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By Caitlin Krause

A new calendar year prompts a feeling of open possibility, and a curiosity to discover and realize our greatest potentials, in business and beyond. We’re undoubtedly living in times of rapid change and high demand; times of immense challenge. I certainly feel it– all I need to do is glance at daily news headlines to have a feeling of perspective and urgency.

We want to ensure that the work we’re doing is valued; we want to know that it matters, and matches our own personal goals and resolutions (which, let’s face it, span far beyond the hype and trend of the new year). We strive to maintain a sense of balance, as we navigate this complex world, maintaining focus and resilience, while maximizing our capabilities. In addition, the global corporate culture and increased connectivity require even more flexibility, and broader skill sets that encompass a range of intelligences, including emotional intelligence and empathy.

Instead of feeling daunted, it’s the ideal time for us to invite some mindfulness into the equation. Here we are in a complex, fascinating environment, ripe with opportunity. The field of global mobility and intercultural exchange has never been more exciting– and, there has never been a higher demand for everyone to develop these skills and abilities, across all industries and vocations. It’s a time when adopting a modern, holistic global competency model is imperative– one that embraces a flexible, resilient mindset. Integrating mindfulness values and practices into a model of global competency makes perfect sense, and has significant long-term benefits for career, health, well-being and happiness.

I have a client who travels between five hub cities, located in three separate continents, on a regular basis. In each place, she has a slightly different lifestyle, and varied expectations to fulfill the job requirement. When she discovered the uses mindfulness has in increasing flexibility, resilience, and stress management, she was amazed at the positive impact. Mindfulness, and specifically the methods I’ve developed, can be summed up by 3 A’s: awareness, advancement, and authenticity. I custom-design mindfulness programs that are experiential, practical, and sustainable. By focusing on providing support, engagement, personalization and expertise, individuals can build on the traditional dimensions of the Global Competency Model described by Weinberger (2016) that are already well-recognized in truly diverse intercultural competency programs.

The connection between global competency and mindfulness is clear, and it’s enhanced my own experience. When I first moved overseas to Belgium, I was busy teaching, coaching, and adjusting to the new environment at the same time– plus, setting up a home. I was impatient with myself for struggling with my basic-level French; at the same time, I didn’t yet anticipate the cultural norms that take time to adjust to– everything from taking a ticket as a number to stand in line at the bakery to the fact that all stores are closed on Sundays, which was the one day that I didn’t coach or teach full-time– this was constantly a surprise, and my initial reaction was to look at my own naïveté as a form of failure.

Mindfulness taught me to flip this concept– I embraced my own enhanced awareness, celebrating the foibles that I could then laugh about, convincing myself that someday they will become part of a book (which could be a Bill Bryson spinoff titled: “Bumbling through Belgium”). I began to feel gratitude for my vitality– for the very feeling, uncomfortable at times, that reminds me that I’m alive(!). I felt immensely grateful for the mix of backgrounds and experiences that create the unexpected. I also grew to appreciate that a population is not homogenous, yet we share underlying truths and a certain mutual respect and dignity. These insights are also embedded in mindfulness– an appreciation for what is, in the moment, even as we set-goals and look toward the emerging future.

In a globalised working culture, mindfulness is especially valuable because it gives agency back to the individual. It gave me a better sense of stability, even in situations that were beyond my ability to anticipate and fully control. Because of this, mindfulness also increased my connection capacity in place of fragmentation. In other words, I was able to reach out and connect with others more easily, because I was more self-aware and had developed skills of resiliency. I was confident, not despite my challenges, but because of them. In Stanford researcher Carol Dweck’s seminal book Mindset, she relates this capacity to growth mindset, and it’s all about mindfulness, self-awareness, and embracing the rigor instead of denying or avoiding it.

We live in the midst of a global corporate climate that is rife with burnout, stress and depression. Recent studies cite stress and burnout as the top threat to workplace health, resulting in great losses across all quality measurement areas, including employee work satisfaction, job retention, company culture, and revenue. The rate of burnout continues to increase each year; mindfulness is seen as a top strategy and method to provide burnout prevention. Instead of succumbing to this threatening trend, looking at establishing an environment that promotes the best, most adaptive and advantageous state of well-being is the answer for global leadership.

As a burnout prevention measure, stress reducer, leadership and confidence booster, creativity cultivator, and overall well-being motivator and life enhancer, mindfulness serves as a necessary base layer for a holistic model of leadership, learning and global competency. For me, it’s a lens to look through, and it can be applied to just about everything.

