Communication – Productivity of Life (4/4)

Thank you all for the feedback about my communication chapter from my productivity book to far. I much appreciate your input.

There is a part I like to touch on which I call non-verbal communication. Reading people. I have read many books in relation to that and found only one sentence helpful which I remember as: “If someone sits on a swivel chair, turns to the side, crosses his legs and shows you the side of his body, he might not be interested in you or your conversation. Or, he just thought of something and got into a more comfortable position whilst talking to you”.

Body language is down to individuals. I often play with my beard or stretch my legs to feel sensation in them. That does not mean my head is switched off or I am not listening. I am just being comfortable. However, if you do not look into someone’s eyes, or staring can be both off putting or supporting your self confidence if you do not overdo it. Hence shy people who usually do not like looking at someone, do not always make the best sales people. And, I believe you can tell if someone overcame shyness at some stage in their life too. There are a few things I just refer you to the literature where you should be careful of avoiding gestures in a conversation or meeting. Like if you cross your arms you can be comfortable or protective, defensive even. I believe the most known one is showing the bottom of your foot (sole of your shoe) to someone in the Middle East. It is an insult as the sole is already on the ground and the other person is suggested to be even lower. Again it goes in line with cultural differences.

Whilst in the UK it is common to have a drink with a colleague or business partner prior to closing the deal, in other countries you would never socialise with a business partner nor drink with one. In the US you either drink at conferences, but for lunches it is more uncommon as most people have to drive and it is less socially acceptable. Germany serves alcohol free beer at most events, so you don’t have to drink but can be part of the “drinking community”. Each to their own.

One last point to mention is internal communication within organisations. Time zone differences, the above mentioned language differences and internal politics often make it difficult to communicate. An important factor is to find out what your boss wants to hear, who the key influencers are internally and how you can address challenges with them. Make sure you got the right reporting structure and deliver any required information on time. Also, key is to have all the information ready for your boss whenever he asks. Attention to detail. Whether those are the latest figures or your opinion on the market. Some people would summarise it as managing up and across. You need to manage your manager, manage up to him and across to other key stakeholders in the process.

I have seen more than once that communication breaks down and that people do not realise that they talk past each other. The results can be lethal or damaging for the company and its culture. Hence it is more than important to give people room to manoeuvre, understand requirements, listen to your boss and set up a process that fits within the organisation.

And maybe my last personal tip on communication in the workplace? Summarise your pay review, important meetings with clients, miles stones with employers or employees in an email. Sometimes it makes sense to bcc yourself and keep that email for your records. Send it as a follow up, almost like a recording of what has been discussed.

I hope that you enjoyed these four weeks sharing my communication chapter of my productivity and personal development book. There are so many more things to speak about and talk about and show in regards to communication. Some little cultural things, some about how to impress someone with using a white board versus powerpoint/keynote and how to show confidence by doing so. Most probably I should write a chapter about how to communicate your sales pitch confident and successfully. Negotiation could fill a whole other book.

That is for some other time. For now enjoy communication, practise some of the ideas, make yourself consciously aware and maybe look up some basic conversation rules, like how to build rapport or how to come across confident in meetings.

Best of luck and as always, please leave more comments and let me know what you think. Let me know which bits you want me to focus on more.

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Communication – Productivity of Life (3/4)

Last week we started speaking about different languages in Europe, me sharing my communication chapter from my productivity book. If a team speaks English yet only one native English speaker is in the team, this can lead to a challenge. Most people translate from their native language into English and translate or communicate slightly differently.

I worked for many multilingual companies and once actually sold a product focusing on multilingual services. Languages are fascinating. Each language has different pronunciations, slang, meanings etc. I am bi-lingual which means I can read and write German and English proficiently.

For instance this blog and my book are written in English as I think in English. I try to bring my children up talking to them in German. They talk back to me in English because my wife and their teachers speak English to them most of the day and we live in England. I would think of my English being very good, of course I still have an accent I will not lose, but that is part of a multi cultural society in London. Without an accent you almost seem to be a foreigner in London.

Yet there is nothing wrong with that. Just the opposite I find. The drawback is that you sometimes cannot pronounce a word you would like to use or have less words to choose from in your foreign language. But you know enough to make yourself understood of course.

Between the US and the UK, although both speak English, there are differences in language too. “Two countries separated by a common language”, one says. However, if you work with people who have never used English on a daily basis, and this is your corporate language, or people are not conscious of their limitations with the English language, then you have a huge potential communication issue. There are several reasons: The British first of all, and to a certain extent the Americans, are too polite to say to someone that they do not understand them but instead praising people that their English is very good. It took me some time to figure that one out 😉 Then when it comes to daily communication you need have reassurance what they mean. Often emails do not make sense, things are translated literally or via a dictionary or online translation tool, to an extent that they do not make much sense. Here you have to manage very carefully to find common ground as so much could get lost in translation.

A recent podcast suggested to train companies in using common languages, including training non native English speakers in English. I have seen that being done yet not necessarily accepted by some employees as being a time waster or being unproductive. Whilst this might be, it pays off in the long run if you wish to pursue a career within a larger organisation. The language of choice for most business meetings is English.

I was astonished once working for a company where the English spoken training was delivered by people whose first language was not English and unlike myself have never lived in the English spoken world. Whilst it was not a bad training, there were limitations on how the training was flowing plus when it came to exercises they swapped back to their native language.

This is not having a go at former employers but I believe that in Europe, where you have English as the common language for business, you should think of having trainings facilitated out of UK or international companies to eliminate the danger of falling back into their native language. It needs great leadership and acceptance to do that from both staff and managers alike. This is particularly true for companies whose HQ is outside an English speaking country and I worked for a couple of those too. On that note, working for a Dutch company, they grow up bilingual and make their company language, e.g. meetings, presentations etc., all in English. Fascinating.

Enough about language differences and communication challenges across Europe.

Next week we move on to the non verbal communication. Stay tuned!

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Communication – Productivity of Life (2/4)

Thanks for coming back to read this week. I can see through my analytics that more and more people joining the blog and read it on a reoccurring basis. It would be great to get some comments and discussions going too. Do you have communication problems at your work? What do you do to communicate across your organisation?

Also, thank you for sharing my articles on LinkedIn and social media sites. Very much appreciated. So this week we continue with the chapter from my productivity book.

When talking about international organisations, and I had training on that very early in my career, there are cultural and language issues. Cultural are easier to overcome I believe. That is for a number of reasons because the bank holidays, the working hours, the longer lunches in Southern Europe, less holidays in the US and so on are all part of a country’s culture and lifestyle. I don’t believe there is any way to change that.

Simply put: you need to understand and accept those. Which means if you travel a lot, just plan more time to go to the airport or more time for your meetings, or less meetings. This is more about managing your own expectations really. When it comes to local differences on how to do business, this is different.

When I worked in Cairo I was having a Turkish coffee each meeting (8 a day!), it was normal to be late due to the traffic and to present the British business’ seriousness I wore suit and tie in a very hot climate. But if that is what you have to do in order to do business, that is what you have to do. In Dubai people are more reserved and in Spain people are most inquisitive – that is based on my experience. But by all means this doesn’t mean that all Spanish or all people in a certain region are like that. Don’t ever forget that one experience cannot be matched across everyone. Each individual is different, and everyone has a different background and experience. So just because you are working in one country doesn’t mean you will adopt all of its stereotypes, and assuming that would be just plain rude.

Being German I personally find the Germans very black and white which is a great way of doing business, up front, honest and direct. However, living in Britain, people don’t seem to understand that if a Brit says they are interested, they are not necessarily going to buy. You need a lunch, a dinner or a few pints in the pub to work with the British. The Dutch on the other hand are innovative, friendly and easygoing yet reliable and very productive. Those are the cultural differences on a very broad level without going into too many stereotypes and without any prejudices. Because in any culture and nation you find individuals that just won’t fit the bill.

For some fun have a look here, at the Perfect European (http://www.michellehenry.fr/civistereotype.htm). Interesting to think that our little Europe with its cultures and languages is as big as the USA, with one language and one market. Does that make America a better market to work in? I don’t know. I enjoy the beauty of flying into Milan for a business meeting, speaking a different language, eating different food and enjoying some Southern influence 2 hours from home. In the US I couldn’t do that. Pros and cons I suppose.

The diversity in Europe is second to none. Having said that I don’t have any personal experience working or living in Asia which is something I would have loved to do a while back. I don’t think this is now something that will ever be on the agenda again, but I could imagine the diversity of cultures, people and the way of doing business must be amazing.

There are advantage of having one language in the US though but maybe I continue with that next week. If you are living in Europe, what did you experience working with other cultures and working with people speaking to them in English despite neither your nor their first language is English? Did you encounter difficulties? What challenges did you meet?

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Communication – Productivity of Life (1/4)

Today I want to start sharing my next book chapter from my book “Productivity of Life” which I published in 2013. I cannot believe it has been 2 years already that I have collected some initial ideas and made them available as a book. Since then I continued to collect more and more ideas and I am close to starting to draft my next book. Writing a book is an exciting experience and a great learning curve. The challenge is time for more and extensive research.

The next book will be more around own theories and new methods, summarising the best of the best and adding my experience on top. Given commitments to my day job and family, I cannot give you a date or a time yet of publication but I would hope to do so in the next couple of years, e.g. by end of 2016. We shall see.

Communication is one of the key management principles. To cover this completely in a book chapter or a few blog posts is unreal. It is too complex, yet needs to be addressed in order to look at the overall picture of productivity. If I say management, this is key to any human relationship really. A company that does not communicate loses its employees. A husband/wife that that does not communicate to his/her partner jeopardises a marriage. A student or teacher not communicating leads to frustration and anger. The list could go on and on. Anything we do, any interaction we have, verbally or non-verbally, is communication. The raised eyebrows over the person on the train is as much a form of communication as the chat with the sales person or the neighbour. It leads to positioning oneself and expressing one’s thoughts. Communication is what we do on a daily, permanent basis.

I have been an open communicator all my life. And this is not down to not being shy and to network, this is solely down to me wanting to let people know what’s going on in my head and my life. Sometimes this is too much for some. One of my outlets is the book I wrote or this blog I am writing or my personal blog. It doesn’t matter how you communicate: find your own way and style.

In business it is not always easy to communicate openly. There are some shared and some non-shared information. Some confidential information and some things that are going on behind closed doors. I once had a job where I worked in a satellite office and my boss only communicated via instant messenger. No direct answers, just a few words on a screen. Then at another job, again in a satellite office situation, I was forced to use the phone or video chat. That worked well as we actually always talked to counterparts in other offices. This is a very important thing we did to communicate culture, discuss problems and exchanged information. Having said that, once this practice was not there any longer, we started seeing communication breakdown and miscommunication. If a boss stops understanding and does not take the time to understand what is going on in any office, satellite or not, you need to get her attention in order for it not to come to a communication breakdown. Emails or text messages, any form of writing, can be misinterpreted and might take time and resources to be clarified if misunderstood. Hence the “picking up the phone” should be an instant reflex when communicating internally. Ideally, in this day and age, via video to make sure one get the other person’s full attention (and vice versa).

Next week I want to focus more on the international side of things, language and cultural barriers. Particularly if we look across Europe with 10+ languages, me being native German, different cultures and so on, that is a very important topic. Whether that is for any manager or for a company that wants to set up, expand or explore.

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Buddhism and Management (3 of 3)

How did your practise go? Did you meditate? How did you find your first steps into looking at the world from a different perspective? Did you manage to quieten your mind and focus on nothing? Did you find some online help on how to meditate?

There are lots of apps, online guidance, guided meditation, and calming music out there, that I don’t think I really need to provide a list. The only App I am happy to recommend is called CALM and the premium version offers you a guided meditation on various topics. I enjoy that now and again and find it useful if you want to fall asleep on a plane or just chill out after a long day in the office whilst your brain is still buzzing. Of course you could quieten your mind yourself but why not get the odd help in doing so?

To conclude, Buddhism helps me to combine my drive to help others, to eliminate mine and other sufferings plus my drive for personal development and happiness. Living by the above helps me to become who I am set out to be. I am a strong believer that we are here on earth for a purpose, that things happen for a reason and that karma, the thought of one action resulting in another action, exists.

A negative thought or action will trigger a negativity elsewhere that comes back to you. Likewise a prayer group that focuses on someone’s health can make this person get better. There is Reiki and other practises that make use of the greater consciousness and the power of thoughts. I am a believer that the positive thoughts you send to someone will reach that person and make a positive difference.

I also have a little altar where I donate 5 gold coins on a regular basis. Once a year I take about 200 pounds sterling to the local bank and donate it to charity. I believe that the money I put away slowly over the year to ask for good spirits will help others in their efforts to improve people’s life. But you need to believe in it and believe it works. If you are doubtful whether or not positive thoughts are helping others, don’t even try. You won’t succeed. Let go of your current believes and give it a go, why not?

The benefits of a spiritual practise for work start with relieving stress by using meditation and mindfulness. It is a little bit like Emotional Intelligence and like managing your energy at work by taking regular breaks. Targets and achievement pressure, or stress, is increasing year on year, creating more and more tension. Being able to shut your mind down for a few minutes, take a deep mental breath and then come back to work all refreshed will help the business as much as the person’s mind. It makes for better, more productive, yet happier employees.

Meditation can create a positive change in your consciousness with the aim to practise to be a good human being, being nice to subordinate staff and practising compassion, helping your staff rather than abusing it. Only a calm mind can do that. Being human again, being aware of your feelings and not to hurt the feelings of those around you, not being recklessly profit driven. In reality I would agree with Forbes’ article that happier workplace make for more productive workplaces, e.g. the benefit for the employees actually benefit the company’s profit. I am sure you find more of those case studies elsewhere.

This leaves me to conclude that living with the other person in mind, mindful about oneself and one’s environment, caring for others, helping others, motivated to help others and taking regular breaks and looking after yourself through exercise and good food, will make you a happier and ultimately a more productive person. I also appeal to the managers out there to encourage people to take prayer or meditation breaks throughout the day.

I encourage to follow a path that makes for better employers, employees and workplaces with sustainable business practises, win/win solutions, trustworthy and content employees as well as happier people – as well as a better you.

What are your thoughts on spiritual practises at work?
Are you applying some of those principles already?

 

This concludes my chapter on Buddhism and Management from my book.

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Buddhism and Management (2 of 3)

After last week’s post to introduce my passion for personal development, the philosophy of Buddhism and the guidance I get from studying and practising it, I want to continue with more discussions around Buddhism and its application to Business and Management.

Buddhism gives me guidance to pure happiness, teaches me patience and makes me happy on the way, the path to enlightenment. I care less about my “luxury and my material values” but more about myself, my partner, other living beings which surround me. The latter are key to any organisation, as other living beings are clearly our co-workers. Particularly if you have managerial responsibility you want to make sure your staff is looked after and happy to work for your organisation. Without that, no one enjoys their job and no one likes contributing to their work.

One could argue that EI (Emotional Intelligence) fulfils a similar wisdom but after having studied EI at University I am personally not convinced of their principles. Whilst this may be a topic for another time, EI in my mind looks at your emotional not your spiritual involvement at work. Hence Buddhism or if you prefer to call it Spirituality looks at a level higher than ourselves that trusts in its application to make this a better place to work.

In a closed system, all forces are equal to zero. As a trained mechanical engineer I can happily say that this is true. And the same is true in this world. If you are giving love to people, make them feel better and genuinely support them for them to gain, not for you to gain, then this is coming back to you in one form or another. The way we share love will result in love being shared with us, as whatever we give comes back. Likewise if you are mean and a bad manager to your staff, this will backfire and negativity comes back.

This is part of “The Secret” which suggests that you need to believe in things to happen and put the effort behind it, living in the trust that things will work out. One needs to trust the universe, visualise things, concentrate on them and helping others to develop and be happy. Then the universe will respond positively towards you. The Law of Attraction.

The thought of doing that, e.g. promoting a co-worker for a job you have done, might sound weird. Yet if you are the manager then anything your staff has done will come back to you either way, good or bad. Hence let the staff take the reward for the big deal they closed or the innovation they brought forward. Be happy for them and show compassion towards them, support them in feeling good about it and praise their work. A good leader does exactly that, a poor manager will try to be in the spotlight herself all the time.

After drifting a bit into other philosophies, I wanted to conclude that whatever you do, it is work in progress as the more you understand your own mind, your own motivation and inner self, the more you will understand the power of attraction, or the law of attraction. This is very much in line with Buddhism, yet Buddhism would probably look less at the personal gain overall than the actual sharing of compassion and helping others. But again, this shows that you need to find your philosophy to unlock your own secret. Mine is Buddhism but any religious or spiritual belief will most probably support this theory in one way or another. Find your own way.

The answers to all our questions are within us, and I believe Buddhism is one good way of unlocking that knowledge. As aforementioned, I am sure many religious groups would offer similar paths.

Start today with some meditation or a thought of looking at your life and see which spiritual way might support your ambition. Maybe you already have a path and find a way of applying this to your current life and life style?

Please share your experience in the comment box below, I am keen to hear how you are experiencing it and how you progress.

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Buddhism and Management (1 of 3)

Now this is the last chapter of my productivity book I wrote back in 2013. So just over a year after I published the book, and over 250 downloads later, my aim is to revisit the chapters and publish them here. Some in abbreviated form, some in full. So there is still value in buying the book and getting the full version. Get it now!

Buddhism has been with me forever probably but since 2005/2006 I have been with Buddhism too. That is when I started looking into it with greater passion, visited meditation classes and connected to people interested in it also.

I understand that not everyone is a Buddhist and hence this part might not appeal to everyone. Whilst I am not necessarily applying all the action to be a great Buddhist, I am putting the principles into action nevertheless. I am hoping to concentrate more on my spiritual development but one day maybe I give up alcohol, possessions and who knows, maybe move to a monastery. This might sound extreme but I had this longing since I was a little boy, to live in a monastery and become a priest. Yet it clashes with my drive to have a career and family, so living along the Buddhist principles and trying to share the love with my surrounding seems like a good compromise.

What I suggest is to set a certain amount of time aside to practise. Whether this is meditating on the train or bus to work, practising patience whilst playing with your children or just being full of kindness all day long. Buddhism, at least for me, is a lot about training your brain and consciousness, living in the now. Being able to let go of any external factors, being able to concentrate on the nothing and then living in the now is an amazing experience. It is about quieting the mind and letting go of those daily niggles we all have. Realising that the comment your co-worker made this afternoon was just not important, and (laughing) that one actually gets wound up is even more ridiculous. Let go.

There has been a lot of writing about Zen and Buddhism around the internet and in various publications. Zen per definition is experimental wisdom, particularly in the form of meditation. I have been thinking about the topic of Buddhism, Management, Business and Personal Development for some time, and it was close to me launching a blog on this topic only. However, this would need a lot more spiritual practise than I can set aside today.

What I want to do is to look at the universal belief and teaching of Buddhism and how this can be incorporated in today’s business and management world. Hopefully I will be able to do that over the forthcoming posts.

For now, I like to answer the question “Why am I interested in Buddhism?”, as I get this asked very frequently. This was first published on Balamadana (2009), a blog I wrote with a friend of mine and monk. Being born into the Christian belief, I came across various religions. However, the Buddhist way of life, a way of a moral life and developing wisdom and understanding of “what’s out there”, fascinated me. It is about being mindful, aware of your thoughts and actions. From my personal development practise, being an NLP Master Practitioner and Coach, Buddhism offered me a different perspective of how to develop to be aware of what I do, how I do it and why I am doing it.

This makes me considering my actions.

Keep letting go, I write more next week.

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