Monique Russell is the Global Communication Skills Advisor you want on your team. She teaches leaders and teams how to upskill and keep top talent engaged through strategic leadership development.
Organizations like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, the Centers for Disease Control, Verizon, Intel, Equifax, and the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International, trust Monique to guide them in implementing communication strategies that foster connection, community, creativity, and courage. You can too.
Monique has 20 years of experience in the science of Communications and leads Clear Communication Solutions – an international training, coaching, and consulting firm that focuses on confidently communicating from the inside out.
She is the author of the Ultimate Speaker’s Guide and the book Intentional Motherhood: Who Said it Would Be Easy, and host of the Bridge to U podcast.
Connect with Monique on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Why corporate companies are having a hard time attracting and retaining employees
- What leaders can do to ensure women in leadership feel supported and nurtured
- The key to improving communication in intercultural teams
- Skills to focus on when developing Gen Z employees in their first or second job
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for ABC Radio’s Open for business. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here, another episode of GWBC open for business, and this is going to be a good one. Today on the show we have Monique Russell with Clear Communication Solutions. Welcome.
Monique Russell: [00:00:31] Hi, Lee. How’s it going? It is.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:34] Going well. I am so excited to get caught up and learn what is going on at Clear Communication Solutions. Can you tell us how you’re serving folks?
Monique Russell: [00:00:42] Yes. So we are a global training, coaching and consulting firm. Basically, we’re helping leaders to get better at keeping their employees engaged so they don’t feel bored and they don’t walk out the door and take their customers and audiences with them.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:56] So how has business been? Is this a time where you’re pretty busy? I would imagine there’s a lot of kind of chaos in that. In that world today.
Monique Russell: [00:01:07] There is always a lot of chaos. But as you know, sometimes the training is one of the first things to go. So we’ve been pretty busy on coaching. We offer our services in training and leadership development. We provide workshops. We do also professional speaking and executive coaching. And the coaching portion is the area that we’ve seen a lot of increase in. And I believe it’s because people really want to find better ways to get their team leaders connected to leader leadership development solutions to help their teams become more productive. I just think that the way that management has been done over the years, it’s not working anymore. We are finding that people are saying they need new ways to keep their Gen Z’s engaged. Other millennials engage. People are looking for more purpose and fulfillment in their jobs and leadership development coaching helps them to do just that.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:00] Now, is it one of those things where coaching has evolved over the years, where at one point, coaching was only for either the top of the the kind of org chart or the person that needed to be fixed? You know, that’s having a problem that we have to triage something where now especially young people are expecting some level of coaching or some leader level of training in terms of leadership and kind of broadening their skill base as kind of table stakes when they are choosing which especially enterprise level company to, to work at.
Monique Russell: [00:02:35] You hit it right on the head. I mean, back in the day, it was all about the person who couldn’t get along, who was having a nasty attitude, who maybe couldn’t control their temper, aka emotional intelligence. But it has certainly evolved. It’s one of the fastest ways that you can help a person to maximize their human potential. And I think like coaching has become sort of this standard, this gold standard where individuals are like, what, you don’t have a coach, you know, like like I’m looking for a coach so that I can learn more about myself and I can have a better output at my job. And so you hit it right on the head for sure. It is. It has evolved. And you know what I also find? Interestingly, there’s a recent study that came out, the American Upskilling Survey that came out, and close to 60% of people say that if they had the opportunity to learn new skills and advance, they would change their jobs. So I think that’s pretty compelling for us to take a look and see that, you know, one of the ways that people want to stay engaged at their job is to learn new things, and they want to have more fulfillment at their work.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:40] So having worked with a lot of organizations and and have coached a lot of people, is there kind of some best practices you can share about how a company can develop a leadership program in order to help their employees feel supported and nurtured?
