Inspiration through Impact

Winning Candidate Experience
February 19, 2014, 3:11 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

The hiring process is stressful for both sides. The job seeker is putting their talents and career future on the line, which is a vulnerable place to be. The organization is investing considerable resources in hopes of finding a star in the making. This is important stuff.

And yet far too many organizations make a mess out of the candidate experience in the recruiting process. This is astonishing, and just plain self-destructive; In the field of hyper-selective organizations the pool of candidates is ever so small and bad word to mouth can be…it.

Get this: The Talent Board, which runs the Candidate Experience Awards surveyed over 45,000 job applicants about their experience. Of those who had a positive experience, 61 percent would actively encourage colleagues to apply to the organization; 27 percent of those who had a negative experience would actively discourage colleagues from applying. In addition, almost 40 percent of the positives would buy more of the goods or services the company sells, even if they weren’t ultimately hired; 30 percent of the negatives would buy less goods or services. Finally 50 percent of positives share their positive experience; 32 percent of negatives broadcast their bad news.

In other words, a good candidate experience is brilliant marketing for an organization; a bad one is a continuous stain in the reputation of your brand for people that could be interested to join your organization. Devastating as that is, this fact is even worse: a bad hiring experience may cause the right applicant to turn down the job. Top talent has no desire to work in a disrespectful organization with leaders who simply don’t care about the recruiting process. Today people want to feel WANTED, APPRECIATED; it is sort of like dating.

Savvy organizations turn HR into a powerhouse marketing and recruiting tool. I guess as a continuation of my post “User in the middle… He is King Bunny” Here are 5 steps you can take to follow their lead:

1)     Walk in the job seeker’s shoes. We’ve all been job seekers at some point in our careers. As you design or improve your hiring process, keep the candidate experience on your eyesight at all times. Yes, this is about fulfilling your organization’s needs, but the more you understand and design the process from the applicant’s point of view, the more successful you will be. Role playing can be invaluable here. Have a team member play an applicant as you design each step of your process. My current employer, DP DHL Inhouse Consulting, is absolutely brilliant at this one.

2)    Communicate. Remember that disgraceful statistic: over 70 percent of online applicants never even get a form reply. It violates the rules of common human courtesy and smart communication.

You must explain every step of the hiring process to an applicant. Always meet the deadlines and markers you have established. If for some unforeseeable reason, you’re unable to, communicate that swiftly and directly to the applicant. Stay transparent and honest all the way through. My manager, Allison Watson, at the time I worked for Google sets the bar high on this one. She was swift and uncompromising, therefore successful in an organization that will sample a good portion of applicants every quarter to measure their recruiters’ success.

3)   Bring employees in the process. Jobs don’t exist in a vacuum. You want to hire people who are going to mesh with your culture. The best way to ensure this is to seek employee input in designing and implementing your hiring. A fresh pair of eyes can sometimes provide just the insight you’re seeking. And consider having promising candidates meet with their possible future teammates to gauge workplace culture fit. Too many HR departments want to guard their culture from the world. That’s a mistake. Moliere once said: “I take my good where I find it.” He’s one smart guy. I guess the best case I have seen in this regard are ThoughtWorks and their use of pair interviewing throughout their complete set of applied interviews, with the added bonus of reduction of interviewer bias.

4)    Personalize the recruiting process. You’ve heard me say it again and again: when it comes organiyations and their people, one size fits no one. You want a hiring process that has built-in flexibility, not rigid rules. Some of the best talent is idiosyncratic, eccentric and maybe even a bit weird (exhibit A: Steve Jobs). The last thing you want is a process that eliminates stellar talent for bureaucratic reasons. Yes, a college degree from an elite is nice, but is it really the key determinant of an applicant’s future performance? I don’t think so. And in this parameter I have to give the thumbs up to ThoughtWorks again.

5)     Seek honest feedback. Your hiring process should be ever-evolving. Social media has handed HR powerful new tools that impact every step of the process. Actively seek feedback from candidates, both those you hire and those you don’t. Listen and respond, just keep tweaking. A static hiring process will soon turn stale. Think of feedback as a dialogue, a lesson, and an inspiration. For this one I don’t know any organization that has learned to do this swiftly rather than individuals and I have seen no one as fierce in combining the power of social media and physical events as Ms. Amy Lynch (who I am very sure is to become a recruiting guru one of these days and single handedly made herself a local celebrity in Manchester, UK in a few months).

Hiring lies at the very heart of HR and Leadership. When candidates are hired after a positive experience, they hit the ground running, their commitment to your organization having been nurtured and strengthened during every step of the process. When candidates aren’t hired, they walk away feeling respected and appreciated, and are far more likely to recommend other talent look into your organization. This is world-class HR. And you can make it happen!

Alignment through Dialogue
February 18, 2014, 1:35 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

When it comes to building alignment around your vision, dialogue plays a key role. Through dialogue, a leader establishes a two-way conversation, in contrast to the one-way communication needed for clarity, which I discussed in a previous. It involves suspending judgment and stretching to connect with the other person’s point of view. This requires openness and active listening.  Skilled leaders use dialogue as an opportunity to give people a voice. By engaging the group and making others part of the conversation, you open the door to shared ownership and accountability. In other words, you gain buy-in and begin to build engagement.

I read of several examples and practices in which dialogue changed history (highly recommended!) in William Isaacs’ book Dialogue. This book (I dare to say) is, at least in a business and decision making context an interesting predecessor to the Senge saga.

Going at the moment through an extreme change in leadership paradigm, I couldn’t help but gathering some thoughts and giving a continuation to the post: Clarity.

Dialogue is an art, but it’s also a skill that can be developed by practicing two key behaviors:exchanging perspectives and being receptive.

We want the people we lead to get it—to share our vision, our plan, our urgency, our passion. But it’s just as important for people to know that we get them. When people feel understood, they can open up more about what’s really bothering them. If you can get them talking, and if you listen to what they are saying, you’ll be able to address issues, answer questions, and share insights. It’s all about exchanging perspectives.

Exchanging perspectives can sound like hard work and it can be too. A bit too much of it will drive you to slow decision making which can lead an inability to scale up processes and has set many promising enterprises on a path from stagnation to extinction. But consider this: If you ask those around you about the leaders they enjoy working with most they are those who consistently rose to the top were those while genuinely listening to other people and taking others’ input and ideas seriously. I have heard of great practices and resources (especially in Europe) to improve in this area and I would be happy to share if asked.

Going through this path of growth myself, there are a couple of things I am trying out for creating dialogue by exchanging perspectives:

  • Create an open and relaxed environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and sharing perspectives.
  • Have one-on-one conversations with people.
  • Practice reflective listening.

The other best-practice behavior used by leaders to create dialogue is being receptive. Being receptive is a bit more straightforward than exchanging perspectives. It’s not so much about the process of having the conversation or even the content of the conversation. It’s about the vibe you are sending out during the conversation. Both consciously and unconsciously, people sense whether you are receptive and approachable.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, here’s some feedback I heard while asking people how good their bosses were at staying open to input:

“He does ask for input and feedback, but doesn’t really listen to or consider it.”

“She doesn’t seem to feel that the opinions of others are important.”

“He frequently shoots down others’ ideas.”

“When the group is trying to come up with ideas or suggestions, she acts like she is being personally attacked.”

Your tone of voice and body language speak volumes. So make sure you’re not sending the wrong message. Also, this is not the time for debate. Try to get people to open up by saying “Tell me more about that,” to keep the conversation going.  Remember, you’re trying to have a dialogue, not give a lecture. Set the stage for an honest dialogue and make sure people have the opportunity to say what they want to say.

If you’re the kind of leader who believes “It’s my way or the highway,” here are a few tips to help you show more receptivity:

  • Make sure your tone of voice and body language come across as receptive.
  • Be careful not to debate or battle for you own side.
  • Look for signs of people just telling you what you want to hear; then encourage more honest feedback.

Listening can be a hard craft to master, especially when it goes to really understanding the small signs that create high complexity in the work environment. My experience trying to explore this area has been with the incorporation of meditation and mindfulness practice into the business context but I would love to hear new perspectives.


Higher or wider? Choosing your next role

As I was approaching my senior year of high school, me and my classmates were lucky to have the opportunity of receiving considerably more counseling than the average high school senior when it came to the point of choosing our university and study majors.

Besides receiving good support to prepare for our SATs, our career advisor provided us with all sorts of tests to understand our learning styles (visual, auditory or kinesthetic) , our intellectual abilities (nummerical and verbal reasoning, space and time analysis, long term and short term memory, auditory and visual etc.) and of course career aptitude in the future.

For the purpose of this post I will focus on the last one and the results I was presented with: Suitable to all careers.

Yes, that was not much help really. I was very confused and didnt know which direction to take. With a decent skill for Maths and Science I had, it was silly not to consider a career in Engineering. Yet, I could not ignore my passion for Art and Design, so I ended up studying Business and Informatics.

While being busy studying Business, I was concerned not to let my interest for the Arts die, and I started considering to do a double major. This was the setting under which my mother gave me one of those career analogies that haunt you sometimes at worst and in the best case push you further. My mother, who is now well known in her field as an author, researcher and a professor told me at the time that a career was like building stairs. I was at the time busy building a step, and it as important for me to consider if:

  1. I want to build a wider step (having two Bachelors degrees)
  2. I want to build a next step to go higher (pursuit a Masters)

And that is I believe one of the questions that burns in the heads of most professionals now when a career transcends from university into the realm of promotions and next steps: Should I be a specialist or a generalist? How do I balance both?

As I started my career I decided to build higher, but when is the right time to build wider? How do you chose your next role between the palette of opportunities you are offered in a given time? What are the factors to be considered?

Based on my personal reflection and the experience of talking to thousands of candidates over the last decade, the answer turns out to be far more complex than money and career advancement. The factors that people assess when evaluating an employment opportunity fall into three categories: the firm (platform and track record, current and future prospects, people and culture), the job, and the compensation. These factors are interrelated, and most candidates willingly make tradeoffs.

Platform and track record 

How strong is the firm’s track record? What is its reputation? Working for a successful company is of the utmost importance to many. People want to be associated with success and not failure. Successful companies attract the best people, and, as they say, ‘success breeds success. Today we look for an overall platform, that is, not just a job but an opportunity to continue and evolve beyond the specific roles we discuss and I think this is particularly important in the service industries.

Current and future prospects

One also appraises a firm’s future prospects, market competitiveness, and business strategy. Is it well positioned? Today we look at the “strategy of the company—is it viable? Are they changing enough?”  People want to be part of the team that drives organizational growth, and be recognized for the added expertise that they bring.

People and culture 

When assessing a firm’s culture and people, many raise the question of fit. Is this a place where [I am] going to fit in and, most importantly, enjoy working and contributing? Do I share with the owners the same values and vision for the company? Today we also want to work with people we respect and can learn from. It is a hard lesson to get but the prospective boss or bosses (in a matrix organization) is maybe the most important individual(s) to consider when joining a firm not forgetting of course the sense you get from the team you will be working with.

The job 

When it comes to the job itself, the single most sought-after characteristic is opportunities for career advancement and personal growth. Change, variety, and some element of diversity, i.e., something new and different that will continue to challenge you, make you grow, and make you learn more about your own abilities and the world out there.

Many also consider the likelihood of succeeding and having an impact. Assess the training and development that the position offers, the resources that would be available to you, and the degree of autonomy the job entails; Many also think about how the outside world would perceive them in the role, particularly if they are highly visible.


Often times compensation is no longer as decisive as it used to be. It is more a matter of adhering to industry pay norms. But many do want the firm’s compensation system to be fair, transparent and consistent. People want assurance, that they will be rewarded and compensated according to the results delivered. Yet as a rule of thumb compensation must be equal or greater than current compensation, with longer-term positive prospects.

And here we go. A new year, a new choice, a new adventure with the best hopes. Taking the plunge.

The usual Schanze Riots Information War
December 24, 2013, 5:20 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s pretty weird to read the entitlement with which some online detectives will use a couple of sources (YouTube videos or in best case observations of witnesses in this year’s Schanze demonstrations) to proof  that the aggression we saw in what turned into the riots a few days ago in my neighborhood were started by the police. I think the situation is far more complex than what they try to show, and I don’t want to proof the opposite, following Twitter feeds during the whole Saturday and reading more objective reports, I can only wonder if the police chose the best strategy for this occasion, which for the stories I hear from long time residents in this area, the better question is if a good strategy has ever been chosen to deal with the yearly situation of the Schanze.

What I worry about, is that those directly blaming the police for the outcome, really believe that if the police had taken no action and allowed the riots to run a more “natural”course, there would have been none of the damage and violence we witnessed.

What I can say as a resident of the area, and someone that lived at least the last two protests (had to cross them after practicing some Ruby with a friend in a bar, had a few dinners that turned noisy and even a bit worrisome or going home after work getting out of the subway or simply heard them or saw them from a window), is that a not always inconsiderable part of the protesters consider the demonstrations an “event” to attend  and don’t know the topics that the protests intend to address, many have very limited or no information on the reasons for which they are standing up.

A friend of mine, a very long term resident of the city talks of “riot tourists” which is a strong statement on its own. I believe it is not a very far fetched thesis to assume that the very heated up (to which I could believe recent policy has definitely contributed) atmosphere of last weekend’s demonstrations was built up by many people that the protests attracted from other parts in Germany and even abroad.

The police strategy actually doesn’t matter all that much

I heard that in the last years the police has come up with very different approaches to deal with the unpredictable Schanze protests. Yes, there were concepts in which the police tried to stay out of it as much as possible and the situation ended up in violence and vandalism anyway. An example is what happened in the 2009 attack of the police station a couple of blocks away from my apartment in what vandals called a very “boring Schanzenfest”, as they missed the contact with the police and went therefore looking for them.

What I do find daring is to blame the police for the situation that turned the protest into a riot when protesters showed up armed with fireworks and other objects. That situation alone should be able to show anyone with common sense that those individuals did not have the intention to demonstrate peacefully for the preservation of the Rote Flora, the Esso Houses or the right to stay of refugees.  It is actually sad that the topic the demonstrations meant to address felt out of the center of attention and that vandals acted as if taking justice in their own hands instead of bringing back up to sight the political themes and views that seem to be often forgotten.

It s an absolute shame that we get trapped in the stereotype of friend or enemy of the demonstrations rather than becoming conscious or active for the content goals of the demonstrations to become a center point of the local political agenda.

At some point this Saturday seemed to be an event for anyone that wanted to complaint but anything or nothing at all or maybe a zeitgeist of all the protests and topics that were discussed in 2013

The Quarter that shares the demonstrations political view is the one damaged the most.

Broken windows, broken signs, burned cars, and bicycles. Empty businesses on the day its usually most alive, Saturday.

Leaving on the side that the quarter in which I live was again vandalized, and it is the quarter in which most sympathetic citizens and supporters of the demonstrations and its ideas live still  (fairly so, the topics the demonstrations attempted to address are important ones) I have heard a couple of things that on the risk of sounding extremely German and petty, have become a concern for me: The route the protests followed is not the same route the city authorized for security reasons. It may seem like a small thing, but it speaks loudly of the behavior exhibited by the small groups that were unable to see the difference.

What is the consequence of this? Walking (a bit scared) towards a gathering I organized with a group of friends I found 20 – 30 policemen in each corner I crossed. Living close to the venue where we met I came across 60 -90 policemen. My friends also encountered a large amount of policemen as they came from different directions. To make our streets safe that night, the Hamburg police requested the support from policemen al over Germany… Bayern, Cologne, etc.  Take a few minutes… how many policemen were on duty in that night? What are the extra costs that need to be incurred? Policemen do not receive flamboyant salaries by any mean, but this very expensive night was paid by my taxes and those of others that would maybe consider their money could be put to better use than the control of violence and vandalism in a city in a night. You know, things like hospitals, schools, infrastructure, pensions, etc.

A funny fact in all this is that in the district of Altona, where most affected residents live, the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) is supporting the preservation of the Rote Flora and the tolerance of the Lampedusa refuges. But based on what you see, I bet that only 10% of those throwing stones and bottles know this at all, if they are interested in knowing this at all.

What do I hope for the future?

I live in Altona-Schanze-St. Pauli because it is the symbol of diversity and tolerance in the city of Hamburg, where there are cultural, economic, politic differences that make it lively and a pleasure to live in. Yet, last Saturday:

1. I didn’t visit my local supermarket.
2. I didn’t go to the drugstore.
3. I didn’t visit the vegetable shop that sells organic local produce.
4. I didn’t visit the atelier of a local designer or cut my hair in the usual one man shop.
5. My friends and I didn’t go for dinner at the local pizzeria.
6. I chose a place to meet my friends for a special occasion considering the chances of trouble. My friends were nervous to come see me for one of the last time, some almost didn’t show, or didn’t show at all.
7. Everyone got warned not to wear black.
8. The iconic punk bar I chose is usually full but this time, we were the only ones there. And we were worried about the windows where we could see four police vans protected the ATMS of the state owned bank.
9. Our conversations inevitably were focused on fear. A group that usually doesn’t care about political opinions to base friendship was often polarized. Talked about broken or stolen property, insulting graffiti at the door, etc.
10. When considering going to a next venue, most declined the idea and preferred to stay inside or go home. Best case, wait longer.

We woke up the next day, hoping this was only a one day thing, not like the last time.

I support freedom of speech and the freedom to gather that any of us in this country have. My hope is that the organizers of demonstrations will disinvite individuals that only have intentions of violence and vandalism if there is a way to identify them in advance. Do this openly and publicly. It is the only way in which one will be able to take tolerance as the starting point of demonstrations and protests in Schanze.

For residents of the area safety is becoming a more important issue, and violence and vandalization should no longer be tolerated. The damage incurred (NOT ONLY during protests) puts the livelihood of many at risk. The doors and windows that get broken or spray painted without distinction don’t always belong to the large corporations that they are meant to go against.  Usually it is the small business owners that make this area the quarter we so much love and give us a diverse scene and range of products and services, those who are not able to find a policy that will cover them for their damages anymore and that will often times have to pay from their own pocket for replacements, repainting, etc.

And for us, residents, who love street art in the area, we are sick of waking up to our doors or windows scratched, with cheap spray painted phrases such as “Yuppies get out of here!”… That is not graffiti. It happens often to my own building; Little do they know that most residents of the house live here longer before Schanze was trendy, a majority are born here, longer before rents became ridiculously high… A single mother with three kids, an artist, a sailor, an immigrant and a blue collar worker. We hardly qualify as yuppies but those who do it wouldn’t care to ask, would they?

Expat Festive Cheer
December 19, 2013, 3:45 PM
Filed under: Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

If you are an expat, unless you’d rather visit Guantanamo than your family during the festive season, chances are you’ll be feeling a little glum come late December. It’s always a little weird when everyone you know disappears for a couple of weeks to “go home” and “home” is not a concept you handle often anymore (as you have been traveling for so long) or maybe you are an exchange student and couldn’t afford to go back. It’s only natural that the holidays make expats feel a little lonely; First, your family is not around, and second, the large amount of traditions that are not belonging to you, yet pushed on your face can be a bit daunting.

Here’s how to lift your Christmas spirits when you’re thousands of miles from the people you love and your peeps at your second home are not around.

1. Host an “orphans” Christmas
If you haven’t got anywhere to be on the 25th, take matters into your own hands. Put the word out your expat clan that you’re roasting a bird and any local stragglers are welcome to join you. With a nice group of expat friends you can do thins like splitting the preparation of each meal and sharing a bunch of international traditions. This work wonders in our dorm in The Netherlands, and my cousins in Toronto make a yearly event that everyone talks about out of this.

2. Skype the folks back home
Check in with your family at key Christmas day moments – the present opening, the carving of the turkey, and when your uncle starts snoring erratically in his armchair as long as time differences allow.

3. Order in your festive favs
It can be minced pies, duck with ham or whatever you do in your land. If you don’t have any, make something of your own with what you have. My family was always close to turkey before my grandfather passed away. Now I take my grandma’s recipe to meet cake, just because I love it even if it may freak the hell out of Germans to find a dish made out of meat with meat and a side and topping of… Yes, you guessed it: Meat.

