When work is adventure, fun, learning……….

Combining these domains means hitting the sweet spot of life. This opportunity opened for me when a client invited me and my collaborator, Sheldon Frank, to facilitate a team workshop at Chateau de Guermantes, a historic castle outside Paris.

I twisted my husband’s arm to join me for a few days in Paris followed by a barging trip on the Canal Petit Rhone. It is an easy twist as Ronald is a keen adventurer and we are very happy gypsy companions.

Paris truly is the city of romance, mystery and intrigue. We stayed in the Latin Quarter which lends itself to idyllic walks along the Seine and delicious cuisine at cafes along the route. We relaxed in the balmy days and felt all our residual stresses melt away.

Our cultural experiences were in visiting the Centre Pompidou, a digital art immersion of Gustav Klimt, being blown away by Roger Waters from Pink Floyd and seeing Joan Baez perform at her Fare Thee Well tour – still a diva at 73 years of age.
I had to convince the doorman at the Klimt exhibition to allow us in as all tickets had been sold, by telling him I was a ‘life artist all the way from Africa’ – it worked, and we were amazed by the alchemy of technology and art.
Both Baez and Walters were vocal in their disapproval of Trump’s leadership and their strong activist voices called for a world of humanity, equality and world peace.

We enjoyed the rail trip to Latte outside Montpellier where we arrived in torrential showers to take residence on our barge. Even our passports were drenched through our rucksacks. The hiccup then was that we could not leave the harbor the next morning as the river was in flood.

It was an interesting observation of human nature to notice the responses from our neighboring barges – our Brazilian neighbors were sanguine, the British were indignant, the Germans stoic, the French drank more wine and us Saffas…..well we went cycling and visited the quirky village of Palavas Les Flots. A French Brighton by the sea with kitsch nautical shops, a sad circus and many ice cream stalls. But the scenery along the canal made up for the flotsam village.
Our barge set off the following morning with a flourish with my capable helmsman at the wheel. At the first canal intersection we did feel the strong current after the floods and I was relieved when Ronald managed to turn the barge without being swept away.

The mellow river days melted into each other as we drifted along sipping French wine accompanied by fresh cherries, French cheeses and baguettes. We docked at the charming village of Aigues Mortes and sailed onto the Camargue. The birdlife was exquisite and although the wild horses of the Camargue are now very tame, I still relished being up close and breathing in the aura of the dashing white horses. We dipped into the warm Mediterranean Sea and slept peacefully in the gentle rocking cradle of our cozy barge.

The next adventure was visiting the ancient Roman town of Carcasonne. It is a Rapunzel castle straight out of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Our pension was close by, so we could have an early morning stroll around the castle before any tourists arrived.

We traveled back to Paris on the very efficient rail system, had our last night together before Ronald flew back home to work – and left me to resume my work.
But before this I had a day alone in Paris. I hopped on the Batobus, a river boat shuttle which stops at all the historic places along the Seine. My lunch was at an intimate bistro opposite the magnificent Notre Dame. In the afternoon I met up with a Parisian friend. I had only seen Francesca in Cape Town so it was such fun to ride pillion on her scooter to her home, visit her fascinating communal vegetable garden and enjoy a delicious meal of fresh asparagus and French wine.

And now for the work. This was work being in the proverbial flow – being with people who are truly curious about learning more about themselves, being the most available to their team members and willing to be vulnerable in becoming more resilient. The leaders were fun and inspiring. Inviting team members from all over Europe to be in a place of such beauty, seeped in history with the most superb cuisine means you are demonstrating to them that your employees really matter. This is what Sheldon and I experienced with the Fibrelean management in the work we enjoyed at the castle. I was able to refresh after facilitations by going for walks in the resplendent forest nearby – and again feeling the gratitude and freedom of being able to be safe as a woman alone……

And so back to Cape Town and my more familiar routines. The experience was a gift in a lifetime – may I be blessed enough to have more travel and work opportunities. Always the best of all worlds.

SA Companies That Invest In Upskilling Employees Invest In Themselves

It’s win-win. By empowering employees to become leaders, businesses are helping to challenge and dismantle the status quo.

For the full article click on the following link.

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/lee-kingma/sa-companies-that-invest-in-upskilling-employees-invest-in-themselves_a_23415033/?utm_hp_ref=za-voices

 

 

 

 

 

Dutch love and teaching in Buren

  Happy MBA students

Buren is a small historic village situated in the Betuwe region of the Netherlands. The earliest known settlement of the region occurred as early as 772. The castle in Buren was owned by the House of Orange, the royal family of the Netherlands. The Dutch royal family has been known to use the name van Buren as an alias to give themselves some degree of anonymity.

The Cape of Hope Castle situated in Cape Town is built in the shape of a star, and one of its bastions is named Buren. Being married to a Kingma and with a ‘nooiens van’ of Vos and having worked for Juta Publishers for 13 years, I have deep Dutch roots.

My Dutch luck extended to obtaining a half bursary to complete my MBA through the Business School of the Netherlands (BSN) way back in 2002. After completing my doctoral degree in human resources, I was invited to tutor on their MBA program at their school situated in Buren. The MBA program is designed as blended learning, combining two sessions of two weeks contact time in Buren, and online study programs. The Dutch government sponsors students who meet specific criteria to complete their MBA’s on this international program (https://www.bsn.eu)

During the last 10 years, mostly bi-annually, I have thrived on the travel treats of spending a few days in quirky Amsterdam, before the start of my lectures. This means I am also relaxed after the long flight to Europe and energised for my students’ benefit. This month the Netherlands experienced their wettest winter in 60 years. It was also bitingly cold with temperatures hovering at 0 degrees. Wrapped up in a warm coat, hoody and gloves still leaves one popping into the warmth of shops with great winter sales, when the strolls along the canals become too icy. A canal boat trip is always mandatory to my Amsterdam experience in providing stunning vistas of the old Dutch architecture, houseboats, bicycles galore and happy fellow sailors.

I was fortunate to catch the last day of the ‘We Have a Dream’ exhibition at De Nieuwe Kerk which featured Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela which presented the narratives of their personal quests against social injustice. It was a somewhat bitter/ sweet experience to honour both Gandhi and Mandela as having such enormous South African and international historic, political and social influence.

Visiting the Van Gogh museum is always a joy – reflecting on his brushstrokes, use of colour and artistic vision. And reliving the emotions of his tragic life experiences. The contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi created a series of paintings based on Van Gogh’s iconic works. These versions added a personal twist to his works and I was again fortunate to enjoy this once off exhibition.

The previous BSN host, Theo Kersten, invited me to stay over with him and his wife, Gabri, in the charming village of Doven, near Arnhem. We visited the magnificent old castle of Ruurlo to view the art works of Carel Willink. Again, there was a Chinese twist as Willink’s muse, the eccentric Mathilde, wore the famous Chinese designer, Fong-Leng’s outlandish yet exquisite outfits – not only to pose for Willink, but also when buying bread at the corner shop! The Kerstens and I then popped over to Germany to Emmerich on Rhein for grocery shopping and petrol. Prices are more favourable over the border. The river Rhein was majestic in its gushing waters and made me wish I could transport some its liquid treasure to our dry Cape….

The next morning Theo invited me to cycle with him along the picturesque dykes. It was a freezing -4 degrees in the icy winds and I was very grateful for the loan of Gabri’s ski jacket.

My lectures started in Buren later that day and I was delighted to meet with students from SA, the Netherlands, Zambia, Kenia, Nigeria and Aruba. This diversity provided fertile ground for cross cultural conversations and innovative solutions to leadership challenges in the workplace. My boutique hotel in Buren had recently been renovated and I luxuriated in guilt free baths and delicious Dutch cuisine.

The last treat before flying back home was meeting up with my high school Bestie, Bryna and her husband in Amsterdam for dinner. There is something very special in meeting up with friends in a foreign place. A renewing of friendship and conversations in an exotic and different culture.

And then home again Jiggety-Jig. Travel opens our minds to new perspectives and grows our resilience in responding to everyday challenges – for me it was the Zuma dilemma and the drought…..But being home again makes us grateful for the many blessings of our dearly beloved sunny SA! And as I am writing this the heavens have opened with heavy rain showers.

Learning, teaching and thriving in Thailand

My most magical www experience to date was finding the retreat in Thailand where I could volunteer as a teacher of the Enneagram and experience my own Eat, Love and Prayer. By simply searching 3 words – Thailand, Enneagram and Retreat – I found this non-profit therapeutic centre situated in northern Thailand, near Chiang Rai.

After a few e-mails and a Skype meeting with a faculty member, I booked my flights to Thailand. The New Life Thai Foundation is a community made up of residents, volunteers, and guests who stay for anything from a few weeks to even years. The activities are designed to cultivate mindfulness, a love of learning and spiritual growth. The community hails from all corners of the globe – people in search of a space for acceptance and learning the tools for moving forward. Calmness and serenity surrounds those challenged by stress, depression, anxiety, abuse, trauma, substance dependence or relationship challenges.

