Just another diary entry of my own :)

I’ve just found what I wrote one week after I had quit my job. Oh dear, it sounds so optimistic 🙂

Just look at this…

“It’s been an incredible week for me. I think I’ve never been busier indeed. Meetings, catch-ups, good readings, consultations, workshops…

I went for jogging! First time time this year. Finally.

I baked tasty muffins. With almonds and white chocolate. Yummy…

I walked around the city taking different streets than usually. Discovered various facades of the buildings I hadn’t noticed so far, new shops, new cafes. I started to see colors and hear sounds, I smiled at people. Before I had been smiling too, and they had been smiling back at me but this time I was more relaxed 🙂 I am relaxed… Continue reading

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Leading virtual teams. Say what??

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If you have ever worked with virtual teams you know how challenging it may be to cooperate with someone you don’t know in person.

The thing is that you don’t know the attitude of the people working with you in such circumstances, you don’t know their faces, their mimics, etc. You have no clue whether they are nodding their heads while saying “yes” to your request/question. You don’t know how they feel about the current situation. Because many of them will never be completely honest with you, they will try to hide certain things. Whether on purpose or not.

Sounds familiar?

I have worked with virtual teams for the past few years. These were people from all around the world, coming from different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, with various stereotypes, sometimes unfounded stereotypes. Yep.

As a project manager, I had a pleasure to lead multiple teams and bring together all various personalities, be it specialists or vice presidents, from all the time zones, starting with New York, ending up in Singapore,

It wasn’t an easy task to manage virtual meetings while having so many different people on the call. What kind of difficulties one may have during such meetings, you will ask. Well, imagine one of the following scenarios:

  • You have a list of items to be agreed upon by members of your meeting, there are specific deadlines to each item, You don’t hear any objection nor disagreement during the meeting. Everyone seems pleased by the outcome. You end up the call. It seems John is unhappy with the deadline the group established. He just didn’t want to make a burden out of it during the call. But he’s telling you NOW. He won’t make it by Thursday. He’s way too busy with other stuff. Period.
  • There is this new small project to be carried out by your team and you are meeting with the folks to catch up on details. Several locations are involved. Everyone seems to understand the details but you ask if all is clear. Just in case. Then you ask again. Just in case. All clear. All perfect. Awesome… It turns out a couple of hours later that one group of people attending the meeting have no clue how to proceed. They didn’t admit there was lack of understanding while the specialist was explaining the procedure. It is not well seen in their culture. They will never openly admit they don’t know something. Like ever.

I could go on like this forever 😉 But let me keep something spicy for later… And btw, these are real life examples. Just so you know.

What do these examples show? Let me give you a metaphore:

When you go for a blind dinner (you know what I’m talking about, right?) and you don’t see the food on your plate, your other senses are being developped. You tend to use your nose and fingers more than usually. You discover a new way of experiencing food.

Working with people you normally don’t see… moreover, working with people you don’t know in person, may be treated as an analogy, IMO. You will just have to develop other soft skills.

Some good practices which worked very well (from my observation):

