SpaceX launch - think scaling up

Startup scaling challenge: to turn talented workers into motivating managers

What is THE MISTAKE to avoid when scaling your startup?

The thing that’s like the toothpaste that you cannot put back in the tube, no matter what.

The threat to avoid is turning your talented workers into crappy managers.

It’s your job as CEO to get this right.

You want performance-oriented team leaders who connect with and inspire their teams.  You seek the horizontal relationships true to your culture that brought you this far.

And yet, you need the processes that will take your company further.

How are you building up the next generation of managers without losing your entrepreneurial soul?

It’s like the relay race. To scale, you run facing forward. You need your leaders to put the baton into your hand, without your having to slow down or turn back. You seek a seamless connection between your vision and your leaders’ implementation capabilities.

There is a hitch.

You hired specialists.  Top experts in their field. They are confident when it comes to writing code or building a sales funnel. But they don’t have the know-how (and often nor the confidence) to inspire and develop people.

In the Beijing Olympics, the US relay teams were the favorites. Their runners scored the best individual times. Yet they dropped the baton
and the French team won.

Don’t you want the same confidence as this CEO?

“I have the conviction that we can go far together.”
– Benoit Dupont, CEO of WeMainain
after a team training by Denise Dampierre

Get Better Results as a Team

Stay with me as I share essential challenges in bringing up to speed young managers of scaling startups.

Challenge 1: To know that “what got them here” will not “take them there”

We are talking gut-knowledge, not head-knowledge.

Your new managers previously excelled as individual contributors. Many have come through an educational and professional environment where success depended upon their own performance.

Doing more of what they were doing well propelled them to the next level. Success depends upon their personal efforts.

Oops. Success depended (past tense) on their personal efforts.

What got you here won't get you there

The playing field changes when stepping into managerial shoes.

“Your job, as a manager, is to get better results from a group of people working together.”
– Julie Zhuo, previously VP of Design at Facebook

How do we learn that past practices don’t dictate future results?  It’s through the daily challenges in motivating people, organizing workload, and assuring quality outcomes the realization hits.

How can you, as CEO, speed up the process?  Help them take a step back.  But, do you have the time and energy to do so
when you are sprinting at full speed?!

Challenge 2: To equip upcoming managers with tools

Great managers cast a compelling vision, communicate it clearly, and organize to make it happen.  They bring purpose to the job, connect as people, and set up processes to optimize workflow.

These are learned capabilities.  You may have gained them on the job.  It takes time.  As the CEO of a scaling startup, time is money.

It’s worth the investment to quickly equip your managers with skills that both assure performance and build team spirit.  Give them a head start

  • to set and communicate priorities
  • to lead 1:1 meetings that uncover obstacles and boost motivation
  • to manage their emotions and those of others
  • to redirect a team member respectfully and effectively

It gives them a confident kickoff.

Employees who feel they belong and know they are valued want to contribute more.

The last thing you want is to promote your top performers, to blunder the navigation to manager, and to have them leave for the competition!

Challenge 3: To instore new habits

Knowing what to do is a first step.  That’s not enough.

You want your managers to create new habits so that building team performance becomes as natural as driving a car.

It means

  • To learn to take a step back
  • To not take challenges personally
  • To seek solutions instead of searching for blame
  • To listen first then, if necessary, to propose solutions

What you DON’T need

The easiest of these three needs to fill is N°2 – to equip with tools.  That’s what many management training programs do.

Scaling startups don’t need another program to build the right skills.  It’s good, but not enough. 

Your upcoming managers have knowledge.  They know it is important to build trust and listen actively.

But are they convinced of the need to change? (Challenges N°1)  How to keep them going when they try new tools which don’t work as expected the first time around?  (Challenge N°3)  These implicate a paradigm shift.

What they lack is know-how. 

  • How to act when you discover a team member made a mistake
AND how to respond this time so that next time errors surface quickly to get nipped in the bud
  • How to listen
when the other person lacks confidence to speak his mind
  • How to tap into collective intelligence…so that team members own the decisions

The MOST VALUABLE solution

Researchers Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo present the 70:20:10 model of learning.

They estimate that 70% of learning stems from experience, 20% from mentoring and personalized feedback, and 10% from formal courses and learning.

 10-20-70 model Learning development

The best manager-training program to help you scale up will include

  • a major focus (70%) on finding solutions to current and actual challenges
  • a personalized training plan (20%) to set growth goals and track progress
  • an easily accessible ressource for building new skills (10%)

That’s why I launched Boost Team Trust – Devenir le manager que vous avez rĂȘvĂ© d’avoir
(Yes, the program is in French.  I am American-born and a long-time Parisian.  Scaling startup clients from my in-person training encouraged me to launch out with an online solution.)

Through a 6-month online training and growth-sprint program, participants learn, Practice, and GROW as leaders.

Make a personalized Growth Plan

We begin with a 1:1 coaching session to set personal and team growth goals for the next three months.  We revise these in another 1:1 discussion the middle of the program, and reconvene at the close of six months to acknowledge progress.   These goals are personalized and can include

  • To set group guidelines together
  • To hold meaningful and regularly 1:1 meetings.  Meaningful means _____ (measurable)
  • To develop my internal network by ______ (action plan)

Learn tools when you want and when you need them

Participants have 24/7 access to training videos on managerial skills centered around tools

  • To build the growth mindset
  • To strengthen purpose
  • To connect with people
  • To create efficient processes

Solve Real Problems Together

Every two weeks we tap into collective intelligence to resolve a member’s sticky situation:  a team member is not satisfied, again – Teams that are supposed to collaborate still do not see eye to eye.This is one of the most appreciated moments of the program.

  • Young managers realize others share their challenges
  • They discover they can find solutions to other people’s problems…and learn to transpose those same ideas to their situation
  • They come to realize some of their own behaviors which might be contributing to the complication

Stay accountable and be encouraged to Keep Growing 

Every week, we connect on the community to set and review the week’s top three action steps to keep advancing towards long term goals while also managing the day to day.

Get YOUR team ready to scale

Are you aiming to take your company to the next level?  Do you want to make sure you team does not drop the baton?

I help talented, ambitious contributors become the managers they dream of having.

Run your relay with confidence.

Let’s talk.  Send me an email to set up a call.

US men’s relay team at Beijing. It takes more than individual champions to build a winning team.


What makes a great 1 on 1 meeting?

How do you feel after a 1 on 1 meeting with either your boss or your team member?

  • Relieved:  the 1 on 1 meeting can now be checked off the list…and you survived
  • Frustrated:  you want to develop professionally yet you still do not know how
  • Enthused:  you were listened to, you learned about your performance, and you know next steps

One-on-one meetings have the potential of being a vital motivator for both the manager and the team member.  How are they working for you?

Ineffective one on one meeting
What have you learned from this 1 on 1 meeting?! How motivated are you?

Purpose of a 1 on 1 Meeting

Let’s get back to the role of a great manager.

“Your job as a manager is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.”

– Julie Zhuo, previously VP of Design at Facebook

In this context, a great 1:1 meeting would address these issues

  • What is a “better outcome”?
  • How are you feeling part of the group?
  • How efficient and effective is our teamwork?

In this post, I’ll focus on the better outcomes.  In a next article I’ll address creating a group and then follow up with effective teamwork.

Improve Outcome through 1 on 1 Meetings

It’s your job to care about the team’s output and on the quality of the work accomplished. Hopefully, your team member also have an opinion about their performanc and that of the team.  Your team memberwill grow as a professional and as a person as she increasingly masters the skill of self-assessment.


Instead of sharing your view on her performance, invite her to express her own evaluation.

  • “What did you do well?”
  • “What made that possible?”
  • “How does it feel?”

A one-on-one meeting is an invitation for change.  One step in growth.

Change is not comfortable and occurs under two circumstances: either it is imposed from an outside source or the stimulus to change comes from within.  The former requires constant pressure.  When the boss is not looking, actions revert to “the way it was before.”   Lasting growth occurs when a person realizes, in the mind and in the gut, the need to act differently to secure desired results.

Self-evaluation sparks the realization that change is necessary.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Albert Einstein

Tap into emotions

Among the self-evaluation questions, I listed, “How do you feel?” This taps into emotions.

