DeVaughn Narratives

Creating digital stories that resonate and inspire

Category: Communications

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.

Sure, there’s the common favorite, Christmas.

And, of course, you’ve got your birthday.

For me, Thanksgiving is about coming home. Families traveling miles just to be together and break a little bread…and turkey, dressing, yams, cranberries, and mashed potatoes, and gravy.

I love the intoxicating aromas of Thanksgiving. The turkey roasting in the oven, and the apple pie baking. The smell of cloves and cinnamon.

Nothing tops that night in the dining room—over-stuffed with family, sitting on mismatched chairs—as we swap stories, share memories, toast those who came before us and pass dishes infused with even more love than butter.

The food itself doesn’t matter so much to me. It’s the traditions, the pride, the care people put into making it.

The entire purpose of the holiday is just a gathering of family and friends to celebrate all the blessings in our lives. When we look around the table at our loved ones, we have so much for which to be thankful. So let’s give thanks not just on Thanksgiving, but every day that we can connect with another human being. Once you feel the true joy of connecting with a fellow member of the human race you might start to realize just how precious life is.

May the bounty of the season fill your hearts and homes. I hope you and your families have an amazing Thanksgiving.


Going Green: Pantone’s Color of the Year

Going Green: Pantone’s Color of the Year

There’s nothing like a new year to inspire a fresh start! Each year the Pantone Color Institute announces a new color that sets the trends in fashion, décor, and interior design. Pantone’s team from around the world typically spends the year studying trends in fashion, consumer products, social media, film, and technology. It looks for influences that best describe the current mood of society and picks a color to reflect those elements.

The color green has officially earned the green light from Pantone, and has been named its Color of the Year for 2017. Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2017 was recently revealed to be a bright shade of yellowish-green called Greenery.

Greenery 2017 Pantone Color of the Year
The choice of the 2017 color is symbolic. As explained by Pantone, it is an attempt to reflect the mood of today’s consumers, who are more than ever in search of revitalization and rejuvenation.

A refreshing and revitalizing shade, Greenery is emblematic of new beginnings.

Greenery is a fresh and zesty shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew. This bright, yet natural, shade is illustrative of flourishing foliage and the lushness of nature, and invokes a sense of growth and renewal.

Incorporating Greenery Into Your Home

There are many different shades of green. Greenery is vibrant and verdant and characterizes the first signs of life that appear in spring. Pantone notes, “Greenery is nature’s neutral.” It’s a lively hue that channels energy, health, nature, renewal, and growth. Decorating with Greenery is sure to breathe life into any room.

antone Greenery Decorating

Pantone Greenery Decorating

Greenery Tapestry



Greenery Elsewhere

In the automotive world, Mercedes unveiled a green car for 2018.

Green Mercedes Benz

There’s no doubt about it: Pantone chose a favorite this year with Greenery. It has the potential to breathe life into existing rooms; bring harmony and balance into a home; and lead trends in the fashion, art, and automotive industries, all of which will make it one of the more popular choices for Color of the Year.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) has become one of the hottest buzzwords in corporate America. When you open your eyes and look around, there are a lot of examples and anecdotes that may come to mind. Here is an example that drives home the concept of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Many executive assistants have a high degree of emotional intelligence. They respond to subtle cues and react appropriately. Moreover, executive assistants quickly learn what an executive needs, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what might trigger anger or stress, and how to best accommodate his or her personal style. During my tenure at a large organization, the two senior-most executive assistants had very different personalities. One of them was emotionally intelligent and the other wasn’t. The President’s assistant was always uptight, unorganized, panicked under stress, and did not take accountability for her mistakes or behavior. Oftentimes she would yell at the other assistants. In stark contrast, nothing rattled the other executive assistant. The Chairman’s assistant had a strong personality and was professional, articulate, decisive, sociable, and always remained calm under pressure.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

emotional intelligenceIn a nutshell, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage one’s own moods and emotions and the moods and emotions of other people. When individuals experience stressful feelings and emotions, emotional intelligence enables them to understand why and helps them manage these feelings so they do not get in the way of effective decision making. Individuals with high EI are proven to be effective leaders as they are empathetic, self-aware and hold themselves accountable to how their behavior influences those around them.

