How every BODY communicates whether or not you speak.

What are you doing while you read this? Are you leaning back in your chair with your feet up on the desk?  Are you sitting up erect and tall on the edge of your seat?  Are you standing? Are you walking on a treadmill?

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Just what am I saying that I’m not saying? 😉

How do you sit during a meeting that you are NOT leading?  Do you lean in toward the speaker and nod at appropriate times?  Do you smile slightly in encouragement?  Do you look at your phone that’s under the table? Are you texting someone?

Take a look at the pen you are using.  Is it something you are proud of?  Or is it some ratty thing you grabbed from the junk drawer on your way out the door – or did you have to dig to the bottom of your purse and pull out an empty container of TicTacs and a couple crumpled Kleenex before you could get to it?

Where are your eyes when you are first introduced to someone? Looking kindly and directly at their own eyes while you think about what they must be feeling?  Looking down at their shoes?  Looking down at your OWN shoes?! 😉

Are your shoes polished or scuffed?  Are your clothes sharp and appropriate? How about your hair and nails?  Clean and shiny or slightly off?

Your appearance, your posture, your expressions are your choices. Every moment of every day.  I’m not talking Top Model here, obviously.  And we don’t have to all be carbon copies of some business image stereotype.    But we can and should take responsibility for our choices.   They are sending messages to others whether we want to believe it or not.

Last summer, as I arrived to lead a presentation training session for a large group of sales managers, I noticed one woman in particular.  She was leaning back in her chair with a scowl on her face. Her arms were tightly folded across her chest.  More than unhappy, she looked downright angry.

Oh, oh,” I thought.  “This gal is going to be a challenge.

But, interestingly, this woman was, in fact, one of the most active participants of the group.  She really dug in, crafting and delivering a dynamic introduction using the methodology I taught.  After the session, I took her aside and told her I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged she was considering how off-putting her demeanor had been at the start.  She told me she had been told this before, but didn’t realize she could actively take steps to change it.

Yes, you can change.” I said, “But it will take active commitment and effort.

She departed the room walking taller and smiling at me as she waved goodbye.

Taking ownership of your appearance and your behavior are all part of being an engaging and effective communicator.

If you want the part, then you must look and act like you do.

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

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Why Communications should be the CORE of every business.

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I am typing this from Huxleys, a cozy café in Heathrow airport that just served me a very tasty veggie breakfast.  I’m my way to Lagos to work with executives from one of the top financial institutions in West Africa.

You might wonder why I would travel all the way from my home in Cork, Ireland to Nigeria. It’s not simply because Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, it’s because these executives “GET IT.”

They understand what I confidently tell everyone:

Improving Communications, improves the bottom line for EVERY BUSINESS.”

Recently, an executive who participated in a strategic communications workshop I gave, invited me to speak at a conference geared toward tech educators.  At first, the marketing team offered some push-back saying, “but she’s not in the tech industry….”  In the strict sense, that’s true. But I do have a variety of tech-industry clients who all understand that communicating effectively crosses all industries. All geographic boundaries.

No matter what business you are in, you must communicate to sell your products or services.  I’ll give you a quick review.

1. Phone calls.

Seems too basic, doesn’t it? But how many times have you rambled when you should have been succinct?  I hear a lot from clients who work in multi-nationals – and struggle with cultural speaking styles, pronunciation, word-choice, etc.  If you’re spending time writing an email to clarify the points made during a phone call, you’re not efficiently and effectively communicating.

2. Emails.

While personal life may be through Snap Chat, Instagram and Twitter,  a lot of business correspondence is still being sent via email.   How many issues do you raise in a single email?  How are you accommodating for the fact that you’re not able to use tone of voice and body language to help get your messages across?  And unless you’re Hillary Clinton, your organization is probably able to track and archive everything you send as part of their system.  And yet, the strategy and methodology that should support these messages is practically always overlooked.

3. Meeting management.

They are still a necessary evil for most organizations, so why not purposefully create a system to make meetings run in a more smooth, effective, and dare I say it, funway? Meetings are a great way to engage people and they’re too often run in a perfunctory, going-through-the-motions way.  This can and should be addressed.

4. Internal presentations.

Notice here I specified “internal” presentations.  Professionals often make the mistake that unless they’re presenting to clients or an external audience, they don’t need to be strategic or have polish.  Wrong!  Every time you open your mouth is a chance to practice effective and engaging communication.  Your peers and colleagues see you all the time.   What do they see? How are you leading?   Internal presentations are critical for career building.  Take them seriously!

The list goes on and on and includes areas that perhaps you are accustomed to consider as “communications oriented”: Customer service,  external presentations and media relations come quickly to mind. But what about thought-leadership? Taking ownership of developing your own executive brand?

We’re so busy speaking and writing to each other, we take the art and science of “Communications” for granted.

If you think you already have it down. Think again.

Last week, as I participated in the European Tech Summit in Cork, Ireland, I was struck by how much  I learned– in spite of the lackluster delivery from too many of the presenters.

Renowned blogger and Forbes contributor, Meghan M. Biro summed it up at the conference when she said,

We’re all human.  Connect as a human and build your community from there.”

I agree.  And it takes training, time and practice.

As a veteran CNN correspondent, campaign manager and international communications consultant, it has taken me decades to become an “Expert.”  And because I understand that communications is a life-long learned skill, I am still excited about learning something new every day.

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

Bends in the Road: From Arezzo, Italy to Cork, Ireland to Lagos, Nigeria in less than a week!

It’s almost too easy.

For the last five days, since we first landed in Cork, Ireland, from our former adopted home-town of Arezzo, Italy – we have been greeted by helpful, warm and chatty people.  It was much the same way with the terrific people in Tuscany, but the language hurdles naturally made our adjustment into that region more complicated.

Our first neighbors in Arezzo when we moved there 3 years ago - and who drove us to the Pisa Airport this weekend! Grazie Famiglia Tanci!!
Our first neighbors in Arezzo when we moved there 3 years ago – and who drove us to the Pisa Airport this weekend! Grazie Famiglia Tanci!!
This week we arrived in Cork, Ireland.
This week we arrived in Cork, Ireland.

Here, if I soften my “a” when I ask for “to-mah-toes” or bring the American silent “h” to life in “herbs,” I’m pretty much all set.  Oh, and they take out the “h” all together and say “tank-you” instead of “thank you.”  “Tank you very much.”  But, really, it is almost strange to be hearing English everywhere again.   I miss Italian with its bright “Buongiorno’s” and “Ciao’s.”

Last night, Lulu turned to me and agreed.  “I miss speaking Italian,” she said.

“Well, you can speak to me if you’d like,” I responded in what I thought was a helpful way.

“I miss speaking  to my friends who can speak back to me properly,” she countered.

Of course Lulu,  after three years in Italian schools, has a point.  She and all of her friends spoke Italian every single day fluently.  Not the stammering version I utter.  It must be hardest on her.

That said, we enjoyed our week here in Ireland.  It was surprisingly quite sunny as we toured Scotty’s new university, Lulu’s new elementary school, and strolled along the Lee River that splits in two and runs through Cork.

University College of  Cork
University College of Cork
Cork and the River Lee and sun so bright Lulu could only squint!
Cork and the River Lee and sun so bright Lulu could only squint!

Cork’s residents are charming and rightfully proud of their heritage.   Lulu and I were even given a tour of the city by our new friend Fionnuala Mac Curtain.  Her grandfather, Tomás MacCurtain, was Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920, who was horribly killed by the British Army in front of his pregnant wife and their young son who later grew to become Fionnuala’s father.   She gave me a copy of the book she wrote about her grandfather. I am honored to receive it and plan to read it on the plane tomorrow to Nigeria.

A poignant book I am sure.
A poignant book I am sure.

Yes, Nigeria.  I am flying to Lagos tomorrow to conduct a series of communications sessions and seminars for the next six weeks (For more information, check out the Find Your Edge website!).

Many friends have urged me to keep safe as I travel to Africa.  I certainly hope to! I’ll be staying at the best hotel in Nigeria: The Wheatbaker (thanks Find Your Edge team!); All vaccinations are in order (thanks Scotty Walsh); and I am registered with the State Department (thanks US Embassy in Nigeria). I hope it will be a valuable experience for the participants, the team and myself!

These banners proclaiming my conference are now outside the Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos!  Cool and humbling.
These banners proclaiming my conference are now outside the Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos! Cool and humbling.

I said goodbye to Lulu and Scotty earlier today as they flew back to the US to be with his family in Washington State.  It will be the longest time I have been away from our daughter since she was born.

As we trekked to our hotel near the airport yesterday, Lulu stopped to pick a few little flowers growing along the sidewalk.

“These are for you so you won’t forget me while we’re apart.”

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I won’t forget you my angel.  I also won’t forget all the incredible people we met in Italy – and are now meeting here in Ireland.  I look forward to the people I will have the privilege of meeting in Nigeria, too.

Around every bend, and in spite of the differences, the world is filled with promise and adventure.

A warm embrace to you all!

Gina

 

Cultural Awareness Part 2 – The Bird!

I watched as the man “flipped-the-bird” at his six-year-old daughter. 

Instantly, I gasped and felt a surge of adrenaline.  What kind of father would do that to his own daughter?

The next moment, giggling, his little girl smiled broadly and flipped him right back! The two of them then laughed and hugged each other.

It dawned on me.  The kind of father who would do that and who would have a little girl who would happily do it too – would be ones who weren’t American and who were not taught specifically (like I was) that this gesture was obscene.

They’re Italian.  And they’re lovely.  The little girl is one of Lulu’s best friends and a kind, well-behaved little sweetie.  I know her parents too. Her mom and dad are loving, caring, and, yes, full of Italian playful spirit.

Unintentional or not?
Unintentional or not?

Obviously, for them, raising the middle finger to each other  was just a part of playful banter – not the supreme insult of which most six-year-olds wouldn’t even comprehend.

It was my personal point-of-view and frame-of-reference that caused me to gasp – not the reality of the situation or their intent.

Consider your listener’s unique point of view.

That startling moment served as another reminder to me about how important it is to try as best as possible, to consider the points of views of “the others” when you communicate.   Not only where your audience may be from regionally or culturally, but what is going on in their lives that may reframe or color whatever it is you are trying to get across.

Your experiences are not necessarily the same as your  audience.

Of course there are plenty of hand gestures in Italy and in other cultures that do pack a real wallop-worth of insult.  I’m not going to go into that now.  Just remember when you’re speaking to you next audience, that not every anecdote or moment that that speaks deeply to you, will do the same for your listeners.  Conversely, something you may take lightly, may deeply impact those around you.

I remember, for example, when I lived in Cairo – I learned a particularly colorful epithet from the man who guided Scotty and me on our tour through the Pyramids of Giza.  Directly – and  bit softly – translated, it means, “Kiss My Red Baboon’s Bottom!”  I thought it was hilarious.  But when I proudly (and naively?!) repeated it in Arabic for my Egyptian staff members  back at my office, they  were shocked.  No lady speaks like that.  It was offensive. Yet, to my non-Arabic speaking ears, it was as lilting as a string of nonsense words from Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.

Kiss my red baboon's ..yikes!
Kiss my red baboon’s ..yikes!

Search for the common ground.

Your anecdotes and language, therefore, must reach a higher level. One that you are sure will connect and not offend your audience.  Find someone with whom you can practice – and test out your stories or illustrations. Get feedback before you deliver your presentation or make your sales pitch.

It’s essential that every word counts and does not discount what you intend to say.cultural awareness

Author Elizabeth Gilbert in her best-selling book, Eat Pray Love recounts a moment in Naples when an eight-year-old girl in Naples shoots her the middle finger from the back of a Vespa all the while sporting a big smile.   Gilbert writes about a paragraph worth of imagined meaning from the gesture, because to her, as an American, that gesture carried a powerful impact.  But to the little girl in question, much like Lulu’s little friend, it probably meant hardly anything at all.

Ciao!

Here’s to your next presentation’s success!

Baci, Gina

Want to make your next presentation, powerful, dynamic and memorable – in a way that is NOT offensive?  Contact me here or through my website! 

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

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.

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.

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.