Archive for the ‘Consulting News’ Category

Sustainability, leadership, empathy, mindfulness – what have they all got to do with each other?

February 27, 2015

I have tried to really condense my thinking on this into a few short sentences. So here you go:

Sustainability must include sustainable leadership – and that means ethical, participatory leadership. Lead in a circle, consider the concerns of stakeholders and allow/hear/consider/think with their voices, starting with your employees.

We must accompany managers on their way to becoming leaders, not leave them alone with that, but offer them relevant learning. Too many managers are left alone in their transition from management to leadership, where suddenly they are no longer just responsible for themselves, but for furthering and developing people in a team.

Sustainable leadership is about inter-subjectivity and empathy – also towards employees, communities, the environment, and future generations.

The challenge is ignorance – people who keep playing the wrong game, the game of endless material growth and ego-centrism only.

What is inter-subjectivity? Really *seeing* other individuals, as subjects in themselves, with rights, needs and emotions – not as objects for you to treat any way you please, or to consider mere extensions of yourself. Or even worse, as objects to exploit.

That inter-subjectivity perception takes empathy – and empathy is an ability that in most people (except those with certain personality disorders) can be increased through awareness raising, learning and practice.

So here is our challenge as leadership trainers and coaches – help leaders with their levels of empathy, help them with their ability to see others rightfully as subjects in themselves, in good inter-subjectivity, and expand from there to help them understand the concept of sustainable leadership – acting in the best interest of all stakeholders concerned, long-term.

We must also help leaders especially with weighing the pressures of having to produce and present short-term profit with realizing and protecting long-term strategic interests. Example: If you ‘take the profit and run’, that might work for a few years – but what does it take to do and invest differently if you want your business to be around for 20 years or longer?

In the end, whether as an individual or an organization, what really matters in today’s world is that you yourself act and behave like an ‘adequate other’ towards the people around you/your stakeholders. And that attitude and behavior requires good mindfulness.


Action Learning is professional peer coaching

July 8, 2014

Why Action Learning?
“I’ve had more directly applicable job learning from this than from any conference I ever went to!” That’s what one Managing Director told me – and that is what professional peer consulting in a facilitated Action Learning group can do for you.

At conferences and workshops, colleagues and I have noticed again and again how participants seem most eager to have an exchange of experiences with each other and are looking for peer advice. Most of the time, however, little or no time is planned in around these events for such peer exchange to take place – at best, some Open Space Technology sessions will be offered. Here Action Learning, a facilitated and confidential peer consulting approach, can be a welcome solution.

What is Action Learning about?
Action Learning is all about bringing your current management or leadership issues into a trusting exchange of knowledge and experience, joint reflection, and hands-on feedback

 with five selected peers from other organizations. Complete confidentiality is assured!

Openness and trust, respect, joint co-creation of the coaching process and mutual learning are key elements of Action Learning.

How does it work?
An Action Learning group typically has six participants and a facilitator.

 Each session starts with a catch-up phase during which group members share their current news or just let the others know how they are currently doing.

The catch-up phase is followed by some members putting in own bids for help with issues they would like to talk through. In one Action Learning session, typically more than one person will bring her/his topic to the group.

 An issue holder then shares her or his issue, for about five minutes. After that, the other participants will ask questions for clarification only.

 Following issue clarification, group members can then:

o   Ask open questions

o   Offer feedback

o   Challenge and support

o   Offer suggestions

o   Offer theories and ideas

o   Offer advice

How long does it take?
Participants generally come together for a day, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm.
One Action Learning round typically lasts about one hour (sometimes a bit shorter, sometimes a bit longer). Several issue holders can each get an Action Learning ‘round’ during one day.

After an Action Learning day, group members go back into their organizations and experiment further with the topic they talked about, the consulting they received, and own new understanding and insights.

Participants meet again after six weeksaltogether about four to six times over a period of half a year –– to share learning experiences, and to start another round of talking through own learning and development issues around effective management and leadership.

The snake that swallowed the elephant: The change/innovation adoption curve

June 27, 2014

Do you remember reading Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince? Who thought he’d ever be relevant for business? Yet if you can remember the story and the image of the snake that swallowed the elephant, it’ll help you remember for ever the shape of Roger’s change/innovation adoption curve. If you are yet more informed, you may remember it from Geoffrey Moore’s much-quoted 1991 business bestseller ’Crossing the Chasm.

Screen shot 2014-06-27 at 11.10.38

The change/innovation curve first sees the innovators (risk takers who desire to try new things, even if they fail) and moves to early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. You will notice there is a vast chasm between the early adopters and the early majority. While early adopters are attracted to change and want the advantage of being first, the early majority waits until they know that the change/innovation actually offers improvements worth their while. The challenge for innovators, change agents and communicators/marketers is to narrow this chasm and ultimately accelerate adoption.

Rogers explained already in 1962 that there are four main elements that influence the spread of a new idea:

the innovation – communication channels – time – and … a social system.

Achieving acceptance and adoption tends to be much harder with the late majority: They will usually only adopt in reaction to peer pressure or economic necessity. Most of the uncertainty around an idea must have been resolved for them to adopt. All the while, the laggards simply prefer to rely on past experience.

Think of different scenarios for this concept – I, for example, am an early adopter where it comes to social change; however, with certain new technologies, count me amongst the laggards … For those of us working in Corporate Responsibility, we certainly experienced the companies that only came around to it through stakeholder pressure, or being left behind in the market.
What is it like for you? In what areas of professional or personal life do you count yourself among the early adopters or early majority – and where do you tend to be a laggard?

A note on not wasting your time: For effective change, invest your energy into the early half of this model, up to including the early majority. They will be your multipliers to eventually convince the other half – while you and your energy are already on to the next change/innovation project. Convincing the late majority and the laggards would simply take too much of your creative, innovative energy and time and would be too much hard Sisyphus work.

Mindfulness in the workplace, for greater wellbeing and productivity

May 9, 2014

Companies like Intel, Google, Nike and General Mills want their employees to be less stressed and more focused. For this purpose, Intel for example introduces a nine-week mindfulness training to more than 100,000 employees in 63 countries – participation is voluntary and is supposed to increase both wellbeing and productivity.

What is mindfulness? It is generally described as attentive awareness of self and/or others in the present moment. Of body, feelings, and mind. A focusing and centering – active, open attention to the present. Also mindful of how we treat ourselves and each other. Are we hard on ourselves? Or do we take good enough care of ourselves?

At Intel, during weekly 90-minute sessions, employees learn to quiet their minds, listen mindfully, meditate, act choicefully rather than compulsively, relate authentically to each other beyond professional roles.

Desired outcomes are that people have increased individual wellbeing, are more highly engaged in meetings, and are better at team collaboration and more creative and generative together.

Such a program can clearly be part of HR’s Employee Value Proposition, improving work-life balance and employee health. The corporate programs will also attempt to prove not just qualitatively, but also quantitatively that mindfulness training at work leads to higher productivity, thus positively impacting the bottom line.

A new trend to sweep the international business world? Watch this space …

“I’m not crazy – I’m just not YOU!”* 4 areas of easy misunderstanding between people at work, and how to get around them

August 19, 2013

Time and again in my work as a consultant and coach, I am approached regarding people at work having difficulty with each other: with behavior, with attitudes, with work style.

And ever so often, I find that conflict can be easily resolved – through mutual understanding of different personality types, and adjusted behavior towards being an ‘adequate other’ to colleagues, people reporting to you, and your superiors.

Here are a few aspects:

On a need to talk – or not talk …

You extroverts who are talkative and love bursting into somebody else’s office to quickly discuss an idea – do you realize that if that colleague is an introvert, your sudden ‘intervention’ is not welcome? That your colleague would much prefer you sleep over your idea, then send an email about it, and in the email ask to agree a date and time when to sit down and talk about this? The reason: Your introverted colleague processes information differently, and while for you as an extrovert, there is a direct connection from your brain to your tongue, for your introvert colleague, the information goes from the brain through the whole body – and only then to the tongue. But you can be sure that once you get an answer, it will be thoroughly thought through.

In turn, dear introverts, your extrovert colleagues cannot read your mind – they cannot actually hear what’s going on inside you. What is going on in there tends to be very rich – so it would be so generous of you if every once in a while you could actually speak some of it to share with the world around you! You might be too quiet in a meeting, just thinking a lot but not saying a word – and what a loss for the world not to know your thoughts … I mean it!

On detail vs. big picture …

Then, dear intuitive people, for you it’s enough that somebody gives you an idea, a rough vision – you can run and fly with it, you can say “I can see it all now!” Disappointed that you don’t get total enthusiasm from some other colleagues or your boss when you pass that idea or vision on? Well, that might be because they are not that intuitively inclined and literally can’t ‘see it all now’. What do they need? A fact sheet, dear friends! A one-pager with all the possible data you can generate. You need a budget for that ‘great idea’ from that less intuitively inclined person? Well, the one-pager fact sheet can help them greatly to also ‘see it all’ – and actually approve the money!

In turn, dear ‘facts and data’ people, you might have worked out a detailed concept with excel sheets, etc. – and you might send it to your colleague or boss with a detailed email explaining it all. Now, if your recipient has a clear intuitive preference, you can be sure of one thing: They won’t read it. No, they won’t. They might catch a few headlines and briefly skim over all your stuff – and will feel thoroughly stressed. It’s too much information for them!

So if you want to be sure they actually read you, keep the information as short as possible. Put the key thing already into the headline. Break information up in paragraphs, and bold all relevant text bits (like I’m doing here) – so that when your recipients skim through, their eyes catch at least the bold parts!

On criticism and feedback …

Thirdly, there is this thing about criticism – well, hopefully it would be constructive feedback. When you are in a meeting, pay attention to who tends to speak first, dissecting a concept or an idea and immediately pointing out the flaws. That person has a rational, logical preference. Keeping harmony is less important to them. They tend to be more focused on outcomes and results than on keeping happy relationships. Well, tough on those people to who harmony and relationships are very important. If their work or their ideas are criticized, they might take it personally, thinking that they are not liked … That logical, rational person can receive feedback more easily – they will take it as about their work, not about themselves. That other person, needing harmony and good relationships – will, if you need to give feedback, please assure them first that they are great people and you really enjoy working with them. Only after that, offer “and then there is this one thing that could still be optimized …”

On timely, structured process vs. last-minute, leave-everything-open approach …

Finally, there is this tricky thing about structure, process and order. Biiiiiiiiig issue amongst co-workers, and employees and their bosses. Just huge! Your colleague, the person reporting to you or your boss is always last minute with everything? Well, to tell you the truth: They love it! They thrive on that, they need it to feel good, to feel energized. You ask them to deliver something three days before a deadline? That paralyzes them completely, drains all energy from their bodies right there. They can’t function.

Of course, their last-minute style is totally stressful to you!! You are now in the pressure cooker, needing to work like a maniac to finalize your part of the deal that was dependent on receiving theirs.

The other way round, your own preference might be an orderly, structured one – you want to get started on an assignment on time, work your way through it step by step, not get interrupted, and be done well ahead of the deadline. Was it you who was done with her/his Master’s thesis one month before the deadline? Unimaginable for those last-minute people who only printed their thesis half an hour before having to ultimately hand it in!

So: working last minute is highly stressful for some, while highly energizing for others. Working according to a plan and being done well in advance is the preferred mode for some, but paralyzing for others.

How do you get around that? A boss I know sets his last-minute employee fictitious deadlines – 10 days before the real deadline. It works out great for both of them! The employee gets the pressure she needs to make her thrive – and the boss still has sufficient time to review and add own work on to what was delivered. Nobody has to work through the last night if they don’t want to.

A final part of this last-minute preference is: changing decisions and parameters. Not even remembering that certain things had been said and agreed before. ‘Normal’ for those last-minute people. Hugely stressful for those orderly, structured people with a plan. They will say “You can’t do that! You can’t change things now!” To which the last-minute person will say “Why not? Of course I can! I’m doing it now!” Those people who prefer the structured process will be stressed by sudden changes of parameters – whereas those people who prefer leaving things open to the last minute and being flexible to any possible change find it stressful to be ‘squeezed into a shape’ without being able to get out of that …

Of course, there are also still variations within a preference! You might be happy with a last-minute work style, but not quite as much as your colleague! E.g., you might like to have a concept ready two days before meeting a client, so other people can still review – whereas your colleague might be happy with writing up the concept half an hour before meeting the client … (Sounds familiar, too?) And that colleague cannot even understand what you are fussing about?

How do you deal with all these possible areas of conflict and disagreement?

Well, how about meeting in the middle? Developing some mutual understanding and each doing one’s part to move closer towards compromise?

Try this:

  • Introverts who reveal a bit more and extroverts who talk a bit less.
  • Facts-and-data people who sacrifice a little detail and intuitive people who read their mails a bit more attentively.
  • Logical, rational people who slow down a moment before firing off their criticism, thinking a bit about who might be hurt by what they say. Harmony seekers who try to separate feedback about their work from the sense of whether they’re being liked.
  • Process-focused people who try to work on their flexibility towards changing parameters. And last-minute, leave-everything-open people who try to stick a bit more to a pre-agreed plan, and who take into consideration who in the ‘producing value’ chain comes behind them, and who of those might have to work through the night, the weekend, or past a deadline due to being on the receiving end of that ever-so-energizing last-minute work style …

Good luck with observing and understanding each other better, and with talking it through and getting to mutual agreement about workable compromise!

