Just wanting to say hello: thoughts on transparency and accountability

Pink Orchid Dupont Circle Farmers MarketI’m new to this world of blogging and still trying to figure it all out.  Sometimes, all I want to do is simply write and say hello.  If you find yourself coming across my post, please leave me a little note with feedback and thoughts you may have.  Did you find my writing style pleasant and easy to read? Did you like the topic?

I’m sorting through my office mess these days, sometimes I wonder how did the paper tiger get so wild and crazy?  I have mountains of nothingness all over my basement office space.  It always amuses me because as a legal and executive assistant, I was always so hyper organized and clean at work.  Now it seems a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde split personality has come upon me though it wasn’t always this way. I ask myself why I’m not giving myself the excellent service I gave to others.  Every now and then, I stumble upon a paper that makes me pause and think that I’ve come a long way and still have lots of room for self-improvement.  Certainly, we all could take some time to contemplate and reflect on how we can better be of service to ourselves in the midst of our serving others in our daily grind.

To be totally open and honest about it, I was always too controlled and organized–even in my private space–that is, up until my early 30s came along. I’d had a difficult childhood and my teen and early adult years were often a struggle but in my early 30s the chaos of my youth came rushing back into my life in a way which was irreversible and my whole perspective on priorities and “what matters most” really changed.

Nowadays, I’m examining different topics that I could be writing about but I always come back to sensitive psychological issues.  The internet poses a difficult problem for us human beings.  We sometimes are totally open and transparent when interacting in cyberspace but in doing so, we make ourselves vulnerable and subject to being ridiculed or hurt by others who are less caring than we are.  I find this dichotomy rather scary but at the same time, I feel the rush of the idea of this freedom of being 100% myself which is rather addictive.

There’s a tangible contrast between who I am and who I represent and above all, I’d really like to merge the two and become wholly one singular person.  It seems to me a struggle.  Humanity is fluid and personality as reflected on the internet is subject to moods and situational contexts.  Somehow, I want to liberate myself from the constraints of trying to prove anything to anyone but find myself doubting my ability to do so.  Filtering ourselves for public consumption is probably for the better than it is for the worse.

I would like to just be myself without the repercussions and variables of others saying that they didn’t like what I had to say.  This is after all just my opinion, not the Magna Carta.  I invite people to disagree with me if they feel they want to but I would of course prefer that they do so without being disagreeable.

Let me know what you think.  I’d like to have good, robust and healthy dialogue with loving and intelligent people who actually take the time to consider others, not just think of themselves. Each and every day I find myself putting others first and sometimes it seems to me that it would be nice to feel less constricted by various types of societal norms.  Therefore, don’t be surprised if one day I’m Dr. Jekyll and other days I’m Mr. Hyde.  In reality, I am immensely attracted to the best of both sides: The Beauty and The Beast.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and others who will stop by to read out of pure curiosity, joy and wonder.

Susan

Being happy despite your problems

197 We all want happiness.  We all seek happiness.  We all work at getting the jobs, the relationships and the material things that we think will bring us happiness.  However the truth is that you can still have happiness without the acquiring, seeking and getting because happiness is a state of being or a frame of mind and it is at its very essence nothing but a cognitive choice.  That’s some premise isn’t it?  That happiness is always there in the background waiting for us to grab hold of.  So why don’t we all have it? I mean, if it’s so easy to acquire and all you have to do is to choose to be happy then why aren’t more of us satisfied with our level of happiness?  Can you be happy despite emotional angst, physical pain, financial worries or relationship troubles?  How is this possible?

Let me propose that happiness is possible no matter what befalls you so long as you have peace of mind.  Peace is the foundational material to build happiness.  And let me further argue that in order to achieve happiness you have to make room for peace.  In the same way that depression and anxiety co-exist and feed off of each other, so do happiness and peace.  The more peace you have, the greater your happiness; along with abundant joy comes a state of deep stillness and bliss known as inner peace.

So how does one make room for peace? Neither peace nor happiness can become established in your life without your first doing a bit of housecleaning.  Like a cluttered house, if you want to be freed and liberated from what burdens you, you have to identify what you can eliminate or fix.  If you are burdened with health, financial or people problems, your energy will be directed toward the problems.  How can there be room inside of yourself to grow happiness and peace if problems stand in the way and are taking up all the room? It just isn’t possible.  It’s like the biblical passage that “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” When problems are allowed to fester, peace and happiness will be compromised.

Problems are painful, we want to avoid them, but even if we do they continue to hurt us.  They burden us, they create an urgency in us:  we must do something to solve them!  We become preoccupied with them.  The end result is that if we ignore our troubles then all our efforts become focused on the problems.  We could instead recognize that happiness and peace are possible despite them.  It is easier to address and resolve your problems if you know them well and the solution is to compartmentalize or break it down into pieces.

First: recognize that there is a problem.  Address it.  Know the problem and identify the source.  Take responsibility for the problem and as some might say: own it!  You will never master what you do not first fully understand. Secondly: ask yourself what would solve the problem.  Define and break down the steps to eliminating or at the very least diminishing the problem.

If that goal isn’t possible then Thirdly think of how you could alleviate your condition and make it less burdensome.  Can you enlist help or delegate the problem to someone who might more easily be able to deal with it because they are less personally involved in the situation and thus more objective?  If you think about it, that’s why people hire lawyers and psychologists because they assist and help us navigate troubled waters.  If we can’t handle a problem ‑‑ rather than continue suffering ‑‑ we should share our burden.  Asking for help or sharing your troubles can help you find solutions that you would not have thought of by yourself.  Suddenly your puzzle will fall into place simply because you opened up and allowed yourself to be vulnerable.  That’s not easy to do when you’re already hurting but it is character-building and will strengthen your ability to tackle issues before they become major headaches. Remember that peace and happiness are co-existent conditions that are always available but will only thrive once you take actionable steps to resolving your problems that are getting in the way.  Since problems distract you from peace and happiness, by addressing the issue until it has been nullified or rendered less troublesome, you will be heading in the right direction and one day will have mastered your obstacles and gained in both self-control and self-esteem.  To summarize:

  • Problem identification is the first step to eliminating your troubles.
  • Secondly, break down the problem into manageable parts to eliminate or diminish your obstacles to happiness.
  • And thirdly, seek the support of others and reach for assistance. By doing so you will gain insights and obtain expertise from outside sources who may be more objective and might offer perspectives that you would not have thought of alone.

By reviewing, accepting, identifying and addressing the issues and outlining the steps persistently on a daily basis, one day you will look at your life and see less problems.  Eventually you will be more peaceful and realize that yes, indeed, you haven’t found happiness, you just are happy. 197

Building on the Past

“The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants from life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe that it is possible.”

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The above quote by Richard M. DeVos is quite spiritual but somewhat unrealistic since it implies that just thinking makes it so and this is what psychologists term as “magical thinking.”  Many people believe this wholeheartedly: that all you have to do is hold a thought and think it and you will find success (often promoted by new age gurus as visualization).  I’m of the opinion that it takes more than merely cognitive restructuring to be successful.  After all, in order to change your thinking process you have to systematically develop the habit of the new attitude.  Developing new habits means taking action not merely sitting in the lotus position and thinking or praying that something will happen.  Success requires effort and maintaining the flexing of these “muscles” you’ve acquired over time.

The primary vehicle to success is to be persistent.  This takes patience and time.  For example, you may love a certain type of work but be unable to pursue your career goals in that functional area so instead, you quietly study or stay in the field and work at the craft until you become an expert, even if you are unrecognized as one because eventually you will become one and nobody could deny that or take it away.  You will have persisted in this restructuring by building on the past.

When you build on your past, you create a future like the one you dream of having.  When you court your dreams, you keep an eye on the prize and head in the direction that you aim for always.  This is who you are.  Be that person that you wish to become and never let go of your desire to achieve what you feel called for.  Work at it on a daily basis by setting little objectives and steps toward your larger goals.  One day, you will stumble upon the reality of being exactly where you wanted to be.  That is when you will know what true success feels like.  From year to year you will have grown and accelerated your goals and objectives to achieve expertise and there truly is no greater success than that. 

