Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | August 18, 2017

The “Other” Side of America

I had the opportunity this week to witness the “other” side of America. The side that has been forgotten by a majority of Americans.

Actually, that is incorrect – I witnessed the side that is not being shown by our media. The side that is the truth of our country; this is the truth that has escaped the media’s attention because it is not spectacularly provocative with sexy, ratings-worthy news enticing large numbers of citizens to react with angst, anger, and / or frustration.

This week’s event is not filled with discontent, insatiable appetites for the viewing of atrocities around the globe, and uncontrolled violence occurring on the streets of our American cities. This week, over the course of two days, I was shown that our country, the majority of our youth, our young men and women, are on the right path!

This week, as it happens every week during the year, nearly 700 men and women graduated from the US Air Force Basic Training Camp at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. What made this one so special? My grandson, my daughter’s third child, was a member of that graduating class.

And, while it was incredibly special for me, watching that young man become a full-fledged member of the United States Air Force, there was another event within this one that was beyond our expectations. The graduation begins with a 2.5 mile run across the Retreat Pad where families get to see their Airman for the first time in seven and a half weeks; and are strongly encouraged to scream and cheer on their Airman as he/she runs by.

The flights then return to their dorms and change into their ABUs for the Coin Ceremony, a long-held tradition within the US military. Just prior to the coin ceremony this week, we were allowed to witness the administering of the oath of US citizenship to four young men and women, who not only made a choice to defend this country, but also to go the next step and become full-fledged citizens of the greatest country on the face of the earth. This was an honor we did not expect, yet it was an honor and a privilege to see the pride on the faces of these new citizens.

The nearly 700 men and women taking the US Air Force oath this week have pledged their very lives to defend this country against all enemies both foreign and domestic. They are giving us their all. They have devoted themselves to a cause that is far beyond what today’s media is showing us on the nightly news.

This is the “other” side of America. The side that I love more than words can express. The side that is going on every single day of every year. According to the Air Force General delivering the military oath to the graduating Airmen today, there will be 40,000 Airmen sworn to protect our freedom this year.

I [full name] do solemnly swear…………………………

The other side of America!

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Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | June 10, 2016

Employees are a Company’s Greatest Asset

The greatest asset a company has is not its financial capital, the number of buildings or locations, the amount of equipment or the services/products the company offers. The greatest asset a company possesses is its employees.

Without employees, the simple fact is, there would be no one to sell those product/services, manage the day-to-day operations or handle customers effectively.

A company’s employees are its intellectual capital. They not only bring their skills and talents; they also bring ideas and creativity to the table. Employees bring innovation, commitment and a desire to learn. They are self-motivated even before they begin working for an organization. That motivation stems from the need to provide a home, safety and food for their families and themselves as seen in Abraham Maslow’s 1943 Study, “A Theory of Human Motivation. Motivation then takes a new role in the workplace.

James R. Linder, in his article Understanding Employee Motivation, June 1998, Vol. 36 of the Journal of Extension describes motivation as the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals. From the moment an employee accepts his position, company leaders can increase his motivation by following a few basic guiding principles.                                                         

Connecting with Employees Builds Trust and Creates Two-Way Dialogue
Employees like to know that management knows and understands the job the employee is doing. An employee wants management to know that they are being productive and they want their managers and supervisors to acknowledge his or her skills. Allowing the employee to set their own work-plan and goals allows them the opportunity to challenge themselves and to foresee a stable workplace future.

Provide Opportunities for Growth through Training and In-House Instruction Courses
Management and department leaders who have acknowledged the employees’ productivity also will allow the employees to grow by providing opportunities to learn new skills and/or to move into a position of more responsibility.

Provide a Healthy and Safe Place to Work Through Safety Seminars and Preparedness Workshops
Employees know that a company cares for them when they walk into a work area that is safe, contains no health hazards and has a safety program this is adhered to by all company employees from management on down.

Communication between Employees and Management Builds Better Corporate Decision Making Processes
Employees want to know what the company is doing. They want to know how the company is affecting their community and the world around them. They want to be a part of the process and the solution. Feedback communication is just as important as communicating from the top down. An employee who is heard by management will have a greater sense of responsibility and will be willing to believe in the same goals and strategies knowing that doing so increases his value to the company.

A motivated employee is more than just an employee. He is the organization’s friend; he is a valuable part of the engine that keeps any company operating. He is the survival of the company. In him or her, company leaders have an opportunity to not only create a dynamic and growing organization, they also are adding his skills, talents and expertise to the values and goals executives have set for direction of the company.

Motivated employees will carry a company’s message throughout the community. They are the ambassadors of what a company represents. By providing employees with solid values, core ethics and acknowledging that they are an organization’s greatest asset, corporate leadership ensures the company’s very survival.

 

Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | September 4, 2015

I’m Wearing Blue, Are You?

LEO Blue RibbonYesterday evening, I attended a rally for our local police force. Posted as a “We’ve Got Your Six,” community support event, I along with several hundred people from around the community, gathered for just a few minutes to show our support, our appreciation, our gratitude, and our complete endorsement of the job our LEOs perform every day.

As I walked up to one of the LPPD officers, standing with his wife and family to shake his hand, it hit me hard – the “why” of why we gathered at this time.

Yes, we were there to show our support, but we also were there to “see” these men and women up close, personally, with their friends and family; to view them as everyday citizens just like the rest of us. In the aftermath of the cold-blooded murder of Officer Goforth, the citizens of my small community needed to not only say, “we’ve got your six,” we also needed to “see” these officers, shake their hands, give a hug, look in the faces of their families.

I could barely get the words out to say thank you to the officer to whom I was speaking.  Behind my sunglasses, on this bright day, my eyes teared up, my voice cracked, and I told him that I hated the way this show of support had to come about.  Looking at his wife and children standing proudly beside him, I wanted to embrace them all, hold them safe from anyone or anything that could do harm to them.

He thanked me for my support; his wife thanked me, the kids smiled at me. I was grateful for my sunglasses, so that they could not see the tears forming.

At first I didn’t understand why my emotions were so profound, why I felt so much like crying.  As I looked around at all the people who came for this short support ceremony, it hit me that these law enforcement officers are responsible for all of those in attendance, plus several thousand more in our community. They are the ones who stand between us and people like the murderer of Officer Goforth.

The cowardice and depravity of those who have chosen to target our officers is beyond comprehension. The enormity of this one particular savage act of violence has been a wake-up call to the public of Houston and beyond. There comes a time when we must stand together and say NO MORE.

So, today, I am wearing “blue,” to symbolize my support and faith in our law enforcement. To let each of them know that I too, will have their “six” as well. That I will stand up for our LEOs and I will defend them against those who wish to do them harm as they perform their chosen duty. These men and women chose to put their lives on the line for us. Now, we must choose to do the right thing – support our local law enforcement.

Remember, they too are someone’s son/daughter, husband/wife, aunt/uncle, cousin, nephew/niece, friend, mother and/or father.

Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | July 1, 2015

What does the American Flag mean to me?

You would think this would be an easy question to answer. But in truth, it’s difficult. Why? Because what is in my heart and soul – the reverence I feel that is so deep, so profoundly woven in my psyche – that simple words cannot define or emphasize those feelings, but I will try.

To first understand the deep feelings most Americans have regarding Old Glory, we must first know a little of its history. The flag was first flown from Fort Stanwix, on the site of the present city of Rome, New York, on August 3, 1777. It was first under fire for three days later in the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777, a battle between the Americans of Fort Schuyler and the British. It was a bloody battle, and although neither side won, it gave the Americans hope that they could achieve the freedom from England they so desired. And, thus began the deep-seated reverence the flag gained as standing for freedom.

Soon, other battles for freedom of this United States were fought and won, each one spilling the blood of those who vowed to live as free men, those who believed that each man, woman and child had the right to live without government intrusion in their lives. Men, who stood for principles that guarantee us every single right we enjoy today, were willing to die, to give up their lives so that generations of Americans could live free.

In the more than 200 years since the beginning of this great country, I look at where our flag has flown, at the battles in which we have engaged and the wars that have been fought to bring freedom not only for us, but for others across the world. I think of the men and women who have so courageously gone beyond their own physical limits to ensure our freedoms continue.

The symbolism of the Flag was interpreted by George Washington in these words: “We take the stars from Heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing Liberty.”

“Floating from lofty pinnacle of American Idealism, it is a beacon of enduring hope, like the famous Bartholdi Statue of Liberty enlightening the World to the oppressed of all lands. It floats over a wondrous assemblage of people from every racial stock of the earth whose united hearts constitute an indivisible and invincible force for the defense and succor of the downtrodden.” [1]

I feel profoundly blessed to have been born in the US; it was only by an accident of birth that I am here. To be a part of a nation who has suffered so much, yet gained so much in its short history, is almost unimaginable. To have been given the opportunities I have – to become educated, to live as I choose, to earn my living the way I choose, to speak in the manner I choose, to experience things that only those in this country experience, to be free to roam, run, walk, travel wherever I choose – that is the meaning, the spirit – the essence – of this “piece of cloth.”

This piece of cloth is the history of the American people. It is the embodiment of everything for which we stand, our spirit, our dignity, our message to the rest of the world that not only are we a free people, but that we will fight for freedom, hope, and justice for everyone who wants to live free.

Words simply cannot express my devotion to this symbol of hope, encouragement and pride. And, to those who would desecrate it, I feel truly sad that you have never gained an appreciation for the freedom and the liberties you have been given; liberties that are guaranteed to you by the laws of the land, liberties represented by pieces of cloth sewn together – the Stars and Strips – Old Glory.

In the words of Lee Greewood, “‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away. And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.”

[1] [1]http://www.usacitylink.com/usa/history-of-the-flag/

Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | September 11, 2013

September 11 – I will never forget

I woke up to a beautiful, sunny, crisp Houston morning, excited about my interview for my committee newsletter with one of our former chairman. Heading from Houston back out to my old neck of the woods in Magnolia to speak with Dorie Damuth. Little did I know what lay in store and how the events of this day would impact both of us.

As I drove out I-45, I got a call from my daughter-in-law telling me that something or someone had attacked a building in New York. I didn’t pay close attention as I was driving and it seemed that at first it might be some trick or joke or something…. As I drove, I noticed that there was less and less traffic on the roads for that time of morning. That in itself was very strange. I could feel a palpable pall creep through the air. Still not cognizant of what was happening, I pulled into Dorie’s drive where she came out to meet me.

Rapidly she guided me into the house and there on the television I saw unfolding what at first seemed like a horror movie. I looked at her and her husband and said, “Is this real?” She looked at me with tears in her eyes and nodded her head, yes.

We watched, transfixed as the second plane hit one of the towers. We watched, dumbfounded as people jumped from the building, along with the crumbling steel and iron as it plunged to the street. The ash rose and billowed until we could no longer see the people and the streets. The newscaster was sobbing and we sat there with tears streaming down our faces. How could this happen to “us”?

Later, as we sat at Dorie’s kitchen table, I learned the real impact this would have on her. I had gone there to learn about what being a chairman of a committee meant to her, instead, I learned what this country meant to her and how her role in years past as America’s first Good Will Ambassador would affect me. She talked about taking her first ever airplane ride and visiting New York City. She talked about meeting ambassadors and all types of elected officials. She talked about what it meant to be chosen to represent this country.

When I left her house that day, nearly eight hours later, I had such a mix of emotions. I had just witnessed my country being attacked. I was angry. I was deeply saddened. And yet, I had just spent time with an American icon, someone whose patriotism and values were so huge that I felt a tremendous honor in sharing this day with Dorie. And, I felt an immeasurable pride for my country fill my soul, one that would never fade after this day.

 On my drive home, the streets were silent. The highways were empty. The skies were unnaturally quiet. It was as if someone had turned life off. 

Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | September 5, 2013

Can you answer this question in less than 300 Characters?

What is the biggest obstacle to becoming a successful writer and what strategy do you recommend for overcoming it?

This question was posed to me on one of my social media sites recently. I sat and thought about whether or not to answer it, and after letting it mull around in my mind, I decided to write a response.

However, as I began writing, and of course not carefully reading the character limitations, I put together something of about 300 words; thinking it is going to be dreadfully short for everything I wanted to say.

I wrote my response, copied and pasted it in the dialogue box, and quickly found out the answer could be only 300 “characters” long.  My 300 words quickly vanished and became two short sentences.

Because I am a writer, and because I do have something to say, and as writers block usually is not an issue – I can write anytime, anywhere – just not always on the topic I should be writing – I tend to be quite prolific.

So, here is my problem – why would anyone asking the above question of a “writer” expect them to answer in 300 “characters” or less? I’m sure there are many writers out there, much more versatile at short bursts of material than me, who could succinctly answer that question in 30 words/300 characters or less. After much pondering, this is the answer I should have provided:

 Obstacle = writer’s block
Strategy = write anything … write, write, write.
[74 characters with spaces]

I think, you need to define what “success” means to you. Does it mean getting published with a byline, getting loads of hits on your blog, becoming the author of a novel, or earning a high wage for your talent?

To me, success means that what I write is actually being read and commented upon. Whether it is a post on Facebook, a blog on any one of my three blogs, or an answer/comment I make on a LinkedIn forum. If people are reading what I write and feel they are receiving value through my words, then I am a success.

As far as a strategy, writing is such an individual aptitude and each writer has their own “strategy” – or lack thereof. I don’t know that I have a strategy…. I simply write what I feel and know. As you will read in most books about writing, the advice generally given is, “write what you know.”

I also believe that passion should be a part of any writer’s strategy. Without passion for what you are saying, your words will come across as bland, even monotonous.  When I write, I want people to know that I believe in what I am writing – that I feel strongly about it and that it truly means something to me, or I wouldn’t have bothered to write about it.

As an avid reader, I constantly am in awe of those who can write spell-binding novels, books that grab you by the seat of your pants and swing you around and around, keeping you in complete control until the very last page. If I could write like that…. Oh my! Now that is true writing success!

So, now I will put the same question to you – What is the biggest obstacle to becoming a successful writer and what strategy do you recommend for overcoming it?

Just maybe I’ll get some really good ideas that I can use in my writing career! Success – here I come!

Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | April 29, 2013

Communicating with Technology

In the midst of my busy day, I’m often interrupt…… oh wait, hold on a second – I have to take this call.

“Hello, this is Susan.”

“Hi! Doing great thanks.”

“Yes, I have that on my calendar.”

“How long will the meeting last?”

“OK.”

“No, I don’t have an agenda, will you prepare that please?”

“OK.”

“Yes, I understand.”

“Absolutely, totally agree.”

“OK.”

“See you then.”

OK, where were we? Ah, talking about using technology to communicate. And, yes, that was my cell phone I was using with my Bluetooth in my ear. It’s lunch time and although we’ve left the office physically, I am still attached through my Bluetooth umbilical cord. It goes everywhere I go… Yes – everywhere. This is the new “normal.”

Yet, I can remember just a few years ago, about 15 plus years or so, when I was a lofty senior on the campus at the University of Houston and still a techno-virgin, happily walking across campus totally unaware of the cyberspace that fills today’s world.

