Helping Opportunity Knock

door knockI was raised to believe that we make our own opportunities. That’s easy to believe when your family and community provide you with safe places to live and play, a great education, three squares a day, inspiring role models and a comforting hug when things go wrong. As a child growing up in a fortunate home, I didn’t really have to create opportunities. I just had to notice them and do something with them.

Did I make the most of these opportunities? Who can say? What I do know is that I’ve reached the stage and age at which creating opportunities for others is increasingly important.

The best leaders help others succeed. Management author John Maxwell asks, “When opportunity knocks, do you answer the door and hold it open for others?”

We understand “opportunity” to mean a situation that can lead someone to reaching a goal. How do we create those opportunities? How can creating them become a habit, not just something we do at Christmas? Or because it’s 12 Days For Good? How do we do it when we aren’t the sort of people who can write large cheques to worthy causes?

Here are some questions to ponder:

When I reflect on my own life, who created opportunities for me?
What did those opportunities look like?
Were they aware they were creating them?
Did those people have to risk something to create those opportunities for me?
Can I do what they did?
Who am I creating opportunities for?
How can I amplify those opportunities by joining with others in my community?

Opportunities for us to create opportunities for others are everywhere.

This is a blog series inspired by House of Friendship Kitchener’s 12 Days for Good project. There’s a theme for each of the 12 days – no Turtle Doves required. Learn more at

Cheap Talk + Wine: RCMP Eagles-themed tweets rock

RCMP“She gets up and pours herself a strong one & stares out at the stars up in the sky – then takes a taxi because she doesn’t drive impaired.”

That’s just one of many tweets posted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Newfoundland (@RCMPNL) on July 13, when The Eagles were headlining at the annual Salmon Festival. An outdoor party featuring five big name bands is bound to attract an exuberant and boisterous crowd – some of whom might have their wits dipped in alcohol.

Rather than get all preachy-teachy on the subject of driving safely, the Mounties took their message – and a sense of humour – to Twitter. They cleverly wrapped their message in lyrics from Eagles hits. Here are just a few.

  • “Already Gone” to see the Eagles at the Salmon Festival? Traffic is heavy. Take your time. RCMP members are patrolling the TCH.  [Trans Canada Highway]
  • Keeping some “Fast Company” on your way to see The Eagles at Salmon Festival? RCMP members will be watching for speeders. Take your time.
  • It’s going to be a “Heartache Tonight” if the RCMP pulls you over for impaired driving at Salmon Festival. Designate a driver.
  • “You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes” If you’re driving impaired at Salmon Festival the RCMP will find you.
  • Jail is no “Hotel California” Enjoying Salmon Festival? Designate a driver, take a taxi or walk. Don’t drink& drive. (more…)

More Letters from Camp – Video Space Camp

VideoSpaceCampA long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I was a television reporter. The radio people, with whom we shared a newsroom, called us “vidiots.” Were we insulted? No way! We wore the title with pride.

As someone in the business of face-to-face communication, I know I should be using video to share ideas. But memories of a world where smart professionals looked after shooting and editiing make me reluctant to wade into the land of do-it-yourself TV. So I was delighted to be invited to Video Space Camp, a full day of learning, brought to us by Vidyard. (It’s an amazing company I think of as “YouTube for real business.”)

There’s no way to capture a full day’s learning in a blog post, but here are the highlights, as seen through my lens. (more…)

It’s not about you – even when it is

NotAboutYouIn a lifetime of working in, studying and observing human communication, I’ve learned enough to fill about 100 books. If I had to distill it all into one actionable idea, it would be, “Make it about the audience.”

This advice is as useful when you’re talking to one person as it is when you’re presenting to a crowd. It also works when you’re creating marketing material, running a meeting, writing an annual report or sending a note to your babysitter.

It’s a paradox. As business people, we’re communicating about our products or services. Or we might be looking for support for our idea in a meeting or giving instructions to employees. Our business. Our ideas. Our stuff. Doesn’t the communication have to be about us and what we want?

The answer is, “Not really.” The chance of someone understanding you – and doing what you’d like them to – is greater when you design the communication around them and their needs.

Who is your audience? What interests them? What do they need to hear? What do they think they know? What do you want them to do? Why should they care? Thinking about the answers to these questions as you create and deliver your message increases the chances you will reach the people you’re talking to and that they’ll understand your message. (more…)

What’s Your Communication Style?

At It’s Understood, we have lots of projects on the go. One that’s occupying much of my (Sue’s) time is completing Talk To Me: A User’s Guide To Workplace Communication. I aim to make it available, in February, as a Kindle eBook. (If people like it, we’ll publish for Kobo, iPad, Blackberry Playbook and in traditional book format.)

One of the communication concepts the book tackles is that people have distinct communication styles. Each of us is unique, yet our differences are somewhat predictable.

In my communication coaching, I often use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as a starting point in exploring relationships. That reliable and validated assessment is wonderful, but I needed something simpler to use in workshops and presentations. So I created Communication Styles as a way to highlight the different ways people like to receive and share information, especially in conversation. It’s a fun way to discover why individuals respond differently to your message – and to figure out how to present your ideas so they’ll be understood.

We’ve created an online version of the assessment and a special report that explains how it works. You’ll find the link on our web site (look to your right). It’s free. I love that price. Just sign up with your name and email – and have fun.

As a bonus, signing up also gets you our occasional email update “Be Understood.”


Looking Back, Looking Ahead


As the last page of the calendar streaks by with alarming speed, let’s grab a few minutes to check the rear view mirror and invest some precious time to assess where we (and our organizations) have been.  Noticing what we’ve achieved in the past 12 months is an excellent way to launch the plans we make for the new year.

With our eyes firmly fixed on where we’re headed, we often forget to celebrate or even notice what we’ve already accomplished. As a coach, I often ask clients to catch themselves doing something well and stop to savour the moment. I can, sometimes, forget to take my own advice.

Last week, I made time to do that, as I joined with a friend and fellow solopreneur to refine our business plans and set action priorities for 2008. Our first activity was to make a note of what we’d each achieved. At her suggestion, we also listed the names of people who had helped us get there.