Arriving at the Right Type of Language Professional

By Anne Connor

Business people don’t have to communicate with extraterrestrials (yet), but they can still learn a few things from the sci-fi thriller Arrival. The blockbuster film put a language professional in the leading role. Hollywood star Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor asked by U.S. Army Intelligence to help communicate with an alien species that has arrived on earth. However, the film blurred the lines between the three professions of translator, interpreter, and linguist, reinforcing some common misconceptions most business people have.

When you do, it’s helpful to know the difference between the types of professionals involved in the process. Who do you call for a meeting with a new or potential overseas client for your small business or when you need to localize your ecommerce company’s website for foreign markets? Who do you contact when you receive medical records from an employee who required medical attention while on an overseas business trip or a contract from a foreign country?

Put simply:

Translators help you with written material, like contracts, letters, brochures, and websites

  • Before pushing that “Would you like to translate this?” button for the material that your advertising people spend weeks refining, remember that the nuanced language geared at persuading others to buy your products or services is best translated by a human who specializes in your company’s line of business.
  • If you’d like to create a professional-looking brochure or web page in other languages for new target markets, the last thing you should do is trust that task to an automated translation tool instead of its flesh-and-blood counterpart.
  • Should you be in a position to apply for an international patent for your product, you will definitely want a human patent translator specialized in your field to do that work instead of trusting a machine translation into languages unknown to you. Not doing so may lose you the patent if something in the application is mistranslated.

Interpreters help you with spoken language in business, legal and medical settings

  • Say a potential client wants to visit your facilities before deciding to place an order for your products. What a great impression you would make if you hired an interpreter to accompany you both on a guided plant tour so that all questions and answers could be handled in each party’s dominant language, putting everyone at ease. Hiring the same interpreter for a preliminary or follow-up telephone or videoconference meeting would go that extra mile toward sealing the deal and keeping this client’s business for years to come.
  • Well-informed business owners and managers also hire interpreters for employee health and safety training meetings that include limited-English-proficient workers. This helps them meet OSHA compliance requirements and keep their operations running smoothly and without interruption from preventable accidents.
  • Conference interpreters ensure that all attendees at an international business or medical gathering understand the presenters’ messages and are able to ask questions about the presentation’s content.

Linguists analyze language (including structure, history, and more)

  • To decipher an unknown extraterrestrial language, the linguistics professor in Arrival works with the aliens to learn the basic concepts of their language—the individual words and what they mean, building a lexicon as she goes. In the end, she has to use a complex, computer-assisted analysis to break the code and understand how the alien language works. This is neither translation nor interpreting, but linguistics.
  • In the real world, linguists help translators do their jobs by developing and updating the terminology-management software that allows those translators to work more quickly and efficiently, resulting in lower costs for their client and ensuring consistency throughout the entire translated document or website.

One thing that translators, interpreters and linguists all have in common is that they draw upon their extensive experience to solve linguistic “puzzles.” The stakes might not be as high as saving the planet from potential annihilation, but the work of all three professions is vital all the same, helping:

  • businesses communicate beyond borders
  • governments avoid conflict
  • healthcare providers make lifesaving decisions, to mention only the tip of the iceberg.

In order to “arrive” at the right language professional, you have to understand your needs. In the movie, the producers understood they needed a language expert as their protagonist, even if they mixed up the terms for how she went about helping them communicate with the aliens. What they did get right was to demonstrate that language professionals all draw upon:

  • extensive language study
  • expertise in the field
  • research skills
  • their ability to learn and utilize the latest technologies to solve linguistic “puzzles.”

Anne Connor is a professional Spanish and Italian-to-English medical and legal translator and an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit

Seizing Opportunities Builds Confidence

By Jill Johnson

One of the most significant leadership skills you need to develop is your confidence. It is an essential core leadership competency. Confidence allows you to have impact far beyond your title or level within your organization. Building your confidence requires a disciplined focus on seeking and accepting bold opportunities to help you reach for higher rungs of influence and impact. You don’t need to make huge leaps or take big risks, but each small effort or success will build your confidence over time. As your confidence compounds, you will find you can do vastly more than you ever dreamed was possible. There are three keys to build your confidence: practice, preparation and your presentation.

Confidence Is A Skill You Need To Practice: Just as with any new skill, you have to practice it over and over for it to become something you can do with ease. The key is to identify what skill you need to master next. Opportunities to practice new skills are all around you. You should plan to practice your new skills both inside and outside of work.

