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opportunity

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The comfortable job vs. the fulfilling job

copied from Pinterest Let's say you have a nice job. The commute is not so bad, the offices are in a safe area, your colleagues are real nice troopers, and the pay's good too. Well, obviously it's not as much as you would like to make, but it's enough to pay the bills. It allowed you to get used to a lifestyle you're comfortable with.

Still, every Monday morning you find yourself wishing it was Friday afternoon, you may even take sick leave when you're not really that sick, or play solitaire and chat with your friends while your boss is waiting for that report. You're not feeling fulfilled, and every chance you get you mentally detach as far away from work as possible, distracting yourself with other things.

Been there.

If you're ready to take action, start by asking yourself some serious questions:

  • What do I want to do with my life? What's my contribution?
  • Where do I want to be in five, ten years?
  • Which of my talents could I turn into an occupation?
  • If I knew I'd succeed, what would I be doing?

Personality Type, or more precisely, Essential Motivator™ knowledge can help.

Did you know that every type has an innate skill set? Why not put them to work?

For example, are you the one everybody calls when they need help organizing an event? Do you enjoy keeping track of everything, planning, and coordinating logistics, making sure the right thing gets to the right person at the right time?

Or maybe your favorite work is more extemporaneous. You're a natural fire-putter-outer, jumping to action, seeing what needs to get done, delegating as necessary, and navigating challenging situations with exquisite tactical skill.

I'm sure you also know natural diplomats. That's someone who's able is called, and often volunteers, to mediate between two parties. They are focusing on the good in both approaches, keeping the peace, and looking for ways to help nurture relationships while helping people grow and reach their full potential.

And who could forget the person with the long view. You might be the right guy to talk to for patterns, themes, and future possibilities. You have an ability to see things clearly, objectively, and from a strategic vantage point.

You can learn any skill set you want if you put your mind to it, and you can get really good at them, too. What we find in Type is that using our innate skills simply takes a lot less effort. So, sometimes working in a job that uses our Type strengths can be more fun and enjoyable.

When you're ready to explore your strengths, contact me!

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The EU, management and culture

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The EU, management and culture

I've been living in the United States of America for two years this month. I've been very lucky in being able to travel a bit and see different places in this nation, and it occurred to me how easy it is to cross State lines. Even though these States are comparatively huge in size, everything is the same - the language, the currency, available shops and restaurants. That's very different from where I grew up.

European countries’ leaders first started dreaming about  a “United States of Europe” in the 1950s, when the Treaty of Rome was drafted in 1957 and implemented in 1958. Following about 40 years of more plans and organizations and contracts to bring the European states closer together - for example, the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 consisting of Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries - the Treaty of Maasricht in 1992 proved to be one big step forward in the direction of the European Union (EU) we know today. The Treaty of Maastricht “provides for a single European currency, common citizenship, common foreign and security policy, a more effective European Parliament, and a common labor policy.”

The Single Market has guaranteed the free movement of goods, services, capital and people since 1993 and was described as “the Union’s proudest achievement.” The implication for multinational companies now was to gauge what opportunities the new border-free Europe could offer them. The free movement of people in particular opened up new horizons regarding the staffing of European subsidiaries. Before 1992, work permits were needed and often were not easily attained. Nowadays, however, the executives of multinational corporations (MNCs) can decide freely whether to employ locals, send over expatriates or even third country nationals. I think it's interesting to remind ourselves that something we take for granted has only really been in place a very short time.

International trade and economic development (for example, the NAFTA and Single European market) have necessitated worldwide managerial operations. The number of multinational corporations has increased, as has the education offered for management and the use of information technology. Managing organizations seems to be a universal practice but approaches to management differ from one country to another. This fact bears the question whether management is culture free or culture specific. So far, two theories have dominated that discussion.

The Convergence Theory of the 1950s and 1960s promotes the universal application of management theory and practices because of technology and management education. Management is seen as a function and a set of techniques that can be used everywhere. The Divergence Theory argues against the transfer of management theory and practices due to the influence of the culture of the people practicing management. In other words, not all strategies that are successful in America will work in Japan, and vice versa. Furthermore, it argues that management thinking and practice reflect the level of economic development of the country in which they occur and that it is implemented within different legislative frameworks.

According to the Convergence theory, everyone could learn how to manage organizations and even the poorest countries should be on the same economic level as the rest of the Western world. The European Common Market was built on this assumption, but had to recognize the intractability of national differences. As all countries in the world cannot be considered economically equal yet, the Divergence theory appears convincing in that management theory and practice are culturally bound and reflect the ideological and political interests, as well as the level of economic and technological achievements of the people involved.Management techniques and models can be learned, but they are culturally bound, although not static, in the way they are interpreted and implemented in the different cultures.

