, provides several resources for authors as well as submission guidelines for each category of romance.

As I was wandering around my local Books-A-Million bookstore the other day, I accidentally passed into the romance aisle. There were hundreds of romance books available. Most, if not all of them, were all from the same publisher, Harlequin.

Harlequin was founded in 1949 and has been regularly turning out romantic fiction ever since. Harlequin publishes 110 titles per month.

Submission Guidelines

Unlike many publishers, which require agent representation in order to submit manuscripts, Harlequin welcomes manuscripts for any of its series. The Harlequin Submissions page contains a description of each series, the required documents to submit, and a general list of required elements for a story.

For the American Romance category, each story much reflect the following characteristics.

  • Central romance is driven by the hero's or heroine's (or both) desire to be a part of a family or community
  • Stories showcase the comforts of home and a sense of place – particularly the charm of small-town America and the ruggedness of western locales
  • Must be set in the USA
  • Western heroes and heroines are very popular – cowboys (ranchers, rodeo riders), law enforcement (sheriffs, deputies, Texas Rangers), etc
  • All stories must feature strong family elements such as pregnancy, young children, blended families, etc
  • Warmhearted stories offer a range of tones, from light humor to drama
  • Level of sensuality is low to moderate
  • Word count of 55,000 means stories must be fast-paced and plot-driven

Westerns and romance probably feature the most predictable plots. It's what the readers expect and want. The Longarm western series currently includes 436 titles. Like romance, each cover features similar images: Longarm with a gun, Longarm with a woman, and some other illustration suggestive of the plot.

So You Think You Can Write

In addition to publishing information, Harlequin has also created a website specifically for aspiring romance writers. So You Think You Can Write features contests, general advice, articles, and a blog.

Plot Points

I have collected a variety of books on storytelling techniques and the role of plot structure in writing and storytelling. I found the article Plot Points: How to outline your novel to be informative, both in terms of general approaches to plotting and some insight into what writing for romance looks like.

I have no plans to write a romance novel. However, if this is something you might be thinking about, definitely check out the free resources Harlequin offers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Massive List of Story Prompts, Part 2

This is the second post of lists of story prompts. Find a category and pick a work. Take a few minutes to recall a memory centered around the word. Write a story about what you remember or an incident you experienced.

In Part 1, I shared lists from several different sources I have compiled over the years. The lists in this post are from the book, The Healing Art of Storytelling by Richard Stone. From the back cover:

Over the years, television and other cultural forces have robbed us of storytelling as a tool for communicating, learning, and healing. Professional storyteller Richard Stone describes this crisis and its devastating effects and then offers a step-by-step guide for creating a storytelling tradition that we can use to transform our families, our friendships, and ourselves.

The House Tour+

  • The house tour - On a blank piece of paper, draw the floor plan of a house you grew up in.  Indicate where major pieces of furniture were placed, the location of windows and doors, and important features of the yard.  If more than one level, draw separate floor plans for each level.
  • Firsts - Think about things you did for the first time (driving, dating, etc.)
  • Funny things that have happened   
  • Sounds of childhood - noises (environmental), car sounds
  • Aromas of childhood - smells in the house, environmental/neighborhood smells
  • Music of youth   
  • Movie memories   
  • Family photo album   
  • School days - teachers, bullies, "special" students, favorite/least favorite subjects, vacations, grades, discussions at school
  • Turning points - Share one wonderful experience that changed the course of your life (move, job, having children, getting married, etc)