Find assignments you can take that will get you in front of more people and augment your experience. If someone you respect asks you to do an assignment or join a committee, say “yes” to it. Tell people what you want to work on next. Practice saying things before you ever need to—or feel ready to—say them in front of others. Put yourself forward for consideration whether it is a board appointment or your next job or to receive an award!

Getting the opportunity is one thing—what do you do with it when you get it is even more important. It is the consistency of your efforts on practicing new skills that builds your confidence. This consistency is necessary before you can ever rely on it. You want this new skill to become so natural that you don’t even have to think about it. It just becomes a part of you. When you consistently deliver your best, you will feel like you can handle anything that comes at you.

Don’t expect to be confident in the beginning. Remember that all skills build in small cascades. Often we think we are at a plateau because we are not making larger moves. At that point, you are likely growing in a spiral that is just too subtle for you to see just how far you have really come. You are deepening your abilities with your practice. Others will see your growing confidence too.

Preparation Is Necessary – Do the Hard Work: Most people want to take shortcuts. The more detailed and thorough your preparation, the greater the likelihood you will have success. Preparation is especially essential to having confidence in yourself, especially when you are dealing with power players.

Don’t wing it when you have a big meeting. Take the time to thoughtfully prepare well ahead of time. That will let you practice and adjust. When you do that, you will know your material cold and be able to respond effectively to questions and challenges.

Take calculated risks and do things you don’t expect will give you a big win. What do you have to lose? Just keep trying as each attempt is building your skill and preparing you for the next opportunity. Leverage everything you have in your arsenal to build your confidence and give you a boost to try something bold. Bring all of your skills with you as you move through life!

When you have the chance to make your dream come true, grab it with both hands. Don’t let the golden handcuffs of thinking you should stay where you are hold you back from fully embracing your success. Don’t let your fears psych you out before you even see what you are truly capable of. Tell yourself, “Yes, I can! I will. I am. I’m gonna!”

But remember, not everything you try will work … but that does not mean you should stop your efforts. Build your confidence and your future by laying down a solid foundation of preparation.

Presentation — Let People See You: To ever be noticed, you need to step out in front and allow people to see you. You need to identify, enhance, and believe in your own leadership abilities. If you don’t, why should anyone else? Don’t assume that people will recognize and reward your talents.

Your posture and facial expressions play an important role in becoming more confident. You need to look, act and speak with confidence and clarity. People who project confident body language are listened to more carefully. Standing tall or sitting up straight when you speak helps convey an air of confidence too.

Make sure you control your emotions rather than let your emotions control you. Giving an over the top or hysterical comment is going to minimize the confidence people have in you. Be measured and mindful of how you are appearing to others.

The gap between our dreams and believing we can achieve them is confidence. We all become stuck at various times in our lives. We all have self-doubts. Self-doubt is poison to confidence.

Your confidence will fluctuate. Sometimes you will feel like you can conquer anything and other times you will feel like you should have just stayed in bed. When this happens, there is something going on deep within you. That is the time to step back and reflect, to reach out to confide in a trusted confidant, or just allow yourself to embrace the stillness of a momentary plateau.

Final Thoughts: Confidence is something you work on your whole life. So continue to try new things! Stay resilient, even when you think you cannot. Remember the compounded impact of taking small bold actions that don’t take a lot of time can morph into amazing opportunities with the potential to transform your future. Don’t waste any more time. Take control of your destiny! Think big and be bold!

Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting services, a highly-accomplished speaker, and an award-winning management consultant. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has affected nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven record of accomplishment of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill Johnson, please visit

Practice Makes Perfect? Busting the Myth

By Elizabeth McCormick

Elizabeth McCormickSometimes, there’s nothing worse than having it all figured out. You’re doing it day in and day out, and have been doing it for so long now that it’s second nature. You don’t even have to think about the mechanics of it. You know the phrases. “I can do this in my sleep,” “with one arm tied behind my back,” “flying on autopilot.”

But what if there is a better way?

They say that practice makes perfect. That is a myth and all kinds of wrong. What practice makes is permanent. What you do, day in and out, defines who you are and determines your results. There are reasons why you want to feel competent at what you do, reasons why you want and need activities you can do on autopilot.

