Diversity in icecream. Tin Pot Creamery

Embracing Differences without Conflict – from Steven Sels, CEO Primagaz

We are continuing with our series on diversity inspired by Steven Sels, the CEO of Primagaz.  The previous post broached the benefits of diversity and how the company’s intentional strategy to build multi-national and multi-cultural teams favorably impacts their talent management, bottom line, and corporate culture.

Read: 12 Riches of Diversity – Interview with Steven Sels, CEO Primagaz

Today, Sels shares the practical side to harvesting these riches:

  • How it happens
  • Who does what and when
Steven Sels in action

Pre-Requisties to Effective Diversity – Differences without Contention

Sels believes diversity programs fail to reap these riches when the prerequisites are not yet in place.

“Do not start with diversity because it will crash.  For me there is no real cost to diversity. But there are prerequisites that, if they are not in place, I am convinced a diversity strategy will not work.

When there is a culture of openness, collegiate decision-making, work organized in networks (vs. in silos), and the willingness to hire people who do not fit a standard profile, then diversity speeds up performance and growth.”

Denise Dampierre (DD): Describe collegial decision-making at Primagaz.

Steven Sels (SSe): Our Executive Committee – the CEO, CFO, COO, CHRO, CMO – meets weekly.  We are an international group: I am from Belgium, we have a Turk, two French, and a Franco-American who has lived 15 years in the US.

Every Monday, we take the whole afternoon together.

It starts at 11:00 and we resolve the first two issues on the agenda.  Over lunch, the five of us take one and a half hours to debrief the previous week and share what’s coming up.

The afternoon is open for presentations from throughout the organization.  Numerous teams present a project for review and decision-making.  We add to the agenda proposals of a maximum of five slides submitted by the previous Wednesday. During the Monday meetings we spend thirty minutes in discussion with each team.  We do not spend the time reviewing the presentation; we explore and debate the issues. It requires considerable preparation by everyone.

These five slide proposals and ensuing discussion require that team members are aligned with each other; the teams themselves have already practiced collegial decision-making.

The Exec Com reviews many projects every week.  This gives us a feel of the trends and new perspectives. The invitation is open to any team to convince us of a project.

“It can be very difficult for people from other countries to manage French teams.  The fact that we see each other very regularly makes it easier to understand and to be understood.”

DD: Do you have to meet every week and for as long?

SSe:  It’s because we see each other every week that we advance faster.

Colleagues outside the company tell me that this half-day is wasted time.  For me it is four half days gained time!  We don’t have to get the train rolling, it already is in movement and these meetings build the momentum.  It’s a continuum that functions easily, smoothly, and productively.

“Since we review many projects every week, we gain a feel of the trends and new perspectives.”

DD: How do you arrive at collegial decision-making?

SSe: We aim for a unanimous agreement in our Executive Committee.  If someone is not in accord, it is the responsibility of the other members of the committee to find the arguments to convince him. This can take several sessions. If we do not succeed in convincing the other person, then we do not proceed with that venture.

Since we meet so often, we get to know each other and learn to work with our various cultural frameworks and individual personalities.  It is rare that we cannot reach an agreement.

This collegiate decision-making works so well for us because we are multi-national and multi-cultural.  We need to take advantage of our diversity of cultures, points of view, and characters.

Once we have reached the agreement, implementation goes super-fast.  Management is all aligned and we each know what to do to make it happen. What a great advantage!

DD:  You described collegiate decision-making at the Executive Committee level as possibly lengthier in discussion yet speedy in implementation.  How can you act quickly if operational teams also go through the time-consuming process of collegiate decision-making?

SSe: This process of having groups present to the Exec Com forces the teams to be aligned beforehand.  They have been through their own collegiate decision-making process before their proposal reaches us.

“Once we have reached the agreement, implementation goes super-fast.  Management is all aligned and we each know what to do to make it happen.”

DD: What happens when you cannot reach an agreement?  How do you avoid outright conflict?

SSe: It happens very rarely. Very, very, very rarely.

We have a culture where things get said directly, not in back-handed comments in the hallways but face-to-face in the Exec Com meetings.

We also acknowledge cultural differences and account for it.  Take the French. Their communication style is High Complexity & Very Direct.  By the way, this is only true in France, not in other European cultures.

High complexity means using long sentences and sometimes running around the bush before getting to the point. They can also be very direct with comments, like giving a slap.

