Monthly Archives: August 2011

Password is a Great Challenge in Communication!

Communication never gets easier with a rollicking group of family and friends playing Password.  We pulled out our old, old game during a recent week at a lakeside cabin in Maine.  This is our favorite game to play during long summer evenings especially if  we have several generations playing at the same time.  First, this game is so old that usually no one has ever heard of it.  Second, it is so simple that all of us can get it – or so we think.  It’s kind of like Charades or Pictionary without any drawing or acting.

Divide up into teams (mix the generations to make it funnier) and then one person from each team lines up in front of the fireplace.  They are secretly given the same word from the moderator “hubby Wally”. Taking turns they are allowed to give their team members one word with the hope that their team will spontaneously guess the secret word.  The trick is to communicate with your team mates using skillful word associations and context.

Understanding Each Other’s

You won’t think it would be so difficult but understanding what someone else is saying depends on not only on the actual words being said but more importantly   with the context and association the words bring to mind.  Interesting, it’s very frequently why we have disconnects in communication.  Someone says “That’s not what I said” and the other person says “Oh, but that’s what I thought you meant”.  Each thinks they heard it right.

As I  watch our team members laugh as they struggle to guess the words I’m struck with how quickly word associations happen.  Our brains connect words with meaning almost instantaneously.  And we’re so tempted to shout out that first association as our buddy Cedric repeatedly did.  Sometimes those associations are right on and sometimes they are way off the mark.

As Leaders – Are We Talking About the Same Thing?

If you are in any kind of leadership position, realizing the power of word association is very helpful.  You may think you’re being very clear in your communication only to be surprised that your direct reports or a colleague assumed something quite different.  In most cases, it’s perfectly understandable because we hear what makes sense to us – in our own context.  So a wise leader always double checks to make sure that everyone heard the same thing.  And if you have any doubts about how complex communication is – especially between generations – just bring out that game of Password!


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Flexiability as Hurricane Irene Bears Down

The best laid plans get changed when a Category 3 hurricane is headed directly toward you.  Our family is up in Syracuse, NY to help daughter, Barbara, move back into her second year at Syracuse University.  Upstate New York is safety out of the direct aim of the hurricane but we had planned to drive south to New York City tomorrow to see oldest son, Davis, at West Point.  We don’t get that chance very often so I was really looking forward to enjoying 24 hours with him – nice dinner, great B&B and lots of laughs.  Just like lots of other people, I’m reluctant to change plans unless I really have to . . . it’s tempting just to deny that a storm is on it’s way.

First Step: Get More Information

It’s all over the news.  The TV and papers are all broadcasting that folks need to get out of the way of the torrential rains and winds – not drive straight into it.  So after that initial period of denial, I start problem solving (which all of us are quite good at) by gathering information about the storm’s path, cancellation policy at our B&B (which there is none) and updated status on airline flights out of the east coast.  Once I have that information, we can come up with a couple of backup plans.

Second Step:  Make Two Backup Plans & Enjoy the Change

Creating several backup plans requires thinking of options and alternatives.  Unfortunately, being downtown in NY City on Sunday will not be one of them.  Creating options helps us feel more in control since we have a plan and a backup plan.  And we’ve just got to acknowledge that national weather is simply out of our control but what we do with the situation is within our control.  So there will be some other good ideas which will probably be dinner with twin sister, Diane, back up in the Boston area tomorrow night.  I’ll let you know!  Racing to beat the rain for now . . .

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Kayaking in Maine: Lesson in Patience

It’s beautiful up here on a quiet pond in Maine.  My twin sister and I have organized a wonderful week for family and friends at a lakeside cabin on North Lake in Norway, Maine.  Each summer we enjoy getting everyone together to laugh and play by the water either on the West or East coast.  This time we are in western Maine filled with endless waterways and kayaks.  So as Diane and I carefully step into the bright orange kayaks early this morning it occurred to me that I’m not sure I’ve ever taken a single kayak out myself.  “Have you ever done this before?” I ask my twin. “No, I don’t think so” she responds – but we figure it can’t be hard and it wasn’t.

