12 skills that leaders should (re-)learn from babies

The fantastic evolution of babies and the extraordinary number of things that they have to learn in their first year and a half requires equally exceptional skills and abilities. Unfortunately, some of these skills are “unlearned” over time. The good news is that they are still there and you can “re-learn” them and improve the quality of your attention and intention and become a better leader and a better person.

  1. They keep trying: watch a toddler learn how to walk. Between 12 and 19 months old, they fall on average 17 times an hour! How many times do you allow yourself (or others) to fail before giving up (or calling others “losers”)?
  2. They synchronise with other people’s body language and emotions. They smile when you smile, they feel sad when you feel sad, they laugh when you laugh. This is the best unconscious influence technique and fastest shortcut to establishing rapport.
  3. They feel and express empathy: we have all witnessed or experienced children’s natural drive to help if someone hurts him/herself. Of course empathy is not always associated with the work environment, but empathic leaders get much better results from their teams and that’s a fact.
  4. They are curious, creative and positive. They are solution-oriented and they never think “this will never work” or “we’ve done this before”.   It’s trial and error 101 with a strong belief that whatever is resisting them will be overcome eventually.
  5. They observe and adapt: watch a baby learn from its environment. It takes all the information it possibly can, from every sensory system. This is how babies and toddlers learn how to adapt to external conditions.
  6. They copy the best in others: thanks to hours of observation, they learn how to excel in every discipline and just copy / paste to their own behaviours.
  7. They trust their emotions: they feel when something isn’t quite right. Just how they react based on that is, of course, another matter. I’m not suggesting leaders should throw a temper tantrum when things aren’t going their way…
  8. They experiment and question hypotheses until they figure them out. If you’ve experienced this phase when they drop stuff on the floor about a 1,000 times to understand that objects that disappear from their sight don’t disappear altogether, you know what I’m talking about.
  9. They are authentic. They are who they are and do not wear masks. Authenticity is one the most appreciated quality in leaders.
  10. They move and spend a lot of energy by being physically active. Research has shown the many benefits of physical activity, not only for the body but also for the mind and the mood.
  11. They day-dream, which is the earliest form of meditation. This too has been proven of great value on both physical and mental health.
  12. They nap after a good meal and sleep as much as they need. Luckily as adults we don’t need to sleep as many hours. But sleep deprivation is associated to higher stress, poor nutrition patterns and reduced creativity.

I started this list with 9 points, and can’t seem to stop! The more I think about it, the more skills I find that babies have, from which we should inspire ourselves to think and act better.

I’m sure I forgot many more! Which skills do YOU think we have as babies and should unlock to become better leaders?


3 good reasons to invest in your employees’ happiness

Do you now that happy employees are more productive than others by 15%? They are more creative and innovative, and thanks to them customer satisfaction increases by as much as 42%(1)? Can you imagine the impact of such improvements on your own organization?

Conversely, have you ever measured the actual cost of absenteeism, professional illnesses, burn-outs, lower motivation generated by managers who are not good at communicating with their teams, let alone toxic managers? In Belgium only, up to 19,000 people are affected by the extreme form of stress at work, and as much as one in 3 people feels stressed in a permanent way.

Trainings and information abound to detect the signs of acute stress and this is a very good thing.

We train people to have access to their positive resources in any given situation, and so create a virtuous circle of pleasure and performance.

How do we train people to become happier leaders? By teaching them simple tools that predict success and achievement. These tools are based on positive psychology, neuroplasticity and are proven to create lasting change in the brain structure.

Here are 7 powerful happiness recipes you will learn:

  • Train your brain to capitalize on positivity;
  • Adjust your mindset to be more successful by consciously changing your perception of situations;
  • Recognize when you are in a “bug” and know how to put yourself back in your “flow” ;
  • Positively cope with stress or difficult situations by learning to “metabolise your emotions”;
  • Recognize when your brain has switched to “primitive mode” (fight or flight) and learn how to switch back to “steering mode”;
  • Replace your strategies for failure by strategies for success by rewiring some of your basic “programmes”;
  • Find what gives you purpose and meaning.

Our next session is in Brussels on 11-12 June and is called “Unlock the Leader in You”. Now you know that to unlock the leader in you, we will unlock your natural drive to be function positively and, hence, become a better, more productive and inspiring, leader.

 (1) These figures come from numerous studies, reinforced by a meta-analysis of happiness research covering 200 scientific studies on more than 270,000 people. (Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect : Does happiness lead to success ? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803-855)


3 facts and 3 good news from the “what is the colour of this dress” buzz

FACT1: What you see… is what you see: your brain plays all kinds of tricks, which makes you create your own version of reality. This is not exceptional, it is just the way your brain functions.

FACT2: What you see… is what you think you see: you are influenced by your thoughts or by what others tell you and this makes you see or remember things that either don’t exist or are very different from what you saw or experimented.

FACT3: What you see… is what you do: athletes use visualization exercises in order to optimize their physical performance. Scientists have shown that when athletes are in their “element”, they experiment reality in a very different way: tennis players see the ball bigger and slower and the net lower than it actually is.

And this makes the difference between winning the match or losing it.

And now, the good news:

You can learn to center yourself and be in a mindset that will make you less likely to fall in visual traps and ensure that you focus on what is really relevant for you.

You can influence your brain by your thoughts, and create new patterns for success. For example, you can change the way you think about yourself, your job, and put yourself in a positive and winning mood before an important meeting.

You can use the athletes’ tactics and transpose them to your everyday performance needs and goals, whether it be for a presentation or a meeting, or more generally, in order to install a more successful mindset and attitude.

How can you learn this? Who teaches these skills?

Come and find out by joining the complimentary Curiosity Workshop and Cocktail on 24 March at 18:00 at a secret location near Flagey Square at 1050 Brussels. You can register by sending an email to Catherine@geckostrategies.com  

Announcing our complimentary Curiosity Session and Workshop

They say that curiosity killed the cat.

We say that curiosity created the Leader!

We are launching our activity on 24 March in Brussels with a Curiosity Session that will explore various areas of our Leadership Workshops.

Here’s just a few questions to stimulate your curiosity:

– What if you discovered how the subjective nature of reality allows you to create a better, enhanced, version of yourself?

– What if you were able to quickly access your ressources to optimise your professional and personal life?

– What if you knew how to take ownership of your life by understanding how you can create your own paradise… or your own hell?

What if this was all possible, and quite simple too?

Please join us for the introductory Curiosity Session and Cocktail on 24 March 2015 at 18:00!

Programme of the Curiosity Session:

– Opening and welcome at 18:00
– A 1hr30 complimentary workshop with a few concrete tips and tricks to feel more confident, create more impact and become a better leader of your career and life
– From 20:00: a complimentary networking cocktail

The session is for anyone, in any job, who wants to take his/her career to the next level and be noticed for his/her excellence.

To register for this event, please email catherine@geckostrategies.com and give us your contact details, as well as your job title and the organisation that employs you. The venue will be sent to the registered participants.

If you can’t attend and would like to receive information about our first Self-Leadership workshop on 28 April, do let us know!

Meanwhile, enjoy the other articles of our blog!

The first person you need to lead is you

It’s Monday morning and it’s still dark outside. Rain is falling lightly. I drop the girls well in time to catch my plane to Berlin. As I get on the motorway I notice the heavy traffic. I soon realise that it’s heavier than usual and that we are hardly moving. One hour should normally be more than enough to get to the airport, but as the time goes by, I’m starting to think I might not be in time for my flight today.

I could get excited, angry, start worrying about the consequences: missing today’s meeting, having problems with my client as a result, compromising my contract with my client, and the financial consequences… But no. There is nothing I can do and worrying will not help. So I listen to the radio, enjoy my take-away coffee and let go of the worries and questions. I consciously make this choice.

The lady in the car behind me is getting impatient and moves left and right, as if she could create a virtual additional line on the road to escape. She blows the horn because I failed to move on quickly enough to drive 20 metres to my next complete stop. I could make her a sign to go and fry an egg, get out of the car and yell at her, or not move to make her even angrier, but I wave at her and move on to my next stop, 20 metres down the road. What difference does it make? It gave her the impression that we were moving … never mind. I consciously make this choice.

My plane boards at 9:15 and that’s the exact time I enter the airport. I look at the screens, hoping it is delayed, but unfortunately it is not. And the only positive indication on the screens is that there is no “go to gate” message. I could start running, ask everyone at the security check to let me through as my plane is boarding, and possibly fight with other passengers who are equally in a hurry or late for boarding. But I don’t. I’m already checked in so I walk swiftly through the various checks, but at no stage start running. I consciously make this choice.

Finally, as I get near the gate, I can see that boarding is about to start – by that time it is 9:30 – and I still have time to buy a bottle of water. I then join the queue and board the plane. I’m about to sit down but I need a minute to store my hand luggage and coat. The person behind me looks impatient. I could get irritated by his impatience, sigh heavily, but I consciously choose to take a few more seconds to store my coat and luggage appropriately and without hurry. And then smile at the guy and let him make his way to his seat. I can now, as they say, sit back, relax and enjoy my flight.

I could have arrived in a completely different nervous state and feel exhausted to start my day, but I consciously chose not to. I could not have behaved this way some years back, but in the meantime I have learned:

  • That what I experience is a subjective interpretation based on my own personal hardware (neurology) and software (experience, previous events, etc);
  • To analyse my emotional state, watch my train of thoughts and my behaviours and know that I am accountable for them;
  • That my thoughts, emotions and behaviours influence each other and that I can make a conscious decision to change them – from any point of entry – and have a much nicer experience;
  • That nothing I can feel, do or think will make any difference on external events, over which I have no control;
  • That as I change how I feel, think and behave about a particular event in a positive way, I can start looking for solutions or opportunities that will change the way I experience the situation, for the better.

In the same way as in martial arts, if you use the “opponent’s” energy to your own benefit, you can experience life and adversity and transform experiences without resisting uselessly and, on the contrary, by welcoming them with curiosity and interest and see what happens next.

These skills are not reserved to Buddhist monks and trained yogis. They are conscious strategies, which you can acquire to simplify your life, become more successful in your work, and positively influence people around you.

You can learn these strategies by joining the Gecko Strategies Self-Leadership Workshop, of which the first edition will be held on 28 April. If you are curious about what other strategies for success we have in store for you, do join our Curiosity Session and Cocktail on 24 March in Brussels.

 For more information, please contact Catherine@geckostrategies.com or Francois@geckostrategies.com or visit our website www.geckostrategies.com

7 bonnes nouvelles sur le charisme

Le charisme est un mot magique. Prononcé dans un contexte d’apprentissage, il suscite haussements de sourcils et scepticisme.  Le charisme serait-il, comme un billet de loterie gagnant, un don réservé à quelques chanceux?  Ou, au contraire, peut-il s’acquérir et se développer ?  Et si c’est le cas, quelle est donc la recette de ce fabuleux et mythique cocktail 

1 – Le charisme peut s’apprendre. S’il est vrai que certains détiennent déjà un potentiel élevé, chacun d’entre nous peut le développer. Il suffit de voir les progrès de certains hommes politiques, pour s’apercevoir que même les cas que l’on pensait désespérés peuvent se travailler.

2 – Le charisme est indépendant de l’aspect esthétique du physique.  Mais il est vrai qu’il réside à plus de 80% dans le comportement non-verbal : la manière dont on « habite » son corps, la posture, les gestes, le regard, les expressions du visage, la voix, le ton, le rythme, les silences, etc.   C’est par votre comportement non-verbal que vous envoyez des « signaux » à vos interlocuteurs.  Ils se forment alors un jugement sur vous et décident – sans en être conscients – si vous êtes une personne de confiance, compétente ou non, sympathique, puissante, etc.  Ce jugement se fait dans les quelques premières secondes de votre rencontre, et de manière totalement inconsciente.  Ce n’est qu’après que l’on va tenter d’interpréter cette première impression. On pourra dire qu’on ne « sent pas » la personne, qu’elle « sonne faux », ou que l’on voit que quelque chose n’est pas clair chez elle.  Augmenter son potentiel charisme, cela demande de modifier ce signal de l’intérieur et d’être authentique et sincère, car sinon vous serez démasquée de manière tout aussi rapide et inconsciente. 