Emotional intelligence also plays an important role in how leaders relate to and deal with their followers, particularly when it comes to encouraging followers to be creative. People often talk about creativity in terms of artistic expression. For most people; however, creativity comes from solving the problems we all encounter every day. Creativity involves coming up with something that challenges the status quo. Oftentimes people feel more comfortable sticking to a familiar routine rather than thinking outside the box and heading down an unfamiliar path. Attempting to create something new is often accompanied by anxiety, fear, and uncertainty.

Leaders can either encourage or discourage employees from taking risk to come up with new ideas. Moreover, leaders can also create a favorable work environment that stimulates creativity. Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence will excel at stimulating and encouraging their followers to act on opportunities that enables creativity to flourish in organizations.

Primary Dimensions of Emotional Intelligence

Researchers have identified five primary dimensions required for effective emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-Awareness – This can be defined as having the ability to recognize and understand your own moods and emotions as well as their effects on others.
  2. Self-Regulation – This is also known as discipline. It’s the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and emotions, thinking before acting, taking responsibility for your behavior, and adapting to change.
  3. Empathy and Compassion – Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they may feel or react in certain situations. The more skilled you are in recognizing and anticipating other people’s needs or what motivates or upsets them, the better we can relate to others.
  4. Motivation – Motivation is a passion or internal drive that goes beyond the extrinsic value of money in order to pursue your goals with energy. In order to motivate yourself for any achievement whether professional or personal, you will need clear objectives, a positive attitude, commitment, initiative, optimism, and the desire to achieve.
  5.  Social Skills – Developing good interpersonal skills and cultivating productive relationships is essential to one’s ability to gain higher emotional intelligence and will equal success in your life and career. You must have the ability to effectively communicate clearly and concisely while working with others towards reaching common goals.

In conclusion, the moods and emotions leaders experience on the job, and their ability to effectively manage these feelings, can influence their effectiveness as leaders. Emotional intelligence is a critical tool that has the potential to contribute to leadership effectiveness in multiple ways including encouraging and supporting creativity among followers, exceeding goals, and developing and/or improving relationships.

Words are Powerful

Words are Powerful

Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Words are PowerfulWritten or spoken, words can have a profound effect on the people they reach. They lift us up, drag us down, wound us deeply, or heal our hearts. Words are like scalpels, every bit as sharp as a surgeon’s tools, and sometimes almost as dangerous. They have the power to break confidences, end relationships, build lifelong alliances, or start wars.

Words are a powerful force and the potent effects of negative words cannot be underestimated. We all know how degrading it feels to be insulted or be told that we are deficient in some way.

We are all guilty of saying things we wish we wouldn’t have. Recently, my words got me into a lot of trouble with my most cherished friend. Having been out of work for months from a job loss, anger and constant rejection sent me spewing venom and uttering mean words treating him unfairly. Instantly, I regretted my words. But, I realized that as soon as the words escaped my lips, they could never be taken back. Sometimes a single remark can remain stuck in the brain for life serving as a toxic seed that grows. This is a sad story and a vivid example of just how a few words can ignite a fire. If only I could take back a few mean words that I said in a moment of annoyance, I would. But it is too late. I wish that I could have tamed my tongue while I had the chance.Please and Thank You

Please and Thank You…

Three little words with an enormous amount of power! When I was young, like most of us, I heard the secret of the magic words which almost always worked. ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ were always on top of my mom’s list, and I remember she would demonstrate to us how the toughest hearts could melt when you speak the words earnestly, humbly and not to forget politely. Oftentimes mom would like to experiment with it around dad who liked to be in control. But my dad’s heart would just melt especially around us girls.

These three simple little words not only make a person feel appreciated, but they are uplifting. The practice of saying please and thank you is something that I implement in my everyday life and comes natural to me.

What an impact you can have!

Your words have power and can impact a life so choose them wisely, and…

Thank you for reading my blog.

2016 Pantone Colors of the Year

2016 Pantone Colors of the Year: Rose Quartz and Serenity

Each year, the Pantone Color Institute announces a new color that sets the trends in fashion, decor, and interior design. This year Pantone has taken an unprecedented step in choosing not one – but two complementary colors for the upcoming year. For 2016, Pantone surprised everyone with its choice of two colors: Rose Quartz and Serenity. The biggest surprise of all was that they paired the two together. It won’t be long before we see these pastel colors trickle into our daily lives. The colors are set to take center stage within fashion, beauty, fragrance, and home interiors in 2016.

