Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

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.


 In Erik Fisher and Jeff Brown’s podcast on improving your focus, I found a fascinating thought: You need to focus on your strength and “buy” others to support you in your area of weakness instead of trying to learn or even out your weaknesses. In a corporate organization, this sounds doable in a team or you might hire staff to support you. As a solopreneur, this is much harder. I think managers can learn from start-up entrepreneurs in that you can do a lot more than you think if you have the right mindset, discipline and a process for encouraging your own learning.
As we climb up or sideways on the corporate hierarchy ladder (which is still referred to as a ladder) we tend to become “subject matter experts” and we “focus” on our core skills. In most organizations this meant that we neglected a lot of our non-core skills. In our ever increasing need  for more productivity we are asked to assign certain tasks to others such as travel expense claims, accounting, making appointments, booking travel, changing data in a system and we tend to become dependent on our assistant or our team, because we frankly do not really know how to do these little tasks that fill job descriptions of personal assistants. One of my clients once admitted that he did not know how to use MS Word. That’s an issue when you want to create a paper-based resume. (And yes, even in our digitalized world these resumes are still needed.)
Assignments
When you are moving to another country you could be in a situation where you need to be a lot more self-reliant. Maybe banks have different processes in Switzerland than in the US. You might need to read different websites in order to get the information you are looking for. Maybe you have to drive on the other side of the road. Let alone learn a completely new scripture or language.
One of the problems with large organizations is that they were often built during industrialization. Most of their role profiles and processes suggest a strict division of labor. A collaboration was not really encouraged. Performance Management Systems usually focus on the weaknesses of the managers and development plans are often paper-exercises with no clear follow-up. The term “Human Resources” even suggests that people in organizations are similar to money and machines. You “invest” in them and over the years their value decreases. Paradoxically, the more time, energy and money you invest in your people, the more market value they gain.
From an individual perspective, we tend to stop investing in ourselves after graduation. Often, we feel it’s our employer’s obligation to take care of our education and our career. We get annoyed when training budgets are cut, but hardly anyone considers to take initiative and seek education outside. You can blame stress and performance pressure, but I think it is not the only reason. I think, we hinder ourselves from learning partially due to being complacent and lazy. It is so comfy in our comfort zone. Why should we leave it when we get a monthly salary and have all our needs fulfilled instantly?
If you move abroad with work your spouse might be unemployed for the first time in his or her professional life. This could trigger identity questions. For my clients, the hardest part about moving to another culture without a job is to reclaim their professional identity. Another hard part is that they face competition from professionals who are already in the job market, know the host country language and have a functioning professional network. This is not developed in a short time frame.
I encourage you to look at yourself, your strengths and your learning potential and start to work on whatever it is you need to learn in small steps. Then if you ever need to be self-reliant you have already started to build a system how to work through new challenges. Going abroad could be a good step but you can also volunteer for a social project. That would help as well.
If you need support planning your next international career step feel free to set up a 1:1 Skype meeting with me.

Here is the podcast:

We all have old beliefs that put us under pressure. Usually, they appear as a nagging voice inside our head and often they show in our face.

1) Inner Critic

What I often notice with my clients is that their inner critic is holding them back the most. The inner critic often corrupts any new projects that we would like to engage in by rating them as silly or stupid. Often this voice also stops us from leaving an aggressive work environment.

2) Comfort Zone

For most of us, we feel comfortable at a certain career step, in a country, relationship or home. Moving out of it would mean a lot of adjustment and discomfort. We play it safe and our focus is not on opportunities but on maintaining the status quo.

3) Please the Parents

Have you ever felt a little down after spending a weekend with your parents or one of them? Could it be that you are still trying to please your parents or members of your family? Being a good daughter or a good son is fine as long as it does not mean that you are giving up your own wishes and needs. When you are over forty, it’s time your parents accept that you are not a child anymore and that guidance should turn into moral support for you and your plans.
 Energy Refill Station

4) Fear disguised as Pain

Some of us disguise fear with pain. I have to admit I have severe back pain when I am about to publish a book. Sometimes I can’t even move anymore. You might have other symptoms but most of these are just fear. Once you recognize that your fear is corrupting you via your body you can deal with this for example by learning progressive muscle relaxation.

5) Perfectionism

Wanting to be perfect and not accepting any flaws or individual styles can be a sign that you (live in Switzerland – hahaha) might have a low self-confidence. You feel that if you don’t look perfectly and if you don’t present your content in a perfect manner people won’t like you as much. I have learnt and learn it again every day that people like me more when I am honest about my little flaws, when I show them emotion as I get sad or angry about injustice, when I tell them how I have been struggling with my weight for twenty years, when I mention that I suffered from separation anxiety and other issues. People don’t connect with superheroines and superheroes. They want role models, who have a real life. Keep the fairy tales and sugar coats of the life of the royals and VIPs on Facebook. If you want to really connect with people, open up a little. (This is a pledge to my Swiss and German friends too.)

6) Lack of Purpose

Have you ever felt bored out as if you were working in a factory? I remember a summer job I did in 1989 to earn money for a holiday in Italy. I worked in our local coat hanger manufacturer (Coronet). Every time I see a coat hanger I’m reminded of those days where you did endless manual tasks that required no brain, but you had to be very fast and I never managed to beat the machine. This experience made me realize how much I wanted to go to university and work in a job, that was diverse and needed a lot of creative energy. However, in the 2000’s in HR a lot of jobs were reengineered to become more factory-like. I moved up the ladder not because I needed a career but because the jobs became so boring after eighteen months. At about the same time I read, “Calm at Work” by Paul Wilson (1997) and it changed how I viewed my work. I started to paint a vision of my future life in words. I wrote down what and who is important to me. Sometimes I look at those notes and smile. Having a long-term vision and defining your purpose in the world might help you to get out of the boredom syndrome. Or, it might just be time to move on. (Please talk to me first.)

7) Efficiency Mania

You don’t believe how many times in a week I hear my inner voice saying “This is not efficient at all”. Do you have a strong belief in efficiency? Could it be that this belief is not working in your new country, job, relationship or with your children? It might be that you need to let go of the concept of efficiency and turn towards effectivity. Efficiency is a concept that might work in production and for machines but people are no robots. You need to work with them in a way that leads to the desired outcome without overwhelming, hurting or losing them in the process. Our complex global processes and matrix organizations today often require lateral leadership and you might need to learn to let go of your notion of efficiency in order to become more effective as a global leader. I used to believe that coffee breaks with my team are a waste of time until I learnt in India that they improved the work during the day.
If you noticed any of these beliefs as barriers in your development feel free to discuss them with me in your next session or book a session on Skype with me.
You can get a glimpse of relaxation methods at our open house RELAX event on 4 June 2016.
 
Do let me know if you want to join us.

Background on Beliefs:

Guest post* by Heike ReinhartInternationalGermanTeacher@gmail.com

When you are hesitant to speak German

The dream team

This is for all my students who are sometimes hesitant to speak German because they might confuse the prepositions or the accusative and dative endings. I share my skiing angst with all of you as an example of working through grammar anxiety.

I always liked to ski when I lived in Germany. I would schedule ski trips in the Northern part of Italy or Austria in late winter. It was a time when the sun would warm my face and the snow was at its best. No need to adjust gloves, hat, goggles. No time to think about the steep slope in front of me. No need to worry about keeping up with my friends who were better and faster skiers. But my anxiety sometimes made me afraid to go down the steep, long, mountain.

That was when a found Josef, an experienced, professional ski teacher who uses his interest in psychology to help his ski students overcome their fear. I was relieved to know that I was not the only person with skiing anxiety. In two hours, Josef taught me some simple trips including how to always be able to stop. After two hours my fear was alleviated – even at the top of a red slope.

When speaking German produces anxiety

[tweetthis]Speaking German can be equally anxiety producing for students.[/tweetthis]

Speaking German can be equally anxiety producing for students. But there are a few tricks which can help any student get past their fear of mixing up “Akkusativ” and “Dativ” prepositions. I remind my students that the reason they are learning German is so they can communicate with other German speakers and to start to go down the difficult slope of learning a new culture.

They can choose simple words to express their wishes and be understood. They won’t be judged because they use the wrong preposition. In fact, my students quickly discover how positively German speakers react to their efforts to communicate in German.

My teaching approach gets results for even the newest German student. And just like learning to ski making fun an integral element of learning in order to built confidence without fear.

The purpose of language is to communicate. As soon as you realized that, you will relax and just get the idea out.

 

 

Heike ReinhartHeike Reinhart is a German language instructor and intercultural trainer. She works with internationally mobile professionals who want to speed up their learning process and pass test (Goethe and TELC) faster.

 

*This post was first published on Heike Reinhart’s website.

 

 

 

 

GPT Tip: Check out Heike Reinhart’s German Pronouncation Class 5.2016 starting on 1 June 2016 in Basel.

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.
[tweetthis]You know your anger will not change anything but on your way home you are close to tears.[/tweetthis]
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.
[tweetthis]#Aggressive behavior is integral to hierarchical #work environments. We want to learn to reduce it. [/tweetthis]
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.