Improve your decision-making skills: time to get back to the gym!

Something I struggled with for a long time is chronic neck and shoulder pain when working with my computer. For the largest part of my life, I sat behind my computer like the hunchback of Notre Dame.

Well meant ergonomic advice, a standing desk, and using the mouse with my left hand only gave temporary relief.

The only thing that solves the problem structurally is going to the gym.

The problem is that I experienced being in the gym as exciting as watching grass grow. Besides, I always took the words of the apostle Paul “For bodily exercise profiteth little” (1 Tim 4:8) perhaps a little too close to heart. 

If getting back in shape is part of your past summer holiday intentions – here are three things that got me back in the gym earlier this year!

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For when I am weak, then I am strong – Authentic Self-Confidence

‘We read to know we’re not alone’ said actor Anthony Hopkins, playing the character of author C.S. Lewis, in the movie ‘Shadowlands’. 

People suffering from the imposter syndrome doubt their abilities and feel like a fraud at work.I personally suffered quite a bit from the ‘imposter’ syndrome in the past, and at times experience serious relapses. 

Fortunately, it turns out I am not the only one!

After reading ‘Authentic Self-Confidence’ by Jacqueline Brassey, Nick van Dam and Arjen van Witteloostduijn, I realize I am part of a large community that includes successful (and sometimes well-known) academics, surgeons, management consultants and senior executives.

Lack of Authentic Self-Confidence can lead to sub-optimal performance (e.g. because individuals feel constrained to bring the best version of themselves at work), which can have negative emotional impact on themselves, their families, teams and organizations. Therefore a high-quality publication on this topic is extremely welcome.

There are three reasons why I full-heartedly recommend this book.

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The Negative Feedback Paradox

Let me start with a confession:I never liked receiving negative feedback, and have spent the largest part of my professional life ignoring it.

I found ignoring negative (or perhaps I should euphemistically say ‘corrective’) feedback to be quite easy. Depending on the situation, I either did not take the person who gave me feedback seriously (‘that is rich – from him?’), comforted myself that the feedback concerned only a minor issue in the grand scheme of my behavior (and that other aspects of my behavior would compensate this), or convinced myself that the person giving me feedback did not understand the context in which I acted the way I did or said the things I said.

It was not until I hit a serious roadblock in my career, that I started to see the fact that systematically ignoring feedback was not necessarily a great idea. 

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Decision making for a new Decade

Every year millions of people around the world make New Year’s resolutions. Given that we are currently starting the 2020’s, we have the exciting opportunity to make resolutions for a whole new decade!

I decided to make mine around decision making. The reason for this was the fact that I had the opportunity to read ‘Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps – How to thrive in complexity’ by Jennifer Garvey Berger during the Christmas vacation.

One of the key notions in this book is that the world has become much more interconnected and therefore more complex. Unfortunately, our decision-making skills are ‘brilliantly designed – for an older, less connected, and more predictable version of the world’. In this context, Jennifer Garvey Berger mentions five mind traps we can find ourselves in, one of them being trapped in ‘Simple stories.

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Building an authentic personal brand starts with ‘why?

Two weeks ago, I was asked to participate in an event about personal branding. The organizer asked me to focus specifically on the link between creating a personal brand and remaining authentic.

Because I have been irritated by the majority of the publications on this topic in the last 5+ years, I was excited to speak about it. Why? Because these articles often suggest people need a partial, or even full, make-over, in order to fit the mold of the specific environment they seek employment in. If that does not feel natural to them, the second piece of advice most publications give them is: ‘Fake it until you make it’.

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Increase your personal effectiveness: put your own oxygen mask on first

Illustration Oxygen Mask (Pexels)

Make your responsibilities your priority

For many business leaders, their day in the office resembles drinking from a fire hose. Not only do they need to attend a large number of meetings (often back to back), they are also hit with a continuous stream of ad-hoc questions from their staff, peers, customers, and line managers which require their attention and action.

A couple of years ago I started to get really worried about my personal effectiveness. Despite the outrageous number of hours I spent at work, I found it increasingly difficult to complete my tasks and finish my projects.

In order to address this, I decided to analyze my workload to find out what I could do to change this.

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Adopting a growth mindset requires critical self-reflection from leaders

HC Gage Skidmore

Critical self-reflection is difficult to acquire, but extremely important for leaders

By Dirk Verburg

For several reasons I love reading autobiographies of leaders in business and politics. The first reason is plain curiosity: the possibility to take a look behind the stage of well-known events. The second reason is because these autobiographies provide a unique opportunity to understand decision making processes from the perspective of the decision makers. Why did they take certain decisions in specific situations? Were they aware of certain developments? From whom did they obtain advice? What was the role of important stakeholders? etc. Continue reading