“Who Wants Me As A Leader?”

ON-Business. “Leadership must come from the heart and not from the mind.” Pascale de Senarclens-Hargous

By Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD.

“The whole ambition of positive leadership rests on the ability of the leader to question himself. To work to obtain the help of others without resorting to force or authority, to cultivate a sincere desire to respect the other and to act in his interest are the challenges of the positive leader. But how does one achieve it? How do we arrive at this “supreme excellence” that Sun Tzu described as a “win without fighting” in The Art of War? We must remember this key sentence from Pascale de Senarclens-Hargous: “Leadership must come from the heart and not from the mind.” Or more exactly, positive leadership comes by daring to ask the following question based on genuine humility: “Who wants me as a leader?” It implies a permanent questioning of the leader, not with respect to the excellence of the information he transmits, but of his ability to communicate to the other in a deep desire to be understood and generate a positive impact. Too many leaders continue to think that their business expertise is enough to exercise their leadership role. This is wrong. It is the ability to gather positively, to “excite”, to “federate” its employees that will make the difference in a world where the selection of applications becomes more and more competitive. Finally, to paraphrase this metaphor of Native American wisdom, we must admit that we all have two leaders in us. The first that represents serenity, love, and kindness. The second who cultivates fear, greed, and hatred. And remember that whoever wins is the one we feed!”

About Guila-Clara Kessous

Clara Guila Kessous
Guila-Clara Kessous

Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD. is a research professor, a coach, and a UNESCO Artist for Peace. Recipient of a doctorate under Elie Wiesel’s direction, she is using theatrical techniques to help suffering populations (survivors of genocide and human rights violations) better express themselves and have a stronger impact on new generations. She is also certified in positive psychology by Harvard University Professor Tal Ben Shahar and accompanies people to achieve stronger resilience in times of crisis.  She deals with issues of positive leadership, crisis communication, and managerial posture using theatrical techniques and role-playing. Following the coaching of suffering populations, she accompanies personalities, executive committees, senior executives, and managers in crisis contexts in France and abroad. Today, she is working with healthcare personnel, ranging from executives to nurses, to provide coaching and counseling to those serving at the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

Hand Game, Management’s Game

“One possible etymology of the word “management” comes from the Latin “manus”, meaning “hand”. Indeed, the manager covers the underlying idea of “taking a team in hand” and leading it to accomplish their collective goals”.

For our ON-Business Column, French Human Rights Artist, Academic and UNESCO’s Artist for Peace Guila-Clara Kessous, presents an insightful short “manual” for negotiation professionals.

By Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD, Harvard University

“What do I do with my hands?” The lost look of the man or woman I’m coaching is staring at me with an air of supplication. The answer is not long in coming: “Would it be an idea to cut them off?” At least I get the reaction I wanted: a smile, which brings the tension down. In negotiation, the most revealing non-verbal information is always legible in facial expressions and hand positioning. Without making a catalogue of “good postures”, here are some avenues of exploration to better understand what is at stake in front of you, and especially within you.

Taking Things in Hand

One possible etymology of the word “management” comes from the Latin “manus”, meaning “hand”. Indeed, the manager covers the underlying idea of “taking a team in hand” and leading it to accomplish their collective goals. Whether horizontal or vertical management is involved, it is interesting to realize how important the relationship with the hands are in all corporate exchanges where the question of leadership comes into play. Negotiation is a perfect illustration of this. Wondering “in whose hands” I am amounts to wondering whether, as an employee, I am “in good hands”–those of my superior. Likewise, as a line manager, it is interesting to ask the question of who is “in my hands” about my employees, or even who I have “on hand” in my team as a resource person. Because the question of management touches on the hand, it touches on action, the “power to do”, or even on “power” for that matter. It is the same in negotiation. Is it a situation where “my hands are tied”, where my margin for action is low and my power of influence is reduced? Or, on the contrary, do I “have my hand” in this negotiation, and am I in a position of strength where I am able to express my will? These expressions, while certainly colourful, are not neutral with regard to the relationship with the hands, and it is not surprising that the codification of managerial relations, especially when it comes to negotiation, is done through a “handshake”.

