Author Archives: Angie Weinberger
It is very hard to stay focused as a solopreneur. One of the reasons is that you are everything to everyone. Without a strong purpose, motivating vision, regular routine and strict discipline I believe you can lose yourself in details and perfectionism.
[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@angieweinberger”]Input will never match output as a #solopreneur if you join the rat race of yr clients.[/tweetthis]
I have been an entrepreneur for around four years now. I started to consciously work on my business and blog even before. One day, I handed in my official resignation at my employer. In my fourth year of entrepreneurship and after my best year so far I still have doubts sometimes. I still feel sometimes it is a bit too hard to be a solo show. Even though I know what needs to be done I shy away from the work and procrastinate phone calls, follow-ups and sit in front of my screen.1.30
Or I check my phone for tweets. I dream about funds or an inheritance appearing from nowhere. So far, I got out of every crisis. Year after year became easier. I look at other “successful” colleagues who seem to make a higher turnover even though they hardly leave their house. I am running around, travel to clients, meet prospects for lunch. I feel that most of the time I am not achieving everything I want to achieve. I suck up everything I can get in my brain on SEO, blogging, working smarter, client relationships. I read and read. I never read so much in my corporate life.
As a consequence of keeping myself on track, I have been thinking a lot about finding a good structure for my week and ensuring that I stick to it. I have this personality type which easily gets excited about new stuff but has a hard time finishing and implementing ideas. When I started to delve in the notion that it is hard to be an entrepreneur I came across this post about stress levels for entrepreneurs in the US. I got a bit concerned that maybe I am also becoming a candidate for a therapist.
Few hours later I had an annual review with my accountant. She congratulated me. I immediately played small by saying that 2016 will be less great. Why do we do this? It’s harmful and there is no crystal ball of turnovers that will tell me how the year goes. A lot of my larger projects came by lucky coincidences and long-term investments in my network.
You might be in a similar place so I pulled together seven cornerstones for more powerful solopreneurs to make the turnover you deserve.

The Seven Cornerstones for Powerful Solopreneurs

1) Annual Vision Review

I think you should review your vision every year. Are you still aligned with your why? Do you still believe in the manifesto you put out there, your grand idea how you would contribute and improve the world? Or have you settled for small? Played it safe?

2) Goals visualized per quarter

Visualize your goals not only for the business year with a vision board but break down your milestones into projects and visualize what success will look like per quarter. If you want to motivate yourself write don the future state. Example: Instead of writing “I want to be the No. 1 go-to-source in my industry” you write down “I am the No. 1 go-to-source in my industry.”

3) Invest in your support staff

As a solopreneur, you might work with freelancer and other suppliers to support you. Treat them like investments and ensure that they get all the training, seminars, courses and connections they need to thrive in their subject matter expertise. Coach and support them.

4) Focus on 20 VIP clients

If you work with clients in 1:1 relationships like me it is helpful to focus on 20 VIP clients at the time. Give them your best service and even if they give you great feedback ask them how you can improve what you do. Ask them how you can adapt your services to their needs even more.

5) Publications, Talks, and Webinars

Nowadays, as a solopreneur you live of your professional reputation and status. You can build status over time through publications, talks, and webinars. Even if you are not in academia, consider publishing as an option to build your subject matter expertise and to contribute to your industry. You can start with guest blogging if you don’t think that you can come up with a topic to write about on a regular basis.

6) Reduce your service offering to your ideal client

One of the secrets to Marketing is to reduce the choice for your ideal client. Your ideal client has so many decisions to take already, make it easy for her or him to chose you. Don’t give them too many choices. Reduce the paper work to the absolute legal minimum standard. Develop a signature product or service, brand it and improve it.

