Changing Lives – Why it is important that you find your Purpose in Life!

How have you been? I feel we haven’t heard from you in a while. The reason you haven’t heard from me was that I was tied up with managing a the fallout of the tornado and the Coronavirus and handling new client projects. And while I’m priding myself of being highly productive I have to admit that in the last few weeks, I experienced an unusual sense of high alert and I needed to take a weekend off and be offline for 48 hours. You probably didn’t notice as my friend Virginia Robot was still working in the background. I wanted to talk to you today about how it is to build and run a small business in Switzerland.

Starting a business is not for the weak-hearted

It requires a lot of discipline, physical and mental fitness and friends who won’t leave you if you haven’t been in touch for more than a week. You need a life partner and family who is fully behind your decision and you need to be prepared to work harder than ever. I’m saying this after almost 10 years of building and running a business that is offline and online, with freelancers in different locations and a mixed client base.

Two years ago I was drained of resources, my savings were all used up and I had invested in two additional courses. Not only was I ready to give up and get a full-time job, I even had said “yes” to a full-time job offer. But then “fate” kicked in. In a very relaxed moment after a few days of RockMeRetreat I knew I wasn’t ready to start a full-time job in a leadership role where I would spend all my energy on maneuvering politics, playing the game, coaching a team and sitting at a desk for more than six hours a day.

Yes, I was very disappointed when the company told me that they wanted to hire somebody else. I was down and scared but at the same time, I was relieved. And I knew this feeling. It was the smell of freedom.

When you know deep down inside that you will always fall back on your feet, and that you have all the skills and power within you to make a living. This is called real freedom.

This is not a pep talk on how we should leap out of our comfort zone and fight for survival daily, because this kind of adrenaline is not good in the long run. This kind of adrenaline you only need in a real emergency situation during a tornado or a Coronavirus but not every day in your life. This is why I am currently happy to have a part-time role that pays a good salary. Did you know that a university guest lecturer makes the same in an hour in Germany as a kitchen aid in Switzerland? So, despite the fact that I had a lot of work in Europe, I hardly made enough money to survive here.

Playing a safe game is not for entrepreneurs 

Security is nice to have, a paycheck is wonderful, being able to be sick and getting paid is sensational, free coffee and tea at work are amazing and then the luxury of a paid holiday. I mean, this is what you take for granted when you are employed. You think it is a given. You are giving your time to the company, but guess what? It’s not a given.

Switzerland is paradise on earth and it makes me sad when I see colleagues who do not appreciate what they get from work.

For me, it is working with a team of people, being accountable, yet not fully responsible and also having financial freedom. You probably wonder how you keep the energy drainers out of your work environment and for that my advice is a simple one: Focus on your own well-being first. Focus on that as long as you need, stop eating junk food, go for a regular walk, stop working after six hours and change your routine to fit your life. Most of the issues we have at work come from our fear of not being enough. We overcompensate.

I’ve been one of those people long enough. As an HR Professional, I have viewed our performance culture evolve over the last 20 years and I don’t think any “Management by Objectives”, any performance goal has ever brought as much motivation into my life as the work I’m doing pro-bono or (almost pro-bono) as a guest lecturer.

I’m motivated to work with clients in my business not only because I earn money but because I feel that I’m changing lives with my work. The money is a necessity. It is the perceived value of my time and it equates the risks and costs I’ve been putting into my business over the last 10 years.

However, money is not a reason for motivation. And this is one of the reasons why many companies produce zombies at work. People aren’t feeling connected to a cause, the company’s shareholder value is not motivating enough.

I’m in favor of abandoning performance management systems. I believe we should give our people the benefit of the doubt again and help them find their intrinsic motivation. We should help them work in projects where they can thrive, help them develop client relationships that they will find engaging and we should above all change lives.

Leading is not for the bean counters

And if you doubt now how you can help your team to get to that level, we should have a conversation. I would say that first of all: Everybody still has a ton to learn in this world. Understanding that is the first step to growth. For many people, especially women, you need to also help them find the confidence to move ahead. In Switzerland, many women grew up in a male-dominated environment where they learned to work more than their peers to be recognized, and when they tried to move up the ladder, they had to show their teeth.

Then they were told that they were too aggressive and too pushy. Then they started to have self-doubts and then they fell into a complacent state where moving up was no longer an option. I know many women who are excellent, but they neither sell themselves nor do they get enough credit for their work. They run departments silently in the background, while a male colleague gets the bonus and the honors. Yes, I know this is 2020 and I’m having enough of it.

I made a commitment this year to help more “outsiders” and I’m starting with women in developing countries, with more senior women who don’t have enough income for their old-age and also with women from minority backgrounds. Another group we have diligently excluded from certain privileges in the labor market are people with a refugee background who cannot produce the right papers, certificates for certain jobs and people with a mental health spectrum such as people with autism or clinical depression. These topics are still taboo in the labor market. We need to move from diversity to inclusion. It’s 2020!

Do something amazing today! Hug a co-worker.


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