Germans have Low Complexity and are Direct.  Italians and Spaniards tend towards High Complexity and Indirectness.  That’s also the case with our Turkish head of HR.  The Americans have yet another mentality.  These differing mindsets are wealth that we want to tap into. If we only have French people around the table, or men or women, everyone will come in the same direction because we are all biased on the same way of working.

And yet, it can be very difficult for people from other countries to manage French teams.  The fact that we see each other very regularly makes it easier to understand and to be understood.

“We aim for a unanimous agreement in our Executive Committee.  If someone is not in accord, it is the responsibility of the other members of the committee to find the arguments to convince him.”

In some rare cases, you still need a CEO to decide. I remark, “There are too many different opinions around the table. Here is my proposal and why I think it’s the best for company.”  I open the debate and ask if everyone can find themselves in this solution. And we move on.

DD: Even that is a collegial way to decide!

DD:  How do you handle errors in a collegial decision-making environment?

SSe: We need to be close to our teams and to be visible.  Visible thought leadership. We work in a decentralized organization; we depend upon trust. People must be comfortable saying things.

Admitting error only works when people know an example of someone who exposed himself and the situation turned out positively for him and for the company. They can tell themselves, “I dare speak up.”

We apply this regularly in meetings asking, “Is there still an elephant in the room?”  Is there a potential or actual problem that everyone sees yet nobody talks about?  We make it super easy and simple to broach so that people see that they are not blamed.

When I learn of a mistake, I pick up the phone and call someone at our holding company.  We can only correct mistakes when we know about them.  Then we seek solutions.  It’s simple.  It’s our culture.

I worked in other organizations before joining SHV Holdings where employees had suspicions about unethical behavior.  They kept quiet.  That doesn’t happen here.  Bad news travels quickly so that we can do something about it.

“How we shape our buildings shapes our business and our people.”

We also have to be in touch with our indirect reports and reduce notions of hierarchy.  Hierarchy fosters fear.  We use our physical building space to create connection.  It’s open space with possibilities for privacy.  Open space only works well when people also have an opportunity to retreat.  We call it Total Workplace Organization because how we shape our buildings shapes our business and our people.

There is no golden rule to preventing mistakes.  It’s a daily effort.

Thank You

Many thanks, Steven Sels, for sharing with simplicity (Low Complexity) and candor (Direct) how Primagaz transforms the concept of diversity and the reality of different perspectives into quality decision-making and speedy implementation.

  • Meet often & consistently
  • Model the behavior you seek
  • Create processes which reinforce collegial decision-making at multiple levels
  • Take time to get Ready & Set. Then GO!

Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll be sharing a tool to put these insights into practice.

Questions for Steven Sels?  Post them in the comments below.  Thanks.

Cover photo – Tin Pot Creamery
They ship ice cream throughout the US! 

Woman doing pushups in Pilates class

Lead Constructive Meetings – Tips from Pilates

For many of us, meetings are a necessary evil.  We need team ressources and support, so we have to meet.  And yet many meetings feel unproductive.

How does one organize and run a meeting for optimal teamwork and productivity?

Contrary to popular believe, efficient and effective meetings rarely start by jumping right into the meat of the matter.  That’s expecting everyone to have thinking, listening, and creative caps donned.

It’s rarely the case.

Here is inspiration from one of my most envigorating weekly meetings:  a Pilates class.

1. Define the Mindset

Tips from Pilates

Our teacher begins every class the same way.

“Breathe.  Stand straight.  Feet hip-width apart.  Shoulders above hips.  Tummy muscles squeezed tight. Let your chin drop towards the sternum and feel the stretch…”

Every time, I am caught by both surprise and familiarity.

Surprised because I’m slouching, am disconnected with my body, and don’t even realize it!

These regularly repeated words prime both my spirit and my body for stretching and muscle-building. It takes 10 seconds.

Positive Mindset in Meetings

How do you prime your team members for alignment during your meeting?  Model the behavior you seek.

For connectedness: Take 10 seconds to smile and look each person in the eye.

To tackle a challenge regarding the competition: Link your fingers and stretch your arms out in front of you.

To foster listening: Stay silent until the room quiets down.

2. Engage the Core Muscles

Tips from Pilates

“Tighten your abs. Squeeze the inside of your thighs …”

Engage the Core Muscles in Meetings

What will constitute a “firm core” for your meeting?  Let the group know the intellectual muscle you expect.

“Let’s put those creativity caps on!”

“We have a full agenda.  We want to hear from everyone who has something new and relevant to add.”

