Face to Face Communications and Training Issue 501
January 2011
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Point of View

This Decade's Most Sought-After Skill

Happy New Year! Happy New Decade! The 20-preteens (or tweens) are upon us.

There is a skill that employers are seeking in new hires and long-time employees that is perhaps best illustrated by peeking inside of Kentucky's Mammoth Cave.

For centuries there have been fish living in the waters in Mammoth Cave.

They live in the pitch black that has always been their home. Over time they have adapted to their lightless surroundings. In their present state the fish are opaque and eyeless. The form that a life takes to cope with its environment is simply amazing.

The skill? Adaptability. Douglas T. Hall said "adaptability is the capacity to change: including both the competence and the motivation to do so." We love that Hall included the second part of this definition. Pam and I have long believed that almost everyone has the capacity to change; and what separates average people from the rest is the motivation to change.

My mother has an 83-year-young friend who continues to work--full time. She's seen her work life change dramatically. From switchboards to cell phones; stenography to texting; paper to paperless; and streetcars to green buses. That's adaptability.

Adaptability isn't only an individual skill-it can also be an organizational skill. Some have it and some don't.

Blockbuster ignored new technology and competition to hang onto "what used to be" as Netflix soared ahead offering movie downloads and rentals. They recognized not all customers would be ready for new media at the same time. That's adaptability.

I have to give Isotoner/Totes a lot of credit. They were founded in 1924-a long time before cell phones. Yet, they are marketing a product called SmarTouch that allows you to text/phone while wearing your gloves. Great for those of us who live in Chicago. That's adaptability.

Casinos in Laughlin, NV now rent motorized scooters for $40 a day to seniors who find Vegas intimidating. That's adaptability.

Progressive libraries are now lending e-book readers and e-books. They aren't afraid that technology will run them out of business, they're embracing it and taking information resourcing to the next level. That's adaptability.

So, how adaptable are you? Answer yes or no to these questions for a quick, unscientific survey of your adaptability:

  • Is your cell phone ring the one your phone came with?
  • Is your hair style the same as you had in college?
  • Is there a Trimline phone on your nightstand?
  • Do you park in the same place every day?
  • Do you sit in the same pew every week?
  • Do you think video games are a waste of time?
  • Do you still rent DVDs?
  • Do you file your taxes by mail?

If you answered more than 5 questions with a 'yes' stretch toward greater adaptability. A great place to start is with one of the questions above. Change your cell phone ring, hairstyle, parking place-you'll be surprised by the new perspective.

What else can you do to become more adaptable? Just get curious. Visit an Apple or Garmin store and play with the devices. Go to your local cell phone store and ask to see the latest phones. Try the odd looking fruit in the produce section. Better yet, visit an international store and see how many fruits and vegetables you didn't even know existed. Order a new wine. Eat the Chef's special-even if the ingredients don't seem to go together.

The truth is-in our private lives we can remain as staid as we like (and our loved ones can stand). In our work lives it's different. If we don't adapt, we become irrelevant and replaceable. I'm striving to be the Adaptability Empress!

 Musings and Miscellany

Subtle is just too...Subtle

People don't get subtle; especially in the workplace. Subtlety in our communication is often the cause of much miscommunication and frustration. By definition subtle is indirect and therefore ineffective-in our communication.

Be direct-say what you mean. Pam says, "say what's in your head-with discretion."

Got it? Good.


What we're reading...

Strengths Finder 2.0 by: Tom Rath

This book is an update to the Clifton Strengthsfinder assessment that over 2 million people have taken. I was among those numbers nearly 10 years ago.

The premise of this work is one that Pam and I convey every chance we get: people work best when they work from their strengths. Strength-based development: self or staff is the most effective way to create strong teams businesses and organizations.

Society--as reflected in our schools, religious organizations, and even in the workplace reinforces quite the opposite. Many of us have been raised to correct our weaknesses to the point that we do not nurture our strengths. Performance evaluations, report cards, and the like-point toward weaknesses and rarely set goals based on strengths.

Now, I must admit my skepticism at the assessment in the beginning. You see, my #1 strength is Woo (winning others over). I know-it isn't glamorous, strong, or sexy. Truthfully, it felt rather...well...shallow.

I have learned to embrace my Woo-ness (smile). I will almost always remember your face and most likely your name. I'm comfortable around strangers-which serves me well as a business owner. And I find easy ways to break the ice or cut through the tension in a room-when need be. I'm even running for public office! Now that's embracing the Woo!

I have other strengths, too. Intellection and self-assurance help shore me up against Pam's activator and maximizer. And they have helped me get over my strengths-envy.

Go-discover your strengths. Take the assessment (which comes with the book) and grow yourself from the inside out. You'll be glad you did; and so will we!



We are back at it! Researching, writing, and even developing a new workshop based on our book! Woot!

You can spend an entire day with us in New Orleans at an ALA preconference session!

Please become a fan!

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F2F POINT OF VIEW is an interactive newsletter for business professionals who value commitment and passion in their professional and personal lives. If you found something of interest in this newsletter, please forward it (in its entirety, please) to a friend or colleague.

The focus of F2F POINT OF VIEW is to provide brief insights into the world of interpersonal business communication. It is edited by Gail Johnson, CEO of Face to Face Communications and Training. For more information, a complementary consultation, or initial training assessment email Gail or visit our website.