May 2012


With more than 2000 hours of one-on-one coaching sessions over the past 14 years, I am pretty confident in my ability to stay calm under pressure. However, a recent experience reminded me of the importance of understanding and managing our emotions when we communicate with others.

A couple of weeks ago, I ended up waiting on the phone for the reservation assistant of an international hotel to tell me the status of my room reservation for the next day. Impatient and annoyed, I lost my usual calm when she told me that she couldn’t find it.

“What do you mean you can’t find? That’s ridiculous! I made the reservation a month ago and I am due to arrive tomorrow!” I said angrily.

As soon as I heard myself saying these words I felt sorry, as I knew I was alienating the only person who could help me solve this critical problem. By now my level of stress was at its peak and I wasn’t sure how to handle it.

Interestingly enough, the reservation assistant helped me out when she calmly said, “When you are raising your voice, madam, I cannot concentrate.” I was lucky. She was giving me a chance to apologize without making a fool of myself.

Two minutes later we were conversing like two adults working on how to solve this problem. As soon as I explained how crucial this reservation was for me, she became a solid ally who did her best, and found me a room in the hotel.

Although I am usually cool and confident under pressure, this time the hotel employee managed the emotions of the conversation with much better skills than I did.

On Tuesday May 15th, during the fifth lunch of the Neuroscience of Leadership Winter/Spring series, we will address the issue of Emotional Regulation and find out how we can manage our emotions to handle stressful situations effectively.

How good are you at managing your emotions in your everyday life?

Rotary Dragon Boat Charity Challenge 2012

Rotary Club Prague International is organizing its third annual Dragon Boat Charity Challenge, to be held this year on Saturday, May 26th.

If you’ve never attended this event you can read more about it here, or watch the official 2010 video on YouTube.

Each dragon boat a crewed by a team of 16 paddlers and a drummer, with an oarsman provided by the organizers. The drummer is usually your lightest team member, and beats out a cadence to keep all the paddlers on the same rhythm.

If you’d like to participate but don’t have enough people to form your own team, our new friend Dexter Sealy is putting together an “Odds ‘n Ends” team (or teams, depending on demand) of people who want to join in the fun.

The fee for each team member is 2 000 CZK, to cover the boat’s entry free, safety equipment, logistics and a minimum charitable donation. As this is a charity event, additional contributions are welcome and encouraged. If you’re interested in paddling, email Dexter at Registration closes May 15th, so don’t delay.

  • When: Saturday May 26th
  • Where: On the Vltava River at Střelecký Ostrov
  • Who: You and your friends

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 [url][/url] or email

May 15 Emotional Brains (Emotional Regulation)
May 22 Training4Success: Delivery: Vocal Variety
May 26 26.05.12 Rotary Dragon Boat Charity Challenge
June 19 Power Lunch: The Two Journeys of Leadership
June 26 Training4Success: Rules of Engagement: Connecting With Your Audience

How Can I Manage My Boss?

When I arrived in the Czech Republic sixteen years ago, the question I most often heard was, “How can I manage the Czechs?” For many years afterwards, this issue remained one of the most pressing challenges for expatriate managers. Lately however, a shift seems to have taken place, and the question I now most often hear is “How can I manage my boss?”

A very good illustration of this new phenomenon was brought to my attention recently by one of my Czech clients, who inherited a French boss.

When a foreign manager arrives in the Czech Republic eager to tackle a new professional challenge or experience a new culture, he or she is often unaware of the difficulties that both the Czech language and the local mentality can present. This is often caused by a difference in the expectations between the two parties.

A local team often expects the new boss to make the effort to adapt to the Czech environment and to his Czech colleagues. On the other hand, the new boss expects his new team to respect his authority, to support him in his new tasks, to agree with him and to adjust accordingly to his communication and management style.

Being aware of the usual cultural pitfalls, I told my client that if she wanted her new boss to pay attention to her and to listen to her ideas, she needed to learn to manage him; and the best way to manage the boss is to create and develop a good relationship with him by learning to like him and even to praise him.

Creating a good relationship with anyone is quite simple if you remember that people appreciate people who are like themselves. We feel most comfortable with people who behave like us, share the same interests, or have similar ideas or life experiences. Conversely, it’s often a challenge to establish rapport with someone who doesn’t appear to have much in common with us… like a new foreign manager, for example.

I told my client that one simple way to develop a good relationship with her French boss was to start paying attention and to match his behaviors, his communication style and even the kind of clothes he was wearing. When she mentioned that her new boss wore smart, fashionable clothing, I suggested that she also pay special attention to her own appearance. While every culture has its own particular dress code, for many cultures, including the French, being a professional means dressing the part and choosing the formal over the casual.

For my client, another easy way of getting her new boss to take a liking to her was to take an active part during meetings. For the French, active participation during a meeting is quite common and even expected. French are known to voice their opinions and ideas without being asked, and can often interrupt each other. This behavior is much different from how Czechs behave in a group session – they will usually wait to be asked for their ideas and opinions and will never interrupt someone who is speaking, for fear of being perceived as rude.

But the most powerful tool in establishing a good relationship with a manager is to praise him. Praise makes us feel good and increases our self-confidence. Moreover, praise or positive feedback is proven to be one the most effective means of influencing behavior. It works with bosses and employees alike.

“Praise my boss! But how?” asked my client. I told her to smile when the boss says something interesting or funny and to nod when she agreed with him. I also told her to answer her boss’s questions in a positive manner and avoid responding to statements in the negative.

Praising the boss can be quite a challenge for anybody, but I strongly suggest initially giving a new boss the benefit of the doubt. They may do things differently than you are accustomed to. They may communicate differently than the old boss did. They were, however, made the boss for a reason, and you cannot figure out their motivations in a day, or a week, or maybe even in a month. By being open to the new boss, he or she will be more open to you.

For those of us who can’t even imagine the idea of complimenting a manager, it might help to simply focus on what he or she does well and ignore the rest. In any case, wait until you are on solid footing before you try to manage any negatives you perceive.

Understandably, working for a new boss can be uncomfortable for many employees. But I am confident that by finding out her boss’ expectations, improving her understanding of his communication style, and praising him, she will develop a positive relationship with him and manage him successfully.

This article was originally written for Ceska Pozice.