Monique Russell: [00:03:58] Yeah. One of the things I would say is where people tend to struggle is not really understanding what current skills are present in their team, or what current skills are present within the people that are working within their team. People are busy, leaders are busy. You know, a lot of times you might find someone who’s being promoted and they were working alongside their peers and now they have to manage them. But the onboarding piece of now that I’m a supervisor, now that I’m a manager or I’m a leader, I don’t have those development opportunities or training skills to to go from being a peer to being their manager. So I think looking at the shifts within the organization, like lateral moves and also, you know, other moves within the organization is one way to begin, which, you know, to be honest, those are things that have already been done. But then also looking at what are the trends like, what trends are happening where we see, for example, World Economic Forum put out their Future of Jobs report on that list. There are ten skills. A lot of those skills, I’d say seven out of ten of those skills fall into social skills.
Monique Russell: [00:05:06] There’s even a skill on there that talks about dependability and attention to detail. I never thought in my life I would see something like dependability and attention to detail. So soft skills are there in an area where leaders can also focus on putting more emphasis to help individuals work better together, to have more cross-cultural communication effectiveness? Because our world is global. And the pandemic pandemic showed us that, you know, we’re working across borders. So if you want to find a way to start, where to start, look at the skills that are listed in some of your global reports. Look at the skills within your organization. Look at the patterns of your customers. Your customers and your buyers are changing to see how you can either personalize their experience, how you can get better at using technology to be more efficient and effective. But most importantly, and I’ll stand by this all day long, is the social skills and those soft skills that make our workplaces more effective and productive.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:10] Now, as coaching gets more and more accepted in these kind of environments, a lot of times I’m sure you’re coaching someone who’s never been coached before in this way. Is there some tips you can share for that person who is maybe working with their first coach in order to get the most out of that relationship? What are some kind of do’s and don’ts from that coaching perspective?
Monique Russell: [00:06:33] Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things, and I’m glad you asked this question, because I do have people who it’s their very first time, and I have people who, you know, have experienced coaching before and maybe it wasn’t effective for them, or maybe they didn’t know what to expect or they didn’t have clear goals. So according to some studies from better, up 80% of your success in your coaching relationship is based on rapport. So the first thing you want to do is, you know, have an introductory meeting with your prospective or potential coach. That rapport is what’s going to drive you to take that action. If you don’t feel like you have this connection, or you don’t feel like you’re being understood in that first meeting, I would say just interview another one, find someone else, because that’s a significant portion of how effective your coaching process will be. And then think about it differently. A lot of times when it’s your first time, you’re coming in and you’re expecting sort of a training perspective, whereas you’re looking for someone to tell you what to do. Coaching, on the other hand, is a discipline where your coach acts more as a guide, using cognitive strategies to help you generate self-awareness and then to help you take accountability, really providing accountability and support during that journey of you achieving your goals.
Monique Russell: [00:07:49] So don’t really think of it as being in a training situation where you’re being told what to do. You’re actually going to have to do a lot of internal work to explore the true things or true goals of what you want to achieve. And finally, as a new person entering this space, know that it’s going to take time. A lot of what happens in coaching will not happen within your actual session window. It happens afterwards. It happens when you’re walking your dog, when you’re in the shower, when you’re talking to someone. So that integration piece is going to take time for you to implement, but you must implement the work. You must actually continue to be consistent with the things that you’re learning in your conversations. Otherwise, you won’t have that transformation that you’re seeking. So definitely have a realistic expectation of what to expect and how long things will take in order for you to see sustainable results.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:47] Now, when you’re talking to an enterprise level leader about implementing some sort of coaching program, how do you manage their expectations? Like what is a reasonable kind of return on their investment from coaching, and are there some things that they’re going to actually see that’s like, oh, this is definitely working, or oh, maybe we ought to tweak something or are there some kind of milestones or markers or some behaviors that you can kind of tangibly see, or is this something that you have to do for a long period of time? And just trust that over time this is going to be beneficial?
Monique Russell: [00:09:20] No, because so coaching is unique. It depends on what it is that you’re coaching on. So for example, a few of the disciplines that we focus on is presentation skills, public slash public speaking, which is very straightforward and tangible. So you’d be able to actually depend on how that individual is improving in their ability to tell their stories, to articulate their message, to lead an effective meeting. Most meetings that are run are not effective. They don’t have an agenda. They either go over time, they go under time. People are not clear on what their next steps are. Maybe there might be some dominating voices within the meeting. So it’s all a dance, really, if you will, on what it is that you want to work on on a specific topic. You might be coaching someone on time management and helping them to become more effective. So whatever your topic is, you will have specific guidelines and milestones and markers from which you’ll be able to see how they are actually improving and actually how it impacts your bottom line. I’ll give you two specific examples recently. Recently we worked with a client on negotiation skills and techniques. Client had a lot of individuals who were responsible for meeting with global leaders, meeting with other partners within their organization from different departments.