A collegue practically bounces out of her chair when answering, “How do you feel about closeing the deal?” 

She avoids your gaze when you ask, “How do you feel when we meet again and we are still facing the same issues?”

She is stewing with resentment over the public critique during her presentation and wants an opportunity to express her viewpoint.  “How do you feel after that meeting?”

Emotions generate the action power of a decision. 

Do you prioritize tasks you don’t care about?  They tend to stay on the list from week to week.  In contrast, work that is motivating and purpose-filled gets accomplished without reminders.

What attitude do you prefer in your team member?

  • “YES! I will commit.”
  • “That sounds like the right thing to do.”


I love savoring success and even engage multiple senses in the process.  Can you discuss the excellent analysis over delicious coffee?  That’s connecting with sight (seeing the other person), sound (listening to each other), taste and smell (the mocha)!

With remote work we might not be able to shake hands (sense of touch).  Could you each give yourself a high five to simulate one “en vrai” (in real life)?

Consider affirming her with words that point out HER effort and actions:

“YOU must be proud of YOURself.”

“YOU put in a lot of effort on that project.”

It’s a slight twist of the more common “I am proud of you,” which sounds nice
and yet is about you, the boss, and not about the person who rolled up her sleeves and sweat it out.


What if your team member cannot express how she succeeded?  Many of us come from an education system where we focus on mistakes. She can list ten faults, but her mind goes blank when searching for strengths.

It might feel like boasting when we identify our own strengths. It feels like teamwork when we notice the contributions of others.

What did the team do well? How did another team member contribute positively?

“You have many great qualities. You will really be successful when you realize that other people have great qualities too.”

– A wise and seasoned turnaround manager to his self-concerned grandson (my son!)


What if your team member asserts, “Everything is fine!” while you harbor the burden of telling her that performance is below par.

“Yikes!” you wonder…

Take heart. This is good news.  This discrepancy presents you with the invitation to explore.

  • “Hum. That is not exactly how I perceive the situation. What exactly is going fine? Give me an example. Let us keep doing what we do well.”
  • L.I.S.T.E.N.
  • “At the same time, it is RARE that 100% of work is going 100% on track.”
  • Pause.  L.I.S.T.E.N.

The two of you advance in mutual trust if the team member can express challenges. If she declines to do so, then pick up the baton and run with it.  “Are you ready to hear my perspective now?”


Yes, do consider giving a choice
and a choice where you can accept either answer.

If she is not ready to listen now, then when? In 30 minutes or tomorrow morning?

Offering a limited choice allows the other person an element of control in an uncomfortable situation.

Police officers were able to make arrests less violent when they asked:  “Would you like your handcuffs in front or in back? Do you want your mug shot taken from the left or the right?”

The fact of asking the questions changed the attitudes of BOTH the officers and the arrested folk. Everyone gained a degree of humanity while still using handcuffs and getting mug shots.

If your 1:1 meeting agenda includes exploring performance gaps, it is worth preparing some limited choice questions BEFOREHAND.

What is non-negotiable? The need to create an action plan to address unsatisfactory results.  Where are you flexible?

  • The location of the discussion
    “Shall we go out for coffee or meet in my office?”
  • The time of the discussion
    “Let us reserve 30 minutes. When can you make it either today or tomorrow?”
  • The person who launches the discussion
    “Would you like to start? What is happening? I would like to hear your perspective.”

Become the manager you want to have

Would you like to implement these strategies in your 1 on 1 meetings and become the manager you would like to have?

That is what we are doing in Boost Team Trust. It is a 6-month online training and growth sprint program to equip managers to

  • cast a clear and inviting vision
  • communicate it effectively
  • organize to make it happen

Contact me to find out more and to see if this program is the one for you to gain in capabilities, courage, and confidence as a manager.

Coffee grains, ground, creme

What does cultural transformation look, sound, and taste like?! Insights by Juan Amat, GM JDE Coffee

Juan Ignacio Amat joined Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) as General Manager France a year ago, after earning his stripes during 14 years at Pepsico.  Amat was attracted to the vibrant coffee market, the rich heritage of the longstanding brands (L’Or, Jacques Vabre, Senseo
), and the opportunity to build a culture of empowerment in this new company formed by a merger in 2015.

Nathalie Rolland, the Communications Manager who has been with JDE since before the merger, joined us for the discussion.

Denise Dampierre (DD): Juan, as GM of JDE France, what three numbers keep you up at night?

Juan Ignacio Amat, General Manager France JDE CoffeeJuan Amat (JA):  Denise, I sleep well, even when I drink coffee!

Here are the key numbers I track:

  1. The growth of the coffee market with respect to the rest of the dry food business. We want to keep adding customer value.
  2. Financial performance figures such as top line, bottom line, and cash.
  3. Employee engagement.

DD: How do you measure employee engagement?

JA:  We launched our first annual employee engagement survey a year ago.  That gave us a baseline.  These surveys are especially relevant when compared over time. Our second annual survey is underway.

We also developed a tool to test the engagement temperature every month during the company Coffee Talk.   The entire company is invited to a one-hour business presentation, Q & A, and learning event.  At the close the Coffee Talks, we measure engagement by asking employees whether they would recommend JDE to their entourage.

We define “Team Spirit” (“SolidaritĂ©” en français) as a sense of belonging and the freedom to bypass business silos and to go directly to the necessary sources for help and information.

We also put in place KPI’s for “Team Spirit” (“SolidaritĂ©” en français) which we define as a sense of belonging and the freedom to bypass business silos and to go directly to the necessary sources for help and information.

DD: How does one begin a cultural transformation? 

JA: We began by listening.  Our first employee engagement survey revealed that employees ranked Team Spirit among the most important values yet the least present in our day-to-day operations.

We begin cultural transformation by listening.

We realized that building Team Spirit would first require a change in mindset which could then translate into a different way of doing business.  We sought a way to generate self-questioning without destabilizing.

Nathalie Rolland (NR): It’s not easy to convey the notion of Team Spirit, and we want the teams to both intellectually and emotionally grasp this sense of mutual reliance.    In one of our Coffee Talks, we turned off all the lights so that everyone was in pitch black.  People naturally reached out for others and talked to each other to find their way.  We used this activity to demonstrate the limitations of working individually and in silos and the need for transversal cooperation.

JA: I was inspired by the 70:20:10 model for learning and development.

Aside:  According to researchers Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo, “Development generally begins with a realization of current or future need and the motivation to do something about it. This might come from feedback, a mistake, watching other people’s reactions, failing or not being up to a task – in other words, from experience.” They estimate that 70% of learning stems from experience, 20% from mentoring and personalized feedback, and 10% from formal courses and learning.

10-20-70 model Learning development

Back to Juan Ignacio Amat’s interview…

We wanted a culture that would develop Team Spirit through everyday exchanges, through the “70%.“

Most people, including JDE team members, think they are already performing well.  They don’t wake up in the morning and wonder how to make life miserable for others.  Instead, they rightly believe they are playing their part.  And they are proud of it.

Most people don’t wake up in the morning and wonder how to make life miserable for others!

Yet Team Spirit is about going the extra mile.  It’s about feeling such a sense of belonging that employees act as if they owned their business.  In fact, we call our employees “associates.”  Every JDE employee’s compensation is related to both financial performance and strength of human relations. At JDE, Team Spirit means investing the discretionary effort to exceed themselves and secure results.

To initiate the shift in mindset, we first invested in the “10%” through Strength-Based Management training for the Executive Committee, then the entire managerial level, and now every associate.

It’s in the space between good and excellent that we generate the greatest improvement and impact.

Strength-Based Management propelled us to focus on excellence.  Conventional management practices and the French education system focus on fixing what is wrong.  Seeking strengths is counter-intuitive, especially for a company that is as results-oriented as ours.  We used to seek out the numbers in red to scrutinize what’s behind them.

Strength-Based Management propelled us to focus on excellence. Seeking strengths is counter-intuitive, especially for a company that is as results-oriented as ours.

I appreciate the forward focus of strength-based management.  There is always room for progress. It’s in the space between good and excellent that we generate the greatest improvement and impact.  It’s incredibly more empowering and engaging than raising mediocre performance to satisfactory levels.

