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Digital Intercultural Coaching

I sat on the train from Switzerland to France and my stomach gave me a signal. The four border officers who checked passports and went through passenger’s luggage seemed odd. I was on a different continent. In a different setting. I was in a novel. I wondered if I could explain myself in French. But no one wanted to know about my travel habits. I look white. I look the part even though I travel like a bag packer sometimes.

What was going on? I did not want to turn around. Probably this was an uncomfortable situation for the person who was questioned. I assumed it was a refugee or someone who looked like one.

When I go to “Europe” now, there is often a slight anxiety and feeling of worry when I am traveling on public transportation. Switzerland is not part of the European Union even though it is in the middle of Europe. Many people travel through Switzerland to get to Italy for example. In Switzerland, public transportation is clean and effective. Everyone uses it. We don’t really need cars. In other European countries, public transportation is for the underprivileged and the regular commuters.

The grass seems greener in France

Early February I thought that the grass looked greener in France than in Switzerland. In the literal sense. It was an observation. In Switzerland, I felt a few small signs that spring was approaching but in hindsight, this was an illusion created by flower shops around Valentine’s day. Spring was in the air but we were still not there yet. One reason why I could have perceived the grass greener in France was that I did not have WiFi and in Switzerland, I tend to read emails or check my social media on the train. I am usually too busy to see the grass outside. Has that occurred to you lately? And it is such a shame that we run on our robotic mode, are in our head most of our days and do not see the beauty of the nature around us anymore. This morning I sat on lake Zurich, watched the mountains and a Swan family. It was magic. And even though I could go to the lake every day I hardly take the time to actually see.

Perception versus Reality

On another trip to Munich I saw police officers circling a man. I thought that maybe he was a refugee without papers but when I observed the scene a bit longer I noticed that he got up with the help of the policemen. They held him so he could walk properly. Maybe he attempted suicide or maybe he was just dizzy and unwell. What this experience reminded me of was that we tend to make fast judgment calls. We don’t take time to observe. We prepare to run. We are on hyper-alert most of the time. Like / Don’t like / Comment / Don’t comment / Buy / Don’t buy.

This is a sign of the times. And it is a trap. Be mindful when you notice it.

Constructivism and Confirmation Bias

Our perception is influenced by our inner landscape. If you are already alerted and if you are expecting a terrorist around the corner everything your experience will be tainted by this idea. You will suffer from confirmation bias.

When I was out of Zurich I experimented with perception. In Munich, I was nice to everyone I met and people were nice to me. They were supportive and understood my requests and wishes. Or I was under pressure and apologized for being pushy explaining that I was delayed and would get nervous around presenting. I noticed first resistance and I could have been in an egotistical complaint mode but then the receptionist softened when I explained that I tend to get nervous before a talk if I don’t have enough mental space.

Training my observation skills changed my perception over the last 10 years. Being able to communicate my needs and wants (and a fair bit of self-discovery, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation) helped me to stay calm and friendly in formerly stressful situations. I learned those skills and methods during my coaching education and working with many clients over the last years.

Now, I would like to teach you those skills and methods in our RockMe! program and especially in the RockMe! Retreat.

The RockMe! Retreat 2018

The RockMe! Retreat helps to change your inner landscape. I will work with you towards broadening your perspective. I will teach you practices and methods to move out of the reactive mode. This will improve your leadership capability and also your relationships at work and at home.

Sign up here for receiving more insights about the RockMe! Retreat.

 

 

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

What is Ego?

After years and years of success in a corporate role my ego had been quite inflated until I

  1. a) moved to another country and
  2. b) started my own company several years later.

I notice an overinflated ego when I believe the world should be centered around me. Don’t get me wrong. It is ok to be self-confident, assertive and to believe in your own abilities but once in a while we need to accept that the world does not revolve around our needs alone. I think it is also healthy to learn that we are not perfect robots and that we embrace our fears and weaknesses.

Sometimes I feel offended if anyone acts as if I did not matter or if I did not have a say in a decision. Same is true if someone doubts my competence on a matter in which I feel highly competent. I hate when someone points out a mistake I made, even if it is a small one because in my self-image I don’t make “mistakes”. My self-image is that of a competent professional. However, competent and perfectionist is different. A competent person can do the job in a reasonable time. A perfectionist wastes time on detail that does not add value to the process or should be automated. Think of additional flowers you paint into a landscape.

As opposed to the image others have of you, you might feel that you do not always meet your own standards. When I am in a good mood, I tend to blame my lazy inner PA Amber Valentine, who sucks at her job.

When I am in a weak mood though (angry, hungry, lonely or tired), it could happen that a small error triggers an emotional landslide with elephant raindrops coming out of my eyes. Most of the time I later admit to myself, that most of these incidents are not about me and if I assume positive intentions, than I often see the other person’s perspective. We all just try to find solutions with the means and ideas we have at hand.

I also noticed that often we all misunderstand each other more than we actually understand each other. We easily feel criticized, when the other person tried to support or help us.

How does Ego get in the Way of Collaboration?

Once your ego has been hurt you will probably look for ways to “repair” the damage. This could happen by getting into fights with colleagues about nitty-gritty details or by showing constantly to others how superior you are too them. It’s a habit of highly intelligent colleagues, that they like to point out the flaws of an idea or that they push away an argument with a derogatory comment. (Isn’t it obvious that my argument makes sense?)

As a leader, you need to simplify and find explanations that are easy to grasp.

When you apply mathematics for example, I always liked, how one of my best math teachers in high school would teach us the way to derive the formula instead of just learning the formula (which unfortunately was often asked in business classes at university). Why would you waste brain space to learn something by heart that you can now easily recreate with a macro. If you don’t understand the macro, then you have an issue.

When you struggle with simple calculations

A few weeks ago it took me at least 15 minutes to figure out why I did not get a simple balance sheet calculation. I would say, I am good with numbers, but I need to have a bit of clarity in presentation too. This takes a bit of practice though and most of us think, that our presentation and writing is clear to others, while most of the time it is only clear to those who come from a similar background and have gone through a similar kind of education, training and practice. Someone with 20 years of work experience might judge cases more based on gut feeling than fact data. I remember hearing the same from Risk Managers, Doctors and Lawyers. I sometimes don’t know how to explain my judgement other than gut feeling so I need to rationalize it for others to understand where I am coming from.

It’s the same with delegating tasks. If you are not explicit what you need, by when and from whom you might not get anything or you only get half of what you expected. Most of the time you will therefore be disappointed by your collaborators or team members.

However, if you ego is in your way you might feel that you should be irreplaceable and you will create barriers to the flow of knowledge and barriers to collaboration. These barriers could even be sub-conscious. When we work with global, virtual teams to improve collaboration and performance, we teach you basic rules for true collaboration and we also practice ways to build trust and reduce ego-driven moves.

As a manager of such a global, virtual team, you will face challenges of compensating your team members in a fair manner and one or the other might have a better way of showing their contribution to a project and getting the credit.

Four Tips for Reducing your Ego-driven Actions

Nurture yourself: Your inner child most probably has not fully grown up yet. Nurture it and feed it. Look at your needs.

Develop collaboration principles: If you want to collaborate with others develop a common set of principles that you can fall back on in case of doubt.

Accept new tasks and projects with humbleness: Accept that you will have to learn when you move into a new role, a new project or a new task. Learning takes energy and effort. Stay humble.

Show true compassion: You could start with balancing your ego with moments of true compassion and support. Then you have a chance to become a leader, instead of a manager.


 

Do you sometimes feel that your brain is overloaded with information and that you need to outsource parts of it in order to function? Some of us hire an assistant or get married to have another person to support us with all the little details modern life entails. Despite smartphones, apps, calendars, productivity seminars and personal optimization, we still have moments where a little error disturbs our manicured perfectionism.

 

Often in other countries and in transition we feel those little errors more. We are pushed out of our programming. Some errors are dangerous, others are just purely stupid, still others cost us a lot of money. Have you ever noticed that decisions taken under stress (or the influence of alcohol) are not the best decisions in your life?

 

I travelled on a funicular the other day and while I paid I was chatting to my mum and also making jokes. I took back my credit card and a receipt. When we arrived on top I thought the receipt would be ticket but it did not fit into the ticket slot of the machine. I saw other people had real tickets. I went to the conductor and told him that I must have forgotten to take our tickets. My mum wasn’t even paying attention. He called the person at the bottom. Somehow, this person could not remember what happened to our tickets.

 

Meanwhile, I was getting angry at myself and tears kept creeping up. I felt like a child of 10 who had made a stupid mistake. The conductor was very friendly and said it wasn’t an issue but I felt so stupid. You might have similar experiences especially when you are new in a country. Your natural ability to function and get things done is interrupted continuously. Being self-reliant and independent is a strength I feel very proud of. I hate it when I am dependent on others (one of the worst experiences for me was being hospitalized even just for four days around 10 years ago.). Interestingly, when I was younger this experience would probably have ruined my mood for the whole day. Here it was a reminder to stay humble and be alert. We were in a different country after all. Even though in South Tyrol almost everyone I met was a German speaker.

 

After hiking away for about 2 km I had forgotten the incident and focused on the surrounding. It was amazing. Beauty all over. I enjoyed light conversation, a cup of coffee and we walked on in a zig zag. Rain did not stop us. We also had a bit of trouble with orientation. I blame it on my inner state of mind. I was seeking direction but took a few turns, detours and sometimes I felt like we were going in a circle. At the end of the hike, we heard a thunderstorm coming up and while I am a big fan of facing your fears, I frankly did not need to sit in an outside chair lift with the prospect of lightning.

 

The afternoon was full of ruins, castles and churches. My mind was opened up like a beer can. I could enjoy the beauty of old buildings and wooden altars from the 14th century. The more I walked over the next two days, the more I felt that baggage dropped, puzzle pieces moved into empty spaces like Jenga stones and my strength developed from inside out. With every new walk, I gained clarity.

 


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.