A Frank Handshake

In the large Harvard University lecture hall where Marjorie North teaches the Executive Communication Skills course, people spend half an hour looking for ways to shake hands. There are a hundred of us, and everyone gets a handshake from the teacher, who describes the act as “soft,” “energetic,” “flat,” or “aggressive.” What’s exciting is taking context into consideration. Most of them work for governments and come to learn about different cultural practices, knowing that they are destined for representative positions. Thus, future ambassadors are sent by their states to seek a certain universality in their future communications and negotiations. We learn that there is no such thing as a universal handshake. For an Asian, a handshake must be respectful, because touching the body of the other is a real intrusion into privacy. This practice gives rise to a handshake that a European or American could describe as “soft” or “supple”, since the interlocutor refuses to exert any kind of control over his or her partner from the outset. On the contrary, a good handshake, from the American or European point of view, is a dynamic gesture: the challenge is to show your partner positive energy from the start (see also the article: “Getting a Yes, Sí, Ja, Hai or Da”). Let us recall that the American-style “hug”, where the two parties embrace each other by patting each other on the back, goes back to a traditional process of checking that the latter is not carrying any weapon by fumbling their hand on the back of the other. In this perspective, shaking hands is a reminder of the equality of both parties, who agree not to resort to means of coercion.

My advice for a frank handshake is to remember that frankness comes from a certain authenticity of the individual who is able to adapt to the culture of another. There is no recommended speed to “draw”. There must be harmony between the two parties. Whether you reach out your hand first or respond to an outstretched hand, you know very quickly that once contact has been established with this open and firm hand that is yours, you must adapt yourself to the strength that is offered to you. If the hand of the other party is soft, adapt by responding with the same intensity, even if this goes against what you might consider natural. If, on the contrary, the hand is firm and dynamic in the way it grips yours, know how to respond immediately and not be afraid to keep your hand tight, even if it is a little longer than you are used to. This Macron/Trump style interaction will make it seem that you have accepted the challenge and will be well received by the secondary party. Feel free to practice with friends and family.

To The (Not So) Innocent, Hands Full

Many negotiators arrive at their meetings with a lot of paperwork. The left hand grasps a filled file and the right is already incidentally extended towards the other, before quickly clinging to the temple of glasses to remove them once seated. Without making generalities, it is easy to say that anyone who needs to keep their hands busy during a negotiation–be it in the fixed form of holding something (pocket, backrest, bezel, or stage podium, among others) or in the form of parasitic movement (playing with fingers on the table, biting one’s nails, fiddling with a ring or a watch)–needs energetic support and maintenance. Whether conscious or unconscious, this way of neutralizing the hands is interesting because it is an action derivative of what can be experienced as passive in negotiation: listening. Listening is essential in negotiation. It is in fact the one who listens the most in a negotiation that has the best chance of winning it.

Listening, when it is sincere and respectful, is by no means passive. In fact, we talk about active listening, that is, listening that allows action to move forward. But the one who is listening is also portraying the image of listening to the one who speaks. Whoever uses these derivations is in need of anchoring their hands in a certain state, which does not allow them to show the hands completely. But not showing is hiding! In order to negotiate well, one must dare to “show a white paw” and, to do so, accept (at least at the beginning of the negotiation) to simply put one’s hands on the table or on one’s knees so that the other understands that there is nothing to hide. In a negotiation, it is not so much a matter of building trust at the start, but of deconstructing the distrust that naturally sets in when power is at stake in a relationship. Agreeing to let yourself be seen and to let your hands be seen may be seen as a sign of weakness, but it is the only intercultural way for the other person to realise your effort to be authentic and your willingness to enter into a relationship of sincere politeness.

The Heart On The Hand

As far as posture is concerned, the most common recommendations for successful negotiation are to not be too emotional, to not show too much emotion. However, this does not mean that you have to completely disconnect from others and appear robotic in your words and gestures. If hands must deconstruct mistrust by daring to show themselves, this does not mean that they should remain glued to the table or on their knees. There are a thousand and one possible variations in hand gestures. You have to be able to make them “take off” at some point. They usually take off on their own, acting naturally, when you stop focusing on them and are with the other person.

The generosity that the expression “heart on hand” implies in negotiation has nothing to do with what you’re going to drop as money in the process, but has to do with a generosity of presence to the other, what I call “presential generosity”. The more you are going to increase this presence to and for the other, and especially the more you are going to show to them, the more they are going to agree to give back. The ballet of the hands will take place naturally if you are in a conversational setting with the aim of finding a solution with the other, not against them. You will avoid gestures that can be very misinterpreted during a negotiation, such as “hand washing” (rubbing your hands together), which can give the impression that you are being venal. We should also avoid gestures that may mean the opposite of what we mean in the other person’s culture. This is the case of the famous V of victory made with the palm of the hand towards oneself, which means victory for a German, the number two for an American, and a finger of honour for a Briton. As a general rule, one should therefore avoid separating the fingers too much or showing too much with the index finger, especially in intercultural negotiations. Filming is a technique that all specialists recommend. As long as you do not expect to see the image that you impose on those who negotiate with you, you will not be able to correctly find a posture that is in line with what you are saying, and consequently, you will be unable to achieve congruence.

