Where is your mentor ?

We all need mentors.  It’s a question of good balance, better performance and…happiness ! Look at great sports(wo)men or great show performers. They may be at the top in in their field, they may master all professional skills, they may excell in using the newest techniques but they nevertheless work day by day with a personal coach.

In business as in life, mentoring brings the serenity needed to face new challenges. You can’t make wise decisions if you don’t sit back and reflect in a non-stressful atmosphere, with no interference from outside pressures or hierarchy. You need to share and reflect. You have to voice your doubts in full confidentiality. Then you’re ready to go back to the field.

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Most of my younger friends agree with me on the idea to be mentored but they often ask me : « Where can I find my mentor ? And by the way, what is a good mentor ? ». Actually, answering the second question first might help answer the first…

Mentoring is sharing experience for a better performance and a better being. So you need to be mentored by someone who is a good listener. Someone who will not judge any of your thoughts or behaviors. Not judging but understanding. Someone who will not make decisions in your place but clarify the options, suggest new alternatives and illuminate your mind.

Experience is another thing you will look for in a mentor. If you need to solve strategic business problems, look for someone who already experienced strategic problem solving. If you need to share human relationships issues, search for someone who faced a number of relationship situations in the past. A mentor is not a friend. Rather a benevolent person who will reassure and push you to go over your own limits.

Mentoring is a one to one interaction, based on trust and understanding. It’s the process of providing personal advice on how to approach business problems and life. Trust is something you can’t formally define. You need to feel it. And it works both ways. As a mentor myself, I met some mentorees who were not sincere about their intentions. They had a hidden agenda linked to internal politics or a need to gain power instead of improving themselves. In that case, I could not trust them and declined mentoring them.

So, where can you find a suitable mentor ?

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Some big groups offer that opportunty to young managers. They assign an internal mentor, a senior executive not working in the same team or the same country. But it’s not frequent. So, you need to be smart. Go networking with people older than you. Locate « good people », those who listen and talk rarely but wisely. Let your feelings play. Ask for a lunch or dinner and share some problems unformally, just to see. If you feel comfortable, you might ask for more.

If you want to have a more professional approach, go for a professional mentor. It may look expensive sometimes but actually, the time you need to spend with him or her is quite limited, so overall, it’s great value.

Be inspired.

 

 

We’re in business for people, not for money !

I watched a TV documentary yesterday about the founders of a social company recycling old furniture and objects they collect at people homes https://www.laressourcerie.be
The company is growing, now employing 40 people among which a number of handicapped people. « We’re not a non profit business, but we bring value to the community and the community is giving back to us » said the owner and he went on : « a few years ago, people were saying I was outdated, now they’re saying I’m fashionable ».

Is caring about people needs some kind of fashion ? No ! Actually that’s at the origin of craftmanship and trade. When money became the moto and when the profit of some became the only reason for doing business, industry started creating pseudo-needs. It took gigantic proportions with the development of the market economy. It reached a point where marketing is perceived by most people as a tool invented to manipulate masses instead of a way to bring value and satisfaction to customers.

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Now is the time to come back to basics an reinvent business and marketing. The excesses of mass marketing not only did not generate happiness (at most it created comfort) but it devastated our planet’s resources. Look at the terrible « visual pollution » created by generalization of shopping centers on the outskirts of cities. The « all for money » principle led to a perverted society that lost its human values and promoted all forms of violence as a way for our youth to find some sense of life

Happily mankind has its good sides ! Civilization is when human beings’s good sides dominate the bad ones. And, as a witness of young future leaders today, I can see new ideals and new values emerging making me very excited about the future. I’m watching young entrepreneurs with a healthier business philosophy who see profit as the outcome of value creation instead of the result of some kind of customer manipulation. They understand that the most value you create, the more sharing you can do. And they care for sustainable social value as much as their own pocket.

Years ago, we were teaching that the purpose of business strategy is to generate a long term sustainable flow of profit. Today, we preach for the triple bottom line paradigm https://profbaeyens.com/2016/04/07/do-you-think-about-your-triple-bottom-line/ It leads to more competitiveness while bringing a brick to the wall of humanity. Because who are entrepreneurs but the builders of the future ? And who are we, professors, but messengers of hope ?

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10 reasons why business needs creative minds

I have been working a lot on creativity teaching over these last years. As the founder of the Advanced Master in Creativity and Marketing at Solvay Brussels School, I happened to exchange a lot of ideas with my colleagues and friends among which Mark Raison, on the the most famous creativity trainer in this world http://fr.slideshare.net/mark.raison. Here what I got out of all this and mainly the rasons why business more than ever needs creative minds.

Reason 1: All recent marketing hits (Apple, Nespresso, Tesla,….) come from superior creativity, whether it’s market creation or radically new ways to do business

Reason 2: Confronted with technology, new media, globalization and an incredible diversification of supply sources, consumers and business customers don’t want to be just satisified, they want to be excited

Reason 3: Lawyers, accountants, software engineers: that’s what Mom & Dad encouraged us to become. They were wrong. Gone is the age of “left-brain” dominance. The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers...”, Daniel H Pink https://www.amazon.com/Whole-New-Mind-Right-Brainers-Future/dp/1594481717

Reason 4: You can be creative in math, science, music, dance, cuisine, teaching, running a family, or engineering. Any business today should be about generating original ideas that create value.

Reason 5: Nobody has a clue what the world’s going to look like in five or ten years, or even next year actually. If you can’t predict the future, invent it.

Reason 6: The challenges we currently face, from overpopulation to a shortage of natural resources, are without precedent. New problems call for new solutions. New opportunities call for new approaches.

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Reason 7: “There is little to no time allotted for real thinking, brainstorming or experimentation without judgment. With so much pressure to produce quick results in the current economic environment, it may seem like a luxury to walk away from the mountain of tasks to be accomplished but, actually, it should be at the top of the management agenda”, Sandi Edwards, senior vice president at AMA Enterprise https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandi-edwards-21192b5

Reason 8: Today, developing a competitive adavantage, the base for business success and survival, requires innovation and creativity at the strategic level, not only at operational level.

Reason 9: If we still leave businesses and economies in the hand of purely rational people, it will lead to more disasters.

Reason 10: After all, what is life without pep, fun and excitement ?

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Why you should be lazy to find your inspiration

I’m sitting in front of the open fire in my countryside home, I just finished reading a comic book and I’m listening to Ella Fitzgerald. These last few days between Christmas and new year I felt laziness coming to me. Here in northern Europe, when sunlight is getting shorter and shorter and mist is invading the sky, our bodies and minds are slowing down. It’s time for regeneration. It’s time to reflect on the past and think of the future. For what I’m concerned, I know this period will inspire me more than anyhing else…

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There are many ways to get inspired. It can be through reading or listening to a great speaker. It can also be when you meet someone exceptional. Last week, for example, I met a man with whom I worked on a project more than 10 years ago. An ex P&Ger. Like all of us he’s not perfect. But he’s straight and to the point. I know he was already quite old but I was stunned when he told me his age: 80 year-old. Couldn’t believe it. Impeccable. Smart. Quick to think. Whatever he does or will do, I had an immediate feeling of sympathy for him and a good dose of optimism about my own future. Same as when I see the Rolling Stones playing rock and roll on stage at more than 70 year-old. But it’s another story !

My point is how you get inspiration. My experience showed me that you can’t reasonably be inspired when you’re overstressed, when you’re hyperactive, when you’re in the action ! Famous Secretery of State Henry Kissinger had a long career as professor and writer before entering politics. He once said that “great leaders should spend as much time as possible reflecting and theorizing before they come to power because once they’re in responsibility they have no more time to think about fundamentals“. He was very right. But in our hectic times, how could we do that ? After a few years studying, we go right in action and never stop. Some of us go for more training at selected points in time but executive training is generally quick and intense, leaving no time to reflect.

You cannot regenerate if you don’t stop your incredible life rythm. It’s just impossible. You cannot resource your mind if you don’t find yourself back. You need calm, you need solitude, you need to structure your ideas and liberate your creativity. Most executive education programs don’t promote that. They all promise: “here you’ll work 15 hours per day, you’ll spend your evenings prepare cases, if possible in teams, you’ll get as much knowledge as possible in the least possible time, bla bla bla” . It’s just bullshit ! At the end you see groups of ambitious executives, leaders and managers swallowing some quick lectures and discussing pseudo-cases that they don’t even analyze seriously before class. This while at the same time checking their smartphones constantly, replying emails during breaks and trying to solve operational problems left at their office. It’s a joke ! And corporations are paying millions for that kind of “fast (food) learning” !

Look at some great leaders, artists and top level sportpeople. Sophie Dutordoir is the first woman at the helm of Belgian Rail http://deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws.english/News/1.2846022

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After a brilliant career as CEO in Suez group, she stopped everything during three years to open a grocery store in a small city. The business establishment thought she had just become crazy. But she was smart. She could regenerate and now will be, I’m sure, a greater CEO than ever ! Same in other professions. All singers and musicians, as most creators, spent years without shows between 2 albums. They look for inspiration in a stressless milieu.

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It’s time to invest some time in yourself ! Your first reaction will be to say “no”. “No I can’t. No I cannot leave my job for a week. No, i need to care for my house, my family, my friends. No, it’s definitely impossible” ! So, it’s time to reflect: are you a slave or a free person ? What is your life about ? You care of everyone, everything, but who is taking care of you ? What is your true added value? Are you a true leader or just a good soldier ? Etc.

Never let restlessness guide your life !

Life is not about being exhausted, then rest a bit, then return to being some kind of human machine. It may reassure you but it will destroy your effectiveness and your clear-sightedness. This is not what you’re looking for, right ? Neither burn out, right ? Think of it !

Be inspired !

Why you should tour the world

Young people today are lucky ! Opportunities to travel abroad are countless. You only need guts and…some money. but money is never an issue if motivation is high. “With a penny, courage and determination, you can move a mountain” my grandfather used to say !

I must not convince my young students to tour the world. They’re ready for it. But when I’m talking to older buds, they say “yes I should do it but…” and then comes a number of good/bad reasons for not doing it. “I don’t have time”, “I have to care for the family”, I cannot stop my work now”,…. that’s what I hear and I understand that. However, these are wrong assumptions.

I know people who moved the whole family for a while in a removed country. I know some others who stopped working for 6 months to engage on a world Tour. I know very busy friends who found the time to go help a poor village inhabitants in Nepal. They all found solutions and they came back as a better and happier person.

From a business standpoint, travelling abroad is always valuable. Travellers come back with a broader view of the world. They enlarge their vision. They discover new standards. It’s all beneficial for their job performance. They’re more confident, more ambitious, more willing to change their minds. All good for their company.

I always recommend to my friends entrepreneurs to save time for travelling and, if possible, alone. It’s a good opportunity to think about the future of your business. You’re out of day to day shit ! You can be yourself, make new plans, see different people, resource your energy. Leaders need to be fed with ideas if they want to better lead !

Now, be careful not to go for stupid touring. Intelligence is the art of moving your brain.  Care for your analytical intelligence and your emotional intelligence. Smart travelling means more than taking photos in front of the Tour Eiffel ! It means discovering people, visiting entreprises or attending courses and conferences, also visiting trade fairs or others. Smart travelling will not go without a travel journal where you will record your impressions, your feelings and your discoveries. Taking note will fix your ideas. They will get back to you at the right moment.

So, if you don’t travel enough, or if you never did it at all, it’s time to note it in your new year resolutions ! Get organized ! Have a project ! Find the time and the money !

Yes you can !

Be inspired !

 

 

Why you need a serious dose of inspiration

01 I9 Introduction.jpgInspiration: “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. This is the definition given by the Oxford dictionary https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/inspiration

We’re living several lives at once. Work, family, couple, social, personal… We jump constantly from one to the other. We run, we move, we keep pace. In between all this, we answer our calls, reply our emails, chat a little and at the end of the day, we stand behind our screens.

Where do you get your inspiration ?

The danger of living a 360° busy life is that you get dry ! You give a lot of energy to others but you don’t receive enough. You can meditate, do yoga or run and it’s good for your personal balance but does it get new ideas out of this ? You can get your little dose of nice quotes on Facebook or on other social media but it’s like coffee, it gives you a little shot but it doesn’t nourish you.

You should read books or all the great working papers you download on internet but you never have time. You run after goal you never reach.

So, what should you do ?

First, think about this: inspiration is food for your intelligence. When your brain is empty, you need to replenish it. It’s not only about ideas comng from others, it’s about being able to generate your own ideas. The ones that will make you different and bring value to your life.

Secondly, remember that inspiration gives energy. And we need more energy than ever today. Life is tough. We take more challenges each day. A marathon runner needs regular training to be ready for the race. Well, your life is a marathon ! Your brain is as important as your body. Train it ! And the best way to get all this is to have a personal trainer.

A mentor is what you need !

A mentor will listen to you, understand your time constraints, know what to say and what to do according to your personality.

A mentor will bring the experience you have not.

A mentor will enlighten your personal and professional journey. Make you think about paths you wouldn’t think of.

The more responsibilites you have, the more you need a personal mentor. Look at sport stars: theyr’re the best in their field and they nevertheless always have a personal trainer.

Be ambitious. Be balanced and…

Be inspired !

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The power of elegance

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Yesterday I was talking with Kenn Smith, a good friend of mine who is a real gentleman https://www.facebook.com/MostInterestingTailorInSaigon/ . We discussed about a number of things and we came to the effectiveness of elegance as a business style. Elegance is not only a way to dress. It’s a way to behave. Elegance is applicable whaether your a woman or a man. It’s the heritage of knights, “chevaliers” in French, “caballeros” in Spanish. It was deep rooted in the attitudes of the gentry. But it dissapeared. However, in a brutal world, elegance is a virtue and it brings results !

Three examples:

  • A few days ago, I was invited by one my Vietnamese ex-student. This gentleman invited me to lunch in a simple place but he cared for being in French restaurant, probably to make me comfortable with the food. He’s a young and successful businessman. He came nevertheless with a quite humble and respecful attitude. Elegantly dressed with no excess. He’s thinking of doing some business with our university but didn’t show it too much. At the end of the meal, I was ready to introduce him to whomever could decide on some mutual interest. His approach was subtle and intelligent. And I liked that.
  • Carla Bruni is a famous ex model, currently singer and composer and wife of former French President Sarkozy. As such she’s hated by a number of my friends. However, her elegance helped her escape from the image of her husband. She’s as elegant as he’s vulgar, as cultivated as he’s non intellectual, as subtle as he’s brutal. In diplomacy, she was his secret arm. As French first lady, she would represent the French touch much better than he. She got an incredible hidden power.
  • I happen to know a Swiss businessman who is partner in a strong financial group. They are tough people, they know how to negociate a penny. Howerver he’s a real gentleman. I know because i experienced it in a professional relationship. He didn’t take advantage of a favourable balance of power to be brutal in any way. When we meet , we talk about values and philosophy of business. I’m sure his sober attitude gives him a definite leverage when negociatng. I have a lot of respect for him and I would trust him right away although my long experience taught me to be very careful in business.

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What can we get out of this ?

Elegance is an instrument of power. It’s not something you can get out of money. I know extremely elegant people coming from even poor families. It comes out of education. Family, school and some sports or cultural activities. And it can be reinforced by techniques like the ones my friend Kenn Smith can teach https://www.facebook.com/paths.to.success/

I believe elegance is more effective in life than vulgarity. Look at great leaders: J.F. Kennedy, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Charles de Gaulle. Now Jack Ma, Bill gates, Barak Obama, Christine Lagarde (head of IMF) . Their charisma is tinted with elegance as is the way they talk, they dress, they behave. And they’re not weak people. They’re tough and have a strong voice.

 

So, be elegant ! We say in French “Avoir de l’allure” (be alluring).

 

Be inspired !