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.

 

 

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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 !

 

 

The value of moments: become an epicurean !

I was confronted with death of some great people recently and it made me think again at the value of life.

A number of young people I regularly meet are obsessed by happiness. “My goal is to be happy, i want to be happy at work, in my family, in love, with my friends….“. That’s what i hear day after day and when I ask my dear young buddies “but, what is happiness ?” , they tell me : “I don’t exactly know, I can’t really define it, it’s an ideal but it’s hard to determine,…”.

It’s true ! Happiness is a complex notion. Can one be happy and sick at the same time for example ? Can we feel happy and sad at the same time ? Is happiness a short term idea or a life long concept. I’d love to discuss that with my friend (and ex-student) Laurence Vanhée, founder of Happyformance, a consulting practice in the field of happiness at work http://happyformance.com/en/ Laurence is also a trainer of CHO’s (Chief Happiness Officers) https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurencevanhee

But let’s forget about definitions of happiness and let me tell you about moments of life.

A few months ago, in a small post called Believe in the value of moments, I wrote this: I believe in the value of “moments” ! We need good moments, exciting moments, lazy moments and self care moments… https://profbaeyens.com/2016/04/17/believe-in-the-value-of-moments/

Actually, we sometimes feel life as some kind of wild “river of no return” taking us, isolated and defenseless individuals, from one point to another without any time for us to stop and enjoy our environment. In this hectic life journey, we feel out of control and, when we loose someone who is dear to us, we regret we didn’t pay enough attention, we swear that we will change in the next future and then…we’re back on the river again…

How to solve that ? What can we do ?

First of all, we should realize that we have not one life but several lives. One is work life. Taking most of our time or most of our worries.Then we have the family life. Generally important at certain times.These 2 lives, family and work, take most of our time and frequently conflict the one with the other. A number of generations have been conditioned by society to give them the highest priority.

Then comes the most private lives: love and relationship on one side, social on the other side. Not to forget our personal life: what we like to do alone, some personal interest, maybe a passion…

Most people talk about balancing work and personal life. But it’s more complex, it”s not about a 2 sides balance, it’s about juggling with 5 balls and harmonize the whole. If you want to succeed in that, you need to think about your life vision and your life purpose. To know more, read https://profbaeyens.com/2016/05/31/do-you-have-a-life-purpose/

Secondly, we need to have a clear sense of pleasure and pain ! “Epicurus (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher as well as the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism. For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicurus

7880230.image.jpegLife is uncertain. The past is gone. The future is unknown, can be good, can be bad, can be non-existent. In that instance, the only right way to act is to enjoy right away any moment you feel good and make it great. As we cannot avoid bad moments, try to live through them as well as you can but never make it a drama. Just make bad moments shorter. One of the most famous and short sentence summarizing this philosophy is CARPE DIEM(latin from famous Roman writer Horace) meaning “Seize the day” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horacecarpe-diem.png

To be practical, the method I recommend to improve your life is to start with a review of a typical week. Not a review of your tasks, but a review of your feelings. Use your smartphone to record any good or bad emotion coming across your mind. It can positive (joy, excitement, smile…) or negative (sadness, weariness, irritation…). Link it to the life circumstance (work, family, …) It’s simple:

Monday – 10:30 am – upset – my boss

Tuesday – 9:30 pm – laugh – putting kid to bed

….

At the end of the week (full week, including weekend), just note the proportion of good and bad feelings. If you are over 75% good feelings, you’re ok. If you’re under 50% make an analysis, get an understanding of it, if possible with a mentor. If you’re neutral, think about why ! Again, a mentor may help here. https://profbaeyens.com/mentoring/

It’s time to stop managing your life based on time and tasks. Choose to promote feelings and emotions. Our time on earth is short. YOLO: You Only Live Once. Your happiness will bring happiness to others: the ones you love, the ones you appreciate, the ones who generate positive waves.

Reinforce the moments that bring you peace, serenity, joy and excitement. Don’t think of time productivity: it’s a zero sum game. Anyway, the more you will reinforce good moments, the more productive you will be at the end. The more serene you are, the better your judgment in dealing with tough problems and the better you will manage your team members.

So, you see, it’s all gain !

Be inspired !

 

 

Share the good life with me ! But…what is a good life ?

 

This week i crossed a billboard with LG slogan Life’s good. Lg brand defines its identity as being Delightfully Smart http://www.lg.com/global/about-lg/brand-identity. It made me think of the meaning of “what is a good life ? ” after all.

I must say I thought about myself. Being selfish is sometimes good, especially if your main activity is about giving to others.

A French song gave some answers years ago already. La belle vie, from Sacha Distel, was translated into many languages https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSAzwlJCPU

“The good life: no love, no worry, no trouble…The good life: to be free and explore the unknown…The good life: lets you hide all the sadness you feel….”

 My vision of a good life is built around 7 principles.

  1. Love and be loved
  2. Have enough money to be comfortable but don’t be obsessed by money
  3. Forget about being successful, care about doing what makes you happy
  4. Don’t waste your precious life working for others “above you”, work for those “below you”
  5. Surround yourself with good people and get rid of bad ones
  6. Be curious about others, look for the good side in people, don’t judge lightly others’behaviors
  7. Enjoy pleasure: food, wine, friends, beauty and laziness

About love

It’s probably the most crucial element of a good life. Love is easy and cheap. It never divides, it multiplies. It’s interreactive: the more you love, the more you get loved. Love should not be made complicated. It should not be made a big thing. It’s just about putting it above all things. It can be about your family, friends or lovers. But it can be about anyone you can help. But don’t forget: you cannot love others fully if you don’t love yourself first !the-greatest-pleasure-of-life-is-love-quote-1.jpg

About money

It’s always a difficult point to talk about because it’s complex, goes deep in our roots and depends on each personal situation. Anyway, i beleive money shold not control our lives. In a very famous play called “L’avare” (The miser) written in the 17th century by French star writer, Molière, the main character, Harpagon, is feeling miserable because he can’t sleep at night. He’s so rich that he fears to be stolen at every minute. It’s of course a caricature and many of you will object that misery is worse, my point is that money should not be an obsession. It’s good when it allows you to enjoy a minimum standard of living of course. It’s still better when it brings you freedom. It’s fantastic when it allows you to be generous to others. But think deeply at the following question: ” Could I still be happy with much less money that I have now” .

About success

I can see a lot of posts on social media related to the dream of being successful. Success is very personal. For some it’s about being some kind of celebrity, for others it’s about having a good social position in life. Some are dreaming about becoming the next Jack Ma. Whatever your dream, I believe that success never comes out of a plan. Although I encourage my young friends to have a life strategy, I strongly recommend them to focus on the activities that make them truly happy. Or else, you may “look successful” but you’re not truly happy, as a doctor I met last week, a 41 year old super specialist in a subsection of cardiology. Recognized as one of the best in his profession, he confessed me that he thought he missed his vocation to be an business entrepreneur… So sad !

About working for others

Life is a perishable good. You only realized that when you see the end of the pack ! Besides that, it’s a luxury good. Don’t waste caviar. Eat it slowly and consiously ! Famous songwriter and singer Bob Dylan once wrote https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZPh3hpxLKs :

“You could’ve done better, but I don’t mind. You just kinda wasted my precious time”

I realized that wasting our precious time in trying to please some superiors who “use us” is terrible. Superiors can be your boss, your shareholders, your board or even your customers. You serve their interests but most of the time they let you go without any recognition. People under your responsibility are the one to work for. Elevate them, train them, mentor them, give them more responsibilites and credit for it. I remember seeing that on the wall of my first boss at Procter & Gamble. You will be more efficicient, the team will be more productive and they will never forget you!

About people around you

It takes sometimes long before realizing the impact of bad “toxic” people may have on you ! It takes a lot of your good energy to fight for no result at the end. You expect people to become good. You think you have the power to change them but no way, it just gets worse. Toxic people can hide behind an apparently nice personality. They may seem good to everyone and especially you. But at some point you realize they’re desctructive. When you’re feeling the symptoms, quit ! Don’t wait ! Go ! Even if it’s an admission of failure.

Good people is what you want to favor. They not only give you positive energy, they help you become better. It’s probable that you find that good people are very simple. They can be a neighbour, someone less educated than you or the security guard. They care for you even they don’t expect anything from you. They talk common sense ! I also like to work with people who are enthusiastic, forward looking, generous and openminded. When I’m working with them, i feel so good, so strong, so energetic ! Even if they’re not always the perfect specialist in what they do, they bring an extraordinary value. Do like me: find yours !

About being curious

Be curious about everything ! Life is so rich. Life is good when you pick up its fruits. So, look for the fruit trees ! Being music, food, cultures or books, I like to discover new things all the time. I like to try. I want to discover. It’s gorgeous. I’m also curious of people. Everyone has a story to tell. Or a hidden story I’d like to know. I envy famous Belgian born writer, now deceased, Georges Simenon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Simenon He travelled the world to discover human nature and wrote so deeply about it. When you’re constantly curious, you experience more, you look for the good side in people, you don’t judge lightly others’behaviors and your life is so much more exciting.

About enjoying pleasure 

Some learned to mistrust pleasure ! They were taught to prefer austerity. Some religions or philosophies preach it. Some others don’t. Whatever the reason, pleasure is the main ingredient of “the good life”. I personally love food, wine, friends, beauty and laziness 🙂 Food is a never ending source of felicity. Whether I’m cooking myself or I’m experimenting a great chef creativity, I’m feeling belssed. I shared meals with families in Vietnam which it left me speechless in delectation. All what is flattering my taste is also my pleasure: fine wine, special beers, a subtile gin tonic prepared with art and mastery.Unknown.jpeg

Sharing pleasure with friends makes it stronger. Beauty is also a pleasure I enjoy with no restriction. I taught my children to be alluring, to like a beautiful table, to care for the decoration of a plate. I like the beauty of architecture, objects and places. I love the beauty of the sky, the nobility of trees and the perfection of a British lawn. And I must admit I like the beauty of women too, the good thing about the beauty of human beings being that it’s not related to the perfection of the body but to the depth of the soul.

And finally, one of my ultimate pleasure is laziness. Lazy Sunday mornings in bed, lazy moments in a bathtub, lazy summer days with a good book. We’re overloaded with work and other activities. It’s killing our creativity. You need time to be alone with yourself with no other plan but stretching your body and yawning. Then, your brain will finally be the most productive engine of your entire self !

 

I was a bit long today, but I don’t care if you read only one of two things of this…

Be inspired !

 

 

 

 


 

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 !

Do you have a life purpose ?

My last post was about: “Do you have a life strategy ?” Following up on this , I’d like to tell you more about the notion of purpose. Life purpose ! I happen to read today a blog post of my respected Harvard colleague Clayton M. Christensen published in Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life?) where he’s developing some of the same ideas I wrote about last week.

We both agree on the importance of starting a life strategy by a statement of purpose. I like to link  the purpose to a vision. In my eyes the vision can be more concrete than the purpose. Or, more exactly, the purpose is the way to transform your vision into  meaningful objectives. Whatever, I recommend to write a vision and a purpose statement.

Although I love his sentence “Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people” , I differ on Christensen’s thinking on the fact that he seems to recommend some kind of purpose that would lead us for life. He regrets that most Harvard MBA students “…have given little thought to the purpose of their lives. And he mentions: ” I tell the students that HBS might be one of their last chances to reflect deeply on that question. If they think that they’ll have more time and energy to reflect later, they’re nuts, because life only gets more demanding…” . I must say I don’t agree with that.

First of all, we have plenty of time to reflect on the purpose of life at various times in life. It can be when we go through very important stages of life: marrying, having a kid, divorcing, burying a parent, etc. Actually, my experience is that it’s rarely related to job and career. These key moments make you understand that career is worthless compared to private life. And it’s good to realize that.  After all, career, power and money beyond necessity are just lures !

Moreover, your life purpose is evolving. You cannot expect a 25 year old chap to see life as a 60 year baby boomer ! In fact, to tell the truth, my life purpose was never formalized. When i got out of Harvard, at 27 year old, I had a very conservative life purpose. I just wanted to have a nice life, 3 kids and a dog, a beautiful home and a challenging job. Nothing great in fact. But it reflected my values. Later, approaching 40, I started to understand that I was more happy teaching that being a businessman. I was not a killer. I liked to inspire. I also had my mid-life crisis ending with a divorce. Then I found true love and for some years, I lived on a day to day basis. Now that I reached 60, I’m more concerned about my life purpose. Time left is scarce. I don’t want to loose any moment with stupid people or working on stupid projects ! My life purpose is clearer: to keep my freedom, to enjoy every moment in life, to pass on my knowledge and experience and to leverage young people. 

My vision is to be a man who is admired for his energy, emotional intelligence and caring. And to keep intellectually agile and always up to date. I have the vision of the father of one of my friends who stayed intellectually strong until an advanced age, being respected by all  to the end of his life.

My young friends, try to have a life purpose ! Try to make it more specific than just “being happy” or “being successful”. But if you can’t, i will surely understand it !

Be inspired !  54bd2593-2630-44ab-9f30-ba0e25f8a859_560_420.jpg