Spirited Communication

Category: Leadership (Page 1 of 2)

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Movie Quotes Ring True After the Florida School Shooting

Maybe it was weird for me to choose last night of all nights to finally watch the award-winning, but extremely violent movie, “Hacksaw Ridge.” But in the wake of the news of yet another tragic school shooting in Florida, two quotes from the movie almost shouted at me as I heard them.

In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons. — Company B Soldier: [Quoting the Greek historian Herodotus]

No one who hears of the shooting rampage yesterday by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz should brush off the assertion that we are, indeed, at war. We are at war against violence, untreated mental illness and the weapons that make it so easy to exact carnage on dozens of innocent lives.

The Associated Press reported that Cruz, an “orphaned 19-year-old with a troubled past and his own AR-15 rifle was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder Thursday morning following the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in five years.”

I’m not anti-gun ownership by licensed, trained and responsible citizens. At least I support ownership of handguns and hunting rifles. But I do not support the sale and availability of semi-automatic rifles. To anyone who wants to state that criminals will continue to find ways to purchase semi-automatic weapons, I can only point out that Cruz reportedly purchased his AR-15 rifle legally. It HAS to be harder than that!

Violence is the evil that we must fight. Yes, “Hacksaw Ridge” included graphic violence that was difficult to watch and hear. It wasn’t easier this morning to hear the stories of two high school children who witnessed the Florida school shootings up-close and personal.

Student Samantha Grady choked up on “The Today Show” when she was asked how her classmate, who was shot as they hid in a school classroom, was doing. “She didn’t make it,” Grady blurted out between tears. A boy interviewed on the local news described walking along a school hallway and seeing two girls on the ground, dead, holding hands.

In “Hacksaw Ridge,” the main character, Desmond Doss, is a conscientious objector who saved 75 men in Okinawa, during the bloodiest battle of World War II, without firing a single shot. Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, believed that the war was just but killing was wrong. He was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon. He became the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during WWII.

Doss was misunderstood and harassed by his military leaders and fellow soldiers. But when it was time to act to save lives, Doss acted with more courage than anyone could ever expect.

I believe that his statement, made during a military trial launched as a result of his refusal to bear arms, is especially poignant for us today.

With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.— Desmond Doss

VR, AI Will Be Mainstream Soon Enough (Part 1)

VR Demo by Matt Overbey at VCI IMG_4265Two presentations focused on “breakthrough” topics during the April 19 “Global Street Fight” business communications conference in Chicago, organized by G&S Business Communications

The topics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) narrative science, were fanciful ideas just a few years ago. They have become nearly mainstream, but awareness and adoption by communication and business leaders is just now accelerating.

No better sign of that move toward the mainstream is possible than a photo of U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel geeking out on VR during a tour of the Hannover Messe trade fair.

Rather than discussing world leaders engaged in VR activities, two presenters at the Global Street Fight shared how VR is becoming part of news coverage by media organizations.

Raymond Soto, Gannett creative lead of applied technologies, and Holly McCall, Midwest vice president at the USA Today Network, led a discussion of how media companies are warming up to the idea of virtual reality journalism.

The Des Moines Register and its parent company, Gannett Digital, were awarded an Edward R. Murrow journalism award last year for coverage of dramatic changes in a rural community using VR technology. The Harvest of Change series included a 3D tour of an Iowa family farm, possibly the first example of VR journalism.

Global Street Fight attendees could download a USA Today VR app that, along with free VR goggles distributed by the presenters, allowed attendees to experience VR on our own.

During a Q&A sessions, my hand shot up and I asked whether people with motion sickness can comfortably watch VR videos. (I had a bad experience with the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts 3d ride at Universal Orlando, and didn’t want a repeat experience.)

Soto said VR video creators are sensitive to that issue now, and use techniques such as zooming in and out, rather than panning left to right, which brings on motion sickness.

He was right, because later at home I was able to enjoy a VR ride along with Blue Angels as we made several maneuvers, without me needing an airsickness sack!

As the above photo of a work colleague shows, the VR videos were a big hit when I shared them with coworkers the day after the conference.

NEXT POST: VR, AI Will Be Mainstream Soon Enough (Part 2)

‘Leadership Amid the Battleground’ Panel Hits Close to Work

Global Street Fight study cover graphicThe purpose of the final session of the 2016 “Global Street Fight” according to its organizer, G&S Business Communications, was to “explore public perceptions of CEOs in today’s hyper-competitive global marketplace.”

As a communicator who receives a paycheck from Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., I connected with the session title: “Leadership Amid the Battleground.” In fact, Volkswagen came up several times during the opinion panel led by Steve Halsey, managing director of G&S Business Communications, and featuring Carol Gstalder, Nielsen senior vice president of consumer insights.

