Archive for the ‘Community involvement’ Category

It’s a bit scary out there! How to cope better with the after-shocks

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

How many of you in Wellington New Zealand have felt more than a little disconcerted with the recent spate of earthquakes?  It really knocks your equilibrium…golly, the earth isn’t meant to move!

Of course we are so lucky in comparison to Christchurch and the enormity of their disruptions.

I’m fine. Our building seems stable enough, but we can still find ourselves suddenly startled into thinking “Was that a gust of wind, or another one?”  It has certainly made me think about what we can do when we really have no control over the land we live on.

Well, obviously the first thing to do is to make sure you have your earthquake emergency kit easily accessible.  But what about our own resilience?

Control what you can:

  • Do less of the OMG !
  • Do more exercise – go for a walk (some of you are having to walk because your lifts are out!)
  • Chat with your colleagues abouthow they are managing, much as you would with your neighbors.
  • If your concentration is a bit shattered, work in short bursts
  • Do your breathing exercises

Share and care, but don’t get bogged down with stuff you cannot control.

Don’t be afraid of being scared …it’s a sign of commonsense







Is old fashioned courtesy all that's needed?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

I often remember the basics that my grandmother was so keen on. Those old fashioned things called ‘manners’.

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They are well ingrained into my fundamental practices.

Some of the ‘rules’ are now very out of date for example a male walking on the outside of a female (I think it as to stop her gown getting splattered by mud from on coming carriages) . However some are well worth thinking about and probably putting into practice.

Many of us have changed the way we work.We are now in shared open plan spaces often ‘hot bedding’. The old idea of owning our office space where we can scatter our personal belongings is fast disappearing. Now we need to be mindful of others that are sharing office space.

For introverts the interruptions can be very irritating.For extroverts it is a welcome change.For those who love a clear desk policy having to clear a space to work is infuriating.

The conversations you have on the phone are not for sharing…if you need to have a conversation take yourself to another area where you can’t be heard.

I guess the secret of working in close proximity is to be conscious of others and be aware it’s not the big things that drive people nuts but the little things that cause havoc with working relationships.

No man is an island .We all need to work together and maybe all it takes is courtesy.

Friendship: Face-to-face vs digital communication

Monday, November 26th, 2012

We’re just back from a great time at the Round Taupo Cycle Challenge.  One of the pluses of the event was catching up with old friends. It really hit me how important it is to occasionally see friends in person. In 2011 we went on a fantastic Tour de France cycling trip. We formed some great new friendships,  maybe forged by the pain of biking up those famous mountain climbs.  Of course we all promised to stay in touch for ever and ever, but then real life took over….  except for the Round Taupo Cycle Challenge.  Lots of our TdF people were there and we rapidly re-kindled the ties.

One obvious reason for the need for in-person contact is the subtle but crucial awareness we gain from countless body language signals. What comes over as silence on the phone, can be more accurately interpreted as thinking time, confusion, surprise, emotional challenge and so on.  There are countless possible meanings, any of which we can quickly interpret once we’re together in person. In theory Skype should enable us to pick up enough of those, but there’s still too much  detachment in Skype communication to do the subtlety required.

Recent revolutions in  understanding about the brain suggests that there’s complex biochemical interaction between two people face-to-face in a communication. For example, in theory, if I put my hand on your shoulder for 45 seconds, our hearts will be beating in unison! (This presumes that you want to be in unison with me!) The Wikipedia entry on non-verbal communication has some interesting material on this if you want to follow it up.

There’s also a very complex and interesting article called .  The article concludes that the value of each type depends on the type of communication – so it’s not face-to-face ‘good’, virtual ‘ bad’.  For example, virtual communication meant that we already knew that some of our TdF friends were going to be at the Taupo Cycle Challenge.  Mobile phone technology meant that we could easily find one another amongst the thousands of happy cyclists at the end-of-race event.

Probably touch plays an important role in this. Us Kiwis are getting so much better at using the hug as part of our greetings. Plus, when we are face-to-face, we are sharing the same physical environment – the colours on the wall, any noises outside and so on. We can see the  whole of one another, not just the face or upper body.

What’s your sense of what makes in-person communication so much more satisfying? If we’re forced to communicating mainly virtually, what ideas are there for building the connection the medium lacks?

So here’s to togetherness in cycling!  I’m off to work out how to combine both in-person and virtual communication to make the best of having two children more or less permanently living overseas.



Leadership in an emergency

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

We were travelling back from overseas recently when unfortunately one of our party had to be hospitalised.
Firstly its tough being in a different country from your own and secondly not knowing what was happening.
As you know some doctors and certainly some specialists can be remote and rather forbidding .They have both language and a demeanor that can intimidate rather than accommodate the patient.
In a sense these people have a leadership role.They are there to advise,communicate and offer reassurance to their patient just as any team leader in an organisation would need to do in an emergency. But often the patient only sees the specialist briefly and does not feel comfortable to ask questions and discuss options clearly,they can be left unsure and even scared.

Our experience was excellent.The specialist was calming in the face of emergency treatment.He quietly offered reassurance -not necessarily that “all would be fine” but gave the feeling that what ever happened everything was under control. He ensured we understood the procedures.
Following the operation (at 2am) he rang personally and discussed what he had done and that the patient was going to be OK. His ability to clearly give information in a manner that reduced any concerns made a huge difference.
When a leader in any emergency situation can instill confidence in their ability and confidence with their calmness it makes a huge difference to their team.When they communicate clearly and swiftly, the trauma is lessened considerably and as a result the team becomes confident and comfortable much more rapidly making it business as usual  which is what we all want! 

Communicating when travelling

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Many of you will be travelling at some time this year,or certainly will have travelled in the past.  Recently I was flying internationally and I began thinking about the habits we have when close sharing on planes is unavoidable.

Firstly unless you are travelling with a companion (in my case sometimes my husband) you almost always sit next to a stranger. They remain a stranger only for a very short time .Usually it is the glance, slight smile and then a short comment until the tray table comes down.

That seems to be the cue to begin ‘getting to know you’ sort of conversation.  Along the lines of “where are you off to?” or “Are you on holiday?”  Occasionally it can seem like a short interrogation

If you live in New Zealand and you are going on a long haul trip you then make arrangements for sleep.  Once again this has habit and ritual when travelling alongside a stranger. Avoid all eye contact as they snuggle into their blanket. Ignore noises you normally only hear from your loved ones and try not to wake them when you inevitably need to go to the bathroom!

Travelling is rewarding at times you can meet and have really good conversations with fellow passengers.

Just beware of the chatty ones. Then you need to resort to the eye masks, ear plugs and hope they don’t bump you when they get up to move.

This is a recent photo taken in Kuala Lumpur with a group of participants

Are the words we use and how we communicate ageist?

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Most baby-boomers were delighted to see that in the last Oscar round Meryl Streep and Christopher Plummer were given awards for their acting . Their expertise and competence in their chosen craft have been honed over time and they deserved their golden statues.

In New Zealand had either of them been knocked down by a car the headline would have read ‘Elderly man/woman injured…etc’. They are at an age where some might think they should be put out to pasture.

Our language has changed and defines how we see each other. In a blog written by Terry Wogan in The Telegraph he writes that a school advertising for a new staff member had the words dynamic and enthusiastic removed from the advertisement as “they are ageist” .


Employee happiness and social engagement

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

There’s a charming sculpture of a man (John Plimmer) and his dog in a little alleyway in Wellington.

On my daily walk past, there’s almost always someone there taking a photo of a friend with the statue.  I’ve often wondered why the other interesting sculptures in the city don’t attract anywhere near  as much interaction.

The Science Behind the Smile, in the latest Harvard Business Review, seems to provide part of the answer –  we are inherently and deeply social beings.  The author – Harvard Psychology Professor, Daniel Gilbert- summarises the scientific literature on the key to human happiness as being ‘social’.  Whilst we  think that we would be happy if only we were wealthier, more famous, an All Black, or whatever, but in fact we are most  likely to be happy if we have strong bonds with  family and friends. What a relief for those of us who have recently realised we’ll never  make the All Blacks!

Happiness is the main focus of the first 2012  issue of the HBR.  After Gilbert’s interesting article , other writers  reiterate the importance of the social component to many positive  measures such as productivity. Outside work, high levels of social support are more likely to lead to longevity, whilst low social support is as bad for your health as high blood pressure.

A later article describes research showing that employees scoring the highest for providing social support are much more likely to receive a promotion in the next year, report much higher job satisfaction , and are far more likely to be engaged by their jobs.

Interesting isn’t it?  And it kind of makes sense on a practical level, doesn’t it? So John Plimmer, the so-called Father of Wellington continues to provide a social  service for Wellingtonians.

It’s that time of the year!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

I was talking recently to a group of women at a Her Business (more…)