“The key to success is holding in your conscious mind what you want to achieve and then striving in everything you do to make the image reality.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

The Public Relations PEACE Process

P1050067PEACE is an acronym used by public relations (PR) consultants to facilitate and summarize the process by which corporate communications problems are identified and dealt with.  This process also seeks to find ways in which relationships may be built up, further developed or improved.  The PEACE process is a basic tool which serves as a paradigm to outline and develop the PR phases in submitting proposals to management.  These proposals aim to achieve or increase positive communications with either internal or external publics or more often with both.  Ideally, these PR tools lead to the identification and rectification of problem areas and to the achievement of positive ends that are both effective and quantifiable.  The goal of a solid PR plan should on the one hand be to clarify and improve corporate communications and, on the other hand, it should seek to create a positive relationship-building impact on both internal and external publics that is ongoing and offers long-term solutions.

The PEACE acronym can be summarized as follows:

P            Problem Research:  the initial phase seeks to define the problem and determine “what’s happening now.”  The problem identification and definition phase involves listening, fact-finding, answering the questions “what is the problem” and “what is the desired goal” and identifying the key audience members or publics whether internal or external;

E            Examine PR Options:  the second phase of the PEACE process centers on the adoption of measures in planning to address the issues or identified problem areas.  In this stage of the process the consultants, in tandem with client management, are seeking to know what actionable programs or strategic approaches will address their concerns and fix the problems.  They also seek to delineate what is needed to achieve stated goals and which options, actions or objectives will most effectively bring about a successful achievement of their identified, desired and agreed-upon goals.  At this stage of the process, there will be a need to identify if there are any anticipated or if there may arise any contingency elements that will need addressing.  More particularly, during this stage of the PEACE process the consultants and the client will sit down and answer three key questions: (1) What should we do to obtain the results we are seeking? (2) Why are we developing these particular action steps? and (3) How do these particular action steps help us to achieve our identified goals and objectives? This second phase of examining the PR options should plan for measures that are quantifiable (as part of the final evaluation phase) where all concerned parties will come together to assess the overall results and aftermath of each particular stage of the PEACE process as defined in the last step (see below);

A            Approval by Management:  (better known as AIM which stands for approval by, involvement of and money from management) this phase seeks to submit and present a fully-developed PR proposal and communications action plan to management.  The PR plan will include a detailed outline of the research necessary to properly frame the identified problem, the desired objectives and projected goals being established, the proposed budget financing that will be required to bring the project to completion and an appropriate timeline with action steps showing the research, preparation, implementation and rollout action plan of the various proposed options.  It is important to note that submitting a variety of options allows the client to choose from a menu of proposed actions to achieve the desired outcomes and to customize the level of spending and level and type of communications strategy that the client thinks is desirable and one which management has confidence in and is comfortable with.

C            Communications Action: this is the actual rollout action plan phase of the PEACE process and the actual implementation of the communications plan to its intended audiences as approved by management.  This important step of the PR plan includes gathering of critical measurable data for the purpose of determining the effectiveness of the platform(s) used and the communication strategies deployed; and

E            Evaluate or Examine:  this is the postmortem or after action review (AAR) phase where the examination of the plan and program dissemination effectiveness are scoured for possible areas of improvement to apply in similar future planned communications efforts.  Evaluating the results answers the question “how did we do” as well as helps to determine if future rollouts with modifications and tweaks are either desirable or necessary.  If the communications actions are to be repeated, “what improvements might be made to the next such PR project” will also be asked.  If at all possible, quantification of the results (which may mean a real return on investment or ROI in the case of a conference or other planned event) should be tabulated and have already been planned for in the first two steps of the PEACE process.

Finally, the PR program or the overall impact and final outcomes of the PR project in its entirety should be viewed as an exercise in discovery.  Not everything will necessarily go according to plan nor should it.  Organizations and people are malleable and change and our technology reflects it.  Therefore, when developing a PR proposal, keeping an open mind about differing perspectives is not optional.  The process will not deliver merely top-down communications but will invoke a star pattern that revolves around the concerned participants who are shepherding and possibly filtering the process.  The importance of ownership and responsibility for this PR process goes hand in hand with the maturity of understanding differences on both the client management and consultant sides.  What may actually surface from these PR activities though it can be unexpected is likely to be beneficial for everyone involved.

What You Can Expect From A PR Proposal

P1050066PR consulting professionals will deliver a cover letter with a submission for board approval of a preliminary budget to support public opinion research and an outline of communications response measures aimed at dealing with the identified problem area that includes a timeline.  The research phase usually identifies and further defines the problem areas as well as seeks to understand how similar PR issues were dealt with in the past by other similar entities.  Preliminary research will indicate the principal issues needing clarification and who the publics or target audiences are.  This examination will require the identification of both internal publics (comprised of officers, directors and other executives, staff and employees whether unionized or not, permanent, contractual or temporary, union representatives, if applicable, and shareholders) as well as external publics (members, various governmental bodies, customers or potential customers, and the community at large).

The next phase will involve the communications reach by use of PR tools adapted to the identified key publics.  For internal publics this can be personal communications (one-on-one or person-to-group), interactive group meetings with opportunities for Q&A and the receipt of immediate feedback from such interactions, or less personal one-way internal publications (pamphlets, posters, newsletters and other more target-specific print media such as direct mail or email and other digital communications such as websites and social media).  For external publics, along with the printed communications mentioned above, a heavier reliance on telephone communications (including robocalls) or personal phone bank appeals and, if deemed appropriate, a local or even national media news wire release (attempting to reach radio, television, newspapers, weeklies and magazines for wider dissemination also referred to as a media blitz if informational and marketing blitz if promotional institutional advertising).

Members of the executive who are tasked to assist the PR consultants may be called upon to ensure the successful design and implementation of the PR plan of action.  Their full support, commitment to the goals and action steps as well as their participation in each stage of the process is usually sought or expected unless management has decided otherwise (for example, in cases where it may have identified a need to improve internal communications due to difficulties that are caused by either specific individuals or conflicting departments or operational areas of concern which usually remain both internal and highly confidential).

Some of the questions identified in the PEACE process will involve estimating or measuring soft data rather than hard easily-identifiable facts.  A timeline may become a critical tool in order to track and keep the project running smoothly.  An examination of the corporate image of the client may be a large part of the initial problem identification stage and could involve surveys of both internal and external publics.  These audiences can shed light on whether the corporate image is positive, negative or largely neutral and on what form of reputation alteration may be in order though it may simply be one of positive reinforcement.

Every step of the way, management should receive updated reports indicating what measures will be established and what activities are planned.  “Are the key publics involved in an open dialogue” is another area that will be touched upon.  As mentioned above, there may be instances where management seeks to have confidential input on how internal operations communicate both with each other and externally and the public relations consultants will serve more of a confidential advisory role.

Who will be responsible for the administration of the resulting action plan or activities will be an important consideration as will determining if a contractor is needed to lend a hand on an as needed basis or if the work will be performed by a seasoned veteran of the client company.  Finally, how will the various publics be identified, reached and persuaded—what mediums will be tapped and how the media reach will be measured will also need close consideration.  The PR process is an ongoing one and it functions best when communications allow for change and dissonance.  People frequently seek to only hear consistency and congruence because it is what they have been conditioned to expect.  When we are reinforced in one way of viewing something it becomes much more difficult to allow attitudes to evolve further down the road.  Perceptual shifts take time and patience.

Understanding the communications process is critical in implementing changes that organizations seek in order to adapt to ever-shifting market conditions.  Your audience needs to both hear and believe that your communications are consistent with the purposes and objectives of your company and the objectives and goals it has set for itself.  Your chosen PR professional should be someone who is capable of guiding and helping to define the corporate conscience of your institution.  The PEACE process is an investment in the development of an appropriate merger between the corporate actions, objectives and goals and the company’s bottom-line operations. Public relations is not just about corporate branding image and promotional activities.  In the end, it is about the people who help shape, develop and deliver both products and services and that will include not just boots on the ground but also the vested interests of shareholders and the customer with purchasing power and a voice that seeks to be heard.