Welcome to New Zealand’s communication skills blog.

We're passionate about communication and have collected a whole lot of practical ideas and interesting thoughts on the subject. Look through our blog or contact us if you'd like further information on a particular topic.

Great information on women leaders in the workplace

August 21st, 2013 | by Lee

The HBR Blog last week provides, in its own words:

‘startling glimpses into what work and leadership is like for women around the world’. The post is titled: Tell me something I didn’t know about women in the workplace.  It quotes recent research across a broad range of issues and links to a host of  HBR archives of relevant articles on those issues. There’s also a series of slides quoting very interesting data on the issues.

Go look at it and ponder! Not all of the research is depressing and some of the information provides pointers for women and talent managers in our workplaces.



Great fix to build your confidence before you speak in a group

August 13th, 2013 | by Lee

Need to speak up in a group and find the thought terrifying?  There’s a very interesting TED Talk to help you along.  Amy Cuddy  in, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, talks about the impact of body language on the hormone balance in our brains.  Apparently the use of passive body language increases the stress hormone levels in the brain. Use of ‘power’ body language increases the testosterone levels. If you take up a power body posture for two minutes before you need it, you get a wonderful rush of power hormones and will feel much more confident. I suggest you hide yourself in the bathroom while you do that! This victory image is interesting. According to Cuddy, we take up this position when we’re winning, even people who have been blind from birth still use it, though they have never seen it.   There’s a lot more to it than this, how you project makes a big difference to the audience, but Cuddy’s information is about the impact on us.  Give it a go!

The right question can be the key to a person

August 1st, 2013 | by Lee

We finally made it! Most weekends we go biking in a local seaside park and then relax at a cafe. The woman at the cafe has always intrigued me because she doesn’t interact with the customers, or even make eye contact.  It’s fortunate the cafe combines a lovely environment with  great coffee, or no one would go there.  A person like this is a challenge for someone like me. I love to know what makes them tick. In this case I’ve made no progress and neither has my husband.

But last weekend – breakthrough!  In yet another attempt, I asked how she manages to take a break over winter and yeh!  Enthusiasm leapt out. My barista is also a marathon runnner, she’s off to do her 12th marathon and now what I don’t know about her running career, isn’t worth knowing.

What a buzz!  Made me think about the power of questions and the importance of enthusiasm.  Okay, she’s pretty self-absorbed, and for me,  I really didn’t care about her 12 marathons, but what I loved was the transformation in her. Enthusiasm won the day and swept me up with it too. Of course we may not still be NBFF, but I am sure there’s a chink opening up.

In your communication, seek to communicate your own enthusiasms, or better still – connect to the other person’s passions.  And never forget the power of the right question.

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

July 24th, 2013 | by Janine

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







How to get some good out of the earthquake

July 23rd, 2013 | by Lee

Phew, the weekend was a wake up call for us Wellingtonians.  Did you find you were immediately involved in frenetic texting directly after the bigger one, then a flow of  ‘Thinking of you ‘ emails later?

Israeli friends have told us of this same behavioural pattern: They hear of a bomb and immediately contact family in the nearby area, then  close friends, then a while later the wider friendship circle.

The need to reaffirm bonds, is clearly an instinctive reaction to threat.  Such jolts make us realise how much our important connections matter. In some ways,  drastic events can enable us to reaffirm our key bonds -much like the importance of a wake after a funeral.

The sense of belonging is crucial to human mental health. It’s why at the new millenium, so many people preferred to be with family rather than in the expected massive parties.  Relatedness is key to us as humans and we now know that the pain of being excluded is very similar to the pain of physical injury.  Beth Mount (expert on Personal Futures Planning for people with disabilities) has said: “Loneliness is the only real disability’.

It was heartwarming to receive emails from old friends across the world and it put us more closely in touch once more.  So what do we take from the weekend? Make contact with friends and family, even when you have lost touch.  Use this sharp reminder of the fragility of life to strengthen your connection with the people you care about.

Spare a thought for the people in Christchurch as well. What we went through doesn’t remotely approximate their shock at the time and their on-going problems. Think too oif the countless ordinary people trying to live in war zones.  They live with this fragility every day and it is the result of human decisions, not just a random result of  geology.

All the best out there. Keep communicating with those you love!


Is old fashioned courtesy all that's needed?

July 9th, 2013 | by Janine

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.

When communication goes bad

June 25th, 2013 | by Janine

The newspapers are filled with examples of communications that weren’t meant for the people reading them.  Often it’s deliberate as in whistle blowing and for others it is as the result of leaks. The result is the same -information out in the open and not for the intended viewer.

It’s a similar,if not as serious,problem for you in the office. We spend far too much time on emails rather than face to face communication.

How many of you have been cc’d into an email that is irrelevant and just takes up space.Or even worse when the sender says “You were copied in therefore I take no responsibility for you not reading it”

Have you ever sent an email in a rage? That can have serious consequences. Or have been copied in on gossip?  Emails can be a real problem

A couple of tips:

  • If you need a response urgently
  • If you have a difficult message to communicate
  • Or if you are angry or sad

Take a breathe and don’t send the email.Phone or face to face is always best!


Pride: An unexpected angle on for women in leadership

June 18th, 2013 | by Lee

Have you ever thought about the role of pride in executive presence?  The   HRM Online  earlier this week quoted German research in Germany showing that women who adopted a proud approach to their personal performance were seen as more willing to take the lead.

Pride has a rather negative press, but when soundly based, it can be a powerful motivator.  As we acknowledge our achievements we build our confidence and that will comes out in a multitude of subtle ways.

I suspect that NZ women find it very difficult to communicate their pride in their achievements. We’d be great at being cheerful, but unfortunately the German study shows that cheerful women are seen as less willing to lead.

Jon Katzenbach has an interesting article  in the website for The Centre for Association Leadership, titled: Instilling Pride: The Primary Motivator for Peak Performance. It is talking about pride in an organisation, but it’s comments would equally well apply to personal performance.