This could be why, when I’m asked to define mindfulness, I call it simply: “a way to be in the world”– with awareness (understanding of surrounding context), advancement (having a sense of purpose), and authenticity (detaching from judgment; focusing on situations while maintaining resilience). I use these three A’s as foundational pillars for designing applications and programs.

Being globally competent involves developing a wide range of capacities– and, the ability to truly reflect on the learning experience and acknowledge the complexity of global systems involves great awareness– including cultural awareness, emotional awareness and self awareness.

I apply this philosophy with many different practical approaches, making it real, personal, holistic, and able to be experienced by each individual in a powerful way. In addition, it reinforces the sense of community, which is perfectly in-line with global mobility dimensions of supporting the whole person in a long-term, reflective approach that encompasses a multitude of lifelong learning facets and personal experiences.

Recognizing our own multi-dimensional natures and experiences, this makes perfect sense, allowing us to build our abilities and reach goals while staying grounded in this complex, inter-connected global landscape. Combining mindfulness and global competency could yield a new, even more powerful concept: mindful global competency. Let’s test it out!

Kicking off the New Year, I have already dedicated myself to several aspirations and goals, many of which are definitely “curiosity-driven” pursuits, all embedded in a framework of mindful global competency. I’ll invite you to try out a few exercises, to test the process for yourself and give it a go. See what it feels like to sit down and write your own answers to the following. Just go with where your reflections take you, in the moment, without over-thinking:

  • Awareness: Record something, in a description, that made you happy yesterday. Include as many of the five senses as possible. For example, if you were happy when you went for a hike in the woods, try to describe the temperature, the feel of it, the colors and sights around you, etc. Try to bring yourself back there through the writing.
  • Advancing: Write down three attributes that you have that you value in yourself– these could be any quality, from trustworthiness to funny to For each quality, what is a life situation that you have experienced– an “anecdote”– that illustrates it in your life? Feel free to think of examples that have humor. Could you practice by sharing this out loud with someone else? Sometimes, these illustrated moments make for great connection points, yet we deny ourselves the right to “own them” and appreciate them.
  • Authentic: Think back to an experience where the time itself was not what you expected in the short term, yet it offered some sort of long-term benefit. Describe the situation in detail, using a “before” perspective (anticipation), a “during” (experience), and an “after” (reflection). What do you appreciate about it now, in hindsight? How do you think it adds some flavor and dimension to your life?

Sometimes, just taking time to record our own reflections and thoughts about these experiences can lend us deeper clarity and insight. For me, building components of writing and storytelling into my mindfulness practice adds an extra layer of appreciation, insight, and what I call “connection capacity”. May it add to your life, too. After all, 2017 is wide open with possibility, and we all want to make the most of that!

Wishing you a wonderful year, filled with surprise and delight, enjoying the ride.

Caitlin

 

Guest post by Caitlin Krause, Founder & CEO, MindWise.

Caitlin Krause  is a creative collaborator  with a curiosity-driven mindset. As the founder of MindWise, she’s a writer, storyteller, teacher, speaker, VR designer, artist and leadership specialist. Her passion for active, sustainable, ethically-driven leadership and learning models drives her work. 

Empowering personal and organizational change, MindWise’s core “AAA” values are: Aware, Advancing, and Authentic. Caitlin integrates best practices and new discoveries about creativity, neuroscience, mindfulness and technology to promote immersive empathetic experiences on a local and global scale. 

 

Reference:

Weinberger, A. (2016): The Global Mobility Workbook, print ed., Global People Transitions, Zurich


When you are in the workforce and have a fully packed diary there is nothing you want more than a day without meetings and conference calls. You want a day in which you can decide what you want to do and how to prioritize from hour to hour.

People who watch netflix in the afternoon

When you take time off, you realize how hard it is to follow your own wishes because for the longest time you have done and followed the targets and needs of others. Maybe you are also a mother and used to take care of several persons in your household. Maybe you are a father and feel the pressure of earning an income. Did you ever have that fantasy of staying at home like an “unemployed” bum and watching netflix during the day (when all your friends are at work)? For me this would feel like missing school. Not ok. I am the pupil who had a bad conscience when she missed a day of school. I hated to miss lectures at uni. Showing up is part of my deal. Even when I am unwell.

For me to get to a point where I could not get out of bed and had to stay at home during my professional career was probably the lowest it ever got.

The vicious cycle of hustle

Taking time out to re-think yourself can be a healing experience but once you return from your yoga retreat, you feel the immediate need to get back into the vicious cycle of hustle, which includes maintaining a diary, checking your mailbox and dating for lunch. It also includes doing favors and running small errands for others, forwarding resumes and establishing connections, mentoring juniors and serving on committees or in the local fire brigade. Your days never seem to end. Once you get home there is a mess waiting to be cleaned up or you stumble upon clothes that should be washed / dry-cleaned or ironed. Unless you are really affluent, you will do these tasks yourself.

In egalitarian Switzerland your hairdresser has a higher productivity rate than your executive coach and your cleaner earns more by the hour than most undergraduates in other developed markets, so outsourcing is only a limited option.

Structure is the key to simplicity

After a long journey in the corporate world which sometimes feels a bit unreal I fell out of the structure of “having work” to go to. Four years into running my own business I can assure you that routine is back and having four days off feels like being away for weeks. A day spent walking in nature and studying medieval architecture seems as long as a normal working week. When we run on our programs, in our little rat cage the beautiful world outside seems unreachable. It’s strange that we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and still we have so many stressed and unhappy people. Most of us in my view have built up such a high standard of living that we lost the ability to appreciate simplicity. We strive for more and more becomes the equivalent of better. I would call this idea delusional.

Become a bum once in a while

Sometimes you need to become a bum to appreciate your other life. I know it is hard to be out of the “workforce”. I know how it feels not to belong to the “inner circle” anymore, not being able to afford opera tickets, bar nights and luncheons. I understand the embarrassment you might feel when you have to decline a friend’s visit because you cannot even offer a glass of wine. Still, I would advise all of you to be a bum once in a while. Give your soul a rest from hustle by being out of a job. If you really think you can’t afford this experience try one of those four suggestions:

  • Have you sat in a café at the street by yourself and watched people?
  • Did you meet a friend for lunch and asked him about his parents?
  • Have you picked flowers in a garden lately instead of checking your twitter followers?
  • Did you spend time playing a game with children in the neighborhood?

I would be very interested in your experience and what you are taking away from it. Schedule your first meeting with me here.

aggressionWhen your colleague Paul tells you he has get home at 6 pm to see his children he throws in that your boss asked for a report she needs to have on her desk at 7 AM tomorrow. You cringe and call your partner to tell him you will need another 30 minutes to finalize the report. Your stomach feels hot and red. You are angry. Your colleague manages to get away. Why does he not have a deliverable here? Why is this team effort on your shoulders now? You think you could test if the boss was serious about 7 AM but you know you won’t get away with it.
Another messed up night. Your partner will be angry too now. You strip out of your suit as soon as you get home. On nights like this after leaving the battle ground you just want to have a glass of wine and a bath. Your partner rattles with the car keys. It is his gym night. Dinner needs to be cooked, the kids want a story and your inner household monster tells you to clean up the wardrobe. At 10 pm when your partner gets home you just want to go to bed. You almost had a bottle of wine by now.
The next morning, you protect your feelings through professionalism. You meditate and go for a run to keep up a smile. You wear a mask. You put on your business persona together with your pin-striped business suit and when you ask your boss if the report was ok, she just shrugs
“I had other priorities this morning. Team meeting at 10. Will you book a room for us?”.
“Isn’t that Paul’s task?”
“Yes, but he got caught up at kindergarden and will only get here at 9.45 AM. Be a good colleague and get us some pretzels too.”
You smile your best smile and help out again. While men seem to handle office politics better, I often notice that women prefer to stay out of roles where they have to deal with conflicts all the time. If you are in a leadership role – no matter if you are male or female – you won’t stay out of the firing lines. Doing favors might be easy, but verbal and written attacks will be part of your day.
You might feel you are giving more than you should, you might even feel that some of your colleagues advance faster than you, make more money and aren’t even better at what they do than you are. The good news is: You don’t have to accept aggressive behavior at the workplace.

Five methods to reduce aggressive behavior at the workplace

1) Reduce Your Aggressive Tonality

You could be seen as aggressive by others. If you solve conflicts on your managerial level by escalating issues to the next level, this could be seen as conflict avoiding and aggressive. Maybe your intention is to highlight a flaw in the process or that the team is understaffed. Still, the effect could be different than what you intend.
You might underestimate your native language and cultural assumptions too. If you are for example a native Russian speaker you could come across as unfriendly and aggressive in English without intending it. Or if you are a native French speaker you might come across as long-winded and complicated in English. It is good to ask a native-speaker friend how they see you and what you could improve in your communication style.

2) Stop Giving Unsolicited Feedback

You might also be seen as passive aggressive as you feel the need to correct others and give them unsolicited feedback. I had a colleague who would do that. I know now, that he was just trying to help me to become more assertive but at the time it drove me crazy. The basic rule is that you only give feedback and tips if your colleagues explicitly ask you for it. If you are the boss you probably need to give advice but be sure that you tell your subordinate that. Otherwise they will feel scolded and like back in high school. Since I started a business it happened to me more than once that listeners in an audience wanted to help me “sell” my services better or gave me feedback on word plays they would not understand. I understand the intention but I would have remembered them in a different light if they had just asked me about my intentions before babbling their ideas out.

3) Become a Listener

With the current average attention span of 90 seconds your colleagues will love you if you manage to listen to them for a full length of a three minute story without interrupting. If you practice to be authentic and a compassionate listener you will be seen as a source of inspiration and wisdom. Try to understand where your colleague or manager stands at the moment, which issues they have to solve and maybe also what they are going through in their personal lives.

4) Communicate your Needs

In business conversations it is helpful to speak about your needs and expectations in the I-form. “I need quite space to be able to think…” instead of “Could you shut up please?”. Or “I expect you keep the deadline for your deliverables as you promised to help me on this report.” instead of “Once again, you have not delivered what you said you would in time.”

5) Improve your business relationships

As I mentioned several times in the “Seven Principles for Intercultural Effectiveness” improving your business relationships   is the key to success in this globalized world. Work on every single relationship that is important to you and become a giver. You will be rewarded with success and long-term friendships across the globe.
Even if we have become used to it in our hierarchical work cultures we can all work towards a more appreciative communication culture. I recommend you learn about Marshall B. Rosenberg’s concept of non-violent communication and read Adam M. Grant’s book “Give and Take” too. Let me know if these five methods worked for you and what you have experienced.
Schedule a meeting with me to discuss your career situation and any issues you face at work.
On a “normal” work day I plan an appointment for relationship building and I prefer to do this in person. I have become so accustomed to have instant access to a map and train time table that usually I don’t check where I am going until I sit in the train. Switzerland has perfected the train system. They are usually very reliable and on time. People get irritated here when the train is 5 minutes late. (Ha!)
Yesterday was different though. I had planned to go for a walk but it turned into a mini-walk to the recycling bin. In the afternoon I headed to my appointment. All seemed on time. In the train I found a connection and not for the first time the connection did not take me where I wanted to go but somewhere in the realm of the area. I got off, wished I had time to stroll in the mountains and snow-covered woods but I was running late already. According to my phone I should reach in 22 minutes. Then my batteries died. I hardly remembered the address. I was annoyed, ready to turn around, sick of these endless times where I felt I was going the extra mile even for a volunteering job. I found a bakery on the way, asked for directions. They had no clue. Then I found the street, but not the house. Because I checked all but one.
Strange how we humans can err. Finally (now about 25 minutes late) a young man offered to check the website of the organization I was looking for and yes, I was next door to it. I killed my anger and laughed. There was a lesson to be learnt here. For a long time I did not seek help from so many people. I found it strange that I asked people for the way and I must have come across a lot more desperate than necessary. The meeting was inspiring and I went back with a sense of doing the right thing, with a sense of having met two ladies who are aligned with my values and with whom it will be inspirational to work.
Then on my way back I noticed that I was in an area of the city that I hardly knew. I liked it and it seemed like a place I would feel at home in. It made me think that Zurich is so diverse but if you stay in the expat bubble you could easily forget there is a less affluent part of town which also reminds me more of the area I lived in when I was in Frankfurt. I know…it is not always about outer change…but sometimes your inner change has caught up and your lifestyle might not seem to fit with your values anymore.
I want to downgrade, I want to live without a car, I want to adhere to the Swiss value of modesty. I realize that I have a choice. On my way back I got delayed again because of an accident. Poor soul, a person probably died. I only saw the last cleaning up work but the fact that the road had been blocked for several hours indicated tragedy. Again, I walked for 15 minutes. I noticed in the session afterwards that even though I was a bit flustered my brain was stimulated and energy level higher. I’ve had this weird feeling since the year started that I was not working hard enough but looking at new social entrepreneurs I learnt that I probably just entered a new phase in the start-up cycle.
It is now time to pivot, adapt and optimize. We aren’t going uphill any longer it is a leisurely stroll on the mountain range, the sun shines, snow covers the view and once in a while there will be storm. It is time to let go of the old dusted image, the status symbols of a management career and embrace a simple yet heart-filled and wonderful life. I am filled with gratitude.