7) Routine, Honesty and Self-Love help the Solopreneur to Survive

One of best ways to feel in control according to Ash Ambirge is when you develop and follow a strict routine. This is not always possible especially when you travel for your work too but I noticed as well that I am most creative and attentive when I ensure that I go to bed at the same time, get up early, have a regular intake of food and water and most of all know when to relax. Be honest with yourself when you walk through the valley of tears and check the numbers regularly. I know too many entrepreneurs who treat their business as a hobby. Congratulations if you can afford that. I can’t so I am checking my account at least twice a week. I know which invoices have not been paid yet and I follow up on leads. At the same time you need to love yourself enough to take time out and by that I mean that give yourself at least one day to re-charge. You want to be a role model so you should prioritize your health and mental stability as well. One of my colleagues goes to the mountains regularly when he needs to “clear his head”. One of my favorite strategies is reading novels or watching escapist movies.

What do you do to be a more powerful solopreneur?

Thank you for your comments.

Angie

P.S. Read more on procrastination http://jamesclear.com/akrasia
PPS: If you still feel you are not moving ahead please schedule a meeting with me. I have supported solopreneurs in Switzerland to get their business off the ground and my company has survived the critical baby phase of years 1 to 3.

Guest blog by Sara Fasmer Hansen

Do you remember snowy white winter holidays, from your childhood? Recall your parents talking about winter once colder and your grandparents even about colder once? Have you like me ever wondered if your memories are wrong or the weather actually was colder back then?

When talking about the weather over a longer period we use the term climate. The fact is that the climate is always changing over time, on our planet. Ice Ages have risen and fallen again. Some climate change occurs over millions of years, while others occur over a millennia or even decades. And there have always been variations in our climate.

We all learn in school that Earth is spinning around the sun. One obit makes a year. We know that Earth spins around its own axis. One time makes a day. Some might recall learning that Earth is tilting compare to its own axis. However most of us did not learn is that there is variation in the tilt of Earth’s axis. The tilt can be measured in degrees. The angle of the Earths spin axis relative to the plane of the orbit, around the sun, is referred to as the obliquity. The variation can be between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees. And a complete obliquity, from one point to the other with the variation of 2.4 degree, takes approximately 41 thousand years. The variations seem small, which is probably why we did not learn about them or paid attention during school years – however they have huge impact. The variation means that Earths tilt controls the glacial cycles. The position of the Antarctic Circle and the Arctic Circle are migrating. Moreover it will change the amount of energy received from the sun at any given latitude.

At the time being the obliquity of the Earth is 23.4 degree. Currently, the obliquity is decreasing. Thereby the Arctic 1Circle is moving northwards. The energy received from the Sun south of the Artic Circle will increase. Consequently the north hemispheres summers in the high latitudes should get colder, and the winters in the mid latitude should get warmer. All mirrored in the south hemispheres, where the Antarctic Circle is moving southwards.

So if the climate is constantly changing do to obliquity, why is the media filled with all this fuss about climate change? Because the climate is changing more rapid now that ever before. The changes that have happened to the climate in recent years, is not particularly dramatic when seen in a long historical perspective. However the particular is that the changes are made much faster than previously observed.

Earth’s climate depends on a balance between the absorbed sunlight it receives and how much it radiates back to space. The global surface air temperature has increased by 0.74°C in a century (1906-2005). This figure might sound small. However since it is an average, some regional temperature changes are higher, which may have major consequences in the affected regions. Moreover the newest data published calculates 2015 to be the warmest year in historical records. With a largest margin in annual global temperature (0.1°) to the latest record observed, in 2014.

How come that it is heating up now? The main reason is caused by human activities. Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of gases. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases such nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) has an ability to reflect heat radiation. Once these gases are in the atmosphere they keep the heat on the ground. They are therefore called greenhouse gases. If they did not exist, all heat would disappear into space, and the earth would be too cold to support any life. The natural greenhouse gasses keep the average surface temperature on Earth around 14°C. Without them numbers would be around minus 19°C. So in fact it is not the greenhouse gasses in itself that is the problem. In the last 150 years, since the industrial revolution began in mid 1800s, the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased by more than a third, from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million. So one of the problems is the human expansion of gasses leading to enhanced greenhouse effect, which leads to higher temperatures on Earth.

Can we stop the heating? To predict the future research scientists use scenarios to create several different climate models. These scenarios contain variety of parameters such as precipitation, snow cover and temperature fluctuations. Moreover they can include different parameters ranges between very low, stabilization or increasing concentrations in greenhouse gas levels. The most advanced climate models predict that the global average temperature on Earth will increase approximately between 1.5 and 5.5°C by year 2100, relative to mid 1990.

So if greenhouse gas emissions were to remain at their current levels, we would expect to see global temperatures to rise to around 5°C. As a result of global warming, the climate will change. When the temperature rises globally, the atmosphere gets warmer. This means that it can contain more water vapor, which later will fall as rain. So we will experience more storms, cloudburst and flooding in the future. Glaciers will melt and sea levels rise, bringing coats cities at risk. The streams of ocean water would be affected. Moreover will there also be more periods of drought. It will obviously have conditional consequences for farming, agriculture production and fisheries, as biodiversity and ecosystems will be altered. Species will be affected and many will have to adapt or migrate from their currently location.

Future climate projections are looked closely upon by the international scientific and political communities. In 1990,2 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced its first comprehensive assessment of climate change. It clearly stated that human activities affected the climate and unless actions were taken to reduce green house gas emissions, the problem was going to get much worse. International agreement was needed to address these climate changes, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was established in 1992. And when first “Conference of the Parties” (COP) to the UNFCCC was held in 1995, it was decided that negotiations should begin settling on a protocol that would make binding agreements for industrialized countries in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. However although COP has been held once a year since – and a protocol agreed on in 1997 (during COP3 in Kyoto, without many operational details) the details seemed to be missed, rejected by some countries and withdrawn again by others. Meanwhile did the emission not lower.

In 2009 (at COP15 in Copenhagen), the countries stated their determination to limit global warming to 2°C by 2100. Why this 2°C temperature rise scenario? The 2°C maximum appeared initially during mid 1970 in the literature. In 1990 new reports argued warming just above 1°C wouldn’t be advisable. However since the authors knew it was too late to keep within this level they suggested 2°C instead. In 1996 the European Union’s Council of Ministers adopted the 2°C as a benchmark point, where global warming would be irreversible and the effects would be catastrophic. The benchmark point got anchored in peoples minds. G8 (the governmental political forum of leading industrial economies) agreed on this point as a maximum and hence COP15.

In order to reach a 2°C target, the energy production needs to be lowered, as reduction of the global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 40-70% by 2050. Furthermore emission neutralization needs to be reached by 2100. This means changing energy sources from highly polluting fossil fuels to renewable sources such as solar, wind, water, geothermic and biomass. Will we meet a 2°C target? It seems durable however not easy. And even if we can keep the average global temperature rise below 2°C, certain amount of climate change will still be observed. Sea levels will rise and droughts will occur in many regions.

Skeptic and critiques remarks of the 2°C target has emerge from countries (such as small island states) and large groups of scientist. These scientists disapproving the 2°C upper threshold and promote instead an average global 1.5°C target as a more adequate limit for dangerous interference. Meanwhile data shows that we passed the 1°C mark (in late 2015) for the average global temperatures rise since levels recorded in 1850-1900.

In COP21 (the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting, in Paris 2015) nearly 200 countries adopted the first-ever international legally binding agreement on global climate change. In highlights governments agreed on:

  • Temperature threshold. The agreement sets out a global action plan to significantly reduce risks and avoid dangerous impacts of climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. A long-term goal will be to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2°C by 2100, with an ideal target to limit the increase to 1.5°C.
  • Reducing emissions. Two emissions goals was stated; first that greenhouse gas emission should peak as soon as possible and secondly that the countries should aim to achieve net greenhouse gas neutrality in the second half of the century.
  • Development. The agreement will commit developed countries to provide finance for developing countries, in order to implement efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses meanwhile seeking to lower the risks posed by the consequences of climatic changes. That been help in form of new technologies and renewable energies, changing management practices or consumer behavior. And finance is supposed to be extended from the current goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year in support in public and private resources by 2020 through 2025, with a new, higher goal to be set for the period after 2025.
  • Transparency. Governments will, in a five years cycle from 2020, be required to review, assess and report their progress in implementing their climate target for an international review. They will not be able to lower their targets and are on the contrary encouraged to raise them. Moreover they are committed to submit new plans towards the long-term goal, with a clear expectation of progress beyond previous once.
  • Support. As EU and other developed countries did recognized that action to reduce emissions and build resilience climate change impacts in developing countries to be a difficult task, binding obligations to support them in the efforts was made. And in addition to the progress reports, developed countries shall report on support provided meanwhile developing countries should report on support received.

