Ad Libs and Your Upcoming Engagement

I’ll be out on an adventure for most of this month so this newsletter’s a little early…

I tweeted a Globe and Mail story last week that’s worth repeating here because it’s the root of what I try to do with this blog/newsletter. New research at a group of business schools reached the same conclusion that, when hiring, employers value one skill above the rest: the ability to communicate clearly. These schools rated the importance of the ability to communicate above the ability to manage by 2 to 1 margin – two to one!

Sadly, those skills are in short supply. As the volume of data and information that’s generated and delivered has exploded, skills in listening, deciphering and translating that data into what’s truly relevant has been lost in the shuffle. Organizations are moving from a top-down (command and control) culture to a flatter, inclusive way of operating. That means people have to communicate quickly and clearly, build trust and nurture relationships.

You can read the full story at and this issue’s devoted to the topic.

See you in October…I hope.


Ad Lib This  

The other day, a colleague and I were talking about the importance of thinking on your feet and, when necessary, speaking off the cuff. It’s partly a matter of developing the instinct, like finding a doorknob in the dark, so that when the occasion arises you know where to reach. We both know a lot of really smart people (some who are experts in their fields) who just can’t deal with ambiguity or communicate when they haven’t fully prepared and memorized their presentations.  So, in honor of those poor folks who come off as stilted, unapproachable, bureaucratic and boring, here are five tips for winging it without, actually, just winging it…

And when you can prepare – which should be almost always – here are a few simple steps to make your presentation a little unforgettable:

And when the going get’s tough and the questions come flying, the ability to think on your feet, maintain composure and answer with skill will help you grow a nice business, community, agency and career. Here are six simple things to consider:

Two words…that’s all it takes:

Engaging Your Own People  

I’ve mentioned before that we’re helping more organizations than ever to better engage their own employees. The cultures of business and government are changing (see the opening Globe and Mail story) and long-time bosses and managers need to change with it. Engaging your “Millennials” is essential; it’s the only way you’ll keep the good ones and here are ten ways to do it:

Back in the Dark Ages, companies and even government agencies that I worked for were hardly democratic, and my old bosses would have gotten some kinda hoot out of the idea of “engaging” me and the rest of my cannon-fodder coworkers. Here are some interesting thoughts on workplace democracy:

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; staying together is progress; working together is success.” Hank was an interesting guy…a bundle of contradictions but he apparently saw the value of finding, keeping, paying (a controversially high enough wage that his workers could afford to buy Fords) and engaging good people. Here’s a quick three-part argument:

Skills and Tools You’ll Use Immediately  

Godec, Randall & Associates and The Participation Company train, coach and work with government, corporate and non-profit organizations on true public involvement, managing tough issues and opposition and moving decisions and your projects forward.

We train and facilitate customized, hands-on workshops and courses related to conflict resolution, public participation, facilitation, anger and outrage management as well as risk, crisis and technical communication, presentations and collaborative decision making. We’ll show you how to better connect with the people and stakeholders that you serve.

– “John was the best speaker of the workshop. He kept the audience engaged and really thinking about the message we needed to discover for back home.”

– “…after the great job you did with our class last week.  Thanks again for the hard work you invested in making sure we had a valuable learning experience!”

– “John, your participation in the conference was invaluable and absolutely added to the success of the event!  I sincerely thank you for all of the preparation that you did prior to the conference and the excellent job you did at the conference – we knew we picked the best!!”

We do customized, exclusive, in-house one- to five-day training workshops for a variety of clients but the following courses are open to everyone. Join us!

* The new International Association for Public Participation’s (IAP2) Certificate course will be delivered in Chicago October 20 to 24 at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). A great class and a terrific time to be in the windy city.

* You still have time to register for the 2-Day (IAP2) Emotion, Outrage and Public Participation (EOP2) course Las Vegas on October 6-7, Austin on October 16-17 or Chicago on December 4-5.

Just click on to register or call me to explore the options.

The Participation Company LLC is a strategic partner of the Center for Management Strategies (CMS), the provider of International City/County Management Association (ICMA) leading practices for local government.

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