April 2012

Happy Spring

Spring is officially here, although, to be honest, this year it seems like there wasn’t much difference between Winter and Spring – except for the French presidential elections circus.

Watching a recent speech by one of the presidential candidates, with my niece and nephew, an interesting question was came up: How can we achieve the results we want and be authentic at the same time? Or, to turn the question around: How can we meet the expectations of others while managing to be true to ourselves?

Because there is a degree of compromise in any working relationship, one can’t expect a what-you-see-is-what-you-get strategy to be effective one hundred percent of the time. Especially not if you are a politician. After all, how tolerable would most of us be if we were always ourselves?

This is particularly true in a global working environment made up of people from different backgrounds and cultures. My experience in the Czech Republic, for example, has taught me when to tone down my outgoing and spontaneous personality in order to work more effectively with those around me.

While most of us prefer to keep our behavior in line with our own beliefs and values, working in a multicultural environment requires us to leave the familiar behind while accommodating the values of those around us. That forces us to put things into perspective and really ask ourselves what we are trying to accomplish.

What you will find is that a compromise in behavior and attitude can sometimes be far more productive than letting your natural inclinations determine everything.

Wishing a very sunny and happy Spring!

Rotary Dragon Boat Charity Challenge 2012

On Saturday 26 May, Rotary Club Prague International invites you to participate in an excellent team building event on the Vltava river… A dragon boat race!

Dragon boat racing is an ancient Chinese water sport that is growing in popularity in the Czech Republic. The long boats are similar to a canoe, but with a decorative dragon’s head and tail, and require a crew of 16 paddlers, a drummer, and someone to steer the boat.

Taking part is easy as boats, training, life jackets and other safety equipment are all provided by the organizers. There will also be training runs in the morning, before actual racing begins.

It’s great fun, requires no experience, anyone can do it, and you’ll be supporting some wonderful charities in Prague!

You and your company can underwrite a boat to participate in the Rotary Dragon Boat Race Challenge. Or you can just come with friends and family to watch the exciting racing, listen to some great live music, have some food and fun, and more.

  • When: Saturday May 26th
  • Where: On the Vltava River at Střelecký Ostrov
  • Who: You and your friends. Boat teams should be 18 to 20 people, some for support

This event benefits Nadace Nase Dite (a children’s charity), Sananim (rehabilitating of drug and solvent users), and Zivot 90 (providing support for the elderly). For more information, please visit www.rotarydragon.cz or email rotarydragonboats@gmail.com

“By the Way… I Have Some Feedback for You.”

I always encourage feedback from participants at my Power Lunches and Tarining4Success programs, which is very gratifying. It’s also often illuminating, as additional teaching exercises for those who are interested. Have a look at the following comments – maybe there are some nuggets of learning in them for you. (And, yes, I do get to pat myself on the back from time to time. It’s wonderful exercise!)

From an Actress…

I had your words ringing in my head as I was preparing for a film audition last week. I hadn’t done an audition for ages, and what’s more, I had to do an American accent, which always makes me feel more nervous.

I kept thinking of your questions: Who are you? What do you want? What does the audience want? (In this case, the director of the film and the producer).

So in preparing for the audition, I also prepared what I would say as an intro about myself if I was asked to do that. And sure enough, I was asked to do an intro to the camera, and I’m pleased to say it went well. The casting agent and the cameraman even laughed at some of what I was saying!

Afterwards I realized that your workshops and lunches had helped me a lot with approaching that part of the audition (which I always used to find the hardest part), and working out how to present myself. I haven’t heard anything back about it yet, but in any case I felt much better about it than usual, so thank you very much for all your input. – A.N.

From a Lawyer…

I am sending a feedback about the law school presentation that I promised. We didn’t have time to change the structure, but we focused more on the students and less on how important my colleague and I are. We described thing from the students’ perspective and it worked very well.

The feedback we received was that the presentation was catchy, interesting and the best of all they’d heard so far. We actually received the same feedback even from our competitors. I consider that a success, and I would like to thank you for your suggestions – they really helped. I also think that you gave us a lot know knowledge over the last few months and we actually did become better speakers. – L.H.

House of Hope Benefit Concert

Last month, I mentioned the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar we have in the Czech Republic this year, Rachel San Luis, and the benefit concert she was helping to plan at Mosaic House.

This month, I am happy to report that Rachel and her friends, in just one evening of music and activities at that concert, raised more than 100,000 crowns for House of Hope!

This is a fantastic result, and it’s wonderful that young, motivated people like Rachel and her friends are willing to put service to those less fortunate above their own needs and desires. It is also wonderful that they were supported by Mosaic House and more than 100 people who came out to hear them play and contribute to their cause.

Calendar of Events and Activities

May 26 Rotary Dragon Boat Charity Challenge 2012

The Two Journeys of Leadership

“Let him who would move the world, first move himself.” -Socrates

Following a two-day leadership training recently, a client of mine called to share the highlights of his learning, and some frustrations. This client, who is well educated, competent, and has a strong desire to be part of a successful team, was hired a year ago by an international company eager to recruit young talent – its next generation of leaders.

Unfortunately, twelve months into the job, while his boss and his team kept expecting him to be a leader, he had become very confused about what being a leader really means and what he was supposed to do to feel like one. Fortunately, his company is supportive of his desire to improve, and encourages his coaching sessions and additional training.

But at the two-day company event, he encountered a question that seems to come up over and over again: Are leaders born or made? “Seriously,” he said. “How many people wake up in the morning thinking ‘Wow, what a great day! I am a leader!’ or, ‘Today is the day I have become a leader!’”

I don’t think the answer is in any doubt, and my thirty years of professional experience working with leaders and aspiring leaders confirms, for me, an inescapable conclusion: leaders are made. And I am not alone in this feeling.

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born, that there is a genetic factor to leadership,” says Warren Bennis, an American organizational consultant and author. “The myth asserts that people either have certain charismatic qualities, or they don’t. That’s nonsense. In fact, the opposite is true – leaders are made rather than born.”

The only question, then, is “How are leaders made?”

Today, everybody is clamoring for leadership: in politics, in business, in education. In times of uncertainty we seek people who can reassure us by exhibiting confidence, competence and foresight, people who can inspire us and move us at the same time.

To move others, though, as Socrates pointed out, one has to start by moving oneself. To navigate the waters of leadership, one has to embark on an inward journey of self-discovery – and complete that journey – before starting the outward journey of leadership and supportive mutual purpose.

The Inward Journey – Moving Yourself

The first journey, the inward journey, is about self discovery. It is about identifying our needs and our values, and about understanding how these needs and values influence our thinking, our behaviors and ultimately, how they influence our lives. It is about finding out what is important to us and what we are passionate about. Ultimately, it is about defining who we are and what we want to achieve.

Our ability to discover ourselves relies on our willingness to ask four questions:

  • Who: Who am I and who do I want to be?
  • What: What do I want for myself and what do I want to achieve?
  • Why: Why do I want to achieve these things?
  • How: How can I become who I want to be and how can I get what I want – what actions do I need to take to achieve my goals?

While these questions sound simple, to answer them, one needs to undertake an intense self-reflective process, one that is critical to developing a genuine sense of self. And being able to answer them truthfully requires stepping boldly toward what one thinks is a deeper and bigger self.

“There is no first step toward self-knowledge without hazard or risk to the surface self we already know.” – David Whyte

Fortunately, one of the positive results of this process is that, after having made the journey of self-discovery, the aspiring leader will reach a higher level of self-awareness, a significant level of competence in a chosen field, and increased skill in self management.

After having acquired a deeper understanding of oneself and fulfilled personal dreams, the aspiring leader can then embark on the outward journey, the journey of reaching out to others, the journey of contribution, where supporting and inspiring others is as important as serving oneself.

The Outward Journey of Leadership

Many people who aspire to leadership positions often do so from the wrong point of reference. Their ambitions are self-serving, ego-driven attempts to get more money, more power or more recognition. So they may have the title, and the responsibilities expected of leaders – and they may be perceived as very successful – but they fall far short of being leaders.

Fortunately, many managers, like my client, understand that if the conventional purpose of leadership is to get results through people productivity, real leadership is about developing people through their work performance. They look beyond themselves to try to find out what their team members want, what they value and what they wish to achieve. As a leader, as someone in a position of authority, my client quickly discovered that he has an obligation to offer others the opportunity to learn and to grow.

His job as a leaders, says Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page, is “to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunity and feels they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society.”

Leaders who are recognized to be the best in their field like Larry Page, or Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, are often the ones we look up to for advice, guidance and inspiration. But one can also be the best in his field, like Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, without necessarily being inclined to offer support and guidance to others (even though his ideas were inspiring).

Soon after he joined his company, my client understood that he would never be able to lead his team if he wasn’t a credible leader. To believe him and to follow him, his team members needed him first to communicate his overall vision for the department he was in charge of and the objectives they were expected to achieve. His next challenge was to motivate them, by helping them focus their talent and energy toward the company’s goals.

Last but not least, he had to find regular opportunities to encourage, support and value them by providing ongoing feedback. He now knows that his performance will be evaluated by what his department accomplishes, but also that his leadership skills and potential will be assessed by the degree to which his team is motivated and inspired to contribute to the company’s overall success.

Leadership is not the answer to all the demanding issues we are confronted with in today’s world, but leaders who have completed their inner journey and are travelling the outward journey have powerful abilities to help others dealing with challenges of mistrust and fear.

To address today’s uncertainty and to become the inspiring architect of tomorrow, the aspiring leader needs to embrace the personal transformation experienced searching inward. Once the inner journey is complete, he can focus on the needs and wants of others, and it is that focus that fosters the meaningful discourse and actions that lead to tremendous success.

This article was originally written for Prague Leaders Magazine.