These are the things that, through daily repetition, people practice. But, in fact, the act of doing something over and over doesn’t ultimately move anyone toward perfection. It leads into a point of permanence, where you do what you do the same way, every day. If it’s not being done perfectly from the outset, it’s not approaching perfection. Be wary not to habitualize the mundane.

Do You Have All the Information? You will encounter those who, good intentioned or not, stand in your way. They may block, misdirect, or withhold key information. Without this, of course, you can’t perform at an optimal level. You may not even know what that level is, or through omission, know how to arrive at the destination.

It could be something as simple as a single instruction, or it could come through a fundamental lack of understanding. This is where you need to trust your gut. When you know the outcome isn’t what it could be, don’t be content to meet that outcome. Ask questions. In particular, ask why. Why is it done this way? Why are you not addressing that process or concern?

One of the drawbacks of experience is that those second-nature elements lose their resolution and the details fall through the cracks. It may simply be an overlooked key point that you are no longer consciously thinking about. When something doesn’t make sense, it’s probably because that linking element is missing. Recognize your doubt as a sign of an incomplete picture and chase down the piece you’re missing. Get it right before making it permanent.

The Comfort of Learned Knowledge: There’s a reason people fall on the familiar, that they practice what they always practice. It’s comfortable. It’s meant to be comfortable. It starts in the physiology of their brains. Those things you know, that you’ve been doing for a long time, exist in your brain as established neural pathways. When you perform familiar tasks, these pathways kick in and take over.

By contrast, learning new skills happens elsewhere in the brain, in the same part where emotions live, where the fight or flight response originates. New situations are stressful. It’s what puts your brain up at the top of the consciousness chain. Faced with new stimuli, you process, analyze, deduce and ultimately solve or contain the problem you are facing. As the process progresses, that knowledge becomes hard wired. You practice your responses and make them permanent.

Consider a toddler experiencing a candle for the first time. The dancing flame delights them. Their learning skills are based around senses. They see the flame and instinctively they want to touch, taste, smell, and hear the flame. So, they reach for it.

You know what’s going to happen, right? Of course, you do. You’ve built those neural paths and you’re quite comfortable with keeping your hands a certain distance from flame. The toddler, however, is amassing knowledge and has not yet connected the flame with pain and danger. Burned once though, and that information is hardwired immediately, amidst significant turmoil and trauma, depending on how badly they were burned. Thereafter, the toddler retreats to the comfort and safety of avoiding flames.

Increased Comfort and the Learning Process: You can’t move close to a seemingly hopeless deadline without distress. People practice their emotional states too, whether they go deliberately or not, working towards its permanence. This is why you feel uneasy about a forthcoming exam in school, no matter how well you know the material. Talk around the cafeteria creates the impression that exam time is high-stress, and when students commiserate, they reinforce their own distress.

Yet, once you’re familiar and comfortable with information or methodology, it’s increasingly difficult to feel that distress without something triggering the emotional state. Learned responses are stored in a different part of the brain. As you process new information, it’s tied physically to an emotional response. After learning, it’s hard wired away from emotions.

That’s where the cool, calm “do it in your sleep” feeling comes from. You’re supposed to be more comfortable with familiar tasks. As you know, comfort is good, but it’s also complacent and often unexamined. It’s practice making permanent in a literal sense. Your brain hardwires your response.

The Illusion of Perfection: If you’re not obtaining perfect goals, that doesn’t mean that everything you’re doing is wrong. It may mean you’re missing a key piece of information as you saw above. There may be something off in your process or timing, but it’s very unlikely you’re a complete failure at what you’re doing.

When you feel that unease, that discomfort from not achieving your vision of success, your brain is actively seeking new information, solutions to the disparity between reality and vision. It’s a normal part of who you are.

You decide what you do with that feeling. You can ignore it. Perhaps you bake cookies or binge watch five seasons of Game of Thrones or apply yourself to other parts of jobs or duties that don’t cause distress. Or you face the unease, looking for the piece of the puzzle that unifies where you are with where you want to be.

You learn through repetition. Some people need to do something 100 times before they construct the synapses necessary to move knowledge and skill to that comfortable part of their brains. Some, hateful though they may be, need only five repetitions. Many need 5,000 repetitions, most of the time, at least for the things that matter, the things that don’t come so easy, yet be desired so much.

Sometimes that’s how close success really is. You may be just one piece of information or one more moment of perseverance away.