Monique Russell: [00:10:44] They had to find ways to work together, to come together to to present externally to their clients and gain buy in. So once we’re done with these types of exercises, we can actually see when we’re starting. What are some of the behaviors that we’re doing where we’re struggling, where we’re doing well. And then as we’re learning new techniques and new tools of preparing for your negotiation, gaining win win, understanding the other side, maybe taking, taking breaks when things are getting difficult or hot. Understanding language and cultural contexts. One word could mean something completely different and totally throw your negotiations off. So we’re walking away with specific, tangible outcomes. Not everything actually is tangible, but we do have tangible and intangible outcomes where you’ll be able to see the return on the investment. The second example I’ll give you is another client that we’re working with focusing specifically on executive presence. So I would tell you that, you know, from from the time that we’ve been working with this client, several of those individuals, they raised their hand, they self select and say, hey, this is what I want to do. This is who I want to work with.
Monique Russell: [00:11:58] That’s actually better than someone being forced to sign up for a coaching experience because, I mean, as you know, trying to get someone to do something that they don’t want to do is is not easy. But the outcome of this was very clear, because more than half of those individuals that have gone through coaching have actually been promoted. So they were identified as high potential individuals. They’ve been promoted. 1 or 2 have actually left the company, which is also a great thing, because you want to make sure that you are equipping people to make the informed decision if they want to stay or if they want to leave, it’ll be a win win organization for everyone involved. So you have some tangibles. You have some intangibles where people within the team begin to see their leader differently. They begin to share more ideas, they begin to contribute, and they feel like they’re having more support. So there’s definitely milestone markers. But every every scenario is different. Every engagement or solution is different. How it’s delivered is different, but it will all start with a very robust conversation, an assessment of where we are and where we’re trying to go.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:05] Now, can you share a little bit about your experience with PBC, like what was kind of the impetus to join and any of the benefits you’ve gotten so far?
Monique Russell: [00:13:17] Well, I am a newbie, Lee. I am a baby. I am just recent, not even a full month with my certification. So I’m excited to be a part of this community. The impetus for this was because in my connections and conversations with corporate suppliers, this came up repeatedly as a recommended a recommended certification to pursue and explore. It’s something that allows the organization to also say that they’re meeting their supplier diversity goals. They know that this is a company that has gone through the rigor of the process, and that has crossed the I’s and dotted the T’s, and we’re really, really proud to be a part of the Greater Women Business Council and looking forward to all the collaborations and partnerships and support that we can provide and also receive.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:09] And then so one of the main reasons was your your customer was saying, hey, this is a good idea. And that’s that’s always a good clue to keep a customer, right? When they’re saying, hey, maybe you should do this or gain, right?
Monique Russell: [00:14:22] Keep or gain. Yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:24] And so that’s for the listeners out there who aren’t members. That’s a good thing to ask is your customers what organizations are important to you. So maybe I should consider being part of those.
Monique Russell: [00:14:38] Definitely.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:39] So now what is usually kind of your first entree into an organization? Is it, you know, they bring you in for a project or one type of thing and then it expands, like how do you like what’s kind of the the pain your customers having where they say, you know what I got to get with Monique and her team.
Monique Russell: [00:14:58] So there are a couple of things that is a pain for them. And perhaps one would be for the women leaders. So sometimes I’ll be brought in to start as doing a presentation or a speaking engagement and speaking engagement on leadership development or confidence building in women, or emotional intelligence for the practical leader or something like effective delegation. Those are a lot of the common topics that we tend to see. So they might have a desire or a need to bring in a speaker like me and start that conversation. From there, they’re actually exposed to more of what we can do and how we can help them to increase their development of their women in leadership. So that’s one area or pain I would say they’re having. Another could be that they’re they’re having trouble keeping some of their clients. They want to build deeper relationships with their clients. And a third one would be just really the the culture. A lot of companies right now are focusing on employee well-being and employee growth. And we we know that people want to grow. People are looking for shifts. They’re looking for what’s next. And so when that rumble starts and they’re looking for ways to increase their engagement, they’ll reach out for us for effective communication skills. Sometimes it’s when things are not going well, but I am happy to say of recent like a more times, it’s when things are going well and they want to get better. They want to remain best in class and remain competitive.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:35] So now in your career, can you share maybe a story that epitomizes kind of the most rewarding part of your job, the thing that the reason you got into this business.
Monique Russell: [00:16:50] Yeah, there are many reasons I got into it when I was working in corporate America. I remember starting my side hustle. So I’ll just say this. Communication skills and leadership development is my absolute life, like it is my 100% life. I started speaking when I was eight years old. I went off to college. I studied the science of communications. All my three degrees are in communications and I studied it for 12 years, and then I taught it at the university level for over a decade, and I’ve used it in my day to day corporate experience. And I and I use it pretty much every day in my job. And even with all of this experience, I still have so much to learn and grow in these areas. But I know firsthand that when someone is able to use effective communication skills and when they’re able to get better in leadership development, they transform their entire lives. They become better parents. They become better siblings. They become better leaders. They become better community citizens. So for me, it’s really, really deep. And it’s it’s a passion for me because I know when someone can transform their communication style or the way that they’re relating to others, it just creates a better environment for all of us.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:12] Yeah, I think that communication, especially clear communication, is is not as simple as maybe people think it is. And there’s so much if you’re not mindful about it that can create a miscommunication. It can create friction in places that you don’t even think that it’s possible. So clear communication is definitely something to aspire towards. And it’s great that there’s somebody like you and your team out there trying to make that happen for folks.
Monique Russell: [00:18:41] Yeah, you just made me remember a post I recently put up on LinkedIn and it opened saying that the most common outcome of communication is misunderstanding. I think sometimes people feel like, oh, you should know better. That’s exactly what I meant. I don’t have to, you know, repeat myself. But the truth is communication. The most common thing is misunderstanding. So if we go into these types of conversations or interactions knowing that, guess what? At the end of the day, the misunderstanding level is high. Our job is to bring that level of misunderstanding down and see if we can relate to each other and understand what we’re trying to get across. Then I think it would be easier and more effective for people to try instead of giving up and saying, you know, what’s the point? What’s the use? I’m not feeling understood. Or, you know, I’m not feeling valued or appreciated, but to know or go into it, walking, understanding that, hey, you know. The chances of a misunderstanding or a miscommunication is really, really high because you see things differently. I see things differently. Our experiences are different, so let’s just go in knowing that it’s high and our job is to reduce that level of misunderstanding.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:01] Yeah, especially as we use more and more different platforms to communicate. Right. Like if I’m talking to you face to face and you see my body language, my expressions, it’s a different type of communication than if I’m, you know, tweeting something or I’m texting something. You’re not getting any of the nuance. And especially if you have kind of if these are more acquaintances rather than, you know, people that you know and have had a relationship with. People tend to not give the benefit of the doubt to that kind of a acquaintance, where a friend, you’re going to give the benefit of the doubt because you can. They have a history. So communication is fraught with landmines. So if you’re not being mindful and not being strategic about it, you are going to run into a problem.
Monique Russell: [00:20:53] You say that again, strategic and.
Speaker4: [00:20:56] Intention. That is the key.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:58] Well, if somebody wants to learn more about your work and get a hold of you, what is the website? What are the best ways to connect?
Monique Russell: [00:21:06] Yeah. So I’m all over the internet. You can reach me at Clear Communication solutions.com or Monique russell.com. Linkedin is my favorite platform of choice. So clear communication coach there. If you drop in Google Clear communication Coach you can also find me on YouTube. Listen to my podcast Bridge to You or anywhere you follow social media content. Once you drop it in, it should be able to pop up.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:35] Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Monique Russell: [00:21:41] Thank you for having me, Lee. I really enjoyed this conversation.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:45] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on BBQ. Open for business.