Tag Archives: RockMe!
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.

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.
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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.

This time of the year we easily get the flu and feel under the weather. While your body needs to accept these attacks once in while it might not always be connected to the weather only. The end of winter is also a time of transition where we often notice that we did not follow through with all the resolutions we had when we started the year. Sometimes we might still struggle with our holiday weight or the lack of exercise. Sometimes we wish we drank less alcohol or spend less money on stuff we don’t really need. Sometimes we wish our dating life was better or that we had found a companion in life.

 

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High performance results from a mix of feeling healthy as well as being emotionally stable.

You need to work with your body as if it was a team member. Too many clients I know have physical limitations that seem to stop them from a fully satisfied life. In my personal experience I know that I could not rely on my body in a time of high-stress almost 10 years ago. Like most junior managers I thought I own the world and that nothing could stop me but in that year I changed my job, flew to New York, got married, went on honeymoon and around three weeks later my disk slipped in the lower back. I had to be in the hospital and then at home for three weeks altogether and I hated it. I was so immobile and unhappy that I never wanted to have this experience again.

This incident might be one of the reasons why I became an executive coach because many times I see colleagues as well who just seem to believe that their body will handle and tolerate everything. Until they are diagnosed with burnout or cancer or they have a heart attack or high blood pressure. Another common thread that I recognize also among highly intelligent clients is a tendency to avoid intimate relationships because they could fall apart.

Many managers do not seek help unless a doctor tells them that it is time to change behavior. Imagine you had an “oldtimer” (vintage car). Would you wait until the garage repair person told you to come for check up or would you take the car to a regular check up to make sure it does not rust? Some of us treat their cars better than their bodies. Frankly speaking, I used to to be like that until I had my three week unintentional break. Since then I have become a lot better at prioritizing health.

Your health might not feel urgent to you just yet.

Could it be that your body  gives you signs that you need to change “something” in your life?

If you read the signs correctly you have three choices:

1) You can ignore this and move on until you have a bigger issue.

2) You can take it seriously as a sign that you need to have a medical check up or

3) You can go and seek an executive coach who can help you analyze where you are overburdened and how you can work better with your existing resources.

Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions about your physical and mental health.

Thank you.

Angie

Read more about how to stay healthy and get productive by ordering Michael Hyatt‘s ebook “Shave 10 hours off your workweek.” It’s a free resource I can highly recommend.

Take A Walk

You take your phone out as soon as you sit on the train. You skim through your email. Another attachment fail. You forgot to save the legal document before you attached it. Your colleague across the ocean is confused. After three emails you clear the confusion. You clarify your ask to her and apologize. You know you must come across stressed. Even though you know that you have worked at higher stress levels in your life, you know that there is a nagging voice inside you that screams “I need a holiday.” You wonder how this happened as it seems your last holiday was only four weeks back. Could the issue be deeper you ask yourself? Is something wrong with me? Do I need therapy?
Then you become aware of all the bullshit that  you need to handle every day in your job. It is not the job itself. You love your work. It is not the team. You have shared your vision, mission, brand and values with your team. They follow you eagerly because they see a brighter future with you. Your team buys into your cause and wants you to succeed but the politics in the management team have become unbearable. The blame-storm that follows every client issue and the loss of ground with your big clients have made you look bad. You are concerned about losing your job, not performing well and not delivering what you promised to deliver. Your wife looks at you for support with the children. Your daughter has behaved difficult lately. She needs your guidance. You want to support but you feel drained on every corner of your life. 3
You had started a hobby about a year ago because a friend advised you to do “something for yourself”. In the beginning you were so thrilled about the new friends you made there but now it just feels like another obligation, another point on your task list of never-ending topics.
You snap when friends ask you if you want to go out for a beer and your mother’s voice is in your head. “You said you would come for a visit with the children on Sunday.” And there is this mortgage on the house that needs refinancing.
In short: You feel the weight of responsibility of being the provider. You feel that weight in your shoulders and your back. You identify with it through pain.

Stress written all over your body?

Many of us have stress written all over their body. Even though you will find a lot of methods of reducing stress when you look online many of us have issues to focus nowadays. There are too many distractions that pull us into different directions every minute. We also have too many “shoulds”. We should go to the gym more often, we should recycle the bottles, we should save money. Our mind spends a lot of time thinking about the “shoulds”. Here are the three quickies to get in control again.

1) Take one hour out of your busy schedule and consult a therapist

Sometimes we feel like we have tried everything possible to please everyone else but lost ourselves in the process. It helps in such situations to consult a therapist. Sometimes you might not really need therapy but in most cases you will. I am a fan of prevention and I know that we can improve our physical symptoms if we seek support early enough. Unfortunately in my experience, many managers look for external support when it is too late as they are stuck in an ideal of playing superhero. Alternatively, they are sent to a business coach. A serious coach should send you to a therapist or doctor as soon as you cannot confirm anymore that you feel psychologically and physically healthy. And some of you might seek a doctor before they seek a therapist, because you do not believe that your psyche could play tricks on you. It’s up to you! Do something about it before your family loses you for good.

2) Go for light exercise rather than the gym such as a daily walk outside

If you feel stressed but still in control it can help to prescribe yourself a daily dose of light exercise such as a 20 minute walk. I have written about getting healthy earlier in this post about my favorite productivity hacks. Be sure that you don’t distract yourself with your phone when you go for a walk. Build the walk into a routine such as your commute to work or your coffee run in the morning.

3) Clean up your workspace daily and mono-task

It sounds simple but is a commonly known ZEN practice. You can get rid of the constant distractions by developing a regular routine of cleaning up and only working on one topic at the time. The stream of information you are letting in can be directed in the right channel. One example: If you think I should file my documents do it the same day. Spend five minutes every evening before you rush home to clean up your desk. Throw away everything that you don’t need. Before you start your workday write down your top three priorities for the day.
Let me know how you handle stress in the comments.

 

In the series “Seven Principles of Intercultural Effectiveness” I would like to show you how you can reach your targets across cultures by adhering to seven principles. We have covered Principle 1, Principle 2, Principle 3 and Principle 4 in earlier posts.

Principle 5 is called

“I trust even if I had been hurt before.”

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There are many instances in intercultural communication where we might have been hurt, where our way of trusting was hurt or where our values were challenged. We could have been misled by a carpet seller or a cab driver. We could have paid too much for a service just because we don’t really understand how the culture works or how the people behave in this culture. We could have thought that people were nice to us while they just made a business deal.

This misperception has led me to a number of learnings. One of the learnings is never to tell a driver in another country to take me shopping, because I will end up buying a carpet. I also learnt to negotiate the fare price with rikshaw drivers before I get on the rikshaw.

Still, I work with the assumption that people are good and that they are just trying to provide for themselves and their families. They are not out there to kill me or take away all my possessions. I am careful when I travel but I still trust people because it has led me to interesting encounters and helped me make great connections. I am not saying you should trust blindly but at least assume positive intentions of others.