A few years ago I wrote in my blog – In Black and White blog: Are you developing business by optimism and serendipity? Here was some of the insights I shared with readers to develop business with intention and strategy.
Increasing your Credibility: Where can you give speeches to reach your prospective clients or referral sources? What articles would your potential clients be interested in reading?
Increasing your Visibility: Can your potential clients find out about you through the Internet? Do your referral sources see you regularly at bar or industry events? Do you stay in touch with your friends, colleagues and classmates?
A former client who now lives in Tampa, Kelly Charles-Collins took this to heart and has increased her visibility and credibility that differentiates her from her colleagues. She has written a book and given a TEDx Talk. I ran across her TEDx Talk and reached out to congratulate her. I had a thousand questions and I’m delighted to share some of her answers with you.
Kelly, would you tell my readers a bit about your expertise.
I am a Speaker, Attorney, Author, Trainer, Consultant and Coach. For over 20 years as an employment attorney and MBA, I have guided hundreds of organizations – from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies – to discover the hidden truths about their workplace so they can create diverse, inclusive and harmonious cultures and minimize legal risk. Also, as the CEO of HR Legally Speaking, a Professional Speaking, Training and Consulting company I help organizations integrate the “Discipline of Trust,”TM the essential framework of unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion, corporate culture and bystander intervention. I am also an Arbitrator on the AAA’s Commercial and Employment Law Panels and a University level educator on Human Resources and Employment Law. My new book ACE Your Workplace Investigations: A Step-by-Step Guide for Avoiding Friction, Covering Your Assets, and Earning Employee Trust is available on Amazon.
What made you decide to write the book?
I always remembered the question you once asked: Are you developing business by optimism and serendipity? So, I was very intentional.
As an employment attorney, I personally conduct internal investigations and litigate cases that have been investigated internally by my clients. What I have learned over the years is that many people who are conducting workplace investigations lack the necessary skills to do so effectively. But I know that skills can be taught and learned. The bigger issue is the mindset of those conducting the investigations and/or the owners and executive management teams. The #METOO movement uncovered the hidden truths about why people don’t report issues at work: fear of retaliation and futility. This correlates with the mindset of many organizations that view workplace investigations as a waste of time, resources, money and essentially as a CYA tool.
I wrote my book to address this friction and reframe the way businesses, HR professionals, management and employees think about workplace investigations ─from reactive to proactive – focusing on the benefits rather than the burdens. I want them to embrace investigations as an opportunity to uncover what is going on in their business, affecting employee productivity, eroding employee trust, and ultimately, affecting their bottom line. My book is a way to leverage my expertise as a practical tool to help them do just that.
How did you fit it into your busy schedule?
I’m very adept at moving from vision to execution. We make time for the things we really want to do. Writing this book was something I really wanted to do. When I got home in the evenings and on weekends, I fired up my laptop and got to work. Some sleepless nights but worth every minute.
What was your process and how long did it take you?
I developed the framework by repurposing content from my years of training clients. I then analyzed questions I’d been asked, information from the #METOO movement, and the ultimate message I wanted to convey. I also researched the market to ensure I was providing a fresh perspective. I outlined the chapters and wrote about whatever came to my mind that day. I did what felt right for me. I wrote my book just the way I live my life – intentionally, with purpose and unburdened by others’ rules or expectations.
From concept to publishing, approximately 8 months. I chronicled my journey in my blog – Villages Aren’t Just for Kids: My Journey to Becoming a Published Author.
When did you realize that a TEDx Talk would be a good vehicle to reinforce your credibility and gain exposure for your book?
Being a published author and a TEDx Speaker provide a level of authoritativeness and expertise that other “marketing” vehicles might not. But like with everything, just “being “is not enough. You must work diligently and consistently to leverage these vehicles to your advantage. The key is finding ways to make your expertise scalable. For example, I have developed a bystander intervention training program “bySTANDer free zone” based on my TEDx. This training is essential for organizations, schools, and universities that want to create a culture of action takers. This training is also essential for women, particularly in our male-dominated profession.
How did you get accepted and how did you prepare?
I worked with my coach, Soness Stevens, a TED and TEDx alumni and also with a local coach assigned by TEDx Ocala. Soness and I worked through her proprietary process to develop my talk on the Bystander Effect. We collaborated on my application and audition video. Once I was selected, we collaborated for several months to expand my 2.5-minute audition video into a 13-minute talk. Soness lives in Japan so we had some very long, late night Zoom calls. In between those calls, I had homework, including developing new ideas for the talk, practicing the talk for live audiences, and creating practice videos for her feedback. She taught me the art of synthesizing information into compact, but impactful statements and how to effectively deliver those ideas.
How you present a TED style talk is unique. As attorneys we advocate, argue, and advise. But at TED, you share ideas to enlighten, explore and encourage. It’s hard to explain the distinction in words but it’s so clear when you hear it. Soness’ coaching was invaluable. The morning of the talk, I was so sick – terrible cold and throwing up. But I was not nervous at all. I was so well prepared that I knew if I had 15 good minutes, I could nail it. And if I can brag a little, I nailed it. I encourage people to go to YouTube and watch the video and share with others.
What advice would you give lawyers who want to do the same – write a book and/or give a TEDx Talk?
Be prepared to do the work. If you are not willing or able to invest the time, energy and money, don’t do it. I believe that whatever I put my name on has to be the best reflection of me. Therefore, once I’m in, I’m all in.
What’s next for you?
I will be launching my “bySTANDer free zone” program and merchandise line. I’m also researching the issue of “trust.” My background and experience have taught me that trust is the foundation of everything. But maybe that’s not true for everyone. To test that theory, I have created a quick 13 question survey to learn how others feel. I would love to hear from your readers. They can complete the survey here – Trust survey link
My findings will be used for training clients and to provide them tools for developing and maintaining trust in their organizations and relationships. And since I’m always doing something, it will probably end up in a book of some sort. Stay tuned.
As you can see, Kelly has increased her credibility and visibility. She is focused on business development with intension and has differentiated herself in a unique way that is relevant and timely. You my friend could do the same!
A left brain/right brain lawyer, Kelly Charles-Collins is an analytical free-spirit. Kelly is as real as it gets – a true “salt of the earth.” Unafraid to share her own challenges and triumphs, Kelly gives you the good, bad, and ugly. Kelly’s mission is to be the light for others — revealing their passion, purpose, and greatness. A true believer in legacy building, Kelly guides organizations –small businesses to Fortune 100 companies – to discover the hidden truths about their workplace. An employment attorney with over 20 years of experience, Kelly guides organizations to nurture trust and respect so they can create diverse, inclusive, and harmonious cultures that deliver results.But she’s not just an attorney, Kelly is a skilled public speaker, author, consultant, and HR expert. Kelly’s book ACE Your Workplace Investigations: A Step-by-Step Guide for Avoiding Friction, Covering Your Assets, and Earning Employee Trust, is available on Amazon or at www.kellycharlescollins.com.