Category Archives: Education and Training

Start your journey to personal empowerment now

You want to be in control of your life, right? Personal empowerment enables you to make positive decisions, and to take action that will bring you closer to achieving your goals and ambitions.

Don’t just talk, make it happen

Thanks to Mind Tools we can start the process of personal empowerment right now. Here’s a summary of the process https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/personal-empowerment.htm

To become more self-empowered, use this four-step process:

Know Yourself: understand your motivations, and your strengths and weaknesses.
Identify Your Goals: identify the aspects of your life that are the most important to you, and where you can create meaningful change.
Develop Your Competencies: focus on the skills or qualities that will allow you to reach your goals.
Claim Your Space: take your first few steps! Then review and reflect on your achievements so far, and adjust your approach if necessary. If it’s appropriate, seek feedback from the people around you to ensure that you stay on track.

Re-ignite the positive force within you

But how? Personal Empowerment Exercises

The following techniques and exercises can help to support you during the self-empowerment process. Find the ones that suit you, and practice them regularly!
Journaling . Keeping a record of your progress enables you to see how far you’ve come – and to remember where you went wrong!
Cognitive restructuring . Challenging the beliefs that underpin a sense of powerlessness can enable you to view your situation in a different light.
The ABC Technique enables you to see the consequences of negative thought patterns, and to become more optimistic.
Affirmations . Repeating positive thoughts to yourself can give you a greater sense of well-being and self-belief.
Exercise . Take a walk. Go for a bike ride. Work out at the gym. When your body feels good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you’ll feel more powerful.
Find an inspirational role model. Learn how this person overcame his or her own challenges – if they did it, so can you.
Talk . If you need an instant boost, talk to a supportive friend or colleague and let them tell you how great you are!

We all need to feel empowered so start working on it. If you’re feeling helpless or confused consult a life coach, and Mind Tools has a vast library of courses that assist people to live and work better, empowering lives.

You say hard, I say soft – Combined Skills Best for Success

In my consulting business I’ve faced much resistance from clients when I focus on the so-called ‘soft skills’, so I’m delighted when I see that even ‘big names’ like Forbes and McKinsey include them in their lists of essential skills for success. I also feel somewhat vindicated that at last companies are taking cognizance and making the move to including soft skills like critical thinking, emotional intelligence, communication, problem solving and innovation into the ‘hard skills’ mix.

Keep learning, combining skill types for better performance

I believe that the ‘hard’ skills of structuring, strategising, leadership, decision-making and information technology can only be successful if driven by the company’s values and culture. It’s not only about what the company says and does, it’s about how it’s done. And that’s where the ‘soft’ skills come in.

All company actions must be in keeping with the company’s values and its specific culture. This applies to even the smallest of companies deemed unaware of or unaffected by corporate governance issues. They too can benefit from developing the ‘soft’ skills in business.

According to McKinsey’s 7-S [Skills] framework for success, the company’s ‘hard’ action elements, those processes used to run the company – their Strategy, Structure, Systems – must reflect the company’s stated goals, values and culture. In addition, the company must utilise the ‘soft skills’ – Shared values, Skills, Styles and Staff – to complement and enhance the ‘hard skills’ effectively to achieve success.

For example, if management’s strategy aims to be a successful, forward-thinking, progressive company, it can’t have a top-down management structure and system in place. Managers must include elements of interactive communication (Skill) between themselves and their team (Staff). Their approach and/or Style must encourage communication, information-Sharing, critical thinking and problem solving, leading to innovation, performance and ultimately to success.

Skills for success

A well thought out and synergistic combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills is what companies need to achieve success. Thus both soft and hard skill types are essential.

Before you vote in May – Here’s Elections 101

ELECTION 101 FOR VOTERS IN MAY’S ELECTION

VOTE for SA

I can’t go into May without something on elections in SA. So here are some of my thoughts on democratic elections in general; especially for first-time voters;
1. Elections are held in democratic countries to give citizens their rightful say on who rules the country, how they want it to be run and how they want to feel about being well governed

2. In a party-political system, citizens are represented in government/parliament. In some countries citizens even vote for a specific person to represent them in government. If that person does not carry out the tasks expected of them, citizens may vote them out at the next election

3. Different parties emerge as groupings of like-minded people based on common ideology, concerns and issues; with consensus on how to act on their ideas, forming policies and implementing them for the benefit of the country. Each party believes that its policies are best-suited for the citizens’ needs and for the country’s growth, economy and peaceful prosperity (though some countries, sadly, rulers seem to thrive on chaos and war)

4. No political party owns the treasury or other SOEs. The state does, so the party that wins the election has to manage the state funds and resources to run the country effectively. If the governing party fails at this, citizens must choose a more competent party.

Make your mark in the right place

5. In order to choose a party to represent them, citizens may attend party meetings and rallies, listen to political representatives’ views, policies; observe how they conduct themselves and compare stories, issues and parties. Then they decide which party best aligns with their own views, attitudes and perspectives on the society they want to live in, and whether that party is capable of delivering on its promises

6. BUT here’s the thing: citizens are both emotional and rational beings. And whereas electing the government of one’s country SHOULD be one of the most rational of decisions, far too often, citizens fall prey to old myths, are swayed by politicians’ promises, blindly follow the emotional but hollow calls and end up unquestioningly voting for a party that does not deliver on its promises for a better country.

So, before the May election dawns, ensure that you put on your rational cap, that you take a global view of the consequences of your vote by reading, listening, discussing and comparing the party-specific offerings. Make every effort to engage with the media, not simply as a user but as a concerned citizen.

Make your mark count to make your country better.

Join the queue to vote in May Elections

University student unrest, unruly protests, untenable demands – forget academia and learn the necessary skills for the future

What students don’t seem to realise is that the militant fight for space and place in tertiary institutions may not give them the imaged experience, satisfaction nor get them the degrees and jobs they dream of – it is an illusory quest.

Although one might not sympathise with these students, one has to acknowledge their plight. In South Africa they find themselves in a society where education and training has been sacrificed at the altar of politicians’ greed. South Africans have been robbed blind by this kleptocracy. There is no money left for education or anything else.

However, instead of focusing on the negative stats and figures, I’d like to suggest that the youth and educators change their somewhat outmoded, irrational mindset and try a new approach to preparing for the world of work and job finding. We don’t even know what jobs there’ll be on offer in five years’ time, so we can’t say ‘what’ they should learn, but we can develop skills of ‘how’ to think and work.

I want to point to the outcome of the World Economic Forum’s research. It surveyed 350 executives in 15 of the world’s biggest economies to identify the top soft skills needed for the workforce of tomorrow. The result was the WEF official top 10 list of soft skills for 2019. And Forbes says by 2020 every company will be looking for people with these skills:

1. Cognitive flexibility
2. Negotiation
3. Service orientation
4. Judgment and decision-making
5. Emotional intelligence
6. Coordinating with others
7. People management
8. Creativity
9. Critical thinking
10. Complex problem solving.

By the way, I loathe the term ‘soft skills’ because I know from experience that these are the core skills needed to carry out all workplace tasks. So, even if we can’t forecast the ‘what’ of future work at least we know the ‘how’ – using skills that can be applied, transferred and implemented in every job, no matter what you do.

So students, think again, look ahead and decide what will really be of more use to you in your quest for meaningful work. Look for training opportunities that give you what you – and our country – really need.

Christina’s Simple Tips to Live with No Regrets

In this post I use Christina DesMarais’s ideas on how to live your best life. I prefer the word whole so I say you have one life, just keep living it and working to make it whole. However, her ideas are well worth putting into practice.

Christina aka @salubriousdish says, “being mediocre and coasting through life is the easiest thing in the world. But it also means you’re going to miss some opportunities and maybe even have some regrets when you get to the end of your days.”
Here are her ideas on how you can be more intentional about how you spend your time and live your best life.

Stop checking Facebook
I say “yay” to that. Christina says Facebook’s “a curated, disingenuous portrayal of your friends’ lives. If you believe what you read, their marriages are only full of adoration and respect, their children are perpetually high-achieving and beautiful and their holidays always feature amazing vistas and smiles reflecting a good time had by all. Nobody posts photos of their spouse during an argument, their kid acting like a brat, or the annoyances involved with actually getting to and from a vacation destination. And researchers have found that scrolling through all this pretend perfection makes you feel less satisfied with your own imperfect life. In essence, it fosters envy, an emotion which doesn’t lead to being the best version of yourself.” Clinical psychologist Rachel Andrew maintains, “What social media has done is make everyone accessible for comparison. In the past, people might have just envied their neighbours, but now we can compare ourselves with everyone across the world.”

Go to nature
According to Christina, “Studies have found that spending a few days in nature increases creativity by 50 percent, improves one’s attention span while reducing hyperactivity and aggression. Being close to the ocean is associated with higher levels of happiness and people who reside in greener neighborhoods live longer. At the same time, hearing traffic noise adds strain to a person’s heart.”

Teach yourself to be calm
“It’s actually contagious”, says Christina. “Instead of being someone who stresses out, be a rock for the people in your periphery by modeling self-composure and confidence. In the event of a challenging situation, take time to breathe, gather your thoughts and carve a path which is responsive and not reactive. How you handle yourself will affect how the people around you handle themselves. Will getting agitated, angry or upset help the situation? Likely not.”
I can vouch for that. I’ve found that taking a deep breath and count to ten instead of voicing my immediate responses is a great communication tool.

Take the hard road
We keep being told, “Achieving great things doesn’t happen by doing things the easy way.” Christina agrees that successful people do the difficult work of getting out of bed early, exercising every day, keeping to-do lists, reading and being vigilant about continuous self-improvement. “Envision the opposite: sleeping in, sitting around, disorganization, ignorance and a lack of growth. None of that will result in anything worthwhile.”

In my own case, studying while raising three children and completing my masters degree while working full time meant putting in the long hours while others were sleeping, playing and watching TV. But the result has been a rewarding career and a sense of achievement.

Finally, along with others, Christina quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” And she adds that being useful doesn’t need to mean changing the world, but merely making it a tiny bit better than before you existed.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Global movements affecting company Reputation

Global movements affecting company Reputation

Some thoughts on responsible leadership, public activism and reputation

Right now trust in mainstream media, government, business and NGOs is lower than it’s ever been. Organisations have to work extra hard at building trust, loyalty and reputation, and to avoid crises that may cause harm to their operations and reputations.

Management and Leadership changes

In the past, management would decide on its company culture, inform stakeholders and the public what it stands for and how it does its business, sometimes explicitly stated in a company’s vision and mission. Once done, the company would brand itself in terms of its culture and its products. And we, the public, would believe everything it said.

However, over time the public would rate a business on the extent to which its products and actions matched its goals. Too often public perceptions and ratings were ignored, leading to loss of reputational capital, while managers and leaders focused only on the other ‘capital’ – profitability. Today, because of the glaring evidence of crises resulting from public reaction to irresponsible leadership, organizations are being forced to act more ethically.       

Public perceptions                                  

The public expects organisations (including government) to keep their promises. Individuals want to trust a business they deal with. Their perceptions of and attitudes towards a company must be positive before they can trust it. And business certainly needs loyal customers and stakeholders. No company can afford to ignore the reactions to their behaviours. They do so at their own peril. Managers and leaders must listen and adapt.

Social Media and Advocacy

Meanwhile globally, the rise of social media, and the grassroots engagement it affords, has contributed to the growth of people power. Companies are constantly being watched and evaluated by the man in the street who happily shares his perceptions, based on what he sees and hears in the media. These perceptions gain momentum and can lead to mass action, causing negative outcomes for the businesses concerned. There are so many examples of this, but H&M’s recent crisis over an alleged ‘racist’ advert is one. With the growth of public and employee word-of-mouth marketing, research has shown that   advocacy statements by activists and ‘influencers’ on social media are far more powerful in terms of engagement and belief than content that comes directly from the brand or company.

Ethical Branding              

Ethical business builds Reputation

Ethical branding is crucial as companies become aware of the importance of good corporate citizenship, responsible behaviour and transparency in all their dealings with internal and external stakeholders. More than ever before, building public trust is crucial to any business operation and its survival. Managers and leaders must ensure that the company performs well economically, ethically, legally, environmentally and socially, that is, as a corporate citizen.

The King Report, now in its 4th form, is regarded as the ‘go-to guide’ on corporate governance for large companies. Government and SMMEs too would definitely gain by consulting the document. Basically, it highlights key aspects of creating a corporate environment for the 21st century and beyond where corporate citizenship and responsible leadership are key. Only by focusing on its role in society and behaving with transparency can an organization ensure its reputation and sustainability.

 

 

Write an 8 Step Communication Strategy for 2018

PR and Communication must be strategic to be effective here’s an easy 8 Step Plan.

In a 2016 article Roger Jabaly defined strategic communication management as “The systematic planning and realization of information flow, communication, media development and image care in a long-term horizon. It conveys deliberate message(s) through the most suitable media to the designated audience(s) at the appropriate time to contribute to and achieve the desired long-term effect. Communication management is process creation. It has to bring three factors into balance: the message(s), the media channel(s) and the audience(s)” (Bockstette & Carsten, 2008).

Jabaly further suggests that writing a communication strategy should include identifying the different aspects that need to be planned for.  He offers eight steps that would lead into a well-rounded strategy, fulfilling the aspirations of most organizations.

1)   Statement of Purpose: Why are you developing a communication strategy in the first place and what needs to be achieved with it.

2)  Current Situation: To understand your organization’s current situation it is highly recommended to use tools such as: SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threats), PEST analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, and Competitor analysis).

3)   Set Objectives: It is crucial to align both Organizational and Communication objectives and present a communication strategy that delivers on your organization’s overall vision, and objectives.

4)   Identifying stakeholders: Know your audience. Whether internal or external, communicators should be able to give a comprehensive description of their audiences.

5)   Messages: Craft your messages to be simple, relevant and appealing to your different audience. Avoid using one size fits all approach.

6)   Key Communication Channels: Ask yourself what are the most appropriate channels to use in transmitting your messages? Understand all the available media channels and their level of engagement each offers your audience, especially social media.

7)   Playbook: With your audiences and communication methods identified, it is time to highlight your key communications activities, budget and allocated resources. Your work plan will allow you to measure steps toward your goals.

For a truly well-rounded communications strategy, communicators need to incorporate detailed plans for Media/PR, Digital, and Crisis Communication.

8)   Auditing and Evaluating: What are your key performance indicators, what would strategy success look like, how would you evaluate, measure and audit your communication strategy performance?

Add to the conversation! Share and contribute your thoughts, questions and experience on developing a communications strategy.   

As we draw near to Youth Day on 16 June and remember the student riots, we need to remind ourselves what they were putting their lives on the line for.

We know what drove those students in 1976 to protest. The evidence is clear – Bantu education was appalling, especially when compared to that of whites. Students had to use a foreign language in their studies. Learning and teaching facilities were poor, conditions in the townships were not conducive to learning and teaching. Students were fighting for education and a better life.

While we acknowledge the changes that have taken place politically, economically, technologically and socially since then, we need to start real conversations about real and relevant education. What those students were fighting for may not be what we see and experience today. What type of education do South Africans want? What does the #feesmustfall Campaign envision for education today?

For the past 20 years we’ve been trying to ‘improve education’ in South Africa. Billions of rands have been spent. Many changes, many methods, many structures, many experts have been used, and yet every year we question our education system and make promises and plans to improve it – to no avail. We have SETAs and SAQA setting the standards, we have government promising to produce thousands of artisans annually, we have private ‘educational’ companies and institutions making millions from people desperate to get certificates, we have ‘free’ access to education, and yet we have not managed to educate the youth of this country nor prepare them for the world of work that is constantly changing. Not to mention the number of ‘degreed’ individuals without work – thrown into the world of ‘worklessness’. Clearly there’s a problem.

Education needs a revolution

Education needs a revolution 

So it’s time we take note of Thomas A. Edison’s words:
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Let’s learn from our mistakes and proceed with a strategic plan toward a more favourable outcome?

We must start asking meaningful questions about education if we are to truly address the problems that the very concept and its interpretation cause. Starting with:
What is education? What is its purpose? What is it used for? Do people really want to be educated? What does it mean to be educated? Is education still relevant in a global information society where anyone can access any information that they find useful? And jobs are evolving at such a rate the educators don’t even know they exist, so how can they prepare students?

Some see education merely as a piece of paper for a job-seeker; others see it as a process of developing one’s thinking and leadership qualities; yet others see it as needless rote learning of useless information only to regurgitate it in exams. Nevertheless, the honest responses to authentic probing into education would at least give us as a society a fair idea of what we’re dealing with before we set off on yet another detour. Let’s put our heads together and start that conversation today.

Let's talk about successful education

Let’s talk about successful education

There needs to be another education revolutionthis time in our thinking – for successful solutions to the problem of education in this country.

Back in the classroom

Teaching and Learning  is collaborative

Teaching and Learning is collaborative

Lecturing from level 1 to 3 in Corporate Communication Strategy, Applied Communication Techniques, Intercultural, Business and Interpersonal Communication. Loving to see first-years,; their eyes filled with trepidation and excitement, and the third years nonchalant, already planning for when they’re out there.

It’s especially good in that I can revisit theoretical work whilst applying what I do in business. I’d like to think I’m a valuable resource for students. But they’re so caught up in their cellphones, they don’t seem to need anything else! It forces me to pull out the stops to engage students in communication ‘talk’.

Can be very rewarding and satisfying.

Advice for matriculants: keep dreaming, planning and doing

Passed? Where to now?

Passed? Where to now?

In the past week, I’ve been bombarded by articles on matric results, with people giving their take on how to deal with this never-ending problem and the way forward.
If I’m feeling overwhelmed by all this, what of those poor matrics, having to cope with their success, achievements, failure, the future and joblessness?
Let me add my bit, gleaned from all my article readings…… My advice for school-leavers:keep moving, dreaming, creating and doing…you’re in the driving seat. Three key words: purpose, creative thinking and doing.
1. Agency
“Are we pilots or passengers” asks, Are we just drifting or directing our lives? The word agency is defined as “our power to affect the future” and the writer goes on to say we all have more agency than we think we have and we need to realise this and use it to steer our lives in the direction we want to go.
Using the ideas of Albert Bandura, We are advised to focus on our intentions, vision and purpose for our lives and then use our agency to work towards achieving our goals. We do have the ability and power to make things happen by planning and acting.
So, school-leavers entering the real whole need to be guided in some self-reflection to tap into their own purpose or goal and to plan how to fulfil it in a relevant way.
2. Daydreaming
Another article, based on an education and entrepreneurship report in the UK, focused on the value of daydreaming or “relaxed attention” in exploring alternative solutions to challenges and problems. Our school systems neglect this type of thinking and hence produce matriculants who can’t think for themselves, critically and creatively. This is a key ingredient in developing innovators, entrepreneurs and motivated citizens and engaging them in the social and economic (and yes, political) sectors of our society.
3. Operacy
“From Thinking to Doing” explores the ideas of Edward De Bono, the creative thinking guru. The three aspects of thinking: “what is; what may be; and what can be” are used to show how creative ideas emerge from changing what is already known to a new idea or product. “Finding a different use for an existing product or developing it into something completely different is what entrepreneurship is all about.”
Without detailing the cognitive process, suffice it to say that according to De Bono, “In education we are concerned with literacy and numeracy. That leaves out the most important aspect of all, ‘operacy’. The skills of action are as important as the skills of knowing. We neglect them and turn out students who have little to contribute to society.”

Moving on with purpose, creativity and action

Moving on with purpose, creativity and action

Solution
Change our education system, focus on skills of thinking and action, and we won’t experience this annual crazy frenzy of opinions about the state of education and how students should learn and be taught to become useful and productive. Students would feel more empowered to steer the course of their lives in ways that suit them, their knowledge and skills, their circumstances and their own goals for their future.

And, by the way, everything I’ve said applies to young, old, individuals and businesses too….. have a brilliant 2015!