Posts Tagged ‘People Skills’

Preventive Medicine for Non Profit Boards

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Commit to Annual Wellness Checks for Your Organization

By Joseph John

Whenever you read the news, you can’t avoid seeing the numerous health-related articles. Health news is everywhere, whether it’s The Affordable Care Act, wellness, insurance, healthy living, exercise,

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and so forth.

What isn’t news is the fact that we have always known that people should get annual wellness checks, one of the best procedures for preventative medicine. Yes, routine medical checkups instead of becoming a real life actor being wheeled into the emergency room and the professional staff beginning the complicated triage process, as the vital life signs are being analyzed.

Whew. Kind of depressing thought isn’t it? Well, let’s move the triage process, and the severity of the Emergency Room to the nonprofits. Yes, triage for nonprofits. How many nonprofits are consistently being admitted to the emergency room? Doesn’t it make a lot more sense for nonprofits to get annual wellness checkups before there are serious consequences to the health of the organization?

So, in this annual wellness checkup, what is the “doctor” looking for to ensure the health of the non profit organization? What has changed over the year? Any change in the “vital signs”? Any new “allergies?” Well, the non profit wellness checklist could include the following items (this is NOT all-inclusive) with each one followed by a checkmark under categories such as “excellent, good, fair, or poor” followed by “commentary,” “prognosis” and “prescription (if needed):”

1) Vision, Mission, and Values

2) Bylaws

3) Membership drives

4) Funding — short and long range including legacy programs

5) Organizational objectives and benchmarks (1-3-5 year plans)

6) Committee structures and board member participation

7) Board member assessments

8) Staff assessments

9) Current marketing & communications processes (communications audit)

10) Special projects

11) Community awareness

As you can see, the list is extensive, but not all-inclusive. However, it certainly is a good start to begin the annual checkup to check out the health of the organization. What must be on the list has to be an endless and thorough list of all the factors that contribute to the health and well-being of the non profit organization.

In other articles, I have referred to the Mediocrity-Good-Great continuum. In other words, the annual physical will help determine if your organization is “just getting by” or if your organization is in great shape and should keep up the good work of “healthy habits”.

Commit to Organizational Wellness — your organization’s primary New Year’s resolution, each-and-every year.



Are You Listening?

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Listening is critical to creating dialogue

By Neil Kuvin

What’s so important about gaining more perceptive listening skills? When you listen attentively for real content of the discussion and then focus your specific follow-up questions to concentrate on the things that really, really matter, you find yourself in a respectful, intelligent and especially responsive conversation.

Unfortunately, each side in the discussion often is so anxious to get their perspective heard, they both

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don’t wait before they interrupt or their point is muddy because they may have gone down a side, dirt road. No matter what, if you really want a conversation (which usually means everyone is heard and allowed to speak) begin your comments by crediting the others with “sensitive, thoughtful, critical points. However, I have a slightly different perspective.” It’s critical at this point to assure him/her that you understand their opinion. Assure the other person that they were understood. Probe. Ask for further confirmation of facts.

Remember, rarely does any one of us have the best, right answer. Be prepared to be convinced that other positions have benefits and rewards too. That’s where your patience, listening skills, and understanding come in. I think that’s called an “open mind.” The advantages are in “them” knowing that you heard it correctly — that you are listening to them. First, you will please the others in this conversation that you appear to truly sense and get the picture they maybe couldn’t get others to understand, or at the very least, acknowledge; Second, there is a motivation for them to listen a little more closely to your ideas and perhaps accept some of them on the way to finding a solution to the “problem” that satisfies many in the discussion.

Wow. Imagine that. Actually crossing the aisle and without “politics,” finding satisfactory solutions.

Ivan Seidenberg was the former and original chair and CEO of Verizon Communications Inc. He also headed several communications’ companies during his career. At one of those companies, he knew expenses needed to be slashed to survive. Well

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surprise! He ran into stubborn opposition from defiant division heads relentless in their objections to his ideas. Seidenberg, while listening to and acknowledging the differing perspectives, knew that the cuts couldn’t be accomplished without cooperation and some measure of acceptance. Bottom line is he succeeded in getting the opposing sides to accept some compromising on certain issues like hours, overtime, vacations and sick leave, while still reducing work force by a substantial number that got him a lot closer to proposed budget cuts. Genius? Not really. Just patient, intelligent, respectful dialogue, with everybody having their listening ears on.

It appears to me that there are four basic elements required for true, honest conversation to take place. Courage, respect and most importantly, recognition (not necessarily acceptance) of another point of view. And lastly, patience to steer the conversation to a destination that satisfies (almost) everyone in the conversation.

Alcohol: And How Are You Getting Home Tonight?

