Interview with an Author: Ba to Boardroom with No BS
How do you turn a bachelor’s degree into a top executive position? It takes skills. Chris Wilson who has had top jobs at high profile companies including Scudder and Bank of America has written a practical guide to developing those them. In BA to Boardroom with no BS, Chris, who now serves on several boards, gives a rare behind-the-scenes look at how he used those skills to climb the corporate ladder.
I had the privilege of working with Chris to develop his ideas and edit the book and recently asked him to share his insights for other writers.
What inspired you to write this book?
I started looking at the many challenges people entering the workforce face today like global competition, less job security and how quickly industries changed and began to wonder how they would gain the confidence to compete, especially the large group of people with liberal arts degrees like myself. I wanted to find ways to use what I had learned over my career to not only give people motivation but to provide real improvement opportunities for them. My focus on building skills over my career helped me navigate a rapidly growing industry and face the challenges that were presented to me. Having coached these skills for years with hundreds of people, I decided to begin documenting the ideas and techniques. I am truly blessed with an amazingly talented spouse (and author) who started to question me about my writing. She made me think about how to create a way to illustrate the skills in action and the basic book was born. Parts of the book also stem from my parenting of my daughters. I used to tease them that they had the full extent of my wisdom if they could remember three phrases – positive attitude, best effort and listen. They used to recite that on command then roll their eyes. So the book draws from both parts of my life.
What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
You know the writing of the core content came very quickly and easily for me. The challenge was to stay focused on the editing piece and really listen to the feedback without taking my writing deficiencies personally. I found that I had writing “tics” just like one has verbal “tics”. I got in the mode of really laughing at myself when I started to see them on paper rather than being embarrassed. Writing is very revealing and you really need to put yourself out there to make your work the best it can be. Find an editor with a direct (and hopefully kind) approach and listen to the feedback. there is no question that our own self protection is the biggest obstacle. In my case, I wanted the book to be helpful and live up to its title. While I had good ideas, presenting them succinctly was a challenge that I needed help working on.
What part was easier than you expected?
The writing of the work. Fortunately, I had a five week stretch where I had time to dedicate to it. I was away from my normal routine and was able to focus and write. I happened to be in a warm sunny place that was conducive to a great demeanor and that helped. I also had a good deal of encouragement from my wife and that really helped. But I did enjoy writing the stories and documenting what I had learned over 30 years. I expected that to be harder than it was but it was an unfinished shell as I would later learn.
When it comes to writing, what is your work style?
I always start by building a framework. I outline the idea as a whole and the start to fill it in with more detail. I am a big believer in seeing the macro picture as a way to formulate your thoughts about the detail underneath. Obviously this is easier for non -fiction works, but I do think it holds true for any writing. I need to look at the whole project to leave room for inspiration. Once you start writing details, your mind naturally becomes more narrowly focused and can’t dream as easily. While not for everyone, a beer at sunset with a keyboard in hand on an island was the place I dreamed up the framework for the book. I wrote it on planes, in my office at home and on couches in various places we traveled but the inspiration and vision for the book was created in a very beautiful, inspirational spot.
What advice do you have for someone thinking of writing a book?
You are asking a pragmatist! Having said that, I do believe you should have a purpose for writing it. My wife’s second book we have classified as “fiction with a purpose” because it is a story that tries to make the reader think as well as read a great story. With non-fiction, there needs to be a purpose, fiction I think it helps but accept that it can be simply for creative outlet. Other than that, write the book in its entirety before going back to edit. Find a great editor and dig in hard. Go through a first round and the step away from the book for a week or two. Then another and another. Be sure to step away from it each time to refresh your ability to look at your work critically each time. I am a believer in working through the process until complete and found that I hit a point where I was done and knew it. Writing a good book is hard work and just don’t assume that once you have written it initially it is done, you are really just starting.
BA to Boardroom with No BS is available on Amazon or through the author’s website. For a 20 percent discount, use the code G4W6ZS9W