After a stressful flight which was delayed for 8 hours in Ethiopia, I had my own encounter with anxiety. Again, I learned that so often we imagine needless worst-case scenarios – in my case ‘one night in Bangkok to make a hard woman humble’ in imagining myself stranded on a Bangkok pavement as I had missed my connecting flight. My fears were allayed as the wonderful Thai staff whisked me off the plane, through passport control, put me up in a fancy hotel and arranged my connecting flight for the next morning – all with superb efficiency and delightful friendliness.

Mornings at the retreat start at 6h30 with the melodious sounds of a huge brass bell. The first daily activity is a choice of yoga or meditation. These activities take place in noble silence which started the night before, after dinner. I thrived on the yoga, set in an open air hall with views of the Thai fields and the sun rising and facilitated by highly skilled yoga teachers. All meals are vegetarian; prepared mostly with ingredients cultivated on the farm. The food was exceptionally yummy, varied and nourishing.

The morning meeting is attended by the entire community where the activities of the day are communicated, visitors are introduced or bid farewell, followed by a guided meditation practice. Most of the community then do a two- hour work session – this may be looking after the ducks or cows, recycling, cleaning, gardening, building activity or food prep.

My volunteering was teaching the Enneagram over 5 days during 90 minute afternoon workshops. During my second week I gave 23 members coaching feedback on their Enneagram styles. Further learning activities offered are therapies in art, Cognitive Behaviour, Addiction, Body-Centring and Biodanza. In the evenings community members develop leadership by facilitating activities such as drum circles, public speaking, Reiki and 5 Rhythms dance. I also facilitated Women’s Conversation Circles on the topics of Identity and Relationships. These discussions were rich and interesting as the women are from diverse countries, ages and contexts.

On the week ends we pooled to catch the local open taxis to Chiang Rai for a few hours of market visits, sampling delicious Thai food and sublime massages. A highlight was visiting a coffee shop – Cat n a Cup – where 14 cats ruled the show! Community members use the retreat bikes to venture off into the beautiful countryside, play soccer with the local school children or watch movies. I relished my walks around a lake and was entranced by flocks of crane rising out of the marshes into the early morning mists.

After two weeks I bid the community farewell. I felt restored with newfound hope, a sense of calm, gratitude for both the big and small things in relationships and nature – and richer for the immense learning opportunity of having met so many wonderfully curious people – all of us just walking each other home.

The last few days were action packed as I met up with my adventurous daughter who had been traveling in Laos. We visited magnificent temples, cycled through farmlands, caught local buses to Chiang Mai and visited the magnificent mountainous Chiang Dao.

 

The highlights there were visiting a forest temple with views as if planted on the top all Earthlings, a temple situated in a cave and wading with the locals in steam baths, visiting a barista who grows and roasts his own delicious coffee – and being a brave passenger on my daughter’s hired scooter!

Although I am grateful and happy to be reunited with my family, friends and countrymen – a wee part of my soul remains in Thailand where I hope to return at the end of this year for more loving, eating, praying, teaching and learning in my newfound community.

 

Gritty Conversations

We  feel overwhelmed when we need to have a potentially gritty conversation with a friend, colleague, boss, partner or family member. This is a theme which often pops up in my coaching practice. Usually we have gone over and over our thoughts of anxiety, resentment, anger or sadness – often imprisoned by a repetition of the same scenario as a hamster wheel in our minds, as we think of someone in a tricky scenario.

The way forward or out of this misery is to have a Gritty Conversation to clear misunderstandings, appreciate the other, express our needs and find a constructive way forward. The hamburger metaphor for gritty conversations is not new. However, my client, a dynamic market research team, and I have created a gourmet burger of conversation. This recipe is also pertinent as the basis for those dreaded performance appraisals which HR demand of us.

My friends will smile at my boldness in sharing recipes – as I am not known for my culinary skills – but this is a recipe of the mind and heart – and not the stomach! May it lead you to having conversations which clear your mind for happier thoughts and improved and richer relationships in your life.

Recipe for making a wholesome hamburger of feedback – a gritty conversation

  1. Preparing the ingredients: Be clear on your intentions for the conversation. What is your best intention? What message do you wish to convey? What will be a win/win outcome for this conversation? How should your mood be to best have the conversation – calm, centered and clear. How will you manage the tone if the other person becomes defended/emotional? When is the best time and place to have the conversation?
  2. Top bun: This is the appreciation ingredient. Affirm the other person in a genuine manner for something specific that they have done in their work, your relationship or as a team member.
  3. Patty – either a yummy lentil patty or quality mince – good protein. Present the facts of what you observed or what occurred without embellished stories or exaggerated emotions. State clearly why this might have been unacceptable to you and what your expectations were.
  4. Tasty garnishing – pickles, tomatoes, cheese, onions and crispy lettuce. Asking incisive questions is the deliciousness of any conversation. Ask the person for their version of events. What was their intention? What got in the way? How did they feel about the results? Listen with an open mind and heart. Do not interrupt. Acknowledge their feelings even if different to yours.
  5. Bottom bun: Summarise the conversation. Confirm both your understanding. Your version may well have shifted. Agree on actions going forward. Affirm the person for the way they showed up during your conversation.
  6. Serve on a plate with a serviette. This is the closure – pop the person a mail or text with a short summary of your agreement going forward. Keep the tone of the mail positive and again affirm the person.

There may well be people who are not willing to even taste your delicious burger – accept them in their hunger state as not being able or willing to shift their perspective by even having a conversation with you. We do not know what burdens people carry which leads to them shutting others out – but it is not for us to take this personally as it is not our business. Rather celebrate the people who are in your life and are willing to share a meal of human connection.

Here’s wishing you many great gritty conversations, which when held in a skilled, heartfelt and mindful way, will lead to feelings of calm, clarity, improved relationships and actions leading to great outcomes.

 

Transitions – kissing ourselves over the edge

As coaches we often need to guide our clients from one life boulder to the next boulder – like the leap of faith we make when hiking in the mountains and feeling the anxiety of maybe not being sure footed when we jump from the edge of one boulder to the safety and excitement of being on the next boulder ready for new vistas, sauntering along on our hiking trail.

I will share some newfound life lessons on making a big career leap of faith from one boulder to the next in the autumn of my life. Mine was a voluntary jump and yet there have been many times when I wished I could turn back the clock and land back onto my safe boulder of how things were before.

The change was precipitated by contributing to the requirement for my previous organisation to bring about transformation in my position as the HR executive – a position I had happily held for 13 years. This could be called the ‘push’ factor. The ‘pull’ factor was my curiosity and yearning to be my own boss and focus on the aspects of human resources which I truly enjoy. I am still blessed with energy and health, the desire to share what I have learned in my long and exciting corporate career and the plan is to leave my pension savings intact for as long as possible.

A job title can falsely define our identity – losing one’s job title is a big adjustment. People who before treated me with respect suddenly became dismissive. This was a humbling lesson in how to earn authentic respect from others without the armor of a job title.

However, I realized again how important it is to cultivate relationships built on trust with those in our present work circumstances. My anchor client has evolved from executives whom I had worked with previously and who gave me the opportunity to focus on my core passion of people development – mentoring, coaching and facilitating leadership programs.

The first year of leaving a fulltime job is not the time to have a gap year. The network of relationships which you require to establish yourself, need to be explored while you are still fresh in the minds of others. This meant that I have worked harder than before and the flexible time off to go hiking or traveling has not yet materialized.

Life also does not co-operate in the way we would wish it to when we need a smooth transition with no added stresses. My three children all presented with their own life challenges during this year of boulder leaping and I have had to flex my reliance muscle in being there for them while pursuing my own goals.

Despite all these hurdles I now feel as if I am doing the work which has gifted me with the most meaning – at times I am so fulfilled that I can truly call my work my passion.

I have learned that we need to be accountable to ourselves in being kissed over the boulder edge, and that the leap from secure permanent employment to earning your own agency can be made smoother by remembering the following:

  • Self-care – make time for that beach walk, eat healthily, laugh heartily and enjoy a glass of Merlot or whatever softens the sometimes-hard edges of life (in moderation!)
  • Friends – choose to spend time with friends who lift your spirits, believe in you and encourage your change of life choices. Avoid negativity from people who project their own lack of self-esteem
  • Family – be there for them but also be clear in making requests for their support
  • Build your network. Connect with the people where you have previously enjoyed a positive work exchange. Be clear on your distinctive talents and offerings and articulate how you can exceed expectations – and then deliver
  • Remind yourself every day of why you chose to make the leap to your new boulder and celebrate the moments of joy and progress as you explore the new vistas
  • Take time off – be flexible with your clients in saying ‘yes, but not now’ in meeting their needs and still fulfilling your own work life balance
  • Don’t take refusals personally – not everyone will see the value in your offering or have the capacity to contract you according to your expectations. A spirit of abundancy means there is enough work for everyone. I am often amazed how assignments come my way with exquisite timing in challenging my own development
  • Stay current – the world of work is changing rapidly and your own learning needs to stay ahead in remaining relevant and innovative for your clients
  • Gratitude – acknowledging both the small and big delights in life mean that we cannot hold resentful thoughts. It is not possible to be resentful or anxious while we are in a state of gratitude
  • Celebrate every leap your clients make and use the learning to further build your coaching skills for the next client

This experience has given me the grit and opportunity for exploring possibilities with my clients in their quests for exploring uncharted territories. I look forward to sharing more adventures with you.

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