  • Whenever possible, go and meet the people you work with. There’s nothing better than putting the name to the face in business. Direct contact allows better communication and help building stronger relationships. I know, not always possible. Especially if your team is dispersed all around the world.
  • Use technology.
  1. Companies, such as CISCO (no, I’m not getting any benefits out of it ;)), provide excellent solutions for your virtual meetings. You will feel as if you were all sitting in the same room.
  2. The example presented above being costly, try using what’s available and for free. Solutions offered by Google, Webex or Skype (for instance) are not that bad either.(Bear in mind phone is not enough. People will appreciate more if you make a little more effort and try to connect them in an unusual way).
  • Share your desktop with the participants. Show them graphs, notes, Excel files, etc. Some people don’t hear well what is being discussed. Furthermore, if your audience is multinational and the official language in your company is English, do not assume everything will be well understood by everyone. People have different accents, intonations. Likewise, do not use jargon or colloquialisms which are less known. 
  • Once in a while check with your audience if all is clear or if anything need to be repeated/explained. Ask especially those who are very quiet.
  • Be natural but also use humour. It’s a good practice to start your call with a small talk. Get to know your participants better. I used to attend meetings where the chairman greeted everyone in their mothertongue. A very cool ice-braker.
  • Organize team building activities from time to time. It’s important to build and maintain strong relationships.
  • Never let a problem escalate to bigger extent. Act quickly. Offer your help to resolve the conflict. Don’t sweep the problems under the carpet. They will resurface sooner than you think. Bigger than you expect.
  • Use your emotional intelligence. Trust your guts but ask questions. If you feel someone agreed to the Friday deadline because they felt forced by the group, check with them if the timelines are indeed feasible. People tend to be more open when approached individually.
  • Check beforehand whether people will be attending you meeting. The same applies to their “homework”. If someone was supposed to present a report on your Wednesday meeting, ask them on Monday if they are still good to go or need any help from you. In such a way, you will ensure you’ve got all you need for your meeting and you will save up your participants’ time. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than waiting for the key note speaker or key decision maker who eventually never shows up. It’s your responsibility to make sure they are there. On time. If they are not, you should know about it and inform other participants. Think ahead, prevent that from happening.
  • Send agenda prior to the meeting. Everyone likes to know what will be discussed and whether they are indeed needed on the call. Nowadays, we are all extremely busy and try to save up time whenever possible. Respect that.
  • Take notes/minutes of the call which you will send after each meeting. People tend to forget what has been discussed/decided. Keep track of all documentation. In case of misunderstanding, you will be fully covered.
  • Always, always, always be polite in your communication. Remember that written word has a huge power. It will never be forgotten. Also, your intentions might not be read the same way you intended. Cultural or emotional aspects may impact the way people receive the message. Always greet the recipients of your messages. Ask how they are doing. These simple words completely change the way your communication is perceived.
  • Bear in mind different time zones and bank holidays in the home countries of your colleagues. It’s crucial you know if the participants are morning or evening persons. Imagine you set up a call at 8am New York time and the manager who is a decision maker hates waking up early. You lost. Forget about the posiitive outcome of your meeting. See my point?

It is important to know some basics before you start leading virtual teams , especially the ones geographically dispersed. A good workshop around cultural differences should be considered, too. If I was to give one piece of advice, I’d tell you to get to know your colleagues better. No, seriously. If you’re friendly and proactive, they will notice your good will and will have a positive attitude towards your person and your meetings. After all, it’s all about leadership, not management. Sometimes you don’t manage directly your teams so your “power” is limited and you have to use some tricks in order to be a smart leader. These good practices presented above should help you as a starting point. The rest is in your hands. Good luck! 🙂

Why networking is so damn important?

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This will be the very first of a series of posts about my favorite topic, which is networking.

We all network. Some do it better, some do it worse. With various results. Almost all of us have Facebook or Twitter account, a significant percentage of all professionals around the world also have a LinkedIn profile. But this is an online universe. Meanwhile in parallel universe…

Exactly. What about the real life networking? Do you actually realize how important networking is for your business or your professional career? Do you benefit out of it?

In order to help you answer all these questions, let me first touch base on the networking itself.

A network, as I see it, is a net of contacts one knows personally or virtually. Obviously, it is more effective and beneficial to network once you know someone from real life, when you can “put the name to the face” as we say it in corporate language.

I had a chance (and a pleasure) to work in a multinational (also virtual) environment for about 6 years so I’ll be sharing with you some examples from my own experience.

There are no doubts that networking is a great opportunity for you and there could be only benefits out of it (provided you do all the right things). Apart from the obvious reason of having multiple connections, a huge net of potential business partners, clients, colleagues or acquaintances, there is one thing you should bear in mind before you even start networking: this may change your life.

I’m not kidding. Let me give you an example.

Say you have been working for some time now in a company / corporation and you wish to advance in your career. You apply for the desired position within that organization but in another department. You have a great CV, some excellent achievements and the interview went extremely well. Now imagine there is also Michael applying for that position. And he has a very similar profile. You are both strong candidates and both look promising. Say Michael met up with a couple of folks from that department sometime back and he offered his help in preparing that difficult report the team were struggling with. He also mentioned several times that he would be interested in working on some projects carried out in their department. The manager of the department really liked Michael’s report and his proactive attitude. Although he likes you as a candidate, he already knows a bit more about Michael and his skills. Who do you think will get the job?

We hear quite often that networking is just about creating connections. Moreover, it is viewed in the negative light. I’m not denying, it might be the case in some circumstances. What you should realize though is the fact that networking is all about creating and maintaining relationships. How to do it professionally? Well, simply wait for my next post about good practices! 🙂

What do Angry Birds and coaching have in common?

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Today I heard that coaching is like playing Angry Birds. Yes, Angry Birds… I have just come back from a very intriguing coaching workshop. The coach was a former game developper, thus the comparison, I believe. How accurate though!

But hey, what is this coaching anyway? And why am I writing about it? I discovered coaching a couple of years ago but officially started using it as a tool some 10 months ago. I just didn’t realize this was such a powerful tool in helping people achieve their (I repeat: THEIR) goals.

Yes, I do coach people from time to time and I feel passionate about it. Whenever my coachee proceeds with the changes in their life (that they have feared for so long!) or gets their dream job, or even cuts off this toxic relationship with their partner, I feel like I’m giving a little bit of myself to this world. The feeling is indescribable. Seriously.

This week, as it is International Coaching Week, I’m attending a series of workshops and lectures dedicated to coaching. It gives me such a pleasure to discover more about this topic and to hear success stories of people who uncovered their own potential during their coaching sessions. I believe in people, I’ve always did. I used to repeat, while working as a project manager in an international corporation, that people are the best company’s asset. Each and every person has a particular talent. It just has to be uncovered sometimes. A good coach is the one who helps with this mystery.

Nowadays, more and more organizations realize the importance of coaching. They send their managers for a couple of sessions each time they see there is a problem (such as lack of motivation, need for self-development or conflict with other employees, etc.). It’s good to see this trend. It means senior management is willing to invest in their people. Or I’m just being too naive 😉

That’s how I got into coaching myself: I started coaching people (business coaching). At work. The change I saw in my coachee after 3 months was tremendous. What’s more important actually is that HE saw that change and was very proud of it. Did I mentor him? Nope, I was just asking questions. All right questions apparently 😉 That success motivated me to continue with coaching sessions. In the meantime, I also discovered the power of self-coaching but I’ll write about it another time.

So coming back to Angry Birds and coaching… Surprised to hear the comparison? I was as well. But when you look closer you will realize there are similarities between both indeed. I didn’t take notes during the workshop this time (shame on me, I know…) but, from what I remember, it goes something like this:

  • GOAL/OUTCOME – what do you want to achieve in the game?
  • BOARD of the game – where are you now? what is the situation? what is the reality?
  • CHOICES/RESOURCES – what can you do now? what do you have now that you can use to achieve your goal?
  • PLANNING – what will you do? what actions will you take? (try different techniques, what works etc.)
  • REVIEW – what went well / not so well? (lessons learned)

This model reminds me a bit of the OSCAR coaching model. OSCAR stands for: Outcome, Situation, Choices/Consequences, Actions and Review.

If you’re struggling with an issue, you might want to check out if a coaching session wouldn’t be of any help to you. Coaching is a very popular tool and there are numerous coaches all around the globe to help you out.

If you have any successful stories to share, whether you are a coach or a coachee, I’ll be happy to hear about them 🙂 Don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

PS. Picture taken from HERE.

Are you SMARTy-pants?

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What is your goal?

I mean, seriously.

If you ever wonder whether you’re going in the right direction, how will you know it? Who will be in a position to tell you if you don’t know what your goal is?

Everything is relative.

“To be successful.” “To be rich.”  “To live a happy life.”

All these will mean different things to Mark, to Antonio, to Boris, to Rita, to me, to you.

Be specific. Provide details of your goal. What is it exactly what you want to achieve? Try this experiment: tell a friend / partner / sister about your goal. Then ask them to describe how they see it. You’ll be surprised by their perspective. Both versions do not necessarily match? Be more specific. And write it down.

Now, how will you know that your goal has been met? Must something happen first? Will you feel it somehow? Do you have to obtain a certificate, a grade, a feedback? Is getting 1000 clients by the end of 2013 a measure of success for you? How will you measure that you’re successful in achieving your goal? Define it well before you start working.

