A new chapter has begun

New phase, new life, new me. Transformation, maturation, coming of age. 

I can fly. As high as I want. No boundaries. I am my own master. 

I can fall. Hard. No safety net. No shoulder to cry on. No more unconditional love.

I am the elder now. Chapter closed. 

Wait! What is this? A back door? An illusion? The chapter is not closed, it is merely beginning to unfold.

So what is the big deal about being “parentless”, fatherless and motherless. Big blank. Scary for some, secret for others. Taboo for most.

For me it means feeling empty and exhilarated at the same time. I feel small and big. I feel lost and in charge. 

The strength comes from within, like a fire, strong hot coals glimmering deep inside, fueling a fierce drive to keep moving, growing, leading. 

Has anyone felt this before? How did you deal with it?


Coach and Mentor

I have known the difference between coaching and mentoring for a while now. Or so I thought. To coach you ask questions, to mentor you give answers. Simple, isnt’t it? Well rather simplistic and quite mechanical. Completely off the point, actually. 

It is what your counterpart needs in that very moment, that makes them a coachee or mentee.
Now if you’ve had such conversations in the past you’ll rightly say “it’s all nice in theory but you can’t switch every 5 minutes between coaching and mentoring, you shouldn’t even switch in the first place. It is just nonsense!”. True to a certain extent, a conversation or relationship starts primarily in one or the other dimension. Still I am not a fan of shoulds and shouldn’ts. My take is rather: Be ready to switch if you feel this would be beneficial for your coachee/mentee. 

So what if your counterpart explicitely says they want mentoring: do you give it without questioning whether it is what they need? Or do you build in coaching pit-stop moments to verify who is actually in the lead? I often find that in primary mentoring relationships, coaching comes in handy when my counterpart is stuck in an unproductive behavioral pattern (e.g. Missing key messages, interpreting comments in a negative way) that prevents them from making progress on their business objectives. In these cases I don’t use coaching for the sake of it but rather for unlocking the situation. After a while we move back to mentoring and business talk.

Now I have also noticed that primary coaching relationships also need a bit of mentoring in the shape of open discussion or sparring on tangible factual business topics. Why is that? Coaching behaviors is quite a strenuous undertaking both for the coach and the coachee, it is serious business requiring a lot of self-awareness, open-mindedness, listening, accepting fall-backs and getting back on track. I view the open non-coaching discussions as breaks, where coach and coachee can connect on a different level. It is hardly mentoring either, yet it often starts with the coachee saying “since we’ve known each other for a while, I was wondering if I could pass by you a business issue I have right now, … , what would you do?”. As a coach it allows you to show a bit more of who you are as a human being (coaches, in the eyes of many people, seem to come from a different planet!). You can show that when you are non-judgemental as a coach, it doesn’t mean you are not able to have an opinion, it means that your coaching skills allow you to remain distanced enough to create space for the coachee to grow on their own. It increases the trust on both sides and allows coach and coachee to resume the coaching relationship with renewed energy.

How do you experience navigating coaching and mentoring? Do you mix and match or are you rather sticking to a primary type of conversation?

I’d love to hear what experiences you have made in this field…

Like a boat in the storm

I find myself in an emotionally challenging situation these days. Something tells me I am not the only one.
In an attempt to make sense of the many contradictory emotions passing through me recently I have written a short metaphoric text. It helped me. I hope it helps you too. In any situation.

*Original version in French below

“Everyone reacts to the current situation in their own way and with their own filters. We are all on a boat, in a storm. On the same boat. In the same storm. Yet at the same time each of us is all alone on their boat, alone with their fears, their anger, their pain, each of us in their own way.  

Everyone is trying to protect themselves, and by doing so is hurting the people around them. Without wanting it, without seeing it. 

I am afraid we are going to hurt each other a lot, without wanting or seeing it, in the next days and weeks. Nerves are raw and tolerance is low. What can I do?”

After writing this, I came upon a post about how kindness can help unlock disagreements or simply make someone’s day better. It reminded me that being kind makes my day better too. It reminded me that I need to look outside of my stormy boat and check on other little boats. See how they’re doing, give them kind words or a kind smile. It doesn’t solve my problems or reduce my pain.

But it feels good, every time. Again and again.

Original version:

Chacun réagit à la situation actuelle à sa façon et avec ses filtres. 

Nous sommes tous sur un bateau dans la tempête. Dans le même bateau. La même tempête. Mais en même temps chacun d’entre nous est tout seul sur son bateau, tout seul avec sa peur, sa colère et sa douleur, chacun à sa façon. 

Chacun cherche à se protéger et au passage fait du mal aux autres. Sans le vouloir, sans le voir. 

J’ai bien peur que l’on se fasse tous du mal sans le vouloir sans le voir dans les prochains jours, les prochaines semaines. Les nerfs sont à fleur de peau et la tolérance au minimum.

Que faire?

To be average or not to be…the end of an era?

The end of average. Todd Rose. A book review. 

I read The end of average by Todd Rose back at the end of December. And then I had to read it again. Because it is good and because it is not trivial. So I thought it makes this book worth writing a review about it. 


First I like its level of language, its style. It is accessible to a non-native like me and at the same time precise enough to engage in real thinking. The author strikes the right balance between explanation and simplification.

Second I appreciated the thorough description and historical account of how we got where we are today in Chapter 1, including the people who influenced early 20th century thinking and the logic and assumptions behind their ideas. In 1835 Adolphe Quetelet decided to apply the method of average initiated in astronomy to social science, implying the average is perfection and any deviation from it is an error. Francis Galton following in his footsteps repositioned the average as “mediocre”, above average as “eminent” and below average as “imbecile”; Galton also assumed that if you are below average in one dimension then you are overall below average, and applied the same to above average. This led to labelling groups of people as eminent, mediocre or imbecile, on all dimensions of capability and character.

Along came standardization. Edward Thorndike with school standardization and  Taylor with work standardization. I won’t go into too much detail here, a lot is known already, and if standardization and how it came to be triggers your curiosity, I recommend you focus on Chapter 2. Scary and highly interesting at the same time.

Third I learned that the key assumption when studying individuals, that “a group’s distribution could safely be substituted for an individual’s distribution of measurements” is actually wrong (according to a number of scientists and the author) and leads to false results. In simple terms the paradox could be summarized as: how can you understand individuals and ignore their individuality at the same time? Based on the acknowledgment of this mathematical mistake and the paradoxe coming with it the author Todd Rose introduces his key message “individuality matters”, his call to action “first analyse then aggregate”and the 3 highly interesting principles that support it:

– Jaggedness: you can reasonably only aggregate data on traits that are focused enough to be non-multidimensional and not correlated. 

– Context: take the traits and put them in situation. Observe the outcome. Repeat at will. You get the whole spectrum and complexity of personality. Taken independently neither trait nor situation are enough to reliably forecast a typical reaction by a given indivdidual.

– Pathways: Todd Rose writes: “first in all aspects of our lives and for any given goal, there are many, equally valid ways to reach the same outcome; and second, the particular pathway that is optimal for you depends on your own individuality”. Pretty straightforward isn’t it? To understand, yes…to live by…well…

This theory is obviously still in its infancy. I find it far from easy to grasp its implications for society, education and work at once. It already exists here and there, and I want to be able recognize this approach when I see it.

I am also not fully clear on how to implement this thinking in everyday life and everyday work. If the advantages are clear for me, what kind of risks come along with it? No theory or approach is perfect, so what am I getting myself into if I want to embrace the principles of jaggedness, context and pathways? And of course analysing great amount of data before aggregating is a computing challenge, how can we solve it at all levels?

My take-away? I will definitely dig deeper, check into the works of Peter Molenaar who inspired the author, maybe read Karen Adolph about infant development. And of course I will be especially aware of the tyranny of average and play my part in caring, designing for individuals rather than averages.

My last words, quoting the author: individuality matters.

My new year statement

Instead of shouting out my resolutions I have decided to make a new year statement about where I am today and where I’d like to get to this year and beyond.

I am a passionate learner and an enthusiastic teacher, facilitator, coach or mentor depending on the situation. 

My work is a way to live my passion and get paid for it. I believe my mission is first to make people realize how easy it is to start a culture of continuous learning for oneself and for an organisation. The tough part is to make it into a routine, a habit, to embed it in one’s lifestyle.

That is where the second part of my mission kicks in: perseverance, sticking to it and at the same time creatively exploring new ways or variations of existing ones; all of this while staying focused on the goal. 

I am at a crossroad in my worklife. A year ago I have decided to leave my long-term employer to pursue my career in the L&D field. At the same time I have decided to move to a much smaller company because one of my key motivational drivers is to see the impact I have on the organisation and on the people. 

The change became tangible 4 months ago and while the “employed” part of my work is slowly settling down (or rather accelerating actually!), I am now crafting and shaping the extra-curricular part of my passion. 

I am still exploring what is out there, what topics I want to invest in, what I want to contribute to and with whom I want to exchange ideas and experiences. 

My goal is to gain clarity on the questions above, try out a few involvement ideas and kick-start one to two long-term activities in these fields. 

It is an exciting and fulfilling journey and I am curious to see where it will take me. 

I know my view will change throughout the year and I am looking forward to looking back on the roads and ways I will have travelled until then. 

How did you start your year? What are you up to in 2017?

Get started even though you might fail

Since I started in my new job 4 months ago I have initiated a number of new projects and ideas. While I have succeeded in many I have also failed at more than one.

That is why this recommendation from Dr.Travis Bradberry, “Get started even though you might fail” resonated with me.

As I am learning to understand the new environment I am working in, I have been testing what works and what doesn’t. I have hit a few doors and one or too muddy stretches. Each time I reminded myself that it was OK to slow down or change direction, as long as the overall goal was still in sight. That is the “step by step” application of what Dr. Bradberry recommends. The low-risk version one might say. 

What about the high risk? Changing job, employer and industry does qualify as the high risk version. I might fail. Fail at what? Adapting to the new culture, understanding the new business I am in, leveraging my competences to get the job done, effectively influencing the business for a better outcome. These are just a few of the dimensions I could fail upon… and it would take a lot of failures to fail altogether!

That is why I got started in the first place. How I did it? I sliced the beast. Or the elephant as project managers say. I defined the steps that lead to my goal. I cut it in digestible chunks. For me. And I started each small step, knowing I could fail, doing everything so I would succeed.

How do you get started on big goals? How do you get started over and over again on the small things of life?

Inspired by following article from Dr. Travis Bradberry

Getting unstuck

Once in a while I get stuck. In negative thoughts, in crazy “what-ifs”, in “it is not that bad anyway”.

By now I recognize the signals: I become irritable, impatient, dissatisfied or even just drained. When I consciously start recognizing these signals I must stop. Literally. I need to sit down and ask myself “What is bothering you? What is triggering this reaction in you?”.

And my first reaction is to think it is not that bad (!). But I know better. I insist and  force myself to stop and look in the mirror. I have done this many times, sometimes early, sometimes very late, and I have learned that a lot of positive momentum comes out of it. So I make myself look forward to the expected reward. And it usually comes along. 

How does it work? What is the secret to answering the “what is bothering you question?”

I learned to be honest with myself. And the most important word is not honest but myself. My real self. The one with weaknesses, fears, hopes and aspirations. The one who doesn’t want to get hurt and the one who wants to make a better world. I am compassionate and understanding with my own self. But also challenging and pushy. 

In doing so I actively listen to my real self, mitigate my fears and fuel my higher aspirations. 

And I get unstuck. I am amazed everytime it happens. It is like magic. It unleashes so much energy. I feel I could change the world.

How do you get unstuck? What is your secret recipe?