• Pink and White Sherbet in a glass cup
    communication,  education,  leadership

    Sherbet, Speech, and Skills for Success

    This story is an excerpt from my book Vital Signs: Five Essential Skills Every Student Needs for Success in Education and in Life. Enjoy! I remember my first time meeting Janai. The shy little girl was gripping her mother’s skirt, hiding behind her back as we chatted. She only peeked out to say a quick “Hi” when prompted. Then she was right back in her hiding spot. When I first announced that I was starting a public speaking class, Janai’s parents signed her right up — to their daughter’s horror. I coached the timid girl for a year, watching her grow and grow and grow as she learned the foundational…

  • Woman Walking Outside
    communication,  education

    Getting Your Steps In

    As my two boys got older, they developed this amazing sixth sense about when to disappear. They could anticipate when my SUV would pull up the long driveway stocked with food and household supplies, and suddenly they were nowhere to be found. Getting groceries from the car into the kitchen begins with 2 flights of stairs. Sometimes putting items away means 2 flights up, then 2 flights down, then 2 flights back up. I used to get so frustrated. It was physically taxing, tedious work and foot travel between the car and the kitchen. And even when my boys grew up and moved out, I’d keep finding myself in that…

  • Woman Typing on Laptop
    communication,  faith,  leadership

    The “Reply All” Faux Pas

    One of my priceless colleagues is currently transitioning out of her leadership role in my organization. (Insert saddest emoji here.) She has been a true visionary for us, someone who has greatly influenced everything we currently do to serve our mission. So, naturally, I wanted to break the news of her transition in a thoughtful, well-planned way to the rest of our global organization’s leaders and community. She crafted a letter of transition, and my team and I began editing it to incorporate into the announcement. After much discussion, my Chief Influence Officer, Mary, sent it out to all our leaders. I saw it pop up in my inbox, missed…

  • Connection is Key: Developing the Whole Student
    communication,  education,  faith

    Connection is Key:
    Developing the Whole Student

    In previous posts, we talked about how competence without character is dangerous, and character without competence is ineffective. Competence and character grow together. But in preparing the whole person for real life, there’s a third necessary area of development: connection. I’ve spent a lot of time coaching communicators. Often communication skills like public speaking are refined in competition — which is the fastest way up the learning curve. In these settings, competence and character are readily evident. And so is connection. Here’s a story of what happens when we don’t add in that third element of connection: Nathaniel was standing in front of me, ballots in hand. “These judges are…

  • All I Want is Character
    communication,  education,  faith

    All I Want is Character:
    Developing the Whole Student

    I had just finished speaking to a group of parent educators when a mom approached me. “I don’t think it really matters whether my children master any of their academics. My son isn’t very academically inclined. I’m mostly just interested in his character.” “How will you help them grow in character?” I asked, genuinely interested. “Well, uh, I’ll teach my son to be nice to his sister.” “Good start,” I replied. “What other character traits would you like to see him demonstrate as he grows up?” She thought a minute. “Well, perseverance…and follow through…and respect.” We continued talking. She began to see that every character trait that mattered to her…

  • The Dangers of Competence without Character
    communication,  education,  faith

    The Dangers of Competence without Character: Developing the Whole Student

    “You’re wrong. My daughter could never do something that dishonest. Have you seen her?” Malinda sat across from me in the small university room adjacent to tournament headquarters. Her voice shrieked and quavered. “Sylvia’s one of the most competent young ladies her age.” Sylvia’s competence was not in question. She had been disqualified by tournament officials for plagiarizing evidence in her national championship debate round. Sylvia denied it. Her teammate Missy was horrified — she had no idea what had happened. Still, the consequence was the same for both of them. The guilty and the innocent. Both extremely competent. Both disqualified and embarrassed. Both shedding lots of tears. They left…

  • What Story Will They Tell?
    communication,  education

    What Story Will They Tell?

    Originally published in Outcomes Magazine by the Christian Leadership Alliance. “Our board would like you to come fix our Millennials.” The administrator of a small nonprofit was on the phone explaining that her organization established a “junior board of Millennials” as part of their succession plan. The Board of Directors, composed of Baby Boomers and Traditionalists, wanted these Millennials “fixed” to embrace the organization’s mission and operational strategy their way. The catch: board members didn’t want to invest their own time or resources in the fix. You can guess what happened. Every invested Millennial volunteer left that organization – and they left with a story. What story do your team members…

  • A Cultural Christmas Letter
    communication

    A Cultural Christmas Letter

    Merry Christmas and “God Jul!” I pray that you and yours are experiencing the joy of this season with snuggly clothes, good foods, and heart-warming friend and family traditions. As I’m writing this, I’ve been spending the morning rolling our family’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner – Swedish meatballs! I love sharing the Christmas traditions of my Swedish family with my household: recipes like potatis korv and persimmon pudding from “the old country,” exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve (after dinner is cleaned up, of course), and 11pm services featuring Swedish prayers and carols at Grandma’s Swedish Lutheran church. As the Institute for Cultural Communicators celebrates more and more cultural communication by…