Anke Stein Die Krisenmanagerin

As a child, whenever I felt annoyed by other people, my grandmother would respond with a wise and heartfelt saying: “The oak tree doesn’t mind if a wild sow scratches its back on it, does it?”

Do you know this saying? It comes from a novel by the German writer Walter Kempowski and has entered the German language as a proverb.

Ultimately, it means that we shouldn’t mind if other people try to annoy us or rub up against us.

Maybe this kind of thought has crossed your mind before, too. Either in a personal or professional context. Did it help you deal with the situation? Well, it certainly helped me.

After all, it expresses a sense of self-confidence and composure, and I’m sure that’s exactly what my grandmother wanted to convey: “Don’t get mad”; “Don’t let it get at you”, etc. 

If felt regularly and if it comes from conviction, this kind of saying – and many others – can form a mindset or firm belief in us. Both mindsets and beliefs are building blocks of our individual attitudes and thus grow into an integral part of our subconscious processes. This means that we instinctively act upon them when we feel triggered. In such situations, we typically operate on autopilot, and thus they are not directly or consciously controlled by us.

Why am I telling you this?

The dose makes the poison. In other words: There are two sides to every coin.

While the saying is meant to help us deal with certain situations more confidently and morel calmly, it can swing exactly in the opposite direction if used too often, with the “wrong goal” or even if the stimulus threshold is simply too low. After all, the phrase, “The oak tree doesn’t mind if a wild sow scratches its back on it” could also be interpreted as an expression of arrogance and ignorance.

Is that what you want?

With this, let me wish you inspiring thought processes.

Go for it,

Your crisis manager

For 13 years now, I’ve been working as a freelance crisis and conflict manager in the German business world and abroad.

As such, I support executives, teams and organizations at all management levels around issues such as employee motivation, employee retention, culture development as well as conflict resolution and crisis management.

In most cases, there’s perplexity about how the other person reacts or about a supposed lack of commitment on the job. The question arises over and over again about how to handle such situations in an appreciative manner.

Before I started my own business, I asked myself what my core competencies were. The answer was simple: communication and conflict resolution. At the time, however, I thought that no one would need communication consulting because “anyone can do that.” How naive I was.

Since then, I’ve increasingly noticed that many people believe they communicate well and in an open, transparent and appreciative manner. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, or at least not to the required degree.

And this is not about basic knowledge about how to communicate, or about sender vs. receiver models and the like. It’s mostly about attitude and the question of what’s needed. Often, people overlook just how important good communication is for employee motivation, employee loyalty and, above all, for conflict prevention and resolution.

For instance, in team-building sessions, people are often surprised at how accurately Tuckman’s team development model reflects the team’s current situation, and statements are made such as, “But I thought we got along well. We talk everything through!” Subjectively, this is probably true. But does the person across from me really feel the same way? Unfortunately, that person often does not.

In this context, open communication that enables the other person to understand contexts, wishes and expectations is incredibly important when it comes to motivating them. At some point, I’ll devote another blog post to that.

So, what can we conclude from such team-building measures, you may ask? Well, people often seem surprised when I ask them, “Did you ever discuss mutual expectations and desires when the team was set up?” The answer is often, “No, because that was in the job description.”

It’s important to understand that that’s simply not enough. Of course, people read their job description. And if these descriptions are good, many things can be deduced from them. But at the same time, each person has their own “map” of their area. In other words, everyone connects differently with any given subject matter, has a subjective perception based on their prior experiences, conditioning and desires, and also has a personal definition of concepts and terms. These need to be discussed, clarified and, above all, compared.

At the end of the day, it’s really quite simple. All you need to do is talk to each other.

How open do you think your communication is with other people? And could communication be the answer for resolving certain irritations? Why not give it a try? 

I look forward to receiving your feedback—please feel free to ask any questions you may have.

Until then, here’s wishing you all the best and an insightful journey into the world of the people you’re communicating with.

Go for it,

Your crisis manager

Anke Stein, Teamentwicklung

Currently, I’m receiving more and more requests for support around team collaboration. Market disruptions, staff shortages and the need for high levels of agility are causing restlessness, manifesting feelings of insecurity and leading to dissatisfaction and a lack of motivation.

What’s going on here?

Teams are living systems that react to change of any kind. The departure and arrival of colleagues can rock the boat of a system and require attention. Which makes sense. But is that all there is to it? Certainly not. Changes in the structure of tasks, growing demands from the market when it comes to speed and flexibility as well as personal stress due to geopolitical or pandemic uncertainties can also lead to unrest within a team.

This kind of situation isn’t always given sufficient attention and it certainly isn’t typically dealt with in an appreciative manner. How can we resolve this issue, especially on an interpersonal level?

One helpful model is Tuckman’s team development clock, first described as early as in 1965. The first step of this model demonstrates the need for action and supports the need for being understood, yet also provides possible options for action in a second step.

Tuckman first distinguished between the four stages a team goes through as it develops:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing


In this initial stage, the team comes together for the first time, the members get to know each other and the team begins to orient itself. You’re probably familiar with this stage from your own experience: When you’re new to a team, you start out by observing the work processes, communication channels and, above all, the relationships between the individual colleagues before you position yourself. And this is also true for an existing team: Your colleagues scan you, too. This phenomenon also occurs when work areas are restructured or when new fields of work emerge.

People typically respond to this sort of situation by first waiting to see how things develop. The group spirit in such situations tends to be described as polite, impersonal, tense and cautious.


This phase can also be described as the stage of “struggle” or “identifying positions.” Turbulence and disputes are typical here. Almost all team members seek to position themselves, claim certain tasks for themselves and actively champion their own interests. Friction can develop, which is “normal” and even important. Unfortunately, these minor conflicts, which are highly necessary, are often downplayed and not addressed, sometimes due to a desire for harmony. However, not taking seriously or not acknowledging these conflicts typically leads to the them intensifying and manifesting the storming stage. The “close-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best” approach simply doesn’t work. Also, my experience has shown that statements like, “We’ve never had that issue before and we never will” and “Everything is running smoothly for us,” usually turn out not to be true. At some point, conflicts will surface and by then, they’ll often appear to be intractable – at least through the team’s own efforts – because they are so entrenched and have been going on for so long.


If the storming phase has been accepted, taken seriously and processed cleanly, the team can enter the so-called “norming” stage. “Norming” describes the organizational stage when the team agrees on common agreements and rules. Goals, tasks and roles within the team are made transparent and distributed fairly. Forms of mutual support, a sense of “us” and team cohesion emerge. Contradictions and competitive thinking diminish and cooperation develops. Individual team members are willing to share their knowledge with everyone.

“Norming” focuses on developing interpersonal etiquette and a new team culture, new behaviors, a culture of giving and receiving constructive feedback as well as of confronting differences in viewpoints, rather than in people. Ideally, this stage is concluded with concrete agreements being reached from within the team, including on how to collaborate and deal with each other in concrete terms. 

Don’t let yourself be confused by this. Sometimes the way to greet each other in the morning can even become the subject of an agreement. Initially, this may look like a matter of course for many people, but for teams that have just gone through some major storming, this is an important step on the way to reaching a solution.


The fourth and final stage in the team development process (leaving aside the fact that Tuckman later added the “adjourning” phase) is “performing.” It’s a stage of integration and shared success. Trust within the group continues to build and deepen. The team is now willing to take some risks and has learned to proactively leverage the strengths of all the team members. Role behavior often becomes self-efficiently flexible and situationally adjusted to the prevailing conditions. For the team, holistic success becomes important while the specific performance of individual team members fades more and more into the background. During this stage, the group spirit can be described as brimming with ideas, flexible, open and efficient, and informed by solidarity and mutual help.

At this stage, the team runs like clockwork. There is good communication and mutual support, goals are being achieved, and motivation and commitment are high.

The following is true for all the stages:

  • They vary in their duration.
  • Pre-existing teams go through all the stages again whenever new team members come on board or individual team members leave.
  • Going through the storming stage is important and there should be no attempt to bypass it.
  • It’s crucial in teamwork to know which stage your team is currently going through so as to be able to support and steer it well.
  • Measures will only bear fruit if they are appropriate to the respective stage.
  • Each team goes through the cycle again and again.
  • Changes at the structural or organizational level also set off a new forming stage.
  • Ideally, the respective stages are acknowledged and accepted so that the ability to take action and find solutions can be retained. 

What stage do you think your team is in right now? And what insights are you drawing from this for your action strategy?

I look forward to receiving your feedback—please feel free to ask any questions you may have.

Until then, here’s wishing all the best and exciting insights about your team.

Go for it,

Your crisis manager

Who wouldn’t be familiar with the following situation? You go into a conversation fully prepared and intent on a collaborative, solution-focused interaction. Yet, suddenly you find yourself triggered by the person across from you and go into an emotional tailspin. This unleashes major stress in you, causing you to completely lose your stride.

In such situations, we wish we had better composure. But not in the sense of “keeping our cool” and thereby appearing cold, but rather by responding authentically and with confidence. 

Is that something that can be learned? Yes, it is! 

The solution lies on two different levels: the attitude level and the ability level. Both are preceded by self-reflection. Who are we? What makes us “tick”? What triggers us?

Choosing this approach can help us to work on our attitude. It’s helpful and beneficial to adopt the basic assumption of positive intention. This refers to the benefits or gains that lie behind a behavior or situation. What does our interlocutor gain through their behavior? What needs are they seeking to have fulfilled? Making the conversation difficult for us may not be their goal at all, but rather a “by-product.” In a situation like this, just ask yourself what your counterpart is trying to get out of it, and how they are showing up for it. 

There’s a Chinese proverb that says: “A person who annoys us, dominates us.” Is that what we want? Certainly not. Which is why it helps to carry the conviction that we are the only ones who have power over our feelings. We are the ones who can decide how we feel and what we want to be angry about or feel cornered by.

At the ability level, we must learn better self-awareness and self-efficacy. This is how we learn to trust in ourselves. Methods for improving our repartee, communication, humor and composure, and for coping with stress, support us on a practical level.

Ask yourself: When have I stayed calm in a difficult conversation? How did I manage that? Explore your success patterns and activate them.

I cordially invite you to embark on your personal journey of exploration – few things are more exciting and enlightening than such a journey. And should you have any questions or run into any personal roadblocks along your path, please feel free to contact me. It will be my heartfelt pleasure to support you in redefining these roadblocks as stepping stones – so you can simply leave them behind you or clear them from your path.

Keep in mind that while clearing obstacles from your path may leave you with a few temporary scratches or bruises – like hiking up a rocky mountain – you’ll arrive at the top as an effective agent who can proudly take in the fabulous view and enjoy the peace it affords.

Should you need support throughout this process, remember I’m here for you as a stepping stone out of any crisis.

Your crisis manager, Anke Stein.