Diplomacy & Communication

Diplomacy

Note, this writing is not on national and international diplomacy but rather on the ‘use’ of diplomacy in any setting, any engagement – from business settings to team building (work or sports), even to relationship settings (man and woman, boy and girl, man and man or woman and woman). This is a small attempt in discussing how the use in any of those settings (an incomplete set listed) can and should be successful.

Make no mistake; diplomacy is not a Sunday drive. Diplomacy takes a massive effort on the part of everyone involved. Diplomacy is not a one-way street nor can it be construed only as my way or nothing at all.

We need good people, not the richest people, or the most attractive people, or those who might have gone to the best schools (ala the “ole boy network”). We need good people who can be level headed and look at all sides of a problem or issue at hand.

Money and looks should not play any part whatsoever in diplomacy, just the earnest and honest use of working or being with someone (yes, I am looking through rose colored glasses but there you have it).

We need good people who are:

  • Intelligent – not necessarily a Brainiac but is aware of what he or she knows and does not know,
  • Measured,
  • Studied,
  • Able to display Commonsense and
  • Collaborative – a word I use a great deal because it should be a requisite for everyone at all times,

We do “not” need nor want people who are:

  • Combative,
  • Constantly seeking the limelight,
  • Full of One-upmanship and
  • In your face

Being diplomatic in dealings with others does not always necessitate going through a formal school teaching diplomacy. Do you believe that everyone who has ever been successfully diplomatic in dealing with others always received formal training through some sanctioned institution…? I am not discussing how to have a proper place setting or who should stand where or who should enter / leave a room first. I am simply discussing how people should be interacting with each other to successful outcomes.

You do not need formal diplomatic training for that role…

Being diplomatic in life and work can stem from being aware of a situation, being able to communicate – to talk to others at a decent and respectable level (not condescending or patronizing) and experience in different walks of life. Note, the aforementioned is not a complete list.

Sometimes, those coming from humble beginnings are enough of a jump start to their being a successful diplomatic person life and work.

 

Communication

Communication skills are a prized aspect of anyone and something every person walking the planet should work on – daily and hourly. These skills will open the door to multiple successful engagements and will never let you down.

Successful communicators attempt to:

  • Talk to people at their levels,
  • See themselves, looking through the other persons’ shoes, to see the other’s perspective,
  • See, not just look, but to really see what is going on, right in front of them

Collaboration and Coalition

Having a good to great person in a position of diplomacy should boil down to who can honestly, intelligently, critically and judiciously work with one or more parties to an issue and talk it out, collaborating and compromising on a quality outcome for everyone. The outcome should not end up being a goal insidiously beneficial to one party. The outcome(s) should never favor one group more than the majority. The majority plays a significant role in society.

However, yes, the majority should normally win but there are a fair number of situations where a minority needs to have their voice heard and their rights looked after. Examples of those situations are Gay rights, Minority rights, the poor and workplace gender discrimination.

These few examples, to this day, still require their minority voices raised above those of the majority who:

  • Only see through tunnel vision,
  • Are myopic and/or
  • Narrow minded

and often times believe their way is the only and best way (i.e. religion).

You want more illustrations? Take racial / gender inequality or choices of sexual preferences:

  • Slavery,
  • Suffragettes,
  • People like Harvey Milk (former San Francisco mayor) and / or
  • Chinese who were also used as slave labor in the past.

These groupings have been pushed to the back or swept under the rug for decades or centuries. Just because the majority, of the past (and today), may not want men and women of those groups to enjoy full equality and full happiness – it is wrong to deny them the simple pleasures of life that those in the majority enjoy and quite likely take for granted…

If you look back at any era of history, the oppressors were always the ones in power, dictating life’s outcomes – that is a fact. The SOLE reason to oppress or suppress people is the will to remain in power with the adjunct reason of gaining ever more power (and money).

Oppressors and Suppressors have sought to control:

  • The thoughts of the people for centuries (i.e. the Church and slave owners)
  • What people could access for knowledge (i.e. again, the Church and slave owners)
  • Who could meet who and where and when (i.e. during the days of slavery)
  • Who had the right to vote and work and to marry (i.e. Women and Blacks and Asians) 

We need more people who are consciously willing to speak for all in collaborative settings. But, in talking about being collaborative and building coalitions to work within, I am not talking about Machiavellian machinations. We do not need someone to work in that manner behind our backs in secretive sessions.

So, be aware, even if the majority does prefer some viewpoint, they may not necessarily gain that viewpoint.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a topic that I have brought up multiple times in other writings. Critical thinking is a significantly necessary side of anyone, not just the leaders in any group, but of everyone in many situations. We desperately need more people in all walks of life, not just government (where they are sorely, sorely needed) but in military, business, education and health care.

One must be able to take in as many variables as they can about the situation at hand; what happened, who were the people involved, what were the various reasoning’s for their individual actions, where did it occur, was money involved, was politics or religion driving factors, was it racially motivated, was it greed or jealousy, etc., etc., etc.

One has to be able to logically, objectively and critically think through a situation and no two situations are alike.

Problem Solving

This is another topic that I believe anyone and everyone should have or strive to obtain. Gaining the capability or capacity to do a good job at problem solving should be the top of everyone’s list of things to do.

Another prized aspect of problem solving (as well as in critical thinking) is the ability to extrapolate out into the future multiple realistic scenarios of what might and could occur, rather than dreamy possibilities.

Cognitive Diversity

This is another area that more people need to develop better skills in, cognitive diversity.

Having more and varied life and work experiences to draw from will aid in your being successful in your daily dealings with anyone and everyone.

Having a varied educational background will help you in being a better person. Look at Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton or Madeleine Albright; these individuals all had varied backgrounds to draw from and did not have formal diplomatic training before they entered their jobs of being diplomats. Of course, they did obtain formal training after taking over their role of Secretary of State, you know – who stands where, who leaves the room first, who to talk to the most or the least, etc., etc.

Successful individuals in any area using diplomacy (not just international diplomacy) are those who are able to communicate clearly and succinctly, without the babble and mumble jumbo of being duplicitous.

These same individuals also should have the capacity to deal with the internal demon of cognitive dissonance. If individuals, or you, should encounter a situation, which causes discomfort or tension due to conflicting beliefs on the issue at hand – we all hope that the winning belief is the right one for all concerned.

Dignity & Respect

Everyone everywhere deserves dignity and respect in life and please note I am certainly not including criminals (war or just breaking the law) here. A diplomatic person, in their travels, should strive to honour even the poor and uneducated with dignity, just as they do with the very educated and the wealthy and powerful.

As to respect, everyone deserves to be respected – until they no longer prove that they do not deserve that respect. It should not matter how old, young, senior or junior the other person is.

It should not matter if the other person is male, female, poor, rich or what race they are nor should it matter if they are straight or gay – everyone deserves respect.

And if the other person loses your respect, you ‘still’ need to successfully do your job – see it through to fruition and then move on.

Honesty

Do I really need to embellish on this topic…?

 

Conclusion:

We need to have in place, in more organizations, in more government agencies and in the military, individuals who are willing to lead the way and do so in a fashion that all people can understand and follow – with open eyes and mindset.

We need to have in place individuals who can be or become successful change agents, who are willing to be in the midst of getting something done for what is right, not just because there is a vocal minority or a majority who is not more educated on the issue at hand.

Individuals who are successful diplomats and communicators, in any endeavor, should be ones with heart and honor in order to aid anyone and everyone, anywhere.

 

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Strategy, Brand & Innovation – Achievers, Problems and Headaches

Great strategy and fantastic innovation, two of the biggest ideas out there, yet they are so difficult and illusive to actualize.

 

Strategy      

Strategy in its simplest form is nothing more than taking what you know right now, or even after you’ve done your due diligence and research and looking at what the market and economy is like for your area – your region. Then, projecting down the road, three months, six months or two years to see what your possible outcomes could be. You are strategizing to see if you can be successful at some point in the future.

And, yes, you do have to consider who will be your competition. That competition could be other direct competitors or it could come from firms who could, once they see your success, create a new division within their organization solely to compete with your business.

Having a very good Predictive Analysis (or Visual Analysis) solution will help immeasurably with this effort so you can see what you can do using a good Dashboard component. But if you cannot get your hands on that kind of software, then good ole thinking and brain storming is going to be your salvation.

You have to take your thinking seriously, very seriously. And make no mistake about it – it will be some considerable thinking on your (and your team) part.

 As you go through your thought processes, you have to plan ahead as far as feasible, while considering the multiple, possible stumbling blocks you ‘might’ come across. Part of the problem however, is getting buy-in from others on the team or a champion/sponsor from management and/or the executive staff.

Sometimes however, you will come across people who will ‘only’ want to use their thoughts and ideas. And this may occur at times when that ‘other’ will know that they are in the minority or are just wrong in some venture.  These individuals may be part of a culture of people who do not want to collaborate or be part of a team – they just ‘might’ prefer to see only their name on this or that project and are not willing to share any credit.

Beware of people who:

 — Do not want to collaborate

 — Intentionally lie to you just to get your input and ideas and do not share the ensuing credit

 — Listen to you (to patronize you) and then just throw your ideas out the window while continuing on with their own ideas

On the other hand, “ALWAYS” look for people who ‘want’ to strategize and collaborate together to maybe work on some innovative ideas. These are individuals who:

 — Are always asking others for thoughts and ideas to see if they are beneficial for an ongoing project

 — Do share the credit of success

 — Are willing to take on new team members

 — Are willing to listen (more later on)

 

Thinking

But let’s talk about thinking for a moment.  Thinking is a significant section of everything you do and it desires its’ rightful place.  You must think about what people are telling you, think about what you see and read – then form your conclusions based on what you have gathered.

What you’ve gathered may be conjecture, fanciful thoughts, concrete examples and rock solid facts – they will all add up and it falls to you, and your team, to remove the chaff from the needed bits of data.

You will need to have some periods of quietness, amidst the chaotic storms of many open-pit workplaces today, to do your solid thinking, free of distractions and disruptions. Very, very few people, these rare folks, are able to concentrate and block out everything around them for hours at a time. You might need to go to a quiet zone, if you are lucky enough at your firm to have these, or outside to a meditation area (again, lucky). But if you do not have access to these kinds of areas, it makes it difficult to have “quality” periods of thinking. You may have to wind up going to the lunch room or cafeteria, taking some supplies (pen and paper for sure) with you to work with. When you do go to the cafeteria, you will need ear plugs… Lastly, you are going to have to break in other employees that you want to be left alone if they see you are working and not there to shoot the breeze.

 

Critical thinking    

Then there is the necessary area of critical thinking. Not only do you have to do some quality thinking about what you see, hear and read – you have to do critical thinking at times.

You have to think, not just from your own viewpoint but also from the perspective of someone else.  You will at times need to put yourself in the shoes of others and then see:

 — What are the pros and cons of making decision A or decision B or decision X?

— Or, can we afford this, can we not afford that?

— What are the effects tomorrow, next week or a year from now?

— Roadblocks – are there any impending blockages that could rear up in the form of recalcitrant or contrarian people, a work environment not conducive to success or the lack of available tools needed for staff to be successful in getting your product out the door

You have to consider, critically, how the surrounding environment of wherever you work or where your product is intended for – what will the ensuing effect on creating your product or finishing your product.

You have to consider who is going to receive your product, the environment of where that customer(s) works and what that customer does in their daily lives. You do not want to create something that does not jive with the customer(s) expectations. You have to create your product specifically with that customer in mind. You have to be critical in thinking about what goes into your product.  Will that customer want a:

  — High level product or one full of details – will they appreciate it if you give/sell them both versions

  — Glossy, slick product that is eye catching

  — Product with a good balance of images and info or no

  — Product with only the exact requirements they requested or do you take a risk and provide more – this is a fine line here and you had best know your customer in order to get them the product they want or believe they want

 

Listening

Yes, you absolutely must listen with serious consideration to everyone around you rather than with just giving others a miniscule amount of attention or lip service to what they are saying or putting forth.

You need to listen to the experts as they give you their learned advice but – you need to take that advice and information with a grain of salt. The reason is that there are experts and there are experts, each of them may have a different perspective as to their knowledge. Their advice may vary little from other experts or it may vary radically. Sometimes, they do come together for one conclusion on some topic.

Then, there are others who may not be an expert in that field but may still have valuable information to share if you are willing to listen. It may be enough to tilt an entire decision process because that person may have sparked an even better idea.

Listening is an art form. If you look someone in the eye and are giving them your undivided attention as you listen to them – well, that makes you a winner. People want to be heard, even if you listen to them for two minutes. Those two minutes might mean the world to them and yes, the two minutes may have to come out of your busy schedule…

 

Creativity & Innovation

What can I say here?  Hmmmm…. 

How about this?  You have to push yourself to think differently. You have to recognize that you will need to get out of your comfort zone to gather ideas which could be counter to what you are used to.

You have to think of ways you can improve the work you are doing, the way you are doing it and how you engage with others in getting yours AND their tasks completed.  Sometimes you can gen up multiple ideas on your own – if you have a broad world view and have been exposed to many things throughout your life. But it may not be easy at first as you try to breech those thick, built up walls that have congealed over a lifetime.

You just need to start looking at things differently, thinking of ‘What if’ for what you see. Go watch a sci-fi movie or a zombie flick and let your mind wonder and ponder the possibilities of what you can take away from that movie, in using some piece of some scene you saw.

Or go to a park and watch how people go about their lives and look for something that someone is doing and see if a light bulb goes off in your head.

Get outside your usual zone and become serendipitous – visit other web sites you don’t normally go to, watch news programs you never go to in order to gain different perspectives, listen to some of the various shows on
TED or TEDx (science, sci-fi, educational, art, music, global environmental issues) – or go to museums to see what can spark your fancy to get your juices flowing…

You simply have to work at generating ideas – as many ideas as you can. Many good (and bad) useful and beneficial products come out of this cornucopia of ideas. It does not matter if they are good or goofy, as long as you generate them. Sooner or later one or three of them will be something worthwhile.

Being creative or innovative means you are not constrained to some previous idea and you only want to stick with it because you, YOU, are comfortable with it. That or your bosses are the ones who are holding things back… You have to have divergent thinking or be willing to work at having divergent thoughts and ideas to see what shakes loose from that money tree.

 

Image          

I include image because the idea that one “must” dress up in a suit and a tie, or skirt, blouse and jacket combo to be professional, well, I just find it preposterous (yep, an archaic and ancient word but it is one that is most apt).

One can be a successful professional in jeans and t-shirts, yes, you really can. But not torn jeans, fishnet t-shirt or tank tops.

It is about what you, you as an individual, convey in your mannerisms and your attitude as you go about getting things done and working with others. Clothing is only a small part of who you are. If others are focused on how you dress and how you look (good looks versus less than good looks) rather than how well you perform – the person doing the looking (and judging) is losing out on your productiveness and what your company can gain. Hopefully of course, you are not dressing up as a bum or a punk in ratty, torn clothing…

It is up to the company to convey to the customers how important your productivity is to the firm, more than how well you can dress – that makes the firm so successful.

 

Brand

In addition, it is also about your brand, your own brand – your reputation.  It is about how credible you come across to others in your professional and personal life. If you manage to come across with the attitude of:

 — Being confident, 

— Getting the job done,

— Being aggressive (not overbearing aggression) and

— Doing what you say you can do (and then doing a bit more than promised)

you will “always” be successful in making your image that much more credible and marketable.

If you are a productive and successful individual, it should never matter whether you are:

  — Older

  — Younger

  — Male or female

  — Of a different race or culture

  — Not as attractive

  — Gay or straight or even if

  — You talk differently (accent or not as educated as others)

None of these traits should matter if you are successful or if you show you are a high caliber worker / employee / staff member / team member. All that matters is if you can successfully engage with others or if you are willing to try to engage, continually trying to engage…

While you, the individual, have made your own brand successful, you in turn, will also make the firm you work for successful. That simply adds to a favorable brand for the firm…

 

Bottom Line

The bottom line is, is that you are all successful. Some people are more successful than others, in all kinds of situations. But to me, the most successful people are those who help others become successful. The successful bring others along with them on the successful ride, with the clear hopes and aspirations that it will continue for a long, long time.

All aboveboard, free of any and all subterfuge, free of any chicanery that many like to foist on others.

Being smart and/or having an Ivy League education are only part of the battle in strategy and innovation. You can have community college level education and still be successful. It is also about how you use what you know, what your team mates know and what the community knows of which you can borrow from mistakes already encountered and of knowledge already gained and put it to use in your firm.

Do not let the idea of you ‘not’ being creative or innovative slow you down; this is only a minor obstacle or problem you need to overcome. If you work at it, it will happen. You can be an achiever, you just need to work at it and show it in whatever you do. Failing at some task or project is only a minor impediment (or it should be). What is important is that you learn from that failure so you don’t do it again but can put it to great use the next time around.

Value

Value, or some method of valuation, is what should be the end result. You should show something that everyone can see the value of, even if others cannot see the value tomorrow – they may see it for what it is worth next month or next year.

However, sad as it is to say, it would be best if others can see the value of your strategic and innovative efforts tomorrow.

Brand & Excellence

Brand 

This is what makes you, you and whatever you do that makes you unique and special. You are your brand and you must develop and cultivate it. You have to make it shine now and in the future.

If you care about your future, you will want to do all you can to show how much you think of yourself – not as a prima donna or as a diva of any kind. But as a well thought out process to show how successful you are as you go through life and how you interact with others of all walks of life.

Your brand should be indelibly tied with the following traits;

  • Successful, Trustworthy, Diligent, Ethics based, Hardworking but Smart working, Honesty and Enthusiasm (unless you’re of the book worm/nerd variety where you’re more of the quiet sort, which is good and okay too)

How important is your personal brand, your reputation? Is it significant or do you not care? You should.

Your REP

Hone it and own it – there is no other way, you must be above board and honor all of your commitments. Your reputation is what others rely on in dealing with you.

If you are thoughtless and engage in activities that diminish and demean you, you will fail and none will respect you. That is, they will not respect you again until you spend a great deal of time and effort rebuilding your reputation. Again, that is, if you care.

Your word should be your bond. Your handshake should be your bond. I have discussed this in previous writings but it does not hurt to repeat it here. If you can look another in the eye as you shake their hand, giving your word AND meaning it – you will be far above the pack where many people seem not to care what they say, how they say it, to who they say it to or where they say it.

Yes, reputation vs brand – flip sides of a double sided coin (not a Janus coin), although not the same both are similar… They both boil down to being a part of your identity.

Brand           a particular product or a characteristic that serves to identify a particular product (you) OR a particular kind or variety

Reputation    a specific characteristic or trait ascribed to a person or thing OR the estimation in which a person or thing is generally held OR a favorable and publicly recognized name or standing

Excellence

Attention to detail is what counts!  And yes, I do mean the little things as well because they can balloon to become large pockets of angst and pain later on if you do NOT take care of them in the early stages…

There are so many dimensions to reputation and brands that you must diligently and conscientiously pay extra attention to being excellent and successful.

Ethics

Yep, I continue to come back to this because if nothing else, your ethics, your character, truly illuminates who you are and what you are made of.

Valuation

Well, this should be a no-brainer to the serious out there. This is priceless!!! If you continue to raise your brand, becoming better at whatever you do in whatever field you are in – your self-valuation will continue to climb.

The problem, alas, is that the people who see you must have clear thinking, an open mind along with the ability to recognize how important brands, branding and reputation are. These people will notice negative connotations in any area but sometimes are hard pressed to recognize good and growing brands – in individuals (not just companies and products).

Remember, it is your identity, your image that is at stake that is being conveyed to everyone else.

Your brand/reputation is also interlaced with the respect you can garner. The better your brand, the better the respect you will receive and the more others will listen to you.