I wonder

Teaching my mindfulness class, I came across this poem by Derek Tasker… it touched me, so I thought, I’d share it with you too!

I wonder what would happen if

I treated everyone like I was in love

with them, whether I like them or not

and whether they respond or not and no matter

what they say or do to me and even if I see

things in them which are ugly twisted petty

cruel, vain, deceitful, indifferent, just accept

all that and turn my attention to some small

weak, tender, hidden part and keep my eyes on

that until it shines like a beam of light

like a bonfire I can warm my hands by and trust

it to burn away all the waste which is not

never was my business to meddle with.


Heart Meditation

The battle with our Selves

The journey towards our SelvesIn their book “Leading from the emerging future”, Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer state the following:

“The primary battlefield of this century is with our Selves. It is a battle between the self and the Self: between our existing habituated self and our emerging future Self, both individually and collectively.”

According to their research and findings, the battle takes place between what they call absencing and presencing, meaning on one hand the downloading and replicating of habitual behaviours, holding onto the past and not opening our minds, hearts and will, thus being on autopilot; and on the other hand the heightened awareness, openness, letting go of the old and embracing/embodying the new to become more creative again.

To be honest, I for myself am in the middle of this battle currently… downloading and pretending not to listen to my gut feeling is simple, the “let us do as we always did, it’s so much easier” voice in my heat all too present. Very strongly though, I feel that this route is not for me, that there is something else to explore and some fantastic opportunities around the corner waiting to be seized and explored. Although it seems to be easy, letting go and swimming against what is known and what everybody does requires courage, discipline and a lot of mindfulness.

Have you also experienced moments of disruptions in your life? How did you react to these, did you switch on your autopilot or did you respond in a new, more creative way?

As we deal with the complexity of the 21st century, we need to change the way things are done, also the way leadership is approached. This change definitely starts with our Selves!

Have an excellent weekend,


4 tips on how to remain serene and creative throughout the week

Mindful LeadershipBefore you start the new week, let me give some tips on how to remain serene and creative even though you have to cope with a flood of incoming mails, various problems, family issues etc.:

  • When you wake up in the morning, smile to yourself; your mood will directly improve.
  • Every time you feel tight or stressed, remember to breathe. Even better: take a couple of deep breaths, walk a couple of steps and stretch; you will immediately feel better and tensions will loosen.
  • Take the habit of establishing some so-called ‘micro-practices’: a certain trigger makes you take a particular action reminding you of staying mindful and switching off the auto-pilot. Example: whenever you are stopping at a red light with your car, take a moment to check in with you body, to feel what is going on and to breathe a couple of times deeply. Or: whenever your phone rings, instead of responding immediately, take a moment for centering yourself and feeling your body.
  • Do something creative every day; be it arranging the kitchen table for dinner in the evening in a different way than usual, giving a creative input while being in a team meeting etc. You will see that the more you do that, the more ideas you will get!

Here’s wishing you an excellent week!


Breaking away from my prison of fear

Hilly Road

Today, while sitting on the train and reading: “The Mindful Leader” from Michael Carroll, some of his words really got to me. On page 50, he writes:

“Yet, somehow, for too many of us, our instinctive yearning for creative challenge gradually transformed to the point where we ended up preferring security rather than fresh uncertainty, assurances rather than adventure, a reliable and stable job rather than an inspiring mission”.

M. Carroll then goes on a little bit further asking:

“Can we trust that we are resourceful enough to explore life’s uncertainties with confidence, clarity and adventure? Can we reclaim our natural sense of enthusiasm and abandon the prison of our fears and our need for a stable, secure job? Can we permit ourselves to be fully human?”

I am currently completely overwhelmed by fresh uncertainty and working on an inspiring mission… it is not easy to let go; certainly not the stability and security. I don’t know what lies ahead of me and I need to deal with that ambiguity. But I am confident, and positive as well as optimistic. I abandoned my prison of fear and am re-learning to trust my inner gut-feeling. Although it is still early in the process, I can say that It feels good to rediscover who I am and what I stand for!

Let me finish with these words from Carroll on page 52:

“In the tradition of the mindful leader, rather than leading with will, power and ambition, we lead and inspire one another with openness, intelligence, and vulnerability”.




Informal mindfulness exercises for everyday

This week I am very much looking forward to a one-day mindfulness retreat next Saturday. One day without speaking, just with myself, letting go and being. Those of you who know me personally might think: ‘how is she going to do that, one day without speaking’ 😉 Actually it is not the first time I will be doing it and every experience has been very enjoyable so far. It really is a moment for yourself, for refilling your batteries and emerging with more power, clearer ideas and very much centered. One day is not much, but given my busy life, the best I can do from time to time.

You don’t need to go anywhere though to find your inner peace, there are many ways in which you can practice informally, doing whatever you are doing during the day. Here’s how:

  • When you look at somebody, pretend that it is the first time you see him/her. Look carefully at what you see. What color is the hair? What are the facial expressions? What do the eyes tell? Is there anything else you notice?
  • When you eat, take a moment to really taste the food. Put it into your mouth and try to sense all the flavors. This reminds me of an olive oil tasting that we have done with Dr. Bennett: fantastic. I would have never thought that olive oil could have so many different tastes and smells!
  • Next time you go outside, watch the sky, the clouds, the nature around you as if it was the first time you opened your eyes and saw them. What do you see/smell/hear/perceive?
  • Next time you take a shower, feel the water on your skin and try to stay with the water and your feelings instead of letting your mind wander away (this is a particularly difficult exercise for me, especially in the morning when thousands of things cross my mind; eventually you do get better though!)
  • Take a couple of deep breaths, following the air through your body. From the nose, to the throat, to your chest and maybe even your legs and arms and the other way back. Tune into yourself, how do you feel? There is nothing to do, just to let go.

These tips are just a couple of hints regarding what you could do during the day; be creative, set your alarm clock to a certain time every day and when it rings, stop everything you are doing and remain mindful for just a couple of minutes. Be fully with whatever you are doing and try not to multitask… with practice, it will become easier and you won’t need an alarm to remind you to be mindful at least once a day.

Here’s wishing you an excellent week!


Emotional Intelligence applied to Leadership

Currently I am reading a very interesting book from Daniel Goleman on Leadership and the “Power of Emotional Intelligence”. Dr. Goleman specializes in psychology and brain sciences and thus applies the concepts of mindfulness to leadership, i.e. what it takes to become an outstanding leader. Most interestingly, he found out that it is not the IQ or technical skills that matter at the highest level, but rather the “Emotional Intelligence” (EI) abilities.

Dr. Goleman proposes a so-called “competency-framework” to describe how the fundamentals of EI translate into job success; two of these components are related to dealing with one self. Two others concern the ability to manage other people as well as relationships with others.

Daniel Goleman: "The competency Framework"  - Emotional Intelligence

From D. Goleman: “Leadership – The power of Emotional Intelligence, Selected writings”. 2011 Northampton MA, page 14.

  • Self-Awareness: Having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs and drives. People who are self-aware, are in fact honest with themselves and with others. They know what they can do and what they cannot as well as how their feelings and emotions affect themselves and others around them.
  • Self-Management: This actually means that although we all have feelings, impulses and emotions, some of us have found ways to control these and channel them in useful ways, in order to bring out our inner core and creativity (as Personal Leadership would put it).
  • Social Awareness: Nowadays, team leaders must be able to sense and understand the viewpoints of everyone around the (virtual) table. Cross-cultural dialogue and understanding is even more important now than before as our worlds become more and more globalized. Being able to put yourself into the shoes of somebody else to understand how he/she feels and at a larger scale, reading the organizational decision networks and currents are absolutely a must.
  • Relationship Management: Competent people here work following the assumption that nothing important gets done alone. They are effective in managing relationships, putting relevant networks in place that they can draw upon even if only at a later stage. All other components play into this last one as “no leader is an island” according to Dr. Goleman.

What does this mean for us? Well, it shows again very nicely how being ‘mindful’ and in line with yourself, understanding your own feelings/emotions and being able to interpret them affects others in a positive and effective way. Leading yourself adequately and being aware of your own constraints, culture, worldviews and abilities plus being willing to learn and move forward on the path of “emotional intelligence” will certainly have a major impact on how you will lead others.

Thanks for reading and feel free to contact me for more info/advice, Jenny

Further reading:

Mindful leadership applied to virtual teams

Lately I wrote a post on what it takes to lead multicultural teams. It now struck me that many of us don’t just lead multicultural but also “virtual” teams; this adds a lot of complexity to something that is already not so easy on its own.

Wooden mannequins pushing puzzle pieces into the right place

What actually is a virtual team some of you might ask? Following Wikipedia, a virtual team is “(…)a group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology”. In clear it means that you might be sitting in one location, like me in Switzerland for example, and you actually lead and work with people all across Europe or even around the globe. It also means that you might not even see these people physically throughout the year. Additionally, it might be that you are not the direct line boss of some of these people but ‘only’ the matrix with less direct possibilities to motivate your staff as you are not the final ‘evaluator’ and ‘bonus giver’.

So, how do you then communicate and how do you walk the fine line of what is acceptable in one culture and what is not? I have to say that at first and being a coach, it was very difficult for me, not so see people as the non-verbal and paraverbal components of face-to-face discussions usually tell me the whole and hidden story and let me intuit the truth behind spoken words. Video communication through web cams or other means would have helped a lot but unfortunately this was not available. So what to do?

First of all and especially concerning team members from cultures I did not have had any work contacts before, I informed myself about the habits, the style and the usual work behaviours from colleagues who were willing to share. I also spent a lot of time speaking to my team and of course listening to them, in order to find out more about them as  persons, their lifestyles etc. Very often I also asked open questions like: “What does this mean for you”? Or “how do you interpret this particular objective or task”. Creating a trusting and open relationship where all partners and team members feel comfortable is extremely important. Of course I made mistakes, as we all do I am sure, misinterpreting things  or inadvertently creating a situation that for others could be quite uncomfortable. Learning from these mistakes, discussing and exchanging are the ingredients to successfully setting a viable basis for virtual work relationships. Interesting enough, when you listen emphatically, mindfully and with attention and when you are truly interested in what your counterpart has to say, you will quickly find that the tone of voice alone can tell you stories about the state of mind of the other person.

It actually is a skill to be able to listen and direct a conversation when there are so many things competing for your attention in the office at the same time. What is your experience with virtual teams? What works and what not? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Mindful leadership in a multicultural environment – Part II

Before looking into the different aspects of what it means to be a leader in a multicultural environment, what problems can arise and how to solve them, a commonly used term has to be defined. The word ‘culture’ is used in so many ways today but do we really know what lies behind it?  In fact, many different definitions exist, depending on the context the word is used in. Geert Hofstede, a well-known Dutch researcher in the field of organisational studies, says the following: culture is “(…) the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another”. The ‘category’ can refer to nations, regions within or across nations, ethnicities, religions, occupations, organizations, or the genders.”[1]

For my purposes, a definition I find most useful is that of the ‘onion-model’ of culture from Trompenaars. It describes something complex as culture with a simple image, that of an onion, where the outer layer represents behaviours, language, food, clothing etc. of a person; looking more to the inside one can find norms and values. The inner core layer finally, is made of “basic assumptions”[2] like routine actions and beliefs that are deeply rooted inside. ”Onion Model” of Culture[3]

What this model really shows is that we cannot judge or pretend to understand a person simply from his or her behaviours, clothing and food. There is much more to culture than what we can actually see. Acknowledging this fact and being mindful when being part of or leading international teams, will actually help avoiding misunderstandings and bring clarity. “The first step for leaders is to help all players recognize that there are cultural differences – to recognize their importance and impact”.[4]

Let me give you an example: a simple question at the end of a workshop or meeting like “does everybody understand what the next steps are, i.e. is everything clear” can have a different impact on people with various cultural backgrounds. Whereas in some cultures people are used to ask questions, seek clarification and understanding, in some other cultures admitting that things are not clearly understood is actually considered as ‘losing ones face’; hence there won’t be any questions or signs that some information was missing which for the workshop or meeting leader will be very confusing as he/she will be expecting a certain output. In order to avoid this particular situation, it can be very helpful to have a look at cultural type models, like the “Lewis’ model” to give one example:[5]Although it appears difficult to categorize every single person, this model provides a helpful approach and can already solve many problems before they appear.

Specialised coaches can of course help navigate the uncertain waters of intercultural management. Part III of this article will look into the difference of intercultural coaching versus coaching in an intercultural management environment as well as highlight the difference between measures on the job and measures off the job. Stay tuned!




[1] From: http://geerthofstede.nl/culture.aspx

[2] See also: F. Trompenaars and P. Woolliams: „Transcultural Competence through 21 Reconciliations“. In: 21 Leaders fort he 21st Century – How innovative Leaders manage in the digital age. Editor. F. Trompenaars and Ch. Hampden-Turner. Oxford 2001, p. 397-398.

[3] In alteration from H. Blom and H. Meier: „Intercultural Management“ (=International Management. Editor. H. Meier). Page 40.

[4] Trompenaars/Woolliams: Transcultural Competence, p. 397

[5] R. Lewis: http://www.crossculture.com/services/cross-culture/; see also: R. Lewis: “When teams collide – Managing the international team successfully”, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London 2012, p. 13.