Have you wondered whether your goal is achievable by you? Getting those 1000 clients globally within 1 month by Danone or Coca-Cola surely is. Is it by you, a newly created small company? Think twice before you ruin your motivation…

Are you realistic in your endeavors? Loosing 20 kg in 1 month may be an insane idea. How about you rethink and replan your assumptions? You don’t have a slight idea about what is or what is not realistic or reasonable? Ask an expert. They will likely be able to tell you and advise.

Ok, now that you have defined your specific and attainable goal, it would be great to decide by when you expect it to accomplish. Is it a short-term or a long-term goal? Do you want to achieve it by tomorrow / by the end of the week / by July 15th / by the end of 2014? Again, be specific. Provide the time frame. Note it down.

Wonderful. You have just structured your awesome goal against the good old SMART criteria. Congratulations 🙂

It is now time to make a detailed plan of actions. Not much work if you have only 1 goal. A little more work if there are plenty of the goal you wish to achieve.

Why don’t you list out all the steps you need to take for that matter?

Remember, only YOU are responsible for your achieving your goals. Nonetheless, there are people that can help you out. If you’re planning on building up your muscles and loosing 10% of fat by the end of 2013, it may be a good thing to hire a personal trainer or at least ask a friend (gym addict) to coach you a little.

Only bear in mind that YOU are responsible for your goal though.

If achieving a goal requires too many steps to take, maybe you need to sit down and redefine it. Remember that if it is not realistic, you will quickly feel demotivated and will give up on it. Perhaps smaller milestones would be a good thing to try?

Reward yourself when achieving those milestones. Nothing motivates us better than celebrating our small successes while following the road to THE goal.

Tell your friends and family about your successes, They will encourage you to keep moving. Who knows, maybe you will motivate them to improve something in their lives, too? Influencing others is an amazing feeling that gives you power to do more and better.

Once the goal achieved (or not), analyze lessons learned.

Why did you attain it (or failed)? Was it it easy (or too difficult) to achieve? Did you have enough time to meet the deadline you had earlier established? What / who was of great help to you? Did you have it written down or hang on the wall?

A short analysis of what went well / not so well will help you get to know yourself better. It will also help you understand which tools work well for you.

Share your best practices with others.

Recently, I have met a great young guy, very successfull in various business areas. He decided to share his good practices and lessons learned with others by organizing a workshop. Such a great idea! I felt inspired!

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

So… what is your goal?

I mean, seriously…

Procrastination – our enemy?

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Procrastination. We are all experts, aren’t we…

Actually, you might be procrastinating to read this post, too. And, frankly speaking, I have been procrastinating a few things today myself. But why is that? I am usually well organized!

It made me think.

What are the main reasons of procrastination?

Well, it could be that the task we want to accomplish is too difficult for us, or too long, or we simply don’t like it. It is also possible that by performing it, we will have to face a new reality which we are not ready to digest.

Examples? There you go…

  • Once you complete your M.A. dissertation, it will really mean there is an end to some period in your life. Now you’re going to step into the real life. Or, you’ll be expected to find a job which you have been studying for for so long (and this is not really an area of your interests!).
  • There is this job offer your friend referred you to. The deadline is coming and time is ticking away. The company even restricted they may take it down before the said deadline. What do you do? You spend your time on social media, you go out for coffee, you watch movies. Literally everything but sending the application. You know you might loose your chance but still you do nothing. You wait. You tell yourself: “well, if I don’t manage on time, it wasn’t meant to be for me.”

Are you kidding me? And first of all, are you kidding yourself?

Sounds familiar?

No?

  • Your house looks like a mess. You aren’t able to find your documents (you simply forgot which file or folder you had put it) nor clothes you need at the very exact moment. You stopped inviting your friends over because you feel ashamed by the mess you see. You know you have to clean and finally put everything in order but you never have time. Funny thing is that the bigger the mess the bigger your frustration is and you do not deal with it. Not to mention the lack of focus, guys. (Yeah, how would you imagine to concentrate and feel happy while everything around you is messy?)

But again, you postpone. You decide to do it later. “When you have more free time“. You forgot, dude, nowadays free time doesn’t exist!