And if you would like help and support with that, feel free to get in touch – I am an accredited Myers Briggs Personality Types practitioner.


*’I’m not crazy, I’m just not you’ is the title of a book on the topic:

Crowdfunding and Subscription Billing in Community Involvement – this needs to be on your radar screen!

September 25, 2012
Have you heard about crowdfunding yet? It’s all the latest hype in the Community Involvement field, and a trend that will not go away – the Tsunami wave is only just starting.
Crowdfunding is new – the word did not exist before 2006. It first started in the US with websites like and indiegogo.comNow everybody can do fundraising from the public, in the fields of music, art, film, design, sports, or social projects – if only their pledge is convincing. And you’d be surprised what kinds of projects receive successful funding – be it in the thousands or even millions! The principle is simple: If many people each give a little, a lot can be financed! A film company that looked to raise Euro 1 million within three months to supplement a movie budget had raised that amount already after – one week! A pledge to raise USD 5,000 for a victim of mobbing generated USD 650,000 across the US within only six days!
Leading companies have now discovered crowdfunding as a means to enhance stakeholder relationships and stay in touch with communities – crowdfunding is about a metamorphosis of the ‘Like’ button in Social Media into a monetary contribution. Leading companies now take their Community Involvement projects public and give stakeholders a chance to participate as co-funders. Contributors join a funder community and usually receive a thank-you gift for their donation, starting with books and DVDs and not ending with personal meetings with celebrities or international leaders of change – depending on the size of the contribution.
The most advanced has been Unilever: The company started its ‘Waterworks’ subscription billing campaign via Facebook app in June 2012 – and got nice media attention for it. Have a look.
This is about more than a one-time donation – subscribers get billed for 10 cents a day. In return, they receive regular updates about the project’s success, and video news from water workers in different countries. Contributors find they share personal values with Unilever, and together they can bring clean drinking water to 500 million people up until 2020. 1 billion people use Facebook. If 100,000 globally participate in the ‘Waterworks’ initiative, donating 10 cents per day, that will gross USD 3.6 million in one year – and a lot of clean water can be generated from that amount …
My client Skype just started a crowdfunding initiative to further support their charity partner Peace One Day, the organization behind International Peace Day, endorsed by the United Nations and taking place every year on September 21. Peace One Day works on peace education around the world, and thanks to the partnership with Skype, peace education is now brought to many schools around the world via virtual classrooms, in 15 languages. Through the crowdfunding initiative, Skype invites the public to co-fund the initiative – and Skype will match every dollar contributed.
Crowdfunding generates new attention and gives a fresh boost to the social brand dimension. Of course, good marketing and communications around such an initiative are important! However, with the tsunami only beginning, first movers really have a chance to differentiate themselves and get noticed.
If you’d like to find out more about crowdfunding, get in touch – and if you happen to be in Berlin on October 26, you may want to attend our session on crowdfunding at the Kulturinvest Congress.
If you want to get started, I’ll also be happy to connect you to the people who developed Skype’s microsite.
Best of luck to you in exploring this new area of community engagement!

So who’s the client, really?

June 7, 2011

You know this situation: You have built a relationship with a prospective client slowly, sometimes over a year and a half. You have a good connection now, have some familiarity and trust. You get your first client contract, and you and your client start working together. Your ideas are appreciated, your work is valued – you have agreement about the way forward. Your client indicates that there is more work for you to come, over the next few months – or even years. You think everything is great.

And then it happens – sometimes only after a couple of years, sometimes after a few months. The unexpected. Your client’s (new) boss gets in the picture: “My (new) boss wants to meet you.” Oops – up until now you may not even have realized there was a boss you might have to deal with. Or you had a rather good connection to the ‘old’ boss, and wonder what that new person is going to be like.

Ideally, you’d like to follow your tried and trusted approach here: getting to know that person, and allowing that person to get to know you – taking time to build familiarity and trust, and then contracting on how to do some work together, before even starting to do the work.

Only, it’s not going to happen. What do you get? If you’re lucky, one ‘meet and greet’ with the boss – and if you’re lucky, the two of you ‘click’, and you get approval to continue your work with your client. If you’re less lucky and you don’t ‘click’, that boss may look at you with a bit of suspicion.

If you’re even less lucky, the boss ‘gets in the way’ – does not like your approach, knows better than you, or finds your rates too expensive. All of those are not good news. They may mean less or no work for you with that client in the future.

Which – each and every time of going through this experience, as many of us have – leads to the question: Who is the client, really? Is it that person with who you have established that nice working relationship? Or is it really that person’s boss, who can decide whether you’re the person they want to work with and whether they want to give you work at all?

