Niagara Gazette

October 2, 2013

Wedded wordsmiths work to change their world

By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It’s fairly unusual to have two authors living in the same house.

It’s even more unusual to have both with books on best-seller lists.

But, Claire and Richard Knowles of Lewiston are doing just that, using Claire’s maketing skills to help rocket two of her books and two of his onto Amazon best-seller lists.

The pair are experts in their own right on matters of business and professional development. Richard’s first book, “The Leadership Dance,” is about his experience as the general manager of several DuPont plants, including the one in Niagara Falls. The book details how he was able to come into the plants and make extraordinary positive changes in staff communication, plant safety and cost cutting.

That book chronicles his creation of a process he says “enables people to solve complex problems” while building the networks, and releasing the emotional energy and commitment to quickly accomplish the challenges ahead of them. 

His second book, “Partnering for Safety and Business Excellence,” is designed to help leaders go beyond compliance and achieve safety excellence.

Claire, worked 29 years in human resources and labor relations at the DuPont plant in Niagara Falls before retiring in 2000.  Her books are also about change, personally and professionalism. 

“Can You See Them Now?” is about all the so-called “elephants in our midst,” which is how some describe the big issues people refuse to face, personally and professionally.

Her other book, “Lights On: A Reflective Journey,” is more about personal growth. 

Collectively their four books just recently hit the best-seller lists on Richard’s book “The Leadership Dance,” hit the top spot among business books.

“I think that the underlying issue of all our books has to do with the whole issue of leadership,” Claire said.

The two of them, who besides providing professional business counsel present seminars both solo and as a pair, work as a team even in conversation, playing off each other, strengthening each other’s statements and complimenting each other.

“I always tell him he’s a man ahead of his time,” Claire said.

Claire said that the books hit the lists one at a time, due, in part to her grass-roots marketing efforts, contacting professional and personal supporters and asking them to buy the books.  

“She’s really good,” said Richard of his wife’s marketing skills. 

“That is the power of social media networking,” Claire replied.

Part of what moves Claire to promote Richard’s book in her belief in his theories of business change, which Richard calls “The Process Enneagram,” which was created through his struggle to create order in the chaos of disfunctional manufacturing and industrial systems. 

“When you put a nice group of people together in an organization, things get messed up,” explained Richard. Oddly enough, he added, within that mess, a crisis will create order.  

“When you have a crisis, that same group of people become a high-performance team.”

He recalled when a fire occurred in DuPont’s New Jersey plant. 

“During that process people were extraordinary, helping each other, working together,” he said.

His goal has long been to create business practices that help create and maintain that level of high-functioning behavior without the crisis. 

He learned that management practices he was developing intuitively had actual business theory behind them. These days, he teaches those practices — which at one plant reduced injuries by 97 percent and cranked earnings by 300 percent —  and his work takes him around the world, especially to Australia and New Zealand. 

Claire joins him often, but also teaches her own life-enhancement practices, such as the workshop she’s giving at the Xerox women’s alliance later this fall.

Former Niagara Falls mayor Irene Elia has work with both Claire and Richard. 

“They’re both exceptional people,” she said. “They believe in bringing out the best in people.”

As such, their lives seem to reflect their written work.

“Regular people can do extraordinary stuff,” Richard said. “And it’s really a wonderful thing to see it happen.”