What you see is what you get
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Dr. Wayne Dyer – photo from

Training our workforce is a real investment.  We are quickly reaping the return on investment.  People come up to me saying, “Juan, I felt so appreciated when colleagues highlighted my strengths, some of which I did not realize I had!” “I am so encouraged in my job.”  These are the first indication of increased amiability and engagement at work.

DD:  How do you measure success?

JA:  That’s where we create a plan for the “70%.”  What will everyday business look like?  The real testing time comes during our moments of challenge, when we are tired, and the workload is heavy, or performance goals are not met.

I already notice a changed behavior.  In our difficult moments there is less defensiveness and accusation, less blaming and finger pointing.  Instead we observe increased accountability, responsibility, and teamwork.  Yes, even in moments of tension!  Cultural change is starting, and we aim for even more.

DD: Do associates really expose mistakes?

JA: We are a company of Dutch heritage in France.  We can be very direct in saying when things are not working.  Our cultural transformation changes how we express and respond to bad news.  We use factual language with quantitative metrics to describe the challenge.  This keeps us from veering off track towards accusations.  Instead of hearing, “We can’t reach our goal because you ____!” we focus on finding solutions: “What do you need to ____?  What are you expecting from me?”  We aim to give our teams the means to say, “I need your help with A, B, & C resources.”

It’s not always easy.  Yet this is the spirit in which we aim to resolve conflicts.

Instead of hearing, “We can’t reach our goal because you ____!” we focus on finding solutions: “What do you need to ____?  What are you expecting from me?”

NR: This is a major culture change and we have had to learn skills like active listening.  Beforehand, we heard from managers, “Why didn’t you make your numbers?!” Now, with a focus on strengths, managers also inquire about our successes. “What helped you reach your goals?  What are you especially proud of this year?”

With this different kind of listening, we are more willing to receive performance-improvement feedback.

DD: What concrete actions have you put in place to imbed the strength-based, solidarity mindset?

JA: We created occasions which bring together people from multiple functions.  We created moments of conflict by design.

For example, none of the Executive Committee has his own office; we sit around a large table.  It facilitates exchange.  When one of us has a question, we simply look up to check if our colleague is available and talk the issue out.  It is a small change which makes a big difference.

Every week, I spend time one on one with each of my direct reports.  More formally, we meet as the Executive Committee every two weeks to keep abreast of our actions and to indicate where we need each other’s input.  We also try to connect personally to better understand our diverse perspectives.  This builds empathy.

We created occasions which bring together people from multiple functions.  We created moments of conflict by design.

We also created a weekly breakfast for our forty second line managers.  These are not the functional directors but those reporting to them.  I meet with a small group every week which allows them to strengthen their cross-functional relationships and me to know what is on peoples’ minds.  We take out the mega-special coffee machine and discuss informally.  I might not be able to resolve an issue they bring up; I am informed.  These breakfasts help me address any gap between what leadership is saying and what actually happens.

Every month, the sales and marketing teams meet to share what is going well, where they see opportunities for improvement, and on what projects they request for help from each other.

DD: In this cultural shift, managers will invariably need redirection.  How do you handle course correction for a team member?

JA: Here is what I do.

I begin by managing my emotions. I try to hold in frustration when we are dealing with a mistake and instead focus on being comprehensive and inquisitive. However, I let my anger show when I discover that we have had a longstanding problem that was covered up.

I begin by managing my emotions.  I try not to be too euphoric nor angry. I select the situations to express my emotions.  I try to hold in frustration when we are dealing with a mistake and instead focus on being comprehensive and inquisitive.  Let’s learn from what happened in order to avoid repeating the same mistake.  If an error recurs, it points to a lack of capability or attention. That is fixable.  I try to keep my tone of voice calm and understanding and to orient the discussion towards an action plan to bring performance back up to expectations.

However, I let my anger show when I discover that we have had a longstanding problem that was covered up.

When someone expresses an excess in accountability, like “We’re in this mess because you did not____” I interrupt the person.

The person that reveals a problem had the courage to speak up.  It can be tempting to kill the messenger, which is why I make a concerted effort to respect the bearer of bad news.  In that way, we keep finding out what’s happening within the company.

When someone expresses an excess in accountability, like “We’re in this mess because you did not____” I interrupt the person.  Maybe I should introduce more coffee breaks to bring down the temperature in the room!

NR: It comes back to Team Spirit.  If the leaders begin judging when times get tough, Team Spirit loses credibility.  We have greater solidarity and employee engagement precisely because, in those complex time, teams feel non-judgmental support from the Executive Committee.

DD: Where does the “20%” in the learning & development model come into play?

JA: Twice a year, every associate has an objective-setting discussion with his manager which includes providing the individual with an action plan to grow in technical skills and personal development.

Team members select their training from among our JDE global MOOC’s, the Learning & Development CafĂ©.  We also encourage people to shadow another associate to learn through their example or to meet up with colleagues in a different function to gain an understanding of their business.

DD: What other thought do you want share about transforming a culture and empowering teams?

JA: It’s always a fine line between delegation and control.  Finding that balance depends upon the business and one’s own self-awareness.  One extreme lies in micro-management which allows people off the hook.  “Too bad if we did not reach our goals.  I did my job.  I followed orders.”

Empowering our team requires work on oneself.  I have to stop myself from intervening and to consciously trust in my team,

Empowering our team requires work on oneself.  I am accountable for the results in France, thus I need a certain degree of control.  There are days when I have to stop myself from intervening, to consciously trust in my team, and to give them the autonomy to pursue the strategy they defined.  After all, they know the details, I don’t.

I want a team of associates that act like General Managers, each taking responsible for his business.  If I get too involved in the details, I curb their ability to take initiatives.

And now, I have a question for you!  Would YOU recommend JDE to your friends?


Thank you

Thank you, Juan Ignacio Amat, for this insightful exchange and the challenge to each of us

  • To grow by building on strengths
  • To simultaneously hold high expectations and forgo making judgements
  • To translate corporate values into an action plan and habitual behaviors

What are your strengths?  What are the strengths of that-colleague-who-bothers-me-so? (They have at least one!)  How would your relationship with this person change if you were to recognize his/her contribution?

Let us know in the comments what happened when you tried it.

Cover photo by Nathan Dumlao

TGIF - sooo much homemade jam

TGIF – 5-Minute Daily Preview. Sweet!

Oh, what a beautiful day.  It’s Friday and TGIF – Trust, Gratitude, Inspiration, & Fun!


At the beginning of each day most days,  I take five minutes to think of the people with whom I will be connecting during that day.  I am trusting in how these few moments change me.

When I approach an encounter with fine-tuned expectations and a productive attitude, the exchange we have later in the day benefits.

Previewing the day

Here is what I review in those brief minutes:

  • How do I feel about meeting with them?
  • What might they be anticipating?
  • What result would I like from our exchange?


  • What attitude do I need to have to make it a positive encounter?

These five minutes boost the pleasure and the efficiency of my time with these folks.

I might have taken a person’s work as a given and take time to recall and appreciate the effort they invested.  Or I realize that I need to clarify the desired outcome of a meeting.

These 5-Minute Previews also make me mindful of and grateful for the unplanned encounters during the day.  It’s a gift when

  • At the coffee machine, we meet the person we were trying to track down
  • We were able to connect with someone by text and get the needed information or support

I am trusting in applying respectful communication tools and to staying respectful even especially when it’s tough.


It’s bee-thanking time again.  We harvested our hives and put the honey in jars.  And thanks to those buzzing beauties, the fruit trees were pollinated, and I was able to make a TON of jam.

The grocers at our local market must be thankful for me.  My “jamming” keeps them in business!

Honey and homemade jams


I am hoping to be inspired by Marie Kondi, the tidying specialist.  The first chapter into her book prepared me to be inspired.  She speaks of changing mindset which then, naturally, leads to altered behavior.

This is what I teach in my constructive communication classes!

And yet, I feel (fear?) that reading the book implicates work.  Effort.  Part of me prefers to take life easy AND not deal with the consequences!!!!!  Sooner than later, reality checks in.

That’s what my trainees must feel (fear?) too!

I’ll read the book
or watch the Netflix.

Tidy up and spark joy


The exchanges of our family WhatsApp group have been particularly fun-filled this week.

When used well, WhatsApp groups can create community and bring people close together despite long distances.

Warning:  Especially when the group is large, it’s good to set ground rules.  Twenty “😍” and “👍” get redundant.

Here is a glimpse of our family “discussion” when one son took his driving test

Fun family conversation

What fun are you planning for this weekend?  We all benefit from some nice, clean (tidy) fun!
😀😀😀😀😀😀 ….


Wishing you a great week.

A bientĂŽt (next week), Denise

Neat & New Stuff

4 Gifts Colleagues Crave…and Never Make the List

Birthday Wishes for adult

What do you offer your team members for their birthday?  Chocolate? Nothing!  

Try these gifts which build belonging and confidence.

Read on…

The Million Dollars Birthday Chair

Boys blowing out birthday candlesGet lots of bang for little buck with this fun way to celebrate birthdays.  Works with kids of all ages, those at home and folk at work.

Read on…


Woman climbing stairs. Like career advancement

Avancer dans sa carriĂšre avec l’intelligence Ă©motionnelle – Conseils d’Isabelle Roux-Buisson

Isabelle Roux-Buisson est une Senior Executive avec plus de 20 ans d’expĂ©rience de management dans des sociĂ©tĂ©s mondiales d’informatique.  Elle a siĂšgĂ© Ă  des comitĂ©s exĂ©cutifs europĂ©ens et a gĂ©rĂ© des unitĂ©s d’exploitation qui gĂ©nĂšrent des revenues de plusieurs milliards. Roux-Buisson est actuellement membre du conseil de la Harvard Business School France (l’une des Ă©coles oĂč elle a Ă©tudiĂ©) et de celui du Groupe ESEO Ă©cole d’ingĂ©nieur. PrĂ©cĂ©demment, elle a fait partie du conseil des anciens Ă©lĂšves de TĂ©lĂ©com Paris Tech (une autre de ses alma maters).

Denise Dampierre : Vous avez eu une carriĂšre admirable. Qu’est-ce qui vous a aidĂ© Ă  dĂ©finir votre parcours professionnel ?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson

Isabelle Roux-Buisson : Un des premiers principes en management est de ne jamais cesser de progresser. C’est encore plus fondamental aujourd’hui que le monde du travail est rapidement transformĂ© par la technologie. Des Ă©tudes montrent que 85% des mĂ©tiers qui existeront en 2030 n’ont pas encore Ă©tĂ© inventĂ©s. [i] Cela implique que les besoins seront diffĂ©rents, et que la nĂ©cessitĂ© d’ĂȘtre adaptable sera Ă©norme.

Quand on progresse en management, nous avons la responsabilitĂ© d’ĂȘtre Ă©quipĂ©s des outils nĂ©cessaires pour continuer Ă  Ă©voluer dans notre environnement. L’intelligence Ă©motionnelle m’a fourni une boĂźte Ă  outils pour adapter le renforcement de mes compĂ©tences Ă  chaque nouvelle Ă©tape de leadership.

Aparté : Dr. Daniel Goleman est l’auteur du livre Ă  succĂšs Intelligence Emotionnelle. Pendant 12 ans, il a Ă©crit sur les sciences cognitives et comportementales pour le New York Times. Il dĂ©crit l’intelligence Ă©motionnelle comme la maniĂšre de se maĂźtriser soi-mĂȘme et ses relations, et identifie quatre domaines principaux

  • La conscience de soi – savoir ce que l’on ressent et pourquoi
  • L’autogestion – gĂ©rer nos Ă©motions nĂ©gatives d’une façon efficace et exploiter le pouvoir des Ă©motions positives
  • La conscience sociale – se lier et comprendre les gens qui nous entourent
  • La gestion des relations – mettre ces compĂ©tences d’intelligence Ă©motionnelle au service des relations dans, et hors de, son Ă©quipe
Les compétences d'intelligence emotionnelle selon Daniel Goleman
Les aptitudes d’intelligence Ă©motionnelle et leurs compĂ©tences associĂ©es

Denise Dampierre : Quel est le rĂŽle de l’intelligence Ă©motionnelle aux diffĂ©rents stades d’une carriĂšre ?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson : Lorsque l’on rentre dans la vie active, on est essentiellement embauchĂ© pour ses compĂ©tences techniques. J’ai commencĂ© en marketing.

TĂŽt ou tard, certains d’entre nous vont ĂȘtre amenĂ©s Ă  occuper des postes de direction. Avant toute chose, ce sont nos paroles et nos actions qui expriment notre intĂ©rĂȘt pour le management. C’est Ă©galement le cas si on dĂ©montre une maĂźtrise suffisante des tĂąches techniques mais aussi un certain degrĂ© d’empathie, de conscience organisationnelle, de leadership ainsi qu’une capacitĂ© Ă  travailler en groupe. Cette combinaison nous place comme un « potentiel » pour le management.

Ensuite, en tant que cadre intermĂ©diaire, le jeu change. Les qualitĂ©s « humaines » jouent un rĂŽle essentiel. Nous avons alors besoin de dĂ©montrer notre capacitĂ© Ă  Ă©valuer mais aussi Ă  travailler avec les gens, tout en Ă©tant capable de constituer et de motiver une Ă©quipe. On doit aussi piloter son environnement : notamment notre manager et nos collĂšgues dans d’autres dĂ©partements, qui sont des gens dont dĂ©pend notre rĂ©ussite. C’est Ă  ce moment-lĂ  que l’on commence souvent Ă  comprendre sciemment et Ă  affiner notre style de leadership.

Quand on progresse en management, nous avons la responsabilitĂ© d’ĂȘtre Ă©quipĂ©s des outils nĂ©cessaires pour continuer Ă  Ă©voluer dans notre environnement. L’intelligence Ă©motionnelle m’a fourni une boĂźte Ă  outils pour adapter le renforcement de mes compĂ©tences Ă  chaque nouvelle Ă©tape de leadership.

Entrer Ă  la direction gĂ©nĂ©rale pourrait ĂȘtre la prochaine Ă©tape. Les prĂ©requis incluent notre propre intĂ©rĂȘt Ă  prendre une telle responsabilitĂ© mais aussi la conviction de notre hiĂ©rarchie quant au fait que l’on a les capacitĂ©s pour assumer ce rĂŽle.

  • Nous sommes responsables de la stratĂ©gie et de l’intĂ©gration d’enjeux complexes issus de divers acteurs.
  • Nous devons comprendre le rĂŽle de notre entitĂ© au sein de l’organisation au sens large et du contexte gĂ©nĂ©ral.
  • Nous devons ĂȘtre capable d’harmoniser, au sein de notre groupe, la bonne Ă©quipe avec les personnes et les ressources adĂ©quates pour atteindre un objectif commun.

Notre réussite dépend de plus en plus de nos qualités humaines mais aussi conceptuelles, qui sont principalement nos compétences en termes de conscience sociale et de gestion relationnelle.

Au cours de cette progression, la conscience de soi et l’autogestion sont toujours les outils fondamentaux d’intelligence Ă©motionnelle. Ils nous aident Ă  identifier nos forces et Ă  mettre sur pied une Ă©quipe aux membres complĂ©mentaires, dotĂ©s de compĂ©tences qui compensent les domaines oĂč l’on est moins solide.

J’ai recherchĂ© les outils pour me faire progresser en tant que personne mais aussi en tant que dirigeante. L’intelligence Ă©motionnelle de Goleman m’a fourni un cadre pour choisir intentionnellement des options de carriĂšres qui m’aideraient Ă  me dĂ©velopper et qui apporteraient de la valeur Ă  l’entreprise. Cela m’a aidĂ© Ă  identifier les compĂ©tences Ă  renforcer pour mes prochains changements de carriĂšre mais aussi les talents Ă  rechercher dans mes Ă©quipes pour, qu’ensemble, l’on parvienne Ă  couvrir un champ plus large de compĂ©tences.

La conscience de soi et le contrĂŽle de soi donnent la clĂ© du reste de la boĂźte Ă  outil de l’intelligence Ă©motionnelle.

La conscience de soi et le contrĂŽle de soi donnent la clĂ© du reste de la boĂźte Ă  outil de l’intelligence Ă©motionnelle. Chaque personne opĂšre dans un contexte institutionnel prĂ©cis, et nous avons tous une tendance Ă  dĂ©velopper davantage certaines compĂ©tences plutĂŽt que d’autres. C’est pourquoi nous allons tous devoir naviguer dans le cadre de l’intelligence Ă©motionnelle et acquĂ©rir des compĂ©tences d’intelligence Ă©motionnelle Ă  notre maniĂšre.

Denise Dampierre : Comment avez-vous dĂ©couvert le modĂšle de l’intelligence Ă©motionnelle ? Y avez-vous Ă©tĂ© formĂ©e en Ă©cole de commerce ou en tant que manager ?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson : Les compĂ©tences d’intelligence Ă©motionnelle s’appliquent aussi bien au domaine de la vie personnelle que professionnelle. J’avais dĂ©jĂ  Ă©tĂ© sensibilisĂ©e Ă  un certain nombre d’entre elles au cours de mon Ă©ducation familiale.

Nous avions Ă©videmment des cours de compĂ©tences en leadership Ă  Harvard. Mais c’est mon expĂ©rience professionnelle qui m’a amenĂ©e Ă  apprĂ©cier pleinement leur valeur.

On amorce ce chemin avec le choix de notre employeur. Dans mon cas, les valeurs de Hewlett Packard (HP) et l’attention que la sociĂ©tĂ© portait au dĂ©veloppement personnel m’ont parlĂ©. Dans notre Ă©quipe, j’ai acceptĂ© les projets compliquĂ©s, les territoires peu dĂ©veloppĂ©s oĂč le succĂšs Ă©tait incertain. Quelques annĂ©es plus tard, alors que j’avais astucieusement appliquĂ© mes compĂ©tences techniques en marketing, mes gammes de produits avaient les meilleurs rĂ©sultats en Europe. Ces rĂ©sultats (l’orientation vers la rĂ©ussite – “achievement orientation”) m’ont placĂ© sur le radar de la direction.

Je pensais qu’il Ă©tait essentiel, pour n’importe quelle entreprise, de comprendre le client (la conscience de soi – “self-awareness”). Je me suis Ă©galement rendue compte qu’un passage aux ventes favorisait la mobilitĂ© verticale chez HP (la conscience sociale – “social awareness”). Une expĂ©rience dans les ventes m’a appris l’empathie, l’écoute et la recherche de solutions (et parfois la gestion de conflits – “conflict management”).

Sachant que HP Ă©tait organisĂ© selon une organisation matricielle, j’ai cherchĂ© Ă  obtenir un poste en coordination internationale de grands comptes qui nĂ©cessitait de collaborer avec des Ă©quipes (“teamwork”) dans toute l’Europe et me permettait de bĂątir un rĂ©seau de collĂšgues dans d’autres pays. J’ai Ă©galement appris comment influencer des homologues (“influence”) dont la performance impactait mes rĂ©sultats. Un de mes comptes a Ă©tĂ© reconnu pour sa croissance supĂ©rieure en Europe. Ceci a d’autant plus confirmĂ© ma rĂ©putation de personne orientĂ©e vers la rĂ©ussite.

En tant que contributrice individuelle (un employé sans responsabilité managériale), je recherchais déjà des opportunités pour développer mes compétences en intelligence émotionnelle.

La conscience et le contrĂŽle de soi nous aident Ă  nous rendre compte de nos forces et d’attirer une Ă©quipe avec des talents complĂ©mentaires qui compensent pour les zones oĂč nous sommes moins forts.

Par la suite, j’ai donc envoyĂ© des signaux pour manifester mon intĂ©rĂȘt de devenir manager et me suis vue assignĂ©e une unitĂ© en perte de vitesse. Une vĂ©ritable chance de revitaliser une branche ! Mon dĂ©fi rĂ©sidait dans le fait d’instiller un esprit d’équipe, de bĂątir des relations positives, de co-concevoir et de mettre en place un plan dans lequel nous croyions tous, et de rĂ©instaurer de la fiertĂ©. J’ai appris Ă  mĂ©riter mais aussi Ă  rĂ©clamer le respect de mon autoritĂ© (l’autogestion – “self-management”). Un an aprĂšs, nous Ă©tions reconnus comme la meilleure unitĂ© d’Europe.

En tant que manager, nous devons Ă©valuer les gens et leurs capacitĂ©s, pour les faire travailler ensemble et pour les (re)motiver. Ceci a renforcĂ© mes capacitĂ©s Ă  travailler en Ă©quipe et m’a amenĂ©e Ă  dĂ©velopper mon style de leadership.

Nous devons aussi gĂ©rer nos supĂ©rieurs et nos collĂšgues, comprendre leurs attentes, leur environnement et leur maniĂšre de travailler. C’est ça la conscience organisationnelle (“organizational awareness”) !

Lors de l’étape suivante de ma carriĂšre, j’ai de nouveau acceptĂ© la responsabilitĂ© de gĂ©rer une Ă©quipe sous-performante, composĂ©e de professionnels de dix Ă  quinze ans mes aĂźnĂ©s. Pour travailler avec ce groupe, je devais gĂ©rer mes propres rĂ©actions et crĂ©er du lien (empathie). J’ai demandĂ© conseil auprĂšs de managers plus expĂ©rimentĂ©s, ce qui m’a permis de vivre le fait d’ĂȘtre coachĂ©e et mentorĂ©e, et de renforcer ma conscience organisationnelle.

PrĂȘte pour une nouvelle aventure, j’ai cherchĂ© Ă  obtenir un poste au siĂšge mondial, dans la Silicon Valley. J’étais convaincue que mon Ă©volution de carriĂšre bĂ©nĂ©ficierait de cette exposition et de la comprĂ©hension de ce « centre du pouvoir ». Mes connaissances pratiques du champ europĂ©en pouvaient Ă©galement apporter quelque chose de nouveau Ă  leur perspective.

Denise Dampierre : Quel conseil donneriez-vous à de jeunes employés ? A des nouveaux managers ?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson : La conscience et le contrĂŽle de soi sont les fondements sur lesquels bĂątir une riche carriĂšre.

Personne ne peut exceller dans tout. C’est une bonne chose dans les entreprises oĂč il y a des Ă©quipes !

La conscience et le contrĂŽle de soi nous aident Ă  nous rendre compte des points oĂč l’on est bon, pour prendre appui sur ces qualitĂ©s, et Ă  identifier quand nous avons besoin d’introduire d’autres talents pour que nos forces combinĂ©es permettent de rendre insignifiantes nos faiblesses individuelles.

Et la construction de la conscience et du contrĂŽle de soi est une tĂąche qui dure toute la vie.


Isabelle Roux-Buisson nous a partagĂ© comment l’intelligence Ă©motionnelle lui avait fourni le fil rouge de son dĂ©veloppement personnel et de son avancement professionnel.

  • Ne jamais cesser de dĂ©velopper la conscience de soi et l’autogestion
  • Passer des compĂ©tences techniques Ă  celles conceptuelles, en passant par celles humaines, au cours du dĂ©veloppement de sa carriĂšre
  • Demander des promotions qui permettent de parfaire de nouvelles compĂ©tences
  • Trouver sa passion, sa force motrice

Quel est votre prochain changement de carriĂšre ? Comment ces conseils sur l’intelligence Ă©motionnelle peuvent-ils vous aider Ă  prĂ©senter votre demande d’une maniĂšre qui semble avantageuse pour votre employeur ? Faites-le nous savoir dans les commentaires.

Je vous souhaite plein de succÚs !

[i] Institute for the Future:  Emerging Technologies’ Impact on Society & Work in 2030
Cover photo by Bruno Nascimento

Notre Dame cathedral easter 2019

Precious or Perfect? Wisdom from Notre Dame

Do we have to be perfect to be precious?

On Monday evening, the fire at Notre Dame cathedral decimated the roof and the burning spire (called the “arrow” in French) crashed from the sky to the ground.

Memories disappear in minutes.

The recently cleaned stone, usually brilliant in the sunlight, is now 50 shades darker.

What lies ahead for this most visited site in Europe?  As of Monday evening, donations flowed in to contribute to Notre Dame’s renovations.  She lost her perfection.  She remains precious.

Are you convinced of that in yourself?  Each of us knows that we are not perfect.  Are you and I also convinced that we are precious?

This mindset determines our future.  What we think about ourselves influences how we invest in ourselves to grow.  It also impacts how other people invest in us.

Perfection Perverts Relationships

It took me decades to come to truly know that I am enough.  Period.  I have value as a human being.  Not because of what I do or who I know.  Because I am.

I don’t need to be perfect to be precious.

When I am convinced of that in me, then I can be convinced of that in other people too.

Beforehand, I fixated on being “good enough” by being “better than.”

Comparison focuses one towards critique and reinforces unconscious biases: to find what is “wrong” with the other person and to highlight what is “right” in me.

We find what we seek.

If you and I are looking for weaknesses in others, we will find them.

At the same time, when we seek qualities, we find them too.

The same behavior could even be viewed as either a liability or as a potential strength! It depends upon our mindset.

  • Is your colleague dissipated or highly curious?
  • Is your boss arrogant or focused?
  • Is your child stubborn or a person with convictions?

Wisdom from Notre Dame

Notre Dame has been with Paris for centuries.  Even without her roof, she remains precious.  Maybe even more so.  She “needs” us now.

Perfection Perverts Perception

We all make judgements about people, and our predisposition is to believe that we are right. 🙂

Psychologists warn us of several ingrained biases.  The correspondence bias is when someone makes conclusions about another person’s character based on a behavior.  Context is insignificant.

  • When Samira leaves a large tip at a restaurant, she is considered generous. We overlook the specifics of the situation.
  • When Sydney arrives late to work, he is unorganized or uncommitted. No excuses.

On top of the correspondence bias we add the actor-observer bias where a person undervalues the situational influence in other people’s behavior and over-values it in his own.

  • When you or I just landed a lucrative contract and leave a large tip at the restaurant, we might feel generous.  It is our mood, not who we are.
  • When you or I arrive late, the traffic was terrible. We are not making excuses; we are relating a fact!

The perfectionist mindset limits someone’s ability to accept these research-proven biases.  Divergent viewpoints would call our analysis into question and destabilize our sense of value and entire being!

For the perfectionist to “be right,” other people are wrong.

Wisdom from Notre Dame

Among the statues of Notre Dame (and they still stand), we find both saints and goblins.  Grotesque gargoils don’t make her beastly.  Gorgeous handiwork does not make her divine.

Reframing Empowers
Reframing Frees from Perfectionism

True or False: “I see it, therefore it is real.”

I have learned we see what others choose to show.

Few of us expose our dark sides.  In fact, we go to great extents to hide them, sometimes even to ourselves.  We readily display confidence and results-orientation at work and keep out of sight the fear of not measuring up or lack of motivation.  These represent the underwater portion of the iceberg,

Fear drives many of us to invest time and energy to hide our imperfections.

Fear of what?  Fear of whom?

Naming our emotions initiates our ability to tame them.  

I have also learned that facing our emotions is an effective way to live life with few regrets.  That is what I wish for you and for me.

Wisdom from Notre Dame

I arrived in Paris after my MBA to work in marketing at l’OrĂ©al.  Our training included six months in the field meeting customers.  My work week began early on Tuesday mornings as I headed by train to a provincial French town to arrive in time for store opening at 10 o’clock.  I returned to Paris well into Saturday evening, where my friends were already galivanting around town.  Not surprisingly, they did not want to go out on Sunday night.

I was lonely.

On top of that, my boss believed in motivation by critique.

I was demoralized.

That’s when I regularly walked the streets of Paris on my own and frequently rested on the Pont de la Tournelle which has a view on the back of Notre Dame.

I marveled at how, from the front, the cathedral’s towers emanated strength and majesty.  The buttressed rear view exposed another angle: architectural ingenuity and graceful stone.  The slim buttresses are essential to hold up the imposing towers and the elegant spire.

There is more than one viewpoint.

The same applies to my life and yours too.

I stand in awe before Notre Dame’s regal facade.  It’s her “imperfect” side that encouraged me.   In those solitary months, she helped me learn to like being with myself.

Perfect to Grow

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” – Aristotle

Wisdom set in stone.

You and I have a task: to embrace our limitations so that we can learn.

Did you know there is a bell named Denis at Notre Dame?!

Bells of Notre Dame
The new bells on display in February 2013. My namesake, the Denis bell.





Woman climbing stairs. Like career advancement

How Emotional Intelligence Advances Careers – insights by Isabelle Roux-Buisson

Isabelle Roux-Buisson is a senior executive with over 20 years’ experience in management in global IT corporations, sitting on European Executive Committees and managing business units of several billions in revenues. Roux-Buisson is a board member of Harvard Business School Club France (one of her alma maters) as well as ESEO Group engineering school. She previously served several terms on the Telecom Paris Tech (another alma mater) Alumni board.

Denise Dampierre:  You have enjoyed a laudable career.  What has helped you carve your career path? 

Isabelle Roux-Buisson

Isabelle Roux-Buisson:  One of the first principles of management is to never stop growing.  This is even more fundamental now as work is rapidly transformed by technology.  Studies indicate that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet[i].  This implies the needs will be different, and the need for adaptability will be enormous.

As we grow in management, we are responsible to be equipped with the tools required to continue evolving in our environment.  Emotional intelligence has provided me with a toolbox to adapt my skill building for each new leadership step.

Aside: Dr. Daniel Goleman is the author of best-selling Emotional Intelligence.  For twelve years, he wrote for The New York Times, reporting on the brain and behavioral sciences.  He describes emotional intelligence as the way we handle ourselves and our relationships, and identifies four main domains

  • Self-awareness – knowing what we feel and why we are feeling it
  • Self-management – handling our distressing emotions in an effective way and harnessing the power of positive emotions.
  • Social-awareness – connecting with and understanding the people around us
  • Relationship management – putting these emotional intelligence skills to work in relationships inside and outside your team
Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence Skills
Emotional intelligence competencies and their related skills.

Denise Dampierre:  What is the role of emotional intelligence at various stages of one’s career?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson:  As we enter the workforce, we are essentially hired for technical talent. I began in marketing.

Sooner or later, some of us will be invited into leadership.  Foremost, our words and actions express our interest in management.  We also demonstrate sufficient mastery of the technical issues and some degree of empathy, organizational awareness, leadership, and teamwork.  This combination positions us as management potential.

Next as a middle manager, the game changes. “Human“ skills play a critical role. We need to demonstrate the ability to evaluate and work with people and to build and motivate a team.  We also need to navigate our environment:  our manager and colleagues in other departments on whom our success depends.  This is where we often begin to consciously understand and hone our leadership style.

As we grow in management, we are responsible to be equipped with the tools required to continue evolving in our environment.  Emotional intelligence has provided me with a toolbox to adapt my skill building for each new leadership step.

General management could be a next step.  Prerequisites include our own interest in taking on such responsibility and our hierarchy’s conviction that we have the capability to succeed in the role.

  • We are responsible for the strategy and for integrating the complex stakes from multiple players.
  • We have to understand the role of our entity within the larger organization and context.
  • We must be able to align the right team, people and resources within our group to reach a common goal.

Our success depends increasingly on both conceptual and human skills, principally social awareness and relationship management skills.

Throughout this progression, self-awareness and self-management remain the foundational emotional intelligence tools.  They help us to identify our strengths and to garner a team of complementary members, with skills that compensate for areas where we are less strong.

I sought out tools to grow as a person and a leader.  Goleman’s emotional intelligence provided a framework to intentionally choose career options that would help me develop and add value to the company.  It helped me identify the skills to build for my next career moves and the talents to seek out in my team so that together we could cover a wider set of competencies.

Self-awareness and self-control open up the rest of the emotional intelligence toolbox.

Self-awareness and self-control open up the rest of the emotional intelligence toolbox.  Every person operates in a specific corporate context, and we each have a propensity towards some skills more than others.  Therefore, we will all navigate through the emotional intelligence framework and build emotional intelligent skills in our unique manner.

