We can be better.

A fellow human being on this planet just wrote this to me on Linked In:

 I saw you speak at the UCC Commerce Conference and was blown away by your speech – you’re so inspirational! Hope you’re keeping well 🙂

The message came at a time when I – and perhaps many of you – need a reminder about the importance of inspiring others.

It’s this time in the wake of the deadly rampage in Orlando – which just happens to be where I started my career as a journalist working for the Orlando Sentinel.  A town I associated with happy memories now forever tainted with the statistic as the deadliest shooting in the US.

That horror was shortly followed by the senseless killing of a young Member of Britain’s Parliament. In the middle of the afternoon. In front of a library.

The victims in Orlando had been inspirations for their friends and family.  MP Jo Cox was an inspiration too.

As Britain votes Thursday on Brexit, and my home country of the United States prepares to vote for a new president, I implore us all to remember that this is a time to not give up.  We must go on and be inspirations.

4288
Candlelight vigil at Lake Eola in Orlando

Yes, there are plenty of people who are cynical or angry or divisive or even hateful.  Some analysts say the global geopolitical landscape is turning more toward  nationalism, more toward nativism.  We can still stave off this turn.

We, as humans who share a planet, are better when we are positive.  When we are uplifting. Encouraging. When we are appeal to our better instincts – which are, in fact, not instincts after all, but traits that we can develop and deploy – if we set our minds to it.

No matter if we’re in the public sector or the private sector. If we work in local or national government.  For an SME or a major multi-national.  A for-profit or a not-for-profit. If we interact with other people, let us try to focus on how we can encourage one another – not tear each other down – in order to get ahead.

We can deliberately decide that we won’t get personal when we disagree with someone else on a policy or about a work project or about a whatever.

It’s time to get serious about being kind.  It’s about deliberately deciding that “we” is better than “me,” that being considerate is not the same as being weak. That caring for someone who may come from a different background than us, who may look different than us, who may even have a different culture than us – is okay.

I have lived or worked in dozens of countries. From Italy to Indonesia. Egypt to Nigeria. France to Romania. Cambodia to Ireland. I have friends from every place I have been. We continue to inspire each other.

As a fellow Member of Parliament, Rachel Reeves, said yesterday in tribute to Jo Cox, “What we have in common is greater than what divides us.”

We can carry on the work of those who stood for togetherness. For walking forward. Hand in hand.

I am convinced that we can be better.

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

 

Advertisements

Bruce Springsteen and Employee Engagement!

What does Bruce Springsteen and Employee Engagement have in common? 

bruce-624-1376506377

The answer in a second. But first. Quick! Close your eyes and imagine your all your organization’s various processes as an expensive golden chain link bracelet.  Gorgeous.

Now, keep your eyes closed: Which link in your organization’s process is Communications?

For too many, it’s in one of the last positions.

Is your Comms team brought in only after a new employee rewards system or human resources policy or pick any type of idea or change has been decided upon and is ready to roll out? You know, the situation in which the Chief Marketing Officer or the Chief Information Officer or the Chief Whatever Officer calls in the Director of Communications and says, “Tell everyone this is happening” type of approach?

No. no. no!

Put Communications foremost in your strategy at every stage!

Instead, consider what might occur if management brings the Comms Director to the table at the planning stage. Your Comms Team should be experts in crafting and guiding strategy to drive Employee Engagement.

Last Friday, I was fortunate to lead a “Lunch and Learn” session with the super-committed Communications Team from Ireland’s electricity company, ESB Group. We explored and discussed a variety of ways to better connect the company around ideas of efficacy and activation.

For instance, consider:

  • How can you reduce the work-load from first reports and get employees to comply with a new policy – on their own accord –and happily??? 
  • Who are the various department influencers out there beyond supervisors who could help promote the new idea internally? 
  • Conversely, who are the known naysayers and what can be done preemptively to help bring them on board to champion an idea? 
  • What will it take to properly socialize your new idea? 
  • Is there a way to incrementally roll out the new idea in controlled phases and make it fun? 
  • How do you socialize the new idea? 
  • Is there a way to gamify the new idea? 
  • How can you create a friendly competition with real prizes around the new idea? 
  • What’s the #Hashtag around the campaign on social media?

It might be as simple as a popular ESB competition going on right now to winBRUCE SPRINGSTEEN tickets which, I’m told, has awesome employee engagement behind it and proves you don’t have to be “Born in the USA” to love the Boss.

Good Communication ideas aren’t simple. They’re strategic.

Employees often fear change, because it sounds like a code-word for MORE WORK!  So, bringing in your Comms Team at the planning stage (and throughout the entire process), can help your organization better strategize, plan and implement change.

Think of your Comms Team as People Strategists! And since any organization is comprised of People (NOT “HUMAN CAPITAL” – Blech, what a term), you need those People Strategists at the onset of any new idea, not merely in the implementation phrase!