4. Volunteer
If you can’t host and you’re not exactly awash with invitations, don’t wallow. Check out which charities, local churches and soup kitchens need help serving up Christmas dinner to the needy. This should put your own misery into perspective and it’s a great way to meet people in a similar situation.

5. Go on holiday
Pack your bags, head somewhere sunny and forget all about Christmas. There are plenty of last minute deals available for anyone with the will – and funds – to escape a home alone Christmas. Or, spend the money importing a friend from a neighboring country. There must be someone in your life who’d appreciate a free trip, not to mention the pleasure of your company.

6. Treat yourself
Faced with a Christmas spent away from home, feel better by treating yourself to all your favorite things. Book a massage for Christmas Eve, spend the day itself in bed surrounded by booze and chocolate and, on Boxing Day, sleep, sleep like you don’t have time enough for the rest of the year.

7. Buy or borrow a pet
A little – preferably furry – companion will cheer your right up.  So many of your friends are looking for someone to leave their with  cat I bet. My rabbits have their own little Christmas cheers. A Santa hat could do, an elf costume works just as well. Note: don’t try this with a goldfish.

8. Watch heart-warming Christmas movies
This seems a bit like masochism to me, but it is important for many. Thousands of films have been made with the express purpose of cheering up lonely, miserable people at this time of year. Choose some to get you through the festive period and combine with any of the above.

9. Hit the pub
As I moved to Europe I thought this was mad. As I heard it was almost a tradition for my Irish in-laws at the time, I could barely believe it, but now I must say I like it. Do you know what is weirder than hitting the pub in Christmas? Hitting the pub in New Year’s eve to realize they are all closed for some weird law. Yes, that’s what happens here. You will be surprised of how many neighbors will be there.

10. Start a Christmas Home fund
Ensure you can get back home next year by sorting the stuff we all hate doing. Get your taxes straight, plan how to pay all your bills and fix a monthly amount to save up to go home or do any or all of the ones above!

Have a good end of the year folks, next year we’ll be back to biz.

When will you settle down?
December 16, 2013, 12:20 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

One year after I started traveling, I was back home suffering from the classic telltales of reverse cultural shock, which no one seemed to understand and with increasing frustration (also to others) and dreams of getting on a plane as soon as possible   a friend  asked what I’m running away from. My mother constantly wants to know when I will “settle down” and join the “real world”. A boyfriend once commented on and told me to stop running away, face my daddy issues and live life. 

I’m not sure why, but there is this perception out there that anyone who travels long-term and isn’t interested in settling down to be running away from something.They are just trying to “escape.”

The general opinion is that traveling is something everyone should do — that gap years after college and short vacations are acceptable. But for those of us who lead nomadic lifestyles, or just linger a bit too long somewhere, we are running away.

Yes, travel — but just not for too long.

Serial expats must have awful, miserable lives, or are weird, or had something traumatic happen to us that we are trying to escape from. We are like children who don’t want to grow up and are simply running away from “the really important things in life.”

And to all those people who say that, I say to you — you’re right. Completely right. Facing another move very soon (can’t count them by now anymore), I am running away. I have been since I slung my backpack over my shoulders and grabbed my trolley in 2000. But I am not trying to avoid life; I am just trying to avoid  your life, even if I may consider to give it a go at some point later… Much later.

Running away from routine, commuting from home to the office without doing anything else, and weekend errands, and running towards everything the world has to offer. I’m running away from monotony, 9-to-5, rampant consumerism, and the conventional path. I will just travel some months, work long hours in others (because I don’t take jobs I hate and make me wonder of the meaning of the universe) and from time to time I won’t even sleep to get it all done.

I running towards the world, exotic places, new people, different cultures, and my own idea of freedom and living. I want to experience every culture, see every mountain and every good club, eat weird food, attend crazy festivals, meet new people, and enjoy different holidays and traditions from every corner. While there may be exceptions (as there are with everything), most people who become vagabonds, nomads, and wanderers do so because they want to experience the world, not escape some problem. We travel to experience life and live on our own terms.

Life is short, and we only get to live it once. I want to look back and say I did crazy things, not say I spent my life in an reading travel blogs, and wishing I was exploring the world. I chose employment that allows me to do that.

