Rather than list a bunch of things I hope to do in 2012 but probably won’t, I’ve decided to just share stuff I’ve learned, Part I. At age 53, there are now quite a few new years to look back on. So here goes, in no particular order:
1 | A peaceful home is the greatest treasure on earth.
2 | Unless you’re personally involved, you never know the whole story.
3 | Sooner or later, every single person in this world will need mercy.
4 | No matter what you achieve, God never stops looking at your heart.
5 | You’re only as happy as your least happy child. (Borrowed this one, and love it.)
6 | You don’t have to know “how to pray” for someone. Just pray.
7 | Your personal list of do’s and don’ts is most appreciated when it is not shared.
8 | The high road is not a substitute for graciously speaking the truth.
9 | Home should be a safe haven where honest feelings can be freely shared.
10 | God really does love you, and it is not dependent on you.
Are you making changes in your organization for 2012? In my 30-year communications career, I’ve been the instigator of change, the administrator of change, and the recipient of change. I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. If you’re responsible for leading change in the coming new year, here are some tips to help you successfully guide toward new direction.
+ Over-communicate the changes that are taking place. Use all of the venues at your disposal to clearly – and kindly – lay out your plans to your constituents. Start by stating the goal of the new direction and then make sure the “who, what, where, when, and why” are unmistakably identified. Be upbeat, positive, and compassionate.
+ Allow for questions and pushback. Remember, you’ve planned much longer for this than those who are hearing it for the first time. It may not be as understandable as you think when it falls on fresh ears. If your plan truly upholds the best interests of the organization, it will stand up to review. This does not mean you are saying things are negotiable. It means you are an empathetic leader who values your team and the greater community affected by change.
+ Be visible and available during the transition. Nothing is worse than a leader who drops a bomb of new information and then runs to his/her office. While you cannot make everything OK for everyone at all times, you can patiently restate where you are going and why. Eventually folks will decide whether they are in or out – and if it is to step aside, you should help them transition out in a way that honors both them and your organization.
+ Assess the plan at appropriate intervals. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments that bring the stated goal more within reach. Moving positively in the new direction is the bottom line measure of success, not whether your plan was perfect the first time out.
+ Keep communicating. Report wins, setbacks, and ask for constructive feedback. Results take time to emerge. Help your people stay encouraged and focused on the goal.
The common thread here is, of course, people. Organizations are made up of people. Change affects people. And people deserve our energy and effort. I’ve learned this from unfortunately getting it wrong sometimes, and thankfully getting it right sometimes. Make change with care this coming year – for the good of your people and for your good name.
Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older…but I am finding myself in a place where I treasure conversation more than ever before.
I am a word person by nature, but better with the written word than the verbal. I want to improve at the verbal, at conversation…because it is an incredible gift to be able to share thoughts and ideas with the people in my life and work. Here’s why conversation matters so much:
Trust, friendship, accountability.
Concentration, listening, thinking.
Joy, laughter, love.
Needs, dreams, experiences.
Concepts, perspectives, truths.
Opportunity, understanding, community.
Think of the art of conversation as a priceless gift in your life today. And savor it.
“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
What do you think about this old adage? We’re not sure whether it was P.T. Barnum or Mae West or someone else who originated it. But I am sure about this: it’s wrong.
There are at least three occasions when publicity does great harm:
- when it damages your character personally.
- when it dilutes your influence professionally.
- when it diminishes your position politically.
As a marketing and PR professsional for over 25 years, I’ve worked for prominent people who were careful to guard their character, influence, and position, so that they were used for good. I’ve also worked for those who were careless – and, like Barnum and West – sought the spotlight purely for themselves. They never got that the more they craved attention, the less impact they actually had.
Whether you’re a politician, a preacher, or a persona, the high profile life can be thrilling. There’s a great adrenaline rush in being asked what you think while the cameras roll. But with that buzz also comes great responsibility – to your family, your business, your congregation, and your cause.
There are most certainly times when you can’t avoid bad publicity. False accusation, rumor, and negative spin can come your way at any time. How you respond is critical. It’s important – and also quite challenging – to stay positive, stay truthful, and stay off the defensive.
But the best way to avoid bad publicity is simply by not generating it in the first place.
Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:5-6
In my work there is probably nothing more satisfying than the creative process – seeing something come from nothing, and serving a purpose for the client. To really see it work best, any collaborative effort must employ the individual strengths of creative team members.
There are so many tools available now that make it possible for anyone to “create.” Software design tools, online training, templates, flip cameras, even smart phones allow for any of us in the creative business to become jacks-of-all-trades, masters-of-none. Even that probably serves a niche in today’s market, to be sure – but when a project does necessitate collaborative effort, be sure your approach is to play to everyone’s strengths.
Whose strength is design? Who writes and assimilates content with the greatest result? Is someone particularly strong in photo and/or video editing? What about shooting? Web design? Technical issues? Who is best as a front person with clients?
Before you set out on a creative project that requires you to collaborate with other creatives, sit down and answer these questions. Get everyone in the right seat on the bus. Then let everyone do their work. Having everyone do what they’re best at will ensure that you get where you are going much more smoothly and successfully.
In the blink of an eye, I’m now on the other side of getting two kids through high school. Pretty sure I’ve received the greater education in myriad ways, not the least of which has been in navigating through all of the “voices” of parenting.
These are the voices we start to hear from the moment we announce that a new life is coming into the world. They come from society, school, church, family, peers, childrearing books and studies, the media, seminars, and on and on. What they should not eat. When they should walk. When they should talk. When they should read. What they should not read. Where they should go to grade school. When they should be in church. Why boys should play sports. What girls should not wear. What movies they should not see. Why they should go to college. What they should make on SAT.
While meaning well, the voices can be loud, relentless, harsh, and judgmental. They can send you into a parenting journey that has you constantly comparing yourself to other parents, and your kid to other kids. Don’t do it! It takes a lot of fortitude to withstand the cacophony of voices, for the good of your child.
In our house, the goal was to have balance – between school stuff, church stuff, and outside interests. While we don’t have perfect kids, we did do a pretty good job of vanquishing the voices of parenting, to our kids’ advantage. Here’s how it can be done:
Understand the uniqueness of your children, and the vastness of the universe. Think about this. God uniquely created each person who has ever lived or who will ever live on this earth, with unique gifts, unique interests, and unique purpose in life. He also created our vast universe, with more than a million and one possibilities to pursue in life. Seriously – could there be a better system than that? Yet there are so many voices continually telling our kids they should be like everybody else, and do certain things in a certain way. Life is not a funnel, and we are not on an assembly line following the same path to the end.
Know what your child does best. Watch what she gravitates to and seems natural at doing. Celebrate his gifts. Find the best venues for your children to hone their skills, and make the sacrifice to get them there. Be there to support and affirm when they are challenged, or chastised, by other voices.
Determine your family’s priorities. Create that life balance in your home that will create balanced, confident, happy kids. Discuss the priorities with your kids when you come to decision points along the way. While you have the final say, it is still important for them to understand your “family philosophy.”
Use common sense. You are the one in charge of your child’s schedule. Know when is enough and when is too much. It most likely is different for each of your children. The childhood years are also very seasonal – with involvement in various things changing from year to year. Know when to make adjustments as they get older and their passions come into focus.
Be the filter. Seek advice from those you trust when you desire it, and intercept the outside messages that do not line up with your priorities. Your children need you to do this. It’s not always easy – and your choices won’t always be OK with others. But they aren’t all telling you what is right for your child – that unique being who is not their child. Let your own voice rise above the chatter.
My kids have been the beneficiaries of many loving, caring, and affirming voices their entire lives. Our debt of gratitude for them is huge. They’ve also been hurt by some damaging ones, whose messages we’ve had to “undo.” My hope is that now, as young adults, they are equipped to recognize the difference.
Here’s our takeaway as we’ve arrived at this season of life: first, there’s a whole great big world out there! Each child has a unique, special, and important place in it. Don’t offer up some short list of pursuits to your children. Offer the world, and take the journey with them. There has never been anything I’ve enjoyed more in this life, and am still, than being a parent.
So I’m learning a different role now – being a guide to help them through the struggle of pursuing their dreams, and to make wise decisions along the way. Believe me, it’s just as challenging as hands-on parenting. But much quieter.
If you are a business consultant, it is your job to turn out excellent work that meets a need for your client. You do this by becoming a strategic partner who guides them, based on your expertise. Nothing can kill your effectiveness faster than a long, ineffective meeting.
Having been a part of too many excruciating meetings in my years working in both the corporate and church worlds, I made “painless meetings” one of my top priorities upon launching The Swarner Group. Here is what I do to achieve it:
When scheduling the meeting, set both the start and end time. It’s OK to finish early, but never finish late. Think ahead about how you will wrap things up and be ready to bring the disussion to a conclusion on time. Put unresolved issues on an action items list for the next meeting, or to be handled offline. (I personally operate under the principle of 1 hour maximum for a status meeting and 2 hours maximum for a strategy or work session.)
Create an achievable agenda for the time you have allotted. Also list the items that were completed since the last meeting. Clients love to see progress and be reminded that they are getting what they are paying for.
Guide the discussion and engage the participants. If you set the meeting, you are its moderator. And if people don’t know why they are there, you have already lost them.
Keep the meeting moving. Don’t race through the agenda, but do stay with it. “Don’t chase rabbits,” as my former boss used to say.
When everyone walks out of a meeting knowing something was accomplished, their time was respected, and there is an effective plan at work, you will have done your job well.
In many of life’s circumstances it’s not so much WHAT is happening to us, but what we THINK about what is happening that creates a downward spiraling funk. I seem to find myself overthinking just about everything. It takes a conscious effort to put my brain on the path of regrouping. Here’s what I have to do:
Refresh – we can actually make things stop more than we think we can. Let it go for awhile. It’s OK to do that and not feel guilty or pressured by something or someone.
Revisit - dust off a pet project you’ve left hanging. Finish the next step or two.
Reconnect – make contact with a family member or friend you haven’t talked with in awhile.
Refocus – be thankful for at least 3 things that make your life better.
Repeat – regrouping is usually not a permanent thing. But you know what works to get there.
Try it! You might just discover a fresh wind.
My high school tennis coach used to continually tell me I had so much “potential” as a player. I took it as a great compliment, and pretty much stopped right there. His faith in me should have propelled me to practice harder, play with more determination, and pursue a higher level of competition. At the time, I even had tremendous passion for the game. I took private lessons, watched every match on tv that I could, read tennis magazine, talked tennis with my teammates.
I simply lacked the patience for things to come together. I let losing discourage me for too long after a match. I let minor frustration dictate my attitude. I considered what would be needed to elevate my game, and then believed I was as good as I would ever get. And so, I put a cap on my potential.
Any kind of success in life, business, relationships, or faith requires patience. Potential is reached in steps, so that experience can be built in to the process. I understand this better in these middle age years, but I am still learning.
Are you waiting for things to come together? Celebrate the steps along the way. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. There is probably more good going on than you realize. Patience is the foundation of your potential.
So much of PR is related to telling a story. But does that mean every story? No. On the other hand, something that initially seems insignificant might really be a big deal. How do you decide? Here are 4 conditions I used in helping my clients decide when to take information public:
- Is it an innovation that can increase sales or create a new market niche for the company?
- Does it solve a problem or provide an improved solution in their industry or area of service?
- Does it involve key personnel who should be featured or announced?
- Will it reveal or better define the “face” of the organization from a human interest standpoint?
If we can answer yes to any of these questions, it’s time to formulate a public message to broadcast through the channels of our communication plan.