Showing posts from 2018

Is criticism is a threat to survival?

Whether you have the formal title of manager or not, you will give and receive lots of feedback during your career. If you're like a lot of people, you have a difficult time doing either. Certainly, receiving feedback often stimulates our fight-or-flight impulse.

Does it have to be this way? Is criticism really a threat to our survival?

Of course not! That would be silly.

Our brains are, however, wired to see criticism as a potential threat and it is this underlaying fear that makes receiving feedback so difficult to take.

Feedback is also very hard to give. No one wants to be the difficult boss or cranky colleague. (Unless you already are, in which case, you are likely oblivious and that's a whole other post!)

Here's how to do it effectively.

When giving feedback:

Be timely. There is no point in offering constructive criticism when it's too late for anything to be done about it. Be clear. Don't use waffly terms that leave your colleagues scratching their heads, wo…

The risky proposition of not knowing your key message

Communication people spend a lot (A LOT) of time talking about key messages, writing key messages, and coaching clients how to use key messages.

Why all the bother about a simple statement?

Because if you do this one thing well, people (read: clients, customers, staff, your kids) will remember the crux of what you're talking about. Do it poorly, and they remember nothing -- or, perhaps worse, the wrong thing.

The thing about memory that has been shown to be true is that it's a patchwork at best. We may remember bits and pieces of different events and cobble them together to create inexact recollections.

We often remember bad things as being more significant than they were (Like that old performance review when the boss said lots of nice things, but you've focused on the one area she said needed improvement.) and tend to remember those things that struck an emotional cord over things that don't.

When we deliver a lot of information, we're asking people to decipher …

1 little adjective

We've talked about branding on this blog a number of times. Today, I'd like to tackle it from a different perspective.

We know that people have crummy memories, right? If you tell your kids to do five things, you're lucky if they'll remember two. Whenever you go to the grocery store to pick up a few things, how many times do you return home without the most-needed item?

That's why communication folks say to only have one to three key messages and to repeat them over and over. People will remember very little of what you tell them; I've read that words account for as little as seven per cent of the impact of a presentation, for example.

So, what's the one thing -- the ONE thing -- you want people to remember about you? The one thing you want them to tell others about you?

That you were helpful? Professional? Friendly? Expert? Inspiring?

Have a look at these adjectives. Think of these as a jumping off point and use other words if these don't do it.


Friends of The Spire: Proof that a small group can make a big difference

We love our clients and like to promote the great work they do in our city. We became involved with Friends of The Spire in 2017 and are delighted to share with you the success the group has had in renovating and reinvigorating a welcoming (and affordable!) space for nonprofits and community groups in Kingston.

Where do nonprofit organizations and community groups find affordable and safe space for assembly, celebration, reflection and social action?
For some, that place is The Spire. And Friends of The Spire – a dedicated small group of tireless individuals – are committed to preserving this beautiful heritage building for Kingstonians.
You can help.
First, a bit of background.
Known for generations as the Sydenham Street United Church, The Spire is located in the heart of the Old Sydenham Heritage Conservation District and has been a gathering place since long before Confederation. Originally serving as the city’s circus site, the land was donated in 1851 by the city’s first mayor, John…

That fear-inducing question: What's your budget?

Some months ago, I met with a networking group and we got on the topic of the inherent challenges of writing quotations for clients. One of the things that makes this process difficult is the awkward and sometimes fear-inducing question we ask: What's your budget?

Why do consultants ask you about money?

Let's begin with you.

You need some work done so, you call or email a consultant or two or three to get quotations for services.

"How much it will cost to do "x?"

Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? Yet the truth is, I can't always answer that seemingly simple question in a direct way because (and here's where a bit of scepticism may enter on your part) I want to be sure that what you're asking for will get you what you want.

I pepper you with questions like:

What do you want to achieve?How much time do you have to achieve it?Who is your audience?Who is your competition?Is everyone on board with the goal?And finally, the killer question: Wh…

Networking without fear


The idea of it gives many people knots in the stomach. I used to be one of them.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

The best advice I ever received was to stop thinking about networking as a way to sell yourself and to think of it as an opportunity to help others.

"Attend networking events with the intent to be a connector."

Ask others about themselves and their work. Listen to what they do and who they need to meet. Think about how you might help them through your networks.

When you make networking about service to others rather than focusing on yourself, the fear of facing a crowd melts away. At least it did for me.

Sure, you still need to have an elevator speech because when you are interested in others, they usually ask you about you, so be prepared.

But, when you attend to others, the spotlight changes direction and that's a lot more comfortable than feeling like you're at a speed dating event.

Since those bygone days, I often carry the business…

What's culture got to do with it?

I've written and spoken (a lot) about brand. What it is and what it isn't.

It's a favourite soapbox of mine.

Over the years, I've been asked many times to "create a brand."

As soon as I begin to ask questions about their customer service, internal culture, market position, etc., I am often met with that deer-in-the-headlights look.

They aren't really asking for help with their brand. What they are saying is: "Create a logo for us."