“Disagreement is OK. When we present our viewpoint, let’s stick to facts. I may request a moment for each of us to write our thoughts down before continuing the debate.”

3. Clarify Expectations

Tips from Pilates

“Feel the stretch in your lower back…”   It’s our cue for success; if we only feel the legs, something is out of whack.

Clarify Expectations with a Meeting Agenda

A shared written agenda helps keep the meeting on track.  It’s an agreed-upon tool to refocus.

“The decision we have to make today is ___________. You have a valid point and we still need to move ahead.”

Time indicators on your agenda adds yet another element of accountability.

“We had spent 15 minutes debating this issue.  Are we getting ready to decide or do we need to come back to this topic with additional information?  If so, who will do what?”

4. Maximize Results in Minimum Time

Tips from Pilates

“Let’s tone triceps.  For these push-ups, place your hands facing forward with arms next to your body.”

Standard push-ups build upper body strength.  This particularly positionning tones triceps.  Our goal is fit-looking arms to show off our summer wardrobe.  These forward-facing pushups get us the results easier and faster.

Stay Focused

Less is more.  Avoid distraction that generate lengthy, somewhat-related discussions.  Aim to define several concrete steps to move forward and assigning who does what.  That’s HUGE and motivating to all.

5. Self-Evaluate

Tips from Pilates

Between exercises, our Pilates instructor reminds us to align our body, to strengthen our core, and where to feel the stretch.

Oops!  I squeezed those glutes five minutes ago and then shifted my concentration to the movement.  In that short time span, I forget to keep those butt muscles engaged!

Invite Re-Alignment throughout the Meeting

In the same way, it’s helpful to return to meeting’s posture, purpose, and schedule to check in.

To avoid putting someone on the spot, invite self-evaluation.

“How are we doing on creativity/timeliness/mutual respect/?  What could you do to help us be more imaginative/productive/effective listeners?  Let’s continue…”

Read Turn Good Intentions to Great Teamwork for an example of self-evaluation during meetings.

 

6. Nourish your Brain

Tips from Pilates

Between exercises we rehydrate with water infused with lemon, ginger, or cucumber.

Serve Water during Meetings

Do you know that the brain contains 80% water?  Studies show that hydration contributes to memory and clear thinking.

Serving water also creates a pause in the meeting dynamic.  Try relieving tension between participants by offering a glass of water.  These nanoseconds allow the brain to receive nourishment AND to process emotions which boosts the ability to reason and rationally weigh alternatives.

The humble act of service demonstrates your care for the participants.  It’s a basic human need to seek belonging and significance.  A glass of water with a smile allows you to connect one-on-one with a person, even during a large meeting.

7. End with a Closing Routine

Tips from Pilates

“One last stretch before we go.”

Stretch the Value of the Meeting with One Word to Recap

“Let’s go around the table with a take-away from each of you.”

This is a gentle yet firm way of securing buy-in….at least on something.  Peer pressure encourages even the reticent participant to contribute.  It could be eye opening for them to realize the meeting held value to their colleagues.

If the closing comments fall below your hopes,consider how to prepare or manage your next meetings differently.  Take stock:

  • What went well?
  • When were the less productive moments?
  • How well did your respect the schedule (ie and respect the value of your participants’ time)?

Want to participate in a business meeting with these tips in action?  Contact me about organizing a conference in your workplace.

Apply to Life

These techniques work marvels with children around the kitchen table.  It’s the opportunity to address an elephant in the room and get the kids involved.

“I noticed that we have trouble getting out the door on time in the morning.”

Define the Mindset – Smile.  Reassure the children this is a time for solution-finding, not blaming.  “Around this table I won’t tell anyone to ‘Stop dragging your feet.’”

Clarify Expectations “Let’s come up with ideas to make mornings calm and joyful.  From our list we can choose one to try this week.”

Invite Self-Evaluation“Yes, your brother could ______.  What could YOU do?”

Stay Focused – When the kids squabble among each other, reframe.  “Hum. How is that pinching helping us get out the door on time? (Pause. Eye contact. Smile.) Another idea?”

Finish Strong“Let’s each say one phrase to share what you thought of our meeting.”

  • “I felt like a big person.”
  • “I know how to help.”
  • “We have great ideas!”

Cover photo from Unsplash

Boys in teamwork. What collaboration!

Turn Good Intentions into Great Teamwork

Who among you works with youth or young employees?  How do you help the next generation to transform good intentions into teamwork, collaboration, and positive results?

