FALL 2018

Communication styles and channels are just as important as the words we use

The leaves have fallen, our clocks have fallen back an hour, and once again winter-like temperatures are upon us. As New Englanders, we are accustomed to adjusting to these changes. Yet, how often do we stand back and adjust our communication skills? After all, communicating with others takes up the vast majority of our waking minutes and is central to how we perceive others and are perceived by them. The irony is that communication is one of the easiest skills to improve, with the potential for huge paybacks such as the increased motivation and engagement of others with whom we interact and ultimately the overall improved performance of our organizations.
This issue of Successful Solutions will focus on all facets of communication. Communications skills is an umbrella term comprising many different aspects of how we communicate: face-to-face interactions, phone calls, and e-mails, as well as the countless nonverbal messages we send. 

A great place to start improving how we communicate is by gaining and/or enhancing our awareness of our individual communication style. Thus, our recommended vendor in this issue is BEST Instruments, a well-known communication-style self-assessment tool.
Our first client spotlight in this newsletter edition highlights our public communications work with the Department of Public Health (DPH) on media communication skills training and 1X1 Coaching.
Other workplace roles, while not specifically focused on public communications, need to leverage public communication channels to perform those roles effectively. For example, our second client spotlight -the Springfield Police Department- describes training being delivered to law enforcement officers to improve public relations.
Both of these client projects are being delivered by Maria Farrah Howell, one of our senior contract consultants. To read more about Maria's expertise, please see the Extended Staff Spotlight section in this edition.
Finally, for those who could use some daily guidance on how to improve their communication, please see our article, " Top 10 Best Practices for Improving Your Communication. "
For information on how we can help your organization with its Organizational Development Consulting, Learning Solutions and Event Management needs, read on and be sure to visit us:  www.donahue.umassp.edu/odls .

Dana L. Henry, ODLS Director
(617) 287-4068

New at ODLS!
Communication Skills TrainingCommSkillsTraining

In an increasingly media-savvy world, the ability to deliver messages in a clear, credible, and compelling way is critical. 

Whether you are being interviewed by a reporter, delivering a speech, or making a presentation, our partnership with the Farrah Consulting Group will arm you with the strategies, tactics, tools, and confidence to deliver your message to any audience, under any circumstances. Using both instruction and on-camera practice, we will train you to turn your content into compelling messages, skillfully deliver those messages, avoid pitfalls, and handle the tough questions. 

Some of the specific communication skill-building programs we offer include: Presentations Skills, Media Training, Crisis Management Training, Spokesperson Training, and Social Media Training.
For more information, visit www.farrahconsulting.com.
In This Issue
Our Staff
We are here to serve our clients and support their success. 
Client Spotlight #1: Department of Public Health (DPH)DPH

To prepare DPH staff for success in preparing and delivering important health information to the public, we partnered with senior consultant Maria Farrah Howell to deliver a series of communication workshops.
Each workshop focused on one of three levels of understanding and experience:
  • Basic: Background Messaging Training
  • Intermediate: Print Interviews, with Role-Play Exercises
  • Advanced: TV Interview Training, with On-Camera Exercises
These sessions addressed communications issues such as interpreting data, distilling complex information into accessible language, and communicating effectively across multiple platforms.
DPH is now in its second year of delivering these communication training programs to staff.

Client Spotlight #2: Springfield Police DepartmentSpringfieldPD

The SPD's Counter Criminal Continuum (C3) officers represent the public face of the department in the city's four most challenging neighborhoods. Every day, they address serious public health and safety issues common to many cities. Whether they are on the street speaking with residents or attending neighborhood meetings, their ability to communicate is essential to their role. Once again, we partnered with senior consultant Maria Farrah Howell to create and deliver a training for officers that centered on:

  • engaging residents and building trust;
  • articulating messages that are relevant to each neighborhood;
  • anticipating and responding to residents' questions, which can at times be challenging, hostile, or marked by misinformation; and,
  • developing communication skills that project calmness, capability, and stability in sometimes challenging circumstances.
The training included group discussion and role-play exercises with real-time feedback.
To date, approximately 30 officers have participated in the training, with the SPD planing to offer additional sessions.
"Maria did an excellent job teaching already well-trained officers very effective ways to build trust and respond to residents," said Jenn Leydon, director of business and technology for the SPD. "The training was well received from the officers and we are delighted to have Maria back for another round."

Extended Staff Spotlight: Maria Farrah,  Senior Contract ConsultantMariaFarrah
Maria Farrah Howell, founder and president of The Farrah Consulting Group, Inc., is an award-winning public relations professional with almost 20 years of experience in both corporate and government communications. For 10 years she served as a government press secretary for both the Executive Office of Public Safety and the Massachusetts Governor's Highway Safety Bureau. As a consultant, she has developed and managed several high-stakes public information campaigns. Maria is also a seasoned communications skills educator, training senior government officials, CEOs, and organizations. She is often asked to share her media knowledge at regional and national conferences.

The Farrah Consulting Group, Inc., specializes in public relations, crisis management, and communications training. The firm's current and former clients include municipalities, state and federal government agencies, national corporations, and not-for-profit organizations.

For more information about the Farrah Consulting Group, visit www.farrahconsulting.com

Recommended Vendor: BEST InstrumentsBEST

BEST Instruments are a series of learning instruments designed to help employees understand and improve their performance/behavior in leadership, management, communication, presentation, sales, interpersonal relations, team interaction, and other areas vital to a company's overall performance. The BEST classifications are based on the work of William M. Marston, Ned Herrmann, and James Brewer, who measured dominant patterns of behavior in individuals. By adapting and expanding Marston's and Herrmann's works, the author of the BEST Instrument series, James Brewer, developed a basic description of the four personality types, or styles. BEST is an acronym for those personalities: Bold, Expressive, Sympathetic, Technical. Descriptors for each style include the following:

B old: Achieves results
E xpressive: Generates new ideas
S ympathetic: Considers others feelings
T echnical: Focuses on the facts and details
Useful Resources
Top Ten Best Practices for Improving Your CommunicationTopTenCommImprove

When it comes to improving our daily communication, it's the little things that can make a big impact!

Here are our top 10 best practices for improving your own daily communication skills. Most of these tips will be familiar but bear repeating:
  1. Active listening: This is the most important communication skill. Most of us have been taught to maintain eye contact and nod our heads to indicate we are listening. However, active listening goes beyond those non-verbal signals to include paraphrasing to check for understanding and questioning to focus and move conversations forward.
  2. The importance of non-verbals: Research has pointed out that we receive less than 10% of the meaning of conversations from verbal messages (i.e., words actually said); in fact, most of the meaning is derived from the voice (e.g., tone, inflection) and non-verbals (e.g., eye contact, posture, body positioning).
  3. Creating a supportive communication climate: We often focus on what we need to communicate and even on how we communicate, but we often completely overlook whether the environment we have created supports open and candid communication-that is, whether the communication climate is Supportive or Defensive. Some descriptors associated with a supportive climate are: Values Others; Open-Minded; Equal; Descriptive; Cares about Others' Needs and Feelings; Assertive and Cooperative; Direct and Tactful; Works with Others to Problem Solve for the Future; Two-Way; Shares Information; and Win-Win Climate. Conversely, defensive climates can be described in the following ways: Close-Minded; Superior; Judgmental; Not Concerned with Others' Needs and Feelings; Passive or Aggressive; Indirect or Attacking; Blames Others for the Past; One Way; Withholds Information; and Creates a Win-Lose or Lose-Lose Climate.
Helpful Links Helpfullinks

Professional Development Vendors
  • Real Cool Productions: Full-service video, animation, and mixed media production company in Boston that services global businesses.
  • CommonLook: Rely on CommonLook to achieve compliance with PDF and document accessibility standards through a process called Remediation. 
  • Tara Hall: Independent graphic and web design consultant.
Professional Development Resources
Professional Learning Associations
UMass Donahue Institute
Organizational Development & 
Learning Solutions
1 Beacon Street, Floor 31
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 287-4068
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