How to help yourself…

What most effective people do (I follow some interesting executives and their articles on LinkedIn), unless they lie…, is to complete the most difficult task (the one that will give you the greatest results) in the very morning. Have you heard of “Eat that frog“ book? So basically the strategy suggests you first accomplish the “worst“ so that you can spend some more quality time on the things you love / prefer / enjoy more than the “frog“.

It’s all about motivation and reasoning anyway. There is no other way than getting things done, right?

  • The first thing you need to do is to assess your procrastination / avoidance. Then, it’s a half of success, as we say it in my country.

Once you realize you actually procrastinate, and the reasoning behind that, it will help you decide on your next steps.

If you postpone to start your new diet and you never start it, ask yourself if your priority is really to loose weight. Or maybe you just hate diets and going to the gym twice a week would solve the problem? Eating what you love and exercising doesn’t seem that scary anymore…

  • Ask someone to do the thing for you. You hate the client you need to call? Maybe your colleague could do it for you as they don’t mind the guy at all.
  • Outsource, pay. You hate cleaning your house and find it as complete waste of time? Fine. Find a cleaning lady. Continue doing the things you care about more.
  • If you cannot alter the task and you are the only one to do it, whether you like it or not, well, just do it. Stop overthinking and start doing. I’m serious. Once you sit down and open your laptop, once you put on your trainers and go out of your flat, once you pick up the phone and dial the number, once you get rid of all the cookies from your kitchen, etc…, it will come. The most difficult part is to get started. You know it.
  • Then, you just need to eliminate distractions:
  1. Close all your social media websites
  2. Do not look into your email box
  3. Put your mobile on silent mode
  4. Etc.

Whatever works best for you.

I am not able to tell you what will work for sure, as you need to observe yourself.

Do you focus better while listening to the music / radio?

Do you enjoy more working in a cafeteria where there are a lot of people and inspiration factors?

Do you prefer sitting at quiet home to being in the noisy office?

  • Set goals and prioritize. I will write more about goals soon. Let me know if you’re interested in something in particular.

I am convinced you will see the powerful feeling of accomplishment which is incredibly motivating. And you might be surprised by your own performance. Because at the end of the day, once we fulfill something big, we start being experts in the matter, don’t we? 🙂

Do you have any „favorite“ tasks you constantly procrastinate? How do you deal with that? Any particular tips you’d like to share?

I’m going my way!

It is no secret that I’m planning my own business.

That’s actually one of the main reasons why I left corporation I had worked for during the past six years.

It all started in November 2012 when I accidentally popped into one of those Startup Weekend events. Wow! What an atmosphere! Frankly speaking, I had no further idea about the rules. I just knew the event was dedicated to smart people with brilliant ideas. I didn’t have any idea myself. I just went there to meet interesting people and build up my network. Ok, I mean I previously had had a lot of ideas in my mind but no plans to share them nor talk about them. In addition, usually it turned out my ideas had already been put in place by someone else! It may sound as if I was a genious, right? 😉 Well, I wish! Today more or less everyone has smart ideas. It’s not about having one. It’s actually about making it happen. It’s about creating the reality.

So I was sitting there, listening to all the 15 pitches of young entrepreneurs when I suddenly thought of something. I truly wanted to go out there, on the stage, and share the idea I’d just had. So I did it. I think my pitch wasn’t perfect. I shared what came to my mind and it seemed that the audience liked it 🙂

The weekend was great. I had an awesome team who worked hard on this project with me. I somehow wanted to win. I felt like I was already doing this for real! It was such an incredible feeling. I remember I told the guys I would quit my job if this turned out to work out (a prophecy… yeah, I know ;)). I told them that in secret but it looked like everyone I was meeting on the corridor was well aware of my “plans”. But then again, I didn’t care anymore. It only showed how much I believed in the idea and was committed to it. Right?

Nope, I didn’t officially win, although was very close to it. But you know what? Deep inside, I feel like I won. I won self-confidence. And I finally believed in myself. I received an amazing feedback over just two days which helped me understand what I was really made for. It took me a couple of months to start acting though.

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So here I am now. Four months later. Planning my own business. Believing in it. Looking into the future, full of joy and happiness. Because it’s mine, because I can design it and because I can also learn and grow. More and more. Day by day 🙂 I wish you such a personal development opportunity as well. There is nothing better than a deep dive into something big. If you want to achieve great things, think BIG.

“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs