March 2007

Thank you for reading the March 2007 L’Epée Coaching & Consulting Newsletter

It’s likely that most of us made one or more New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of 2007.

You may have only casually thought about your resolutions, joked about them at a party or diligently wrote them down on paper. Unfortunately, too often it only takes a matter of weeks before these resolutions become lost and forgotten.

If you haven’t yet abandoned your New Year’s resolutions, congratulations! For those of us who may be struggling, perhaps its time to have a second look at our goals and the strategies we plan on using to achieve them.

If you are determined to make your goals a reality in 2007, the following coaching tips should help:


Align your goals with your values. Let your goals be a reflection of who you are and what you want.

Identify your strengths

Identify the qualities that make you special. Determine what you’re most passionate about and you’ll find your strengths.

Live with joy

Pay attention to what brings you happiness. Listen to what makes your heart sing — not just to what your brain says is in your best interest.

Overcome your fear

By acting on our fears, we overcome them and empower ourselves. Challenge yourself to take action whenever you feel fear and you’ll find yourself growing by leaps and bounds!

Don’t hold back!

Everyone has reasons to avoid expressing their thoughts and ideas. Stop worrying about why not and just speak your mind. So long as your opinion is tactful and honest, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Toastmasters in Prague (

“Public speaking is easy, you already know how to do it. Talking to your best friend on the phone is public speaking; talking to your neighbor over your picket fence is public speaking. All we do in professional speaking is add excitement and an audience.” -Bill Gove

Learn how to add life and excitement to your presentations and speeches and learn to deal with an audience! Join the new Bohemian Toastmasters in Prague.

The Bohemian Toastmasters Club is a member of Toastmasters International and the District 59 European Toastmasters. The club was founded in the fall 2006, two years after the founding of the Prague Speakers Club. Both clubs host a good mix of Czech and international members. This diverse environment allows people to improve their communication, speaking and leadership skills, as well as meet new people and profit from new experiences.

All meetings are in English, however being a native English speaker is not necessary to join.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this excellent learning and networking opportunity, visit the Toastmasters website at


March 5 WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
March 5 & 19 Bohemian Toastmasters in Prague
March 6 Women of The Year
March 20 Power Lunch: How to Make a Fantastic Impression on People
March 24 Toastmasters Area Conference in Prague
April 2 WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
April 2, 16 & 30 Bohemian Toastmasters in Prague
April 24 Power Lunch: Branding yourself

Communication Tip of the month: Are you listening to me?

As the only beings on the planet blessed with the power of speech, we often take for granted how complicated a process communication can be. Understanding how we communicate with one another and the needs involved can help us become more effective as professional, both when speaking and when listening.

To help illustrate the importance of listening in communication, I have chosen to use the experiences of Jana, a student of mine, as an example.

As the new project manager of an international consulting company, Jana was offered the chance to participate in the company’s leadership development training program. She returned from the workshop enthusiastic, motivated, and ready to apply her newly learned skills.

One of her main challenges was her relationship with her boss. In her new position as project manager, she often felt that her boss didn’t listen to her, which led to a growing sense of frustration when communicating with him. Hence the need for training.

When I asked Jana about the main benefits of the program, her answer was that she finally understood that listening is an active process which involves a sender and a receiver and that both parties are responsible for the process: the sender to make sure the receiver receives and understands the message and the receiver to let the sender know that he has received and understood the message. She also understood that the more involved and engaged both parties are in the process of communicating, the better the results.

In communication, the difficulty for the sender is to appropriately involve the receiver and to ensure that the message is correctly received and understood. For the receiver, it is to give proper feedback on how the message has been both received and perceived.

What Jana realized is that listening can be difficult when the speaker is boring or when advice or information is unsolicited. That is because many people tune out when they have no control over the incoming information, and no way of stopping the conversation. On the other hand, most people are willing to listen to someone they find likeable, interesting or when they need specific information.

To my surprise, a few minutes into the conversation, Jana blurted out, “But that’s not it. The main benefit of the training was realizing that the best way to get someone to listen to me is to be able meet one of his four core needs”.

Although the leadership development program Jana attended was mainly devoted to effective communication, listening skills and feedback, it also talked about the elements that shape the direction of our life, such as our goals, our values, our behaviors and needs.

The Four Core Needs

The first core need is for Certainty, which is connected to our need for comfort. The best way to make people feel comfortable when we speak to them is to synchronize our communication style to theirs by matching and mirroring (i.e. using the same body language, the same tone of voice etc), or to speak about something they know and/or like. Certainty is related to our comfort zone. One question remains: how much comfort do we need in order to feel secure in who we are and what we do? And how much discomfort do we need to learn and grow? With too much certainty we run the risk of losing interest in the person or the topic we are dealing with, while not enough certainty can trigger a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence.

For some however, this is a core communication need in itself. The need for Uncertainty is related to our need for variety and change and can be met by behaving in an unexpected way, by surprising someone or by offering new ideas. In today’s ever-changing world, the quality of our life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty we can live with. It is in the realm of uncertainty that our passion is found. But too much uncertainty can create a high level of stress and insecurity. While some people like their work to be structured and predictable, many enjoy more challenging and diverse types of activities.

The third need is the need for Significance, which is a reflection of our desire to be unique, to feel needed and appreciated. Having heard my Czechs students tell me many times that they feel respected when people listen to them and to their opinions, I asked Jana what need she was trying to fulfill by expecting her boss to listen to her. She smiled and admitted that when she heard the definition of someone with a strong significance need, she realized that her expectations came more from her own personal need to feel important, as that is how she normally feels appreciated and valued by her boss. The new training allowed Jana to view her communication with her boss from a broader perspective and to adapt her style to focus on the goal she was trying to achieve instead of her own personal needs.

The last core need is for Connection & Love. For Czechs, a very kinesthetic nation, this need is crucial. Above all, anyone who wishes to communicate with Czechs has to find a way to make them feel good about themselves. Czechs need to get emotionally involved in communication as both senders and receivers. Their deep desire to feel appreciated and supported is often missed by those who do not have connection as their main expectation or need.

Everyone assumes that people process information the same way that they do, which is why we tend to communicate on the basis of our own needs. Someone who needs certainty will provide certainty regardless of the other person’s expectations and someone in need of change and variety will provide change and variety and so on.

What Jana discovered therefore, was that the key to understanding her boss’s needs actually lay in the way in which he himself communicated with her. Until recently, she had dismissed this information as irrelevant.

To develop her listening skills, Jana realized that she had to change her approach to communication and start with a clear objective in mind. In her relationship with her boss, she needed to change her focus from, “I cannot work with this guy because he never listens to me” to, “What is my boss’s primary need, and how can I meet this need in order to make him more receptive and open to what I have to say?”

Listening skills depend on what we are listening for. In other words, why do we make the effort to listen to someone – what do we expect to get out of it? Which of the needs (certainty, uncertainty, significance and connection) are we trying to meet when we speak, and need someone to listen to us, or when we listen?

Next time you are in a dull but unavoidable listening situation, use the time to focus on the need you are trying to meet as well as that of the speaker and enjoy the learning experience.

Are you listening to me?

This article was written for the Prague Leaders Magazine:

Yours truly,