2016 Pantone Rose Quartz and Serenity

After last year’s Color of the Year – the dark and earthy Marsala – Rose Quartz and Serenity are a refreshing change. These colors are a sharp turn after several years of bold colors such as Radiant Orchid, Emerald, and Tangerine Tango. Evoking a sense of calmness, fluidity and balance, the fusion of these shades provide the perfect antidote to busy modern life.

The choice of the 2016 colors is symbolic. As explained by Pantone, it is an attempt to reflect the moods of today’s consumers, who are more than ever in search of life balance, calmness and well-being. The pairing of Rose Quartz and Serenity, commonly known as pale pink and baby blue, radiates a calm and relaxing atmosphere and is an antidote for the modern-day hectic lifestyles.

These peaceful pastels offers a harmonious blend of warm and cool. The colors balance and complement each other but blend beautifully. Rose Quartz is a gentle tone that conveys compassion. It’s the color of flowers and blushing cheeks. Serenity, on the other hand, is airy like the expanse of the blue sky. It brings feelings of relaxation even in tumultuous times.

2016 Pantone Rose Quartz and Serenity

When combined, the colors look like something you’d pick to paint the walls of a nursery, which is exactly what Pantone was going for. But, this doesn’t mean you need to decorate your home like Barbie’s Dream House. When you use these pastels, there are subtle approaches that you can take to incorporate these shades into your interior design.

Decorating with Rose Quartz and Serenity

How is Each Year’s Hottest Hue Chosen?

The criteria for selecting Pantone’s color of the year is not an easy task because the shade needs to work worldwide. This makes the selection process a difficult task.

The color of the year requires careful consideration. Trends are rarely decided by individuals. Instead, they are decided by a committee. One of the most influential committees is a group of 10 people whose names are secret. They meet in Europe twice a year at the invitation of Pantone, a company based in Carlstadt, New Jersey, whose only business is color. This committee of experts formed by Pantone spends months studying the shades used most in the various art disciplines, design, and even the entertainment industry. This first analysis yields a color family, which must also reflect an attitude and a general mood. From there, they go on to select the winner.

In conclusion, the possibilities are endless when decorating with these trendy hues. It’s just a matter of time until the design and fashion industry respond by incorporating these shades into their paint color palettes. In fact, today I was out shopping and have already begun seeing these shades in stores and magazines. Of course, consumers can either go with the trend or wait for a new year.

The Importance of Professional Networking

Importance of Professional NetworkingThe Importance of Professional Networking

You open your inbox and there is an invitation to attend an event or alternatively, you receive a formal invitation in the mail. So you gingerly place the invitation on the side or in a pending file, or you may even throw it away without a second glance. If it’s an Evite, you may respond and say you cannot attend. But you’ll never know what opportunities may have awaited you.

My professors and bosses have always stressed the importance of networking, and I couldn’t agree with them more. The old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” holds a lot of truth.

Here are some reasons why professional networking is important:

Developing Relationships is Critical to Success
Developing and cultivating relationships is critical to success. People do business with those they know, like, and trust. It takes time, energy, and effort to build a network. Through building that network you develop and cultivate relationships with people who know you, trust you, and will do business with you.

Increases Your Chance of Getting a Job
In today’s current economic climate, the job market is very challenging and competitive with going up against potentially hundreds of other candidates for a single position. Constant rejections and lengthy interviews can sometimes mean that your face becomes just another in the pile. Just as networking with specific businesses can help you find your next job, so too can networking with industry recruiters. Often employers and industry recruiters have the inside scoop on possible new job openings before they are advertised. Employers prefer to hire based on referrals or recommendations which people in your network can provide. Managers and recruiters looking to fill a position will first search their own networks for candidates before the job goes public. Gaining access to these key players and hiring managers is tied directly to your network.

Increases Confidence Levels
Networking increases confidence levels because it will help you to push yourself to talk to people you don’t know. We cannot build strategic partnerships or social relationships unless we communicate. No matter what walk of life we pursue, we need to be able to break the ice, approach strangers and start, build, and maintain conversations. The more you do this, the easier it will become.

Allows for Visibility and Presence
Networking allows you to be visible and present. Instead of hiding in your cubicle or office, networking ensures that you are visible so the people in your organization know who you are. In each of my positions, I actively networked at all levels in the organization in order to develop positive relationships and create value for others in the company by being knowledgeable, reliable and a supportive person. Being visible and getting noticed is a big benefit of networking.

Who Should Be In Your Network?

Build Your Network

Your network can be made up of almost anyone you’ve ever met and each of your contacts can lead you to new ones such as:

  • Current and Former Co-Workers: Those you currently work with as well as those you’ve worked with in the past can be part of your network.
  • Your Co-Members in Professional Associations: When you become an active member in a professional association, you will increase your chances of meeting people. It will also give your colleagues a chance to see you in action.
  • Friends and Family: Keep your family and friends apprised of your career goals. You never know who will end up having the ability to help you.
  • Former Professors and Instructors: Your former professors and instructors most likely worked in your field or at least have some connections.
  • Former Classmates: The alumni directory of your college can provide you with contacts to add to your network.

In conclusion, when your invitation arrives, gladly accept the invitation, and attend the event. These events give us a chance to meet new people and cultivate lasting relationships. With practice, you will be able to mingle while increasing your confidence level.

The Importance of Well-Traveled Employees


The Importance of Well-Traveled Employees

There are some people who never feel the urge to leave their home. They’re content to stay in the city they came from. Then there’s the rest of us: the people who can’t sit still. Having an incurable case of wanderlust, we returned home from our latest vacation in pursuit of our next big adventure.

In today’s competitive market, you must find ways to differentiate yourself from your peers. The skills and experience gained from traveling abroad can give you a competitive advantage and enhance your career. When traveling abroad you are likely to possess the skills needed in the global economy – economic and geographical knowledge, cross-cultural communication skills, analytical skills, flexibility, an understanding of and familiarity with local customs, an ability to adapt to new circumstances, and may be proficient in multiple languages.

Traveling Improves our Communication Skills

When trying to converse in foreign cultures, verbal and non-verbal communication is necessary to overcome language and cultural barriers. Being able to communicate with other people from diverse cultures and backgrounds is an important skill in any job.

Traveling Improves Negotiation Skills

Whether you’re haggling at a market or negotiating a fare with a taxi driver, bargaining is a regular part of traveling abroad and is an important skill to hone. Employers want people who are savvy negotiators.

Understanding Cross-cultural Sensitivity

Today companies both large and small are effectively competing on the global stage in order to survive and prosper. Living among people as you travel abroad, talking with them and learning their stories and culture gives you a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Becoming Self-sufficient and Confident

When you’re traveling abroad, you don’t have anyone to call for help. As you figure out how to get around in a foreign country, you build confidence and adaptability in foreign situations. Things can go awry and plans change. As a traveler you are forced to change plans constantly.

While in Turkey, we were suddenly left without travel arrangements to Greece. Without internet service in our hostel, we found a nearby internet café and had to research a new flight to Greece within time frame and budget. This turned out to be no easy feat.

The ability to adapt is important and appealing to employers.

Learning to Budget and Plan

Prior to traveling, I had to plan and save for each of my vacations abroad. In addition, I had to continue to monitor my budget once we arrived.

In conclusion, employers are looking for people who are versatile and adaptable. By embracing your travel experience on your resume, you are demonstrating your willingness to seek out new experiences. Having relevant global experience on your resume can be an advantage.

Are Your Employees Engaged?

employee engagement

Unleashing the energy and talent of people in the workplace and engaging employees more fully in their work is a critical challenge facing organizations. Engagement is particularly important today due to morale problems, lack of harmonious relations between employees and managers, lack of career development opportunities, and organizational reputation.

If a business is to succeed and remain competitive in today’s corporate landscape, it is essential to keep their employees engaged.

But some contend if it is even possible to achieve employee engagement in a hierarchical organization where leadership dominates. Still, others believe that engagement is a manipulative management technique to squeeze more out of an overworked and understaffed workforce. Clearly, engagement is not a simple matter.

According to recent research conducted by Towers Watson, a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management, only a small percentage of employees are actively engaged. In fact, research suggests there has been a considerable decline in engagement over the last several years.

But, what exactly is employee engagement? Employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment an employee has to their organization and its goals, their job, and their colleagues.

Oftentimes, employee engagement is confused with employee satisfaction because the concepts are similar, so the terms are often used interchangeably. Employee satisfaction is an attitude where employees are happy or content with their jobs and work environment. However, engaged employees are passionate about their jobs and are committed to the organization and its goals. Just because an employee is satisfied doesn’t necessarily mean they are engaged.

When I worked at Signet Bank (Union Trust) in the 1980s, I was proud to be working there. The company wasn’t perfect, but it took care of us. Later I had the same commitment and passion during my years at Union Memorial Hospital, and then again at LifeBridge Health. Yes, sometimes management issues got in the way, but it was always my ability to contribute and make a difference, innovate, and enjoy the people who made me happy, which got me engaged.

How is employee engagement measured? Employee engagement is typically measured using an employee engagement survey that has been developed specifically for this purpose. These surveys must be statistically validated and benchmarked to measure your employee’s level of engagement.

One such survey, the Gallup Q12, was designed to measure employee engagement to worker productivity, customer loyalty, and sales growth. Twelve survey questions were chosen ranging from topics including basic needs, management support, team work, and growth. The answers were used to categorize employees into three areas:

  1. Engaged—employees who love their jobs and feel a connection to their company. Actively engaged employees demonstrate high levels of performance, a drive for innovation and efficiency, commitment to their roles and to the organization as a whole, and high-energy enthusiasm.
  2. Disengaged—employees who do as little as possible just to get by. Disengaged employees view their jobs as an exchange of time for a paycheck. They complete their tasks, but they do so unenthusiastically and put in little to no additional effort.
  3. Actively Disengaged—employees who are not only unhappy with their job but they have a bad attitude and are damaging to the workplace. They are actively negative and voice their displeasure in the work place. Their negativity permeates the job place and often undermines the performance of other employees.

The benefits of an engaged workforce are clear. Research has shown that organizations with engaged and committed employees are significantly more productive than those where employees are disengaged. Employee retention rates are also considerably higher. A Towers Watson study found that companies with more engaged employees produce greater financial returns.

Our organization regularly takes employee satisfaction surveys. In order to get some anecdotal feedback, I raised the question of employee satisfaction surveys with some of my coworkers. My question seem to strike a raw nerve with many of my coworkers because they felt the surveys are not anonymous since very specific demographic questions are asked about each employee. Any negative feedback brought forth could mean fear of reprisal.   Further, one would have to look at the validity and reliability of feedback methodology.

How can leaders effectively engage their employees? Following are several tips that can stimulate employee engagement:

  • Provide Clear Direction: Leadership needs to know where the company is going and how employees can help it get there. This is where a mission and core values come in. Change often fails because of the lack of clear and credible communication. Management cannot and should not expect employees who lack awareness and understanding of corporate strategy to become committed to carrying out the organization’s policy.
  • Communication: Once the strategy is in place, the leaders need to communicate and reinforce the overarching message among all employees. Each employee should know how he or she can contribute. Leaders and professional communicators can help by aligning words with actions, building relationships, and conversing with employees rather than communicating at them.
  • Employee Development: Organizations should offer training to employees to help them advance in their careers.
  • Supportive Managers: Managers must give their employees clear goals, offer feedback, and have an open door policy.

In conclusion, engagement requires a sustained effort from everyone. Organizations must carefully identify the causes of disengagement through data gathering and surveys then address these issues with a clear strategy in mind.

The Impact of Technology on Corporate Communications

Corporate Communications

Nationally, the newspaper industry is in a state of collapse. Many newspapers have either been forced into bankruptcy or have become extinct. Even the New York Times has been forced to seek outside investors to stay afloat. The major reason why the industry is crumbling is the internet. Since more people get their news from computers, newspaper circulation and ad revenues are shrinking and readership dwindling. With the adoption of the internet we have seen a shift in budding forms of communication (journalism) from print to online. Another transformation that took place is that people wanted a voice so communication (including journalism) moved from monologue to dialogue. Traditionally, journalism was a one-way form of communication. In stark contrast, social media is about dialogue, audience, and citizen journalism.

Social media is created and distributed by the audience and represents the channels of communication that the audience uses to write, create, and share information. Today, the explosion of digital solutions provides communicators with a new arsenal of tools. These tools can take the form of blogs, social networking, visual communication, and podcasts. Since organizations use different types of media to reach their audience, knowing how to select the right medium for your message and how to create different forms of communication is integral in today’s corporate landscape. Today’s communicators need to learn the foundational digital skills in order to stay competitive. These new skill sets include but are not limited to using RSS feeds, search engine optimization, video production, and analyzing/monitoring metrics. Although digital media is important, companies should not solely concentrate on electronic communications at the expense of print or face-to-face communication. Each has a role and should be used accordingly.

While technology has made business communication easier and faster, at times communication is more distracting because of message overload. From constant emails to cell phones, instant communication can make it hard to focus on meeting deadlines so at times you need to turn off communication devices.

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