Elizabeth McCormick is a keynote speaker, author, and authority on Leadership. A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, she is the best-selling author of her personal development book The P.I.L.O.T. Method: the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life. Elizabeth teaches real life, easy to apply strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in the vision of your organization and their own leadership abilities. For more information, please visit

6 Signs You’re Not Assertive Enough & 4 Ways to Fix It

By Jill Johnson

Those who achieve success make things happen and have developed the ability to be assertive. If your secret desire is a promotion or more money, being assertive can be the key to making your dream a reality.

Not being assertive can doom you to continually being passed over. Wishing for recognition is no longer enough, you have to take real action to be noticed. There are six major signs that can confirm if you need an assertiveness fix.

Six Signs You Need an Assertiveness Fix:

  1. Do you struggle to get your point across or constantly have to explain yourself? If people take away the wrong message from your verbal communication, then you are not being clear. You are presenting your ideas in a disjointed manner and a jumble of meaningless words. People tune you out and only hear part of what you say. You are talking out loud trying to figure out what your point actually is. You assert yourself on the wrong points and exhaust your listeners as they wait for you to get to a point that matters.
  2. Do co-workers interrupt you in mid-sentence or talk right over you? Constantly being interrupted indicates people do not respect you. Worse yet, the ideas you are presenting might actually be poor ones, demonstrating you really do not understand the crucial issues needing resolution. Co-workers may be so frustrated with your lack of insight that they interrupt you in order to keep the focus on the critical issues and keep the discussion moving constructively forward.
  3. Do people take advantage of you for saying “yes” to everything? It is one thing to accept new assignments because of an opportunity to learn new skills. It is a whole other thing to give up your nights and weekends because you cannot say no. By trying to please everyone, you make it easy for others to take advantage of you.
  4. Do your peers or upper management say you are too quiet? A comment like this is a neon sign demanding that you start speaking up. When they finally tell you this, you are already identified as not being a power-player. If you do not comment on the critical issues, they will wonder what value you really do have. Hanging back and hoping someone will notice the good job you do just ensures you will be overlooked.
  5. Do your subordinates ignore your lead? If you are leading and no one is following you, it will be impossible to get strong efforts or results out of your staff. Morale will be low and team performance will suffer because you are not really leading a team. Productivity will stall and you will be at risk for receiving a low performance review because you are not managing your people effectively.
  6. Do you feel angry about the direction a situation went because you could not influence the outcome? Are you really upset because you did not get your way? Or are you frustrated because your emotions are focused on things you cannot control, rather than the things you can? Non-assertive people waste their emotional energy complaining and feeling helpless. They grumble about a situation to everyone except the people who can resolve it.

Four Ways to Boost Your Assertiveness: If you are not achieving the success you desire, it is time to take a step back and assess whether you are assertive enough. When your desires include promotions or more money, being assertive can make those dreams a reality. You can implement four key actions to immediately boost your assertiveness and take control of your destiny.

  1. Watch your body language: Body language dominates the spoken word and can help you express yourself in a more assertive manner. Your posture and facial expressions play an important role in becoming more assertive. You need to make and maintain eye contact rather than looking away when you talk. Standing tall or sitting up straight when you speak conveys an air of confidence. People who project confident body language are listened to more carefully.
  2. Speak up: Do not just wish for things to happen. Ask for what you want. Tell people what you are interested in. Send emails to more than one person in your group or copy your boss on key items to ensure others cannot take credit for your ideas. Communicate in person if the matter is important or controversial. Focus your energy on bringing forward good ideas rather than complaining about decisions that have already been made.
  3. Be prepared: Do your homework before you go into a meeting. The discipline of preparing ahead of time will make you more confident because your thoughts, opinions, and ideas will be organized. Making an outline and rehearsing will help you get to the point more powerfully in the meeting. Be sure you have all the data and information you need to support your opinions so you will respond better to people who dismiss your ideas or challenge them. People will be less likely to interrupt if you are in the middle of making a valuable comment.
  4. Practice: Assertiveness is a skill like any other—you have to practice it repeatedly before it becomes something you can do with ease. Volunteer for assignments so you can get in front of more people to augment your experience. Practice being assertive inside and outside of work. As you gain confidence and learn to express yourself more clearly, you will be more comfortable speaking up when it really counts and your ideas will likely be more accepted.

Final Thoughts: If you want your voice to be heard and your opinions to matter, you need to do everything possible to implement these practical strategies so you stop fading into the background. Taking responsibility for your future can provide you with a real shot at meaningful career success.

