Networking without fear


The idea of it gives many people knots in the stomach. I used to be one of them.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

The best advice I ever received was to stop thinking about networking as a way to sell yourself and to think of it as an opportunity to help others.

"Attend networking events with the intent to be a connector."

Ask others about themselves and their work. Listen to what they do and who they need to meet. Think about how you might help them through your networks.

When you make networking about service to others rather than focusing on yourself, the fear of facing a crowd melts away. At least it did for me.

Sure, you still need to have an elevator speech because when you are interested in others, they usually ask you about you, so be prepared.

But, when you attend to others, the spotlight changes direction and that's a lot more comfortable than feeling like you're at a speed dating event.

Since those bygone days, I often carry the business…

What's culture got to do with it?

I've written and spoken (a lot) about brand. What it is and what it isn't.

It's a favourite soapbox of mine.

Over the years, I've been asked many times to "create a brand."

As soon as I begin to ask questions about their customer service, internal culture, market position, etc., I am often met with that deer-in-the-headlights look.

They aren't really asking for help with their brand. What they are saying is: "Create a logo for us."

Your logo, motto or slogan, the colours, fonts and images that you use represent your brand -- or what you think your brand is or want it to be.

Brand itself is quite different.

To define your brand, ask yourself some questions.

How would you describe your business's culture? What behaviour do you recognize and reward among your employees? How do you think your customers would describe their experiences with you? How responsive are you to requests for service after the sale? Do you give back to your community? Wha…

Hello? Is anybody listening?

Over the past few weeks, I've been teaching a course in health care communication to a group of international students at the local community college. One module was on effective listening.
What has struck me since that module, is the number of times during the course good listening skills have arisen. In almost every other conversation we've had, the art of listening has been key. When the group presentation assignment came around, one group chose this as the topic.
The ability to listen -- to really listen -- affects our relationships, the decisions we make, how well we engage others, how we show empathy and respect.
Great listening means doing more than waiting to speak. It means putting your biases aside and opening your mind to hear not only what's being said but what's behind what's being said. It's about being curious and wanting to understand another person's point of view.
"Seek first to understand," as Stephen Covey wrote in the 7 Habit…

It's not my job.

Communication is everyone's job.

That's right. I said it.

Your communication department can't do it all alone.

Whether you lead a team or are an employee, you are the face of the organization inside and outside.

As a manager or supervisor, your team counts on you to share organizational updates, to recognize good performance and to listen to ideas and concerns, and escalate them as appropriate. The communication culture you create can build a great team or destroy it.

An an employee (regardless of where in the organization you work) you should be aware of what your organization is doing, what it's goals are and how you fit into the picture. Your employer should be providing this information. It's up to you to stay informed.

So, if we have to do all this, why have a communication department? you might well ask.

Your communication experts not only must provide information and set up the avenues for you to be informed, they are also responsible to:

provide you with gr…

Why you need plain language

Great writing begins with knowing your purpose, your audience and your message. But that's just the beginning. Learning how to write with impact takes practice.

Do you have tips that have helped you become a better writer? We'd love to hear from you.


Engage. Empower. Energize.

When I worked at the Province of Nova Scotia, I was part of a team that launched the first survey to measure how engaged provincial employees were. The survey measured staff opinions and perceptions in 10 areas: teamwork, communication, employee involvement, quality of work life, leadership, compensation and recognition, personal growth, diversity, safety and security, and recruitment and retention. (You can find out more about this and subsequent surveys here.)

Prior to and during my time at the province, I had often been the go-to person for employee communication programs and had been an advocate of good employee communication practices. This was because none of my PR colleagues thought employee communication was exciting enough. I didn't agree. I thought if organizations were going to say that employees are their most valuable resource, they should show it and I was excited about the possibilities of this work.

The experience with the employee surveys, however, gave me a new way…

Isn't a paycheque enough?

Many employers believe that delivering a paycheque is all they have to do to ensure that their employees are doing all the things the employer has hired them to do.

But is it?

There's a big difference between those employees who show up to work, sleepwalk through their shifts and leave the second the clock tells them it's time to go home, and those who are enthusiastic about their work, deliver great customer service and think about improvements or innovations to your business.

Studies over decades have shown that engaged employees -- those who give the extra 10 per cent, who are committed to their workplace -- deliver better results, take fewer sick days and stay with companies longer. Don't believe me? Here are 32 studies that show just that.

Communication is an important piece of employee engagement. HR Review cites it as being a top-five contributor to employee engagement.

Great communication reduces the need for the rumour mill and the negative environment that can c…