Category Archives: Language, Learning and Liaison

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?

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.

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!

What Executives Must Have now…

What Executives Must Have … So much is being written about leadership today. The state of the world and business demands it. We all know we need good leaders in all spheres of life. But let’s explore what good leaders have and what they do…….

Relationships make leadership

Relationships make leadership

In this VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous – characterised by knowledge creation and change, real leaders are those who are aware of the challenges and problems and build coherent strategies and responses to surmount them. (From Jean-Francois Manzoni’s “Breaking bad leadership habits”).

This VUCA world demands that we start doing things differently, that we manage ourselves and our people differently. And we have so much useful, valuable information around us today, all we have to do is study it, synthesise it, create new knowledge from it and then apply it to our own working lives. The value of Emotional Intelligence in leaders and the LEAP principles of Leadership Excellence through Awareness and Practice are examples of this.

Like Samuel Bacharach (Bacharach Leadership Training), I am an academic who believes in the value of utilising theories, debates and studies in the context of business, translating academic ideas into business concepts. Based on leadership research and ideas around Neurolinguistic Programming (taking attributes, characteristics and features from others and transferring them to oneself through mindfulness, learning new skills, capabilities and habits) I have developed my training workshops.

My most recent catalyst has been Toby Moore’s article, Six ‘must haves’ for the new age executive. Apart from the business acumen and sound judgment required of leaders, Moore adds: Visionary, Presenter, Communicator, Technologist, Peer and Champion. I took these leadership attributes or characteristics and blended them with some traditional and some newer concepts to come up with, what I call I-CARE Leadership. And this is the foundation for my next workshop which I have entitled, “Must haves for the new agNew age executivese executive.”

I run workshops with Executives, Managers and Leaders, offering attendees actionable insights and findings to take back to their work, integrating new information and ideas into their behaviour and communication at work. Watch this space for details of my next Workshop: ‘Must Haves’ for The New Age Executive.

‘MUST HAVES’ for THE NEW AGE EXECUTIVE

Come to the next REAL Communication Consulting Presentation and Workshop……..

‘MUST HAVES’ for The New Age Executive

'Must haves' for The New Age Executive

‘Must haves’ for The New Age Executive

 

PR Boot Camp re-scheduled

Are you a business owner wanting to develop your Brand,

communication1

 NGO wanting to create awareness or in

HR, PR, or marketing and needing to become even more effective

You must attend the

Public Relations Boot Camp

Get a new understanding of

  • Current trends in PR and Branding
  • Developing your corporate vision, identity and brand
  • Building relationships with your key stakeholders
  • Strategic planning for a strong reputation.

Date: Thursday 20 March 2014

Time: 08.30 – 12.00

Venue: Chamber House, Royal Show Grounds, PMB

Cost: R 550 per participant

 Contact:  Desiray (Dee) Viney

Speaking about the corporate revolution….

website people 1There is a corporate revolution going on! Complexity and chaos theories abound, and things have to change. Businesses need to take note of this and listen to the thought leaders’ appeals to start adapting before it’s too late.

As with all change in thinking and behaviour, there comes a change in the language we use to reflect our new beliefs and actions. Here are some of the current buzzwords in business, branding and corporate communication:

Organizational change involves “deconstructing the silos” or structures of business past and means making the necessary strategic shifts to meet the demands of the changing times. One of the most fundamental changes is in the balance of power between consumer and producer.

Power to the people, not corporates – people know more, they have more freedom, more access and more voice. They expect more and want to be treated accordingly. It is people who build brands and reputations, not companies themselves.

Customer is now audience, so-called because people are watching, listening and responding now, not just buying. If this relationship is audience-centred and managed well, the audience becomes your ‘community’ and advocates on behalf of your brand and builds your business with you.

Sustainability and Social responsibility – these concepts focus on conscious decisions and long term commitments to social, environmental and economic issues that affect ALL people, not just short-term CSI campaigns that gain company kudos.

Truth, Vision Transparency, Collaboration? Unfamiliar terms in business? But soft skills are now core skills. Developing these soft skills within a stakeholder engagement strategy means working on BOTH an emotional and a rational level. After all, we are dealing with people who really want to know who we are and what we stand for. And as with all relationships, we need to unpack our true purpose and seek collaboration partners to share it with. So now there’s more use of ‘us’ than ‘them’.

Spin is replaced with real content – spin attracts and lures people into believing what you say, based on the company’s needs or agenda. Relevant content and story-telling engage people and build relationships based on audience needs. It’s an ‘outside-in’ approach that values content marketing, instead of just product marketing, and connecting, not just selling, using conversations about the business and its products and services to build meaningful, long term relationships with the audience.

Ethical branding not just advertising. Every brand has its unique story about what it stands for, not only about its products. And even the products are ethical now. The question of image versus façade highlights exhibiting an identity based on purpose not profit, and mindful actions, not pretty packaging. People trust businesses that believe in what they do and value integrity rather than those with nice appearances and words.

The authenticity revolution? Carla Enslin calls it an evolution – wherein organisations become…. “responsible for creating legacies based on sound social and economic values and authentic practice”.

NGOs a site for PR skills development

Earlier this month a jubilant Department of Education announced the 78% pass rate for the 2013 Matriculants. But hot on the heels of the release came questions, criticisms and expressions of concern regarding the lack of jobs, the skills deficit, and the relevance of a university degree when there was dire need for artisans (who actually earn more than graduates). We all know the problems but what about solutions?

On 9 January Rowan Philp wrote a piece in The Witness entitled “Volunteer or Bust!”
http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global[_id]=112563

What caught my attention were the following:

• pupils had “fixed and unrealistic ideas” about jobs
• “Young people have to change their mind-set from ‘What can I get from employers?’, to ‘What can I give to employers?’ They should draw up a list of all the employed adults they know – and ask to work-shadow, intern, or just volunteer.”
• gain on-the-job experience, even if it meant no pay.
• there was “increasing concern” over viable careers for matrics.
• the country needed artisans and entrepreneurs.

The matric results have focused the nation’s attention on the desperate need to address the problems of unemployment and skills shortage. For me, the NGO environment is an ideal one for developing volunteers into skilled workers and entrepreneurs over a wide range of activities while building the capacity of communities. I have been involved in CESL (Community engagement with Student Learning) projects and seen the positive impact on young people working with NGOs.

There are so many NGOs with uplifting projects needing staff and funding. In conversation with Michael Deegan, CEO of the PMB Community Chest, he mentioned the need for NGOs to think of new ways of doing things, and to rework their corporate identity, image and communication strategies to create more awareness and draw more donors, corporate sponsors and volunteers.

Clearly the new audience is the youth and so NGOs and charities need to change the perception that charity and community work is only for the older generation. Already the Community Chest has a programme directed at the youth called the “@Generation” to address this. Having young volunteers working in NGOs would go a long way to improve their understanding and perceptions of ‘charity’ work.

NGOs are multi-dimensional too in that they operate on so many levels and with so many stakeholders – from government departments, communities, business, international donors and aid organisations to local educators, women’s groups, healthcare givers and of course the media. Volunteers would leave with a range of skills, abilities and interests to offer the world of business.

So here’s my suggestion for a possible solution:

Volunteerism as “giving to grow” – NGOs, Business and the Community can do it together

We need to develop a volunteer programme whereby unemployed matriculants go into NGOs to work and to train.
The types of skills they would learn is wide-ranging, from office admin, computer, financial and business to project management, government relations and funding policies, procedures and proposals.

However, my sphere of interest and expertise is corporate communication and public relations, so I will focus on NGOs and their dire need of strategic planning in this area. They are also perfect sites for potential learning and development of specific communication and PR skills, techniques and activities which are vital for their existence.
These include: Branding, copy writing, publicity, interpersonal communication skills, CSI – corporate social investment, community relations, media relations, sponsorship, integrated marketing, event management, and so on.

All they need is people to teach them! And funds to pay them.
So my proposal is that business contribute in money and in kind to enable NGOs to implement such a programme by covering the cost of willing professionals like me to deliver skill interventions and deliverables to achieve the outcomes – NGOs performing optimally, addressing socio-economic issues like healthcare, education, skills development, unemployment, whilst simultaneously building citizens, communities and the country.

It’s not impossible. It just takes concerned citizens and business to put their money where their mouths are! NGOs like The Community Chest are waiting for you…….

SA government must do better at development education and people-to-people links

With all the networking I’ve been doing over the past eight months, I’ve got to meet so many interesting people doing exciting things. I’ve been inspired, encouraged and learnt so much about how to improve the way I do things.

The highlight of last week (perhaps my year?) was the opportunity to meet people involved in the AusAID Australia Awards – Africa Programme. Ever heard of that? Well, let me enlighten you, as I was………. This is my short version, however, you can visit www.adsafrica.com.au or http://www.ausaid.gov.au/australia-awards if you want more information.

The Australian government, through its Agency for International Development (AID), has been working very hard and investing millions in its efforts towards achieving the UN’s Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) of eliminating poverty and hunger, improving health, gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability, as well as creating global partnerships. It has shown its commitment by giving assistance in these areas to over 145 developing countries. Examples include delivery of: sanitation and clean water supply programmes in African countries like Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa; measles and polio immunization programmes in Papua New Guinea; building a bridge across the Mekong River giving marginalized people in East Asia more mobility and accessibility to economic opportunities.

AusAID works with governments of developing countries to improve the way they deliver social, economic and community services. Through partnerships and policy dialogues with specific organisations, clinics and schools are built, advice and training is given; management systems are put in place – all with a view to improving crucial services and empowering people.

Enter the Australia Awards… The Australian government provides funds for educational and training opportunities for key people who take up scholarships in Australia where they study and develop skills that empower them to contribute to capacity and skills building and leadership on their return to their home countries. In this way these awardees, with potential to be future leaders, change-makers and advocates for a better life – socially and economically, promote the development and improvement in the quality of health, educational, social and civic services and make a difference to their communities and their countries.

There is a message in this: If the Australian government can implement a development education and training initiative in Africa, surely the South Africa government can too? Let’s follow their lead.

As communities explode over lack of services delivery and as over 20,000 South African matriculants prepare to enter the working world, it behoves leaders in business, education and civic organisations to get into gear on urgent dialogue, action and proactive partnerships to speed up reform of skills development and training programmes to increase job creation, reduce poverty, improve service delivery, energise our economy and develop good citizens.

REAL joins forces with 2 other experts on new business training workshop

COLLABORATIVE ENDEAVOUR TO ADD VALUE TO WORKSHOP
ablitz30July2013

Three Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business members – Shân Cade, Desiray Viney and Nicky Grieshaber – are pooling their skills and are leveraging their PCB networking opportunities when they host a combined workshop on August 23 at the Howick Falls Hotel. Cade, well-known for her CLIP System, Viney of REAL Communication Consulting and Grieshaber from Simply Clearer will combine their diverse skills into a single training product, a three-way interactive workshop that covers several aspects, including managing administration risk, and understanding that PR is not just marketing, and understanding language differences in the workplace. Aimed at frontline personnel and supervisors, the workshop plans to offer valuable tools for improving their productivity and performance – no matter what their job is. The trio brings complementary skills to the workshop – Cade will get participants to develop a holistic view to sustainable business and embrace a check list methodology as a control tool within the work environment.

This in turn manages risk, cost, continuity of service, consistency and ultimately customer service excellence, making each participant a valuable thinker in the workplace. Viney is a communication and media specialist and having recently moved from the academic to the business world, she now consults with companies and individuals on anything relating to corporate communication, public relations and the media as well as values-driven leadership. She has presented papers on several topics, including developing responsible leaders through the media, and corporate and government communication regarding social issues. Grieshaber, a professional language practitioner and workshop presenter, has plenty of practical experience to match a sound academic background. He has an easy manner and the ability to make complicated theoretical matters easy to understand. One of his special interests is the communication barriers experienced by both speakers and hearers when second or third languages are used. The workshop is organised by Cade who can be contacted on 078 801 0896 or shan@shancade.co.za .