Monthly Archives: February 2008

The Best 3 Books for Managers?

The best 3 books on management, as voted by the PROFIT 100 (Source: PROFIT magazine, Dec-Jan 08), are Good to Great by Jim Collins, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore, and The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard.

Has anyone read these? Care to comment on what you thought? Agree or disagree? Do you have any other books you can recommend to managers or entrepreneurs?

(NOTE: I often coach managers on interpersonal/professional communications, so any good book I could recommend to them is valuable knowledge and much appreciated.)

The Russian people are great!

Say what you will about the Russian gov’t, the military and some parts of history, but the Russian people are quite okay in my books.

Thursday I was invited over to a student’s house with her hubby and a few others to eat and drink. I FINALLY had Russian vodka. Predictably, the girls drank cocktails (I introduced them to cape cods: vodka, cranberry juice and lime) and the guys drank straight vodka in shots. The rules were simple. No one drinks alone. A toast or 2 comes before the drink, and after the shot you can chase it with juice or eat a pickle, tomato or fish and onions. (Similar to mackerel??). I held my own (naturally….) and we exchanged language, jokes and legends of hockey. Yes sir – they still remember 1972.

Afterwards one of the guys who is also a student of the English training for managers program insisted on accompanying me home via taxi to ensure I did not get ‘kidnapped’. Before leaving we stopped by his (and his wife’s) flat a few floors below, and when they opened the door I was stunned. What was hanging on the coat rack? A Toronto Maple Leafs cap! WOW! He smiled and told me he also has a jersey to match. This I have to capture on film. So he invited me to come by sometime for Cuban cigars and cognac and we can take some pictures. He also gave me a Cuban for the road.

He and his wife took me home and even insisted on paying for my cab! Amazing generosity. All I can do is thank them, be a good teacher and try to repay them when given a chance – which will hopefully be soon. Russians and Canadians mix well – like ice and hockey I suppose.

Tomorrow I am going to do some more site-seeing and picture-taking. I’ll be in touch.

Build Relationships Even When Travelling

Greetings from Moscow, Russia again!

As most of you know I teach relationship-building techniques, the art of small talk and the secrets of winning first impressions. These interpersonal communication skills are vital in life. I also teach networking skills, as these soft-skills are imperative in building business and commerce relationships. How many successful sales people do you know who are extremely introverted and find it hard to strike up a conversation? Not many I would bet. There are obvious reasons for that.

Here in Russia as I had mentioned in my last newsletter I am facing a big language communication barrier (although my reading of the Russian words has noticeably improved, I am happy to report today…) and so I rely on other communication techniques. They are worldwide, human techniques. But a few days ago I was looking for a new headset and microphone in a local mall and I saw an Indian man running a computer shop. He spoke with a strong Russian accent (so I was told) and it was obvious to me that he was an immigrant or migrant worker here. I immediately felt like I was back in Toronto and started to speak English to him. We smiled and chatted and he sold me a new headset which works very well. I am ‘Skyping’ my friends and family constantly, as you may appreciate.

Today after a great day of site-seeing (for those who know Moscow I visited Old and New Arbat, Hard Rock Café, and Victory Park) I decided to add a webcam to my long-distance conversations and returned to the same mall. I purposely sought out the same shop and yes, the same Indian man was working. We smiled again and chatted briefly. I told him this time I was in need of a webcam that can ‘skype’ and he recommended one immediately. I asked how much and the answer was 1000.00 Russian rubles (exchange rate is 1 dollar to 24 Russian rubles, so do the math if you wish) and then I asked if there was a cheaper option that could still skype. He smiled and played with his computer for a minute and then said to me that he could sell it for 800. DEAL. Done.

Some of you reading this story may not be too surprised by a seemingly independent shop keeper giving a bit of a discount, but I was told by my Russian guide that discounts at malls and proper businesses are quite impossible. She was surprised by my discount. I explained to her that I felt that he liked me for these reasons: he thought I was a nice guy, I smile which is almost rare for Russian men in that situation, he was happy to see me as a repeat customer, he did not want me going elsewhere, and finally, I think he could appreciate me as a foreigner in Russia – the same as him. 

Most of us at some point travel, and we should not think that our actions do not matter to the local people. Carry yourself as you would at home and continue to be in the constant habit of initiating great people-skills. You never know when they will help you!

Communication Barriers in Moscow

Hello my friends,

It has been a while since my last newsletter. At that time I was reporting on why New Year’s resolutions fail. That newsletter caught the attention of someone at CBC and I was invited to come in to the studio on the morning of January 1 to discuss my views. It was a great experience being on TV. For those interested, you can view my 5 minute segment on CBC by visiting my YouTube page.

Today this newsletter comes to you from Moscow, Russia. I am here for 6 weeks doing executive communication training at an oil technology company. This is my first time in Russia and I can tell you that there have been some barriers to communication for sure.

First of all I cannot read Russian, and as you may guess I cannot speak it either (although I am slowly learning phrases). This means I have to depend on reading people’s faces and body language. Luckily I have studied it extensively. We are all human, so people tend to have the same gestures for anger, confusion, happiness, etc. So far my best tool is to watch carefully and smile a lot. I imitate their behaviour at formal functions, just to make sure. Yes I believe they would forgive me if I made a cultural mistake, but honestly, it is much better to avoid them! First impressions count everywhere.

I also ask questions to the people responsible for me, based on my observations or readings. For example, did you know that here in Russia the men continuously shake hands with each other at most meetings and greetings, even if it is not formal? I think back home we only do that to say hello and goodbye. Here you might end up shaking hands with the same guy 3 or 4 times a day. However I have been told that the women do not shake hands, or at least with men. It is not considered necessary for them to be so formal. Interesting eh?

Well tomorrow I am supposed to go site-seeing around Moscow so I will end this newsletter for now. All in all I can say “so far so good” and I look forward to learning more Russian language, and also Russian culture. Then the barriers to communication will not seem so distant.  🙂