Bruce Springsteen and Employee Engagement!

What does Bruce Springsteen and Employee Engagement have in common? 

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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. 

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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!”

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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. 

 

 

Networking Master Class.

Real tips that work. Not theoretical ideas that don’t.

That’s the approach I strive for no matter what I train/coach/consult around.  But especially personally important for me is the concept of “networking.”  After all, I have lived and worked and met new people in such far-flung places as Cairo, Paris, Denver and now Ireland.

Last night the Cork Chamber hosted me before a gathering of some 70 business leaders as I led a “Master Class” on how to meet people at these types of contrived gatherings.

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I break it down this way:  BEFORE, DURING, AFTER.

BEFORE

1. Be Google-worthy!  Make sure when someone Googles you they find something! And the what they find is current, friendly and relevant.

Linked In. If you’re not on Linked In, do it.  This is your virtual office that you can invite people to.  I’m not going to go into details, but at the very least, make sure you have a photo in your profile, your summary is a compelling story of you, not some boring CV listing, and add photos, articles, clippings, etc.  And yes, post, post, post! This is where you can really come alive.

Twitter. This is your online “email” system. People can follow you. You can follow them back and then you can DM. Just like email but faster.  It’s lively and I find more and more professionals are using it as a way to instant meet-up.

All the rest. Facebook is like your online living room. I don’t know. Do you want everyone in there with you? Do you have a professional account and a personal account? Up to you.  Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Periscope, Snapchat (Obama’s doing it now…).  Do any and all of the rest as you have time and inclination. But at the very, very least – do Linked In.

2. Register, Research, Reach-out! Most networking events offer online sign-up and registration lists. Virtual communities to engage with even before you go to the event- or conference – or whatever.   If you research the lists, you can find people you can reach out to beforehand – Remember, you should be able to find them on Linked In or Twitter, right?  I asked around at my meeting and a few hands went up with stories of how positively this had worked for them.  The President of the Chamber was, in fact, going to have a coffee with a new person he reached out to via the registry of an upcoming conference  – before the  actual conference takes place. Good stuff.  However, the large majority of the room admitted they have never done this.  Now is the time!

DURING

1. Go early. Go alone. If you don’t know anyone, you can always find the host if you come a bit early. If you come with a friend, you may be inclined to stick to your safe person. That may limit you.  Stand up tall in a “power posture” and then talk to the registration people, the photographer, the drinks servers. Ask them to introduce you to someone. If you’re early, they probably will have time to help guide you.

2. Don’t work the room. Don’t be a dork. Zipping along from person to person and handing out cards is meaningless. Better to have a nice conversation with the host or one other person who is a veteran in the group than to flutter around aimlessly.

3. Ask. Don’t tell. Yes, be ready to say what you do in about 4 seconds. But it’s much friendlier to take an interest in the other person. Be curious. Ask questions. Ask follow-up questions.

4. Offer to help. Some call this section, “Add value” – but in the spirit of keeping it real and not sounding so businessy, I just say, “”try to find ways to help.”  If you know of a book that might be a good read for someone, recommend it. Likewise if you know a good plumber or some other product or service that me be relevant to the person you may be speaking with.

AFTER

1. Follow-up and follow-through. If you did recommend a book, add the link to where that book can be bought in your follow-up email.  You should follow-up as quickly as possible. The next day if at all possible.  Be friendly, don’t be desperate.  No matter who these people are, you are another human so don’t overly genuflect. Just be nice.

There’s much more that  we covered last night, but these are some good starters.

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As they say, “You really had to be there” to get the full impact of our role-playing, Q&A and other lively interactions.  But,  I hope you pick up a tip or two, but more importantly, put them into action to work for you!

 As a final word of tried and true wisdom, If you want a friend, be a friend. “

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

How (and why) you can start establishing your professional brand NOW!

“Are you actively working on establishing your professional brand?”

Are you standing out from your pack?
Are you standing out from your pack?

This is a question I put to the business professionals I train and coach.  “How?” is typically the first response.

My are my quick top three:

1. Take ownership of your Social Media footprint. You need to be “Google-able.” Google yourself and what do you find?

  • Get on Linked In and get on it with power.  Google “LinkedIN experts” for tips on how to create super profiles.
  • Fire up Twitter. Even if it’s a slow-build, it shows you’re relevant and you’ll get the hang of it soon.
  • Consider what other Social Media Platforms might work for you.  Business page on Facebook? SnapChat? Periscope? Pinterest? YouTube Channel? Some may work while others may be not.  Don’t kill yourself. But be aware.

2.  Establish a blog and post regularly. Multi-purpose your blog as articles on Linked In or submit to other influential blogs in your field.  Try submitting your article to Business Insider or a trade pub.

3. Establish yourself as an expert with the press. Write a great bio (see my previous article on how to write a powerful bio) and submit it to local news producers and business editors.  Tweak your introduction email to each individual. This may take a bit time and esearch, but that’s what “Google” is for and it’s worth it for you to become a “go-to” source!

BONUS:  At the very least, Sign on to HARO – “Help a Reporter.com”  –  a free service where reporters from all over seek out interview subjects.  It’s easy!  I have placed clients and been featured myself more than a dozen times.

Why do this now?  If you’re with a company, it’s good for them, while it’s good for you. And you never know….

Just last week, I was talking to a friend from college.

She had been with her company for 18 years – most recently as an executive in charge of a large department within her organization.

Over the past year, there was a revolving door of senior management types. Changes were announced and never implemented before a new person arrived with a new announcement.  When the spinning finally stopped, one of the newest announcements was that my friend’s position was eliminated.

Without warning, and sequestered from her own direct staff, my friend was given 15 minutes to pack up her office and leave the company she had worked for for nearly two decades.

That’s it.  Job over.

We were talking because she is now positioning herself as a consultant.  Certainly she has plenty of experience and knowledge to offer.

The question is how to establish an identify that is all her own.  One that isn’t merely supported and enhanced by the name of the company that she is no longer connected with.

In short, she must quickly establish her own brand.

For you, like her, it’s not too late.

And it’s not too soon.

I know you may be busy with your “real” job, but remember,  while you’re employed with someone else, establishing your point of distinction makes you more valuable for them – and for you.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

How BODY language can influence others – and YOU!

There was only one Mae West, but she makes a good point!
There was only one Mae West, but she makes a good point!

Not only do we need to focus on what we say, we need to focus on how we say it.

As a communications consultant, I work with executives and organizations on improving all facets of communications. Body language is a key component of that equation!

Most of us don’t have the first clue how to get our message across. And the reason for that is that we usually don’t even bother to try.

People all take communication too much for granted.”

We generally only turn our ‘communication-conscious brains’ on for what we consider to be the big communication events.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you naturally communicate well in casual situations. If you don’t believe this have someone record you speaking at your next meeting.  Then watch it — with and without sound. You’ll learn a lot about yourself because we generally don’t acknowledge how much of our communication is done through eyes, gesture and posture.

So what are we doing wrong?

  1. WE ROCK

Many people in pressure situations will rock on one foot or shift their weight from side to side. One strategy is to simply consciously plant your feet solidly and be comfortable standing.

This is challenging for many people, as many people will either stand like a statue and then uncomfortably begin to rock or they will go from side to side — so stand solidly, putting weight on both feet evenly. Be aware of your posture.

  1. WE CROSS OUR ARMS

Don’t. People will think you’re feeling nervous or defensive and if you’re speaking to someone in authority you’re sending out a negative message. You might simply find this position comfortable — but don’t do it if you’re in a situation that calls for you to appear supportive, interested or positive.

Instead, lean in slightly to indicate interest, and nod or gesture in agreement with what the person is saying.

  1. WE DON’T MAKE ENOUGH EYE CONTACT

In an initial meeting situation, make eye contact, but don’t stare. Look at the person, shake their hand and remember their name.

All too often, peoples’ eyes are darting around the room looking either for someone they know or for someone more interesting. Be conscious of this and don’t do it. We smile — but forget to engage our eyes. Don’t forget!

People notice.

It all takes practise, but it can be learned.

“Remember, your body is not just a vehicle to move your head from room to room!”

Communication is a three-legged stool — you must be conscious, firstly, of the words you use; secondly, of the para-language (pacing, pitch, volume and tone) in which you deliver them and thirdly, of the body language which accompanies them (gestures, posture and facial expression).

All too often we forget about numbers two and three.

You cannot single out one factor when you are reading someone’s body language. Look at the whole bundle of information,

If a person is nodding but giving terse answers and has their arms crossed, then you look at two and three and understand that this person is blowing you off a bit. How do you deal with this? You ask them if they have something on their mind, or whether they are in agreement with you, or understand what you are saying.  Put the issue in a gentle way, into the open. Then be “nimble enough” to correct your course mid-stream.

It’s all about gauging the feelings of another person. The only indicator we have of what is going on inside a person is what they are doing on the outside.”

Some of the things we should be doing include nodding and smiling — we tend to mirror each other, and if you have a pleasant expression while you are speaking, your audience will tend to mirror you.

Finally, one thing you definitely should do:

Broaden your smile— your endorphins kick in so smiling relaxes you and makes you feel more at ease.

Start practising now and in inconsequential situations — and then you’ll be geared up for the next big communications crunch.

Remember, “Every skill we learn starts out in a deliberate part of our brain and with practise moves into the intuitive part of our brain.”

(Next week, Wednesday, October 7, Network Cork is hosting me as I present a workshop at FOTA Island Resort at 7pm in Cork Harbour, Ireland. This is excerpted from my profile in this week’s IRISH EXAMINER.  Please contact Network Cork at www.networkcork.com if you would like to attend!)

What sets you off? And! What can you do about it?!

seeing-red

Are you actively aware of the environmental happenings around you that prompt you to become internally frustrated or worse, to outwardly act out?  “Triggers” is how author Marshall Goldsmith describes them in his recent book of the same name.

Whatever you call them, they are those moments that bring out the worst in you.  The more you understand what causes them, the more you can begin to self-talk your way into preparing a better reaction to help you calm down and not over react.

One of my triggers is when I encounter a “no-can-do person.”  You know them.  Those people that robotically cite a nonsensical policy or refuse to exert a tad bit more energy finding a solution to a small problem. Yes, it’s the small things that sometimes get us the most, isn’t it?

Take the true time I was at a small café in Romania, (I am not blaming the whole country for this incident, of course, merely setting the scene).  The café’s window advertised a “soup and sandwich” special.

“I’ll take the special, please,” I said.

“No, it’s not possible,” the waiter flatly replied. “We’re out of the soup.”

Hungry and eager to get anything, I suggested, “Okay, then I’ll just take a sandwich.”

“As I said, that is not possible. We’re out of soup,” was the incredible retort.

“But can’t you just make me a sandwich on its own?” I prompted (starting to feel that trigger blood pressure rise).

“No. We cannot make sandwiches until we first make more soup to go with it,” was the honest-to-trigger-happy final response I received.  I say final, because immediately after that I turned on my heels and left.

The café chose to let a potential customer leave, rather than make a sale.

Here in Nigeria, where I am spending the week touring the country leading training sessions on Leadership and Communications, I encountered a similar “no-can-do” person at the Port Harcourt airport.

Last year in Port Harcourt - looked a lot like this year - except for one thing!
Last year in Port Harcourt – looked a lot like this year – except for one thing!

We had just snapped a photo of our team upon arrival when a non-smiling young man approached us.

“You cannot take photos here. Delete that,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked, trying to engage him.  “We took them right here last year.”

“But can you please tell me the reason?” I pressed. “Is there a manager I could speak to?”

A nearby older man came over and completely agreed with the younger man.

“Delete that and I need to watch you.”

I was about to persist, when from my right came a voice of reason.

Gina, let it go. It’s not worth it. Remember our mission.”

My co-trainer, colleague, and friend  – better known as the acclaimed Nigerian executive, leadership coach and keynote speaker that he is, Richmond Dayo Johnson – reminded me of what was important.

Don’t try to reason with the unreasonable.  Get on with the important things in your life. For me, having that photo was not one.

So, now, I am happily posting our team photo from Port Harcourt from last year! And I am also thanking, RDJ, and Marshall Goldsmith and others who remind us to remember to stay focused on the important things and not get distracted by the chaos around us.

Just another day in Naija
Just another day in Naija

Life can be chaotic.  As I look outside my window on the Nigerian street scene passing by, I see Hawkers squeezing between the jammed traffic, trying to sell figs or biscuit or bottles of water. I see crowded market stalls teeming with people.  It’s a bit chaotic, but believe it or not, it is largely calm.

People are going about their day.

In the past year, our team coordinators, Omon and Ibukun, have each been robbed in their cars; Omon was robbed by gunpoint.  And yet, they go on.  They are here. Committed to helping us bring leadership and communications training to hundreds of college leaders around their country.

How dare I get deterred by an unjustly deleted photo?

But you know it happens to you too, doesn’t it? The car that cuts you off when you’ve politely signalled your intention to change lanes.  The clerk at the DMV who turns you away for whatever miniscule reason without any emotion at all.  The work associate who has still not read your email.

We all have our triggers.  But, honestly, unless you’re a Syrian refugee, battling a life-threatening illness, or grappling with a small handful of extreme life-impacting events, you’re probably doing okay.

  1. Catalog your triggers.  
  2. Take note and consider alternative ways to react. 
  3. And count your blessings it’s not worse.

Always learning and growing! Here’s to making it a great week.

Greetings from Nigeria,

At Saturday's Port Harcourt Training session - where cameras WERE allowed.
At Saturday’s Port Harcourt Training session – where cameras WERE allowed.

Kindly,

Gina

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

How to be Determinedly Optimistic!

Lulu's first day back to school and yes, she needed a scarf! We're in Ireland!
Lulu’s first day back to school and yes, she needed a scarf! We’re in Ireland!

“How was your summer?” The friendly barista at my gym here in Ireland asked me.

“Good really, I certainly can’t complain,” I replied.

“No one would listen anyway,” he added chuckling.

I thought about that.  It’s true. We really don’t want to listen to people who complain.  Yet, why do so many of us continue to keep up the constant drum-beat of negativity.

You know the types.  Every business project is overwhelming. Every boss doesn’t understand them.  Their aches and pains. The traffic. The weather.

Ah, the weather.  That’s an especially good subject being the transplanted American living here in Ireland now.   Just over a week ago, I was wrapping up a wonderful month in the US – speaking and training at conferences and then spending time with family and friends in the hot and humid Midwest.   We wore sleeveless shirts and sandals.

Now, I’m back in Cork, Ireland where the clouds are almost always moving.  I wake up and there’s sun and by the time I make the bed, the wind and rain have swept in.  Then five more minutes and the sun breaks out again –complete with rainbow.  Last week, I saw three rainbows in one day. No kidding.

The Irish are what I like to describe as “determinedly optimistic” about weather.  They make up funny sayings about it like,

We have four seasons in one day.

Or

 What are an Irish person’s two favorite days? Christmas and summer.

When our plane landed, my daughter, Lulu, and I quickly put on the sweaters we had brought with us for our walk across the brisk and breezy tarmac to the customs and baggage claim terminals.

Yesterday was her first day back to school.  She wore her school’s “summer uniform” which, naturally, comes complete with matching cardigan.  Lulu also reached for a white scarf with dragonflies on it. She wrapped three times around her neck.  She was ready to go and she was happy – no matter what the weather.

After I dropped her off, I zipped over to the shopping center for a few items before getting to work. I noticed other ladies at the shops were also wearing brightly colored scarves.  And sleeveless shirts. And sandals.

It was if they were proclaiming, “The calendar still says it’s summer, no matter what the weather may feel like.”

This week Time magazine is listing 13 ways to be a better human being.  It starts from within. From our attitude to our work, our family, even the weather.

What are we proclaiming every day?  Are we being determinedly optimistic or are we constantly complaining?

Who is listening to us?  What opinions are they forming?

It’s up to you, isn’t it? I say,

Grab a proverbial scarf and keep going!

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.