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Diversity Training Personal Development

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

Well, the battle over “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” seems to have reared its ugly head yet once again. Apparently it’s becoming a new holiday tradition.

I listen to people wishing each other “Happy Holidays” and yet complaining about not saying the other. I wonder why the dilemma. Why are we so unable to wish a Merry Christmas to those celebrating this Christian holiday? Yes, there are those who are not celebrating this event but instead, celebrating Hanukkah. So are we so unable to say to those, “Happy Hanukkah”? Why can we not look to those in our communities who may be Muslim and offer them “Eid Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem”?

Why are we so aholidaysfraid to embrace members of our community for the diversity that they bring?

I watched the Michael Buble Christmas special earlier; in one segment of the show, he spoke with two little girls and asked how they celebrate Christmas. They let him know that they are Jewish so instead, they have their own traditions. He asked them to explain and they did so happily, sharing their excitement and joy. Out of the mouths of babes…..

Why is this so hard for us to do as adults? Why are we so afraid to ask people, friends and strangers, to help us understand how they celebrate their own holidays in their homes? Why can’t we learn from each other? Why are we so afraid of that which is different?

I lived in the Middle East for nearly a decade. During that time, community members took pleasure in wishing each other congratulations on the various holidays that occurred. If people there can accept each other and that which makes us unique, surely we can learn to do so here.

Can’t we?

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Effective Communication

Has Spring Really Sprung?

As my Scottish-Canadian Granny used to say to me “Spring has sprung, the grass is ris, I wonder where the birdies is!”  The calendar indicates that it arrived ten days ago but from where I’m sitting right now in northern Virginia, it is cold, damp, foggy, and miserable looking out there.  Yet I am still filled with the dream of a warm day on the horizon, arriving soon I hope!

Given the grayness of the view from my window, I wonder how this weather impacts our communication with each other.  Consider those around you – do you notice a general change in the tone of those you come in contact with?  More importantly from my perspective, if and when you see a change, what do you do about it?  Do you rise above the mire and muck or do you drop right down into it with them.

Individually, are you able to move past this and be upbeat with your colleagues, friends and family?  Or does it pull you into a daylong funk that you find difficulty emerging from, snapping at people as they enter your space?

It can be difficult to be that solitary light of peace when the storms are roiling around you.  At the same time, isn’t it worth it?

I look forward to hearing your perspectives on these questions; in the meantime, I’m going in search of some hot tea and a good book to curl up with….maybe I should find a travel magazine instead!

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Effective Communication Leadership Development Leadership Skills

Effective Communication Starts with a Feeling

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
-Maya Angelou

If you have ever heard award-winning author and poet Maya Angelou speak, you understand immediately you are in the presence of a master communicator.

Angelou transcends normal communication to elicit a feeling. Reading her words on paper can be an uplifting or memorable experience, but seeing the genuine intensity and intelligence in her facial expressions as her voice bathes you in words is an experience that reaches further than understanding on a mental level. She takes you to a place of greater empathy and connection. She takes you for a walk in her own shoes and helps you feel what she feels.

Communication was never meant to be an endless monologue of directions as often happens in today’s workplace. By taking a page from Angelou’s skillful ability to convey a message, one can achieve effective communication in the workplace far beyond that of typical office interactions.

Inter-Office Communication Can Make or Break the Spirit of a Company
Communicating effectively in the workplace hinges upon the ability to convey a common goal and empower feelings of cohesion in teams within an organization.

The communication needs of an organization goes beyond the transmission of rote messages; they must include the ability to generate and develop an internal feeling shared by a work team. When this happens, remarkable results can be achieved in the overall unity of an organization and its productivity.

Within the entire workplace spectrum, integrative-independent communication skills are ever-present. Colleagues bicker about the same topic only to find that they are really saying the same disconnected thing from a different perspective. Others complain and argue to the point where they refuse to work with each other. Even further on the spectrum, others opt to remain silent and watch the system as it slowly breaks down into a disordered state.

Today’s workplace is incredibly diverse – at the very least ethnically, generationally, and spiritually. The ability to successfully exchange relevant information becomes even more vital in this diversity. Team members who communicate in an integrative manner look each other in the eyes and speak to the heart of the matter. They have learned strategies that allow them to observe the issue from a seamless framework without any animosity.

As Angelou conveys so succinctly: People will always remember how you make them feel. By using effective communication to bring positive and productive feelings to the workplace, companies benefit immensely. This is why it is so important to train team members to use interpersonal and integrative communication skills to achieve organizational success.

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Effective Communication Executive Coaching Leadership Development Leadership Skills Professional Development

Communication and Integrative Listening

It’s September, happy New Year! Don’t worry, I do know that the actual start of the year is January. Yet for many people, September signifies the start of a major work cycle and a return to more targeted communication. Summer vacations end, children go back to school, days are shorter, and there is a sense of urgency to produce profit, and provide before the actual new year.

This is a good time of year for managers to pay attention to integrative listening. This is a psychological/behavioral skill that means paying attention to others using your whole self. Look people in the eyes when either of you speaks, be sensitive to body language, and today, I would add, keep your phone in your pocket!

Leaders who practice integrative skills communicate with empathy, working to understand where the other person is coming from, even if they don’t agree with why the person feels or thinks that way. They watch the speaker’s body language and listen to their tone of voice. They understand that communication is more than words in isolation.  They learn to respond assertively, using I messages, owning their contribution to the process of communicating, and helping to involve the other parties in the process as well.  As people practice and employ these skills, they begin to appreciate what the other person brings to the table; relationships based on trust lead to more cohesive teamwork.

Now that we have all come back to work, physically and mentally, and that “new year” sense of urgency has started to surge through our workplace, it is more important than ever to be mindful of our behavior and practice integrative skills.  Recognize how our behavior impacts others. Are our ‘contributions’ really contributing to the growth of the team and the organization?  Or are we becoming a deterrent because of our lack of communication skills?  What do you need to focus on before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2016?

Want to learn more? Contact me at [email protected]

Wise Words Newsletter’s read the rest of the September newsletter here!

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Effective Communication

The Important Role of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in the Workplace

The phrase Emotional Intelligence was coined by leading researchers Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer back in 1990 in their article, “Emotional Intelligence”  “We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

What is EQ?

Emotional Intelligence is often referred to as EQ and is arguably a more critical element of success than IQ in determining a cohesive productive team in the workplace. Five categories of Emotional Intelligence make up the EQ.

  • Self-Awareness – The perception of emotion in oneself and others
  • Empathy – The ability to express and understand emotions and recognize them in others
  • Motivation – The ability to utilize emotions for productivity
  • Self-Regulation – The ability to manage emotions
  • Social Skills – The ability to interact successfully with others

“Your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them, and how to work cooperatively with them,” Says Howard Gardner, Harvard theorist, influential in the field of EI research.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in the Workplace?
You hear the term ‘company culture’ thrown around frequently in modern organizations. Any research on values and goals tells you that when values and goals align in the workplace, organizations are more successful.

From a management standpoint, if you are working at cross-purposes with your employees, your productivity will be stunted. Much of drawing out the best possible productivity and growth in your team is dependent upon your ability to find the strengths and weaknesses in your people and nurture and grow their competencies. It may be easier to quantify and calibrate technical skills but the behavioral skills found within EQ fuel the growth of your business.

It can be highly beneficial for organizations to bring in a knowledgeable consultant to administer EI testing such as the EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 assessments to evaluate emotional intelligence both in management and in employees and teams. Once an assessment has been performed, an interactive program to work with individuals and teams will cultivate valuable resources to improve effective communication and understanding to increase team and organizational productivity.

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Effective Communication Personal Development

The Impact of Tragedy

“If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own…how much kinder, how much gentler he would be.” – William Allen White

As the images of the horrendous tragedy in Japan continue to bombard us on the various news channels, I am struck by the humanity with which the Japanese people continue to treat each other. I see this not only in the absence of looting but also in the manner in which they look out for each other and share the dwindling food supplies. There is no rush to get the very last morsel for oneself; rather people look to their neighbors on either side to ensure that each person has a share of the offerings.

One particular image on the news has become etched in my mind, that of a group of terrified people running up the hill to safety from the rapidly approaching tsunami. Within the group were a few who were desperately trying to carry others who appeared unable to walk. The waves rushed at them and although those ahead were clearly able to make it up the hill on their own, they turned and went back to try and ensure that the others made it to safety as well. That type of selflessness is an example of true humanity.

How will this tragedy change the way that each of us conducts our daily lives? Will we take the time to communicate with our family, friends, colleagues, and strangers in a way that shows we care about each other? Will we look them in the eyes and use words that indicate we truly heard what they were saying and recognized the importance their situation played in their lives?

Will we make the time to smile and say hello to a co-worker or client who looks like they are having one of those days? Will we even notice they’re having a bad day or will we just continue to avert our eyes and push past our offices so we can ‘take care of those files and get out of here’, all the while complaining our way down the freeway?
I viewed a segment about one particular survivor, an elderly gentleman who had lost his entire family: his wife, his sons, and all of his grandchildren. Yet despite the immeasurable grief in his heart, he still had the spirit and compassion to work with the rest of the search teams to look for possible survivors.

Considering that, it makes the traffic on ’95 seem pretty inconsequential.

So I ask you to consider – how will this tragedy impact you and how you communicate with others.

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