Diplomats, like many other professionals, have to write many different types of documents. Whatever the type — legislation, a technical report, minutes, a press release or speech — a clear document will be more effective, and more easily and quickly understood.
The European Commission (Directorate-General for Translation) has published a few years ago a simple guide titled with many useful and practical hints (not rules) on “how to write clearly“.
Here are the 10 hints included in the publication:
1. Think before you write
2. Focus on the reader
3. Get your document into shape
4. KISS:Keep It Short and Simple
5. Make sense
6. Cut out excess nouns
7. Be concrete, not abstract
8. Prefer active verbs to passive
9. Beware of false friends, jargon and abbreviations
10. Revise and check
The guide is available in all 23 official languages of the European Union.
You can find the online version here (choose the preferred language)
According to an article by Tanya Prive published on Forbes, 10 are qualities that make a good leader. Once again you can see how being a leader is not just a matter of competence, but also – and particularly – a matter of confidence and soft skills.
- Ability to Delegate
- Sense of Humor
- Positive Attitude
- Ability to Inspire
Full Article here
Image source: Flickr – Mojtaba – (CC BY 2.0)
Because it’s there
These are the “three most famous words in mountaineering”, as they have been defined.
In 1923, George Herbert Mallory – an English climber – was traveling through the States to get new sponsors for his third attempt to climb Mount Everest and when he was asked by a journalist “Why climb Mt. Everest?” he promptly replied with these few and iconic words.
Mountaineering can be hardly considered just a sport: it is indeed a cultural activity, that implies huge philosophical and ethical questions. On the philosophy and ethics of mountaineering a lot of literature has been produced, in many languages. The core question is always: “why?” and to this question a number of different answers have been given. No one is satisfactory by itself.
People climb mountains to challenge (the others, their own limits, the natural hurdles), to improve (physically or mentally), to leave for a while our chaotic towns, our crowded lives, our angst-filled works, etc.
In any case, there is an inevitable dimension in mountaineering: you must take your backpack, wear your boots and go gasping on a path or on a wall. Mountaineering requires efforts. To what end? To go somewhere.
That’s what mountaineering is: exploration. It is just a founding pillar of human behaviour: curiosity. Anyone can, climbing mountains, go beyond their personal “pillars of Hercules”.
Curiosity and exploration often challenge the rational behaviour, but they are a powerful engine for human development.
So, do follow your curiosity, your willingness to explore a new space. And if anyone would question you “why?”, don’t worry, you already have the answer: “because it is there”.
Some elements against the misleading idea that to be a good diplomat you should just be “cocktail-oriented”. An article by Stephen M. Walt explains how the professional background of the future Ambassadors needs to be.
- History. Trying to understand international affairs without knowing history is like trying to cook without knowing the difference between flour and flounder.
- Statistics. Most high schoolers have to learn a certain amount of math, but unless you’re going into a technical field, a lot of it won’t be directly relevant to a career in international affairs.
- Foreign Language. Diplomacy is all about communication, after all.
- Economics. Economists aren’t the wizards they think they are (see under: 1929, 2007-08), but you can’t understand world affairs these days if you don’t have a basic grasp of the key principles of international trade and finance and some idea how the world economy actually works.
- International law. It could seem a pretty weak instrument, especially when dealing with great powers. Nonetheless, states and other international actors use international law all of the time, and they certainly invoke it to try advance their own particular interests.
- Geography. We often hear that we live in “one world,” but it’s divided up into lots of regions, countries, areas, and physical configurations, and these variations matter a lot.
- Get some culture. Education in international affairs tends toward the technocratic, as the previous items on this list suggest. But some appreciation for art and culture is essential.
- Learn to communicate. It doesn’t matter what path you end up taking in life, being able to write clearly, quickly, and without enormous effort is a huge advantage.
- What about science? Most of us had to take a lot of science in high school, and some of us continued to do so in college. Although in-depth knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, etc., is not directly relevant to many aspects of international affairs, it is powerfully linked to a host of important political phenomena.
- Find your ethical foundation. Don’t expect your college to teach you what is right or moral. Nonetheless, if you haven’t figured these things out for yourself yet, college is a good time to get cracking on it.
In this video Dr. Barbara Oakley interviews Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, a leading
figure in the field of neuroscience. Dr Sinowski answers a few questions about how he learns and how he thinks about learning. His experience and studies help to get a better sense of how to improve our own learning.
The interview has been realized for the course: “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” available on Coursera.
That was the response John, a VP in the high tech industry, gave us when we asked him this question. And from what we could see, he was right. He was overworked and exhausted—because he was doing all the work for his employees! Given the constant deadlines he faced, he still believed this approach was easier than taking the time to coach his direct reports toward better performance.
This is a common problem we coaches face when working with well-meaning managers. They know they can’t keep operating this way, but they can never seem to find the right moment to slow down and put a new plan in place.
For John, it wasn’t until we had him track how much time out of one week…
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