3 – Le charisme est une compétence du “savoir-être”. Ce n’est donc pas un “savoir” ou “savoir-faire”. Cela peut expliquer pourquoi on pourrait croire qu’il ne s’apprend pas. Et pourtant les compétences du savoir-être peuvent s’apprendre. L’influence, la créativité sont des potentiels à développer mais ils ne s’apprennent pas dans les livres.  Ils s’expérimentent en faisant un travail sur soi.

4 – Les spécialistes du comportement ont beaucoup étudié ce sujet fascinant pour en dégager les composantes.  Leur conclusion: c’est une alchimie subtile de pouvoir, de chaleur et de présence. Des exercices peuvent vous faire progresser sur chacune de ces trois composantes. Ils combinent pleine conscience, jeux de rôle, visualisation et techniques de centrage. Ce ne sont pas des exercices qui font appel à l’intellect ou à une connaissance particulière. Ils sont donc à la portée de tous.

5 – Parce que l’on travaille sur soi et sur le savoir-être, le changement s’inscrit dans la durée. Chaque petite amélioration est immédiatement observable et augmente le potentiel de manière profonde et durable.  Ces compétences et améliorations s’intègrent en nous, et deviennent comme une seconde nature. 

6 – S’il est indispensable pour les dirigeants (même s’ils n’en sont pas toujours dotés, et les exemples ne manquent pas), le charisme n’en est pas moins utile pour chacun, car il améliore significativement la qualité de votre vie professionnelle et personnelle.

7 – Augmenter son charisme aura des bénéfices secondaires: vous aurez appris à vous centrer, à gérer des situations, des émotions et des personnes difficiles, et aurez appris à mieux vous connaître et à réellement vous apprécier.

Bref, en développant son potentiel charisme, il n’y a rien à perdre et tout à gagner! Image Continue reading

10 tips to define your objectives

A coloured man is walking in the desert and is about to die from exhaustion.   He is tired, thirsty and hungry and, to tell the truth, quite desperate too.  He falls to his knees, and then on his face and starts crawling.  He understands that he is about to die and is ready for it, when all of a sudden a small lizard passes right in front of him.  He mobilizes all the energy that is left in his body and grabs the lizard.  At last, he thinks, I get something to eat!  But then he has a second thought: what’s the point, this is only going to postpone my death, and I will have taken the life of this little lizard for no reason.  So he lets the lizard go.  Instantly, the lizard transforms into a fairy and says: “You have saved my life and broken the spell under which I was. To show you my gratitude you may make three wishes and I will make them all come true.  I do recommend that you think very deep about your wishes, because this is your only chance”.  The man thinks hard and says:  “My mind is made, fairy.  I want to be white, rich and have plenty of water.  The fairy says: “are you quite sure?”  The black man replies: “Hell, yeah, that’s more than enough!”  So the fairy waves her magic wand, and does all the standard magic procedure, and … a glittering sound later, the wishes have come true.  The coloured man has become white, there’s plenty of water and he is in a very luxurious atmosphere indeed.  He is a bath tub in a 5-star hotel.

What has this got to do with reaching your objectives, you might ask?  Well, just as the man in the story should have been slightly more specific about how he worded his wishes, you need to be very specific about your objectives, and follow these 10 Golden Rules:

  1.  You have to be 100% in control of your objective.  If your objective depends on someone else, then you cannot be sure that you will be able to reach it.  You are the only person that you can control.
  2. It has to be formulated positively.  Try not to think about a white horse.  There you go; you can’t.  The brain responds to positive instructions.  With negative instructions, it has to first carry out the operation you tell him NOT to do, and then cross it out.  It may take a bit of thinking, but you will get used to it.  And by the way, stop and quit are negative.  So instead of “stop smoking”, you may have to say “breathe healthily”, “clean up my lungs”, or something like that.
  3. Make a multisensory description of your objective.  This is to train your brain to move forward towards the objective.  Make a very clear and detailed picture of you as you have reached your goal.  Create the scenery by visualizing it, add sound or a dialogue, imagine how you feel now that you have reached your goal.  Now add a very pleasant smell to your scene.  Smell is very powerful as it by-passes a few steps in the brain and goes straight to the decision-making center.  You are the scriptwriter and the director of your goal, so go ahead and make it as big and nice as you can, and play it back as often as you can.
  4. Contextualise your goal and be very specific in doing it.  Imagine that your goal is to be more relaxed and learn to let go.  But not while you are riding your horse or driving your car, right?  Or let’s say that your goal is to feel your emotions more intensely.  But not when you are undergoing surgery or having your legs waxed.  So when you are wording your objective, specify what, where, with whom, when, etc.
  5. What is your meta-objective, i.e. what does it satisfy for you to reach this particular objective?  Let’s say that your objective is to weigh 65kg (and you are 75kg)  in order to be healthier.  Health is the value that you are seeking to pursue.  Can you also satisfy the same value by doing more sports and eat more fruit and veggies?
  6. In harmony with your own ecosystem.  Losing 10kg in 2 weeks may not be very good for your body, so think about your objective so that it is mild and gentle with you and in line with your inner and outer balance.
  7. The price to pay: what do you have to give up or do less of in order to reach your objective?  Weigh it carefully to make sure that you are willing to pay the price, and that there will not be adverse effects to reaching your goal.  You may wish to travel around the world, but are you ready to see your kids only once a week on skype for 3 months?  Don’t just “imagine” if it’s ok for you; try to put yourself in the situation, and see if it’s ok.
  8. Consistent with who you are (becoming).  You wish to go to a certain country, but that country is a dictatorship, and human rights are very important to you.  Are you certain that this trip is the only way to satisfy your hunger for travel and your curiosity?
  9. Key indicators: you need to determine in advance how you will know that you will have reached your objective. This is linked to the multisensory description.  If you describe well enough what you will see/feel/hear/smell/taste upon completion of your goal, that is what will serve you as a basis to determine your key indicators.
  10. Stepping stones:  if your objective is spread over several days, weeks or months, it is useful to cut it into sub-objectives, by following the same criteria as you would for your goal.  By doing this, you have a way to evaluate whether you are getting closer to your objective or, on the contrary, moving away from it.  The first and last stepping stone, in the same way as the first and last page of a novel, are key.  So spend time and effort to describe them.

Here’s a bonus:

As you are progressing towards your objective, and at every step of the way, celebrate!  Celebrate the decision you made to move towards an objective, celebrate what you have already accomplished and, above all, celebrate when it doesn’t quite work the way you thought it would.  Because that’s when you learn most about yourself.  When failing, take time to understand what went wrong, make the necessary adjustments, and, off you go!

This is the first post of a series about the objectives.  In future posts, I will give you some tips on how to prepare to reach your objective, and what to do when you fail.  So watch this space for more!

Most of these rules are taken from NLP – neuro linguistic programming.  For more information about NLP, visit nlpu.  For information about NLP in French, search www.ressources.be

Gecko Strategies is now on line!

My name is Catherine Piana and I am the founder and CEO of Gecko Strategies. This activity is the result of years of professional experience in lobbying, and my passion for the functioning of human beings, individually and in groups.  This passion has led me to follow a course of NLP (I am a certified Master Practicioner in neurolinguistic programming).

I also have a strong need to share and pass on my discoveries on how we can unlock our potential, so I also became a certified trainer.  Meanwhile, I discovered that I loved helping people to find the keys to their own potential, and followed a Life Coach course.

To sum it all up, Gecko Strategies offers consulting, training and coaching (life and executive) services to people and organisations.

This is an activity that I have developed on the side of my job as a Director General of the European Vending Association, a very successful and active European Trade Association, which I joined in 1997.  At the EVA I learned to run teams from different nationalities, background, and business environments and I what I like most is finding what they have in common so that they can move forward together towards the same goal.  And after 15 years, I still enjoy it and learn new things every day about people, businesses and organisations.

To make sure my motivation and creativity are intact, I need to diversify, and this is why I started my own business, Gecko Strategies.  The Gecko is a metaphor for the ability to adapt to your environment, amongst the many resources of the small lizard, whislt maintaining a strong identity.

There will be more on this blog in the near future so watch this space.  Thank you for taking the time to drop by and read my first blogpost.  Feel free to ask questions and post comments or articles.