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Meet Monique Russell of Clear Communication Solutions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Monique Russell.

Monique, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My journey is filled with twists, turns, experiments and lots of curiosity! I left the beautiful islands of The Bahamas and set out to be an international broadcast journalist in the cold Midwest of Minnesota. My goal was to be on T.V. covering stories, exposing issues and empowering the masses. Life didn’t follow the plan I set out for myself. After completing my undergraduate and graduate degrees programs in different aspects of Mass Communications, it was extremely hard to break into my industry and I must have applied to over 100 jobs.

I had children, got married and soon after I started working in Executive Support. I learned so much supporting leaders and having an insider peek at the challenges, and successes of those that gained respect. I didn’t know then that all these experiences would be tied to the work I do today. During these years, I recognized the need for employee engagement strategies and training. I had an idea to start a business offering communications workshops and that was it. The idea didn’t go very far. I created outlines and binders. I was still trying to figure out how to land my chartered dream career because I wasn’t where I wanted to be.

I relocated to Atlanta, connected with a few women’s groups such as WATTS (Women Aspiring Together to Succeed) and began heavily investing in myself and immersing myself in things I loved like volunteering to help non-profit groups with communications, supporting youth and community programs like Junior Achievement, Operation Lifesaver, church and school groups. I attended conferences, gained new certifications, and employed coaches. I had transformative experiences doing this over the years, and regained the confidence that I lost and got clear on how to best support the world with my gifts and strengths in Communications.

Has it been a smooth road?
Not at all. Remember, my path as an entrepreneur was very non-traditional. I didn’t wake up one day and say I am going to start a business, and it is certainly not what I studied. I also didn’t study education, but I educate every day. I am academically trained as a Communications Specialist and I had the idea that I would be employed as such.

So the first set of struggles was primarily intrapersonal, starting with clarity and of knowing what to do when things didn’t work out as planned. The second set of struggles was confidence-related. After some time, even the most enthusiastic and skilled people can lose confidence, even in their natural abilities. That happened to me.

I had tried several roles and projects all within the communications space such as teaching, marketing, editing, instructional design and needed to zero in on one thing. It is only through reflection that I realized how these experiences have provided me with an unparalleled strategic perspective from many angles.

From a business standpoint, the intrapersonal struggles are critical. If you don’t know who you are, and you don’t have clarity and confidence in yourself and your abilities, it impacts the business. This is why I have compassion for leaders who face these challenges because I know what that feels like and I am grateful when I get the chance to help another leader gain clarity.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Clear Communication Solutions story. Tell us more about the business.
I help leaders, particularly women leaders how to go from good to great as confident communicators. I teach effective intra and interpersonal communications and leadership strategies that enhance the quality of their personal and professional relationships. This is done through high-quality executive communications coaching.

I also provide training workshops and keynote speeches for organizations who want to empower their employees with effective communications tools and strategies. I’ve been asked to develop solutions for wider audiences, so I’ll be releasing online learning solutions for leaders and teams soon.

If there were two words I would pull from what colleagues, clients and acquaintances often tell me, I would say positive and authentic. I am known for creating positive and authentic environments of trust. I am proud of the success my clients’ achieve, and as a company, I am proud of supporting education initiatives in the Caribbean around anti-bullying and normalizing difficult conversations. These initiatives involved a three-prong approach of awareness for parents, children and administrative staff.

The communications solutions I provide and design go beyond tactical steps and surface level communications. They fully exploit the multi-dimensional approaches of my personal and professional experiences as a trainer, professional speaker, coach, coachee, student, university instructor, instructional designer, journalist, marketer, public relations specialist, conference attendee, conference host and entrepreneur with insight into corporate, government and academic industries.

In the past, this level of depth and expansion of perspective may have hindered me as a business owner; however, at the rapid pace of change where we currently are, the very thing that could have been a hindrance years ago, is now a very strong competitive advantage.

The Leaders of today and tomorrow don’t have the luxury of having tunnel vision if they are to remain relevant and competitive in the future.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I see an industry where communications skills training and coaching will be a standard part of the benefits package for employees. The stigma of having a coach at work is dissipating and is shifting to become a symbol of growth and achievement. Work rules are changing.

Daniel Goleman, author of Working With Emotional Intelligence mentioned a new yardstick of measurement, where we are now being judged not just by how smart we are, or by training and expertise, but well we handle ourselves and others. Because of this, those who will be hired, let go, passed over or promoted will depend heavily on the ability to effectively communicate.

Also, many authoritative and research bodies like the World Economic Forum have already predicted the skills needed to thrive in the next 2 to 10 years, and more than half of those skills center around communications, emotional intelligence, and resilience.

Academic institutions are preparing curriculums to better prepare graduates for a workforce that requires effective inter and intrapersonal skills. This goes beyond your Public Speaking 101 class.

I work with clients primarily outside of their work environment and they report to me that they feel safe doing so. I see a trend in the next 10 years where more employees will take their professional development in their own hands, rather than wait for their employer to develop them.

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