Denise Dampierre:  How did you discover the emotional intelligence paradigm?  Were you trained in this at business school or as a manager?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson: Emotional intelligence skills apply to both the personal and professional realms of life.  I was already sensitized to several through my family upbringing.

They did teach us these leadership skills at Harvard.  My work experience led me to fully appreciated their value.

We embark on this path with our choice of employer.  In my case, Hewlett Packard (HP)’s values and their focus on people development resonated with me.  In our team, I accepted the challenge projects, the undeveloped territories where success was uncertain.  In a few years, when I had applied my technical marketing skills with savvy, my product lines were the top performers in Europe.  These results (achievement orientation) put me on the management radar.

I believed that it was vital in any company to understand the client (self-awareness). I also realized that a passage in sales favored upward mobility at HP (social awareness).  Sales taught me empathy, listening, and solution-finding (and sometimes conflict-management).

Knowing that HP is a matrix organization, I sought an international account coordination position that required collaboration with teams throughout Europe and allowed me to build a network of colleagues in other countries.  I also learned how to influence peers whose performance impacted my results.  One of my accounts was recognized for top growth in Europe.  This further confirmed to my reputation of achievement orientation.

As an individual contributor (an employee without management responsibilities), I already sought out opportunities to build emotional intelligence skills.

Self-awareness and self-management help us identify our strengths and garner a team of complementary members, with skills that compensate for areas where we are less strong.

Next, I sent out signals indicating my interest in becoming a manager and was assigned a team in a flailing district.  What an opportunity to revitalize the business!  My challenge was to ignite team spirit, build positive relationships, co-conceive and execute on a plan we all believed in, and re-instore pride.  I learned to both earn and demand respectful authority (self-management). One year later, we were recognized as Europe’s top performing district.

As manager, we need to evaluate people and their capabilities, to have them work together, and to (re)motivate them. This strengthened my teamwork skills and led me to develop my leadership style.

We also manage our bosses and peers, understand their expectations, context, and working style. That’s organizational awareness!

In my next career step, I again accepted a stretch job: to manage an underperforming team of professionals ten to fifteen years my senior.  To turn the group around, I had to manage my own reactions and create connections (empathy).  I sought counsel from more experienced managers which gave me the experience of being coached and mentored and reinforced my organizational awareness.

When I was ready for a new adventure, I sought out a worldwide headquarters position, in the Silicon Valley. I was convinced that my career development would benefit from the exposure to and the understanding of this “center of command.” My pragmatic knowledge of the European field could contribute to their perspective.

Denise Dampierre:  What advice would you give to young employees?  To first-time managers?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson:  Self-awareness and self-control are the foundations on which to build a vibrant career.

None of us can be excellent in everything.  That’s a good thing in a company where we have teams!

“Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.” – Peter Drucker

Self-awareness and self-control help us realize where we are strong, to lean on those qualities, and to identify where we need to bring in other talent so that our combined strengths make individual weaknesses irrelevant.

And building self-awareness and self-control are a lifetime task.

Thank You

Isabelle Roux-Buisson shared how emotional intelligence provided the guiding thread for her intentional personal development and career progression.

  • To continuously build self-awareness and self-management
  • To move from technical to human to conceptual skills in career growth
  • To ask for promotions which hone new skills
  • To finding your passion, your motor

What is your next career move?  How might these emotional intelligence insights help you present your request in a value-adding manner to your employer?  Let us know in the comments.

Wishing you success!

[i] Institute for the Future:  Emerging Technologies’ Impact on Society & Work in 2030
Cover photo by Bruno Nascimento

Business man with gas mask. Toxic behavior.

What is a “Toxic Employee”?

Last week we began a series on managing “toxic employees.”

One reader inquired, “What, exactly, is a toxic employee?”

It is such a great (and obvious) question, that we’re addressing it now before going on to additional constructive communication tools to develop collaboration with these colleagues.

What is a “Toxic Employee”?

“Toxic employee” is one of those phrases that gets thrown around without clarification.

People are not toxic.  Behaviors are.

People get labeled according to their behaviors.

“She’s a high potential.”

“He’s totally toxic.”

Read about labels that create a disconnect with listeners.

worldview-beliefs-values-behaviors icebergOur actions stem from our beliefs and attitudes.  You and I operate according to our conscious and unconscious convictions.

Just because a person bravely stands up to a bully does not make her a brave person in all circumstances.  She sure acted with courage in this instance. This strengthens her and others’ confidence that she could do so under even more challenging conditions too.

Similarly, someone who trips over his feet is not a klutz.  He acts clumsy.

Who we are is more than how we act.

Mindset Matters

The purpose of this series on toxic behavior at work is to present solutions which foster lasting, constructive behavior.

We do so by addressing the beliefs behind the behaviors.

Fixed and Growth Mindsets

Dr. Carol Dweck, professor at Columbia University, identified two underlying attitudes towards growth.  These attitudes either extend or constrain our view of ourselves and of others.

People with the Fixed Mindset believe that people have qualities and they reach a maximum capability level and cannot go further.  Like our height.  My brother, a longstanding adult, is 6’2”.  He won’t grow taller.

Folk with a Growth Mindset consider that we can change throughout life.  Like muscle.  My brother joined a gym. His biceps are more pronounced than a few months ago!

Moving Between Mindsets

Through our interactions with people we can encourage either of these mindsets.

Labels move people towards the fixed mindset. This is true whether it’s a positive or negative label.  Once identified as toxic, always problematic.  Once considered high-potential, always more is expected of them.

I seek to orient people towards the growth mindset and do so through constructive communication tools that provide choices within clear limits. This approach to communication renders people responsible for their actions and invites collaboration and mutual respect.

These tools are founded on the psychological principles of Dr. Alfred Adler and have been confirmed by neuroscience.  For example, Dweck describes that people with a fixed mindset focus on declarative statements.  “This is the way it is.  Period.”  Growth mindset folk entertain questions.  “What will it take to move from here to there?”

Dweck asserts that people can change mindsets.  The realization that these two worldviews exist has helped many recognize their fixed mindset tendencies and to intentionally focus on developing more of a growth perspective.

Toxic behavior is often a symptom of a fixed mindset.  The person believes his label is superior to another’s.  They therefore deserve special treatment.  (They can be a bigger victim too.)

The purpose of this series on toxic behavior at work is to present growth mindset solutions to

  • Avoid falling into a fixed mindset trap
  • Invite challenging employees to grow
    … thanks to relationship tools that are simultaneously firm and kind
  • Be in expectation that the colleague can and will progress

Toxic Behaviors at Work

When a person spreads rumors, it’s poisoning the atmosphere.

When a boss misuses power, he is killing trust.

I have noticed two categories of particularly venomous behaviors:  undermining colleagues and expecting favored treatment.  These share a worldview of needing to be “superior to others.”

Here is how they might be expressed at work:

Undermining colleagues

  • Stealing ideas and taking the credit for oneself
  • Spreading rumors
    “Too bad Stacey lacks confidence.”
  • Focusing on faults and publicizing them
    “Here comes Joe who makes spills coffee on his pants.”
  • Initiating power struggles, as in passive-aggression
    “Too bad you did not take into account this information before making the decision.” They then present data that would have been helpful earlier.

Expecting favored treatment

  • Abusing power, no matter the level of responsibility
  • Judging others for behaviors they consider acceptable for themselves
    “Sam is so irresponsible for being late. I, however, have a legitimate excuse.”
  • Requesting special favors
    “I should get two presents at the holiday party because 
” (it happened)
  • Complaining

These behaviors leave a sour taste in the mouth.  The value of people has been sullied.

Creating an Environment where People Grow

People can change.  Colleagues with toxic behavior can become collaborative team members (and visa versa).  I have personally seen it happen on numerous occasions.  The name SoSooper stands for becoming super through bloopers.  By learning from our professional and personal mistakes, we prosper in making a living and in life.

Change first


Imagine a tennis ball bouncing against a wall.  When you throw it repeatedly the same way, the ball will bounce back in a predictable fashion.  How to get the ball to bounce differently?

  • Change the ball
  • Change the way you throw
  • Change the wall

Changing other people is like trying to alter the shape of the ball.  It means constraining it into another shape, like force-wrapping it in tape.  It works AS LONG AS THE PRESSURE LASTS.  It’s uncomfortable for the person being compacted (and they resist), and it’s a pain to continuously apply pressure.

Create growth opportunities

The relationship tools in this series (and throughout my blog and in my trainings) present ways to change the way we toss a ball.  We act differently SO THAT the person with unacceptable behavior faces the responsibility and results of his acts.  These tools create learning situations which invite a constructive response from the offending party.

In the previous post, we looked at addressing toxic behavior by acknowledging a rift in the relationship, admitting we could have a role in it, and having them recognize that they share a responsibility in it too.  Those tools were not about telling them about their faults.  “Something is wrong with our interactions (not with you).  Tell me how you understand the situation.”

This approach demands, in a firm and kind manner, that the other person account for his behavior.

Read: Alternatives to Firing Toxic Employees – Acknowledge the challenge
and your role in it

When we change our behavior, it impacts multiple relationships. When we stop complaining to other colleagues about someone else’s toxic behavior, we open up to creativity and become more productive with all our team members.  The environment flourishes.

Toxic Example

Consider this actual situation.  One boss, in the guise of being helpful, would touch women inappropriately.  When they were in private, he would say with concern, “You have a thingee on your sweater,” and reach over and pluck a crumb (real or imagined?) from her chest.

He’s the boss.  It’s her bosom. That’s an abuse of power.  It’s also difficult to react to.

How to respond to unacceptable behavior in a way that respects yourself (setting clear limits) and respects the other person (not stooping to shame and blame behavior)?

Fixed Mindset Responses

She wanted to exclaim, “You jerk!”

That labels him and more firmly instills him in a fixed mindset.

She could respond with a clear command, “Please keep your hands off my chest.”

He is surely prepared for such a reaction and, with assumed hurt, would assure that he only wanted to help.  HE is the victim for having been misunderstood.

Toxin diffusers worm their way out of responsibility.

Take Responsibility & Render Responsible

Consider this way of addressing the delicate dilemma with an “I” Message, one of the constructive communication tools that effectively establishes limits and invites the offender to a more respectful behavior.  (“I” Messages are the topic of the next post.)  Here is how it could play out:

A few days later, when the woman has had time to gather her thoughts, she is ready to set limits and point to positive collaboration. “When you plucked that crumb off my sweater, I felt uncomfortable and perplexed because I consider my chest to be a private space and yet our relationship is professional.”


“I feel more comfortable when there is a clear distinction between the two.”

The disruptive behavior has been contained without judging the person as toxic.


She cannot control his response, and we will address this further next week.  In the meantime, please leave questions or comments below.

Read: Alternatives to Firing Toxic Employees – Acknowledge the challenge
and your role in it

Man reflecting in park

When It’s Urgent to Reflect

For many of us reflection seems like a luxury in our over-packed schedules and high-efficiency mindset.

We feel a need to respond immediately.

To respond!

In our world of disruptive innovation and fast change, don’t we really need to initiate?

Proactivity requires reflection.  Overcoming recurring stumbling blocks demands new solutions.  In the words of Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Reflection gets us thinking at another level.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
– Albert Einstein

Here are five situations when deeper level thinking is vital.

1. When Faced with Failure

  • The deal you were about to close fell through at the last minute.
  • You expected a positive response from a colleague and met a very different reaction.
  • An employee left the company or is in burnout.

Step back

We could be too close to the problem.

Try stepping back using space.   Using Post-It notes, write one element of your challenge on each note and place them in order on a wall.  Step back and discover the pattern.  Where is the breaking point?

Try stepping back or forward with time.  Two weeks ago, what was the situation like?  Two weeks from now, what would you like to happen?

2. When Your Body “Complains”

  • You cannot sleep at night.
  • You have gained or lost weight.
  • You get sick.
  • Your digestion has gone havoc; gurgling sounds interrupt your meetings (!)

“If I knew I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”
– 90 year-old Al McDonald, previous Managing Director (CEO) of McKinsey & Company

Your and my energy is finite.  With exercise, nutrition, self-care, and planning we can increase our productivity 
 to a limit.


Physical signs point to a need for change.  It’s time to re-evaluate the distribution of work.  Are you accepting too many projects?  Is it difficult to say, “No”?

Seeking recognition is a common goal.  All humans experience the fundamental need to belong and to contribute to a meaningful community.  Colleagues and neighbors may admire superhumans from afar.  It’s people we come alongside.  It’s relationships with fellow humans that bring meaning to work and life.

Review your investments in time and energy to identify tasks to delegate
 and offer others a chance to grow and contribute too.

3. When Bored or Feeling Blasé

When all you see is 10 000 shades of grey, mental fatigue may be blinding you to life in full color spectrum.


Consider these color images.  The first lacks greens.  The second is without red.  Without these hues, one can miss out on the obvious.

Numbers for Color Blind. No green
No green => confusing!
Numbers for Color Blind. No red
No red => confusing too.
Color blind numbers vector
Even with all the color, reading the numbers takes effort. Similarly, additional perspectives makes reflection easier.

When life appears color blind, it’s an invitation to reflect.  Easier said than done when we are in the blues.  Connecting with another person can add the clarity of perception we may have temporarily lost.  (That’s what coaches like me do.)

We have been given life in technicolor.  It’s urgent to re-assess when life appears monochromatic.

4. When Your Calendar is Always Full

I read of a foreigner learning English who integrated phrases she heard spoken around herShe learned to respond to, “How are you?” with, “I’m so busy.”

Many of us live with little margin.  We plan flexibility out of our lives.

Think of Yourself

Have you travelled on an airplane recently?  The flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen mask BEFORE we help others.

Many people postpone self-care, prioritize working for others over taking time for oneself.   If you don’t invest in yourself, why should anyone else?

Self-care is a way to express your worth to your entourage.  Again, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should your boss, colleague, spouse, or child?

5. When You are Bitter or Jealous

We all look at the world through a filter.  The lens of envy focuses on faults 
 and since we are all humans, imperfections in each of us will be found.

Bitterness jettisons us into a vicious cycle of hurt and retaliation. It’s a lose-lose situation, and the one who harbors bitterness suffers most of all.

Lack of forgiveness is like drinking the poison you wish for someone else, reminds us Nelson Mandela.  Riddled with venom we perish; our joy dies, our ability to contribute constructively dwindles, and our sense of belonging withers.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
– Nelson Mandela

Focus on Long Term Benefits

Numerous studies report how the elderly look back on their life.  Men and women lament the energy they wasted on insisting that they were right, even at the cost of a relationship.  The wise in years wish for strong rapport with folk who know their imperfections AND respect them still.

You may not desire nor need to reconnect in a hurtful relationship.  Do reconnect with yourself and your values.  (Often this does imply some kind of gesture in relationship recovery.)

It takes some stepping back to recognize our own responsibility in a relationship rift.

  • The 10 additional critical words to make SURE the reprimand got across
  • The 10 additional decibels in our tone of voice so that the entire floor could hear the negative feedback

As we realize and express our responsibility in the conflict, we free ourselves from a victim mentality and from reactivity.

Do you use a mirror to pluck out an ingrown hair?  Consider getting a coach or a sparring partner to bring to focus behaviors which could be aggravating an already delicate situation.


Reflection Becomes a Habit of the Mind

Reflection becomes a habit.

Try this activity from Positive Discipline that we do in my workshops:

  • Put your hands together and interlace your fingers
  • Straighten your fingers and move them down one notch. If your right index was on top before, the left one will be on top now.
  • How does it feel? What do you want to do?
    One participant shared, “The new hand position felt weird.  I wanted to go back to the previous way, and without thinking did so.  Then I tried the new hand position again.  It still felt unfamiliar, but less uncomfortable.  I realized that with practice, I could do this.”

Neuroscience corroborates this phenomenon.  When we activate our brain (as in through reflection) neurons create a pathway of connections from one part of the brain to another.  As we rethink similar thoughts, those same pathways get utilized, like a path a well-worn path that becomes easier and easier to follow.


Action Step

Schedule a free trial coaching call.  Get in touch.