Your logo, motto or slogan, the colours, fonts and images that you use represent your brand -- or what you think your brand is or want it to be.

Brand itself is quite different.

To define your brand, ask yourself some questions.

How would you describe your business's culture? What behaviour do you recognize and reward among your employees? How do you think your customers would describe their experiences with you? How responsive are you to requests for service after the sale? Do you give back to your community? Wha…

Hello? Is anybody listening?

Over the past few weeks, I've been teaching a course in health care communication to a group of international students at the local community college. One module was on effective listening.
What has struck me since that module, is the number of times during the course good listening skills have arisen. In almost every other conversation we've had, the art of listening has been key. When the group presentation assignment came around, one group chose this as the topic.
The ability to listen -- to really listen -- affects our relationships, the decisions we make, how well we engage others, how we show empathy and respect.
Great listening means doing more than waiting to speak. It means putting your biases aside and opening your mind to hear not only what's being said but what's behind what's being said. It's about being curious and wanting to understand another person's point of view.
"Seek first to understand," as Stephen Covey wrote in the 7 Habit…

It's not my job.

Communication is everyone's job.

That's right. I said it.

Your communication department can't do it all alone.

Whether you lead a team or are an employee, you are the face of the organization inside and outside.

As a manager or supervisor, your team counts on you to share organizational updates, to recognize good performance and to listen to ideas and concerns, and escalate them as appropriate. The communication culture you create can build a great team or destroy it.

An an employee (regardless of where in the organization you work) you should be aware of what your organization is doing, what it's goals are and how you fit into the picture. Your employer should be providing this information. It's up to you to stay informed.

So, if we have to do all this, why have a communication department? you might well ask.

Your communication experts not only must provide information and set up the avenues for you to be informed, they are also responsible to:

provide you with gr…

Why you need plain language

Great writing begins with knowing your purpose, your audience and your message. But that's just the beginning. Learning how to write with impact takes practice.

Do you have tips that have helped you become a better writer? We'd love to hear from you.


Engage. Empower. Energize.

When I worked at the Province of Nova Scotia, I was part of a team that launched the first survey to measure how engaged provincial employees were. The survey measured staff opinions and perceptions in 10 areas: teamwork, communication, employee involvement, quality of work life, leadership, compensation and recognition, personal growth, diversity, safety and security, and recruitment and retention. (You can find out more about this and subsequent surveys here.)

Prior to and during my time at the province, I had often been the go-to person for employee communication programs and had been an advocate of good employee communication practices. This was because none of my PR colleagues thought employee communication was exciting enough. I didn't agree. I thought if organizations were going to say that employees are their most valuable resource, they should show it and I was excited about the possibilities of this work.

The experience with the employee surveys, however, gave me a new way…

Isn't a paycheque enough?

Many employers believe that delivering a paycheque is all they have to do to ensure that their employees are doing all the things the employer has hired them to do.

But is it?

There's a big difference between those employees who show up to work, sleepwalk through their shifts and leave the second the clock tells them it's time to go home, and those who are enthusiastic about their work, deliver great customer service and think about improvements or innovations to your business.

Studies over decades have shown that engaged employees -- those who give the extra 10 per cent, who are committed to their workplace -- deliver better results, take fewer sick days and stay with companies longer. Don't believe me? Here are 32 studies that show just that.

Communication is an important piece of employee engagement. HR Review cites it as being a top-five contributor to employee engagement.

Great communication reduces the need for the rumour mill and the negative environment that can c…

It's time for a brand-check!

As the new year gets underway, it's an opportunity to have a look at how your brand is showing itself to the world and whether you may have let things slide just a little.

1. Social media: Are your accounts active? If not, should you scale back, perhaps cutting a platform or two, or should you be planning and scheduling your content? Are you following good social media practices such as sharing and commenting on others' posts?

2. Blog: If you have a blog, when was the last time you posted new content? Sharing your knowledge can be valuable to your clients as well as provide you with original content for your other platforms. Focus information on what you offer and create a publication schedule for the first quarter. Block off  time to in your calendar.

3. Customer service: Are your employees trained in great customer service? Are they engaged with company goals? Both of these things need attention if you've hired new staff, heard complaints or seen interactions that don&#…

How to build a great slide

Watching a presentation the other day (and hoping my loss of consciousness didn't show on my face) I was reminded of the need for people to know what makes a great presentation. It all starts with a great slide.

Why do we use slides?

Basically, because we humans have poor memories and even worse concentration.

Slides are to used to engage another sense (vision) in addition to hearing to increase the audience's attention and retention.

Although there are a lot of different numbers out there, experts seem to agree that you will remember a very small percentage of what you hear (about 10 per cent), about 20 per cent of what you read and about 80 per cent of what you see.

That's why a visually arresting slide makes you and your presentation much more effective.

How to create a great slide

Unless someone gives you a set amount of slides (a completely inane practice), don't worry about the number of slides in your deck. The number of slides has absolutely nothing to do with ho…