I am Latin-american, my perspective might be different from people from other regions of the world. In Mexico, you go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, and have your 2.5 children. Society boxes you in and restricts your movements to their expectations. It’s like The Matrix. And any deviation is considered abnormal and weird.

There’s nothing wrong with having a family or owning a house — many of my friends lead happy lives doing so. However, the general attitude is “you have do it this way.” I cannot say enough times that I don’t care about freezing eggs, aging ovaries and all that stuff. If that is in my cards it will happen.

And, well, I don’t want to be normal. Maybe you are happy with long commutes to have a nice an quiet environment to rise your kids and work in the city together with long work days. But I’m not. Life is too short for that. There are too many things to do and as famous philosopher Brian Adams once said “Never said no, try everything twice.”

Years ago a book called The Secret came out. According to The Secret, if you just wish for and want for something bad enough, you’ll get it. And in the last years a lot of kitchen Psychology has been published around how smiling at the world will naturally attract what you want. I don’t buy it.

The real secret to life is that you get what you want when you do what you want and work for it hard. Life is what you make it out to be. Life is yours to create.

We are all chained down by the burdens we place upon ourselves, whether they are bills, errands, or, like me, self-imposed rituals. I have been reflecting a lot upon this as this move is being difficult, I have the feeling to leave a lot behind… I m probably naturally getting older and there will be a time in which I will refuse a new city or a new country for my career of exploring what’s out there while getting some amazing and interesting work done. But I have to let go, travel, experience something new and maybe later come back.

People who travel the world aren’t running away from life. Just the opposite. Those that break the mold, explore the world, and live on their own terms are running towards living. We are running towards our idea of life. We get to be the captains of our ships even if lonely from time to time. We looked around at the norm and said, “I want something different.” 

I am not running away. I am running towards the world. And I never plan on looking back. I spent three years in this town, the longest I have lived anywhere, the signs of leaving a place you made home and the nostalgia the whole thing carries are there when leaving my friends behind and facing with slight exhaustion the need I will have to build a life from scratch again but with more than a decade traveling I can say: You always meet twice and thanks God there is Facebook. 

Here we go again.

My biggest lesson this year: Clarity
November 25, 2013, 4:46 PM
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Getting people on the same page, or as others call it “bringing them along in the journey” is critical to getting buy-in to your vision. And one of the keys to communicating a future vision, plan, or change is to give people context. As the leader, you were probably involved in the decision-making process, sitting through all sorts of meetings and conversations during which ideas were shared. You know the history that led to the decision being made the way it was. But what about everyone else?

Being the manager for a project or team, one often overlooks communicating what is obvious and intuitive to you, but can seem like a mystery to those working with you. Providing clarity involves a delicate balance between keeping it simple and addressing real-world complexities. Leaders who master this tricky communication are good at explaining their rationale, and structuring messages so they are clearly understood.

Explaining the rationale behind a vision means providing explanations. If people aren’t given explanations, they are likely to unintentionally make them up. By explaining your rationale, your team will understand where they are going, why they are going there, and what the expectations are.  If you operate with a “need to know” mentality, it’s likely that people won’t have the information they need to buy in emotionally and rationally to your vision.

In the learning path I had this year in this area, I was fortunate to have a couple of meaningful conversations, I reall special learning from the European Sales Director of a former employer: Effective leaders also make sure they are structuring their messages so people can easily understand them, and so they can be repeated and shared with others. But structuring messages takes time, and you might be thinking, “I’m great at communicating clearly. I don’t need to take the time to structure my message—I’ll just wing it!” But think about how it feels to be handed a mess of information and be expected to figure it all out. I lived there in the last year, as I am sure most people do. Meandering, unfocused communication leaves people wondering whether their manager has his/her act together. On the other hand, well-structured messaging says, “Here’s a leader who knows where he’s taking us.”. So how can one become more clear?

  • Find the “headline” of your message—you should be able to boil it down to eight words or fewer.
  • Create talking points that balance the big picture and the details.
  • Refer back to your message repeatedly over time.

What, Who, How and Why? What is the closest milestone you need to achieve from a “smaller” meeting that will help you achieve a larger goal?


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