“work in progress…” has moved

Starting February 11, 2010

“work in progress…” has a new URL

Click on this link to get to the new site:

http://blog.coachingworks.de/

Thanks and see you at the new location!

Yours,

Shailia & Pat

Blog Relaunch: SNEAK PREVIEW

COMING SOON!

THE NEW AND IMPROVED “WORK IN PROGRESS…” BLOG

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It will be FRESHER:

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It will be BOLDER:

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It will have NEW FEATURES:

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It will have NEW WAYS TO SHARE:

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And an ALL NEW URL:

Still under lock and key ;-)

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KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR MORE DETAILS

Follow us on our new Coaching Works twitter page to find out the new URL on the day of relaunch:

http://twitter.com/coachingworksde

Creative Climate – Part 1

I can actually remember my very first attempt at being creative for work. I was just out of college and fresh off the boat from America, 21 and still blessedly naive. It was Christmas break 1995 and I only had a few days left to prepare for joining the workforce. Heiko’s uncle, Jochen Lösch, had decided to sponsor me as an employee in his PR and ad agency. Considering I had a math degree and some programming skills, Heiko had convinced his uncle that I could contribute to his plan of offering clients “new media” services. Jochen wanted us to get started a.s.a.p. and had already set up a meeting to pitch his most important client, BMW (Bavarian Motor Works), the idea of professionalizing their company Intranet.

I got right to work. Highly motivated, I read the entire HTML bible of the time. I dabbled in Future Splash and experimented with basic Java Script. It seemed doable enough, so I my refocused my attention on finding out more about the automobile giant. I didn’t get far, because some crazy fascination with that blue and white logo and the fact that is stems from the pattern on the Bavarian flag captured my imagination. I had just learned to make perspective drawings using mathematical principles, which I happily put to use by sketching an intricate blue and white diamond background. I devised a tentative navigation menu, scribbling these on the top frame. Genius! Or not?

My first online concept was anything but unique, much less relevant in terms of pitching to the client. It was junk. But Jochen didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. He saw beyond that sad sketch, all the way through to my burning motivation. He commended me for taking a risk and provided me with enough information for me to understand what wasn’t working in my concept. He then briefed me properly, gave me advice for moving forward and let me get back to it. I didn’t know it then, but Jochen had exhibited excellent creative leadership.

Almost fifteen years later, after a multitude of creative mishaps and a whole lot of creative successes at work (as a creative worker and a creative leader), I decided to write my master thesis on the subject of organizational creativity. I was especially interested in the sub-topic of “creative climate”, managerial practices and work environments which foster creativity. I thought I would share some of the insights I gained with you. So here we go…

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Managing Creativity

In the context of an organization, innovation and creativity are about generating  ideas which are at the same time original and appropriate for the business challenge at hand; e.g. developing a highly marketable product or a more creative way to service customers. In most cases, employees are working together in teams to produce creative results and the directive of managers is to manage that creativity. But how?

In her article “How to Kill Creativity” Teresa M. Amabile, creativity guru and  Harvard business professor, lays out the three areas of creativity which managers can influence:

  1. Expertise (also known as domain relevant skills)
    Managers can influence domain relevant expertise needed for creative problem solving by hiring the right people with the appropriate knowledge and skills within the domain in questions.
  2. Creative thinking skills (also known as creativity relevant skills)
    Not all experts are innately creative thinkers. Managers can see to it that these experts are systematically trained to think outside of the box or “break set” to produce more original results.
  3. Motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic motivation)
    The current understanding in management theory is that you can’t motivate employees, but you can demotivate them. The same holds true in terms of managing creativity. Most forms of extrinsic motivation (money, fame and glory) appear to hinder creativity, while supporting existing intrinsic motivation seems to promote creativity.

And while all three aspects can be leveraged, Amabile argues that the most effective way to enhance organizational creativity is to focus on maintaining intrinsic motivation. She suggest doing so by providing a supportive and stimulating creative climate. In a 1996 study she and her colleagues introduced the “KEYS to Creativity”, eight factors which when leveraged can be purposely gauged to improve the creative climate and therewith increase innovation and creativity in organizations.

KEYS environment factors

  1. Organizational encouragement
  2. Supervisory encouragement (others researchers refer to creative leadership)
  3. Work group supports
  4. Sufficient resources
  5. Freedom
  6. Challenging work
  7. (Lack of) Organizational impediments
  8. (Lack of) Workload pressure

Stay tuned for general findings and discussion on each of the KEYS scales. Coming soon! ;-)

Shailia

Book tip: “Creativity in Context” by Teresa M. Amabile (ISBN-13: 978-0813330341)

Goodbye Berlin, Hello Rasquera

How to turn a Drama into a Romantic Comedy.

by Andree Bock

Not in the picture: The silence

Greetings from Rasquera!

Never heard of it?

Good. That’s why I am here.

Rasquera is a quiet village in the Catalunyan Countryside. 775 people live here and since two weeks I am one of them.

But this story starts almost two years earlier in Berlin.

I lived there for the last five years or so, working as a copywriter in advertising. I worked a lot and wasn’t too bad at it. My agency promoted me to Creative Director. They wanted to announce it two weeks later during a big event.

A week later I quit my job.

Some call it burn-out syndrome.
I call it the best thing that could happen to me at the time.

I was completely exhausted.

I quit the agency very soon after that, fighting my way out. I earned my money as a freelance copywriter. When I had enough money for the month I stopped working. Often I stopped earlier.

I found out a few things about myself. I don’t want to work in advertising anymore, for example. Hey, great. Then again, stupid, did you learn anything else apart from working night-shifts in advertising agencies?

At this point, let me tell you a secret about advertising: Every creative sees himself as an artist. A copywriter secretly sees himself as the coming bestseller author, an Art Director is the next big thing in painting. The list is long. Thing is, we are not in art, we are in advertising. We make money, not art. And we have got a lot of good excuses not to do our exhibition or write our bestseller.

One day I ran out of excuses.

I found an author who took me under his wing: I am receiving a two-year coaching. In the first year I learned certain techniques of writing. How to build up suspension for example. Or how to characterize people. A lot of theory. More reading. And even more writing. The second year of our cooperation is dedicated to writing my first book. That year started a few weeks ago and I am happy to have found my story during the first year so I could do a lot of research before I came here and know the story about 95%.

It’s a story that plays in the 17th and 18th century. It’s the rise and fall of a kid who grows up under poor conditions in Berlin. German Aufklaerung, Napoleon conquering Berlin in 1806, that kind of stuff.

Funny enough, before I got into advertising (at the age of 23), I studied German literature and history. I always joke when someone asks me if I am just continuing my studies now. I am a student of 37 years – and hopefully will still be a student the day I die.

So why Rasquera, that tiny little village in the middle of nowhere? Three reasons:

1. I am weak. I have to protect my writing from big city distractions. Some might say my commitment isn’t strong enough to keep me in Berlin, doing the job. I say my commitment is strong enough to bring me here do the job.

2. One of my best friends lives here, so I won’t be completely alone and shut off.

3. I love it here. I love the rough and beautiful countryside that brought up those rough and beautiful people with their rough and beautiful language and habits and regional pride and…need more? Come here.

So I left my expensive apartment in Berlin Mitte and put what I haven’t sold in a small shared flat in Kreuzberg. I can go there any time I want and get back to big city life (and answer my letters, because the only post that I let come here is the Kicker, a German football magazine). This place in Catalunya is dedicated to the writing, not to bills and tax declarations. I can deal with them properly in Berlin.

With the money I saved I rented a town house here in Rasquera that comes with furniture. Today, 8th of December, I spent two hours on the terrace in the sun, reading.

The lady from THE bakery is very nice (THE bakery because there is only one. They sell baguette in THE supermarket but they themselves buy it from THE bakery). So I chat almost every day with the lady and one day I told her what I am doing here (people are curious in the village, like in every place) and she said that it sounds to her like what she does see in Hollywood productions. The writer on the hill, a cliché de luxe!

(What is missing here to make it a Romantic Comedy is, of course, the stubborn housekeeping woman whose language I don’t speak and she doesn’t speak mine and she messes up my old bachelor life up in a nice way and after a lot of irritations and mix-ups we end up falling in love with each other and when they haven’t died they….)

I prefer to think that I’m just living my dream.

By the end of 2011 they will present my book at the book fair in Germany. I put all my commitment in that goal.

So, see you on the fair!

Yours,

Andree

P.S.: By the time I had the guts to relocate myself, touch my assets of the last resort and write the book, guess what happened? I won my first own client. It’s a big construction company that needs a lot of brochures and catalogues and much more. The marketing director doesn’t care where I am located as long as the texts are good.

P.P.S.: It’s advertising. I love it. It pays my rent.

P.P.P.S.: Stubborn housekeeping ladies whose language I don’t speak and who want to mess up my life in a nice way – you’ll find me in Rasquera.

P.P.P.P.S.: Hell, I shouldn’t be that square headed: Any stubborn housekeeping who wants to mess up my life in a….you probably know by now, don’t you?

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About Andree Bock:

When Andree is not living in Berlin, he is living in a small village in the countryside of Catalunya. He is an author and freelance copywriter in advertising and is currently writing his first novel.

D for Death

Life is a death trap or is it not?
by Benedikt Schreyer

In the TV series “Band of Brothers” revolving around the soldiers from the 101st American Airborne Division during World War II, the legendary Lieutenant Ronald Speirs gives a frightened soldier, Albert Blithe, a lecture on the matter of death:

“We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function…”

What can we learn from this? How many of us live in hope, waiting for something to change? We may not be in a war zone, but most of us are hiding in a ditch just like Private Blithe – with an overabundance of hope that one day things are going to be different. The line that struck me most was:

“Accept the fact that you’re already dead.”

Honestly and truly. We are born with the intention to one day die. So we are in fact already dead. But because we are so afraid of what will be when we are dead, we decide to reject this unknown matter. The oldest fear and reason for panic in human beings seems to be the unknown.

So instead we believe in something else, maybe eternal youth, invincibility or even impossibility. And we want to believe it because it feels so cosy in that little bubble.

We constantly trick ourselves in respect to that fact and spend a lot of energy on building resistance against the inevitability of death. We cling to our lives like a limpet, not realising that we are already dangling from the gallows of our own illusionary concepts.

But at some point we realise that we’re not invincible and that we have lived in that illusion for a long time because it gave us a good feeling. We also experienced the downside of invincibility, the fact that we didn’t quite challenge ourselves or our ideas. Because, well, we were invincible and we wanted to keep it that way. After all, Gods don’t work.

But suddenly our bodies begin to ache a little, we spot a grey hair and end up buying wrinkle cream. We look back at our lives and realise we’re mortal just like everybody else.

Horay, you’re mortal!

This is the best thing that can happen to you. You’ve finally understood the key ingredient to a happy life. You’ve accepted the inevitable and now your mind is free to focus on the possible. The german poet Hilde Domin wrote:

“Dem Toten ist Ganzheit erlaubt.
Beeil dich ein Toter zu sein,
dem Toten
wird das Versprechen gehalten.”

“The dead are allowed entireness.
Hurry up to be dead,
the dead will be granted the promise.”

from: Hinuebergehen. Das Wunder des Spaetwerks

In ancient fairytales we can also find this wisdom that to “die” is the right way. Like in this russian story:

At a banquet, the czar finds that his three sons haven’t proven their true virtue yet. So they ask for his blessing and each one takes a horse from the stalls. All three come to a directory at a crossroads which says: “Who goes right, will have plenty to eat, but his horse will starve; who goes left, will have enough for his horse, but will starve himself; and he who goes straight, will die.

So the first son chooses to go right and finds a snake on a mountain. After his return his father becomes irate and says, he brought home something dangerous and demonic and throws him in prison. Metaphorically, the prison stands for a rigid life without the spirit of rejuvenation.

The second son chooses to go left and meets a whore who invites him to her mechanical bed. After having jumped out she pushes a button, the bed turns around and he falls into a cellar where a couple of other men are already trapped. So the option to go left is also a failure.

Now Big Iwan, the russian hero, comes along. After having seen the directory he starts to cry and says that a poor guy going to die will neither find honour nor glory… but, still he rides on. His horse dies and rises from the dead. He himself conquers the witch. Then he finds the princess, returns home and becomes czar.

translated from Marie-Louise Franz “Puer aeternus”

This is an average fairytale career: The hero decides to accept the inevitable and stays inside the conflict of life – though it seems like death to his ego, because it always wants to know what is lying ahead. But the miracle lies in the foray into the unknown. Life wants us to go the middle road and bear the tension between the two poles of life. So the ultimate goal in life is not your profession, your partner or your kids. It’s your death. Go through it whilst you’re alive.

Dying is going through the needle’s eye

In coaching, I learned the expression “to go through the needle’s eye”. It means facing your deepest fears and overcoming them. There will be setbacks, there will be defeat, but you know you want to get to the other side and try and try again. You confide in your intention to evolve. And then, you let go and you suddenly feel you have achieved something. Life has got a new quality, more that of an adventure than the hide-and-seek game you used to play before.

My own personal experience

On one of the last legs of my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain in 2008, I didn’t feel too well. I had eaten some hot peppers for dinner the day before which haunted my stomach the morning after. My pace slowed down and I started thinking about death. And suddenly I envisioned my own funeral. I saw my future family, friends and brothers,  – aged. I mourned deeply over my own death. It was real to me. My mind imagined my physical death whilst I stood watching at the sidelines. And at the same time I was alive – walking on. And on. And on. And then I understood that my life will continue after death and that the game wouldn’t be over once I played through level earth. There would be a new game, a new cycle of life. And death is just a stop-over.

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Benedikt Schreyer:

My name is Benedikt Schreyer – writer, coach and singer. I love to research life, gain and share knowledge and live up to my full potential. I believe the world is sound. That’s why to love is to laugh – Big loud belly laughter!

Eyes wide shut

Wie wir uns in Partnerschaften mit Trugbildern
unglücklich machen.

by Jochen Ulbing

Ein sehr weiser Spruch lautet: „Man heiratet nicht eine Person sondern drei: den Menschen den man sieht, den Menschen der er wirklich ist und schließlich den Menschen, zu dem er sich in der Ehe mit einem entwickeln wird.“ Heute heiraten wir zwar seltener und dafür weniger oft, der Spruch gilt für Partnerschaften ohne Trauschein aber ebenso.

Die meisten Beziehungen beginnen mit einem Irrtum und enden auch damit. Wir glauben, dass wir uns in unser Gegenüber verlieben und sind doch nur in jenes Bild verliebt, dass sich in den Augen unseres Partners spiegelt. Wir beenden Beziehungen in dem Glauben, dass die Probleme verschwinden wenn wir uns trennen und der ideale Partner eben noch irgendwo da draußen auf uns wartet. Interessanter Weise erleben viele Menschen, mit denen ich spreche, dass die selben Probleme mit dem nächsten Partner wieder kommen – bloß schneller. Vielleicht liegt das daran, dass wir unsere Probleme in uns tragen – ein kleiner verwegener Gedanke.

Was uns oft unglücklich macht ist der Vergleich. Wir vergleichen die Beziehungen, die wir haben damit wie wir glauben, dass Beziehung eigentlich sein müsste – und die Bilder wie Beziehung sein muss haben wir aus Kinofilmen, made in Hollywood. Irgendwie ist uns aber oftmals nicht klar, dass es sich dabei um Märchen handelt – keine Geschichten, die das Leben schreibt. Dann sehnen wir uns nach der perfekten Frau oder dem perfekten Mann, der großen romantischen Geste,… Der Alltag jedoch ist anders: Offene Zahnpasta-Tuben, Socken unter oder auf dem Sofa, der Streit darüber ob der WC-Deckel oben oder unten sein sollte – Alltagsdramen, die es praktisch in jeder Beziehung gibt. Der Vergleich heißt dann Brad Pitt gegen stinkende Socken, oder Angelina Jolie gegen zwanghaftes Staubsaugen während dem Champions-League Finale und das bei dem Anspruch, dass es in einer Beziehung „prickeln“ muss. Dass soll nicht heißen, dass es nicht in einer Beziehung immer wieder verliebte oder romantische Phasen gibt und geben soll – doch die Mühen der Ebene müssen wir dafür mit in Kauf nehmen, wenn wir wirklich eine erfüllte Partnerschaft möchten.

Liebe ist ein willentlicher Akt, nicht etwas das halt passiert. Nicht umsonst heißt es im christlichen Ehegelöbnis: „Ich will Dich achten, ehren und lieben alle Tage meines Lebens.“ Es wäre geradezu verrückt etwas zu geloben, von dem wir glauben es nicht beeinflussen zu können, nicht wahr? Aber zugegeben als Ausrede ist es bequemer. Und ob das noch nicht genug wäre tun wir so als ob in Beziehungen keine schlimmen Dinge passieren könnten und tun dann überrascht, wenn beispielsweise der Partner, die Partnerin sich sexuell mal auswärts vergnügt. Ich will hier nicht der Promiskuität das Wort reden, doch wenn statistisch erwiesen 90% der Männer mindestens einmal in ihrem Leben untreu sind und 80% der Frauen, wie groß ist dann wohl die Chance, dass dies in Deiner Beziehung garantiert nicht passiert? Statt Krisen als Chance zur Entwicklung und des besseren Kennenlernen seines Partners zu betrachten haben wir zur Gewohnheit entwickelt den „Ich kann nicht mehr.“ – Reflex auszupacken und uns davonzustehlen.

Nach meinen Erfahrungen gehört zu jeder wirklich guten Beziehung eine gehörige Portion Leidensfähigkeit beider Partner und der Wille Krisen und Probleme gemeinsam anzupacken. Im Gegensatz zu „verliebt sein“ bedeutet Liebe ein „trotzdem“. „Ich liebe Dich trotzdem Du den Klodeckel immer oben lässt. Ich liebe Dich trotzdem Du immer dann reden möchtest wenn ich Fußball schaue. Ich liebe Dich trotzdem Du Sex mit jemand anders hattest.“ Wenn wir beginnen nicht mehr die Illusion von Partnerschaft zu lieben, sondern unseren Partner ansehen und sagen: „Ich will Dich lieben.“, dann ist Beziehung erstmals möglich in einer Partnerschaft auf Augenhöhe, die anerkennt was ist, und gleichzeitig sieht was noch möglich sein kann. Je eher wir von Trugbildern und Illusionen loslassen, desto größer die Chance auf erfüllte und gelungene Beziehungen.

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About Jochen Ulbing

Jochen ist Unternehmensberater und systemischer Coach, Geschäftsführer und Gesellschafter von Ulbing consulting. Als Autor des Buchs „BeziehungsFlow“, welches 2007 im Österreichischen Wirtschaftsverlag erschienen ist beschäftigt er sich mit Unternehmensführung für Kleine und Mittlere Unternehmen. Beziehungen zwischen Menschen in und um Unternehmen spielen dabei eine entscheidende Rolle. Er ist seit 11 Jahren mit (der gleichen) Frau verheiratet und hat eine 12 jährige Tochter aus dieser Beziehung. In seiner Freizeit ist er Familiencoach. Er ist Mitglied der ICF (International Coaching Federation).

Speed up to slow down

by Petra Lehner

Shailia and Pat asked me to contribute a blog post about “when to slow down and when to speed up”. Here are some of my ideas on the topic.

Today, we face  a lot of situations where one simple ability is not enough to successfully fulfill the job we have been asked to do. More and more, we are required to become multi-taskers and quick-workers. Information-overflow, workload pressure and increasingly technical and/or complex matters are commonplace these days.

The dark side of the game is that doing more and more things will cause stress, illness and emotional breakdown (best known as burn-out).

Now, as we all are coaches, no matter if we are employees, mothers, fathers, leaders, students… let’s quickly change our perspective and look to the: „what can we do“ side. And it is a sunny side!

It is easy to become a multi-tasker/quick-worker in your daily life just by training your brain to stay focused. This will lead to channeled energy and concentrated work. And the key is this:

Slow down and you will accomplish more.

While holding seminars on speed-reading, mental training and excellent learning (which is all about excellent communication with yourself!), I found out that the brain loves to learn and work quite long if it is allowed to take enough little breaks in -between.

Also important: before you start with whatever you need to do, declare what you are going to do!

Most of the time, people begin doing their work only to be interrupted by the cellphone ringing or the mailbox beeping. In an instant, concentration is gone. Instead of reconnecting after the interruption, many people start to do some new work while the first point of the schedule is still open in the unconscious mind. So there is a piling-up of activities never finished and the poor brain does not know where to focus.

Your brain loves to think fast, complex and in a big variety of colourful chaos mixed-up with structure. Yet it can only process information from one channel at a time.

Brain research has found that learning or reading while doing sports at a pulse-rate of 90 to 100 beats per minute is a real turbo-boost and happens absolutely fast and long-lasting. Try it out! If you have a home trainer or a treadmill  grab a book, watch a film or listen to a learning course. Whatever you choose, you will discover, that you have focused attention and remember almost everything after the end of the session.

Sometimes it is too much. Did you know this? You need to write an article, carry out research for a new customer, call some clients, do household chores etc. It is essential that you take a healthy rest.

If you find yourself not sleeping well, this proven, very effective and powerful tool may help: make daily notes.

Get a notebook or some lined paper and write down whatever comes to your mind for 20 minutes. Recall, reflect or just let the paper be the counterpart for your inner voice. Do not censor yourself. Just keep on writing for 20 minutes. After a couple of days you will discover a massive change. Your focus will have become clearer and stronger.

And then: take a break. Take a mind-break, a brain-break. If small but constant breaks are like a routine for you, you will have created your own mental island on which to recover at any time.

Start with a 5-minutes-break. Do nothing else but breathing. Make at least three of these 5-minute-breaks every day and schedule them!!!

If you are interested in speeding up your reading-rate, here is a little Christmas present for the readers of this blog:  Lesegeschwindigkeit erhöhen (PDF in German).

For today, take a break and enjoy the following:

Thank you for your focused attention ;-)

Petra Lehner

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About Petra Lehner

Petra is a coach, trainer and book author living in Salzburg, Austria. Her areas of specialty are speed-reading, excellent learning, mental training and coaching as well as mental alignment and communication for peak performance. She works with private individuals and business clients and hold seminars on these subjects regularly.

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Further information:

MetaMind homepage: http://meta-mind.at/

Petra’s MetaMind Blog: http://meta-mind.at/Blog/index.html

Petra Lehner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Petra_Lehner