The recent devastation in Texas, Florida, and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, left thousands of homes and businesses destroyed, people displaced from their homes, in desperate need of basic essentials like shelter, food, and water, and sadly, lives were lost.
When you know a crisis situation is coming, you have some time to prepare a communication plan. Authorities had learned from Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, and others in recent years. When you apply lessons learned, tweak and adapt along the way, then you have a solid communication strategy.
With each repeat event, more is learned about what needed to be communicated and when. What will you do when crisis strikes? Here are a few important reminders when communicating catastrophic events.
Send Clear Messages. Keep your message clear and simple, and repeat, repeat, repeat. The anticipated devastation and flooding levels in each of these hurricanes reached the public days in advance through meteorologists, the media, FEMA, government leaders, social media, and in-person efforts. The messaging for protection against the elements and evacuation when recommended needs to be clear.
Be Calm Yet Emphatic. When you are the lead spokesperson during a crisis, people look to you for a calming presence. You provide stability and hope. Authorities remained calm yet serious when communicating with residents who were in the path of the hurricane.
Use Multiple Channels. Don’t rely on one communication channel…use all of them. From the most sophisticated electronic communication to the old-fashioned person-to-person, look to all communication channels to assist you in getting your message to the public.
Prioritize Safety and Security. The Number One concern in times of disaster is the safety and security of residents. Agencies were prepared for tens of thousands of residents who were displaced in the hardest hit areas of Texas and Florida. Yet, communication took much longer to reach those in more remote areas of Puerto Rico.
Anticipate Resistance. During crisis situations, you must anticipate some resistance. It’s human nature for people to look at other options if they have them. In Texas and Florida, some residents chose to stay in their homes to wait out the storm. They discovered that was no longer an option and were eventually rescued and evacuated. On the island of Puerto Rico, there were no such options…only to wait out the storm in the safest place possible.
Bring Mobile Devices to the Rescue. The use of mobile phones and social media channels opened up communication more quickly as long as communication towers were in operation. People were able to send out an electronic SOS and also could locate people who needed rescuing more quickly. In times of great devastation, however, lack of electricity makes it improbable or impossible to communicate through any electronic channels. You must then revert to more traditional communication channels, like person-to-person.
Be Timely. Leading up to a disaster, every minute is precious because your message must reach the public post haste, whether it is to take cover or to evacuate. Following the aftermath of a disaster, the use of time shifts to the Number One priority: saving lives. In the case of Puerto Rico, there was not enough attention given to the distribution of life-saving food and water. Many lessons will be learned from that terrible devastation.
Have a Plan B, C, and D. In disasters of epic proportions, relief and rescue workers must make decisions quickly and shift to trying something different. If Plan A doesn’t work, go to Plan B; if that doesn’t work, go to Plan C, then D, and so on. In times of great emergency, you must think of absolutely every potential outcome and be prepared to act swiftly. The clock keeps ticking.
Possessions can be replaced; human lives cannot.
When you are faced with a crisis, draw upon past experiences and apply those teachings to the situation at hand. Hopefully the lessons learned from these recent natural disasters will help leaders better handle crisis communication in the future.
September 21 marks the International Day of Peace, a recognition that promotes peace around the world in countries, cities, and communities. The 2017 theme is Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. An event map indicates where events are being held around the world, including meditation, music, marches, and other events.
Put into action in 1981 by a United Nations Resolution, and celebrated for the first time a year later, the International Day of Peace reminds us all to bring peace into our lives, whether here at home or abroad. The International Day of Peace uses education as a means to encourage peaceful co-existence and safe, open dialogue as a means of understanding.
Some of us are more removed from speaking out for peace because our lives seem rather “peaceful” as they are. Yet for millions of people of all cultures, genders, ages, and economic classes around the world, they have only known war; they have not experienced peace.
When we consider war, we may think that battles are only fought with destructive weapons and artillery force. Yet, some people experience a war of a different kind as they try to simply live their lives as best they can. A war of words can be a form of abuse. A war-torn body can show signs of a domestic dispute and physical abuse. Belittling another human being can leave scars of emotional abuse.
Within families, wars are fought too, with relatives often choosing sides, deciding whom they will defend. Within companies, wars among departments or staff can occur when judgment and ego get in the way of collaboration and cooperation.
How are you making peace within your world? Are you encouraging those around you to share their thoughts and opinions through open dialogue? Are you trying to look at challenges and disputes, then identifying potential solutions? To make the world a better place begins with one person: You.
The United Nations has created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to improve the lives of every person on the planet, which include:
1. No poverty.
2. Zero hunger.
3. Good health and well-being.
4. Quality education.
5. Gender equality.
6. Clean water and sanitation.
7. Affordable and clean energy.
8. Decent work and economic growth.
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure.
10. Reduced inequalities.
11. Sustainable cities and communities.
12. Responsible consumption and production.
13. Climate action.
14. Life below water.
15. Life on land.
16. Peace, justice and strong institutions.
17. Partnerships for the goals.
As you consider your contributions to your community and the world, what goals are you working on every day to create a better life for all? Peruse The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World, compiled by the United Nations, and you will find many simple tasks that you can complete easily. Share it with co-workers. Create a conversation. Take action.
On Monday, August 21, 2017, millions of people travelled to the path of the total solar eclipse to view the entire cycle, and particularly that moment when the moon travels in front of the sun, leaving a spectacular ring. Millions more viewed the eclipse on television or a mobile device. The rest of us viewed a partial eclipse from our back yards or office parking lots. Even Alaska Airlines maneuvered a flight into the path of the total solar eclipse for invited astronomers and special guests.
The sheer beauty of nature is best revealed in these moments of awe-inspiring wonder. When you sit back, become fully aware, and let nature unfold, you realize that that moment will never again be repeated. Ever. Sure, there will be other sunrises, sunsets, eclipses, but not that same one. It’s a powerful thought.
When you are fully present in a moment, any moment, you derive the greatest pleasure from it, because your mind is nowhere else. It’s not cluttered with thoughts of your To Do List or what you could make for dinner. Your mind is completely focused on that moment.
The benefit of present moment awareness is that it allows you to take in what is happening in that moment. You can set aside other feelings or hidden agendas, anger or angst, and simply be.
We witnessed that on August 21, when we experienced the solar eclipse in person. It took our breath away. It left no room for anything else except our focus and attention. We were suspended in that moment of pure exhilaration.
We came from different cities, countries, socio-economic backgrounds, races, religions, genders, and education levels, and somehow it worked beautifully. We collectively shared that moment together.
Let’s take what we learned in that moment and apply it to our workplaces, our communities, and our country. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tweeted “Enjoyed watching #Eclipse2017. A great reminder that all darkness is temporary.” Let’s listen and learn from each other. From awareness comes change, true change. It begins with open dialogue. Let the conversation begin.
I love language, especially listening to the words that people choose to speak. Lately, I have noticed something quite peculiar. Call it a trend, or a bad habit. I have become acutely aware of people who repeatedly apologize. The key word here is repeatedly.
Their comment automatically begins with “I’m sorry.”
What would you think of someone who you met for the first time who, within several minutes, apologized to you several times? The confident professional would not apologize. It’s the person with the lack of self-confidence who would.
Whether it’s you or a member of your team, listen to the language being used. Whenever there is repetitive language, listen more intently to the impression that is being made. Is it a positive or negative impression?
Here are a few examples of “I’m sorry” that I recently experienced:
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know if you preferred coffee or tea.” Revised: “Do you prefer coffee or tea?”
“I’m sorry, but could you end the program at 3:45 instead of 4:00?” Revised: “Could you please end the program at 3:45 instead of 4:00?”
“I’m sorry. Could you please wait until everyone arrives before you start your presentation?” Revised: “Could you please wait until everyone arrives before you start your presentation?
It’s a small change with great impact. By removing the habitual “I’m sorry” from your language, you position yourself with greater certainty and confidence.
Here are a few ways to help you stop over-apologizing:
Become more aware of your language. Do you say “I’m sorry” too often? If so, ask yourself why.
Pause. Take the time to choose your words more carefully. Instead of automatically saying “I’m sorry,” take a few seconds to compose your thoughts and begin the sentence with your core message.
Become more aware of the impact your language has on others. Have several people suggested that you stop apologizing, or asked you why you’re apologizing? That’s a signal that you are over-apologizing. Simply drop the phrase as your default.
Snap out of the deficit thinking. People who over-apologize may have issues with self-worth. Replace the deficit thinking with abundance and gratitude.
The flip side: Of course there will be times when you will need to use the phrase “I’m sorry.” Save it for those occasions when you really need to use it, and it means something important rather than just a sentence starter.
With companies adopting a more casual dress code, some workers are becoming more casual about their grooming habits. Personal hygiene lies at the very center of a professional image. It’s not just the clothing that is worn; it’s what’s underneath it all. If you work with someone who needs guidance, initiate a confidential conversation to reinforce the message that good grooming habits have a positive impact on career growth.
Good grooming habits begin with basic cleanliness and continue with maintenance of one’s body and clothing. With your team member, do a quick mental scan right now, from head to toe. Body Health: Hair. Skin. Nails. Teeth. Clothing/Outer wear: Clean. Pressed. Stain-free. Also consider shoes, cologne, accessories, jewelry, and make-up for women. What’s your final assessment?
I have witnessed plenty of bad grooming habits throughout my professional career. Here are a few of my most memorable:
Bad Teeth. During one of my recent presentation skills seminars, a man in his mid-40s, delivered his presentation with his shoulders rounded, head down, with little eye contact, no smile, and weak vocal delivery. When I shared my observations during our private one-on-one evaluation, he opened up and confided in me that his teeth were really bad, that he was embarrassed, and that he was finally going to the dentist to have them fixed. I felt sad and happy at the same time; sad that he had waited many years to fix his teeth, sad that he may have missed some promotions or better job opportunities along the way, and happy that he was finally doing something about it. Interpersonal communication is a vital part of your life and career, so invest in basic dental care to enhance your image.
Heavy Cologne. Years ago, when I served on a selection committee for a new hire, there was one applicant who stood out, and she didn’t stand out for the right reason. Her cologne reached the conference room long before she did. By the time she arrived, the entire room was filled with a strong musky scent. It was a short interview, and she did not get the job. Over-use of a fragrance can completely shift first impressions. More companies are initiating a fragrance-free work environment because strong fragrance can create unpleasant surroundings.
Clean Yet Stinky. Years ago, I worked alongside a new employee who was delightful and hard-working. It was her first job. Everyone loved her enthusiasm, accuracy and efficiency. Yet we noticed one thing: Her body odor. We asked the oldest woman of our group to have a conversation with this young woman. We felt the news might be better received if it came from a wise sage. This was the right choice. When the news was shared, it was revealed that, although this young woman bathed daily, she wore her clothes several times before cleaning them. That meant that all of the oils from her body, along with perspiration odors, marinated in her clothing. When she put dirty clothes back on her body, it was as if she never bathed. After the conversation, she returned to the office like a new woman. From that moment on, her body and her clothing were clean and fresh. An added bonus: The conversation and the shift in personal hygiene boosted her self-confidence.
How can you help someone who needs a gentle nudge? Initiate a critical conversation by following this simple process:
Be kind. Whatever information you share, demonstrate respect and kindness; do not be judgmental.
Begin with a positive statement. “You are a valuable team member” or “You are doing an excellent job.”
Share specific feedback. “May I offer you some feedback about your personal style?” Once a response is given, add “I have noticed that…” “Are you aware of that?” Wait for a response. Avoid saying “Several people have mentioned to me” or “We have noticed” because you want to ensure that you are building trust in your relationship.
Ask for feedback. See how the person is receiving the information.
Receive feedback without judgment. “Now that I have shared my thoughts with you, what are you thinking?” Wait for a response.
Offer additional help. “May I offer some suggestions?” “How can I help you?”
Keep the conversation going. When you initiate a private conversation about a delicate topic like personal hygiene and grooming, you are deepening the level of trust with that other person. Keep the lines of communication open.
A confidential conversation like this, when it is shared with kindness and concern, can transform another person’s life and offer new career possibilities.
Credibility is one of those intangibles in life that can change dramatically from moment to moment. Throughout your life – and your career – you will have many opportunities to compromise your credibility. Never compromise your credibility. The credibility that you enjoy today has taken years to build. Why risk throwing it all away? Protect your credibility. It is one of your greatest assets. Your credibility is built on the foundation of your personal and professional character, and your competence as a professional.
In their seminal book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their longitudinal research on leaders asked professionals how they felt when they were in the presence of truly great leaders. The top ten replies were: Capable. Challenged. Enthusiastic. Inspired. Motivated. Powerful. Proud. Repeated. Supported. Valued.
How do you communicate with credibility? These tips will help you to consistently position yourself as a professional.
Align verbal and nonverbal language. Listen to your words and intonation. Be aware of your nonverbal language.
Lead by listening. Practice active listening. Deliver an “SOS” to your brain – Silently Observe, Then Speak.
Make realistic promises and keep them. Think before you speak. Do what you say you will do.
Speak from the heart. Create a mindset of inclusion. Use compassionate, caring language.
Be yourself. Align your values and behavior. Don’t try to mimic someone else’s behavior. Be your most authentic self.
Be an expert. Enhance your knowledge base continuously. Be a resource. Share your knowledge with others.
Be honest. Frame what you’re sharing so it benefits the other person. Know the difference between using kid gloves (being gentle) and boxing gloves (being more assertive).
Be proactive. Ask people their preferred form of communication. Ask clarifying questions to gain understanding. Seek challenging assignments at work, then follow through to get the job done.
Be consistent. Don’t flip-flop. Don’t exhibit unpredictable behavior.
To gain – and maintain – your credibility requires a great deal of behind the scenes strategic thinking. Begin with a simple self-assessment. It’s worth the time and your constant attention.
As a professional, your actions represent not only you…they also represent your company. You are a brand ambassador when you work with customers, speak at a national conference, or volunteer in the community. You are the brand, and all it stands for. You are the face of the company. One false move, like bad behavior, can stunt or end career success.
The recent United Airlines debacle demonstrated that actions speak volumes about who you are and what you value.
The United Airlines Flight 3711 incident, which occurred on Sunday, April 2, has been reported, analyzed and picked apart by the media, bloggers and regular folks like you and me. Here’s what happened: The flight was fully booked, and passengers were already seated. One passenger, Dr. David Dao, had been asked to relinquish his seat (which he had paid for) to make room for a United employee. He refused. As a result, Chicago Department of Aviation officers swooped in with brut force, handcuffed and carted Dr. Dao off the plane. In the process, his nose and a few teeth were broken. A video captured by another passenger immediately went viral. The rest, as they say, is history. In fact, it was an historic event.
It didn’t have to be this way. A moment of thought before taking an action would have resulted in an entirely different outcome…a more positive one…for everyone involved.
Days later, top headlines are still trending:
Newsweek: Why United Was Legally Wrong to Deplane David Dao
NBC News: United CEO: Doctor being dragged off plane was ‘watershed moment’
What would a good brand ambassador do? Here are a few thoughts:
Know what your brand stands for. Your brand is that one thing that represents who you are and what you stand for. First, United’s brand begins with its name, United. That one word creates a larger-than-life image of the company. What does United stand for? Second, you may or may not remember United Airlines’ famous tagline, “Fly the friendly skies.” Because of the brut force that was used to remove Dr. Dao from his seat, one might question, “Is United really friendly?” If United’s thought leaders had really, well, thought about this, they may have come to the conclusion that the action that was being considered didn’t fit with the United brand. But things didn’t play out that way. Every employee of United is a brand ambassador for the airline. And every employee of the Chicago Department of Aviation serves as a brand ambassador for the organization.
Do the right thing. Consider the public’s reaction once the video went viral. It was clear that everyone agreed that the situation was not handled properly. We have all been in situations where our gut screamed out to us “Don’t do it!!!!!” Yet, we ended up not listening to our intuition and lived to regret our poor choice. When your conscience speaks, listen.
If protocol is flawed, pitch it. “I was just following protocol” is not a good enough reason. Sure, United Airlines had a policy. All airlines have policies, procedures and protocol. Sometimes you need to look at protocol, look at the situation, consider the outcome, and ask if the protocol fits the situation and if the outcome is one you desire. If things don’t add up, it’s time to re-examine the protocol or throw it out completely in that situation. The incident has resulted in United Airlines changing its policy.
Take quick, responsible action. The leadership at United Airlines first offered a boilerplate response to the media, saying they were examining what had happened before commenting. A few days later, United CEO Oscar Munoz apologized and took full responsibility. This was too little too late. Two days after the incident, United’s stock had fallen by 4%, roughly $1.5 billion. Although the stock has regained some of its strength, United will carry this ding on its record forever.
Be strategic. In my workshops, I remind people how important it is to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the marketplace. Technology makes it so easy to do. If you want to get ahead in your career, you have to stay ahead of the competition. A change in the airline industry began shortly after the United Airlines incident. A CBS News headline says it all: “Three airlines change policies in wake of United’s passenger dragging incident.”
Build a culture of respect and compassion. You will never find yourself in an awkward situation or have to apologize for bad behavior if you treat every person that you meet with respect and compassion. More people recognize that this is the best way to move forward together.
The United Airlines incident is already becoming an important case study for business schools, communication scholars, human resource professionals and enforcement officers. Hopefully this is one case where we will learn from mistakes and bring about positive change as brand ambassadors.
Professionals often complain about the lack of communication with co-workers, bosses or clients that could be remedied easily with a simple “quick click” solution: a confirmation. Technology allows you to quickly respond via text, email, or instant messaging.
All it requires is the addition of one sentence to your communication: Please confirm that you received this (fill in the blank…information/proposal).
Of course your computer or mobile device will let you know when a message is delivered. That’s a good start. It’s not enough. Just because it was delivered doesn’t mean it was opened or even read. Instead of hoping that the recipient will let you know, ask for confirmation instead.
Here’s an example: You receive an inquiry from a prospective client who is interested in doing business with you. This prospect requests additional information and a proposal with pricing. When you send the proposal, don’t assume that the prospect will let you know that it’s been received. At the end of the message, make a request: “Please let me know that you received this proposal, and if you need any clarification.”
Now let’s turn things around. Let’s say that you’re the person doing the requesting. Let the sender know – with a simple electronic confirmation – that you have received the information. “Thanks for your quick response to my request. The proposal looks good. I will contact you after our committee reviews it and makes a decision.”
Then…and here comes the hard part…do what you said you would do. Get back in touch with the sender. Provide an update. Don’t play phone tag or – worse – avoid the sender. There is nothing more frustrating or than submitting information and being avoided by the person who requested it.
According to the summary of an email statistics report conducted by The Radicati Group, Inc., the number of emails received daily, worldwide, in 2015 was 2.6 billion, which is anticipated to increase by 2019 to 2.9 billion.
Worldwide daily texting totals about 20 billion today. Less than half come from the United States. The Pew Research Center, in 2015, issued results of a study, the American Trends Panel, analyzing U.S. smartphone use. In every age group, from 18 to over 50, 92%+ use their smartphones for texting, compared to a lower percentage, 87-91%, who use their smartphones for emails. These numbers are continuing to grow, and so will the number of electronic messages that fall between the cracks. That means you must work harder to ensure that communication remains active and open.
Use technology to remain connected, whether you are the person requesting information or the person responding to a request. It only takes a second or two to request or give a simple confirmation that will keep the lines of communication open.
Today marks International Women’s Day, one day each year that celebrates the “social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.” This year’s theme is Be Bold For Change. Take a moment to honor and recognize the women who have served as positive role models in your life, who have inspired and motivated you, and who have bravely charted new territory as pathfinders.
Now imagine your life without them. Oh, wait a minute. You wouldn’t be here if not for a woman! This message is being reinforced by leaders of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March. They are encouraging women to participate in A Day Without A Woman on this International Women’s Day by not spending any money (or alternatively supporting women- and minority-owned businesses) and by not engaging in any work.
Think about all of the women who have encouraged and inspired you. Mothers. Grandmothers. Aunts. Sisters. Daughters. Granddaughters. Great-granddaughters. Sisters-in-law. Mothers-in-law. Teachers. Bosses. Co-workers. Neighbors. Religious leaders. Shop owners. Community leaders. Political leaders. Friends.
I for one would not be the person I am today were it not for the courageous, intelligent, fearless women who came before me.
On this day, I honor my maternal grandmother who emigrated from Poland to begin a new life in America. She spoke no English when she arrived at Ellis Island. As a wife and mother, she ran a large household (with seven children) on a small stipend. Her values of hard work, discipline, and sacrifice were passed on to her children.
My 96-year-old mother continues to inspire me every day. I have enjoyed many lengthy conversations with her over the years, listening to her life story, and understanding her remarkable life as a first generation American. It took her ten years to work her way through college to receive her first degree – at the age of 47. At the age of 80, she received her second college degree. Although she could have audited classes for free as a senior citizen, she preferred to pay for every class so she could earn a degree.
Many women have inspired me from afar. The list is too long to include all of them here, yet, a few stand out…women of all ages and backgrounds:
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou
“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”
“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa
“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” Amelia Earhart
“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.” Barbara Walters
Now more than ever, women’s voices must be heard. We are economic decision makers, leaders in education, innovators in science and technology, entrepreneurs, and nurturers of the human family. Our inclusive and collaborative style leads to positive change. A quick review of Forbes Magazine’s “The World’s 100 Most Influential Women” will remind you of the capabilities and accomplishments of women.
At some point today, pause for a moment, and silently thank the women who have encouraged, supported, and inspired you. Or better yet, pick up the phone and call them!
Follow more activity on: