Communication consulting | Simply Confident Communication

Become A Confident Communicator

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Often, assumptions can be at the core of most conflict and angst, we can assume too much or too little about a person, or situation.

Instead of assumptions I have taken to applying a new habit, asking questions. It just cuts through so much potential time wasted on making the wrong assumptions. I have written some of the questions I use often to gain better understanding about situations I encounter, below.

I have found a good assumption to make is:

Everyone is doing the best they can, with the information, time and resources they have available right now. Including myself.

Once you assume that about someone or a situation, it gives you the freedom to look at anything from a new perspective, from that place of new perspective you can ask a KEY question or two, to move to a place of better understanding.

Some questions you can ask for greater clarity:

“May I ask what you meant when you said……?”

“I would love to know what you are thinking or how you are feeling about that?”

“Is there something else you would like me to know about this situation that may help me get a better understanding of it?”

“Is there something I can do to help you out with that?”

“What do you need right now from me or anyone else?”

“So I can get this in the right priority, what is your expected deadline for this?”

“Are you happy with……?”

“Is there something I can improve about……?”

Seek understanding not judgement. By understanding a person or situation better it doesn’t mean you agree or take sides, what it does is open the doors of good communication and this can lead to a higher level of trust, less pain and better productivity.

Here is to less assumptions, more understanding



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What have tomato plants and corporate or business environments got in common?

It can take ONE thing to increase productivity and healthy growth, the trick is finding that ONE thing and then applying some positive action on a consistent basis.

A healthy plant/organisation versus on struggling to survive!

When I first learned to grow tomatoes I learned ONE thing, just ONE, that made a huge difference in me producing edible delicious cherry tomatoes.

Pruning the laterals!

Laterals: Nice leafy green bits of the plant that grow fast and in abundance but produce NO fruit!

When you don’t prune them……they end up choking the fruit producing parts of the plant, blocking sunlight, taking nutrients, sucking the LIFE out of the branches that need all that good stuff to be productive.

Once I learned this ONE thing, and watered my plant, I grew great tomatoes.

I have found this when working with large corporate organisations through to small and medium businesses, in these environments the laterals can represent many things that distract from or prevent healthy productivity and growth.

Laterals in an organisation:

Cluttered systems, outdated processes, people in poorly matched roles, culture and environment, double handling, micro managing and the list can go on…. Don’t just look at the ‘who’ but also the ‘what’ these things can be about people but also about systems and processes.

Until these things that clutter a person’s space, mind, and process of working are pruned the real fruit cannot thrive and reach its potential and like our tomato plant the fruit can rot and go mouldy when laterals are left to run wild.

When managers, leaders and business owners are trapped into ‘putting out the fires’ that these ‘laterals’ produce often daily, they cannot possibly focus on things that will gain a better long-term productivity profile.

The business or organisation goes into ‘survival mode’ and everyone just scrambles to get work off their desk, mostly feeling a sinking sense of overwhelm and claustrophobia that consumes any creativity or clarity to function well.

When we do prune the ‘laterals’:

  • Light gets in to the things that need it the most
  • Nutrients get to the branches that matter
  • There is room to grow, strong and healthy
  • The plant is productive and successful in producing fruit

What to do:

  1. Take a day out to examine and reflect, use a coach or mentor, the purpose is to see what laterals need ‘pruning’ to allow more light in, more nutrients in and encourage better productivity.
  2. Put a timeline in place with actions that will implement the changes
  3. Focus on what CAN be done right away, it is sometimes the smallest things that make the biggest difference.
  4. Prune regularly, schedule it in, with the tomato if I forget to do this for a few weeks, things get choked up again fast. It easier to prune a few a week rather than let it get overrun and take double the time to clear things again.

Happy pruning


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3 Things I Love About Conflict – 5 Tips For Moving Through

Did you already have a reaction to that word? If so you are not alone!

Let me clarify, not all conflict is useful or productive.

There is the nasty, pointless, destructive type – and then there is the regular old type that happens when people are just being people.

The regular type I call ‘potentially healthy conflict’, why potentially? Because it only becomes healthy when there are two sides who have the desire to move forward, move through to the other side whatever that may look like. Those who view it is a tool, a starting point for change often understand that conflict can be healthy.

Bad news for those who have decided, for whatever reason, that they don’t like conflict and have labelled all conflict as bad, scary, or even dangerous. A happy healthy live living and working with other humans cannot exist well on a functional level without the conflict.

We are all people who have been created differently, we are all unique in many ways, so there will be conflict arising from just that fact alone.

Don’t aim to be right – Aim for better understanding

How about inviting it in, getting to know it, re name it, expand your tool kit to deal with it better, learn how to use it as a tool.

I recently decided to re name the conversational side of conflict ‘Robust discussions’ Be willing to go there, have that important robust discussion.

3 Things I Love:

  1. Conflict shows we are all different and that is a GREAT thing! Let’s celebrate our strengths and differences – learn that we need each other’s strengths to make great teams and relationships.
  2. Conflict can provide the opportunity to grow, learn and gain greater understanding and knowledge about situations and people. It can bring perspective if we are willing. Knowledge and understanding are powerful things.
  3. Conflict, when dealt with in a healthy way, with good practice, framework, planning and support can lead to breakthrough that may not have happened had that ‘robust essential conversation’ had not taken place.

5 tips for being more open those robust discussions:

  1. Plan your conversations, what is your common desired outcome? What are the facts? What is the real issue without personal opinion or bias? How is the other person feeling? What are they thinking? What is their real intention?
  2. Practice using different words, if your conversations are not going well, have a think about the language you are using – both verbal and nonverbal (body language, facials and tone).
  3. Never assume anything about another person or situation, assumptions are among the top things that can cause negative conflict and reactions. Instead ASK questions like, ‘what did you mean when you…?’ ‘Can I ask if my assumption about this is correct..?’ or ‘ I would just like to clarify..’ ‘Can/may I ask what your intention is here?’
  4. Pick your time carefully, poor timing can lead to things spiralling, is the person busy? Tired? Are there others around? NOTE: A meeting is rarely a good place to work through something personal with something. Naming and shaming is NEVER a good idea.
  5. Consider the mode of delivery, is it appropriate? There are so many ways we can have ‘robust discussion’s now. Email, Txt message, instant message, intranet message, by phone and in person. My experience is that all Robust discussions must be had as close to in person as you can get, face to face is always best where possible, failing that on the phone. It is OK to follow up with an email to confirm anything you need to be in writing but there is FAR too much room for mi interpretation in written words to have the whole discussion that way. The mess can become bigger than it ever needed to be

Be Brave, Be Conscious, Be Compassionate,

Be authentic and honest, Be willing.

Remember: It doesn’t have to be right or wrong, it can be just perspectives that differ

Now go have that next robust discussion, you never know what may open as a result, and it is never as ‘bad as you thought’ it would be


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Insights From The Front Line

Insights from the front line of communications training and conflict resolution….

Plus my top tips for improvement

What a week it has been in the world of communications coaching and training, from private sessions, small business training and a full day public workshop specifically for the building industry, I have only had solid confirmations of what I already knew.

Almost all conflict originally stems from a few things, and there is something we can all do about it before there is ‘blood on the floor’.

  1. Misunderstood or misinterpreted communication
  2. Difference of opinions or perceptions
  3. Unmet expectations
  4. Assumptions, judgements or pre-conceived ideas
  5. Personality ‘clashes’

From there, how it works out all depends on how things are handled or not handled, and what type of culture or environment there is in that work place for training, support and ongoing awareness around healthy communication and conflict resolution.

We can all take 100% responsibility for our own communication and when we make positive changes, even one small thing can create a positive ripple effect on those around us, so whilst we can’t change others we can change ourselves.

Let’s unpack a little to get better clarity on what I may mean

  1. Misunderstood or misinterpreted communication

This is fuelled by our modern technology driven world, our kids being taught from a young age that communication can be done any other way than in person, faster, easier, less confronting and yes impersonal. Emails, txt messages and instant messages have their place in the world for sure, I use them every day, but they are not meant to handle every type of conversation, there is far too much room for interpretation. Important conversations should always happen in person.

I see business owners, managers, sales people ‘hide’ behind a computer or phone, and when they know they need to pick up a phone and have a chat or set up a meeting in person they send an email or txt, because its ‘easier’ ‘less confrontational’ ‘they don’t have time’ etc etc etc….

We cannot expect an electronic device or typed email to ever replace the basic human need to hear a nice voice on the other end of the phone or even better face to face in a meeting or over a coffee.

  1. Difference of opinions or perceptions

I love the saying that ‘perception is reality’ this is true for us all, and if we all approached communication with others with an open mind, consider for a moment that another person may in fact have a different view but valid because its theirs, and not try to be right all the time or win an argument, we can in fact be perfectly happy in the world by agreeing to disagree.

  1. Unmet expectations

Someone is late for a deadline, over promised and underdelivered, or didn’t behave in a way we expected – this is all fuel to a fire of conflict if not approached in a healthy way.

My biggest freedom from disappointment when it comes from others behaviour was when I learned to let go of my expectations, stop expecting people to be like me, think like me, communicate like me. We are all different – THANK goodness for that!

  1. Hot on the heals is – Assumptions, judgements or pre-conceived ideas

My rule of thumb in most cases of life and work is never assume anything, always ASK! Or find out.

We can default to making assumptions about what people meant by that comment, email or txt, in fact we can make anything MEAN anything we like, we have a choice! Isn’t that freedom?

OR we can find out what they did mean by asking a clarifying question.

Assumptions or pre-judgements about others, what they said and did is not useful for clear and effective communication, it is not useful in creating harmonious working environments, because we as humans are self-focussed we often assume wrong, make it about us personally and it was nothing to do with us in the first place! Don’t even get me started on the ‘judgement’ topic!

  1. Personality clashes

The great news is we are all created differently, the challenging news is…..we are all created differently!

We all need each other, we could not possibly have a functioning world full of one personality type.

I prefer to see other strengths as complimentary to mine, even the ones that are so opposite and I struggle to relate to or understand, they do things well that I don’t. They are often happy doing things I am not. They often see things I don’t, and like it or not that is necessary in some situations. Our goal in the world should be to better understand others around us not seek to change them.

Tips for improving our own communication:

  • Remember we are all human, not electronic robots
  • We are all different and this is the GOOD news – we all need each other
  • We can change our world by changing ourselves, even small tweaks have big impacts
  • Check in with your default methods of communicating – are they working for you? Are they being received, responded to well? If not it may be time to find out what other way of delivery may work better.
  • PICK up the phone – STOP and have a coffee/chat
  • Have an arsenal of good questions to ask – the power is always in the questions we ask, ourselves and others?
  • Improve your listening skills, if you are going to bother asking better questions be sure to listen to the answers, listen to understand rather than to respond.


Let’s change the world we live in, one conversation at a time



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Think Like A Watch Maker – Create Healthy Teams

NO people are not steel parts, rigid and disposable, but I believe we can learn a lot from looking at the inner workings of a clock or watch and apply some of these basic principals in order to grow or manage high functioning, healthy and productive teams in both small businesses or large organisations. The principals are the same, the application is variable based on size and level of dysfunction.

If we all thought and behaved the same, the world would not only be boring but almost unable to function.

We are all meant to be different, be able to see things differently, to have different natural talents, skills and abilities. This is the necessity of a functioning or even semi functioning world.

Think of an old-fashioned watch or clock, with all its bits and pieces, different sizes, different purposes. Each piece relying on another piece to function.

When I am working with clients who have small or medium business’s or even larger teams, most of the internal struggles they have with the people resource factor, is about people getting frustrated with another person, personality clashes, poor communication, differing opinions and views, un-fulfilled expectations. These are the core issues in most cases, the initial verbalised frustration will be something more minor, but if you dig deeper any or all of these things are usually at the core.

Sometimes driven by motives based on power, control, greed, pride or ego, lack of trust, or by someone lacking the skills to be in a particular role.

Even though a manager or a leader may be frustrated with a team’s inability to function in a healthy and productive manner, it is essential that the solutions begin at the top and filter down.

Liken a leader or manager to a watch maker – To become a watch maker is a skill, it takes a certain kind of patience, thinking, planning, skill set and practice.

I believe excellent management and leadership is a similar skill and some of the same principals apply when putting together a high functioning, healthy and productive team

Lets look at why the wrist watch functions the way it does:

Every part has its place:

It stays there, I can’t move except in the direction it is supposed to (unless it breaks). It is placed in there by a machine or human hand that knows exactly where that part needs to be in order to support its neighboring parts.

KEY POINT for human teams: Each person has a primary focus or function in a team, when a role is vacant and another person is trying to ‘juggle’ roles, you may see signs of overload, overwhelm and poor productivity. While this is sometimes necessary in transition, it should never be left un-attended or be seen as a long term solution, it is not sustainable.

Every part has its purpose:

Some parts are large and obvious, some are small. Some are support parts like screws and stays, others are functioning parts like wheels that rely on other wheels. Many parts are needed to make the watch work. Even the casing, that protects and keeps everything in place.

KEY POINT for human teams: Each person in a team is important to the overall purpose of the business or organisation, no matter how ‘front line’ or ‘back of house’ that role is, everything effects everything when it comes to a well-oiled and high functioning team. From the tiniest role to the leaders and managers.

Every part is needed:

In this illustration when one part breaks the whole watch stops, in an organisation or team this isn’t always the case with a human absence or malfunction, but there is no doubt that, depending on what that person’s function is in the team, there are ripple effects for others.

KEY POINT for human teams: The ripple effect, although variable, is real. When one person in an organisation is unhappy, under-skilled, under equipped, or over worked, there will be a negative ripple effect, it cannot be avoided, and the longer this is allowed to carry on, the bigger the impact will be.

Every part must work:

Each part of the watch must work, or it will have to be repaired or replaced, the watchmaker knows that if something is not working the watch stops working. With teams this can happen over time, and in subtle ways, slowly eroding a culture, relationships, productivity and ‘bottom lines’.

KEY POINT: Dealing with small issues early will prevent large more costly issues arising. Having a healthy transparent process for conflict resolution will avoid bigger issues. Creating a high trust, environment backed by clear processes for issues will empower and enable people to deal with situations as and when they arise.

Notes for existing teams:

  • There is always a solution and a path through
  • The time needed to clean up a dysfunctional team will depend on how long it has been left un attended

Back to the watch for a moment: If you have ever owned one this will make sense, if a bit of water gets in a watch that is not dive resistant, the watch is taken apart or dried somehow quickly the watch will most likely get working again without a further hitch.

IF the water is left in the watch and NOT cleaned up, the watch will rust, part by part, until the whole thing just stops working and becomes beyond repair.

  • Always be prepared to start at the top down, with management, leadership. If that is you then be prepared and open to some self-awareness and learning. Don’t spend money ‘fixing’ your team if you are not prepared to get your hands dirty too.
  • If the roles are clear, defined, filled with the right people working in their strengths, there is a clear, transparent process for dealing with conflicts as they arise, and healthy communication internally and externally – teams can become a high performing, high producing machines.

Notes for creating a new team in a growing organisation or business:

  • Think like the watch maker, plan the roles ahead of time, know what you need each part to do, what skills they need, get the right people in from the start. If this is not your skill set INVEST in help, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune but it will be a great investment long term
  • Outline and plan the culture you want to create by looking at your core values, company direction and long-term goals.

Final note for all, where there are people there will be conflict even in a healthy team, there is such a thing as HEALTHY conflict, and processes for dealing with it in a healthy way.

A conflict free zone is not possible in a high functioning team. The difference is made in how the conflicts arise and are faced, NOT avoided.

Avoiding or trying to avoid conflict almost never works. Its time to make friends with it, shake hands with it, and find out how to have a healthy relationship with it for the sake of the relationships in your world.

Go the watch maker!


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4 Tips – Get Better Results From Your Communication

We are communicating 100% of the time!

Some find this scary, some to don’t realise, some don’t care and some, like me, have learned to embrace the challenge. It’s a journey of learning and a work in progress, but I have helped some clients get amazing results from a few small changes, I have also successfully applied some of these to my own situations with great results – so thought it was time to share them with you.

I see our words, written and spoken, our actions, intentions, facial expressions, body language, like small pebbles that we drop into the ‘pond’ around us every day. We are getting results from those pebbles, negative or positive. Sometimes it takes one small tweak to change a result, an atmosphere, a work place, or a relationship.

This is true for the whole of our lives, but today my tips are aimed at leaders, managers and business owners.

Before I go into the 4 tips, I will talk about the top 4 most common errors I have observed leaders, managers and business owners make, often through lack of awareness, time or work load pressures or dealing with ‘difficult’ people.

1. They often ‘default’ to what is fastest and most comfortable for them at the time, they need to tell someone something and either want to avoid potential conflict, rejection OR save some time – Example in action: A message that someone needed to get in person was sent by TXT message! Eeek
2. They speak or write in their own language, what makes sense to them and using their own personality and style of communicating, with little knowledge or regard for the recipient’s language or style – Example in action: A direct person sends a short blunt email to a detail focussed person leaving TOO much room for interpretation and upset.
3. They misunderstand or fail to remember the importance of NON-VERBAL communication, Tone, Facial expressions, body language and even intentions. What is NOT being said is often felt. Example in action: A person is saying “yes I am completely happy with that” but they are shaking their head, their face is all screwed up and their arms are folded.
4. They have difficulty truly listening, there is surface listening and then there is in depth listening, surface will get you by in some situations but sooner or later you will miss something vital, the richest interactions we can have is when we know we are truly being listened to. Example in action: A person is nodding, smiling even making ‘hmm’ noises but looking right past you at someone or something else in the room, or at their WATCH! ouch

When it comes to marketing communications, that is another whole conversation, some of the errors made here around lack of understanding about the target audience or market before embarking on brand development, marketing planning etc.

Favourite quote that helps me remember these things:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

4 Tips for getting better results from your communication.
Some of these could be small tweaks, but other things may be habits that need time to be re set – I also like to remember that:

“Life is 10% about what happens and 90% about how we deal with what happens”

1. THINK about your recipient or audience
• Who are they?
• How do they prefer or need to get the information you need to send?
Eg: Sending someone who you know prefers a phone call, a quick txt on an important issue, may not get the results or response you want

2. What is the most appropriate method to use for each scenario? Txt, Email, Phone call or in person meeting?
• TXT’s are for friends, family, quick messages like “Are you avail for a chat?” “ I’m running late” or for apt reminders or client reminders
• Pick up the PHONE, way more often.

3. When thinking about the ‘non-verbal’ communication side, ask yourself these questions:
• What are my intentions?
• What would be my most desired outcome?
• Am I being honest and authentic? True to my values?
Sincerity shows, so does a lack of it!

4. Learn the true art of REAL listening, engaging, even in short conversations.
• Focus on what they are saying – eye contact and body language
• Ask questions and listen to the answers
• Feedback and clarify
• Learn to remember their names, properly

When planning marketing, sales conversations or presentations is to always think about your audience first, it is ALL about them. What they want to hear, how they want to hear/see/feel, how you want them to feel.

And remember, we are all human’s and no matter how cool or fast technology becomes, I believe the human soul still craves real LIVE connection with other humans, it is easy to get sucked up into a world of Apps and electronic chats and messages, but nothing beats a good old fashioned coffee meeting, or phone call when it comes to creating positive ripples in our ponds.

To your success,


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Cutting Corners Can Cost You Your Brand Reputation Not Just Money

2 Key points to consider and 6 Questions to help assess risk involved in big decisions

What has building law and compliance got to do with brand reputation?

After a recent case in the news and conversations with those who’s job it is to ensure these rules are kept I have identified 2 key ways that choosing to cut corners on a business renovation, new build or building Health and Safety compliance could impact a business, brand and reputation in the community and market.

  1. Money
  2. BRAND and reputation

One is sometimes recoverable the other not so straight forward.

My background is in marketing, business development and brand management, and lately I have been reminded how cutting corners even in the building industry can impact more than just your bank account, it can also impact your brand and reputation in the community and market place.

The irony about the #1 impact, Money, which is often first looked at, is that usually, this is the primary reason for noncompliance in the first case, people wanting to SAVE money.

Let’s look at brand and reputation, a much more ‘sticky’ spot for any business to find themselves, I have chosen to pick on a recent case that was publicised in the papers. This is a big topic and I realise that not every case has the same history, details or reasons but overall I believe my principals around brand and reputation apply in all cases.

Considering the recent successful prosecution of the blueberry and ice-cream brand OOB, one of the largest publicised fines handed down for building noncompliance in a while, I got to thinking about the brand impact of those early decisions made by the business owners.

Business is successful, it grows it needs more space. Or new business needs a building or more space in an existing one. Decisions are made! Sometimes advice is sought and in all fairness not given well or with the right intentions, in some cases advice may be ignored to save the immediate costs.

Either way that series of decisions, whatever the journey to make them, has cost this business a hefty $26k fine plus legal costs in money but maybe more importantly what has it cost them in reputation.

Some consumers may not realise or think deeply about what it can mean to not comply to the government standards for safe buildings and carry on eating the ice-cream without a care. I would say this is a minority though and I would like to think that most consumers in NZ expect the companies we claim ownership of in our clean, green and proud nation are providing not only a quality product but also a safe working environment for the staff and visitors.

I opened my freezer this morning to discover that the brand of blueberries I was about to enjoy for breakfast is in fact OOB! Immediately, I thought “oh those are the silly beggars who didn’t think they needed to comply with the building laws in NZ” I ate the blueberries, but I must say that I will think twice before purchasing their brand again.

They may have taken advice that set them up for a fall, but all business owners must realise the BUCK stops with them, and so does the reputation of the brand and company, who’s picture was in the paper with the big write up? The owners.

WHY such a harsh line? I hear you say…. Well what else, let’s not sit by and wait until another building collapses in a serious earthquake or fire killing or injuring people before we realise that the building laws are there to protect us all, and our families. Bottom line is that building laws save lives, and a company or organisation that constantly ignores the safety of the people they have in their buildings gives out a deeper message to the market and community they run in, they are more concerned about profit, expense cutting and time-saving than people’s lives.

Strategically it is always good practice to think through decisions, if this is not someone’s skill set they should seek help from someone who has this ability, to think through future projections, risk factors and possible scenarios. Above all else, the person or people who the ‘buck stops with’ need to take full responsibility for understanding any laws that may apply and factor them in from the start.

6 questions a business/Organisation could go through when making expansion or moving decisions around buildings, office space, manufacturing spaces, retail spaces and more

  1. Do you (or your contractors) know what you can do in your building without building consent?
  2. With any consented work have you finished the projects with a CCC?
  3. What is the Gap assessment between what our building has now and current Code?
  4. If we have a BWOF in our building and are all our systems safely working?
  5. Do the right people in our organisation know what risks exist in our building and what we are doing to manage them in plain English
  6. Could anyone get hurt, anytime in the future because of these decisions?

From a business strategy perspective, a good old fashioned cost analysis of any project should always include building compliance laws, cost of any upgrades and getting council consent.

If the project can’t fit into the budget it is not time to cut corners and potentially risk limbs and lives, it is time to look at alternative venues, buildings, or options.

Here is to a safer NZ

Jen Tyson

Business strategy consultant and business development manager at Building Networks NZ