It sure seems that the politicians took the highlighted facts of climate change seriously this time around. As the COP21 agreement marked culmination of groundwork laid in the aftermath of the failed attempt to achieving previous global agreement at the COP15 in Copenhagen. Most people were satisfied with the COP21 agreement that has been mentioned as “the beginning of the end of fossil fuels servings as the primary energy” anda revolution for climate change”. However key steps remain and many operational details of the new agreement is left to be decided by future COPs.

The Paris agreement will be open for signature by the countries on April 22, 2016. In the meantime each country with its own domestic governmental procedures will have to decided whether to join the international agreement or not. At the time of writing some governments are unfortunately showing resistance. Unfortunately as the agreement only will enter into force and have an effect once enough countries (55 countries, representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions) have formally approved it by their signature.

However to make an environmental impact; social, technological, economic, political and legal considerations sure will have to be prioritized now. But will this climate changes be hot topic – once the media stops typing about it? Will the political community redeem their goal? Only if we as citizens, consumers, and individuals implement!

So what can you and I do as an individual to reduce this rapid climate change?

Once you accept that humans are causing global warming, you must also accept global warming is still ongoing. What we eat, our choices of housing, they way we travel all have an impact on how much green house gasses we as individuals create. As consumers we need to think and rethink our behavior. You could try out one of the carbon footprint calculators, to find out where your own impact is highest: The World Wildlife Fund has one for UK; http://footprint.wwf.org.uk as well as Nature; http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/, where you can calculate your footprint for US. Personal I got surprised about my travel budget. So what to do about it?

Here are five tips on how you can help improve the situation for our planet:

  • Turn off your lights and appliances. Turn off lights you’re not using. Turn lights off when you leave the room. You heard your parent say it, – well it is still a good idea. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, which saves in the long run both energy and money. Make sure that you turn appliances off instead of leaving them on standby. Especially older appliances (from before 2010, when new EU regulations went into place) tend to use energy when in standby function. Let energy efficiency be a primary consideration when choosing new appliances as the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher or refrigerator.
  • Recycle and compost. Recycle your paper, cans, plastic and glass. Imagine all your trash as a value. Glass can be washed and use directly again, however the majority is melted and turned into new glass products as well as building sand for floor and wall insulations. Old paper can be transformed into new products such as office paper, magazines, books and newspapers, as well as parts of loft insulations and road surfaces. Aluminum cans are 100% recyclable and can be reused in constructions of cars and airplanes or to make new ones. In fact recycling one can saves up to 95% of the energy needed to make a new one. Moreover it is estimated that recycling of one ton of aluminum can save nine tons of CO2. Plastic bottles can be recycled into various item including new bottles, fillings for sleeping bags or fleece jackets. I need to highlight recycling system in Switzerland, as it is one of the most excellent once I have discovered. Here all garbage disposals have a cost. Trash is only collected if in special payable bag, which basically incorporates the taxes for the pick-up service. Add to that that is it easy to find recycling stands for glass, cans, batteries, paper, cardboard and plastic. Although to some frustrations, especially to newcomers, this is for sure an effective way of nudging the consumer in direction of recycling.
  • Change diet. Cut down on you beef and dairy consumption. Animal protein production requires about eight times as much fossil fuel energy compared to the production of plant protein. It takes a lot of resources to raise cows. In addition to water use, and feed production, cattle being ruminant livestock (with several stomach compartments) produce methane CH4, a green house gas with a significantly higher warming potential than CO2. Production of one kilogram of beef creates over five kilograms of green house gasses whereas one kilogram of cereal only creates 300 grams. A vegetarian general saves at least 3000 pounds of CO2per year compared to meat eaters. Poultry production is more energy efficient and less greenhouse gas intensive than beef. So, if you are not willing to eliminate meat entirely, try to limit beef from your diet. One could also highly suggest buying local meat, reducing transport, instead of buying beef from overseas. And especially from areas where cows are grazed on land that used to be tropical forest cleared for agricultural use, as deforestation additionally is a contributor to carbon emissions.

