When I look back on 2013, there was a change in the way we communicated with each other— in business, personal and social settings. For the most part, especially in the offerings available through social media, the results have been amazing. Of course there were some disasters, and as we know, verbal communication isn’t the only way people get their point across. A person’s actions and the way they present themselves can speak louder than words.

In 2013, there were people that communicated effectively while others went off the rails. From entertainment to politics, our world is filled with interesting people and some of their stories are included in this blog.

Cultural perspectives play into communicating effectively as well. Points of view coming from another countryman’s experiences add value to a project team, and they also bring challenges with missed cues lost in translation. When you add generational and economical differences, it’s amazing we’re communicating at all. Hopefully I offer you just a bit of thought on being deliberate with communications to achieve your goals.

Is Having a Vision for a Better Solution a Pre-requisition for communicating effectively in business?

For starters, we can learn from one of the most influential men in history, Nelson Mandela. Sadly, he passed away about two weeks ago, but was one of the best communicators for decades. Mandela was imprisoned in 1962 for 27 years because he led a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government, but his South African people believed in his vision/messages. Even while Mandela was in prison, his followers on the outside lobbied for his release until he was finally released in 1990 during a time of intensifying civil conflict. Mandela was an advocate and his vision for a greater good formulated how he communicated to end apartheid. The former South African President was a man who was once declared a terrorist by the US, and he also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He was listed in 2004 as one of the 100 most influential people. Only an effective communicator can get large groups and nations behind them. Imagine what you can do in your own business/industry.

Then we have pictures that speak louder than words— still a form of communication. At Nelson Mandela’s funeral, President Obama and other world leaders engaged in a series of “selfie” photos and it looked like Michelle Obama was not pleased at all. However, that was certainly not the case. Pictures have a way of misinterpreting a story, and the photos looked as if President Obama and company were doing all of this during Nelson Mandela’s ceremony, but in actuality, it was later reported that the “selfie” activity was occurring two hours after the funeral; by that time, many of the people in attendance were singing and dancing. The point here is that you can use photography to communicate a message (the President and other leaders are hip and appeal to the young) or it can result in disaster (the President and other leaders were disrespectful.)

With the passing of Nelson Mandela, some see the torch has been passed on to Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman who wrote a blog in 2009, communicating details of her life under the Taliban rule to the world. She effectively communicated with the written word about the horrific lifestyle woman experienced under the Taliban, the group who attempted to kill her in October 2012. Malala received tons of support from the world especially from Christiane Amanpour, a British-Iranian Journalist and television host for CNN. Malala’s communications’ forum (initially blogging) was effective and Malala was communicating a vision for a greater good. She was featured on the cover of Time and was named as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2013.” All of this started because of blogging and her vision for a better lifestyle.

Thinking about some of the ugly, we can point the big foam finger at Miley Cyrus, America’s sweetheart, well… America’s former sweetheart. She has been very successful in her transformation from girl to woman, communicating her point at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards by performing what many said was a shocking and unfit for TV duo with Robin Thicke. Although it wasn’t everyone’s preferred way of making a point, she accomplished what she needed to do by communicating a vision of a new Miley Cyrus.

One of the big stories in my area (New Jersey) has been the devastation resulting from Hurricane Sandy that took place last year. The people of New Jersey have led the charge through slogans and television commercials, showing that we might be down at the moment, but we are certainly not out. We are Jersey Strong! New Jersey has some of the most vocal people in the country, and our governor, Chris Christie, is one of the best communicators out there. He is one of the most accessible politicians as he regularly holds town meetings with people. Even though not everyone in Jersey is on his side (especially teachers), he is constantly seen on the television or town meetings communicating in person. His message to the public is that he has a vision to rebuild the Jersey Shore community.

John Paul DeJoria, the head of Paul Mitchell Systems, doesn’t use the latest technologies to communicate in his business. In a recent interview from Inc.com he says:

I don’t use e-mail or a computer. I would be so inundated that I wouldn’t be able to get any work done. Instead, I do everything in person or on the phone. I have a phone book that’s 15 years old and filled with whiteout and rewrites. I carry that everywhere.”

You pick which way you want to communicate with your colleagues, employees and customers. I realize that having a vision for your customers is going to give you a tool that is yours, and only yours; this is your brand. It can’t get any easier than that. Be true to yourself and those around you. Declare what you stand for and communicate in a manner that is most comfortable for you and it becomes that much easier. Happy Holidays!

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