About Guila-Clara Kessous

Clara Guila Kessous
Guila-Clara Kessous

Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD. is a research professor, a coach, and a UNESCO Artist for Peace. Recipient of a doctorate under Elie Wiesel’s direction, she is using theatrical techniques to help suffering populations (survivors of genocide and human rights violations) better express themselves and have a stronger impact on new generations. She is also certified in positive psychology by Harvard University Professor Tal Ben Shahar and accompanies people to achieve stronger resilience in times of crisis.  She deals with issues of positive leadership, crisis communication, and managerial posture using theatrical techniques and role-playing. Following the coaching of suffering populations, she accompanies personalities, executive committees, senior executives, and managers in crisis contexts in France and abroad. Today, she is working with healthcare personnel, ranging from executives to nurses, to provide coaching and counseling to those serving at the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

Can We Learn Business Secrets From Artists?

For our ON-Business column, our Business Innovation Strategist and Artistic Director Daniela Pavan distills tips on creativity and success in times of COVID-19.

For years people in creative roles were kind of left out of serious business conversations, which instead used to take place only among the upper management in boardrooms. More recently, it looks like Creativity is knocking at the door of those rooms and has gained the right to sit at the decision-making tables as a driver of innovation. The creative spark that used to be just an aesthetic abstraction and somehow light and breezy concept, is now an important leadership quality that is dramatically transforming the way we do business.

By Daniela Pavan

The challenging scenario created by the pandemic emergency is giving creativity an even more crucial role in our lives. We’ve been through so many changes during the past months: we changed the way we work, the way we interact with each other, the way we shop. Change looks always scary, and facing change can throw us in a state of chaos. In times of crisis like these, who should we turn to, and learn from? My answer is: from creative minds, from artists. You may remember Darwin’s evolution theory about “the survival of the fittest”. It’s not the strongest or the smartest one who survives but the one who can adapt more quickly to change and to new contexts. The ability to adapt to change combined with resilience (the quality of recovering quickly from failure and adversity, and using the opportunity for your personal development,) seems to be the best match to navigate this unprecedented scenario. A set of skills that are part of artists and creatives’ natural attitude. 

Darwin

The Creative Pois-On #CreativityWillSaveUs video and podcast series wants to demonstrate this exactly. We started the project to give voice to prominent figures from the world of art, culture, and entertainment during the COVID-19 emergency, inviting them to come together to reflect on the central value that art brings to humanity during the harsh quarantine times. We have been blessed by so many great contributions from artists from all over the world: 50+ artists for 10 episodes plus a special one celebrating Pride Day. Following these artists and watching them from a privileged point of view, we realized that even between their differences in terms of disciplines and artistic attitudes, they all have two fundemantal traits in common: resilience and adaptability. In fact, they all managed to keep their creative spark alive and produce arts against all of the odds. Even the performing artists who have seen their venues abruptly shut down, basically overnight.

#CreativityWillSaveUs – Follow our Series on our Official Youtube Channel Creative Pois-On

So now the question is, how can we learn to be ourselves, as resilient and flexible? Here are some of the reflections that our series #CreativityWillSaveUs inspired me:

1 Change the narrative: when something bad or unpredictable happens, many of us spend a lot of time in a “rumination mood”, reliving the event over and over in our heads. This way we don’t allow ourselves to move forward. What I learned from our artists is the importance and the courage to change a story by building a new one. How? By writing, singing, playing music, painting, acting, there are infinite creative ways that we could all explore. The goal is to be brave enough to face our deepest thoughts and feelings, and not to necessarily produce a memoir-like masterpiece, courage as a first step is already a big accomplishment. And precisely about this topic, I found out that there is a study from 1988 that demonstrates how a sample of people who embarked in an Expressive Writing program for four days was healthier six weeks later and happier up to three months later if compared to some others whose task was to write about some more random topics. This is valid, in my opinion, for any form of art because it forces us to deeply analyze each one of our ideas and allows us to see things from new perspectives. I personally enjoy changing my narratives through acting and dancing, because they both allow me to explore the story from different angles.

2 Practice Meditation: you may already know that usually, our most painful thoughts revolve around our past and our future. We may regret things that went wrong or we are anxious about the things that will happen or not happen to us. Practicing mindfulness and meditation keeps us centered and concentrated on the present. being, the now. You may think that our main concerns are attached to the present time we are living. You might have this sensation, even though really, our lives are made of a series of circumstances that often we can’t control. Therefore meditation can help us stay focused on what we can control, accept what we can’t control and think more clearly about our next steps. The past months have been very painful for me as well, on a personal level. I want to suggest a practice that I like to do: mindful breathing. I usually get very anxious because I am always projecting my thoughts into the future of what might happen. This exercise can be done for 5 or 7 minutes a day, or every time you feel under stress. Find a comfortable position. You can be seated on a chair or on the floor, on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight, with your hands rested comfortably. Allow yourself to relax and become aware of your body seated, the sensations that it experiences, the connection with the floor or the chair. Remove any tightness or tension. Simply breathe. Feel the natural flow of breath, while inhaling and exhaling. Notice how you feel while you breathe. See if you can feel the sensations of your breath, one breath at a time. Now as you do this, your mind may start to wander and think about different things. It’s very natural, so no worries. When this happens, gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.

IKIGAI
Photo by Mayank Baranwal on Unsplash

3 Find your Ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese word that means purpose in life. We can say that Ikigai is the secret ingredient for happiness. Ikigai is about finding fulfillment, happiness, and balance in life. Many of us think that our job, family, and passions are different solos, like separate aspects of life. The Ikigai philosophy instead puts the accent on a fundamental truth: nothing in life is a solo… but everything is connected… as we always say here at Creative Pois-On. So yes, according to the Ikigai, it is possible to be true to what you love, live a fulfilled life, and make a positive impact on the life of others. So let’s dive in, what’s the definition of Ikigai. The Ikigai is the intersection between what you love, what the world needs, what you can get paid for, and what you are good at. Take a few minutes to write down some keywords, concepts, and ideas that come up to your mind for each of the four categories above and for overlapping areas. Think about how these elements may relate to each other. And then, leave space in your mind to whatever element, word, category, may naturally emerge by bringing these four elements together. So when you have this centerpiece clear in your mind found it, think about what is the first very simple step you can immediately take, and that it could be a practical expression of this centerpiece, which is your Ikigai. Are you curious to try? Artists, creative minds as well as successful businessmen all over the world, have in common the fact that they have found their Ikigai, that they are crystal clear about their purpose in life. That is what keeps them motivated, resilient but also flexible and perseverant.

Now it’s up to you. Ready to take your first step? 

Learn more about Creative Pois-On Business Services HERE.

About Daniela Pavan

THE STORYTELLER WHO CONNECTS THE DOTS OF CREATIVITY, INNOVATION, AND BUSINESS

Daniela Pavan

Born and raised in Italy, Daniela Pavan is now based in NYC. This is one of the reasons why she is blessed with both Italian artistic passion and NYC’s unique edge. With 20 years of experience working in the world of digital, design and communication with big companies, agencies as well as small start-ups, Daniela has also a strong collaboration with the University of Venice (Italy) where she won a grant for a research focused on understanding if and how creativity and design can be drivers for innovation. Co-Founder, Artistic Director, Creativity Curator, and Business Mind of Creative Pois-On.  She is also our resident “bridge builder” as she is fluent in both business and creativity! Our creatives would be lost without her! Follow her Creative Bridge episodes on the Creative Pois-On Podcast.

Replace Fear With Curiosity – A Shadow Story

Tips on Business & Creativity During the Lockdown by Our Artistic Director Daniela Pavan

Stay Home. Save Lives. This is the mantra of the moment. And it’s a very good one to have in mind to overcome the current situation that we are going through. These weeks, we are all supposed to be in quarantine, and for sure we are all wondering how long this will last, how can we overcome the current difficulties that we are facing, and what kind of future is awaiting us.

Being quarantined may bring a lot of anxiety and for sure it is a very unusual situation to go through. However, as Steven Spielberg once said, let’s “replace fear with curiosity”. Let’s use this time that we have now to learn new skills and prepare ourselves for all the opportunities that will be available after the Corona Virus emergency. Dancer Twyla Tharp said that “creativity is not just for artists,” and I couldn’t agree more. Also, she stated that creativity, “it’s for business people looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.”

Creativity

Isolation and quarantine are great opportunities to prioritize our well-being, but also to invest time and energy to become more productive. Let me give you some illustrious examples. William Shakespeare wrote King Lear during quarantine, and Isaac Newton produced some of his best work while in quarantine, writing the papers that would become his early calculus and developing his theories on optics while playing with prisms in his bedroom. Also, Florentine writer Giovanni Boccaccio got very productive during his 1348 plague’s quarantine. During that time he wrote The Decameron, a collection of novellas framed as stories that a group of friends tell to each other while locked-down inside a villa. Doesn’t it look like what we are living today? Interesting right?

John William Waterhouse
A Tale from the Decameron (1916) by John William Waterhouse.

They say that “innovation takes time”. How often have we heard this sentence? People need time to think, research, and test ideas. Time to collaborate with others to assess ideas. We need time to get creative. Now we do have that precious resource that we always wanted… we have time! Be creative! Don’t waste it. Being in quarantine is not being on vacation, actually, it means that we are all socially responsible for the future of our community, therefore we should invest this time in learning and improving our skillset to become a better version of ourselves. Instead of being stressed, unproductive and unable to think properly, let’s take a step back, get clear and make a plan so that you can still have a profitable year in your business, despite what we are all experiencing at the moment. Maybe there’s a gift in all of this craziness. Maybe your business or your projects could be even more aligned with your soul’s purpose.

Let’s take a step back and think about how we can use this time wisely. Let’s think about a long-term view of the year rather than panicking. Design Geek & Insta Teacher  Kat Coroy shares an interesting perspective.

She says: “If you are an artist for example and your exhibition just got canceled, rather than being upset, use this time to create really amazing pieces without distractions and, later in the year, you can have an even bigger exhibition which can bring you even more money than having an exhibition now. If you are a jewelry designer, think about a new collection that you can design now and that can be sold later in the year as a back to work style or holiday season gifts. If you are a personal trainer, learn new skills… let’s say learn how to make videos and share your classes on social media and your website. Later in the year, this can be a huge push for your business. This is a time where we can really think about what we really want to achieve and build a plan to get there. Stress and panic are not good friends of thinking clearly. So, take a break from anxiety, and focus on who you are and what your real purpose is.”

Maybe you find out that you want to help to fundraise the research against Corona Virus, or share your knowledge with people. Use your time wisely, you can do this.

So, how can we work on our creativity at the time of Corona Virus?

First of all, creativity is about discovering your own ways to work, your unique practice, and from there growing your confidence. It’s about gathering inspiration from others and learning to recognize the real and true value of what you do. Some of you guys may feel intimidated by creativity or, instead, feel that you have a huge creative spark. Anyhow, let’s explore it together. We may find out that some of the new skills or some of the ideas we develop during this time in quarantine, may be useful in the following months. For example, let’s try to experiment on how to see beyond the obvious. In a book entitled Conscious Creativity that I have recently reopened, there are a lot of interesting exercises that can help unlock our creative potential. One of them is about working with shadows. 

Conscious Creativity

The concept of shadows can be frightening because related to the concept of the unknown. However, shadows are part of our lives. A quote from the book says “as silence proves the sound, and pausing proves the act, it is always darkness that proves the light.” Shadows can transform a dark corner into a piece of poetic atmosphere, and they can also help us see beyond the obvious. By learning how to investigate shadows we can help us work with contrasts, not just artistically speaking but in life as well. And considering the times we live in this can be something we can all work on. The contrasts can make us see the beauty in the shadows.

So, the exercise I would like to suggest today starts with us “thinking about what shadows evoke: new forms? A sense of calmness? A transformation of light?”

A SHADOW STORY

Now let’s create a shadow story. Yes, you read that right, a shadow story. We are storytellers, so let’s roll up our sleeves and build our story.

Shadow

Here is how it works. Collect a series of let’s say 6 images of shadows, to create a visual story that narrates a journey, even if it’s a journey only you can understand. Be led by what you see rather than having a pre-prepared idea and let the narrative be whatever it wants, abstract or linear. The goal is to get you to engage with the shadows and embrace them as creative tools. Taking pictures with your phone is a great way to capture shadows and all their details. It’s not an exercise of perfection, but it is instead a storytelling and narration approach. You may wonder, I am stuck in my house, how can I do it? 

The answer is to use the space that surrounds you to get inspired. Start observing it. You may notice details you were not even aware of. Observing the contrasts of light and shade near windows and doors is always a great place to begin. Also, look for how colors can add value to your story, combined with shadows in different ways.

Then if you like the idea, share your story with us on IG, tagging @creativepois_on with the hashtag #shadowstory. Looking forward to seeing your stories! =)

Here is my shadow story:

Ready, Set, Imagine!

Daniela Pavan.