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

A look into avoiding alcohol related liability risks at your next event

By Andrea Donaldson

There is little doubt that serving alcohol at an event can leave your business vulnerable to liability risks. Social Host Laws can hold businesses accountable for individuals who hurt themselves after leaving an event intoxicated. However, addressing these risks prior to your event and following these steps, can help your company develop a protocol to keep your business safe from a lawsuit.

1. Consider not serving alcohol: The only way to fully eliminate the liabilities associated with serving alcohol at an event is to not serve it at all. Provide guests with a menu of themed non-alcoholic cocktails served in traditional stemware to encourage the ambiance of the event.

2. Do not distribute alcohol in self-service containers: Leaving alcohol unattended prevents the ability to monitor consumption. Hiring a professional bartender is ideal, but if the event has limited funding, having an employee stand in as a consumption monitor is the next best option. It is also possible to establish a drink ticket system to limit the number of beverages a guest can receive from the bar.

3. Serve food and non-alcoholic beverages: An individual who drinks on an empty stomach can begin feeling the effects of alcohol much sooner than an individual with a full stomach. It is crucial to provide some type of food at an event where alcohol is being served. It is also necessary to have non-alcoholic beverage options. Guests should have easy access to beverages like coffee and water at all points of the night.

4. Prevent guests from drinking and driving: If a guest is showing signs of intoxication on their way out, strike up a friendly conversation. In the conversation politely question how he or she intends to get home. The conversation could be all they need to realize they may need to take a cab. In the circumstance when an intoxicated guests has clear intentions to drive, it

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is critical that they are prevented from doing so. It will be cheaper for your company to pay for a cab ride home than a lawsuit.

5. Develop a list of cab companies and hotels: Do not wait until the last minute to compile a list of nearby hotels and cab companies. Call hotels prior the event to verify there will be vacancies for that evening.

Following these simple steps are sure to reduce the liability risks involved in serving alcohol at your next event. But more importantly, they can also prevent an employee or guest from potentially harming themselves or others.

Stephen Covey Lives On

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits…” Also Apply to Non Profit Boards

By Joseph John

It didn’t take any time at all last week to think about an article that I should write. As I picked up the newspaper and headed towards the obituaries, (a habit of mine), a headline shouted out: “Renowned author Stephen Covey dies.”

In the third paragraph of the AP release, the obit stated “…a pioneer in the self-help genre aimed at helping readers become more productive in their lives, most notably with the ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’…” And that’s when I thought, “Yes, many of the habits Covey wrote about can indeed be applied to nonprofit board members.”

I quickly went to Wikipedia (it was much faster than finding my copy of Stephen Covey’s book, which I’m sure is dog-eared, by the way) to refresh my memory on the  seven habits he wrote about. You may recall that each chapter is dedicated to one of the habits, which are represented by the following imperatives:

Independence or Self-Mastery

The First Three Habits surround moving from dependence to independence (i.e., self mastery).

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Take initiative and take responsibility

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Create a mission statement.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.


The next three habits have to do with interdependence (i.e., working with others).

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Use empathic listening, which generates reciprocal listening. All of this creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.

Habit 6: Synergize

Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork. Get the best performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.

Self Renewal

The last habit relates to self-rejuvenation.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a balance among the four dimensions: Physical, Spiritual, Mental, and Social/Emotional.

So many of the seven habits Stephen Covey addressed for the “individual” are transferable to the collective “individuals” of a non profit board. Think about it: just the first three habits can establish a strong foundation for a very dynamic and successful board of directors: 1) be proactive, 2) begin with the end in mind, and 3) put first things first. “First things first” or, to use another famous Covey quote “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Yes, Stephen Covey may have passed away, but his lessons — and our need to follow the seven habits — will always remain.


Managing Expectations

Monday, June 4th, 2012

By Neil Kuvin

Disappointment is the natural result of badly managed expectations.  I can attest to how many disappointments I’ve been through in several decades.  First was managing several TV stations in large cities (NY, Boston, Atlanta) for about a total of 10 years.  And then after leaving the world of network TV,  20 years of managing a small business, right up until today.

Maslow - Managing ExpectationsHave you ever read anything by the legendary motivational psychologist Abraham Maslow?  He and others have helped me transform disappointments and successes in all of my relationships—personal and professional. We often forget—especially in today’s high-tech world—that a company is simply a collection of individuals. Employees are looking for meaning. Customers are looking for a transforming experience. Investors are looking to make a difference with their investments.

When you think about it and you apply the principals of faith, hope and patience, corporate transformation and personal transformation aren’t all that different. You can address a problem head on by just remembering that many times, you’re just not in control.  You haven’t lost it.  It’s that your demand for control of every situation just isn’t going to happen.  Therefore you need a forced sense of reality and acceptance to calm you down and get you restarted in another direction.

So, if you can aspire to that actuality, why can’t companies aspire to this peak, too? Companies often spend too much of their time focused on the base needs of relationships—but it’s the peak experiences that foster real success. Most of us spend our lives focused on what is, but there are many reminders for us to focus way more on what could be.  That’s the difference between living in the past and ordering our lives and our business expectations by past experiences.  And then there’s vision. What a grand idea!  Will there be disappointments?  Sure.  It’s all in the way you hit the wall, turn around and start again.

This transformational perspective on managing expectations is just as relevant to a company as it is to an individual.


As We Forgive

Monday, May 14th, 2012

by Neil Kuvin

forgiveProbably the most compelling and challenging of any three words in the entire Bible are, “As we forgive.”  How do you respond?  And how do you forgive?  Isn’t that the hardest part?  Maybe not as three simple words in the “Lord’s Prayer,” but in the real world. How often are you angry with someone?  The disagreement and voice volume didn’t at all match the relatively uncomplicated subject. Maybe you came in this morning with an “I’m gonna get you” attitude?  Do you draft language for a competitor to your client that evens the score, or puts a competitive person or product in a negative light?

We’re not being infantile or fatuous about this.  We recognize all too well that pointing out the negatives in a product or person can turn some heads.  That when you tell people something long enough and spend enough money to drive home the point, many will change their opinion.  This condition is most prevalent during a political campaign or when a new product goes on the offensive to get consumers to switch allegiances and try the new competitor out.

Now, let’s get back to being personal.  Think about a particular person you dislike and want to disparage.  Think about what you do with your anger.  Days, months, years go by and you never really forgive that person.  Not to their face.  And when you think about it, the memory of the incident has faded; you’re still in touch with this person, occasionally, and even daily.  But you don’t give up or give in on taking them aside and simply saying “I’m sorry.” 

Learning to deal with our own personal anger, jealousy, envy, takes a lot of effort.  What it does is creates a great environment for how we, as professional ad or PR people approach copy concepts for our angry, jealous, envious clients.  It does even more.  It positions the ultimate sense of direction we pursue when taking an offensive or especially a defensive position in the media.

Take off your gloves and take a deep breath.  Take a walk in the country.  There’s way more to life than getting even.


Did you hear me? You’re just not listening!

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

We spend more time listening than talking — but often do it badly!

by Neil Kuvin

ListeningWith certainty I believe many of you reading this are in a career in marketing, public relations, communications, or a related field. I’m certain you’ve read a few articles, and books on this subject. I’ve written several Bizceos articles on the topic.

Listening is the most important constant element in communication. Listening doesn’t cost anything. However, It affects you and I every minute of every day! Thanks to technology that changes by the day, the world we live in at present gives us everything we need to know in less than a split second and perhaps makes people pay less attention to this all-important skill.

Active listening affects outcomes, whether you’re a college student taking in a lecture; an athlete going over game planning with your coaches; or a PR rep attending a client meeting. Heck, listening affects us all of the time at home. One of you complains, “You’re not listening to me.” With your wife husband, it’s not easy to hide behind a “my hearing is not what it used to be” excuse. Especially when you’re both in the same room, like the den, and you’re watching a ball game. Mute the sound, at least. And get in a position where you’re looking right at her/him.

Why did I choose to comment on listening, out of the blue? As a PR/Communications practitioner, I live it, and preach it to every client, every way I can. It is clear from recent invective that listening, without at least some attempt at understanding missing. The political racket (as in noise), will be an ongoing component in our lives. And who’s going to unwind the unbelievable clatter surrounding the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Where are your ears and brain cells, people?

I’m a huge Clint Eastwood fan. Everything he directs or stars in are always of a top-notch, impeccably professional nature. And they always have a message. I was at a friend’s home and happened to read a past edition of GQ Magazine that featured Mr. Eastwood on the cover. The journalist writing the article asked Eastwood about his life as a child and a special moment in his Academy Award nominated (2008) movie Changeling where the GQ writer was struck by a particular scene Eastwood directed in which a boy sits up in front of a radio to just listen.

Eastwood commented, “Life was pretty simple then (in the 50’s). Because TV was only available in major cities and there was slim pickins of programming. There was the radio. Everything was listening. So you imagined everything.” Regarding the movie scene involving the boy and the radio, he added: “There’s an art to listening. There’s not much of it going on in the world. As an actor, it’s the most important single function.”

When you listen to someone, particularly in a personal, private session, look into their eyes and try to focus on the pitch of their voice. That’ll keep you focused and involved. Don’t look away, even if there’s an event occurring in the background. You’ll find out right up front if the person who

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sought you out is hurting; wants to share a happy moment with you; is seeking out your advice; wants to convey and share with you a moment that brought them concern or created fear. You need to hear every word and sense every emotion.

Listening requires two things. No….not ears. It requires rapt attention and meaningful responses. An “I don’t know what to say” doesn’t work. ‘Active” listening means you understand; you’re involved and you care.