That’s what I had the opportunity to put to the test this past week when teaching a class in Introduction to Management to university students, youth with several months of corporate work experience.  The university called me in to pick up a class in the middle of their curriculum; I began with the topics of Motivation and Leadership.  How appropriate!

Personable and polite students entered the class with good intentions.  In theory, they were motivated.  In practice, they quickly lost focus by chatting with a colleague or scrolling on their mobile phone.  Bye bye, teamwork.

Professor colleagues lament the young generation’s lack of attention and most respond in either of two schools

  • to carry on whether the students are listening or not
  • to walk over to the students’ desk and close their computers for them

Motivation 3.0

My area of expertise is Motivation-in-the-Era-of-Internet which expounds that employees are most motivated when they find autonomy, mastery, and purpose in their work.  Ignoring students or treating them like a child lies contrary to this Motivation 3.0 approach.

“Management is about creating conditions for people to do their best work…And what science is revealing is that carrots and sticks can promote bad behavior and encourage short-term thinking at the expense of the long view.” – Dan Pink, from Drive

Additionally, my experience with Millennials confirms their search for authenticity and connection in relationships.  Neither of the above teaching/leadership styles convey either genuine interest in or an engagement with the students.

Here was my dilemma:  How to teach/lead and engage these students in a way that

  • ensures results (the material is covered qualitatively=
    AND SIMULTANEOUSLY
  • creates a sense of belonging and desire to contribute among the students?

In other words, how to help these Post Millennials transform their good intentions into positive teamwork?

Team-Generated Collaboration Guidelines

We used a tool that works wonders in my workshops: Co-Developed Group Guidelines

This tool helps both create and maintain a constructive work environment.

CREATE COLLABORATION

1. The first step entails putting the good intentions into writing.  Here is how.

Invite your group to share, “What can we each do to work together as a great team?”

Folk respond right away with, “To respect each other.”  And the list continues.

2. It’s helpful to break down vague or over-used words. 

  • “What does respect mean exactly?”
  • “What will it sound/look/feel like?”
  • “What is an example of lack of respect that we should avoid?”

3. Once the brainstorming complete, invite the group to prioritize three to five of these great team behaviors.

The process of making the list together brings the success-criteria to top of mind.  It’s like hearing the reminder to drink 1 liter of water a day.  We know these are helpful behaviors AND we benefit from remembering to do so.

The process of having built these teamwork criteria together builds belonging to the group and accountability.  “It’s the rules I made.  It’s normal that I should keep them.”

Here is our class’ list.Teamwork collaboration guidelines

MAINTAIN TEAMWORK

As humans, any rule is hard to follow, even the great ones we make ourselves!  We need help yet even well-intentioned positive reminders can sound like nagging.  Invite self-evaluation as an effective means of follow through.

Half-way through my class I invited our group to review our team ground rules.  “How are we doing? Thumbs up (good teamwork), side ways (OK job), or down (need improvement).”

In our class, thumbs were all over the place!  That’s an opportunity to address the elephant in the room.

“Well…it looks like some people think we are listening while other people talk, and others don’t.”

That’s where I appealed to everyone to think of one or two behaviors to change so that our listening improved.  Some students closed their computers on their own accord.  We reshuffled the break-out groups which had the effect of separating chattering partners.  People sat up straighter in their chairs…

And we smiled (!) and continued with class.

And for our next session on Communication and Teamwork, we’ll begin by reviewing those same co-developed ground rules and setting a personal goal to be 1 Great. Team.

How do you engage your young employees?  Please share in the comments.

Apply Teamwork Guidelines to Your Work

What is your challenge with teamwork?

  • People arrive late in meetings
  • Folk repeat what has already been said or done
  • Meetings have no agenda
  • Lack of trust

Try setting a new stage.  Instead of focusing on the challenges, brainstorm together about great teamwork and, TOGETHER, set yourselves some clear guidelines.

Apply Teamwork Guidelines to Your Life

Easter is this Sunday.  In France, it’s customary to celebrate over a looooooong meal with extended family.  You love the food, wine, and company.  The kids get bored à table for an eternity.

Try this activity “en famille.

“Sweethearts, what can we do to make the big family meal a great experience for everyone?”

Everyone can brainstorm:

  • “We could get up and play between courses”
  • “We could get up and help (!) between courses!!”
  • “We could have Easter Egg drawings and color them while the adults finish eating”
  • “We could make an Easter Egg hunt for the adults!!!”

Once the brainstorming juices have flown free, then select one or two options that’s acceptable to everyone. 🙂

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Thoughtful brother

Family Feedback Example—To Mom, be more generous. To child, learn through a job.

We are coming to a close of our Family Feedback of the year. One son remains to give and receive his feedback with his parents.  This is the fourth in the series of posts to give you a glimpse into one our most precious and powerful family moments.

Click here for our How To’s.

Read on to learn how my son told me to be more generous and I encouraged him to grow by working simple jobs of manual labor or service.

Feedback to Mom

Well Done

We are seated at the dinner table and the boys chose to go around in the order of seating. It’s our second son who finally got the floor.

Son (17 years):  “Mom, what I really appreciate is your flexibility with letting me spend time (like the night) with my girlfriend.”

This is a very delicate issue between us because his behavior is in contradiction with my values.  Yet, you see, my job as a parent is to provide him with an education and to present him with a set of values.  He graduated from high school this summer and now lives out of our home.  My role as a mother has evolved now:   to allow my son to fly with his own wings.   I did my BEST while he was under our roof.   It is his life, not mine.  I have made mistakes and learned some of my best lessons from them. He too will blunder.  He might choose some or none of my values for his life.  He will live with the consequences of those choices.

With regards to my life and beliefs, I try to follow Jesus Christ.   Try.  Because invariably I fail. But  Jesus loves me.  Still.  So, if I follow Christ, I am to love.  Still.  And loving my son now means to be “less of me and more of him.”

Mom:  “I’m glad you appreciate it.”

To Change

Son:I really don’t have a way where you could change…

This is our son who has complained and COMPLAINED about …everything and anything.  He’s an expert at finding faults.  We have purposefully taught him to identify other people’s strength and to encourage them.  It’s been WORK.

Son: “…ah yes.  You didn’t do it this year for Christmas, but sometimes you offer people the gifts you would like to receive.”

Mom:  “What do you mean, exactly?”

Son: “Last year you gave everyone kitchen tools.  The ceramic knife, the knife holder, the latest fashion cookbook…you used them all.”

Embarrassingly, this is all true!

Mom:  “I see (all too clearly) what you mean.”

Son:  “Ok, what about me?”

Transmiting a Vision of Thriving to My Child

Well Done

Mom: “What you have done excellently last year is master your schoolwork.  You graduated with honors. Intelligence contributes to these results, and you also worked for those grades.  You exhibited discipline and determination…along with balance in your social and spiritual dimensions of life.  And it was not just last year.  This year your academic demands are even heftier and you’re at the top of your class and keeping up with a life.”

Dad:  “You’re ranked N°1 in your class?”

Son: “Didn’t you know?”

Banter between son and father where the younger bull gets to show off his size and the senior one grunts his consent.

To Change

Rowdy teen boysMom:  “And what you could do to change is considering getting a job.  Try working for money.  The jobs you’ll have at your age are mostly entry level manual labor or service positions.  It’s a good thing to know first-hand the value of sweat and smile.

Son: “I’ve thought of that.  But you see, I don’t feel the neeeeeed to work yet.  (oh, oh!)  I work at school and then deserve a vacation.  I can afford not to work now.”

Mom:You can afford it?  Who’s paying for your time off?  Until when?  Why?

Now that you have more of the privileges of adulthood, isn’t time that you also take on more of those responsibilities too?”

Silence.

Mom:  “Aagh!  It’s tough when you want to eat your cake and keep it too!” (In French we say, ‘To have the butter and the money for the butter.’ ‘Avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre.’)

We can all relate…and smile.

Dad: “Are we finished with the analysis and mutual-flagellation?”

Everyone:  “Poooooor Dad!”  “If it were THAT bad, why did you stay with us?” “Yes, dear ”

Mom: “Everyone clear his plate and takes at least one other thing back to the kitchen!”

Thus closed the evening meal and the Family Annual Review.

Follow Through on the Family Feedback

Our comments now hang in our Frame of Fame…where they’ll stay several weeks and re-appear from time to time over the year…as behaviors might deteriorate and the need arises to

  • be humble,
  • be generous,
  • think before speaking,
  • advance step-by-step, or
  • dress one’s age

 

Enjoy this year’s whole Family Feedback series:

  1. Family Feedback How To’s &
    To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.
Family Happy New Year

Favorite family activity to wish a SoSooper New Year!

The Family Feedback

One of our most precious family moments comes after Christmas. That’s when we share what each person does well and how we can be even stronger as an individual and as a family.

We” means the kids start with the feedback and Mom & Dad L.I.S.T.E.N.

[bctt tweet=”The Family Feedback:  kids share and parents LISTEN.”]

The structured process keeps discussion positive.  Each child gets to share:
One Great Thing that Mom or Dad do
(and the kids want them to keep doing)
– One Thing they would like to Change about Family Life
(it would hugely improve family life for them)

PARENTS LISTEN.

You may be surprised by the suggestions!

Some “To change” suggestions could be a no-brainer “YES.”  One child asked, “Please, no more lemon cake.”

Other requests could merit deeper discussion.  (“More screen time.”  “No veggies.”)  Talk it over while everyone is calm and together.

The Family Feedback works with kids of all ages

with teens

Teen boys

Click here

 

with kids

Family meeting with parents and kids

Click here

 

with tots

Click here

Download Free Tools

SoSooper prepared some worksheets for you:

  • to prepare
  • to succeed
  • to remember

Free download

Click here to get your free downloads.

 

We’d love to hear from you.  Give us YOUR feedback too in the comments below!

 

Cover photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

African girls and boys choir singing

Sing Your Heart Out

Today’s Gift on the Joy. Peace. Love. @ Home advent calendar for parents

Original Gospel-Jazz Songs
by Ruth Naomi Floyd

How to receive this gift?  Take the fun quiz on the Parent Advent Calendar today and you will receive the download link.

Ruth Naomi Floyd offers us music to soothe the soul … and to surprise us.

Through Christmas day you can download six of her original compositions of Gospel Jazz.  The link is on the Parent Advent Calendar behind door 24.

Gospel & Jazz?

When I think of jazz I conjure up images of African-Americans in New Orleans and then Parisian night clubs.  Yet Ruth brings us jazz tunes with lyrics inspired by the Bible.

It’s an unexpected union. And it’s beautiful.

Ruth Naomi Floyd fine arts photo
Also a fine arts photographer, Ruth combines surprising juxtapositions in song as well as in images.

Beautiful Unexpecteds

Tomorrow we celebrate Christmas.  Another unexpected juxtaposition.  According to Christian theology, Christmas celebrates when God comes to earth in the form of Jesus, God’s Son in flesh and blood.  Why would an all powerful god debase himself so much as to become a human…and a helpless baby at that?!  It is unexpected, to say the least.  And to those who believe, it is beautiful.

Our hope in sharing this music is to encourage you and me to invite in the unexpected and to allow ourselves to be challenged and comforted by its beauty.

  • In the way we view our children – seeking (hunting down) their positive qualities and then building on them
  • In the way we view ourselves – allowing imperfection. We grow THANKS to mistakes
  • In the way we view our parenting – full of hope and purpose

BON COURAGE!

And as we introspect, let’s SING!

Music is Good for your Health

Our brain, heart, lungs, and emotions all benefit from listening to music, and even more from singing.

Ruth Naomi Floyd singing.
Ruth in full health. Photo by George Wells

Benefits of listening to music

Studies show that listening to music makes people happier, less stressed, less sensitive to pain, better performers in sports and in school, and helps with recall.

What?  With recall!

I wonder if it helps children with temporary memory loss remember to clean their room, to stop fighting with their brother/sister, and more!

That’s what we are banking on with these fun tunes to motivate children.  Enjoy!

Benefits of singing

Here’s how Stacy Horn, the author of Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others recaps the benefits of singing together.

What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.

The elation may come from endorphins, a hormone released by singing, which is associated with feelings of pleasure.  Or it might be from oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness.

It turns out you don’t even have to be a good singer to reap the rewards.

So gather around for some Christmas caroling “en famille.”

Need the lyrics?  Look them up here.

Stay in Style

Today’s Gift on the Joy. Peace. Love. @ Home advent calendar for parents

2 haircuts for children offered when Mom gets her hair cut
by Adrien Bracon, Coiffeur à Domicile, Hair Stylist at home

How to receive this gift?  Take the fun quiz on the Parent Advent Calendar today and you could be the lucky one to win the draw.

Your gift today.  One. Hot. Hairdo. Chez Vous. By Adrien Bracon.
Adrien is providing a discount for a regular woman’s cut (today for 60€) as well as the trim of two children’s hair for free.

Stylish from Head to Toe

When I was pregnant with our first son, I wondered if I could keep up my style.  Do mothers continue to walk in high heels and wear snugly fitted skirts with bangling jewels?

One of the joys of living in Paris is seeing chic mothers strut the street. Dressed in the latest fashion (with legs adorned in Gambettes from My Little Paris!), they push strollers along, wave good-bye to children going off to school, pause outside the bakery as the kids buy the daily baguette…

They’re stylish from head to toe.

These women LOOK stylish from head to toe BECAUSE they mastered key fashion accessories:  the hair-cut and the shoes.

Attention to detail with head and feet transform your look.  They change the way you walk and hold yourself.  And even a simple T-shirt takes on a fashionable turn when you wear it with a flattering coiffure and trendy footwear.

Adrien Bracon – How To

Boy getting a haircut
Adrien Bracon “coiffer-ing” at home

You can read about Adrien in Elle magazine where he was featured when he left Jean-Marc Maniatis haute coiffure hair salon to launch out on his own as a Coiffeur à Domicile, hairstylist at home.

Our family has enjoyed his art and company for decades.  Here’s how it goes:

Schedule the Appointment

We schedule a rendez-vous (usually via text messaging) about one week in advance.  He snips and styles all six of us (Mom, Dad, and four hair-conscious boys) in one sitting.

Easy Preparation

In preparation for his arrival we set up a stool in the living room (we have wooden floors.  Other folk transform a bathroom or the kitchen into the hair salon).  Do prepare a flat surface nearby where he can put his equipment.

Adrien arrives with the protection to wear during the cut and with his scissors, fragrant water for spraying, and mirror to admire the results.

Master Technique

His technique and training enable him to cut hair when it is dry.  It makes salon-at-home easier for you and me too.

Great with Kids

A father himself, Adrien, is experienced in working with children too.  They are more relaxed getting their hair cut in a familiar and comfy environment.  And, since they have been able to play and cuddle with you right up until snip-time, your tots are in prime shape.

Bye, bye the “Hush.  Behave yourself!” at the local salon.

With Adrien you get a quality cut, casual conversation in cozy comfort.

On our family’s heads, Adrien has “Carte Blanche.”

 

laughing child

Smile … all day

Today’s Gift on the Joy. Peace. Love. @ Home advent calendar for parents

3 beauty pouches “Colibri” (just the right size for lipstick or pencils)
from Beija Flore  

How to receive this gift?  Take the fun quiz on the Parent Advent Calendar today and you could be the lucky one to win the draw.

Trousses Colibri de Beija Flore

Beija Flore is offering THREE pouches.  Will you change your lipstick pouch with the seasons … or enjoy a mother-daughter duo…or give one to your mother-in-law (with a smile, of course)?  Thanks to their generosity, you get to choose.

Beija Flore makes practical pouches with beautiful Liberty fabrics.  Colorful, they are easy to find in the purse.  Stylish, they are delightful to pull out in fpublic.  Practical, they fit the necessities for mom and child

Beauty pouch necessities for maman:

  • a lip pencil,
  • a small mirror
  • several lipsticks

Beauty pouch necessities for child:

  • a few band-aids
  • a tube of arnica granules.
    Arnica speeds up healing…and the slightly sweet granules melting on a child’s tongue soothes physical and emotional “booboos” alike

 

Life-Changing Power of Smiles

Did you know that a smile changes life?

Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy, shares in her TedTalk how “faking it” (the smile) enables one to make it (to stimulate happiness hormones so that we authentically feel better.)

Smiling people attract attention.

As a start-up I attend multiple events with notable speakers…and, after their talk, I regularly go up to comment.  People recognize me.  “I saw you in the room.  You were smiling.

And a smile makes a difference for your child too.

smiles

Changing Home-life with Smiles

Try this.

Call your child over.

(CHILD’s NAME)!

They might come hesitantly.  When you and I call our children’s name it is often for what they might interpret as “bad news”:  a chore to be done, a request to hurry, a correction…

This time, when your kids responds to your summons, just smile at them.  With your lips, your eyes, and your tone of voice as you share how wonderful it is to have them in the family.

Smiling Results

As you do this occasionally, several changes occur;

  • A new you – you become aware of your tone of voice as you call the children. Next time you want them to pick up their dirty shoes from the front hallway, you might even call them over to first smile (connect), then clean up (correct)
  • A new response from the children – Can we blame the kids for dragging their feet when they know it’s for parent-imposed work? Wouldn’t you respond differently if you wondered, “What will they have to say this time?”

One Mom’s story

One mother shared this:

We live in a house with a spiral staircase.  I’m often in the kitchen and the children are upstairs.  I used to feel that I was shouting at them all the time to come down and DO (set the table, do homework, pick up…)

Then I decided to call them to BE together.  Instead of shouting (!) their name while standing at the kitchen sink, I would physically move my body to the bottom of the stairs where I could speak their name and they could hear it.

They would scramble down…and I would pat on one the steps so we could look at each other eye-to-eye.

Mom: “Tell me one great thing about your day, darling.

And we spoke for one or two minutes.  Just the two of us.  Without the interruption of his brother and sister.

Mom: “Thanks, sweetheart.  Enjoy playing…and remind me, what happens when the buzzer rings?”

He’s already running off while answering, “Clean up toys!”

The volume went down in our home, the chores still got done, and the joy went up.

One Child’s Story

And here’s what another child shared:

“I like it when you have that lip stuff.  I can see your smile when you’re far away.”

Don’t leave home without your lipstick snuggled into your Liberty fabric lipstick pouch 🙂

Family Happy New Year

Favorite family activity to wish a SoSooper New Year!

The Family Feedback

One of our most precious family moments comes after Christmas. That’s when we share what each person does well and how we can be even stronger as an individual and as a family.

We” means the kids start with the feedback and Mom & Dad L.I.S.T.E.N.

[bctt tweet=”The Family Feedback:  kids share and parents LISTEN.”]

The structured process keeps discussion positive.  Each child gets to share:
One Great Thing that Mom or Dad do
(and the kids want them to keep doing)
– One Thing they would like to Change about Family Life
(it would hugely improve family life for them)

PARENTS LISTEN.

You may be surprised by the suggestions!

Some “To change” suggestions could be a no-brainer “YES.”  One child asked, “Please, no more lemon cake.”

Other requests could merit deeper discussion.  (“More screen time.”  “No veggies.”)  Talk it over while everyone is calm and together.

The Family Feedback works with kids of all ages

with teens

Teen boys

Click here

 

with kids

Family meeting with parents and kids

Click here

 

with tots

Click here

Free downloadDownload Free Tools

SoSooper prepared some worksheets for you:

  • to prepare
  • to succeed
  • to remember

Click here to get your free downloads.

 

We’d love to hear from you.  Give us YOUR feedback too in the comments below!

 

Cover photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Happy New Year tiara for girl

The Family Feedback with little children

How much can your young child tell you about YOUR job as a parent?

Quite a lot.

By listening you share encouraging words for your kids.

The Family Feedback with tots

The Family Feedback is ONE GREAT FAMILY TIME where kids give feedback to parents. They start with the good stuff 🙂 and move onto deeper discussion.  Read more here.

For very young kids, we stick to sharing family highlights.  

You want your kids to associate “family” with “fun”?  Then ask them to tell you about a fun time with Mom or Dad.  This strengthens the neural messaging in their brains so that they can more easily access memories of great times as a family.

Our brain is amazing…and malleable.

Ask, “Tell me about a time you felt really happy with us.”

“When we played ball together.”

Help your child fully recall with the experience through specific and factual questions.

“What color was our ball?” “Was it before or after lunch?” “Who else was playing with us?”

Then gently probe for what generated the positive emotions.

“What was soooooo great?” “Which part made you feel the most special?”  “What did you do to show you were happy?”

Thank your child.  

“Your telling me when you were happy makes me very happy too.  Thanks, Darling.”

We tried it & loved it

Here’s what one mother shared after a SoSooper workshop where she and her three year old daughter enjoyed such a conversation:

“My daughter was probably a little bit young (only 3) and I think was struggling to really engage with the activities. However, even though she dealt with it on her level, I think she still got a lot out of the experience – and found it nice that it was a time where mummy was ready to listen to her and find out what she found fun and loving about being in our family.

This workshop reminded me that we do all right as a family (eating together, playing together, respecting each other). As I’m sure you know only too well – it’s a tricky job, mummying, and can seem very unrewarding sometimes. If I were a business, (actually I’m a secondary school teacher) I wouldn’t put up with clients who were so demanding and so seemingly ungrateful for all my efforts. I think what you’re doing is so important – just like in any job, you have training for that ‘shot in the arm’ of enthusiasm and clarity to do your job better every day. Parents need that more than anyone!”

Free downloadDownload Free Tools

SoSooper prepared some worksheets for you:

  • to prepare
  • to succeed
  • to remember

Click here to get your free downloads.

Cover photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash