Category Archives: Effective Communication

Image is Everything

While at the gym last weekend, I had an interesting conversation with a friend. He said he will turn 50 in two years; and he plans to fight like tooth and nail before he gives into this age thing. What?!!! No, no, no, no, was my response! We have got to stop perpetuating an image of our middle and senior years as a time when we become less beautiful, less strong, and less able to make an impact on the world. I am a loving, fit and attractive woman, who is flying like an eagle into my 50th year.  That’s the image of the prime of our lives that I want the world to see.

I believe if as middle-aged individuals we choose to project a positive image of ourselves, those who are coming up behind us would be less likely to fear growing older, and more likely to be the fun energetic beings we truly are. We choose the image we create.

Baby boomers in North America have the highest net worth of  any group, and thus are a powerful market force.  And whether we will admit it or not, many of us have lots of money to spend, and enjoy the best in life. Yet most businesses tend to use images in their marketing that appeal to the younger generations. And I can’t blame them. It is not unusual to hear many of us once we reach 35 or 40 say things like: I’m getting old, I am too tired, I am getting fat, or I don’t have fun anymore. We need an image makeover.

I want to spread the image of positive, energetic, uplifting boomers like me, as well as those in their 30’s and 40’s, entering that wonderful prime of life. That is the image behind my website CrownCore Technologies. We build positive web images that say: boomers are exciting; boomers want quality; boomers are fun. And, boomers have the resources that demand the best. Reflecting an image of ourselves embracing and loving our age means everything. Most of all we become what we project – we become happier, healthier and joy-filled people.

Developing an Appealing Online Image

CrownCore develops images to appeal to target markets. We create websites and logos that builds positive images and attract people.

Do you have a website, social media presence, or bio online? Has any articles being written by you, about you, or which mentions you. In this day and age, having an online presence is a definite must, for almost all business and most professionals.

With every web presence, comes an image. Here are some tips used by crowncore.com to develop images, which capture positive consumer perception, as well as tell people who you are, what you are about and what you stand for.

  1. Make sure your website says quality by its look and written content. Ensure it has great design which appeals to your unique audience. Make sure the colours, fonts, images, and content says to your target market that you know them and you care about them.
  2. Write a great bio, which emphasizes your uniqueness, strengths, and shows interest in your target market.
  3. Get a professional logo reflecting the quality and look you want for your business or yourself; a logo that represents your personal brand.
  4. Get a good headshot that represents your professional self, one that shows you off as attractive and inviting to the people you want to appeal to.
  5. Ensure you have good content, which is valued by your target audience and projects a caring image. For example, persons with disability could be offered more information on how to find accessible services on the net; and the information could be presented in large fonts to accommodate the visually impaired.
  6. Make certain anything you write is of great quality, simple, clear, lacks errors and is grammar free.  This reflects professionalism, quality, and inspires people to take you seriously.
  7. Show how your products and services benefit your target consumer. Have a blog, talk about what you have to offer on social media sites, and respond to people’s needs. Most importantly, freely give what you know. Create an image of yourself as a giver. People like to give to those who give to them.

Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

"Randy" Pausch (October 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008). At his last lecture, he looked his impending death in the face and joyous spoke of accomplishing our dreams.

A friend sent me a  great link to 12 Dozen Places to Educate Yourself for Free. This site has some good resources from a host of top-notch sources, including some of America’s best universities. It is filled with lectures and other post-secondary resources, which is particularly good for the academics among us. Me, I am particularly interested in gut-wrenching resources that push us to work hard to be the best of ourselves; and I found that too.

I came upon iTunes U (university), and found some real gems. In particular, my heart exploded as I watched the last lecture by the late Randy Pausch, several months before he was to die of Pancreatic Cancer. He was funny, he was explosive and he powerfully demonstrated what it meant to really live. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In the lecture, he used his life as an example of what it is to not only go after and achieve our dreams, but also to help others achieve theirs. If you haven’t already seen this impactful video, I invite you to watch it now.

Much gratitude for the memory of Randy Pausch, and the privilege of being touched by his dreams. He demonstrated what it is to live powerfully in the moment – not focusing on yesterday’s pains or tomorrow’s gains. He reminded me that my energy and joy is not an expression of denial of any reality (his cancer or the effects of my stroke). It is instead a celebration of living in my dream, and contributing to the dreams of others. Life is not infinite for any of us. Yet if we live each day, focusing on each moment as an opportunity to add to our gift to the world, then a part of us becomes immortal.

Show Me You Know Me Marketing

Have you ever done something with good intentions, only to find out that people are seriously offended? That is a big issue for people and businesses in our increasingly interconnected world.  

Let’s take Nike as an example. In 2004, it’s “Chamber of Fear” commercial was banned by the State Administration of Radio, TV and Film in China, for insulting Chinese culture. The commercial, which borrowed from the ideas in Bruce’s Lee’s movies and video games, shows NBA star LeBron James combatting temptations. The problem is that these temptations were in the form of Chinese people and symbols of China like dragons, which are sacred to the Chinese culture. Check out the commercial.

Do you think the Chinese Government and some Chinese people cared that Nike and its advertisers did not mean to be offensive? The backlash happened because Nike advertisers didn’t do their homework. They made a big marketing error of not showing their target audience that they knew them.

In the same way, how many people are we potentially excluding from our social media or marketing efforts? For example, are we considering the culture of persons with disabilities, of which there are over 4.5 million in Canada and 50 million in the U.S.? What about the foreign-born population, representing 7 million in Canada and 40 million in the U.S.? Do we know what they need and how they feel about what we are saying or what we have to offer?  In our social media or marketing efforts, are we showing diverse people that we know them?

These days there is a lot of focus on customer relationship management (CRM). What may be equally or more important is what I call Diverse People Relationship Management (DPRM). This could prove a crucial factor when dealing with content management for our social media, websites, and other initiatives. To get people to give us their attention, we need to show them we know who they are.

Copyright © 2011 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

Reclaiming the Voice Inside Us

Have you ever followed a rule or incentive of a company you worked for, even though your inner wisdom said it wasn’t right? I would sure like to hear from anyone who could definitively say no! In fact, I think many of us have worked in organizations where we chose to put aside our wisdom, every single day, to follow questionable requirements of a manager or corporation.

At the recommendation of a friend, I watched a talk (shown below) on this subject, by Barry Schwartz, posted at TED.com. The talk was titled “The Loss of Wisdom.”  Just a few minutes after starting this video, I knew he was talking about what almost killed me, what kills a lot of us. He was talking about the rules and incentives which bind us, which sometimes prevent us from doing what we know is moral and right.

Let me give you an example. A few years ago, I worked for a top corporation. It was great, until a new manager was bolted in from Scotland. She explained that everything had to be done her way! I was required to do training on topics I had no interest in or knowledge about. As a team leader, I saw that we were all being deflated by this dictatorial style of management. I knew this was not the way to give the best quality services to our clients or to the organization.  Yet I did nothing. I feared losing my job. So, I followed the rules, and complained behind my manager’s back.  I stopped paying attention to the good that my organization represented. I gave up on my commitment to do the right thing for the right reasons. 

I recommend you watch this very provocative talk by Schwartz. In the event you have problems playing it, just go to Ted.com and search for it. If you are unable to watch it right now, you can continue the article below and watch the video later.

As said by Schwartz at the end of the video, “this type of wisdom [the right thing at the right time, for the right reasons] is within the grasp of each and every one of us, if only we start paying attention. Paying attention to what we do, to how we do it, and perhaps most importantly, to the structure of the organization within which we work, so as to make sure that it enables us and other people to develop wisdom, rather than having it suppressed.”

As an HR professional, I see countless people give up on their wisdom – and even forget they have it. They just do whatever they are told, without motivation and energy.

I am totally committed to reclaiming my virtue, my wisdom. I therefore decided that I would no longer bury the person inside of me, the woman who has to speak up for what is right, who has to follow my sometimes very strange creative wisdom. For years I have tried to give much of myself to help people use technology to enhance their learning; but my commitment was not the commitment of the organizations I worked for. Yet that wisdom inside could not lose sight of that goal. So as soon as I was given the go ahead to work, following the stroke, I submitted a proposal to the government for the development of a business focused on web-based learning and information services. I did not meet all the qualifications for the program, but my spirit said to apply anyway. I surprisingly got in. I have being following the voice inside me (my inner wisdom) and it’s paying off big time!

I work for myself, so I can more easily be committed to honoring my wisdom and follow rules only if it is the right thing to do. What about your business, job or life? Can you be true to your virtue, even if rules require you to do something else? Is there a risk in holding steadfast to what you know is true inside?

What Are You Wired To Do

For some time, I have doubted that God wanted to use my tragedy, joy, resilience, and miraculous healing, to say something to the world. A little voice in me kept heckling. ‘Who the heck are you? You are just an egotistical woman who really has nothing to offer. And watch this God stuff, you’ll turn people off.’ Until just recently, I could not totally embrace that I am here to champion our ability (my ability) to overcome the worst we are faced with, and allow ourselves to rise above our circumstances.

I know today, what I didn’t fully know last week. It is our innate talents that links us to our purpose and gives us the passion to do what we are compelled to do in this world. My skills as an information specialist and a trainer, are not really who I am. They were developed through education and experience. But what are innate talents? How were we wired before we were even born? What are the gifts we yearn to share, ever single day of our life?

I didn’t learn to be a writer and speaker – these qualities were evident as long as I could remember. Also I have pretty much always had a positive attitude and believed that I, we all, can achieve whatever we put our minds. I believe so forcefully that I see all kinds of creative ways of achieving extraordinary things – like coming back from a stroke that took my voice, body and even my thoughts. In fact, the stroke is my greatest gift. As a result, I see myself owning my innate gifts and joyously sharing all the good I can with you, with the world. I falter only when I allow doubt to creep upon me like a poisonous snake. 

Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book ‘Purpose Driven Life’  speaks about using our talents or gifts to do good?  We can recognize our talents by knowing what he terms ‘what’s in your hand.’ As an example, he used the biblical story of Moses, who carried a staff in his hand. Moses just had to put it down, and God performed great miracles though his staff.

My communication skills, motivation and creativity are in my hand. I now choose, without doubt, to put it down, and let God work through me. What’s in your hand?

I recommend you watch the following talk by Rick Warren about using our talents and influence to do good. The video is 21 minutes. Try to watch the whole thing. For me it was especially powerful towards the end when Rick began speaking about ‘what’s in your hand’ – what are you wired to do. The video had a tremendous impact on me. What about you?

Getting Others to Support You

Soon after I was disabled, my confidence went flat like a deflated balloon. No one seemed to think I was important or worth listening to. When discussing my health, many people (doctors, social workers, friends, etc.) treated me like a dumb pet that couldn’t think. They would not seriously listen to me. They listened and communicated with my mother. It was as though I was incapable of understanding or adding value to a conversation.  I noticed for the first time what little importance was placed on the disabled. However, those who did listen to me gave me the support I needed to gain confidence and see remarkable healing in my body. They are the type of people I (and other sometimes disadvantaged member of society, such as persons with disabilities, seniors, immigrants, etc.) will always support; whether they need customers, listeners, help or just a friend. Could you use more contacts and supporters? Learning to listen to everyone with the whole body is a great start.

So how do we listen with our bodies, and show people what they are saying is important to us? One way is to clearly display that we are paying attention use Attending Skills. Attending, according to Robert Bolton, is having a posture that displays involvement and alertness in a relaxed way. There are several things we can do with our bodies to help us pay attention and display to the speaker we are paying attention. Here are six.

These are much easier said than done.  But it is worth it. Non-verbally saying to someone who is speaking that you are listening and you find what is being said important, can tremendously influence your success in life.

 

 

 

 

 

Are You an 18 Second Listener?

Do some people only listen to you for 18 seconds, before they interrupt? Are you an 18 second leader or boss?  You may be surprised at the answer. Here is what renowned management guru, Tom Peters, has to say. 

As Tom Peters states in the video, “the single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization.  Strategic listening to front line employees, strategic listening to vendors, to customers…..”

It is not just about what we do in our organizations or businesses. It is about what we do everywhere. For example, when I did Aerobics, I would place myself in the front of the class, listening to and following the instructor like he or she was a master of exercise. When they spoke, my body indicated my respect and appreciation of their every word and move. As a result, many began to see me as a colleague and focus a lot of their attention on me.  When we really listen to people, it gives them energy and motivation. They intern gravitate to us, because they need that support and inspiration.

In the next few week, I will be presenting some skills which show that being a really good listener is an intricate  skill that most of us (including me) do not have and absolutely need to learn. The focus will be on Robert Bolton’s description of 3 clusters of listening skills:

  • Attending Skills
  • Following Skills
  • Reflecting Skills

Like becoming a  superstar athlete or getting  a degree as a  medical doctor, it takes a tremendous effort to develop the required skills. We don’t just say I am a good listener, manager or friend and it is so. We must know how to put our mind and body, as well as our very awareness of our environment, into our communication, if we want to be master listeners. The resulting benefits can overwhelming impact our professional and personal goals.

Next week, I will provide details for the understanding and development of our Attending Skills. The other two will be covered in subsequent weeks. In the mean time, let me know if you have any questions, issues or scenarios you would like to see covered.

Copyright © 2011 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

Listen to Yourself: Own Only What is Yours

In 2001 I went to the International Black Summit  that was held in Memphis Tennessee. As participants, we were working on developing ourselves,  so we could be a better contribution to our community and the world.  That year we were living in the question, “what is available by consciously owning all that I create.”

I struggled with the understanding that my words, behaviours and actions were creating the life that I had. I saw other people as preventing me from being all I could be. Afterall, I was a fairly intelligent and well-educated woman.

With great frustration, I shared with my Summit colleagues that my boss had told me that I was too detailed and I would never get promoted in that organization. I may not have said it, but I really felt I wasn’t good enough.

One female participant told me over and over again, in a chastising manner (it seemed to me), that I was too detailed and too analytical. It was happening again. Someone was putting me down, and holding me back. I couldn’t stand her. She frustrated me to no end. I had to talk to a facilitator about her. The facilitator said to me, “consider that what she is communicating may not be all about you. Consider that she is telling you about herself. Only you can make it about you. Only you can own all that she is saying.” A glaring light bulb went on.

I was certainly detailed and analytical! I owned that. The perception that these were negative traits I did not create, and believing it, was causing me to foster the creation of negative things in my life. Those negative perceptions were not about me. I would not own them.

From then on, whenever the participant said I was detailed and analytical, I would proudly say, “yes, and I am ok with that.”  Once my trigger was gone, I could hear that she was very much like me, detailed and analytical, and she was not ok with it! I became a listening for her and all the issues she was dealing with at home. 

I went back to work owning my detailed nature, and seeing it as a wonderful blessing. I got the promotion my boss said I would not likely have!

So whenever anyone speaks to you about you, consider taking time to listen to yourself and ask if this is truly you. Then accept and own all that is you, and let go of all that is not. Knowing that with the latter, someone is telling you something about himself/herself. This provides a great opportunity to listen to and for others.

Copyright © 2011 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

Communication Spoilers

This article is about knowing what we don’t know about ourselves. Is is not about telling, training, or doing. It is about learning more about who we are being in our communication with each other.

Most people, I communicated with admitted that they are at the stage of “Unconscious Incompetence” on Maslow’s 4 stages of learning, when it comes to many things. Me too, each day, I discover that I don’t know what I don’t know about people. I don’t know what I don’t know about you, why you read this blog, what motivates you, and how I can be the best support to you in living your best life.

How conscious are we of what we don’t know about our communication spoilers? Do we draw people to us, or do we unknowingly push them away?  Robert Bolton, in his book People Skills, outlined the “dirty dozen” of communication spoilers, devised by Thomas Gordon. Can you see yourself in any of these?

  1. Criticizing – a negative evaluation of someone’s actions. Example – I do not think it was a good idea to put him on the team.
  2. Name Calling – Putting someone down or stereotyping their behaviour. Example – You take things too seriously. You are too emotional. You need to develop a thick skin.
  3. Diagnosing – Analyzing someone’s behaviour. Example – You think you are o.k. with his behaviour, but I know you are angry.
  4. Praising Evaluatively – Making a positive judgement of a person, their actions, or their attitudes. Example – Ask Dawn, she great. She never says no, she’ll do it.
  5. Commanding – Telling someone, in a commanding way to do something. Example – I want no comments. Just do it the way I said.
  6. Threatening – Trying to control someone’s actions by warning of negative consequence, if things are not done as desired. Example – Get the work done or we are going to lose business.
  7. Moralizing – Telling or preaching to another person, about the right thing to do. Example – You should not accept that contract. The company breaks all kinds of environmental laws.
  8. Excessive/Inappropriate Questioning – Asking a lot closed-ended questions or ones requiring short, simple answers. Example – Is the business doing well, do you makes good money, how many clients do you have, are they loyal, etc.
  9. Advising – Giving people what you think is the best solution. Example – This is the best one to choose for your situation.
  10. Diverting – Pushing the other person’s concern aside, by switching to another subject. Example – Let’s talk about something else.
  11. Logical Argument – Trying to convince another person by focusing on facts, without emphasis on emotional issues. Example – It’s the best for your business; it’s cost-effective, good quality, and a standard in the industry.
  12. Reassuring – Trying to bring someone away from the negative emotion they are feeling. Example – Losing your job is a blessing in disguise. Now you can find a new job that uses all your great skills, and which pays a lot of money.

So you, like me, may be guilty of a few of these. Maybe we don’t even do them all that often. And we mean well. So what?

Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.