November 2011

Giving Thanks

As you’re reading this, we recently had a day off in the Czech Republic, to celebrate the original creation of Czechoslovakia, in 1918. And on November 17, Czechs also commemorate both the 1939 uprising against Nazi occupation, and the 1989 demonstrations that started the Velvet Revolution against Soviet rule.

It’s the holiday season worldwide, and I recently had the good fortune to attend the Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, held at the Corinthian Hotel, where I saw many familiar faces, not all of them Canadian. And I actually get two Thanksgivings this year, because I will be traveling to the United States at the end of the month to celebrate it there, as well. Lucky me!

Most Christians elsewhere think of Christmas as the biggest holiday of the year, but my Canadian and American friends assure me that Thanksgiving is the big one for them – a chance for people of all persuasions, religious or not, to get together and be thankful for family and friends. A nice tradition, don’t you think?

Soon we’ll see the Christmas kiosks and the carp tanks come out around Prague, and people bustling to and fro, bundled up against the winter cold. Read on and you’ll find a suggestion for another way to defy the cold, and do a good charity deed at the same time.

Of course, there is more news after that. I hope you enjoy it, and the cooler weather. See you soon.

Help Us “Punch Out” Homelessness

Many of you know that I am a Rotarian, a member of Prague Rotary Club International, the English-speaking club in the city. Rotary is the world’s largest service organization, with more than 1.2 million members in over 34,000 clubs world-wide.

There are several other clubs here in Prague, and in addition to contributing to the charitable efforts spearheaded by Rotary International, each club has its own charitable efforts.

On December 9th, 10th and 11th, The Prague Rotary Club International club will be holding a gluhwein and punch sale at the Novy Smichov shopping mall in Andel. We’ll have alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions and a drink for kids, and we’ll fill your cup for a donation of just 30 crowns.

Since we are all volunteers, 100 percent of our proceeds, after costs, go to the charity we are supporting with this effort, which is Nadeje, the primary NGO looking after homeless people in Prague. Our hope is to raise at least 200,000 crowns. With your help, we can do it!

Bring your family and friends, enjoy some gluhwein, and contribute to a good deed this holiday season. Thanks!

Coach’s Calendar

3.11.11 Power Lunch: Managing Across Generations
14.11.11 Williams & Partners Leadership Series
15.11.11 Training4Success: Managing Your Personal Brand
6.12.11 Power Lunch: Managing Yourself
9-11.12.11 Rotary Holiday Gluhwein at Novy Smichov

Success Lessons from the 1955 “Good Wife’s Guide”

Way back in 1955, the monthly magazine Good Housekeeping published a no-nonsense article called a “Good Wife’s Guide”. It was a different time for women, and gender-based codes of conduct were far more rigid. In that May 13th issue, housewives were given an unabashedly direct guide on how to cater to their husbands’ needs and to make them happy. Among other fascinating things, it recommended that women “have dinner ready, greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.”

Thankfully, at least in the Western world, women’s rights have greatly advanced in the past sixty years. But what about the lessons from that 1950s-era guide? Are they no longer relevant?

For centuries, women were expected to attend to men’s well-being and to even pamper them. Although the words from the old article may be archaic, they espouse valuable principles one can use to foster positive relationships – both personal as well as professional.

Because our success in life often depends on how we attend to the well-being of other people and how efficiently we cater to their needs and expectations, it takes only a little tweaking to rewrite the words from the 1950s so that they are relevant to today…

[b]1950s Version: “Have dinner ready: catering for his needs and comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.”[/b]

Today’s Version: Determine and Analyze Their Needs

To understand and take care of people’s needs we have to identify them and realize that they come in two forms: explicit needs and implicit needs.

Explicit needs tend to run a more predictable and rational path, whereas implicit needs tend to be random demands triggered by emotions and circumstances. Explicit needs are pretty simple and easy to address, such as: “we need to expand our production in China” or “we need to develop the company’s brand image.”

Implicit needs are more subtle because people usually don’t talk about them and would even deny them if confronted with them. For example, let’s imagine a scenario involving the arrival of a new manager. His colleagues might ask what he expects from them, but their real question (which they keep to themselves) might actually be “Why should we believe you and follow your lead?” At the same time the manager can openly say that he welcomes any new ideas and suggestions while his implicit needs would be “Help me demonstrate my creative capacity by coming up with some great ideas that I can rearrange and take on as my own.” An effective manager first tries to understand the explicit and implicit needs of his team members before assigning them new challenges

[b]1950s Version: “Listen to him: remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.”[/b]

Today’s Version: Listen Empathetically

Management guru Stephen Covey defines empathic listening as “listening with the intent to understand.” Typically we first seek to be listened to instead of listening to others. The strong impulse we have when we say “ listen to me” can mean many different things, such as “Please pay attention to me,” or “Hear me out and admire the great ideas I came up with.” Behind this is an implicit need to show how smart we are or perhaps even how important we think we are or wish to be.

Listening and showing interest in the people we meet is one of the surest ways to make them feel good about themselves and validated.

Centuries of catering to the needs of men and listening to them and attending to the well-being of other people have provided women with powerful skills which they are now using their professional lives. By leveraging those skills, they have become more self-confident in their ability to speak up for what they believe in and for what they want.

And thanks to the women’s emancipation process, many of us have learned to realize that our own success depends just as much on the efforts that we make to attend to the well-being of other people, as the effort we make to take care of our own well-being.

This article was written for the Ceska Pozice.