Meet Great Communicators: Paola De Juliis

I call it the “Relationship Quotient.”  Good Communications revolve around Good Relationships.

The better your communications, the deeper you can forge your relationships.  The stronger your relationships, the more effective your communications can become.  And around and around it goes.  It’s a powerful spiral.

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One of the first people I met in Italy is, to me, a shining example of this.  Her name is Paola De Juliis and she is quite simply an expert in all things Tuscan: Your Tuscany Concierge. 

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She found us our first home in Arezzo’s countryside, complete with a sparkling swimming pool.

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She also negotiated our deal for our current palazzo home in the city’s centro storico, or historic center.  Paola has her finger on the pulse of practically every home, apartment, villa and country cottage in this region of Tuscany.

No, no, this is not our current home - but it is  one of the villas Paola represents and you could rent!
No, no, this is not our current home – but it is one of the villas Paola represents and you could rent!

But, even more than real estate, Paola manages experiences for visitors.  For instance, I have been fortunate to accompany Paola as she led a behind-the-scene-tour of an exclusive mountain-village gelateria (yes, that means a place that makes Italy’s famous gelato!) – along with Lulu, who was more than happy to taste the delicious recipes that have won several national awards.

As Carlo of "Il Ciocccolato di Carlo" made his creation, Lulu looked on hungrily!
As Carlo of “Il Ciocccolato di Carlo” made his creation, Lulu looked on hungrily!

I’ve enjoyed chamber music festivals that Paola has helped organize, I have eaten some wonderfully authentic Italian meals at the comfortable homes of her friends, and I have attended gala-like parties at incredible Tuscan villas with some of the area’s most affluent and influential residents (and one with a rather flirty priest, but that’s another story).

I enter right before Paola at the Giovanni Raspini party... So chic! ;)
I enter right before Paola at the Giovanni Raspini party… So chic! 😉

Paola also helped organize my book-launch party here in Arezzo last spring which brought out over a hundred people, including the president of the Women’s Business Chamber as well as the mayor himself, who has now become a friend, Giuseppe Fanfani. 

Paola introducing me at my book launch party in Arezzo.
Paola introducing me at my book launch party in Arezzo.

How does Paola successfully manage all these diverse activities? The simple answer is because she knows everybody in town. But it’s more complex than that.  It’s one thing to “know” someone, it’s another thing entirely to invest time to learn about that someone’s family, their health, their interests.  It takes time and effort to form a relationship – to show you really care.

And, that “Relationship Quotient” is what makes Paola successful.  She takes time to care.

Before you visit Tuscany, reach out to Paola!
Before you visit Tuscany, reach out to Paola!

If you’re planning a visit to Tuscany, for work or pleasure, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Paola De Juliis. You’re also welcome to contact her through Facebook or her website.  Tell her Gina sent you!

Ciao!

Till next time,

Baci, Gina

Copyright Gina London 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Meet Great Communicators: David Stevens!

He’s from Australia, he’s motivating, and he specializes in “inspiring clarity and purpose for people in mid-life.” Meet David Stevens!

No, he isn’t my life coach (I’m waaaay too young to qualify, of course), but we met recently through Twitter and I do find him very uplifting and encouraging. We can all use more of that in our lives, can’t we?

Check out my interview with David below, and please check out his website at 

David Stevens Life Coach to sign up for your own free session.

The latest in my “Meet Great Communicators” series: I proudly present David Stevens. 

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Why did you become a Life Coach for ‘Mid Lifers’ ?

“Coaching/mentoring/guiding has been part of me for the past 20 years, initially without me actually realising it. In my previous professional lives as a Banker and also later as a Realtor, I was always “helping”. I was always communicating on a personal level with people from all walks in life … and it was something that I enjoyed.

My transition to be a Life Coach I found, to be a simple one in so far as I felt comfortable from day one.

I wanted to have my largest concentration on a niche area/ speciality. My most recent “experience” has been the mid life years. I have recently turned 59 and during the past 20 years have experienced significant change on a personal level. This has equipped me well as far as relating to clients going through similar circumstances. A Good fit, if you will.”

Who are your clients?

“A majority have been women of varying backgrounds aged from 38 to early 50’s. The male clients, have been similarly aged. About 75% have come from my local area and others have been mostly from North America. Their professions have varied though it’s not something that I concentrate on unless it has a large bearing on the coaching outcome.

I have found that regardless of occupation or profession, people are people and share similar problems, issues, successes and failures. It’s really the personal stuff that they are seeing me for… and for the motivation, energy and inspiration that I give.”

What are the benefits of Coaching?

“It is very difficult to succeed at anything on your own. Having support & guidance is a great benefit.”

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“Even having someone simply to bounce ideas off when needed, is beneficial. Your Coach is your partner. I listen intently to my client with a view to understand where they are coming from. I don’t have a pre determined method of coaching. I adapt & integrate my coaching “style”/approach to what that individual client needs best. It is only when you ‘listen with intent’, can you understand the best approach for your client.

I had a lady client a little while back [a school teacher by profession] who felt that her message was not getting through to her students. She was a “veteran” teacher and very much had her students interests and aspirations at heart. This apparent [in her words] communication breakdown, was giving her great angst.

After about a half hour of listening to her story, questioning, listening again, further questioning … I was able to get a real feel or sense as to what the “problem” may be.  It came down to her tone of delivery and some of her wording. It was a habit that she had gotten into without realising. I repeated some of the phrases that she was using to her students, back to her. It was then that she realised how the subtleties of what you say & how you say it can make a big difference.

This all came from listening intently to the client.”

How do you communicate your message?

“This is still an evolving thing and probably will remain so. I currently spend the majority of my “communication time” with Social Media … & I’m still exploring new avenues as we speak. I’ve been writing blog posts for the past 3 years and gain a bulk of my enquiry from these posts.

Being more of an introvert, guest or public speaking hasn’t been my thing however funnily enough, when I find myself speaking in a small group or one on one, I am completely at ease. Public speaking may be a “fear” that’s only inside my head. I think it’s best to concentrate on what you feel comfortable with however if it’s not working after a reasonable period of time, change it.”

What are your top 3 Goals for 2014?

  • Purchase a Jeep Wrangler.
  • Double my Newsletter subscribers.
  • Being fully self sufficient on my Coaching income.

With “Goals”, while I have them and assist people with theirs, I tend to set a ‘theme’ for each year rather than a set of goals. For example, this year is a Theme of “taking action”. Procrastination is passé, action will be taken with every thing that I feel is important. Un-important stuff will be discarded.

My main goal is my 5 Year Plan. I believe it to be important to have a direction for your next 5 years and I renew my Plan at 5 yearly intervals.

What brings you Joy?

“The smile on a client’s face when a breakthrough moment occurs. Helping my daughter successfully release wild birds back to their environment when they have healed. Each morning that I wake up. My daily fitness. My family.”

*    *    * 

Thank you so much, David, for your time – and for your commitment to helping other people obtain their life goals and find their joy. So, okay, folks:  What are you hoping to achieve this year?  You’re welcome to reach out to David.  As he said, ‘Having support & guidance is a great benefit.’

Til next time, tutti! Are you closing in on what you’re after? If you’d like help, just ask!

Baci, Gina!

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Believing in Miracles.

I think you’re not a proper town in Italy, unless you’ve experienced a miracle. And, Arezzo, my friends, is a proper town! Its most famous miracle is celebrated every February 15 during a holiday named La Festa della Madonna del Conforto, so, naturally, Lulu and I joined in today’s festivities.

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The nexus is Arezzo’s duomo where hundreds of faithful climb the steps and line up for a glimpse of the miracle-worker enshrined inside the cathedral’s ornate chapel.

As Lulu and I ascend, we are almost step-in-step with the procession of white-cloaked clergy, including Arezzo’s long-time Bishop Gualtiero Bassetti, whom Pope Francis (or Papa Francesco as Lulu says) just appointed Cardinal last month.

Pretty impressive turnout!

The new Cardinal and entourage!
The new Cardinal and entourage!

 However, even more special and personal for us, is when, as I prepare to snap a photo of Lulu in front of the duomo, Arezzo’s mayor, Giuseppe Fanfani, snuck up behind and surprised Lulu with a Dracula-like envelope of his coat!

He’s a kind friend, who has graciously cooked and served us an amazing dinner at his home with his family, Zio Beppe (again, as Lulu says) takes a real shine to Lulu – and vice-versa.

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Lulu and Count Dracula, er, Arezzo’s kindly mayor, Giuseppe Fanfani!
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Lulu and Arezzo’s mayor, after an attendant has placed the ceremonial banner on him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

But, as I mentioned, the main attraction lies inside the church, so inside we go.   The queue is a long-one and luckily Lulu has her sticker book which keeps her happily occupied.  

PicMonkey Collage

Finally, we near the flower-bedazzled chapel and there it is: a small glazed clay plaque with the likeness of Madonna, (Mamma di Gesu, as Lulu says) painted on it.  This is what all the fuss is about.

See the little glowing square in the center of the frame? That's her!
See the little glowing square in the center of the frame? That’s her!

The terracotta tile is Arezzo’s sacred protector, the Madonna del Conforto, or Madonna of Comfort.

The story goes that back in February 15, 1796, that plaque was just hanging out in some basement (directly above a stove that covered it in smoky grime) when a series of earthquakes threatened to damage the city.  A few people huddled in that very basement and began to pray. Then, the legend has it that the Madonna plaque suddenly began to glow brightly through its blanket of soot and those dangerous tremors ceased!

The plaque received a cleaning, polishing and place of honor in its prestigious current location, where today it seemed to glow again. The two times I quickly tried to snap a photo, I could never capture the famous face.

We're getting closer to the Madonna del Conforto, but my camera still didn't capture her face.
We’re getting closer to the Madonna del Conforto, but my camera still didn’t capture her face.

As we pass by the plaque’s flowerful shrine,  Lulu and I are sprinkled with holy water by the plaque’s presiding priest and we are each handed a little tract.

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“Okay, we did it,” Lulu says after dutifully crossing herself and exiting the cathedral.  “Now can we go get some candy?”

“Sure, let’s go,” I reply.

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Surrounding the base of Arezzo’s duomo are a ring of concession trailers selling an assortment of chocolates, nuts and Lulu’s favorites: gummies.

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“Yummy! I like the Madonna festa a lot!” Lulu exclaims holding her paper bag of chosen treats.

“But do you really believe that the little plaque glowed and stopped the earthquakes?”  I ask.

“It wasn’t the plaque, Mama, it was God,” Lulu sums up what I had apparently missed.

Because, more than the candies or the Cardinal, it’s that that brings the people here today to celebrate.

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Til next time, Gina

P.S. Got a miracle to share?  Made a pilgrimage?  Visited an inspirational shrine? Let us know! 

 Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

Buon San Valentino!

Although Valentine’s Day is not as hyped here in Italy as in other countries (say, the United States), there was still plenty of pink and red to be found today on my morning’s walk along Arezzo’s Corso Italia.  Come join me!

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The first thing I noticed were these tiny hearts peering up from under this large plant at the entrance to Graziella Patio Hotel!

Immediately at the intersection of Via Cavour and the Corso, I was greeted by the always friendly windows of Bar Stefano, now decorated in a subtlety sweet San Valentino style.

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Even though it is not traditional for Italian children to exchange Valentine cards at school, there was still a stream of Valentine envelopes cascading from the beautiful shop of local Arezzo jewelry designer superstar Giovanni Raspini.

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Next, as I continued down the Corso, I wondered whether I was more intrigued by the alluring lingerie behind the window or by the silver stickers on the window representing those delicious chocolate-wrapped hazelnuts, “Baci”  or “kisses.” Like Hershey’s in name only.  The company’s motto is, “Say ‘I love you’ the Italian way.”  Perfect.

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Rounding out my stroll, on the opposite side of the Corso, this store proclaimed it has the secret of “TRUE LOVE” inside its doors. ???????????????????????????????

Perhaps, but as I wandered along gazing at the array of specially advertised Valentine’s Day sweets, jewelry and clothing, I happened upon this young couple walking hand in hand.

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Without disturbing them, I snapped a photo at the very moment they expressed their love the best way of all –          -from the heart.

Buon San Valentino, tutti!  

No matter what or whether the gifts – I hope you have a loving day.

Til next time,

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Birds of a Feather

When I first snapped this group photo of a synchronized geometric pigeon formation on Arezzo’s Chiesa Saint Maria in Gradi, it was just for fun. Then I started thinking more about it.

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Perhaps because I am a compulsive “life lessons” gatherer, I began to wonder the following:

1.       Who was the leader?  Which, among the dozens of birds I saw resting on the church’s pediment, was the first to land there?  Was it the leader in a flock already flying and the rest followed?  Or did the first one land solo, but look like it was having so much fun that others flying by decided to land and join in?  Why?

2.       How many did birds did it take to “trend”? Assuming that they all didn’t land there together, I wondered how many of them in twos or threes had to congregate there first – before the many more swerved over to check out the church rooftop?  What was the (thank you, Malcolm Gladwell) tipping point for this avian afternoon hangout? If you’ve ever tossed a bread crumb to a single pigeon, you know it doesn’t take long before a crowd of friends appears from almost nowhere.  But here at the church, there didn’t appear to be any food – only sun and rest.  Perhaps that was enough.

3.       How long was it before they left and how did they leave?  Okay, most likely the birds left in flight. But since I didn’t stick around until they did, I wondered how long the group decided to hang out up there and whether when one decided to depart (would it have been the same one who started the trend?), did the rest follow en masse  or only a few at a time? 

Follow the leader
Follow the leader

Sheep vs. Pigeons

Usually, it’s the sheep we get compared to when discussing how and why people seem to follow others.  But that unfortunate comparison often leads to the allusion of slaughter and I’m just talking about landing on a quiet Tuscan church that holds in store no apparent harm!  So, indulge me just a little more, if you please.

I wonder who we follow and why?   I read a lot about communications and personal brand marketing these days, to keep me current when coaching and training my clients.  I sometimes, however, get distracted by a Daily Mail type tabloid about some celebrity’s drunk driving arrest (thank you, Justin Bieber) and I waste valuable work time.

Lulu in Parco Prato's former meadow hangout
Lulu in Parco Prato’s former meadow hangout

My friend Francesco tells me that people in Arezzo used to flock (sorry!) to the meadow in Parco Prato a few years ago every summer evening– laying down blankets or sitting on the lawn.  The grown-ups would chat while they sipped aperitivi and the kids would run and chase each other and be kids.  Nobody does this anymore and there appears to be no reason as far as I can tell.  I wonder why what seems like a lovely social gathering spot fell out of practice.

Maybe I have too much time on my hands for such pigeon ponderings, but I think once the weather properly warms up, I’m going to grab some friends and picnic blankets and head over to Parco Prato and see what we can do!

Here’s to being leader pigeons! (Please do pick your preferred animal avatar of choice.)

Til next time!  What/who are you proud to follow?  Guilty of following?!

Baci, Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

How much pasta can YOU eat?

The wonderful folks at Santa Prisca, the small grocery store in Arezzo’s historic center, that (love them) DELIVERS -has just remodeled.

The pasta section has been expanded to BOTH SIDES of an entire aisle.

???????????????????????????????As if I needed any more ample of a selection than this country already generously provides.

???????????????????????????????Some of my ex-pat friends who have lived in Italy longer than I have occasionally complain that they are actually “sick” of pasta.  I cannot imagine such a thing!

The only thing on my mind is usually which size and/or shape have I not yet tried? It is my personal goal to sample each and every type of pasta before we depart our culinary paradise of Tuscany.

And, of course, along with the many dried forms, Italians are even more famous for pasta “fatto a mano” or “made by hand.”  I have savored many meals with that as well.  And I can brag to you for a moment that my Irish-American husband, Scotty, has found an apparent lost Italian gene, as he can whip up a mean batch of homemade pasta.

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One example are these “tortelli con zucca”  – light fluffy tortelli stuffed with roasted pumpkin, fresh-grated nutmeg and parmesan.  I promise, they not only looked delicious, they tasted as such too!

And along with the company, my not-too-sweet homemade tiramisu and don’t forget  some great chianti,  our latest dinner party was a success.

Great friends, great food! Ecco!
Great friends, great food! Ecco!

Viva Italia and Viva la pasta!

P.S.  I’ll let you know how I’m progressing on my pasta-eating-challenge. In the meantime, what’s your favorite kind? 

Til next time, 

Baci, Gina

Copyright 2014. Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Ooh! I am sooo distracted!

Click. It’s the Olympics. Ah.  Cool. Downhill.

Tap. It’s a text about an upcoming voice over appointment.  Time change. Got it. I’ll be there.

Tap.  It’s another text. This one from my cell phone provider telling me I’ve won some contest.  Marketing Spam. Delete.

Buzz.  It’s a DM Tweet from a Social Media author who would like me to write a guest blog. Yes. Would be delighted.

Brring.  It’s Scotty on the phone. He’ll be bringing a pizza home for dinner.  I don’t have to cook? Awesome.

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That was all in the spread of about thirty minutes.  I’ll bet you can more than relate.

In our world today, we’re becoming more and more fragmented and distracted. Everyone and anyone can reach out and tap, buzz or brring us at any time.  We’re expected to be constantly available.  We go to meetings and presentations with our smartphones and tablets, so we don’t miss anything from the outside.  Unless we purposefully “unplug,” we remain connected even during so-called vacation time.

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Our brains are filtering information at a rapid pace. I read somewhere, for example, that the average person is so adept at scanning, they only read parts of the headlines, let alone the articles.  I don’t remember where I read that; I probably got distracted.

So! It’s obvious we ONLY pay attention to what really captivates us.   What are we to do about that? Here are three ideas.

  1. Learn how to become captivating.   How can you expect to sell anything? To persuade someone?  To motivate people to action? If you’re communicating like everyone else on every social media platform out there, you can set yourself apart  when you open your mouth.   For your personal and professional brand to stand out from all the noise of social media, smart phones and the like – your competitive edge is how well you can engage your audience when you speak.  If you don’t speak well, the people in the boardroom or in the audience are going to turn right back to their lap top or their smart phone.  You know this is true.  So do something about it!
  2. Don’t just broadcast, engage.  When you use social media to post something about yourself or your company, are you just throwing information out, or are you trying to genuinely talk to people?  Do you have an automatic Tweet follower response, or are you personally thanking people?  Forming relationships may take more time, but they will likely be deeper and more loyal if they feel you care about them.
  3. Quality over quantity. That leads me to this: a smaller network of trusted influencers is going to help you more than 100K anonymous followers.  Again, these kinds of relationships will likely take more time, but will also be more likely to remain with you and help provide real connections to your next great thing.

No matter what it is you’re trying to do, the trick is to make yourself heard and remembered ABOVE of everything else.

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Doesn’t becoming captivating sounds like so much more fun than being just another piece of white noise?  Buzz! Opps, gotta go!

Til next time, how do you try to captivate others? What captivates you? What distracts you?

Baci, Gina

 Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.