Travel less. Transport better. Walk or use you bike to work. It basically fossil fuel free, doesn’t cost much and you will stay in shape, too. Use public transportation. Most of us are living in a city, where the bus, tram and trains are routinely running. The energy cost, of these transportations forms, is the same if they are passenger empty, half- or full. The same can be true for cars of our time. When you drive your car, you transport not only yourself you also move the weight of the car to. So when you feel the need to use the car, hear if others are going you way, and considered carpooling. Until fossil fuel is replaced by alternative fuel like bio fuel, you should avoid flying when possible, fly less frequently, and fly shorter distances. For leisure air travel try to take fewer and longer vacations when traveling to far away destination. Changes habits, discover and visit more drive able locations closer to home.

  • For work air travel, rethink if you need to take each trip. Combine your trips. Work remote. Increase your use 3of video/tele-conferences. And remember to choose to fly economy class for the same reasons as carpooling and public transportation. As each flyer’s share of a flight’s carbon emissions is relatively less, compared to half empty or private airplanes, when it’s spread out over more people. And while you’re away, turn your stuff off. Turn down your thermostat and turn off your electronics. What’s the point of things being on with no one there?
  • Insulate and seal your home. Home heating and cooling can contribute considerably to greenhouse gas emissions. Insulation your home to block out heat and cold. Reduce drafts and air leakage, around windows and doors, and moreover through the attic and basement. Provide controlled ventilation if needed. Making a few small changes in your home can reduce greenhouse gases and save you money too!Take the first baby steps in reducing you carbon footprints.Do you feel overwhelmed? Then start with creating new but durable habits, like turn of the light, increase the number of vegetarian meals during the week or where you feel you could reduce you impact in the list above. It will cost some thoughts and time, but the prize will be a world worth living in, for the next generations to come.Sources: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) http://newsroom.unfccc.int, United Nations conference on climate change http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/, WWF: http://www.worldwildlife.org, European Commission https://ec.europa.eu/energy/, U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics http://www.nass.usda.gov, U.S. Department of Energy http://energy.gov/fe/office-fossil-energy, Intergovernmental panel on climate change http://www.ipcc.ch, National oceanic and atmospheric administration http://www.noaa.gov.Short bio about the author:

    Sara Fasmer Hansen, Environmental Scientist – exploring sustainable solutions for our planet. 4

    In the past 15 years, I have worked and obtained a comprehensive theoretical and practical education in the field of environmental biochemistry.

    My knowledge is based on strong passion for Environmental Sustainable Solutions and I have: Learned to communicate my knowledge through scientific publications and at conferences in front of an audience. I have been involved in identification of glycosyltransferases, plant cell wall biosynthetic enzymes, via bioinformatics, structure-function analysis and furthermore characterizing of these enzymes by heterologous expression, and plant genetics. I have investigated in plant cell wall degrading enzymes and in this context performed a functional characterisation of a putative transcription factor involved in the transcriptional regulation of enzymes degrading arabinan and arabinoxylan. As a Post Doctoral Fellow my focus was on plant cell wall biosynthesis for better biofuel production. And have experimental understanding of laboratory model organisms including Arabidopsis, Aspergillus, Escherichia coli, incest cell lines and Daphina.

    Currently, I write scientific articles, and book chapters based on my research results. Moreover, I take part in a range of courses about human influence on global climate change. Furthermore I guest blog, as you can see here.

    I am always looking for new opportunities to use my academic background as well as my technical skills in combination with my strong interest in environmental sustainability. So please feel free to contact me for more info on via LinkedIN.

 

1I have clients telling me that they do not make enough money. In one conversation I recently suggested to consider to turn around the perspective: Put aside what you would like to save and see how much you have left to spend. Will you still struggle? Or is your need to consume just a valve for stress release? Find out what your poverty story loop is and learn five ways to find back into reality.
1) Observe your poverty story loop and write it down when you recognize it.
A poverty story loop is a recurring theme that you tell yourself about what will happen to you. It is usually negative and involves that you will live under a bridge, lose all your possessions and similar scenarios. Without going into the deep psychology of the why, I would like to encourage you to write down your poverty story loop when you recognize it.
I will just always have enough money to get by. I will not be hungry but never live in luxury. This is a story I was told when I was around 22 years old. Somehow it made sense to me then. I often notice that the story becomes stronger in my head when I spend time with my mother. She has a theme that must be related to being the oldest child of a large family after the 2nd world war in Germany. My mother is very good at saving money. I am not but I used to spend a lot more when I earned more. So here’s the catch: I have never been poor but I worry about money a lot since I started a company. Other people worry about health but I am not too concerned here. What is your poverty story loop? Write it down.
2) Run a reality check by writing down the counter-theory
Have you got a favorite crime story where you notice that the suspect is not the real murderer? Think about this as you write your counter-theory. Note down all the luxury you have in this world such as a big car, beautiful inner city apartment, five weeks of holiday time, trips to St. Anton and NYC. I think you understand my point, now go and jot down your counter theory. After you completed this exercise check if you still believe the story. Check all your bank accounts, count your cash and bring all the pennies and foreign currency to the bank. Cash all your cheques. Are you still poor?
3) Note down a list of wishes and take a break from impulse shopping
It might be possible to have all that we wish for. You just need to become clearer on what you wish for. It helps to write your wishes down. When your story is about money you could consider everything you need to have versus what you just want to have. For example: When you already have five suits: Do you really need one more or you just want one more? When you already have a functioning car: Do you really need a Porsche?
I have a lot of wishes on my wish list that I don’t really need. They are luxury items. Since I started to write them down I have less desire to buy them. Try it out and force yourself to wait for a month before you are allowed to buy anything that you just want. Do you still want it?
If you spend too much money when you go out you can use a simple trick we used as students: Only take as much cash with you as you are allowing yourself to spend that night. You can also check out my tricks for less affluent entrepreneurs.
4) Listen to the story voice again and tell me who this voice belongs to.
Is this really your story? Did you suck this one up with your mother’s milk or did you see your father struggling with this theme too? If you recognize the story as someone else’s write down the name of the person who owns the story. If it is you than you might understand that you can change the story into a wealth story. If you notice that it is someone else’s story keep it there.
5) Focus on other important aspects in life
Money and financial security are nice to have but too much money is also a stress factor. We have had a bit of money and lost a lot Provided you have enough money to survive and feed yourself and your loved ones ask yourself if you really need and want more money. Living in a safe place where you can voice your opinion is priceless. Being healthy is god-given and having family and friends who love you is amazing. Having healthy children is a miracle. Focus on other

by Angie Weinberger

Multinational companies in Switzerland promote an “inclusive” culture. All people regardless of their religious or cultural background should have the same opportunities within the company. While I often hear that Switzerland is so intercultural as it has four different language regions and lies in the middle of Europe I experience a different reality. In public discussions we speak about differences but we hardly touch pragmatic solutions for helping each other to get along. Here are 13 easy to implement ideas to make your Muslim employees feel more included in your workforce.

At the bottom of inclusiveness is intercultural competence or as I call it “Global Leadership Competency”. Last year, one of my Muslim clients was attacked in the tram (local train) because she was wearing a headscarf. She and her husband had just moved into Basel from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She then decided not to wear a headscarf and to speak German in public. She is fluent as she grew up in Germany. One of my colleagues told me about an African-American who is scared to leave his house because he is constantly asked for his papers and stared at. He wears a beard and his religious background is not Muslim but he feels treated like a terrorist here.

Another one of my US clients who is of Malaysian decent asked me why he is constantly asked for his residence permit these days. And I heard many other stories from friends who just happen to have a Pakistani, Indian or Tunisian background. Most of them are well-educated professionals who could work anywhere in the world.

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We help our clients to gain their confidence back. We point out that Switzerland is an open country with a long history of religious freedom. That includes the freedom to not believe in anything at all. We raise the intercultural competence of the employees in the companies we work with but we cannot reach every single person in the country. I am embarrassed when I hear such stories.

We wish for our clients to be received with open arms in everyday life and in the companies they work for irrespective of their cultural and religious background.

Since 2000, I observed that many global companies develop intercultural competence of their staff and managers mainly through training and legislative minimum standards. While this is better than nothing it is not enough. In Switzerland, the current trend in diversity training is to uncover our “unconscious bias”, i.e how our unconscious stereotypes affect our hiring and promotion decisions. We tend to like people who look like us, think like us, behave like us come from backgrounds similar to ours. This is also called the Mini-Me syndrome.

I don’t see many discussions in corporations around intercultural, interracial and inter-religious differences and commonalities. The main reason is that outside of intercultural training these differences tend to be seen as personal differences more often than cultural differences. Once there is a conflict it is often attributed to the individual rather than cultural background. Or the other way round: Negative judgements are attributed to the cultural background rather than the individual behavior. Hardly anyone I know has enough knowledge to even distinguish between a stereotype and a cultural tendency.

We should encourage intercultural discussions more often. Awareness creates acceptance in a multicultural environment. In Tourism, we tackle customers differently according to their cultural background. In companies we can provide a discrimination-free environment and welcome everyone with open arms by considering a few minor but effective adjustments.

1) Religion is a private matter of every employee which should not have to do anything with her or his work performance. If we focus our assessments on performance rather than person we are on a good track.

2) Muslims might need short breaks to pray. If we use a trust-based time management system rather than strict time control we can ensure that the religious minorities get the prayer time during the day.

3) In hospitals physician must learn rules which have to be observed by Muslims especially when a man treats a women. In case of doubt ask the patient.

4) In tourism we need to learn what is important to client from the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia for example as with the ban of burqas we might not be able to serve those clients in Switzerland any longer.

5) In the police we need to ensure that we are moving away from stereotyping and get a clear understanding of why many young man feel overburdened with the life in another culture while their families at home depend on their financial support.

6) As therapists and other health care professionals we need to learn how trauma of war and being alone when you come from a collectivist cultural background might affect your psyche. We also need to understand that counseling might not be a concept in many of the home cultures of Muslim employees (assuming they did not grow up in Europe or the US).

7) We need to differentiate the social classes of the person we speak to. If you have an Islamic banker or a writer who had fled from Afghanistan, then you are likely to have no misunderstandings because you can communicate with both in German or English. But if you talk to a less educated colleague who has just arrived in Switzerland and does not yet speak the language well, then of course you will need to simplify your language and use techniques to check in if he or she understands you. Avoid to speak in child language and use proper German or English when speaking.

8) We need to train our staff members at authorities, medical assistants, personal assistants and company receptionists to deal with cultural differences better.

9) We can get the basics for inclusion right. It is also important for Jews, Hindus, Jains and many other religious minorities to know what they eat and drink. You can install signs in the canteen and explain what is in the food. You can offer one halal meat dish. At cocktail parties you can show which drinks contain alcohol and explain that everyone is welcome even if they don’t like wine.

10) We can approve extended holidays over Muslim festivals to fly or drive home. Adapt your company’s HR policy to provide more flexibility for different religious holidays.

11) We can congratulate Muslims on their holidays. In the fasting month of Ramadan allow shorter working hours.

12) We can provide prayer and meditation rooms to our staff. It helps all staff members to have quite zones where they can contemplate, pray or simply meditate in these hectic times.

13) We can provide more vocational training and internship opportunities to refugees and asylum seekers. Many refugees do not have formal qualifications and will fall through the roster of our recruitment processes but we could see how they work if we provide more internships and vocational training to them.

I hope that these 13 pragmatic ideas will help you to build an environment in which your Muslim employees feel more included. If you would like more customized advice please contact me at angela@globalpeopletransitions.com.

 

 

by Teresa Marie

I thought I would write an article about a personal transition that took place this year. It was one of the biggest transitions that took place in my life and I have been wanting to share the experience ever since it happened. It came at the nudging of a friend of mine. He explained to me that what was going on with my spiritual life would reflect in the rest of my life and that if my spiritual life was in order the rest of my life would fall into order as well. He asked me if I had a special place where I practiced spiritual modalities.

The Mom Cave Chair

I explained that I had no such place but that I had a room I could convert into a place for that purpose. I realize I was fortunate to have an extra room sitting around, but he explained to me it could be as simple as just a specific chair where all I did was partake in my spiritual exercises, whatever the beliefs may be. The important aspect was that it be a place only for those special times. I set out to make my room, my “special place”. I also affectionately call it my “mom cave”. It’s a place where mom goes off to do her spiritual activities, one of which is writing, since I believe my writing is a spiritual gift. Whatever the gift, whatever the practice, I have discovered having that “one place” to do it is very important.

 

I started by putting up a life sized decal of a tree up on the wall. To me it signified a bible verse about being planted like a tree by streams of living water. I wanted to have living streams flowing from the inside of me to the outside of me. I then crocheted a quilt and put it on a chair in the room. It made it look real comfy and inviting in the room. Then came the desk, the office chair, the printer, computer, stereo, special clock with my dad’s ashes in them, filing system, special lighting, my zero gravity chair for meditation, my favorite picture (a gift drawn for me) and lastly I signed up for a writing course. I was on my way to my new spiritual haven.

This has been the best outer transition I have made in my life for years as it has caused an inner transformation in my life the likes of which cannot be measured. I have a purpose in my life now that I didn’t have a few months ago. I have also met very many wonderful, encouraging, supportive people who are also in this same craft. I feel part of a community now where I never had before. My favorite genre is poetry and I have met many poets. That is a real treat for me. The exposure to other forms of poetry have been an eye opening experience for me as well.

All in all, I would say I have my friend to thank for making the suggestion to me that I find a “special place” for the spiritual aspect of my life. I must also remember, as with all transformations that come to our lives, that we have to be able to take advice and do the hard things that come our way. Transition and transformation are sometimes interchangeable words but not interchangeable concepts. Transition has to do with the process we go through as we are transforming our lives.

What transition are you consider making at this time in your life? What kind of a transformation will it bring in your life? Are you the type that maps it all out in front of you step by step? Or are you like me, do you just take one step at a time and see where those steps lead you?

 

Teresa Marie

I am a poet and writer first of all. My favorite subject has to do with spirituality, but I am not talking about religion. In my opinion, religion ruins a lot of people’s lives. I am talking about spirituality defined as a walk with God that far surpasses anything you could find “in church” for it is a very personal endeavor. I believe spirituality, in its truest sense, happens every day in every aspect of life. I have, in my life, attended almost every denomination of church that there is out there. Even some that were “out there” (if you catch my drift). Those experiences in themselves helped me learn to discern the spirits and see if they were from God. Unfortunately, sometimes the real churches looked too much like them. There is only one right way and that is Jesus Christ. HE is the way, the truth and the light. No one gets to the Father but through HIM. I have a degree in Theology as well as diplomas in Business and Office Management. I recently published the book “How To Get Near God’s Heart” in its entirety on kindle. Just click on the link and it will take you right to it. It is priced low enough for any budget at just $4.99.

My blog can be found at www.telepublishingink.com.

Teresa Marie