I had no real need for a cellular telephone, or so I thought. I had a land line at home and a message machine that taped any messages someone might leave for me. I would go hours without knowing if someone called and never thought twice about it.

I look at my grandkids today (yes, I was an “older” student) who virtually live with their phones glued (or Bluetoothed) to their ears. To them, being without a cell, equates to living without breathing. Anyone under the age of 20 has never had the opportunity to live sans mobile communication.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone! I love my iPod/iPad, I love my computer and I love my smart TV! I did not come kicking and screaming into this still new technological world, rather I ran to catch up and jumped in with both feet!

On the other hand, has our technology taken us too far? Recently, an announcement came out on Google glasses, which according to the article I read, this “wearable” computer will let you search as you walk, navigate, record what you see and share it, translate and more.

I mean, how much more communications technology do we need or how much more can we handle?

We’ve just now begun to actualize “rules” for social media, for where and when not to use our cell phones, but this brings a whole new parameter of social, virtual living into our lives. It brings up questions of privacy and how do we protect those areas of our lives that we don’t feel like sharing with the rest of the world.

I am a tad concerned about my privacy. While I love being connected to the world, knowing when and where I can reach my family, have instant access to news, weather, and my favorite TV shows right in the palm of my hand, I still am a bit wary of how often others know exactly where I am or what I am doing.

Of course, I will take some responsibility. I’m often seen posting to Facebook, checking in at restaurants, events, festivals and just out having fun. At the same time, I can be tracked in minutes with my GPS in the car or through my Smart Phone. If you want to know where I am or what I am doing, you need go no farther than the nearest computer, iPad or iPhone.

But, is it truly necessary that the world follow my every move? Do my friends need to know where I am at every moment? Do I need my children tracking me down, seeking me out or do I need to constantly be in touch with my offspring?

I used to love long walks in the park, finding new paths that took me away from the busy metropolitan areas of the city; the quietness of the outdoors, the beauty of nature surrounding me, filled me with peace. Until someone’s phone loudly blares the latest hip-hop/rap ringtone! And, there it is, that never ending umbilical cord that in only a few years’ time has grown longer and stronger at keeping us attached to the modern world.

When will this constant need to communicate become too much? Or are we just at the beginning of the next era, the next generation of “reach out and touch someone”?

Beam me up, Scotty…. is probably much closer than we think.

Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | June 4, 2010

Customer Service – Do YOU use it?

Just read an interesting blog on customer service by Steve Cohn, CSP, http://bit.ly/d5XGxu. In his blog he talks about the responsibility of brokerage houses to not only provide adequate financial services, but also decent customer service.

I am going to take that a bit further and include every single business, large, small or mid-size that deals with the public.

CEOs, trainers and human resource folks, listen up. Do you know how to handle an irate customer? If you answered, “Yes,” by telling them to calm down, you have just scored an ‘F’ on your final.

A customer, who is frustrated, at their wit’s end, up to their eyeballs in anger cannot and will not be “soothed” by a telephone voice telling them to “calm down.” All that does is make the customer angrier.

Many times an angry, nearly out of control customer will yell, scream and shout obscenities. No one wants to listen to that – and I don’t blame them. But until you find out what is making that customer so downright angry, nothing is going to calm them down.

So, what do you do? LISTEN. That’s it, that’s all. You LISTEN. Then answer. A soft-spoken customer service agent, well-trained in calming an irate customer, doing it gently with compassion will nearly always be able to solve or assist in solving the customer’s issue.

Next, those who work in the public sector such as retail outlets, fast-food merchandisers, service organizations, etc., when did it become de rigueur to have your public facing agents not be able to speak English? Ninety percent of the people in this country speak English. I understand that you want to give them the opportunity to learn their (or your) craft… but it would be nice if WE could understand them as well.

What about simple things, like “How can I help you?” “Please,” “Thank you, or “have a good day”?  What about simple courtesies? What about smiling? Does anyone actually teach customer service anymore? The customer may not always be “right,” but that does not negate his problem nor lessen his concern that he is not being heard.

Customer service begins with training. If this is not a part of your core values as an organization, if this is not a training module for companies who have prominent public face, or if you have decided training in customer service is not a revenue producing element and have had it disbanded, then your organization will suffer – no matter how large, no matter how small.

Customer service – effective customer service is another way of communicating, with a positive impact, on those who purchase your products and/or services. It is as important as the quality of your product, your sales team and every revenue stream you have.

Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | June 2, 2010

The trouble with baggage

I’ve been in the single world for quite some time and it never fails to amaze me that when the opportunity to meet a person of the opposite sex presents itself, I always hear the mantra of “don’t bring your baggage into the relationship.”

Well, I am here to say that at my age, I have baggage. I’ve lived enough life, been through enough trauma, joy and adventure to warrant a boatload of material that I can’t possible carry around all the time. Yet it is there. It is there when I need to remember something. It is there when a particular aroma wafts across my nose or a phrase reminiscent of days gone by strikes a chord. It brings back memories that sometimes are best left behind, but it also brings back some delightful memories that I do enjoy sharing.

I’ve been a member of dating services where the fellas on the other end say, “no games and no baggage.” Come on now, how did we get this far in life without a little baggage? If you’ve been married, divorced, had kids, had parents, been in relationships, had jobs, didn’t have a job, got laid off, got fired, had an accident, been in trouble, had birthdays, anniversaries or just lived life, that baggage is coming along whether you like it or not!

I have to say, I am proud of my baggage. I am proud of the fact that I made all those memories, good and bad and that I am still here to talk about them – to revel in their glory or their shame, to express anger, sadness or happiness when I pull something out of those heavy sacks in my mind. I have earned the right to have baggage. When we reach a certain age, when our children are grown and our grandchildren are beginning to live their adult lives, then we have the right to carry that baggage proudly – it is, after all, a testament to having lived a very full life.

Everyone has baggage. I think what matters is how we choose to use it that makes all the difference. At this point in our lives, if we haven’t had a few bad experiences then we probably missed out on a few good lessons. Those life lessons are in that baggage we carry into any new relationship. How we learn from those lessons, what we learn from those lessons and how we apply that information to make our lives better – it’s all in the way we carry our baggage.

Posted by: Susan Kaplan-Williams | April 30, 2010

Meaningful Interaction in Corporate Communications

Today I’m going to talk about “Meaningful interaction” – what does that mean for communicators today?

The simple definition is: Encouraging positive relationships between people.

Yet, in our corporate world, how are we promoting that type of communication? How do you promote meaningful interaction throughout your organization?

In most relationships, communication is a two-way street. However, in communicating a corporate message, often that message is delivered from the top down with no viable means of interaction between the communicator and the receiver.

Today’s communicators need to be “marketers” as well as communications specialists. They need to define their audiences, understand their needs and create targeted messages that effectively address the concerns of their audience.

For the most part, the corporate audience is a faceless entity… a defined demographic segment of the organization, but without individuality. Because of the complexity and diverse mechanisms in creating corporate messaging, meaningful interaction has its challenges.

The good news is – new techniques have been developed that drill down to an individual’s preferences and behaviors, enabling far more targeted and relevant communication. These techniques, while generally employed in the sales and marketing arenas are becoming available in the corporate world as well, allowing the corporate message to be received based on individual preferences.

Intranets now come with “selections” for employees to pick and choose the news they want to see, hear and read. Online corporate blogs are becoming more popular as tools to gauge the employee environment. Feedback forms on company announcements allow employees the opportunity to enroll in seminars, classes and other corporate events.

The payoff for utilizing these tools? Motivated employees who bring added skills and talents to the organization providing for higher growth margins and increased productivity.

http://www.communicatewithimpact.com

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