Culture and especially communication preferences can be differentiated between high context (HC) and low context (LC) cultures. Context, in this case, explains “the information that surrounds an event; (that) is inextricably bound up with the meaning of the event." In other words, which bits of information are necessary for effective communication to occur but taken for granted, i.e. not explicitly explained between sender and receiver.

The culture differences within European countries have been studied before by writers like Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997); Black and Mendenhall (1990), and Geert Hofstede (1980), whose work is quoted in many a management textbook. He conducted a study into corporate and national culture in 1980 and found four dimensions culture could be identified by:

Power distance, which can rate low to high and measures the “extent to which the members of a society accept that power in institutions and organizations is distributed unequally;"

Uncertainty avoidance, which can rate from weak to strong and measures a society’s fear of the unknown;

Individualism vs collectivism measures the degree to which a society considers that everyone has to look after himself or herself or is part of supportive extended family units; and

Masculinity vs femininity, which measures gender roles in society and whether they are more stereotypically male oriented: for example on materialism, profit and strength; or more stereotypically female oriented: for example on cooperation and quality of life.

Hofstede's work has been somewhat called into question more recently and called unrepresentative due to the size of his survey. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, on the other hand, continue their work and I will use another article to explain their seven dimensions in further detail.

Europe means many things to me, and I treasure the experiences of driving for a couple of hours and finding myself in another country, being greeted by a new language, dealing with different cultures. Hey, I even enjoyed collecting all the different coins and bills, but would I want to go back to them? No. Long live the monetary union. What does the Single Market or being able to cross US state lines mean to you? Do you realize what an achievement it is to be able to move about freely, have established import and export relationships, and the opportunity to look for jobs across borders? When you feel stuck and think you have no options, have you really considered everything?

Til next week, have a good one! Thanks to europa.eu for the free pic.

References

Black, J. Stewart and Mendenhall, M (1990) Cross-Cultural training effectiveness: A review and a theoretical framework for future research, Academy of Management Review, p 113 Brewster, Chris, Mayne, lesley and Tregaskis, Olga (1997) Flexible working in Europe: a review of the evidence, Management International Review, p 85 Caligiuri, Paule M (2000) The big five personality characteristics as predictors of expatriate’s desire to terminate the assignment and supervisor-rated performance, Personnel Psychology The Economist, February 17th, 1996, European Union: Is the single market working? Frazee, Valerie (1999), Send your expats prepared for success, Workforce p 3 Frazee, Valerie (1999), Expert help for dual-career spouses, Workforce, p 49 Hall, E.T. and Hall, M.R. (1990) Understanding Cultural Differences, Yarmouth, Mass. Intercultural Press Hofstede, Geert (1980) Cultures Consequences: International Differences in Work-related values, Beverly Hills, Sage Leeds, Christopher, Kirkbride, Paul S. and Durcan, Jim (1994) Human Resource Management in Europe: Perspectives for the 1990s, London, Routledge Leiba-O’Sullivan, Sharon (1999) The Distinction between stable and dynamic cross-cultural competencies: Implications for expatriate trainability, Journal of International Business Studies, p 709 Olsson, Johan (1995) The Maastricht Treaty, in www.geocities.com Schaffer, Margaret A. and Harrison, David A. (1998) Expatriates’ psychological withdrawal from international assignments: work, nonwork and family influences, Personnel Psychology Trompenaars, Fons and Hampden-Turner, Charles (1998) Riding the waves of culture Understanding cultural diversity in Business, London, Nicholas Brealey Publishing Ltd, 2nd Edition

 Image by bitospud, flickr, Creative Commons license

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Trailing spouses

Your spouse just got the opportunity of a lifetime: overseeing the development of the organization's newest international branch in Dubai. You have discussed the options in your family, your kids don't mind, the package is phenomenal, it's only for three to five years, and did I mention it's the opportunity of a lifetime? Obviously, you're a good and generous person, and you're happy for and proud of your partner, so you wouldn't want to stand in their way. You take the plunge and decide to leave your job and interrupt your career path to stay together as a family. Now, how are you going to tell your buddies you're quitting to be a stay-at-home Dad while your wife advances her career?

As a growing number of Expats know, it's not just the guys anymore that take advantage of international assignments. More and more female executives bring home a considerably-sized bacon themselves, and sometimes that involves moving and taking the family with them. Same rules apply, the sending organization will be able to sort out work permits for their employee, but might not be able to for the accompanying spouse. So how are we dealing with reversed roles? Is it even still fair to assume in this first decade of the 21st century that the idea of men staying home taking care of the kids is weird? By now, every man has learned how to load the dishwasher and change a diaper, right? Well, maybe, but that's not quite the same thing, is it.