Practicing Patience

We paddle slowly but sometimes bump into each other kayaks because we’re still getting the rhythm of the stroking down.  I practice doing slow donuts so I can go backwards and forward as needed.  So with a bit of effort, we get going down the shoreline toward the distant mountains.   I ask her, as a family psychotherapist, what would be the personal or professional lesson that we could learn from this quiet experience of kayaking in Maine.  Diane doesn’t hesitate “Patience” she says . . .  “you’re not going anywhere too fast and that feels wonderful”.

We don’t get many times to practice patience in this way.  Smooth and steady and we’ll get there just fine.  I loved seeing the lily pads with flowers in the “secret cove”.  And then a slow donut turn and we’re headed back to our cabin, breakfast and sleeping teenagers.  How else can we practice patience?  Here’s one more way . . . being the last person to watch the bonfire die down at the end of the evening.  Just chatting and watching the flames become embers and the ash.  Now that takes patience.

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Career Support Groups Help with Job Loss

Searching for a new job can be a lonely experience.  When you leave your old job (either voluntarily or involuntarily) you experience some very real losses.  We often think of the financial loss but there are other losses which are much more subtle but are equally hard to adjust to.  These include the loss of a daily routine; a sense of belonging; a feeling of purpose and the loss of regular contact with professional colleagues.  It can be a difficult adjustment.  And it’s easy to become isolated especially with the current popularity of job searching primarily on the Internet.

Start a Career Support Group

Here’s an idea . . . seek out a career support group.  It can either be one offered through an employment organization or a community group.  Or even better, start your own with other people who are in an active job search.  Not sure where to meet others like you?  Just start asking around especially if you involved with an employment group – we have ProNet for unemployed professionals in Northern Nevada – and invite a couple of other folks to join you for coffee once a week.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how helpful a group like this is especially in helping to reduce the isolation almost everyone feels in today’s new world of high-tech job searching methods.  We need the human touch – the chance to talk and support each other.  And people know people know people.  Remember 80% of professional jobs are never publicly advertised.  They are filled by personal contacts and referrals.  So reach out to others – you help them and they help you!

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Polish Up Your First Impression!

Are you getting a bit sloppy?  Are you taking your professional image more for granted these days?  It’s easy to do when you have been in business or at the same job for a number of years.  But it is a mistake.  First impressions make a difference each and every time.  And it’s not just how we dress but how we shake hands; introduce others, our eye contact and how we listen and engage others in conversation.  Our body language sends a powerful message to others and signals them as to whether they can trust us, like us and ultimately if they should do business with us.

Watch Others at a Networking Event

Try this . . . at your next networking event stand back and just watch the folks in the room.  Watch for those that others seem to gravitate toward.  There is an energy, an enthusiasm and a synergy in the conversation.  What is that individual doing that is obviously appealing to others?  What can you learn from them?  My guess is that folks would say they feel comfortable and acknowledged – in other words – they feel connected and “safe” to just be themselves.

Wow, now that is a gift!  To be able to create that sense of positive feeling with others (and with strangers too)  is pretty impressive.  Is it hard to do?  No, not really if you are willing to honestly assess your weak spots and then actively take action to smooth out the rough edges if you’ve gotten a bit sloppy over the years.

Making That First Impression Count

During my 6 1/2 years of living in Norway (my husband was assigned to NATO), we attended many international dinner parties and social events.  I learned that I could find something in common with just about anyone even if they didn’t speak English well and I didn’t speak Norwegian, German etc.  It was a challenge at first but became a well-practiced skill and actually quite fun.  Here’s three of my favorite “lessons learned” on how to make a great first impression.

  • Practice how to meet someone gracefully – shaking hands, eye contact, remembering names.
  • Practice engaging a stranger in simple conversation – listen, ask questions, be interested.
  • Practice connecting with others by finding interests in common – “bridge topics” – pets, travel etc.

This is professional development that you can do on your own.  It’s all those basic manners that our mothers were always teaching us and that hopefully we’re passing on to our own kids.  Enjoy!

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