Comments hit uncomfortably “close to home work.”

During the panel discussion, Gstalder and Halsey referenced results of the “Fourth Annual Global Street Fight Study,” and provided context for some of the findings.

The Global Street Fight Study, Halsey said, has tracked the trends and issues that impact our expectations and perceptions of leaders in the C-Suite.

Findings from the 2015 Street Fight study indicated that major U.S.-based corporations were focused on “reputational triage” a year ago, Gstalder said. This year, although some notable companies are dealing with a reputational crisis, more senior leaders are described by Global Street Fight study respondents as “bold,” “innovative” and “strong.”

Gstalder attributed that shift to factors including an improving economy, greater consumer confidence, and C-suite engagement and comment in popular social issues that resonate with employees.

Then the panel discussion hit close to work. Gstalder said the type of crisis taking the forefront in survey participants’ minds changed this year.

Last year, the crises that came to mind included General Motors’ quality issue and recalls, and a rash of data breaches that required senior leaders to calm customers and regulatory agency concerns about customer privacy and data protection.

This year’s study uncovered a high emotive level of concern regarding potential corruption and wrong-doing by organizations including FIFA, pharma company greed, corporate tax diversions through the Cayman Islands and Volkswagen.

“When we asked the public this year what potentially would be the most damaging crises, it’s lying or corporate wrong-doing,” Gstalder said. “It goes to the “code of conduct, and what some of the other conference speakers here talked about this morning: A culture of compliance and values, and the importance of senior leaders to be living by those values.”

In the months since the Volkswagen diesel issue broke, I’ve been asked many times from family, friends and acquaintances “how are you doing?” and “what will this mean for Volkswagen?”

Let me be very clear here: I do not represent Volkswagen A.G. or any of its subsidiaries when I write this blog. These are my posts, my thoughts and feelings.

You may know that Volkswagen is not commenting publicly about its ongoing efforts related to the diesel issue, except as it posts information on its diesel issue website. According to that site, “Specifics of the agreements in principle are still being finalized. Until finalized, details remain confidential in accordance with the Court’s direction.”

As a communications professional who has received training in crisis communications, I would love to be more involved. However, my role with VW Credit, Inc., the financial services subsidiary of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., is as an internal communications specialist. The fact is that I learn about this issue the same as most people inside or outside of the organization: through the company website and occasional email updates, and through media posts from people outside of the VW organization.

I work with many wonderful people who remain passionate about the company and its brands. We want the issue to be resolved fairly, and we want to do our part to help restore trust in the VW Brand.

It was difficult to bite my tongue during the Global Street Fight Conference when VW was mentioned. That’s as much as I can say, even though it doesn’t feel like nearly enough.

NEXT POST: VR, AI Will Be Mainstream Soon Enough (Part 1)

Highlights of the 2016 Global Street Fight

The Fourth Annual Global Street Fight Study is being released next week by G&S Business Communications, and earlier this week, study highlights were made available to attendees of the G&S “Global Street Fight” business communications conference in Chicago.

The study, conducted in March by Harris Poll on behalf of G&S Business Communications, queried 2,018 adults online. Study highlights provided to me and other conference attendees, focused on social media patterns and preferences. Some results were broken down by generational categories of Millennials and Generation X, as well as the “General Public” and “Opinion Elites,” which G&S defined as “a sub-segment of the main survey respondents who are more informed, engaged, involved in current issues and exert influence on the general public.”

In subsequent posts, I’ll share some of the great content provided by conference panelists who covered global trends in:

  • Corporate compliance and diversity challenges in the C-Suite
  • Reputational and economic challenges that are plaguing organizations
  • Breakthroughs and advances in narrative science and artificial intelligence storytelling
  • Virtual Reality in journalism and media
  • Leadership and crisis responses

Here are three slides from the G&S 2016 Study Highlights:

Global Street What They Should Post

Study respondents (46%) want senior business leaders to share information about their company’s business activities.

They DON’T want senior leaders at large companies to share personal opinions on social media (64% of all respondents and 71% of opinion elites).

Global Street What They Want From Leaders

More than one-third of study respondents want senior leaders to use social media to address company vision, company products and services. Low on their list are posts focused on advice on running a business (13%), personal stories and anecdotes (15%) and professional development tips (18%).

Global Street Why It Matters

It matters, to somewhat varying degrees, to each of the study subgroups because large percentages of the study respondents use social media to familiarize themselves with a company before deciding whether to purchase that company’s products or services.

They tend to place more trust in information about a company when they get it through social media. And they tend to believe that senior leaders who are transparent on social media are more trustworthy.

NEXT POST: Leadership Amid the Battleground

God and Country

At a time when the

At a time when the “separation of church and state” has challenged the rights of soldiers and military chaplains to openly share their faith, what will the new “rallying cry” of our nation be, once “God and Country” is removed from the national consciousness?

Is the United States that exists on the 2015 Memorial Day Holiday fundamentally different than the country that I, my parents and grandparents knew as young adults?

If we were tasked with communicating the meaning of this holiday and its significance to our culture and national well-being, would we craft radically different messages depending on our racial, religious, political and historical viewpoints?

What does “God and Country”–the rallying cry in past generations—mean today?

The Memorial Day Holiday began three years after the end of the Civil Way. It was called “Decoration Day,” and was an organized event to place flowers and small U.S. flags on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. After World War I, the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all U.S. wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, and the congressional act placed the holiday on the last Monday in May.

Since then in my lifetime, we’ve had contentious wars that split the loyalties of Americans who either supported or opposed our involvement in military actions. Opinions remain divided over the necessity to have risked our military in Viet Nam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan and other global hotspots.

That division has been exasperated by people who link U.S. military aggression to geopolitical manipulations based on, or directed at, religious groups. One example that I’ve seen expressed: “George W. Bush was a Christian president who led us into the Iraq War to subdue Muslims.” Is that true? More to my point, is that the entire story—even if that statement could be accurate?

The United States that was formed more than two centuries ago by a conglomeration of primarily Judeo-Christian leaders and fighting men has become home to a much different mix of citizens who represent a variety of racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds and belief systems.

A change of population naturally introduces ideas, beliefs and opinions that challenge the “status quo.” I consider that healthy, and I have always supported and appreciated our nation’s fierce defense of individual liberty, freedom of speech and the right to be represented, even when you are not the majority.

I’ve read that World War II was considered a “just war” that pitted God-respecting nations against regimes that considered their leaders to be “gods”—at least above the people who served them.

More recent wars have raised the question whether God has been used as a reason to wage war.

On this Memorial Day, consider what will happen when (and I mean “when,” not “if”) the United States is attacked by an aggressive force originating from outside of our borders. Are we U.S. citizens now too divided because of our differences to fight together?

Is “God and Country” now too contentious or outdated a rallying cry to be effective?

What should our national rallying cry be?

Today is ‘National Thomas Jefferson Day’

thomas jefferson statue photo US gov website 01973vTo honor the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, who was born on April 13, 1743, here are three of my favorite Jefferson quotes:

  1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
  2. Never spend your money before you have it.
  3. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.

(Randall, Henry S. The Life of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 3. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1858, p.525.)

Next Saturday! Free Leadership Workshop

Plan to attend a special workshop that will help you to be a more effective leader.

Plan to attend a special workshop that will help you to be a more effective leader.

If you are in the Chicago area next Saturday, consider joining me and several other communications professionals who are offering FREE workshop sessions under the general heading, “Unleashing the Leader Within.”The workshop sessions will be held from 1:45 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014 at Aon Hewitt, 4 Overlook Drive, Building A, Lincolnshire, IL 60046. Building security requires that you register in advance at this link. (http://j.mp/d30toastmasters)I’ll lead two workshop sessions:

  • Developing Your Leadership Skills
  • Characteristics of Effective Leaders

Other communication professionals will lead sessions on:

  • The Art of Effective Evaluation
  • Improving Your Management Skills
  • Building Your Thinking Power – Power of Ideas
  • Building Your Thinking Power – Mental Flexibility

This workshop is offered compliments of Toastmasters District 30, North Division.

I hope to see you there!

This Aerialist Learned Early Never to Say ‘Can’t’

Perhaps the most inspirational and surprising speaker today at Craig Duswalt’s Rockstar Marketing Bootcamp was aerialist Jennifer Bricker.

Born without legs, Jennifer was adopted by an Illinois couple who stressed to her that a forbidden four-letter word for her and the family was the word, “can’t”–as in, “I can’t do it.”

Jennifer Bricker, aerialist

Jennifer Bricker shares inspirational thoughts with Craig Duswalt and hundreds of attendees at Duswalt’s Rockstar Marketing Bootcamp.

Raised in a family that instilled confidence, self-worth and compassion, Jennifer developed an interest in tumbling and gymnastics that eventually would lead her to earning recognition as the top high school gymnast in Illinois.

But wait…as marketers say…there’s more!

It turned out that Jennifer had a biological sister that she had never met: Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu!

Watch this clip from “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel for information on how Jennifer, even without legs, became a power tumbler, volleyball player, and aerial performer.

During a Q&A session with the Rockstar Marketing Workshop attendees, Jennifer shared what she does when faced with a tough challenge. “I pray, pray pray,” she said. “God is bigger than any problem.”

Prepare, Participate and Pass It On

Last night, I shared three keys for success and fulfillment in the communication field, and how IABC/Chicago can benefit its members.

In coming days, I’ll expand on each of the three keys: Prepare, Participate and Pass It On. To better set the stage, here are the brief remarks that I delivered upon accepting the 2014 Karen Utterback Volunteer Award from IABC/Chicago.


Fellow IABC-Chicago members, award winners and honored guests:

What a privilege to be selected as the 2014 recipient of the Karen Utterback Volunteer Award.

Whoever came up with this award had a great idea…just to be clear, that wasn’t me. I’m not patting myself on the back.

It’s a great idea because it honors someone who epitomized the concept of a servant leader. Karen gave tirelessly of her time and energy, and was a terrific IABC volunteer and leader.

This is also a great award because it puts focus on volunteerism—which is the lifeblood of a not-for-profit organization like IABC.

As I accept this award, I want to briefly share three keys to continued growth and value for IABC-Chicago and its members.

  1. Prepare. Anyone in the communication field who wishes to be successful and fulfilled needs to develop communication and leadership skills.IABC/Chicago supports that preparation through its professional development and networking events, and through opportunities to serve on the IABC/Chicago Board of Directors.
  2. Participate. Whenever I hear someone say that they are quitting some pursuit or organization because they “aren’t getting anything out of it,” I usually wonder, “What did you put into it?” Much of the value of your IABC/Chicago membership comes when you participate in the group’s events, and volunteer to be part of group activities.I began to participate on the IABC/Chicago Board of Directors the year that Karen Utterback died. Because that was Karen’s second consecutive term as president, we didn’t have an immediate past-president, and no one had yet stepped up to be president-elect.That’s when long-time IABC members like Mary Hills, Peg Wander, Julie Bjorkman, Joanne Kitsos and Julie Baron stepped up to reestablish order and restore leadership. They participated big-time!

    Their example made it easier for me to accept the president-elect role later that year, and to serve as chapter president the following year.

  3. Pass It On. Healthy organizations have a seamless transition from one leadership team to the next. One of my primary objectives as chapter president was to work with chapter board members to ensure that our finances, technology, processes and volunteers would be ready to turn over to our successors.I felt that the biggest gift I could give Ken Groh, as he succeeded me as chapter president, was a seamless transition—followed by a gracious exit to the shadows. While I stayed active on the board as director of sponsorships, I knew that I needed to pass the leadership gavel to Ken—and not to try to grab it back. That is the tricky balancing act for a leader—being available to offer support and advice, while not sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.

Prepare. Participate. Pass it on.

As I prepare to pass the microphone back, I’d like each of us to raise a glass to the memory of Karen Utterback, chapter president, chapter advocate, friend to many here.


Honored to Receive the 2014 Karen Utterback Volunteer Award from IABC/Chicago

Tonight, I’ll receive the 2014 Karen Utterback Volunteer Award from IABC/Chicago.

The IABC/Chicago website states, “This award, which began in 2012, recognizes a veteran IABC/Chicago member who exemplifies communications excellence and stewardship. The recipients demonstrate unyielding dedication to the betterment of the communications field, serve as mentors to professionals and embody the essence of IABC/Chicago. They truly represent the best of our organization.”

I’m rarely at a loss for words, but I can’t adequately express my appreciation to those IABC/Chicago board members who nominated and voted for me. I’m like most people; I don’t volunteer for personal glory, I volunteer because I like to share my experience and knowledge with others.

Tonight, I’ll share three keys to continued success for IABC/Chicago leaders and members. The three keys are: Prepare, Participate, and Pass It On. Later this week, I’ll expand on each of those keys in separate posts.

To end this post, I’ll refer back to the information regarding Karen Utterback that appears on the IABC/Chicago website. I might have won the award named in her honor, but I doubt that I ever will be able to fill her shoes—particularly the ones she wore during marathons!

Karen Utterback, ABC

Karen Utterback, ABC

“The award memorializes two-term IABC/Chicago chapter president, Karen Utterback, ABC, who unexpectedly passed away in 2009. Utterback had served as IABC/Chicago’s president since June 2008 and as its director of finance from 2005-2008. She actively encouraged and mentored communicators to pursue the Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) designation, since earning her own designation in 2005. In addition to her IABC work, Utterback was a board member of the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation, a volunteer for the Taproot Foundation and the Chicago 2016 campaign. She raced sailboats, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2008, and had run more than 19 marathons, including races in Antarctica and on the Great Wall of China.”

What a privilege to have served with Karen, and to now be associated with the award honoring her memory.

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