Don’t waste any more time. Step out of the crowd! What is the first step you will implement to be more assertive?

Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting services, a highly accomplished speaker, and an award-winning management consultant. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has influenced nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven record of accomplishment of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill Johnson, please visit

New Rules Will Increase Tax Burden on Inherited Retirement Plans

By James Lange

James LangeSally, a successful small business owner, knows how to stretch a dollar. Her clients and four employees value her financial acumen, and she brings the same keen discretion to her personal finances. Thirty years ago, Sally inherited what was left in her father’s IRA and by limiting her withdrawals to the minimum required distributions (MRD) she has been “stretching” his legacy ever since—it’s nice to have a cushion for unexpected expenses. She wants to give her son, a budding entrepreneur, the same advantages, but Congress is threatening to curtail the stretch to five years—a move that will deliver a massive tax blow to inherited IRA owners, and a tax bonanza for the government.

How would you protect your legacy? First, the basic tax rules pertaining to retirement plans and IRAs:

  • You are not required to pay taxes on the earnings until you withdraw money from the account. The ability to defer taxes is a powerful wealth-building tool.
  • At age 70 ½, you must begin taking MRDs and pay taxes on the amount that you withdraw. If you leave your IRA directly to your spouse, he/she can continue to defer income taxes as well.
  • A non-spouse beneficiary must pay taxes on distributions, but by taking only minimum required distributions your heirs can stretch your IRA for a long time—the difference could mean hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars to them over the course of their lifetimes.

Unfortunately, since 2012, Congress has attempted to pass legislation that changes the IRA distribution rules. And when they succeed in getting their way, your children and grandchildren will pay the price. The good news is that there are work-arounds for the strict rules that will go into effect once the legislation does pass.

  • Consider Roth IRA conversions and avoid massive and accelerated taxation on inherited IRAs by reducing the amount of assets held in traditional IRAs altogether. Roth IRAs grow and are distributed tax-free. Parents who convert their IRAs into Roth IRAs limit the amount of taxable funds that are passed on to their children. A child who inherits a $1 million Roth will still have to take MRDs and if the law passes, liquidate the Roth within five years of the death of their parent. However, the taxes are already paid on the Roth, so there will be no income tax bill to contend with.
  • You can set up a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (or CRUT) and name it as the beneficiary (if you are single) or contingent beneficiary (if you are married) of your IRA. When you die, all of the money goes in to the trust, and is not taxed until it is withdrawn. You can designate an income beneficiary, generally your child or children, who would get an income of at least five percent from the trust for the rest their lives. The distributions are taxable, but will be spread out over a greater length of time than five years. Depending on your child’s tax bracket, the distributions are often taxed at a lower rate than if the entire IRA had to be taxed over five years. When your child dies, or the trust is terminated, the remaining assets are distributed to charity. There are no taxes on your IRA at the time of your death, because the ultimate beneficiary is a charity. And your estate can take a tax deduction in the year that your IRA is transferred to the trust! In many scenarios, if the child lives beyond age 72, he will be better off than if you had left him the money outright. One caveat, this strategy should not be implemented until the new law passes.
  • A Survivorship life insurance policy is another way to make up for the accelerated taxation on the IRA. This type of policy is taken out on two people (usually a married couple) and provides benefits to their heirs after the second spouse dies. In many instances, it makes sense to pay for the insurance by withdrawing money from the IRA. This decreases its value, which reduces both estate and income tax liabilities. And the death benefit of the life insurance is paid to your beneficiaries tax-free! This strategy works well even if the proposed law doesn’t pass and can be worth millions of extra dollars to the children if the proposed law does pass.

For many people, their IRAs or retirement assets make up the bulk of their wealth. It really doesn’t seem fair to force accelerated tax payments on your heirs, and significantly reduce the size of their inheritance over the long term. But if you are not paying attention, your heirs could end up paying taxes early. Life insurance, Roth IRAs, and CRUTS, or preferably some combination of them, can significantly add to your legacy. Take a lesson from Sally and consult with your financial advisor to review your options and take steps to protect the next generation.

James Lange is a CPA/Attorney whose specialty is Estate Planning for clients with significant IRAs and retirement plans. He is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! and recently published The Little Black Book of Social Security Secrets. You can sign up for Jim’s books for free at: