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Wednesday
Aug132014

Accents

Employers know it, employees know it and everybody ignores it. I'm talking about the accent – specifically when it creates misunderstanding.  An accent is a way of pronouncing words that differs from the standard pronunciation. 

It's like an elephant in a room – it's very obvious but no-one acknowledges its presence.  This implicit acceptance is distressing because it covers up what needs to be addressed. 

Employers are unsure how to handle discussions with employees whose accent prevents them from being understood, promoted or productive. Coworkers refrain from mentioning it because they don't want to offend the speaker, may be uncomfortable to mention it or do not want to sound racist.  The non-native speakers are self-conscious about it and may refuse to believe that it's a hindrance.  They know they could be misjudged, mistreated or misunderstood. They are more focused on being employed to support themselves and their families.

A research by the University of Chicago claims that listeners are less willing to believe someone with a non-native accent.  The researchers believe people associated truthfulness with the ease of understanding a person and accents make that more difficult.

Not bringing this thorny topic to the forefront causes frustration for everyone concerned. I say let's be realistic rather than be politically correct. It's time. Then we can take practical steps to avoid misunderstanding and increase earning potential for the affected employees and revenue for the employers.

People who speak with an accent become less sensitive about it when they realize that it is keeping them in low paying jobs or that it is preventing them from being employable or promotable. Having a reduced accent opens up more employment opportunities and reduces the competition. 

 

 

Sunday
Jan262014

Rebellion And Your Business

What do you as a business owner have in common with the tens of thousands of people who are rebelling in the Arab countries?  The answer: You want to be visible and you want to be heard. You want people to know about you and know what you’re doing. 

While you are not facing danger or confronted with violence, you should assess whether your actions are producing the results you want.  

Here are five lessons entrepreneurs can learn from these protesting citizens:

1.  They know what they don’t want. They don’t want concessions. They are prepared not to settle and they will not accept less than they want. In your business, if you can define what you don’t want, you can negotiate better, make better choices or tighten processes to ensure you don’t get what you don’t want.  If you don’t know what you want, you can be easily controlled.  If, for example, you know you will not be unethical, will not be unprofessional, then you won’t be easily swayed or duped.     

2. They are no longer satisfied with the present situation. A growing sense of dissatisfaction or discontent signifies that things are not as you expected or wanted. If you are experiencing this, instead of feeling powerless to do anything, acknowledge it’s not what you expected. When you take ownership of the situation, you regain control and feel empowered.

3. They know what they want.  Their objectives are very specific. How about you? Can you articulate exactly what you want to achieve?  The more specific your goals are, the easier it is for others to understand them and possibly help you to achieve them.   

4. They boldly go after what they want.  When you want something badly and take half-hearted measures to get it, you don’t get what you want. If you want to effect a change, let your vision spur you to action.  The bigger the vision is, the bolder the action should be.

5. They are using old and new techniques to accomplish their goals.  Their physical and online presence quickly eroded decades of “ I rule, you obey’ leadership. In your business, are you stuck in a mental rut that’s now an unconscious habit or are you consciously assessing how you run your business?  Leverage social media to reach more people and to tell your story. Use the traditional way to maintain the physical connection. This combination can topple what is blocking your progress.

Just like the people in the Arab world, you have probably come too far to turn back. When you started your business, you knew you would have to make some sacrifices.  Every success, every inch forward comes with a price. It’s the choice you made because you believe in what you do.  Use these five lessons to keep your finger on the pulse of your business.

Monday
Jan132014

The Elephant In The Room

Talking about a sensitive topic that everyone is aware of is like breaking bad news - you don't know how to start.

One such topic is language fluency.  It is the elephant in the room because HR, the manager and the employee know it but don't know how to address it. No action has negative effect on productivity, relationships, team work, collaboration, morale, timelines. Skills, potential and experience are left untapped.

If, you, the manager can't do this, one of the proven ways is to have a liaison between you and the employee. This person could be from HR or maybe another employee who is respected, diplomatic and trusted. If you engage this liaison to act on your behalf, don't just acknowledge the problem. Offer a solution to address or correct it.

You, the employee, know what challenges lie ahead because of your accent or language. It is preventing you from getting a promotion, from participating in meetings and discussions and you may feel excluded. Don't wait on your manager to bring up the topic. Set up a meeting and be prepared to talk about this challenge. The manager could be waiting for you to bring this up and may offer training to correct it. Be prepared to show how their investment in you can be justified. You have more to lose than the employer so don't ignore what's holding you back. Be heard and be understood to capitalize on your experience and skills.

For accent reduction training, visit  http://clearlyspeaking.ca/events/  

 

 

 

Monday
Jan132014

Are You Making Mistakes?

I used to think I'm a failure because of all the mistakes I've made and am still making. I used to think others were seeing me as a failure and was very self-conscious. Then I became an entrepreneur and my mistakes were very visible. I was an entrepreneur with " a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against me." After hitting my head a couple of times against the wall, I evaluated and kept on trying, innovating, experimenting. After a while, I didn't notice failure but was keenly aware that my 'luck' was changing. Because of the mistakes I've made, I feel I'm a seasoned entrepreneur. I've come up through the ranks and still have more to learn and more (calculated) mistakes to make.

Michael Ignatieff, in his book Fire And Ashes, talked candidly about his mistakes in politics. My mistakes were visible but not public. His was as are those of people in entertainment, sports, business and government. My mistakes affected only me and my business and have lessons for no-one but me unless I talk about them. The mistakes of public figures impact many lives and have lessons for all.

We are programmed to think mistakes are synonomous with failure especially on a personal level. However, mistakes are really showing you that you are barking up the wrong tree. If you are not getting the result you want, you are making a mistake so stop, evaluate, adjust and start again. This process over the ages resulted in innovations, inventions and progress.

If you are living life hesitantly to avoid making mistakes, that's like walking on the sidewalk after the rain and tip-toeing to avoid the worms that came out.      

Instead be like Gene Kelly in 'Singing In The Rain." Embrace life and feel no shame about making mistakes. Learn from them, share them and move on.

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Michael Jordan 

Monday
Jan132014

The Ice Storm 2014

If you were without power during the recent ice storm, who did you turn to for help? Are there people in your life who would cheerfully, willingly take you in and go out of their way to help you? How many people do you know and how many would do this for you? Do you know who you can count on? 

How altruistic are you? Would you willingly and cheerfully help others out without question, do what it takes to see if they are ok? 

The answers to these questions revolve around relationships - personal and community. We all tend to build personal relationships but neglect to build the community ones. As evidenced by the ice storm, the people we have in our lives are not necessarily in our neighborhoods and so many people were very much alone. How do we change this?

What would happen if it was a more devastating catastrophe? What do we do? How do we prepare? Where do we go?

Questions, questions! Where do we find information?

Some sites to start with:

http://www.emergencymanagementontario.ca/english/home.html

http://www.ontario.ca/law-and-safety/emergency-information

http://www.durham.ca/departments/demo/personswithdisabilities.pdf

http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page1567.aspx

As you gather resources, items for your emergency preparedness kit, don't forget to include your personal and community contacts.