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Powerful Lessons to Become a Better Business Leader

Every month, Innovative Editing features a creative writer or non-fiction writer who caught its editorial eye. These authors can be self-published or traditionally published, Innovative Editing clients or outside recommendations.

But regardless, they stand out! If you think you do too, reach out right here.

This month, I’m featuring a creative and insightful author I got to work with last year. His now-published book, Enabling Joy: Your Calling as a Leader gives a refreshing new look at the topic of management.

What does it mean, and how is it best served? You might be exceptionally surprised – and inspired – by the answers.

February’s Author of the Month: Paul F. Armstrong

Genre: Business Non-Fiction and Fiction

Age Appropriate: All

Bio: Hi! I was raised in Delaware but have become a Pennsylvanian, living in Philly, the ‘Burg and now Lancaster. Even though I am an engineer and like being one, folks for years told me that my writing was conversationally unique. My three kids – all adults now – always took for granted that I’d write a book someday. Now I just need to figure out how to remember all the crazy creative stories I make up for my three grandkids so that I can get them onto colorful pages!

Jeannette: Enabling Joy is a largely fictional look at a non-fiction problem that faces every business leader out there: how to manage a team – well. Yet it approaches the idea in such a very unique way. How did you come up with the concept?

Paul: Okay, funny question since how I came up with this concept is really the plot of the book. If I told it all, well, gee, that’d be a spoiler!

Jeannette: Hey, nobody said an Innovative Editing interview was easy. But I think you’re up to the challenge.

Paul: Kidding aside, I tested the concept with talks at several industrial conferences and other venues, and it became clear to me that this concept of “enabling joy” answered a deep question in a fairly straightforward way. Enabling Joy is about leading, built on the assumption that the reader already has leadership traits. So it’s not a book about how to be a better person. It’s a guide on how to better aim your good intentions.

Jeannette: Ooh! I like that. Nice distinction. But what made you decide to present your message as a story instead of like every other business book out there?

Paul: The idea to explain a real solution in a fable format came to me after I realized that powerful lessons are best learned in parables. It also helped that I had written the no-nonsense, serious textbook version several times. And hated each of them. So, it really was, for me, a natural act.

I love analogies and allegories. I truly believe that great truths are best understood in stories that show how people wrestle with them, thus proving their foundational goodness.

Jeannette: Well, I think it was a great route to go. I read my fair share of business-minded books last year, and there are a lot that are too filled with pointless “feel good” fluff and a lot that are too filled with mind-numbing jargon. So the way you wrote yours stands out as a refreshing read.

As someone who was much more in a managed role before she started her own business, I really liked one particular moral you wove into Enabling Joy, and that was listening to employee concerns. That’s not to say employees are always right, but they do bring a valuable perspective.

Paul: Thanks for pointing that out, Jeannette, and I like that you used the word “moral.” The basis of the book is that there are two tasks we have when charged with getting people to do work: managing and leading. And just like managing should get to-do lists transformed into beautiful products and services, leading should transform people from being mere resources into joyful beings.

If, at the end of the day, all I can say as a manager is that I got 100 people to get a job done, that’s sad. Leading is really about making life transformative for each person: transforming misery into joy, meaninglessness into purpose, malaise into creativity, and irrelevance into participatory contribution. If you want to do that as a leader, it is absolutely critical to have the humility to openly listen to what people say, do and feel.

As the book says, “The message had been loud and clear… They were just using a different form of communication… They were telling her with their feet.”

But my question to you, Jeannette… As your own boss, do you manage or lead yourself? My guess is that you know the answer by who shows up at supper? Joyful Jeannette?

Jeannette: Way to turn the interview back on the interviewer there! That’s awesome. But yes, joyful Jeannette almost always shows up at supper after running Innovative Editing for the day. It’s such a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor getting to interact with authors-in-the-making and authors like you!

For you readers out there, this really is a genuinely intriguing and worthwhile perspective to consider, regardless of where you fall on the corporate ladder. Paul, your book has a whole lot of fascinating takeaways to it that I don’t want to spoil. But what impression would you most like readers to come away with after reading Enabling Joy?

Paul: When you have a leadership role – and lots of us do – but you’re not the actual boss, consider that role as a calling. Segregate the work-managing part of what you do from the people-leading part. Make a difference not just in the job but also in the lives of those you lead by helping them to live with joy.

When it’s all said and done, I hope that those you lead will be able to say, “Joy to my world; my boss is come.” Jeannette: Back to our readers for a second, if that sounds crazy, you have got to buy this book. I’m telling you. Paul does a very convincing job of bringing that and so many other fascinating considerations to light.

Paul, since most Innovative Editing readers are writers as well, let’s talk a bit about the pre-publishing process for a minute. What was your favorite and least favorite part?

Paul: My favorite part was definitely the writing and the excitement. Interestingly, I enjoyed the editing process. And that was after this crazy editor of mine made over 10,000 edits!!!!

Jeannette: Ha! In that editor’s defense, she also complimented you to high heaven throughout the process – as well deserved!

But please. Continue.

Paul: It was such neat way to see how others saw what I was trying to communicate and assisted me in communicating it better. That included how some parts of the plot that were so obvious to me were completely hidden to others.

I also loved using What a thrilling ride to get a professional cover design! I wasn’t too crazy about the tedious formatting, but even that was a neat visual of how a drab Word document slowly became a professional, published book.

Jeannette: Yeah, formatting can definitely be one of those areas I find myself wishing I had a traditional publishing team to help me out on. But we’re self-published authors, which means we get to be jack-of-all-trades instead. It’s character building, I’m sure.

And you’re right that it is pretty amazing being able to look at the progress you’ve made.

Of course, once you’re done with formatting, then it’s on to publishing and marketing. Do you have a marketing strategy or are you taking it one day at a time?

Paul: Why yes, I do have a strategy. It’s called “one day at a time.”

Just kidding. I’m taking it a week at a time. Truly. I used three of the five days that Kindle allows for free downloads, hoping that folks would honor my request to put reviews online. (Two months later, none have…)

I plan to use the other two when I release my Audible version. The book is part of my business, so it’s mentioned in my blog a lot. I also reached out to some big-time authors to see if they’d endorse it, and I’m now the proud owner of rejection letters from big-time authors.

So I’m now working on setting up appointments with college business departments, local libraries and bookstores, as well as having some lunchtime workshops downtown.

Jeannette: I’m impressed twice over with that response, number one because you admitted what didn’t work. Let’s face it: That isn’t always the most fun topic to talk about. But you also haven’t taken no for an answer, just as a detour. Which is precisely what self-published authors – or any authors, really – need to do.

Publishing a book is such a powerful experience, in part because it gives us so many opportunities to grow.

On that note, is there anything else you’d like to let Innovative Editing’s audience know before I show them where they can get their copy of Enabling Joy?

Paul: The old advice to write what you know was very apropos for me. I also found help from a piece of advice that said to “write four lousy pages every day.” That got me away from worrying about making it perfect right out of the gate.

Jeannette: So true!

Paul: Thirdly, I do have to say that finding Innovative Editing was truly providential (that’s another story!), as I had no idea where to find an editor. But don’t EVER publish a book without professional editing. Otherwise, you’ll never know to include the visual “steepled her fingers.”

Go enable joy for others!

Jeannette: Indeed! Everyone, you can find Paul’s breakthrough management study, Enabling Joy, on Amazon. And you can learn more about Paul himself at:

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