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Allen Johnson

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Allen Johnson Biography

Allen Johnson has more than 25 years of experience in professional speaking, education, training, facilitating, and organizational consulting. He is currently president of Johnson Dynamics, a firm specializing in human and organization development. He was the principal organizational and leadership development consultant for ICF Kaiser Engineers, a 3,500-employee construction and engineering company.

He has also been responsible for the design and implementation of leadership, management, and employee assistance programs. Allen has served as an internal and external consultant, facilitating sessions in continuous improvement, team building, strategic planning, and problem solving. He mentors executives in all matters pertaining to human and group dynamics in the workplace.

As a nationally acclaimed keynote speaker, Allen blends inspiration, insight, and humor to produce programs that are dynamic and on target. He has been the choice of hundreds of organizations for straight-ahead training. A master trainer, he knows what it takes to convert theory into real-life application and constantly changes the tempo of the learning process-motivating, teaching, coaching, evaluating-to make each lesson fully experiential and participant-based.

In addition to numerous professional articles, Allen has written the popular book, This Side of Crazy. He is also a regular columnist for Listen Magazine, a journal dedicated to helping young people select positive lifestyle alternatives.

Allen has worked with more than 200 clients, including: Battelle, Corning Life Sciences, the Department of Energy, Warner-Lambert Company, Westinghouse, Rockwell International, Tele-Communications International, Quaker State, and the United States Army.

Allen earned a bachelor's degree in language literature, a master's degree in speech, and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. An avid athlete, Allen enjoys tropical scuba diving, glacier mountain climbing, and cycling. He also participates in community theater.

Speech Topics

The 12 Secrets to Understanding the French

  1. It ain’t personal. Many Americans think that the French are cold. Other descriptors are even less flattering: snobbish, arrogant, and haughty. Those critics miss the point. The French are not cold; they are private and reserved. The French will seldom ask if they may help a foreigner who is obviously lost in a strange city (for that you will have to go to Germany). But if you ask for help, they are more than pleased to set you on the right path. 2. The French like to be wooed. Connected to the first secret, the French enjoy being sought out—it’s easier for them. They love to be invited out for the evening—for a movie, for dinner, for a concert. They like to feel that they are special and worthy of the pursuit. In this quality, they are not unlike Americans. 3. Fashion is fundamental. The French are very stylish and often sensual. A French woman knows how to make herself attractive with minimal accessories. For example, they can do wondrous things with a scarf or the basic black dress, the latter of which is a staple in every French woman’s wardrobe. Sometimes their style feels a little peculiar—like wearing blue jeans under a dress—but if you observe carefully, you’ll realize they have thought it out. Besides, they walk down the street with such authority, such confidence, they invariably pull it off. 4. Driving is a competition. The French don’t drive; they lift off. For the French, particularly the French of the Midi (Southern France), driving is an aggressive sport—a competition—and, for many, an expression of macho bravado. They are notorious for speeding—whizzing through traffic circles like an annoying obstacle in a formula 1 speedway. If you are going to live in France you simply have to get used to the idea that someone—probably in the next 10 seconds—is going to tailgate you. Live with it; it’s part of their Latin heritage. 5. To live happy, live hidden. That is a French expression, and the French believe it. Their homes are walled, gated, and locked, their shutters fastened as soon as (or before) the sun sets. What is their concern? They say two things: (a) They don’t want others to see what they have (particularly the tax man), and (b) they want to protect themselves from thieves. This sentiment goes back a long way. In the middle ages, castles were built for defense. As such, all the windows were small—very small—just large enough to let fly an arrow at the approaching enemy. When windows became larger—to let in more sun, for the old fortresses were dreary places—iron bars were added to cover the opening. Those iron bars are still in use today; some things just don’t change. 6. Anonymity is a personal right. The French avoid introducing themselves to others. I have bought a car, rented an apartment, and purchased insurance, and never has a sales person volunteered his or her name. Part of this tendency has to do with the French distaste for being held responsible. If you, as a client, have a problem with a product, you go to the organization, not the individual. Of course, the French sales person relishes that anonymity. 7. The glass is half empty. The French tend to be a bit pessimistic by nature. I think the characteristic has been influenced by their education system. Children are scored on a scale of 1-20, and only God (and maybe the professor) gets a 20. When students receive a high score—say an 18 or 19—they are congratulated (if at all) with a “not bad.” Even the way the French say “You’re welcome” is couched in negativism: “It’s nothing.” For whatever the reason, the French tend to be stingy on praise, and when they do receive praise (for their work is often impressive), they feel uncomfortable about accepting the tribute. More likely than not, they are liable to dismiss the praise with “Oh, it was nothing really.” 8. The customer is . . . on his own. The French have a curious notion of customer service: it doesn’t exist. That’s a little exaggerated, but not by much. For the French, a customer is seldom right and certainly never king. There are a few exceptions. The people at the national telephone company, France Telecom, have been well trained. But most have no idea of what it means to make the customer happy. Why? They have rarely been the recipient of excellent customer service; how can they model what they have never seen? 9. Line of command is everything. For the French, respecting the management hierarchy within a company is key. When the boss is in the room, the boss talks and the employees listen. There is no royalty in France any longer, but there are senior managers. As an American, I have asked to see the patron (boss) on a number of issues. My requests resulted in one of two responses: (a) A flat refusal (one woman at a welcome desk actually laughed at me when I asked to speak to the boss. “Oh, no,” she said. “Not for a question like that.”) or (b) the sales person will become more attentive to the customer (fear is alive and well in French enterprises). 10. Politeness still counts. The French are sticklers for politeness. Although this custom is beginning to disappear among French youth (who are taking on a more relaxed—some would say “rude”—American attitude), it is still very correct to say “Bonjour Madame, Monsieur,” when entering a shop. Not just “Bonjour,” mind you, but “Bonjour Madame/Monsieur.” There is something about a naked “Bonjour” that grates on the ears of traditional French shopkeepers. At the end of a transaction, saying “Goodbye, have a nice day” (Au revoir, bonne journée) is always appropriate and, more, expected. 11. Eating (and drinking) is not a task. Eating and drinking for the French is an exquisite pleasure. On the average the French spend 2 hours, 15 minutes at the table each day. For myself, I have never spent less than 3 hours at the table (it is usually more like 4 hours) when invited for dinner at the home of a French friend. Meals are savored for the food and the fine wine, yes, but also for the fellowship: conversation about people, experiences, current events, all seasoned with generous doses of humor—often below the belt, as the French say. As for the wine, I have heard Frenchmen rhapsodize about the virtues of wine: “It is not a drink, it is a way of life,” one French friend told me. 12. Vive ma liberté. More than all other secrets, this is the most important in understanding the French. The French are vigilant and tenacious guardians of their personal liberty. The problem is, by their own admission, their passion for personal freedom often violates the freedom of others. To draw from a favorite French expression: All is permitted—even that which is forbidden is permitted. Examples: highway speeding, drunk driving, tax deception, and perhaps the ultimate indulgence, suicide (with rates that are 63% higher than those found in the US). Where does this indulgence come from? The French say it is part of the Latin culture—as old as ancient Rome. Indulgent egotism got a boost in 1968, when the country was almost torn apart by a call from students and factory workers for greater freedom. Unfortunately, the legacy has, all too often, resulted in chaotic classrooms and self-serving, shortsighted factory strikes. (Unions have been instrumental in establishing a 35-hour work week and 25 days of vacation above the US average—handing France an unstable economy and a 13% unemployment rate.)

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

An emotionally charged and audience-interactive approach to presenting the secrets of a private and public victory

All American Speakers Bureau is a full-service talent booking agency providing information on booking Allen Johnson for speaking engagements, personal appearances and corporate events. Contact an All American Speakers Bureau booking agent for more information on Allen Johnson speaking fees, availability, speech topics and cost to hire for your next live or virtual event.

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