Tag Archives: Leadership

We have become accustomed to drama everywhere and we are used to arguing in meetings for the sake of positioning ourselves. Sometimes you just want to win over the other person’s view. It’s about who knows (insert random topic here) better than the other. On the surface. What is this really about though?
Have you ever considered that you jump into an argument easily not because you want to move forward the team and “think further and outside the box” but just because you like power? Have you considered that you are worried about losing power when you treat your team members with respect and listen to them instead of thinking that you know best of all?
I revisited the “Seven Habits of highly effective People” by Stephen Covey through this video recently. I was lucky to “win” access to one of Stephen’s talks around 13 years ago in Frankfurt. I was very impressed with him especially when he made a the full concert hall of around 5000 managers stand up, close their eyes, turn around several times and then point towards “North”. There were around 35 different options to show North.
Global Mai 13 _061
I really liked to see that one of his principles was to think “win-win” and while this often sounds a bit cliché nowadays it is still the best tactic ever.
When drama is missing from our lives this could be a sign that we have made significant progress in our inner development. Maybe we have grown up and started to take responsibility for our actions.
This is the balance we need in order to lead ourselves. If we cannot lead ourselves yet it is hard to lead others. I admire leaders who are calm and chose their actions and words deliberately.
In the corporate world I’ve seen a lot of the opposite. Department meetings often are kindergarden. After a while you can foresee the games colleagues play with each other. You can see the subtle and overt aggression they would show in their argumentation.
Many times you can see if you listen to the tone of voice rather than content that most discussions in meetings are either about ego or about relationship between two members of the group. I often hear “We argue for the sake of the company, vision or cause.” I am not sure this is true.
When you have clear roles and responsibilities, a team of grown-ups and a good leader, team members usually discuss how they can support each other get the job done. This takes trust and in my experience at least two years of relationship work.
In task-oriented cultures such as Switzerland, the relationship work is often neglected in the name of “efficiency”. It would be better to kill the term “efficiency” from your vocabulary if you work across cultures and with people with a diverse set of cultural and personal backgrounds.
If you want to become effective as a team you need to invest in the relationship level of the team members. You need to create the framework for a supportive atmosphere in which every team members feels valued and can share her view in a way that is appropriate to them.
You probably now wonder “Ok, I know that but it easier said than done.” and as so often you are hoping for the quick fix, the recipe or the shortcut to global virtual team productivity. May I take your delusions from you?
There are no shortcuts in life. Someone will always suffer if you try the quick fixes, the formula or the recipes that might work for others. You will first of all need to work on yourself. Once you are ready to be a “rounded” leader who can set aside ego and nurture a team then you can read the five tough steps to start working together.

1) Confront your fears and find a place of self-awareness within you

That is the hardest part of self-development. Often our ego is strong and demands that we nurture it daily. It is like the flesh-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors”. The ego needs fodder. We have built ways of showing to ourselves that we are worthy. It could be the new certificate that you have to attain, the endorsements on LinkedIn or the positive feedback you expect in your performance reviews and your 360-evaluation. You behavior is driven by optimizing your evaluation, turnover and other KPIs. How will you learn to be self-sufficient without depending on numbers that prove you are a superhero?

2) Identify the formal roles and responsibilities of your team members

While every team needs formal roles and responsibilities most conflicts occur at the handover points. In a fully functioning and high performing team everyone also supports the other team member when they sense that the other team member is overloaded or when they feel that they have capacity. The more dispersed and virtual the team works, the harder it is to see how much capacity everyone has. It is your job as the leader to identify the gaps and to build a feedback loop where team members can openly communicate when they feel overloaded or when they do not have enough challenging work. You probably understand that every team member needs a healthy mix of challenges and routine tasks in order to be satisfied at work.

3) Unmask the informal roles of your team members

In your team you will find informal roles too. In a flatter hierarchy you might have an opinion leader who does not necessarily agree with you. You might find this team member challenging but this team member could be your greatest ally and supporter if you understood how this person needs to be led or managed. Maybe they need more encouragement, maybe they need more informal exchanges of ideas or maybe they need more structure and deadlines. You need to learn to read your team members and the informal roles they play and then adapt your management style accordingly.

4) Find out the areas of support for the team members

In my management and coaching experience I learnt that every member of a team has needs. It sometimes took me up to two years to drive a team to high performance and great collaboration. When you understand the gaps and learning steps the team member has to go through to get to the next level you will also understand how you can lead this person to success. Instead of asking them to work on projects that are way out of their capabilities you can give them small success experiences so they can grow in small steps and keep their self-confidence in tact. I have seen many good team members in other teams who were crushed and did not believe in their competencies anymore because their manager was incompetent or over confident.

5) Ensure every team member has a voice

In any intercultural team but also monocultural team you will have more introverted team members. They will not always speak up in meetings and voice their opinions. Others might just feel it is not worth to discuss further and shut up. You can use various tools and methods to give your quieter team members a voice. It also helps if you ask a neutral facilitator to support your annual kick-off meetings or other team building exercises. You might not see yourself how you hinder certain team members from voicing their opinion. Be aware of your assumptions too. When a team member is very engaged but not necessarily of the same view as you are it could be a good point to consider.
These are five tough ways to improve your collaboration in global virtual teams. In my experience this process is easier when you have a facilitator on your side. Let me know if you have any questions.

by Caitlin Krause

There’s no doubt about it: summer is an idyllic, popular time for vacations, with August being the hallmark month to flock to lakes and mountains for a bit of time away from the often-demanding nature of work. The sunshine, the joy, the freedom— it’s all wrapped up in my notions of summertime. Recently, I began to think even more deeply about what summer vacation truly symbolizes, so that I could try to capture a bit of that feeling, translating it into my daily life, so that I experience the same summer bliss year-round. Daunting, but do-able!

Why is summer vacation so liberating? Just the word itself, Sommer, or Summer, connotes a carefree, open state. The term stems from a root “sam”, which has been connected to the Proto-Indo-European “sem”, meaning “together/one”. The word Vacation comes from the Latin vacare, “to be free, empty, and at leisure”. This makes sense to me, an avid fan of summer days spent at ease, experiencing each moment as it comes.

On vacation, whether in summertime or other, we feel at one with ourselves; so free that possibilities seem to spread out before us. The idea of linking emptiness, freedom and summertime has logic: in terms of the farming schedule, summer falls between the sowing of seeds and the harvest; it’s a “free” time when the days are filled with sunlight, time outdoors, socializing, and carefree activities.

We might wish for an extended vacation, with open days that make us feel relaxed and renewed, physically and emotionally. Yet, the inevitable passage of time reminds us of the necessary return to rigors and obligations, which could be oppressive. While the laws of the seasons might make it necessary to leave some of the hallmarks of summer behind (at least for another nine months), the following are ways to adopt the trademark mindful freedom of vacation-mode, each and every day— even on workdays!

1) Get Outside, Preferably in the Morning

Vacations contribute to happiness, in part, because they involve movement and freedom in the magnificent outdoors. We’re outside, hiking, biking, swimming and frolicking, connecting with natural elements and getting a good deal of exercise. We breathe fresh air, feel sunlight on our skin, stretch our bodies, and it’s a definite lift.

When we exercise, our bodies release amazing mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins, neurotransmitters which increase our feelings of wellness and happiness. In addition, medical research is only just at the point of discovering new “exercise hormones”, such as the much-celebrated irisin. Its existence verified by Harvard scientists in August 2015, irisin is found in increased amounts in the bloodstream of exercisers. Named after the goddess Iris, it has been linked to increased metabolism and brain functioning, activating genes responsible for memory and learning.

I find all of this amazing and exciting— clearly, I feel better when I invite motion into my day; now, scientific evidence proves it.

Research and data aside, exercising— especially, in a natural environment— simply feels good, which is likely the reason that it’s part of nearly every one of my vacations. Why not start every day like this, getting outside for a daily dose of nature? It will also remind us that there are equally wonderful parts about fall weather to enjoy: the ripening of vegetables at harvest-time, the rich scent of the earth, piles of crisp leaves, and sunlight filtering through fall foliage. Just the thought of it fills me with anticipation.

If our days are busy, we can talk a brisk walk as a quick work break. We can bike or walk as part of our commute. In any case, prioritizing exercise and nature as part of the routine makes it something that will fit into our busy daytime schedules— and, it puts us in better moods to greet our days!

2) Nurture Sleep Needs

Sleep is one of the primary needs that is easy to overlook when life becomes demanding. I’m quick to forget how foundational it is; sleep deficits wreak havoc on the body in elemental ways… Studies show we need more than just a certain number of hours of sleep, but a certain quality, as well.

All I know is, when I’m on vacation, I usually sleep extremely well. I sometimes have vivid, colorful dreams, remembering parts that even might work their way into creative innovations. I tend to wake feeling alert, rested and happy. It’s a trend that makes sense: it’s common, to get better sleep during periods of freedom from stress. Perhaps we sleep better on vacation because our body’s clock has the ability to regulate itself without alarms, and we might simply give ourselves more time for sleep, combined with the relaxed mood of vacation.

It’s recommended by most medical organizations and sleep foundations that we get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, yet we often compromise this when we’re not on vacation. We might even manage time differently, thinking we can’t afford as much sleep during the periods of high demands and difficult work. I operated like this for many years, thinking that my productivity would be diminished if I gave myself more rest, which I viewed as “time off” from pursuing my passions. I wanted to work at my best level, and I also strove to enjoy an ample number of activities during the off-work hours. I soon found myself low on energy, trying to catch up on sleep during weekends.

There are many reasons that this is a natural tendency, to view sleep as a luxury. We scrimp on sleep because we feel there is always more to do; we can’t relax; we want to squeeze in as many “waking hours” for ourselves as possible. Yet, the more respect we give to nurturing our primary sleep needs, the more rested we feel overall, able to use our active time in a more productive way.

The short answer I have for myself, in order to invite the vacation sleep bliss into my daily routine, is just say yes. I’m phrasing this as a positive rather than a negative: if I say yes to sleep, as a commitment to my base level of needs, then it’s a non-compromise. It means I have to give myself a chance to relax beforehand, inviting a restful mindset; training my body to respond in kind. In a sense, I’m tuning in to my local surroundings… and, I can feel as if I’m on vacation while doing this, because I’m letting go of all thoughts of work. I separate myself from devices and pretty much all technology; I’ll enjoy reading, stretching, tea, art— anything that’s just for the moment, to be enjoyed. For many of us, this will feel like an experiment— just remind yourself, all along the way, that you are truly saying yes to yourself and your life by doing this. Your body will notice and appreciate it.

3) Embrace the Empty

The third way I’m inviting vacation-mode into each and every day involves welcoming the “emptiness” mentioned earlier. See, emptiness is not empty; it’s not nothing! A good friend of mine and I always share a laugh over the “glass half empty/glass half full” debate; for us, the key question is not whether the glass is half empty or full, because it’s not representative of a fixed state. In other words, does my glass have enough emptiness to let something be poured into it? Am I inviting that? Can I appreciate opportunities that might emerge at any moment?

This concept is key to mindfulness: to be aware and open to possibilities, even ones beyond our original scope of expectations. I want to create enough freedom and emptiness in my life that I am able to authentically make connections, responding to an environment that is certainly neither rigid nor static! I can be more flexible with openness; this requires a certain breathing space.

John Keats has a phrase about negative capability, and the great power in such emptiness, such un-knowing and open questioning that leads to a fuller experience. If curiosity were a driving force, rather than certainty, then discovery is invited to become a part of the journey. That’s a prime part of vacation: discoveries and adventure, to stretch beyond expected limits.

With this in mind, I will definitely create extra “breathing space” for myself, to be able to respond to spontaneous events and invitations that might come my way. This involves freeing up the calendar a bit, leaving certain spaces open to possibilities. I also invite myself to make use of that time as a creative space for anything that might suit my whims and desires. In this respect, it becomes a form of mindful play— and, this can serve us well as a creative boon, sparking innovations that have profound impact upon our lives!


In sum, after I contemplate the idea of vacation-mode, I’m ready to invite that expansive feeling of rejuvenation and bliss into every one of my days. It’s an active choice. Yes, it seems to all hinge on intention and connection. While it’s a challenge to change expectations and behaviors, it’s not impossible (a phenomenal book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, talks about this concept of behaviors and change). Certainly, the benefits are profound and life-changing. I’m certain that if each day involved even just one of these three vacation-mode resolutions, it would prevent many a burnout… plus, it’s mindfulness, present in daily life.

Thus, let the fall season begin! I’m keeping my vacation bliss a part of each and every day, whether at work or otherwise. After all, it’s a state of mind.


Rock Me!
Leaders are not born. We can work with you to become a global leader.

As a global leader (executive or opinion leader) you might ask yourself how you can stop wasting your energy on less important tasks and less helpful thoughts. For me it all boils down to your leadership vision for making the world a better place and your purpose in this life.

Step One: Visualise your leadership vision

Have you thought about your vision already? Great. Then visualise it. Put it in a painting, collage, video or write an essay about it. The most important strategy is that you put it on a paper instead of churning and turning it in your head and heard. For example our leadership vision at GPT is “We aspire a world of peace and prosperity for all people.”

Step Two: Define your purpose in this life

Your purpose in this life might not be as “grand” and honourable as your leadership vision but it is helpful if you put in words, an image or a fotograph. We decided that our purpose is this “Through our global mobility expertise, executive coaching and intercultural training we help our clients to build better relationships across the world.” Your purpose can also relate to your personal life. You could say “I want to be a trusted companion for all my friends. I want to be a nurturing parent. I want to support younger colleagues and friends as a good mentor.”

Step Three: Say it in an easy tagline

Once you understand your leadership vision and purpose in life you need to be able to say it in a way that common people will understand why you get up in the morning. For GPT we used this sentence “We help global people get better – every day!” This is our “tagline” and our motto. It is the reason for our team to contribute to the company.

Step Four: Check your diary

Is your professional time and personal time aligned with your leadership vision, purpose in life and tagline. If you do not work with a diary you might want to write one and at the end of each day give yourself credit for the interactions you had that were actually aligned with your leadership vision, purpose in life and tagline.

Please let us know your tagline in the comment section.

If you liked this post share it with your friends, followers and tweeps.

Do you remember Urs, the global HR Manager I introduced you to last week? Well, he took a few hours of 1:1 coaching and a few weeks later he relayed the last conference call with his team. He told me that the atmosphere had completely changed.

“What did you do?” I asked him.

“Well, I don’t really know. First I stopped emailing my team members and arranged to have a bi-weekly team call. I started to have a weekly 1:1 Skype call at odd hours from home with every single team member as we are not allowed to use Skype at work and our VC is always booked. Somehow, these calls are not really efficient. They are not about work but I am trying to get to know my team better. I am trying to understand what goes on in their lives and I tell them a bit about my family, my wife and my two daughters. I had not realized that Kasha was just going through a divorce. Rajeev has told me in the second call that his parents want him to get married to a distant relative but he dates a girl he loves in secret. I had no idea that they were so old fashioned still.

So I asked Rajeev if he would like to come to Switzerland for a few months to help me with the roll-out here. Maybe by the time he returns his parents change their minds. I also offered to talk to them. Rajeev really appreciated this gesture. I could see that he almost cried. Then afterwards he worked more hours and fixed the issue with the taxes with a local programmer. The two of them also contacted Maria in Manila and explained her what she needed to change step-by-step. I was surprised at this sudden initiative and must say I had a completely wrong idea of Rajeev’s talents. He is a lot better than what I thought.

Next, I asked the team if we could have a vision board where we would all post our ideas for the team in 2016. We have collated the ideas and they gave me good direction for planning the next projects. The last big step now is that every team member revises the milestones of the project plan as we never thought about the local holidays and that specifications need time and resources as well.”

I smiled. “What are you going to do next?”

“I don’t know. I feel a bit superfluous in the team now but I guess I will think about a marketing strategy for our team so senior management understands the value we bring to the firm.”

“Sounds good.”

We agreed to meet again in three months.

(to be continued)