Sometimes, you may keep the work, but whereas your initial client treated you as a partner, the (new) boss might be more inclined to just give you orders top-down.

As consultants, we don’t want to be agency people, we don’t want to be just service providers – as David Maister says, we want to be ‘trusted advisors’ (

So what can we do? Well, there can always be surprises – and new bosses coming in. We may always have to consider how to make the best of the situation, where to compromise – or whether to quit.

However, whenever possible in the initial relationship building and contracting phase, it helps to ask: ‘So who’s your boss? How is her/his involvement with this work? What are her/his priorities? How may what she/he needs from me differ from what you need from me? Would it make sense to have a three-way meeting early on?’

That way, hopefully, you can build that collaboration – rather than being ‘confronted’ with each other rather late in the process and potentially experiencing a sense of mutual exclusion rather than early inclusion.

What are your thoughts about this? What have you experienced – and what did you make of the situation?

Why I now also offer telephone coaching

January 6, 2011

Many people’s lives could be improved with coaching, enabling them to cope with the challenges and demands of their lives.

However, although coaching commonly takes place on the telephone, there is some apprehension by some people who would like to see the person they are talking to.

At the same time, you may find that arranging face to face meetings at a convenient time and place for both of you is challenging, time consuming and inconvenient.

With telephone coaching, you will be able to select a coach located almost anywhere, so you can focus on how well the coach meets your ideal requirements, without geographical limitations.

Telephone coaching is much less costly and time-consuming. You will not have to pay for the travel expenses for your coach or yourself, and you will not waste your valuable time traveling.

Telephone coaching is very convenient and relaxing. You will be able to conduct your coaching sessions from any location you wish. You will be able to select a quiet, private and relaxed place to be during coaching sessions.

For the best telephone coaching, a few practicalities can aid a good experience:

You may want to choose to telephone with a headset, to avoid a stiff neck from keeping a phone tucked under your chin while trying to listen and write notes.

You may want to find a quiet and private place – both for your own reflective concentration, and to assure confidentiality.

Your coach will listen, ask open questions, prompt you for more information or challenge you. As a coachee, you can feel confident to speak your truth to the coach who will be non-judgmental.

The coaching session will be a safe space to talk, will be fully confidential, and it will start and finish on time.

Usually telephone coaching takes place after an initial personal encounter.

See also my website on this:

Proud to be listed among Twitter’s ‘Best of CSR in 2010’

December 21, 2010

Today I feel in good company indeed: I feel proud that Fast Company has listed me as one of the ‘Best of CSR in 2010’ contributors on Twitter, in its 2010 CSR Christmas Tree. This is about being recognized as a ‘Thought Leader in CSR’. Seeing @ScheubelDevelop up there with @davidcoethica, @fabianpattberg, @elainecohen, @realizedworth – to name only a few of my much-admired peers – is a great motivation to keep going in 2011, with provocative thought and relevant information around CSR and sustainability, leadership and change.

See the Fast Company site at

Assessing Outcomes and Assuring Impact from Learning and Development Investments

November 24, 2010
Last week Thursday I had the opportunity to attend an alumni event offered by my university: a lecture by Dr. Ellen Pruyne, Ed.D, formerly of Harvard and MIT. The lecture was all about ‘Assessing Outcomes and Assuring Impact from Learning and Development Investments’.
Dr. Pruyne invited us to look at such assessment using the Kirkpatrick framework. If you haven’t come across it before, it is basically about looking at evaluation in four stages:
1. Did participants like/enjoy the course experience?
2. What did they learn?
3. How did they apply their learning to transfer it into new behavior?
4. What outcomes/impact occurred as a result of the learning event, subsequent reinforcement and application of learning?
A lot of evaluations apparently tend to get stuck already at stages 1 and, at best, 2.
A good summary of the Kirkpatrick approach is on this website (worth reading page through to the end):
A few more useful observations by Dr. Pruyne:
Training objective: help participants change attitude, skills, behavior, role.
Useful question for evaluators to ask themselves from the outset: “If the program was successful, what would that look like?” (describe that to ourselves as graphically as possible, for each of Kirkpatrick’s four stages)
Useful for course planners to keep in mind, especially re. stage 1: What matters to participants is their perceived ‘return on expectations’ (ROE).

At the same time, ultimately important is: emphasis not just on learning and individual development, but on learning and organization development – how will the organization be impacted because of the individual’s learning? (value contribution)

Accordingly, ultimate question to ask: What is the return on learning and organization development investment?

I found this helpful and offering food for thought around how I plan my own trainings – perhaps it can be helpful for some of you, too?