Not Just Any Old Powerpoint, Article or Content Will Do

I recently found myself working with a group to put together a PowerPoint presentation for an assignment – and I found this great video about boring PowerPoint presentations that are out there. Made me laugh. Made me think. Made us change our approach!

Also came across this fantastic article on iarticles about things that hurt women’s career success. How many of these things do you do?

Yeah, yeah. We all know how to write and what to write for online readers. Oh really? Here’s an article by Kristina Halvorson, Brain Traffic that talks about Content Strategy. You can probably tell from the intermittent and eclectic nature of this blog that I don’t yet have a clear content strategy for myself. But I have a sense that it’s emerging. Organically. Kristina includes a great quote from David Campbell, the founder of Saks Fifth Avenue, in her article: “Discipline is remembering what you want.”

Ah, it’s all starting to come back to me now…

Food for Thought

This post has been modified from the original.

Sometimes, to my total surprise I ace the techie stuff. I recently imported content from an old website to this one, and no tears were shed. While what I did would be no big deal for any of the web designers I know, for me it’s fantastic progress. Something worked.

I’m also excited because I’m enrolled in the Canadian Marketing Association Digital Media Certificate. A nice diversion from job hunting!

Food for thought: There was an article in today’s National Post offering perspectives on the lack of female opinion writers in journalism. Journalists Barbara Kay and Jonathan Kay both provided their take on the subject.

Jonathan used the example of his behaviour when playing Trivial Pursuit, stating “…what I lack in knowledge, I make up for in self-assurance…” and explaining that the way (op-ed columnists) distinguish themselves is with their “certainty”  – a word that caught my attention.

He wrote, “We take sides and argue the hell out of them. Our special genius is to organise the miasma of commonly known news tidbits into an impressive-seeming argument, then we hunt out sources that confirm what we think we already know. We are argument machines. Whatever the issue … we have a position staked out.”

One of the qualities that make me unique as a leader and strategist is the ability to see multiple sides of an issue – that 360° perspective – that helicopter view of a situation. That doesn’t necessarily make me more “certain”, although I’m decisive when the occasion arises. 

Certainty is defined as the tendency to feel confident in one’s opinions.  A  high certainty score in something like a Harrison Assessment indicates a very strong-minded person who gets along well with people with the same beliefs, but who often has difficulty with people with different beliefs (opinions). Might this apply that a very low score indicates a weak-willed person who accedes to everyone! A person’s degree of certaintly is balanced by other traits and factors such as reflectiveness, warmth, helpfulness, collaborative, flexibility and openness to self-improvement.

Barbara Kay stated that one reason women are under-represented in opinion writing is because “they don’t enjoy competitive data-mining [I do!], or duking it out in public with testosterone-amped opponents (not to mention ruthless readers)” Got that right. I am seldom up for duking it out with anyone anymore. But back to Jonathan who wrote, “…the more finely attuned social instincts of women also cause them to be more immediately repulsed by verbal conflict and strained contests of wits; and to inhabit the real world of family, friends and productive work…” Really?

My quick take on all this? The real world is messy, multi-layered and nuanced. Context or lack of it affects certainty. Context is like rich layers, or an ever-expanding ring around what so often, in debate and op-ed is a mere pinpoint, a spec at the centre of several overlapping rings.

For all of us who strive to put forward well-informed opinions and who are not immediately “certain” about everything, all is nuance and selecting a thesis requires much investigation and forethought before we put our stake in the ground. 

I appreciated Barbara’s template for creating a decent op-ed piece –“news hook, thesis, evidence, pre-emptive smackdown of the opposition’s primary argument, conclusion.” Certainly ‘conviction’ and ‘disciplined aggression’ are needed to hold reader’s attention and respect for opinion editorials.  As a newblogger, thinking about all this was engaging for me, because blogging is merely one more forum for sharing one’s opinion; an opinion which may or may not have adequate layers of context to justify any degree of certainty at all. 

Anyway, it’s not that I can’t argue a point, rather most often I don’t want to. Debate or smackdown arguments to defend a position wear me out. Perhaps that comes from growing up in a household where several family members were indeed “argument machines” who routinely, forcefully, vehemently put forward and defended opinions; even those that fell into the realm of wild speculation. It seems to me that people sometimes steadfastly hold on to ‘rightness’ at all costs, while not doing the necessary work to sift through enough layers of context, from a mindset of intellectual curiosity and a genuine willingness to hear someone else’s; anyone else’s perspective at all.

So then the question becomes, how much sifting or digging for facts and context is enough? Where do you draw the line?What is right and what is wrong? Where are the ethics? When does one stop adding more rich layers and glowing rings of context around an opinion and be “certain” once and for all? We all must be certain-enough to just get on with it sometimes, and make choices, preferably on the basis of shared values and maybe even concensus-building! On some level, it all goes back to the old adage that “nothing is certain” and “everything changes,” … oh, and “never say never” with respect to what you will or won’t do (or think).

Artgems, Mental Health and Musicality

Support a Great Cause

Art Gems Live & Silent Auction supports Creative Works Studio, a community based program that offers healing and recovery through the arts for those living with severe and persistent mental illness. I am asking everyone I know to please purchase at least one ticket and to ask a friend to purchase one too (because you’ll want to have someone to schmooze with at the party on April 26, 2011 at Berkley Church 315 Queen Street East, Toronto). The goal this year is only 200 tickets, so every single one is important. Get your tickets and find out more here.

 

ViolinTalented  Musicians

I watched an episode of American Idol a couple of weeks ago, which I rarely do, and it occurred to me that we all know musicians who may not be setting their sites on becoming all idol-like, but who are genuine, engaging and immensely talented nonetheless. I just wanted to give a nod to three talented female musicians you may not know about but may want to check out – listen at the link!

Fliss Inde pop, rock; so we’re actually related, but I’ll bet she’s not sure how!

Alyssa Wright Cellist; who I met when she performed a backyard concert with one of my contacts (Artist’s Garden), several years ago.

Isabel Fryzsberg One of the Sisters of Sheynville (vocal group of the year 2008 Canadian Folk Music Awards) (Yiddish swing and klezmer), whose full-time gig is Program Manager, Creative Works Studio.

Yep, eclectic taste in music!

Is It Edifying?

I wrote the following article in 2004 and was reminded of it recently when I received an e-newsletter called Vital Smarts, from the authors of Crucial Conversations. The e-newsletter features a Q&A, and the question that was posed was what to do about a gossiping boss… and what stood out in their response was the whole idea about whether someone at work is really an “accomplice or a friend” . . . and friends are edifying, so there you go – that’s how it came full circle for me.

 

Is it Edifying?

By Gwen Hayes

Several years ago I came across a little book called Silver Boxes-The Gift of Encouragement, written by Florence Littauer. Florence begins her book with a verse from Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

Florence went on to explain that she and her family had an agreement that during their dinnertime conversations, the words they used with each other had to be positive and uplifting, not negative. The idea was that their words should “do a favor for the recipient.” Their words and consequently the thoughts that precede them, should be edifying.

This stayed with me. I’d noticed how some people were speaking to other people in my family, my community, and my workplace. Actually, I’d noticed how I was feeling about some of the conversations I’d had recently, and I realized that what we surround ourselves with is what we’re apt to get back.

I realized that the words we use can build people up and do them a favour, or they can tear us down and leave us feeling diminished. I started listening more – to my own words, and started monitoring my own thoughts. The more I listened to what was going on around me, the more I wanted to be one of those people whose words are always gracious and always do a favour to the recipient. I have quite a ways to go, but the intention is there, and even the idea of it has made me a better person. Just knowing the word ‘edifying’ has made me pause and reflect before words I can never take back go tumbling out into the air.

As parent, employer, manager, client, or friend, when we consciously attempt to make our words edifying, the natural result is that the thoughts behind our words must also come from a kinder place. We will start to notice how the thoughts we allow to skip and frolic through our own minds can affect our self-perception, how we view the world, what we think we can achieve, and who we believe we can become. By becoming more aware of how we speak we are better able to recognize negative thoughts for what they are… and turn them around.

I am fortunate to know people whose words are always edifying; people who seem to have an extraordinary knack for sharing perspectives, delivering advice, or even administering gentle correction in ways that leave the recipient striving to do better, aspire higher, and be more. People who make you feel good every time you encounter them, who have a smile in their voice and lightness in their hearts that shines through as goodness. It’s a quality, that in coaching we call ‘attraction.’

Silver Boxes is a wonderful book for helping us find the language that makes others feel special by acknowledging, saying thank you, and becoming an encourager, and that’s what the word edifying is all about.

Copyright 2004 Gwen Hayes

First Impressions

For my first official post and I’m just tossing all of the mock-posts I’ve drafted in a word document over the past month and voila, one post. Then, as I sort out how wordpress works it will all become much more orderly, I’m sure.

February 4, 2011

I had a coaching session recently with Sandra Bobkin from Performance Edge, who specializes in emotional intelligence. We talked about the ‘Judger’/’Learner’ Mindset. Not too long ago, I felt like I was hovering dangerously close to adopting a ‘judger mindset’ of my own; struggling and not happy!

  • Our ‘Judger’ side acts like a know it all (forgive me), is biased, problem-focused, does some win-lose relating, takes a scarcity mind-set, and is intolerant of oneself and others.
  • Our ‘Learner’ side approaches life and situations with a beginner mindset, as an unbiased observer, researcher, reporter; takes a solution-focused approach and focuses on win-win relating, with an orientation towards acceptance, negotiation, learning and growth, taking responsibility for one’s own actions, approaching life and opportunity with an abundance mentality, being tolerant of oneself and others, and focused on choices.  

What a relief. I’m embracing my better, ‘Learner’ self and keeping my integrity intact, but helpful to articulate what had been unsettling me in one brief conversation.

We all have a Learner-self and a Judger-self; we’re a blend and the situations we find ourselves in can bring out one or the other side of us, leading to different outcomes.

My conversation with Sandra made me think about Stephen Covey who said something along the lines of “between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space there is a moment where we get to choose”. Response versus reaction. Good to remember.

The learner/judger mindset relates to the idea of making conscious choices in the moment and a distinction made in an article I received via the Vital Smarts e-newsletter, from the authors of the excellent book Crucial Conversations entitled ‘Restoring Your Good Reputation’.

It provided insight into a trap that I think many people fall into, which is that we sometimes don’t make the distinction between a work-friend and a work-‘accomplice’. A ‘friend’ being someone who is living out the Learner mindset in his/her interactions vs. an ‘accomplice’, who, often under the guise of friendship comes, nonetheless, from the judger mindset. The judger helps get you in trouble. The learner helps you grow.

Friend or accomplice?  As the article points out, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference and difficult to see the consequences until you’re in the thick of it. Either way, it’s important to be aware that sometimes what seems like a friendly overture can really be the act of an unhelpful accomplice. Being a judger can ruin your reputation.

February 1, 2011

I’m attending the 2011 HRPA Conference tomorrow (Human Resources Professionals Association). Well actually, I’m not attending the conference, although I have done so in the past, I’m walking the trade show and wanted to give them a plug because I like this association. In fact, a few years ago I had an opportunity to work with them for on the 2007 annual conference.

January 31, 2011

CSAE Canadian Society of Association Executives has a great bookstore for planning, management and marketing for Associations and those who are involved in them. Check it out.   

January 28, 2011

Here’s something cool. Video Bio. Love the name – tells you exactly what they do, doesn’t it! Gotta get one.

January 30, 2011

Three Pounds

Things of interest often come in three’s for me. A few months ago, an acquaintance recommended the book The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. Then I had several conversations with a colleague who has one parent with Alzheimers and the other with dementia, which made me think about my granddad, whose health and mental faculties diminished ever so gradually, but alarmingly, as a result of Alzheimers. And then, I was watching Grey’s Anatomy recently, and one of the characters is at risk of Alzheimers (runs in the family), which has prompted her neurosurgeon husband to do research about the disease. Made me think.

  • Did you know that if you get Alzheimer’s, the size of your brain actually shrinks over time? Scary thought!
  • Do you know what you need to do to maintain a healthy brain?  Puzzles, food and fitness are good starters, being socially active and reducing stress can all help your brain health.
  • Know the warning signs. Find them [here] 
  • Understand the science. Read the newest from Scientific American about how neurostress and a life of tension may hasten the onset of Alzheimers 
  • Be concerned. Download a report Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society or read the executive summary.
  • Eat fish. It deters the amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s.
  • Stay calm. Apparently the risk of Alzheimers is much more likely for people whose parents both have the neurodegenerative disorder than if only one parent has it.
  • Work those neurons. Get serious about boosting your brain health. You can get some brain-stimulus with the brain-building games at Luminosity, who partners with researchers at Stanford, UCSF, Harvard and Columbia to design games to enhance memory, attention, processing speed, flexibility and problem-solving skills. They also offer courses to meet cognitive training and rehabilitation needs of users with specific medical conditions, including post traumatic stress disorder, ADHD and for cancer patients recovering from chemotherapy.

January 26, 2011

What is a Calorie?

I bumped into some articles called “Nutigrams” the other day; popular food related topics put together by the team of registered dietitians at Compass Canada,  so the info is based on current scientific research. They add new topics every quarter and articles on site are: What is a Calorie, Eating like a “Locavore”, Walk On, Stone Fruits, Whole Grains and Watermelon… oh heck – they’re all good…Mediterranean Diet, Herbs and Spices, Benefits of Breakfast and Eat Fish! Thanks Compass.

 

January 23, 2011

The 80/20 Rule for Getting Results

We were talking about some people’s tendencies towards ‘over focusing’ and ‘not stopping’ the other day. Okay, MY tendency.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and I call it ‘Flow’ but others, such as my husband call it, “not taking a break!“ Then this article showed up on my radar. Hummm, guess the universe is conspiring to tell me something. “The-most-important-practice” sums many writers have known for years – that a focus during the first 90 minutes of the day is a boon to sustaining a productive writing habit. Who knew! the habit of 90-minute periods of total focus followed by 15 minute breaks can be applied to people’s working habits across the board. Wow, sounds like what the ancient rhythm of a 9 to 5 workday was. Me, I have to set a timer to remind myself to Take. The. Break. ‘Cause I just get in the flow. Amazing book by the way, Flow.

 

January 14, 2011

Odor or an Aromatic?

Sometimes that ‘something in the air’ is just overwhelming. Over the years, I’ve become increasingly sensitive to scents and I know I’m not alone. Those commercials showing women gleefully spraying air freshen all over the house only make me think about a searing pain shooting through my head. Ditto for a Swiffer. While therapeutic-grade essential oils can enhance the immune system a lot of those household cleaning products, air fresheners and chemical potpourris worsen chemical sensitivities for those of us who have them. Check out this interesting article from Alive.   

That said, here’s a company I’ve been following for a while – White Lotus. Their aromatics sound absolutely yummy, even to me.  Also, I recently rediscovered a company that I once visited in Toronto. AFI make aromatics for food flavouring and for custom fragrances in different forms. Their aromatics include all-natural aroma-therapeutics, complex blends of natural and (or yikes, the more likely to be bad-for-me) synthetic ingredients. Some of their aromatics just knock me out – but such an interesting science!

The Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCFTA) is the Canadian trade association for the personal care products industry. They encourage fragrance users to “be courteous and respectful in their use of fragrance and to keep the fragrance within their personal ‘scent circle’, about an arm’s length away.” I l-o-v-e that.  Personal scent circle. Many people love their perfumes, but it can be really embarrassing to keep backing away from someone who is over-scented, or worse, to need to have the difficult conversation about what happens to a scent-sensitive person when the scent is overwhelming. Reactions can include abrupt personality changes, confusion as in a diminished capacity to string one cogent thought to the next, migrane headache, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Yuck!

To find information about fragrances, you can visit the Scented Products Education and Information Association of Canada (SPEIAC) or The Fragrance Foundation. I have to say I’m not too keen on their position on scents in the workplace policies. And Health Canada maintains a list of all ingredients that are prohibited from use in cosmetics and personal care products at their website as does Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

Best scents… when they bake at the Peak Freans Cookie Outlet at 1,200 O’Connor Drive, Toronto!

January 25

Like many people, I’m very concerned about first impressions when I meet someone new. Your first impression of me and my first impression of you can be very important. Our first impressions are now so highly influenced by the quality of our Linked In profile, what we share on Facebook, or websites, and our Google search rankings, that if we don’t make a good impression in the social-media realm, there’s not too much hope of ever getting to make a first impression in person, particularly for those involved in a job search.

I stumbled upon this article by Carlin Flora at Psychology Today, about how quickly our brains create a composite of all the signals we receive during a new experience to make a first impression; a holistic phenomenon. Flora explores how good and useful or how wildly inaccurate these first impressions, or snap judgments can be.  

According to Flora, our implicit attitudes can be pretty hardwired and our biases can be shocking and the cause of some serious real-world damage if we’re not careful.

The good news is that people who spend time cultivating relationships are more likely to make accurate snap judgments. Fortunately, “With mentally healthy individuals, their exterior behavior mimics their internal views of themselves. According to Randy Colvin, an associate professor with Northeastern University in Boston, who was quoted in the article, “What you see is what you get.”  

 

January 16, 2011

What is A.D.A.M.?

It’s a neat little area on the Health 4 U website and the same thing is in a neat little area on Noahsnaturalfoods.ca, so check it out either place.

I like ADAM becuase it is value-added health information that anyone interested in the natural and organic food realm can access to. Adam is powered by Florida-based Living Naturally, an organization that offers a buying network for the natural health industry, integrated manufacturer trade and consumer promotions, and consumer marketing programs through “web genius” – exciting to a (previously) frustrated digital marketer.

Why? Because large scale marketing and publishing organizations such as this one help make the websites of smaller companies more interesting and transform their websites into profit centres, becausethe publishers help set up affiliate programs, create loyalty programs, and now they’re offering these way-cool health kiosks. So back to what was interesting. . .

  • Could your weight be increasing your health risks? Use their BMI calculator to find out
  • Or… 83 to 124 beats per minute. That’s my Target Heart Rate when exercising. Always wondered about that
  • Body Mass Index, Ideal Body Weight Calculator, Nutritional Needs Calculator, Waist to Hip Ratio, Calorie Burner Counter and Target Heart Rate Calculator –all there

There are also several Lifestyle and Condition Assessments. Lifestyle includes career burnout, emotional health, fitness, diet & nutrition, sleep and health, stress and anxiety, work & life balance assessments. Conditions includes allergy, cancer, depression, diabetes, heart attack, menopause, pain and stroke. And. . .they have an alphabetical list of Interactions by Herb or Drug. I knew, for example, that I shouldn’t take Dextromathorpine because of a medication that I do take, but I didn’t know about at least three other potential conflicts. I’ll keep them in mind.

There are also some general risk assessments covering areas such as diet, exercise, smoking and blood pressure, and in this regard, their web-system works similarly to a project I worked on several years ago for myfertility.ca — where visitors answer a questionnaire and receive customized messages that explain their risks and receive appropriate suggestions about next steps they may want to consider, links, and opportunities to read more. (That was a great project). So thanks for the info Living Naturally!

Interested in herbology? There’s more cool info at the A Vogel website. Check out their healthy way newsletter and discover herbs – rhodiola, arnica, milk thistle, common ivy…there’s a powerful plants section, e-learning (for free) and an affordable 12-module downloadable correspondence course on Phytotherapy and Basic Physiology via the A. Vogel Institute “designed mainly for health food store and pharmacy personnel who lack a science background,” and a section with clinical studies for various products and plants. Nice.

January 13, 2011 

Nuggets. Cool sites I’ve bumped into.

1. How colour affects our purchasing habits. Love this. Used to be, in another life, in a galaxy far, far away, the product manager for the Pantone Colour System here in Canada. Always interested in colour trends and meanings.

2. Information is Beautiful I’ve been seeing charts like these show up in all sorts of places; a similar style recently in the National Post.  I so want to get this book!

January 10, 2011

Just thinking about other people’s new years resolutions to loose weight. Brad and I have been taking steps, for several months now to increase our overall health. It started with a desire to be fit, lose weight and have more energy. Check out Fat Burning Furnace. Okay, so the art on the landing page is a bit tacky – but the information is great. Eventually the desire to combat the inevitable aging show up! Whether one acts on it or not – that’s a different story. We started working out regularly,  made huge changes in what we eat and then in mid-2010 a chance click of the mouse and we (re)-discovered meditation, enhanced by a little bit of brain science via the Holoysnc program – and the brain child, ha ha, of Bill Harris and the Centerpoint Research Institute . This site is a classic example of super long-form approach to e-marketing but the info is all there – and more on that. Point is, the lifestyle change has been transformational. Brad’s gone from a BMI at +25 to a BMI that’s more like 18.5 and a body weight of 195 pounds to 168, so he’s looking more youthful, way more muscular and very healthy, and while not quite as driven as that, I’ve lost 13 pounds, toned up a lot and am swinging around 30 pound weights (almost) with ease. The physical activity combined with the huge change in diet, and the meditation has really brought us both a greater sense of ‘calm’.

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