It’s the human way and it’s the right way. Research (duh, not surprisingly) shows that employees who have fun, feel valued and therefore are more productive!

Get Real and Get Going!

Here’s to engaging employees in the real way, Gina

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

Details Matter! Don’t put your hands in your pockets!

What you do sends a message to your audience – even before you open your mouth.

I’ve trained thousands of people on how to take more responsibility for their body language.  (Here’s my previous post on Body Language.) Among one of the more frequent questions I get is,

“When presenting, what do I do with my hands when I’m not gesturing?”

That question came up again last week as I worked with a dynamic group of senior leaders from a large multi-national company.

My answer, of course, depends on the situation and your comfort levels. For instance:

1. Let one arm rest loosely by your side while you gesture broadly with the other.

2. Allow both arms to rest by your sides if you’re going to lean in with your upper body to “confide” something to your audience.

3. My favorite suggestion is to “make a diamond or triangle” by lightly interlacing or touching your fingers of both hands.  As performed by yours truly here:

What I don’t ever suggest however, especially for men, is to put your hands in your trousers’ pockets.

Gents: Do not put your hands in your pockets!

This invariably sends a negative message.  You may be simply uncomfortable or nervous. But to your audience you probably look at best – too casual or maybe fidgety, at worst – cocky, or disrespectful.

The client who asked me about this  – really took it to heart.   He took the extra effort to send this illustrative email to his colleagues:

As he indicated, his email included that photo of me I posted up above.  And here’s the contrasting “Hands in Pockets” look he referred to from when Irish Rugby player Ronan O’Gara met Queen Elizabeth back in 2009.

I didn’t live in Ireland when this took place so I missed the outcry his body language sparked. But a quick Google search found the media labeling him everything from a “lout,” to “disrespectful,” to a “disgrace.”

Turns out, according to subsequent interviews, O’Gara apparently was just very relaxed and went on to later smile and shake her hand politely. But that didn’t prevent the maelstrom his pockets hands ignited.

So! To avoid such pitfalls when you are next speaking before an audience, or perhaps lining up to meet with the Queen, please, please, remember that seemingly small details can have large consequence.

Thanks to my client for taking time to write such kind words and thanks to you for taking time to read!

Til next time, let me know what you do with your hands when presenting!

 

Gina

The future of leadership…

Amidst the backdrop of the US Presidential election, it only seems fitting that I will be participating in not one, but two “Future Leadership” events in coming days.

GTY_trump_wedding_clintons_jef_150806_16x9_992 (1)

Ireland’s national spring conference of Junior Chamber International (JCI) will take place Saturday overlooking the lovely River Lee here in Cork City. American President John F. Kennedy once reflected on JCI saying, “Harvard gave me an education, but Junior Chamber gave me an education for life.”

I’m looking forward to being surrounded by JCI people in their 20s and 30s  who believe in…

 creating positive changes in their communities”

(as excepted from JCI’s press release on the event).  These committed participants will be, among other things, taking part in a public speaking competition.  As a veteran CNN correspondent and now communications consultant, I am honoured to be one of the judges.

Later in the week, I’ll be heading up to Kildare to the historic Carton Housewhere Dublin City University will be holding a conference to launch its newLeadership and Talent Institute.

Committed to analysing and sharing the best research on how organizations can promote personal and professional growth, I’ll be serving as compère for notable speakers like Joe Schmidt, Head Coach of Ireland; Unilever’s Chief HR Officer, Doug Baillie and Dr. Jack McCarthy, Director of Boston University’s Executive Development Roundtable.

Of course, there’s already so much punditry and discussion these days about what is and isn’t the best leadership style.  Most experts agree that positive leadership is compassionate, empathetic and understanding. Without naming names, it goes without saying that some leaders, while effective, are certainly not positive. 

While a sheer-forceful leader may get initial results, the lasting legacies will bring about a true reflection of the approach.

President Kennedy also said that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

I know I learn something every week from the wide range of incredible executives and professionals I consult and work with.  And I’m sure there will be much to be learned from the lessons the 2016 American presidential election.

In the meantime, I look forward to learning from the young leaders and researchers whom I will be soon meeting.  Those committed to changing their organizations and communities in positive ways.

I also look forward to sharing what I learn with you too!

Kindly,

Gina

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

 

Lifting the Uplifters!

I was fortunate to work with the HR department of one of the world’s largest beverage companies this past week.

They were preparing to launch an employee recognition program that is AMAZING!

Simply put, each employee- from top to bottom – will receive 100 points every six months that are redeemable for vouchers like movies, shopping, travel, sky-diving, etc.

That’s not so amazing, you may be thinking.  Lots of places do that.  That’s just a rewards card.  BUT!  In this program, you don’t get to redeem your own points. You award them to a peer whom you see doing something that personifies the company BRAND.

parent-lifting-child-in-air

It’s Cool.  It’s “Pay It Forward” codified by a company.

Unfortunately, due to proprietary reasons, I can’t give you the details. Yet.  As soon as this pilot program is successfully ticking along, I plan to absolutely seek a thumbs up from them to tell you – and anybody else who will listen – about this great motivating idea!

What I can tell you is that although this new program was the result of years of internal surveys and had already been socialized in smaller groups, my HR team knew how incredibly pivotal their presentations would be on the official day of the launch.  They wanted to leave nothing to chance.

They know we’re all a bit skeptical of change.  Especially something that feels “too good to be true” like this program almost does.

Therefore, it was imperative that this plan was announced with a great amount of passion, conviction and genuine connection to the employees in their audiences.

We spent a great deal of time discussing the mindset and backgrounds of the audiences, refining the goals and intent the team had for how their presentation should be received, and of course, an equally great deal of time rehearsing and coaching around the content and delivery of the presentation.

Here, then, is the email I received soon after our session, for which I am grateful:

Many thanks for the session on Monday – I really enjoyed it and just wished that we had longer with you!

 We did a full rehearsal yesterday and it was amazing how different our delivery was after our time with you. I’m feeling more relaxed about tomorrow than I expected to after you gave my confidence a lift.  So thank you!”

It was a pleasure and an honor to work with people who are truly committed to innovating ways to inspire and motivate others.

And for you out there:  Where are you on this spectrum? Are you a naysayer? An innovator? An encourager? Or perhaps even a “Lifter of the uplifter?”

Thanks for the opportunity, folks.  Because even the uplifters need a boost now and again. Maybe especially.  Here’s to them.

Kindly,

Gina

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

Crisis Communications: Lessons from Lanzerote

I train and consult around a range of business communications topics including how to prepare, avoid and handle Crisis. I was recently in Singapore discussing this very issue with some managers from a large multi-national.  But I was personally unprepared during my visit this week to the tiny island of Lanzerote.

lanz

My eight-year-old daughter and I joined another mother and her three children on what was supposed to be a care-free week of mid-term holiday fun on one of Spain’s sunny Canary Islands.

Yet, two far-from-care-free events reminded me that careful and consistent preparation is the number one way to avoid Crises – business and personal.

I’ll share our story along with these pointers as a refresher for us all.

“We’re stranded!”

Our first mishap was the very afternoon we landed last Saturday.

The travel agent had booked us a private shuttle which was supposed to deliver us to the doorstep of our villa. Instead, after the driver deposited us, our kids and our luggage– and departed – we noticed a stranger basking at what we thought was our pool.

While he was kind, he also insisted this was his rental villa. A group of local cleaners who were onsite tidying agreed. His paperwork all checked out.

They took one look at the paperwork my friend showed them and shook their heads. Our destination’s typed address proved a puzzle.

Yes, this villa is number 20.  Yes, “Playa Blanca” is the name of the town we were in.  But! The street name on the sheet was from a town that was apparently a 40-minute drive north. Yikes! For good measure, they observed that the zip code listed didn’t even exist in Lanzerote. Terrific.

Neither of the two phone numbers typed on the information sheet connected to a live person.  One wasn’t working at all and the other said to call back during regular business hours Monday through Friday.

Fortunately for us, the cleaners stayed to help us try and put the pieces of the puzzle together.  Since they spoke fluent Spanish, they managed to contact the shuttle service which, in turn, managed to track down a someone from the property management company who revealed that our villa was actually number 26. Six doors down.  No explanation was provided for the error.

All this, after more than an hour being stranded with four understandably confused and cranky kids.

What if we had arrived later and no one had been there to help?!?

1. Share the plan/Make sure you know the plan – It’s important for businesses and leaders to share and get buy-in around a vision.  Likewise, it might have been a good idea for the travel agent to send a copy of our villa address and other information to me, not just to my friend.  In the same vein, I should have requested a copy, but I didn’t.  I don’t know that I would have noticed the errors with the address. But at least being aware of the plan is a responsibility when you’re part of a team.

2. Verify information – Did any of us think to test the phone numbers on the paperwork before we needed them?  Routine testing beforehand might alert that something is amiss.

“There’s been a break-in!”

Our second mishap unfolded as we returned after dinner in town to our number 26 villa Tuesday night.

Upon entering and turning on the light, we saw once-tidy clothing and papers scattered about the first two rooms.  There’s been a break-in! But strangely, we then noticed that my laptop and a child’s tablet had not been removed.  Could we have interrupted the intruder?  Was he still inside?!?

My friend immediately called the police. We gathered the shaking children. And left.

About twenty-minutes later, four police officers arrived and we went back in with them.  No more intruder – but a broken window latch downstairs.  He opened it from the outside – even though we thought we had it locked from the inside.

The police guessed the intruder was only after passports or cash.  We had those with us while we were at dinner.  So the would-be robber took nothing, but gave us all a big fright.

We took the children’s mattresses from the downstairs bedrooms and huddled together upstairs for the remainder of the night.

The next day, our Irish travel agent contacted the property manager who sent a handy-man to fix the window.  Nothing more.  No words of compassion or caring.

3. Check your systems. Along with routine testing of numbers in our case, or processes in business, it’s critical to check and re-check to see what can be improved upon.  We could even have checked the windows and doors ourselves – from the inside and out – before we left.  This, clearly, should be the responsibility of the property manager. But, I don’t think I’ll passively depend on that again. Knowing that we were staying in an unfamiliar place, we could have insisted with our travel agent that all the locks on the windows and doors had been recently serviced.

 4. Be Compassionate. This one is aimed at the property manager. My friend and I are can-do mommies and we did get to the beach and see the sights. But this was definitely not the mid-term holiday that we – or our kids – had imagined.

 The fact that the property manager didn’t even offer to reduce the fee for our stay – or move us to another villa – or even send us a box of chocolates or a pizza for the kids as a sign of caring, is NOT the way to keep customers and gain business.

We are all safely aboard the plane back home as I type this with, of course, the beauty of hindsight.  But it’s hindsight that I vow to turn to foresight.  I pledge to hold myself to the high standard that I encourage my business partners to undertake.

Just as soon as I’m finished here reminding myself of what I could do better next time to avoid a crisis, I will be writing to our travel agent to avoid the property supplier who did NOT prevent crises for their customers  – and as a result – themselves.

wind

Here’s wishing crisis-free travels for us all.

Very kindly,

Gina

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

 

How to Practice Presentations. 3 Top Tips!

Developing an outstanding presentation takes time and organization.

It’s a combination of crafting compelling content designed to connect with your audience’s hopes, dreams and alleviate fears and then delivering with the right blend of para-lingual and body language techniques.

Last time, I addressed, WHY it’s good practice to practice.  Today, we’ll focus on HOW practice.

(Next time, I’ll write about content creation, so stay tuned.)

I’m often asked how to help get rid of nervousness for a presentation.  My number one piece of advice is: “Practice!”

IMG_0323e1

And by practice, I mean three things:

1) Speak aloud.   Don’t quietly memorize your script to yourself.  Do practice aloud and in full volume. Also do not be boring.  Do not be monotone.  Along with volume, pay attention to the emotion that is behind each word or phrase and make sure to add pitch, inflection, tone and/or pacing to help convey each meaning.  Consider emotions like surprise, enthusiasm, frustration, disappointment, imagination, hope and many more.  There are so many great ways to play with the sound of your voice.  Practicing aloud is where you can begin to hear the difference.

 2) Stand and use gestures and expressions.  Along with aloud, I also urge you to stand up.  Standing up allows your lungs to better be filled with air which provides you the breath support you need to project.  Standing is the more commanding and authoritative way to present. If you’re one who wants  to appear folksy and approachable, I would probably still encourage you to consider standing instead.  Command that room. (Oh, and get away from that dang podium. You don’t need it and it’s just a barrier between you and the real humans in the audience.)  Standing also allows you to incorporate important hand gestures.  Make broad gestures – even incorporating the whole body at times. Don’t flail your arms at the elbow like a seal.  And please, please, please – tell your face that you are delivering some emotion too. Engage your eyes. Hold a smile.  Take a pause and really look at the eyes of your audience. Engage!

3) Get in front of a mirror (or while recording video).  All of this practice will be more effective if you see how others see you.   Stand up and deliver in front of a mirror.  Look at yourself. Do you look like you care about your audience?  Are you smiling broadly when you are talking about how proud you are about this quarter’s earnings?  Are you leaning in when you are encouraging your team that you know they can boost the numbers to reach projections?  If you can hit record on your phone or have someone else record you, better still.  There’s nothing like watching yourself played back, to help correct areas where you may be flat.

Okay! Those are my top three tips for practicing.

 I’m also asked, “How many times should I practice?”

The answer:

“As many times as you need to do get extremely comfortable with the material.”

You must be solid on your introduction and closing.  You should also know the middle well enough to not have to look over your shoulder to read your slide deck – Grr!  The more comfortable you are with the presentation, the more comfortable you will be with your audience so you can react and respond in real time with them.

And remember, as with any presentation, it IS all about THEM.

Here’s to great practicing.

Cheers,

Gina

P.S.  Last word on nerves: While you may never be perfectly calm when speaking before a large crowd, if you discipline yourself to regularly apply careful preparation and practice, you can transfer that extra adrenaline into energy that will make the delivery of your rehearsed script a powerful  – and engaging – performance!

Copyright 2016 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.