When faced with the decision to follow your partner somewhere they need to go, think carefully about what this means to you and your family. If you're up for a promotion yourself and you don't want to miss out on the rewards you worked so hard to achieve, remember that you have the option of a divorce. That's where you'd be headed anyway if you go along but resent and blame her for having to give up your career.

Now, deep breath. Once you've had a minute to let those two extremes (giving up your work vs. giving up your wife) sink in, do take a look at the grey area. The important thing to keep in mind for everybody considering a life-changing event like an international move is to never feel pressured; there are always options. Making the decision might not be easy, but there's always a friendly coach around to support you in sorting through the questions you have. :-) For instance, you might look at deferring your move, let her go ahead and follow a few months later after you've finished that important project. That'll put you in the boss's good books and they might be more inclined to keep you on doing remote-office or in a consulting capacity. Maybe they even have a branch or a partner in Dubai where you could get busy while you're there.

In any event, and as difficult as this may sound what with testosterone and ego driving your perceptions, the stress of keeping up with the Jones's, and not wanting to look like a wuss in front of your mates, is the idea of taking some time out of the rat-race really so horrible? I mean, what are upsides here? You get to bond  more with your kids, your wife will be eternally grateful, you get a chance to pursue activities you never would have at home, you could find time to go back to school, or volunteer in local community projects - is that really so bad? Not every guy could do what you're about to, because not every guy is secure enough in themselves to put the needs of their family first. That's something to be proud of, and the reward may not come in the form of a brandspanking new company car, but in the love and respect of your family. Priceless.

There's so much more to talk about, so if you're an expat hubby and would like to chat or share your experience, do drop me a line at doris@buildingthelifeyouwant.com. Thank you and stay well, til next time!

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Holidays

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Holidays

Are you looking forward to the holidays or is it more a dreading of the pies and the family get-togethers? Well, if the latter, what can you do now to prepare and make this year's festivities great and enjoyable ones? I don't know about you, but I roll my eyes at the Santas adorning the shop shelves in August. That's just way too soon to be thinking about that stuff. But now... we're in November already, and time flies, so six weeks of preparations for the holidays might just be what could keep you (and me!) sane this year. (this is not even counting the US Thanksgiving, cos that's in 20-days' time. ;-))

 

How about writing a couple of Christmas cards every night so by the time you have to mail them they're ready to go? Same if you're an e-mail sender - they can be stored in the "drafts" section of your provider and be sent whenever you want to send them. I already picked out some funny e-cards to write my wishes on, copy-pasting the actual text will take no time at all once I have all the addresses sorted.

And for the last-minute shoppers among us - you know how frenzied it gets on Christmas eve, why, seriously, why aren't you getting the gifts tomorrow while strolling through the mall? You don't even have to get all of them, just the one for your partner, or your parents, or your friend. And the day after you can get the next one, on your way home from work.

What about food, do you have to cook the dinner for a big group? Is there a way you could contact your butcher and pre-order whatever piece you need so you can just go pick it up when the time comes? Or can you buy it now and freeze it? Plus, in the spirit of sharing (the workload), do you really have to do everything yourself, or can Aunt Mae bring the pie and your brother prepares the salad? Or maybe you'd like to flee this year altogether and take a vacation - have you already looked at flights and hotel availabilities?

We've touched on this before, it's the same concept: taking one big thing and breaking it down into smaller pieces, so it won't hit you all at once. And there's plenty you can do now to make the holidays more relaxed for you and your loved ones. Besides, it's all about friends and family really, isn' it. Not about how many presents or the size of turkeys. Get together with people you love, hug 'em and enjoy having them around. That's the best present ever.

Have fun and a great time preparing; this year nothing will stress you out if you don't want it to.

Til next time!

PS - you know what makes a great gift? Coaching vouchers! ;-)

 

Image by Andy Castro, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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Opportunity for change No. 3 - the work-life balance

Over time, you find that those after-work habits have taken their toll on your waistline, and one morning you wake up and that suit you put on is pinching you in the side. You vow to start eating better tonight and rush off to work. After that most embarrassing rip while you bent down to pick up the pen your customer has dropped, you make your way hurriedly and crimson-faced to the next department store, buying the trousers in one size bigger. Once again thinking, "tonight I'll get the salad instead of the deep-fried meal", which you've forgotten by the time the youngster asks you what your order is, because those new pants fit so well and they're even a bit loose, so what could it hurt... add a dessert, too.
Over the last fortnight we've concentrated on issues that may arise in a work setting. Time to get to that other part of you - your life! Although admittedly, it's hard to draw a clear line between the two, because they're really quite connected, aren't they.

I bet you never really got it when your grandparents were talking about the good old days until you became an adult. Just imagine what those old times must have been like! No computers, no faxes, no mobile phones, little or no airtravel - hard to imagine, isn't it? True, they didn't have the mod cons we have today, but I guess they didn't have the need for them either. What I'm trying to say, is that so many inventions were born out of the necessity to save time at home so you can spend more time at work.

So, in the old days, the world was turning a lot slower, but nonetheless it was turning. People were not reachable 100 % of the time, and still the work got done. People did not receive instantaneous replies to their inquiries, they had to wait for the mail to arrive, but they didn't die in anticipation and still the work got done. People did not used to travel as much, but somehow everybody knew each other and still the work got done. Yes, they all worked long hours and probably weekends, and surely there were a number of premature, stress-related heart attacks, but I'll wager there were less than today.

Enter the digital revolution. In my imagination, back then people were conscientious and hard-working, but they knew how to relax, too. The office was left at the office, because there was no blackberry to take it home with. Nowadays, with the fast-paced and ever-changing environment all the business magazines talk about, I think real breaks are more difficult to take. How many of us have felt guilty for leaving the office at 6 pm although that's the official end of the working day? How many of us take the laptop home over the weekend just to catch up on the emails we didn't get a chance to read during the week? And, well, while we're at it, we may as well prepare that presentation for next Wednesday? It's commendable to be so devoted to one's profession, but it is dangerous to forget about one's need to rest in the process.

"Mens sana in corpore sano" - a healthy mind lives in a healthy body. A body that works 60+ hours a week and whose diet consists of fast food, coffee, and - dare I say it - cigarettes and other drugs isn't healthy. No wonder the mind goes downhill too, then. You have to be healthy in order to function; painkillers can only take care of the symptoms for so long. Ask yourself what could be the reason, what's the cause, why is your body reacting the way it does? Are you experiencing frequent headaches or migraines? Is your digestive system on the temperamental side? Do you feel irritable, emotional, or tired more than you think is normal? How about bouts of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia or depression? Could it be that you'd be happier if you worried less about the job or what other people thought of you and spent more time with your family or friends? What are your hobbies? When did you last laugh out loud?

As you can tell, this is a wide field indeed, and there are plenty of opportunities for change simply thinking about how to handle stress, how to manage your emotions, and how to treat your body. For starters, you could take a couple of deep breaths, get that oxygen into every last one of your cells, make an effort to blink more often when you sit in front of a computer screen for long periods, and try to get more water, fruit and veg in. And drop me a line if there's any specific area you'd like to change and find out more about. Requests for post-topics are also welcome.

Til next time!

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Opportunity for change No. 2 - pleasing others vs. pleasing yourself

You're probably still pretty good at your job though, at least good enough for your boss and colleagues to know that they can't live without you. Combine that with your helpful attitude and friendly demeanor, and you find yourself swamped with little bits and pieces clogging your schedule that may not even be in your job description! But, not wanting to appear rude and desperate to prove you're a team-player, you do them anyway. As a result you're stressed and busy, sometimes feeling like a headless chicken, and every evening you come home you're too tired to do anything more than kick off your shoes, grab a glass of wine, munch on fast or microwaveable food and plonk down on the couch in front of the television. Again, I've experienced that, and probably so have you. The keyword here is boundaries. Yes, you're a nice person. Yes, you're helpful. Yes, it'd be quicker if you did it all yourself instead of explaining it to someone else, with the added benefit of you knowing it's been done right. Can you tell there's a "but" just around the corner? Here it is: Continuously helping out others to the point of neglecting your actual responsibilities and health will not necessarily make them like, respect or value you more than they do or do not do already. "This'll just take a minute..." is fine and well, but is is a minute that you most likely had already set aside doing something else. Now, who should be in charge of deciding which minute and which task is more important? This is your time we're talking about!

Nobody's saying anything against helping out a colleague when they're in a tight spot and you have some time to spare. There's a lot to be said for guarding yourself against the office-slackers who make it their business to seek out colleagues they can exploit and regularly roll off some of their workload on though. It is likely they will play on your kindness and be indeed grateful ("You're the best, thanks ever so much"), or appeal to your ego ("You're really so much better at this than I am"). Alright, those phrases have been uttered sincerely too, so you'll just have to go with your gut-feeling if you're being used or truly appreciated.

If you're not sure about what that gut-feeling is, think it through a little. When approached for help you rarely have to answer yes or no on the spot. Take a moment and ask yourself some questions to find out how you feel about entering that commitment (and it is a commitment, assuming you're not likely to say you'll help and then eventually turn around and say you didn't have time after all). For example, is this a reasonable request? Does the colleague genuinely need help because they cannot perform the task at hand? Are you the best person they could ask for help or would somebody else be more suited? Does your schedule permit you taking out the time you would need to help the other out, or would it put you under pressure regarding your deadlines? If this is a recurring issue, would it be possible to speak to a superior about re-distributing responsibilities? Why do you think you should help them? What do you get out of it? What is

your motivation?

If you're new to the position or the company, don't dismiss enquiring colleagues too quickly, but do be wary. If the same people come to you repeatedly, make the time to sit them down and explain exactly how you do the thing they admire so much, in order for them to learn to do it themselves.

Your position comes with its own set of responsibilities, make sure you see to them accordingly. After all, you are the one who will have to answer for them to your boss eventually. How will the boss react when you tell them you couldn't finish your project because you were busy helping out someone else with their tasks? "Hmm, we have a great team-player here" or more along the lines of "What a pity, that sounds like a distinct lack of prioritising and time management skills."

Putting your responsibilities first is a sign of the respect you have for your position and for yourself. All of us need help sometimes, and we should not be afraid to ask for it. But if you have the feeling someone is taking advantage, don't be afraid to say "No, I'm sorry, I'm busy." This way you will avoid unnecessary stress caused by too many open issues that are not even yours to worry about in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, saying "no" to something or someone does not make you a bad person. It makes you an aware person who knows their limits, and that is a very good quality to have.

I invite you to think about all the people in your life, not only in your job, as this powerful concept of boundaries applies to family members and friends as well. Who do you feel comfortable being around? Who would you rather not spend time with? Are there some who take more of your energy than they give? Is there anyone who you feel doesn't respect you? In what way are they behaving? Is there anything you can do about that?

Who says that a nice glass of wine after work is only reserved to the overly stressed-out, by the way. You still deserve to decompress in any way that works for you! Come back next week for more articles on opportunity for change, and have a look at your work-life balance.

Til next time!

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Does this sound familiar?

You have a nice job. The commute is not so bad, the offices are in a safe area, your colleagues are real nice troopers, and the pay's good too. Well, obviously it's not as much as you would like to make, but it's enough to pay the bills. It allowed you to get used to a lifestyle you're comfortable with. Still, every Monday morning you find yourself wishing it was Friday afternoon, you may even take sick leave when you're not really that sick, or play solitaire and chat with your friends while your boss is waiting for that report. You're not feeling fulfilled, and every chance you get you mentally detach as far away from work as possible, distracting yourself with other things. You're probably still pretty good at your job though, at least good enough for your boss and colleagues to know that they can't live without you. Combine that with your helpful attitude and friendly demeanor, and you find yourself swamped with little bits and pieces clogging your schedule that may not even be in your job description! But, not wanting to appear rude and desperate to prove you're a team-player, you do them anyway. As a result you're stressed and busy, sometimes feeling like a headless chicken, and every evening you come home you're too tired to do anything more than kick off your shoes, grab a glass of wine, munch on fast or microwaveable food and plonk down on the couch in front of the television.

Over time, you find that those after-work habits have taken their toll on your waistline, and one morning you wake up and that suit you put on is pinching you in the side. You vow to start eating better tonight and rush off to work. After that most embarrassing rip while you bent down to pick up the pen your customer has dropped, you make your way hurriedly and crimson-faced to the next department store, buying the trousers in one size bigger. Once again thinking, "tonight I'll get the salad instead of the deep-fried meal", which you've forgotten by the time the youngster asks you what your order is, because those new pants fit so well and they're even a bit loose, so what could it hurt... add a dessert, too.

We've all been there. Rip included, ahem. And if you're happy and comfortable growing old with these scenarios going on indefinitely, no judgment here. But, if you had envisioned yourself a different kind of person, if as a kid you had dreams about what you'd be doing as a grown-up, and the above doesn't really fit, then Life Coaching can help you get back on track!

In those first three paragraphs lie numerous opportunities for change and improving your life. Stay tuned for coming articles where I will go into more detail, indicating ways to get out of the rut and start moving in a different direction. I'll show you how to get over that fear, answer the "but what if"-questions, and journey with you towards your future. Be the person you want to be, nobody else is going to do it for you.

Until the next time!

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