Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Being Thankful Is A Choice...







...But necessary because if we are truly honest, we all have something to be thankful for. 


As we doff off our hats to surviving an eventful year, let's realise that showing gratitude really does put everything into perspective.


This year, I have had joys and heartbreaks; successes and failures; expectations and disappointments. But I choose to be thankful for all I have experienced.

 

2015 has been a learning curve for me as well. It has stretched me and challenged me, but I'm still standing. 



In particular, two opportunities illustrated that perseverance pays off:



1) Customised business communications training



This is how I felt when I finally took the plunge into consulting:





 
I delved into the unknown but successfully completed my first business communications training as a paid assignment! Now I had, in the past, written and edited pieces for friends/acquaintances, as well as offered advice for website content, etc, for free, but this opportunity was different.



I was approached by the managing partner of a respectable consulting firm, Consulting X Ltd. based in Lagos, Nigeria, who wanted me to offer a business communications training session for six employees.



After consultations, I designed and executed a training programme covering communications guidelines, email communications and a writing workshop. The training was scheduled for five hours but stretched well beyond the time frame, simply because it was so much fun! The participants were engaged and enthusiastic. I couldn't have hoped for a more committed audience.





Feedback given from the managing partner two months after the event highlighted a noticeable improvement in the writing abilities of the participants. 



Such good news from a single training session!



I was elated and thankful that I was able to help promising professionals become more confident writers. 



And what was the unique selling point that made the client take me seriously enough—despite the referral from a third party—to pay for my services? 



This blog. 



Yes folks, all the hours researching, writing and mercilessly editing my articles, to churn out high-quality original content every month for over three years on this blog finally paid off. 



Note that I didn't need to choke the website with annoying advertisements, pop-ups and all those popular, (albeit effective), methods of monetising blogs to get that first break; which frankly speaking, was slow in coming. Still, better late than never. 



And for that I am thankful. 





2) Communications coach job



I had known for a while that I needed to jump back into the employment ocean and rejoin corporateville. 



Nonetheless, I was finicky about positions to consider and the companies to work for. I knew roles likely to attract me had to be communications-related. So I targeted a few companies and sent them detailed suggestions about how they could improve their communications. I also applied for a couple of positions and chased up leads. An encouraging flurry of meetings and interviews followed…then nothing. 



 I bided my time.







A while later, a friend told me about an opportunity for a communications coach at the Lagos Business School, a prestigious institution ranked among the top 50 business schools in the world, and the only Nigerian business school to be included in a world ranking. Although I also read that the Lagos Business School had received high ratings from the Financial Times of London, for open enrolment executive education—eight times—I was unsure that I would be a good fit.




I applied anyway and during the selection process, it became evident that knowledge gleaned from numerous articles I had written for my blog was invaluable to my portfolio. Also of relevance was the training programme I had completed months earlier for Consulting X Ltd.



I was made an offer and accepted the job. So now I am the communications coach for the MBA and executive MBA programmes. It has thus far been a baptism by fire; nevertheless a rewarding experience. 



I am committed to improving the communication skills of professionals who pass through the corridors of the MBA programmes in this reputable establishment. 



For this opportunity to help shape the careers of various talents, I am also truly thankful.  





Conclusion



While being thankful for 2015 might seem pointless to those who believe that they are masters of their destinies, it is necessary for me to count my blessings and to look with hope to the future.




Being grateful for having survived another year is humbling, especially if you have overcome setbacks.



For those who have faith, knowing that God will continue to have your back is comforting, even in the face of harsh realities. You will of course need to trust Him and ask for guidance for the year ahead.




Now, as 'tis the season to be merry:






I wish all readers a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!




Happy holidays and season's greetings! 



Next blog post will be in 2016. 



Cheers! 




If you enjoyed this post, don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:


Ø  Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.


Ø Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!





Need help with improving your communication skills? 



Hire me for: 


v  Communications training sessions for your executives;


v  Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc);


v   Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.

 

Let me help you get results. 


Contact me: 


A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.  


B) Call for a free consultation: 

Nigeria:              0704 631 0592

International:   +234 704 631 0592    



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N.B:   First image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici; via freedigitalphotos.net. Second. third and fourth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotosm.net. 




Saturday, 28 November 2015

How To Advance Your Career With Superior Communication Skills








Your communication skills, or lack thereof, will make or break your career.



Evidently, there are other important factors to consider when ascertaining how far you'd go in your professional journey——qualifications, competence, executive presence/gravitas, being at the right place at the right time, (aka plain old luck), etc.——but one of the most important determinants of career progression is your communication skills. 



If  you  cannot  communicate  effectively, you're done...unless  you seek help and are almost obsessive about making the necessary changes.




Remember that communication encompasses the oral, the verbal and body language cues.




There is always a need for effective communication at the workplace. In the UK for example, a new rule announced in August  requires public sector employees who deal directly with the public, (teachers, policemen, council workers etc.), to have a minimum ‘C’ grade in English language skills at GCSE level. To ensure compliance, managers will be obligated to test their employees on how effectively the latter communicates with the public.




Although most of us with white collar jobs in Anglophone countries may speak English fluently, there is a difference between speaking/writing English passably and truly communicating. 



In fact, there is a crisis of sorts of effective communication at the workplace, at all levels: From recent graduates and young executives, to seasoned professionals and masters of industry. 



Companies too are struggling to genuinely communicate with their staff. Savvy businesses are now challenging their corporate communications professionals to consider creative ways to trigger employee engagement. Moreover, boosting and protecting corporate reputations, internally and externally, are persistent concerns. Due to avoidable faux pas, often exacerbated by social media, communication and PR crises are rife. Case in point: The top five communication blunders in 2014 should be regarded as a cautionary tale of what not to do when handling corporate messaging.




Now as the proactive professional in this corporate jungle, what can you do to (re)position yourself as the high flyer in your pack?




1) Read frequently and extensively





This is the number one piece of advice I give during my coaching sessions.




There are no ways around it. You must cultivate a habit of reading good materials to become a good writer.




For those who loathe paperbacks or intimidating textbooks, there is a plethora of content available on the Web in different formats.




Professionals have realised that writing for cyberspace requires a different strategy——articles which are often concise and easier to understand, are combined with visuals, audios and other forms to entice readers.




Therefore  read  widely  and  even  outside your field, but  read regularly. Well-written content, (worthy of publication in the New York Times newspaper, Harvard Business Review magazines, etc.), exposes you to new vocabulary, nuances in language, writing styles and interesting structures which you subconsciously adopt to enrich your writing as time elapses.




Join online communities like Quora and LinkedIn and follow 'writing' groups. Subscribe to daily/weekly emails from blogs, renowned writers and thought leaders but read something daily, or a few times a week. It could be an article of 500 words or long-form content of 2,000 words.




Just read.  




2) Write, write, write!




Like any other muscle to be built, you need to 'exercise' your writing muscle to become a better writer. The more you write, the quicker you improve.



This is something I can personally attest to as a blogger, business content creator and communications coach.




It's easy to make excuses. You could say that you don't have the time to write because you juggle multiple assignments.




Or that writing is not really necessary in your role as a software engineer, an accountant or an art director; that you do things instead.



Or that you could simply pay someone to write for you.




Note however that you will be required to write; you just haven't realised how often you do so.




Emails requesting information/approvals; complaints about technical glitches; proposals, reports and recommendations; memos delivering bad news, sometimes badly-written, such as Microsoft's infamous memo laying off thousands in 2014; letters of resignation in the wake of scandals; public statements of apology; etc. In your career, you may need to write them at some point. It will become challenging for you the more demanding the position you hold or the more critical the audience becomes.




But there's help. Apart from taking refresher courses in grammar, mastering business writing and crafting powerful emails will get you far...very far indeed.




Thus, get over your fear———and shame———of writing sometimes cringe-worthy letters/emails/memos/reports, etc. and just write.



Also be conscientious about brutally editing and proofreading your work. You’ll soon observe that your writing chops are becoming top notch.  




3) Strengthen your speaking skills






If you occasionally manage to wiggle your way out of writing at work, you won't succeed in dodging presentations, meetings and talks.




Yes, you’ll be required to speak regularly and no, you won't be allowed to 'pass' in such situations.




It might seem daunting, having to give presentations to your bosses or to unfamiliar crowds, or to be suddenly called upon to speak, but do so anyway. In fact, embrace  occasions to speak.



I get it: You're an introvert and feel that everyone will judge you (unfairly) when you speak. Or you may have some legitimate social anxiety about public speaking. Get professional help for crippling phobias but then go ahead, in spite of yourself, and do it.




Note that even seasoned speakers, who get paid for their talent, admit that they sometimes get nervous. In fact, many have 'rituals' they go through before every speaking engagement———short prep talks in front of the mirror, power poses, eerie sounds made to 'wake up' their voices etc.———they nonetheless prepare, channel their nervous energy for greater impact and go on to wow their audiences. 



It takes quite a bit of practice and some courage but it can be done.




Speaking slowly but purposefully, changing tone/pitch, pausing at key moments, gesticulating, repeating phrases, rhyming...there are numerous tips for giving winning speeches. TED talks are renowned for being inspiring and engaging, so watch a couple of the videos available online and learn from the experts.
                                                                                                

Step out of your comfort zone to strengthen your speaking skills and watch your confidence grow. 



Trust me on this: You will get noticed.  




4) Discern body language cues



"You say it best, when you say nothing at all”.

Ronan Keating, British pop star.




Most of communication is what is not being said.





Even silence speaks volumes. Knowing how to discern body language cues will help you know the approaches to take, especially in stressful situations.






You'll also need to be aware of vibes you give off. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to point out telltale signs. Interrupting someone, frowning, looking away when being spoken to, rolling your eyes, grimacing, etc.——such ticks communicate annoyance, indifference or a complete disregard for the other person...which might not be your intentions.




Listening is also a skill that should be honed. When you combine active listening with observing facial expressions, it becomes a highly effective tool of discernment.




Those sensitive enough to interpret body language vibes usually save themselves grief further down the line.



Take this point seriously.  





Conclusion





The good news is that you already have noticeable communication skills otherwise you wouldn't have landed your current job.




However, if you’re aiming for the accelerated path to professional advancement——your excellent qualifications, experience and track record notwithstanding——you’ll need to display superior communication skills.




This is how you do so: 


Read constantly; consciously improve your writing and speaking skills; and work on being perceptive of body language vibes. Your perseverance will pay off when you get signalled out for leadership positions.




And you’ll deserve every opportunity that comes your way.




What other communication tips have helped your career? Please post your comments below.
  





Don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:




1) Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.



2) You should also sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!
  


Recommended reading







Need further help?


Hire me for a writing assignment or communications training and let me help you get results. There are two ways to do this:




A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.

B) Call for a free consultation: 

Nigeria:              0704 631 0592

International:    +234 704 631 0592    


----------------------------


N.B - First image courtesy of Sira Anamwong; via freedigitalphotos.net. Second image courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. Third and fourth images courtesy of Iosphere;  via freedigitalphotos.net. Fifth image courtesy of Kibsri; via freedigitalphotos.net. Last image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan; via freedigitalphotos.net.