How to survive as an employee of a global player

K. had finally arrived in the castle. However, there were thousands of stairs, offices, and even more people running around. Everyone appeared busy, ruthlessly running around. K. made countless attempts to bring forward his request to the suitable person in command. After numerous futile inquiries, K. took a seat in a secluded alcove of the castle, being totally ignored by any passer-bys.
„I feel totally lost and without orientation. I don‘t know anybody and nobody seems to help me. What could I do?”.
K. fell into a deep state of depression, unable to further master his fate.
(In adaption of „The castle” by Franz Kafka)

If you are a desperate employee in a big-sized company and feel a little like the main character in Kafka‘s famous book, you may have a lot of questions, looking for useful answers.
Find in the following my 3 tips on how to successfully survive as „a small bee in a bee hive“.

Internal employability
Just like anybody dealing in the business world one has to make sure that one‘s employability stays up-to-date. An employee of a corporation has to ensure that she/he provides a specific benefit that supports the company‘s mission and goals. The question is: How do you make sure that your attractiveness for others in your company to reach out to you (and your services) stays on a high level? You could, of course, strive to become a leader (with a natural implication for requests for your contribution by your subordinated employees). However, in times of flattening hierarchies this might be a dangerous path to follow. To assume that others will depend on you just because you once were promoted to become a leader doesn‘t necessarily count anymore in the modern working environment. A safer path to pursue is to obtain knowledge and experiences (e.g. on processes, technology or methods) that others will probably require. May you evolve into an IT expert with a deep Java knowledge, become a nurse that specializes in treating cancer patients or perfecting your expertise of extinguishing fires as a fireman, you continuously need to reflect on identifying very good answers to the following two questions: 1. What will others in your company (aka community aka department) need as services to support them? and 2. Do your current service offerings provide good answers to question #1 and how could they be rearranged or optimized to support your colleagues in the future?

And though hierarchies maybe flattening and impact of classic leadership maybe shrinking, it is still a good idea to ask yourself: What could I do to actively support my own boss (to improve her/his standing within the organization)? If you are the courageous type, you might also want to ask your boss directly: „In which way could I support you to further improve your standing in the company?”. The answers will give you valuable information on how to move on and develop.

Diverse networking
Once you enter a very large company (of let‘s say more than 100,000 employees) the sheer size of this organization can be overwhelming and quite intimidating. It might help you to rationalize your discomfort with a few questions:

  1. Assuming that you want to pass a certain period of time in this company, who are probably the people that you should start a connection with because they are involved in decisions that might affect you and your work?
    Expand your way of thinking from your direct boss to e.g. her/his boss to departments like HR and IT/Infrastructure. It is their job to make sure that you can do your job. Therefore, it is always a good idea to have a few valuable contacts in HR and IT.
  2. Assuming that in particular those who maintain a diverse network in a company, are the most successful: How could you make sure to meet and get into contact with people from different departments and hierarchy levels?
    For example, are there regular events in the company taking place, where you might get the chance to meet colleagues from different areas?

In particular, if you are a young professional (less than 3 years of work experience) it might be helpful to get a mentor in your company. Ideally, somebody who has a great network established (that you can benefit from) and who has certain coaching competencies that will support you as part of your mentoring relationship. Who in your current company could be such a person? Don’t be shy to ask and involve Human Resources if necessary. It is one of their prime goals to establish a well-working mentoring network in the corporation.

Similar to mentoring: Look for role models in your company. Which are the behaviour patterns that you admire (and envy) the most in fellow colleagues or leaders in your organization? Try to get closer to these people to copy and learn from them so that you can adapt the desired behaviour into your own working routines.

Dealing with changes in big-size companies
It is an open secret that processes in global companies are usually quite complex. Compliance is paramount and lead times for even the most simple workflows (e.g. permission for traveling or purchasing of new equipment) can be painfully long. As a member of a big corporation you need a high level of persistence and patience if you want to be successful. Keep the three main strategies for engagement always in the back of your head: „Change it” – „Love it” – „Leave it”. Before you start a project with a certain transformational character in your company, you need to think over if the expected benefits are worth the effort you have to put into it.

Normally, people establish a solid comfort zone soon after they have entered a big corporation, feeling like only „a small wheel in a great machinery“. Sluggishness sets in very fast.
If you want to change things in your big-sized organization you will need to prepare for handling resistance. You can easily detect any „opponents” of change by their usage of killer phrases like: „We never did that before!”, „This is what we usually do!“ or „You won‘t succeed trying to change this!“. Do not let this discourage you.

If you want to transform anything you will need three qualities in particular: focus (on your main goals, not getting distracted by unimportant aspects), empathy (to obtain the perspective of different impacted employee groups) and perseverance (not losing your faith if temporary setbacks occur and to keep track on your path to long-term success).

If you follow a few of the above mentioned tips, it will be much easier to successfully develop a good career in your global company, entering a path to a meaningful work life.

Good luck and best of success!

The early-warning system of your career

Warren Schmidt has arrived at the end of a long administrative career in the insurance industry. He is sitting in his office seat, staring at the wall clock wondering where on the track of his job life everything went wrong. Why didn’t he read the signs earlier? Why was he not sensitive enough to read the alarm signs? How could he allow to not have an early-warning system in place, to tell him when something would go terribly wrong?
Now, it was too late. Schmidt found his working life shattered into many broken fragments. It was right then that it dawned upon him. „I made a bad, bad mistake“, he said.
(inspired by the initial film scene in “About Schmidt” with Jack Nicholson)

Have you ever experienced a similar situation, somehow feeling that “something in your work life is wrong” but you were not quite able to put your finger onto it?

For situations like this it is useful to have some kind of internal radar mechanism that supports you in identifying problems before they come up. I call it an „early-warning system“. To have such a system in place you need to work through the following five steps:

  1. Ask yourself „Which are the critical success factors in my work?” (aka “What crucially needs to be in place or to happen so that I can be successful at work?”). Take your time and let answers emerge slowly but profoundly. Quality is more important than speed at this stage.
  2. Write down your critical success factors. In a written format, they develop a higher power and impact for you.
  3. On a scale of 1 (very low, poorly) to 10 (very high, excellent) ask yourself for each factor: How well is it currently addressed by you?
  4. For any factors with a value of 7 or less on the scale come up with ideas on how to bring them further towards a 10.
  5. Incorporate those activities designed in step 4 into your daily business routines and start evaluating all factors on the 10-step scale after a certain period of time.

Brian Tracy who wrote the great book „Thinking Big” inspired me to create this small and yet quite effective routine to regularly check up on my working success factors.

For example, reflecting on my work as a consultant and coach, I came up with three different success factors:

  • „Contact and Proximity”: Getting frequently into contact with my clients and being close to them. Obtaining information about their needs and wishes so that I can reflect on how to provide them with suitable services.
  • „Learning and Inspiration”: Participating in trainings, network events and analyzing useful media to increase my portfolio of methods and tools and to get to know latest trends.
  • „Output and Benefits”: Providing outputs (ideally on a daily basis) like one-on-one coachings or team buildings and regularly ask my clients about the usefulness of my services to them.

Evaluating these on a scale from time to time helps me to better focus on what is really essential in my work, thereby increasing my impact and effectivity.

Jack wants to know:
“Do you really know the critical success factors of your work?”

I encourage you to also find out more about your own critical success factors in business so you get a chance to focus more on effectivity and to significantly increase your impact.
Best of success!

Make REAL impact

I was reaching out my hand. From far beyond Mjolnir was coming to me. The sensation to feel the hammer in my hand, was just wonderful. I struck down the hammer into the ground and made an enormous impact.
Thor, the God of Thunder

Have you ever thought your life of being mediocre? Or were you at a certain point in time fed up with average behaviour or performances by others? I find this to be excellent opportunities for deeper reflection in regards to meaning in our lives.

In the way we lead our day-to-day lives or in which we communicate with others, we should focus on the biggest impact we can make.
In my coaching sessions I sometimes start by asking: “Which is currently your biggest challenge that, if it were resolved, would make everything else less urgent and necessary?“.
This is a method that I have copied from Gary W. Keller’s famous book “The ONE Thing”. Basically, he recommends to focus on the biggest obstacle or goal that we can find in all that we do, in our daily tasks, in our correspondence and talks with others or in our way of setting and pursuing future goals.

By asking this question more often, you will benefit from four advantages:

  1. You start using a different frame in your life. You start BIG. It will be difficult for you to reach breakthroughs or come any near a great success if you dream small. You need to increase your dreams and visions like inflating a balloon. Read more on this topic in this blog.
  2. By facing the BIG topics right from the start, you avoid getting caught up in all the small details or aspects that consume a lot of your time but have only peripheral benefit for you (like watching cat videos on youtube).
  3. You start leaving your own comfort zone and walk into territory that maybe new, unfamiliar, yet promising in terms of potential success and maybe even fame.
  4. You get the attention of others and help them to cutting the chase and getting to the really important topics for them (this, of course, requires that you have established a trustful relationship). Eventually, people start to notice you and your work. All you need to do is start asking the right question.

I encourage you to reach out to grasp your own version of Mjolnir, Thors hammer, and to start using it to make a real impact that both electrifies yourself and thrills others around you. Your very personal big dreams enrichen our lives, they inspire us and prompt us to want to support you.

Make an impact and share your dreams with the world!

Thor has spoken.

Choose your box wisely

Imagine yourself lying on the death bed, just hours before your soul leaves the physical body to start a journey into eternity. What would you think of reflecting your life and looking back?
Will you be satisfied? Will you confirm that you lead a life full of richness, intensity and meaning?
Or will you feel dissatisfied and sad in the face of a life that was often unhappy, meaningless and without success?

In his famous book “The ONE THING”, Gary Keller has described effectively how you can succeed in scaling any activity in a way that you can be more successful, happy and lead a more meaningful life.

For this it is necessary to imagine four different scaling areas as follows:

  • Doable: This is within reach of your knowledge, skills and experience. Most likely to be achieved.
  • Stretch: Within your reach, but at the farthest of your range. You will have to extend yourself to the limits of your current capabilities.
  • Possibility: Far outside of your comfort zone, the answer and path to finding one is still highly unclear. The answer will be a totally new one.
  • Miracle: Your wildest dream, something with big impact for the entire world, a wonderful event taking place.

Applying this simple scaling exercise will enable you to change your perspective from thinking “too small” to thinking broadly and visionary.

I will give you an example.
Imagine somebody who would like to be a hairdresser and who is at the very start of his/her career. If this person applied this exercise, it could look like this:

  • Doable: I will do an apprenticeship in hairdressing and work as a hairdresser in a small shop.
  • Stretch: I will participate in hairdressing competitions, trying to win an award and establish my own business.
  • Possibility: I have founded a global hairdresser chain of more than 500 shops and circa 4.000 employees.
  • Miracle: I am Top-1 hairdresser of many statesmen and CxOs in the corporate world. I became a Millionaire with selling hairdressing products and have supported hundred-thousands of people to gain an enhanced self-confidence by having a great haircut.

Do you see the difference in the way you challenge yourself from step to step?

Try it out and start raising “your game”!

Best of success,
Matthias von Mitzlaff

The right question

After growing up in a palace, protected from the problems of the world, Siddharta Gautama went out one day and saw two things: an old person that was grievously ill and a dead body. Gautama, who would once be well-known under his more common name “Buddha”, then asked his chariot driver whom these things (illness and death) happened to. He was stunned by the answer: “To everyone, my lord.”
As a consequence, Buddha started to ask questioning his life in a more fundamental way which later caused him to leave his golden palace in order to travel the world and infect others with a way to lead a peaceful life in harmony with the world.

 

This short anecdote can show us how relevant it is for our lives to ask the right questions. Have you ever had a feeble but existent voice in the back of your head, saying: “Why do you do this? Is it really necessary? Is it useful for you or for others?”.
What did you then do with this voice of yours? Did you shrug it of or did you take it seriously?

From time to time it is for all of us useful to quiet down, to come to a total standstill and to ponder the really important questions, effecting our lives, our values, our fate.

Questions such as

  • What is my destiny?
  • What could make my life really important?
  • What needs for me to happen to lead a fulfilled life?
  • Why am I doing what I am currently doing?

can lead you to an inner wisdom buried deep within you.

The art lies in uncovering the truth that is contained in the answers to the questions above. These truths, of course, are not revealed overnight. Usually it takes many years to find answers that bear a high degree of satisfaction for us individually.

For this it is helpful to establish a conscious change in space and time to make it easier for good answers to reveal themselves to you, meaning: Pick a place or spot that you can find deep quietude in (e.g. outside in nature, in a monastery or on a high mountain). And in addition pick a time interval that allows you to not be impacted by day-to-day tasks or requests from others.

Trust in your subconscious mind to create insights that have meaning for you and that hold a key to your future development and success. All it takes is space, time and a little willingness and patience to let them ascend from the bottom of the lake called your subconsciousness to the surface of your clear awareness.

The truth, your truth has always been there. It may just appear like a shy deer lurking in the twilight, waiting for a trustful impulse from you. By making a deliberate invitation you may succeed in luring the deer into the bright clearing out of the forest of your thoughts. And once the shy animal has shown itself to you, it may offer you a wonderful gift in return – deep insights about your dearest desires.

Cross the Rubicon

Today is a wonderful day in January. A day that may decide my fate.
The cowards of the Roman Senate have decided in my absence to dismiss my army and for me to put down my imperium [“right to command”] before I will be allowed to once again run for the consulate. After careful consideration I have decided against this and, on the contrary, lead my forces across the Rubicon towards Rome. I know that this is equal to a declaration of war for the Roman senate and means the death sentence. But I want to take that risk. Now, there is no going back for me. Alea iacta est.

Julius Caesar

Once, you have crossed your personal „Rubicon“ there is no getting back.
This is why I wonder,

  • Which are your resolutions and goals for 2018 that transform you in a way that you „just cannot go back to where you have been before“?
  • What is the „essence of attraction“ to you that lies in your goal and makes it worth to „burn the bridges behind you“?
  • Have you foreseen that you will be a different individual once you have crossed the Rubicon? What will make the difference in your behaviour your way of perceiving the world around you?

Our lives are full of rituals.
To once in a while establish a Crossing-the-Rubicon ritual can support you in creating your life to be more exciting and unique and to develop personal qualities of bravery and determination.

For such a ritual to work effectively, you will require

  • A compelling reason to transform (either as part of a painful feeling that you want to get rid of or as part of something wonderful that you strive for).
  • A vision of what lies at the end of your journey into the unknown. A picture of what you will have achieved once your journey is over.
  • A setting that hinders you from being able to go back.
  • A clear plan for at least the first steps to take on your journey into unchartered territory.
  • A set of beliefs that keep you motivated and on track (most of the things are about psychology!).

And if, one day, you decide to start your journey to cross the Rubicon, be brave, stay open and never lose your focus on the goals that you strive for.
Good luck!

When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been.
But now… she had wings.
Dean Jackson

El Dorado

92 years ago, a man called Percy Fawcett disappeared with his eldest son during an expedition in search for an ancient lost city. Fawcett has started early in 1906 on his first journey to South America. Since then he never really stopped to search for his “El Dorado” until his presumable death in 1925. In fact, he never found it. It is said that there may be an El Dorado like city in the jungles of Brazil, however, so far it has not been discovered.

We can learn a lot from the life of Percy Fawcett who inspired filmmaker James Gray to write and direct “The Lost City of Z” which made it to the movies in 2016 with actors Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett and Sienna Miller playing Fawcett’s wife Nina. Percy Fawcett collected and applied enormous means and resources to fund his expeditions to eventually find the city in the jungle that he was desperately seeking.

At the end of the film we get to see a scene at a party table back in England with relatives and friends having come together to celebrate. At one point, Nina, Fawcett’s wife raises and starts giving a speech. The following words from her are directly addressed to her beloved husband: “I have written this note half a year ago in case I would die as a consequence of my pregnancy. My Percy, I know your first instinct will be to grieve, but I adjure you rather to consider our son and the love you must show him. I knew it would be a boy. Always teach him to dream, to seek the unknown, to look for what is beautiful is its own reward. And I beg you to remember those words so easy to forget: A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for? My dearest love, forever.”

And concluding this article, I would like to connect this little story of Percy Fawcett with your own story. I wish to know:

  • What is your very personal “Lost city in the jungle”, your El Dorado?
  • What is the essence of a deep yearning and desire within you that has not been satisfied so far?
  • Which are aspirations that you have not dared to seriously consider because you thought they are highly unrealistic?

I hereby encourage you to never stop dreaming. Preserve your phantasies and do not allow anybody to forbid or degrade these. In my opinion, you are entitled to pursue your vision and to cherish every single achieved goal on the way. In that sense I dare you to prepare a new expedition in quest of the things you long for.

Summer of love

“…All across the nation, such a strange vibration
People in motion
There’s a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion, people in motion…”
(San Francisco, Scott McKenzie)

Forty years ago, there was a global phenomenon going on, later called “the summer of love”. Millions of people shared a view on the world that was characterized by peace, participation and freedom.

It is exactly this spirit that I’d like to use as a background feeling for this short article.

 

You may have just come back from a great summer vacation, with family or friends or just on your own. Having arrived at home you realize that there is a huge amount of work awaiting you and all of a sudden that sweet feeling of relaxation and freedom is gone.

You know it doesn’t have to be like that. I encourage you to try a few of the 5 tips illustrated as follows to deliberately extend that sweet feeling that comes with an enjoyable summer time-out. What you could do is:

  1. Install visual anchors in your daily life that remind you of the great time you had during your vacation. For example, a screen saver with your favorite photos or a framed picture at your working place with a nice snapshot of you at an exotic place could serve as visible anchor that – looking at it – can instantly bring all those wonderful feelings back to you.
  2. Implement short relaxation periods in your daily routine (you may want to call them MWPs – mini wellness periods). Two rules apply: 1. You are totally undisturbed during the MWPs. 2. You do something that is healthy and has a positive impact on your work life balance.
  3. Decrease all parts in your life that are connected with the opposite of relaxation and personal freedom. By downsizing many aspects in your life that you link to “hard work” and activities that drag you down you make it easier for you to enjoy feelings that are similar to what you have experienced during your great summer vacation.
  4. Imagine how great your summer vacation was. Maybe as part of a daily meditation go back in your mind to the places that you liked so much while on vacation. It is a scientific fact that our bodies relate to memories, may they have been good or bad. By conducting a short fantasy trip you deliberately create pleasant feelings within you which further leads to relaxation and inner peace for you.
  5. Plan your next trip. This is what my wife usually does quite soon after one of our vacations. It just gives her a good feeling already knowing where to go the next time and looking forward to it.

As you can see, there is quite a number of things you can do to extend your vacation a little longer, even if already being buried in lots of work.

 

I invite you to comment here on what strategy works for you in terms of conscious initiating relaxation and pleasant feelings within you.

Thanks in advance and
stay relaxed!

A well-balanced team

Balance of information

How do you find the right level of information in your team?
Well, first of all you need to identify what kind of information is essential to team members. What is essential for them to know so that they can do their job? It maybe helpful to categorize information in three different categories: “must know”, “should know” and “nice to know”.

Secondly, analyze what kind of communication channels are already used by the team and what other channels might be useful for informing everybody. As you know, different comms tools are suitable for different needs. Example: if a team receives a regular email from leadership with a link to a video or blog, this might be a nice idea. However, there is a media break involved. You need to click the link to be routed to the internet. Why not stating the 2-3 most important statements of the video or blog in the email itself (with a chance of being read by the users without needing to click on the video/blog link)? Unfortunately, this is an opportunity that currently only few leaders make good use of.

Thirdly, arrange information contents and channels wisely. Always keep in mind that attention spans are short and your reader’s time is highly valuable. So keep focused and stick with your most important messages early during a push information to your team.

 

Balance of monitoring

In times of more and more agile work structures, the concept of “self organization” grows stronger and stronger. Often, individuals refuse to be monitored tightly by supervisors and rather prefer tasks with a high level of freedom. At the same time, it is useful to make sure that all team members work on jobs that bring the team into the desired direction and that no work is redundant.

As a team leader it is necessary for you to find a balance between the two: on the one hand you should give your team members a maximum of liberty to let them shape their work on their own. On the other hand it is essential for you and the organization, that you set clear expectations what you and the organization looks for in the individual’s contribution to the team goal. So you need to combine both aspects in yourself, in your role: You support your team members by establishing a work environment with maximum purpose and freedom and you monitor your team by setting clear expectations and from time to time validating these.

 

Balance of proximity

According to statista.com 50% of interviewed people would prefer to work at least part-time at home (and another 17% of interviewees favoring to work full-time from home office). Well-established office work places are slowly declining in number in comparison to mobile and home office work spaces. More and more employees work remotely and in virtual teams. Team leader need to be skilled and equipped to cope with this challenge. First of all, you need to clarify what kind of activities are essential for a face-to-face interaction between team members. This is usually connected to high quality work and intense get-together. Having clarified this aspect you can assign as many tasks as possible for remote or mobile work environments, enabling your team members to make use of space and time in their own preferred way. When it comes to virtual work, technological aspects are crucial. It comes naturally, that all of your team members will need the necessary tools and equipment to easily get in touch with each other, soft- and hardware-wise.

 

Balance of reliability

Great team leaders have an invisible detector for the actual climate towards change and stability in their team. They apply certain skills to identify to what extent the team requires either change or stability. For example, by frequently asking the team: “On a scale from 1 (high stability / no change at all) to 10 (no stability / constant change): Where do you feel we are currently?” in addition to the question: “And where do you currently need to be on the scale so that you can do a proper job?” they receive valuable feedback on the team’s perception considering change and stability.

Great team leaders do also know that both is important: to constantly ignite changes (so that the team can learn, develop and grow) and simultaneously to offer the team “stable zones” and rituals so that they have a “safe harbor” and well-known ground to work from. Reliability is a quality in our life that is precious and helps us save energy and stay focused.

Murphy’s team laws

Trapped in a paradox.

In the following blog article, I list a few of the most significant challenges that often arise in teams from my point of view. Speaking of teams (instead of groups) I roughly define them as:

  1. Has a common sense of purpose, a goal that binds everybody together and
  2. Contains quite different individuals who have taken over specific roles and tasks to achieve the team goal.

The following patterns occur quite often across many teams that I have worked with so far…

 

The information paradox
Team members usually like to get informed and be updated with the latest news about what all others are doing. However, they usually have a lot on their plate individually and are spammed with information anyway, meaning they do not want to be over-informed.


So, how to find the right level of suitable information?

 

The monitoring paradox
Many people appreciate to have free space and time to do what they want to do. They acknowledge if they are given the freedom to act on their own, being creative and developing concepts on their own. This contradicts the classic understanding of a traditional “manager”, who monitors the team, structures the work to be done and sets expectations. And do not forget, many people also rather like it if their supervisors set clear expectations making the direction to head to clearer for them.


How to find the right balance between “total control” and “laissez faire”?

 

The proximity paradox
Often team members like to be on their own, not hassled by others with a spatial area just for them (not having to share with others). They may enjoy working remotely allowing them to arrange their day-to-day life in the way they prefer. On the other hand, they also like to be in contact with others, share their experiences and work together with other team members to achieve a common goal.


Where do you draw the line between distance and closeness for team members?

 

The reliability paradox
Team members often like reliable work environments and processes. They appreciate if they know what is ahead of them and to be done. This gives them a sense of certainty, probably knowing: “I can do this!”. However, too much continuity can lead to dull and boring work routines. Humans need a fresh impulse and approach from time to time to get energized and to further develop and learn.


What ratio of change versus continuity do you apply for the teams you work with?

 

In this blog I have stated four different paradox aspects that you – as a team member or lead – have to successfully deal with in order to make the team effective and happy.

I encourage you to read on my next blog to receive a few ideas and tips on how to properly handle the paradoxes as described above.