The title of this blog article may strike you as a bit curious and perhaps you’re asking yourself: What can we possibly learn from the Americans? Maybe you’re quite critical of the Americans for all kinds of reasons – political ones for starters?

I feel the same way. I know, too, that all that glitters is not gold. And of course I see the many downsides of the US.

However, ever since I went to university in San Diego, California, as an exchange student in 1998, I’ve had a rather romantic view of many things in the US – which tempts me to travel there again and again, despite all the criticism. This year was no exception. I spent two weeks traveling through beautiful Colorado and had so many amazing experiences and impressions.

Once again, I was reminded that despite it all, there is also a lot we can learn from the Americans.

Let me tell you a story.

I was traveling alone in a rental car in the Southwest when one of my tires suddenly started going flat. In the middle of a canyon. My cell phone didn’t have internet coverage because my oh-so-great European cell phone contract hadn’t allowed me to book a Surf & Travel Pass for my time in the US. Of course, there would have been other options, but I chose to use this situation as an opportunity to enjoy being unplugged from the internet for a while. Until then on my travels in the US, I’d never gotten into the kind of trouble that would have required an internet-enabled cell phone.

So, I was in a canyon and my right front tire was leaking air. The nearest town was 23 miles away: Montrose, where I had booked a motel room. I decided to drive as slowly as the tire would allow to get as close to my motel as possible. It didn’t quite work out that way, but at least I was able to get to a Walmart parking lot that was 7 miles from the motel, and where I felt much more comfortable than being all alone in a canyon.

Shortly after I arrived there, the tire was completely flat. I tried to make a call to my car rental company in Denver. Without success. I was stuck.

I went into the Walmart and told a clerk about my dilemma. She called a young associate straight away who immediately whipped out her cell phone to find the number for the local car rental company and handed me her phone so I could talk to them.

It all became pretty complicated. They needed the exact address of the Walmart in Montrose (there is only one Walmart in Montrose and the rental car company is 2.5 miles away). Without that, I wouldn’t be able to file a claim. Okay. We got the address. Next problem: she needed my cell phone number. I gave it to her, but of course only an American number would work, not a German one. Where could I get an American number? After some back and forth, the lady understood the problem and finally accepted my German number. She said that AAA would be there within the next hour, and that I should wait and leave my cell phone on. I did.

Some 45 minutes later, the young Walmart employee found me and told me that the AAA had contacted her (not me!) to tell her that they would not be able to come today and would come tomorrow. Okay. Now what?

There I was. Still no solution, at 9 pm.

Without hesitation, the young Walmart clerk kindly offered to take me to my motel! Fantastic, right?

The next morning, I contacted the rental car company again and explained what had happened. They couldn’t believe it and immediately sent someone to pick me up and take me to my car. No sooner said than done. He changed the tire, replaced it with a spare, took me to a tire repair shop and made sure the damage was fixed. This would take a couple of hours at the most. He then took me back to the motel where I could relax and wait for the call from the garage, so I wouldn’t have to sit in the garage waiting room all that time. When the call came, the motel owner’s gardener came right up to me and said he would be happy to take me to the garage…

I thought it was all so amazing and didn’t know what to make of it all. Does this sound like normal behavior to you? How would it have gone in other countries?

All in all, I’ve tended to only meet polite and courteous Americans. Of course, the standard question, “How are you?” can seem a bit superficial. But don’t you feel more welcome when you walk into a store and are asked how you are in a friendly way? When they help you readily and kindly? It doesn’t bother me if someone means it sincerely or superficially. It makes me feel better and lifts my spirits.

I much prefer that to being grumbled at and feeling like a nuisance when I have a question about a product or service.

No matter where I found myself in Colorado – at a motel, a gas station, a grocery store or in the great outdoors – I found it easy to strike up a conversation, to feel seen and to feel welcomed. Which makes for a great vacation atmosphere.

Of course, I’m aware of the many challenges and problems in the US – from my time in California, too. It’s shocking to see the level of poverty in many parts of the country and the hardships that many Americans face. But it’s definitely not all bad. And when Americans see things in Germany that they wish they could see in the States, I feel the same way in some respects. I wish we could always be friendly and respectful to each other. I think that would be an important first step in the right direction. What do you think?

Go for it,

Your Crisis Manager

Anke Stein-Remmert

Have you noticed how many people choose Monday as the day to plan all the changes they want to make? Do you ever find yourself doing that?

Whether it’s changes in your diet or small changes in your daily routine, I always hear people say, “I’m going to start on Monday.”

Why is that? Is it a tentative attempt to procrastinate? After all, it might buy me a few more days until it’s time to “get out of my comfort zone.” 

Or is this the first step in the famous escape movement we know from Cannon’s Emergency Response? According to W.B. Cannon, an American physiologist, we have several instinctive responses to dangerous situations. Cannon’s main ones are “flight” and “fight.” These are two neuroendocrine reactions of the organism that Cannon studied, based on animal behavior, and then applied to humans. According to him, Stone Age humans already showed both reactions when danger was imminent. The best-known example of this is the sudden appearance of a saber-toothed tiger outside an inhabited cave, threatening and frightening the people inside. 

Since then, this theory has been further explored, and Jeffrey Alan Gray has added two more reaction patterns: “freeze” and “fear” accompanied by a motionlessness like “playing dead.”

Perhaps Monday has a special meaning because it is the first workday of the week. Many people use Sunday to relax, to switch off, to take a break. They always know that they want to get in the mood for the new week – for Monday – and to start the new work week refreshed. So, of course, Sunday becomes very important, with Monday right on its heels.

Well, as you see, I don’t have a conclusive explanation for the “always on Monday” phenomenon. 

However, it brings to mind the fact that we should build in periods of relaxation every day. Before a change that we initiate ourselves and which is mostly beneficial for our health (e.g., change of diet, new workout routine), we should neither feel the need to flee, nor to play dead, nor to freeze. In fact, there should be no danger in the change.

Or could it be that we’re less willing to change than we’d like to admit, and that any prospective change makes us uncomfortable, even if only subconsciously?

This could also be the reason why we procrastinate.

So, what’s my conclusion here? That any change we’re deeply convinced we want to make, we’ll make right away. The changes we tend to put off are those that come from reason alone or that are suggested to us by others. Because if we put them off, it means that we’re not 100% convinced of them. Our subconscious processes put up resistance.

In this sense, my conclusion is that the change you want to make should be re-examined. Do we really want it? Are you fully behind it? Is the first step simply too big? Could it perhaps be broken down into smaller steps with a step you could take right away?

I’m very curious to hear your thoughts on this topic and welcome any comments you might have.

Have a great start to your week next Monday.

Until then,

Your Crisis Manager

Anke Stein Krisenmanagerin

Have you ever been quizzed about your New Year’s resolutions? Were you asked if you’ve decided to quit smoking, work less, eat healthier or exercise more? If so, how did this make you feel and what is your standard response?

We all know that good intentions are rarely successful, and yet we keep making them or at least keep being asked about them. Year after year.

As a matter of fact, I myself stopped defining “New Year’s resolutions” many years ago. Because I was not very successful at keeping them. I found this irritating because I’m used to achieving my goals and making changes on a regular basis. Why not do it at the turn of the year?

The answer seems simple. When I personally decide to accomplish or implement something, I give it my all and roll up my sleeves with great passion. In other words: I take action. And this is true regardless of the season. Such important decisions can be made and tackled on February 15, June 3 or November 25. Step by step, at my own pace. I don’t look at the calendar. I don’t say to myself, “Oh, that would be a nice New Year’s resolution. I’ll save it for December 31st. No. I start right away. And I don’t put it off until next Monday either. Why is that? Because once I realize I have this wish, desire or goal, there really is no point putting it off. Why should I? Essential success factors are my profound will, my conviction that it is right and my sense of purpose. This motivates me immensely and gives me the feeling that I could move mountains.

Which is why, by the end of the year, I would typically have run out of ideas for new resolutions. There was simply nothing left. But since it is “common practice” to make resolutions, I thought about ideas and chose resolutions that seemed logically correct or reasonable. Here’s the catch: I didn’t deeply feel that I wanted to achieve them, I wasn’t convinced by them, and I didn’t see the point of them. The result? Most of the time I had forgotten about them by January 2nd. Sound familiar?

It appears that the end of a year triggers a feeling in many people that “everything starts afresh in January,” and so new resolutions have to be made, which – due to a lack of previous success – are often identical to those of the previous year. At some point, this procedure just seemed pointless to me.

Eventually I decided to use the end of the year, the slowdown and the pleasant silence around me to appreciate the past year, so that I could continue in January. Don’t get me wrong. As an entrepreneur, I am constantly reflecting on my activities, actions and behaviors throughout the year, making adjustments where and as I feel necessary. But for me, the time around Christmas and New Year’s is a time for inner reflection, contemplation and leisure. This has become established for me and I enjoy it to the fullest.

For me, this just raises the question of how many opportunities we give ourselves throughout the year to listen to our inner voice, which tells us our wishes, goals and desires. Little oases of peace. Just switching off. Get off the hamster wheel. If we’re allowed to enjoy these moments – I call them creative breaks – on a regular basis, then we also develop an eye for what we truly want in life. Regardless of any particular date.

You don’t get creative breaks? Because you don’t take them for yourself? Maybe that would be one last good resolution for 2023. “Incorporating” creative breaks as a farewell resolution from the groundhog trap. That’s when you’ll know the answer to the question, “So, what are your resolutions for the new year?”: “I don’t have any.” Or even better, “I don’t need any.” Because you’re already successfully doing all the things you want or even aspire to do 365 days a year. Doesn’t that sound wonderfully relaxing?

With this in mind, I wish you an implementation-rich and, above all, healthy 2023 with many happy moments as well as (un)exciting creative breaks.

Go for it,

Your Crisis Manager

In my current video series, I’m looking at a model that can prove helpful for dealing with stabilizing factors during uncertain times.

We already have two years of global pandemic behind us, marked by restrictions, social distancing requirements and fear, too. The current geopolitical situation has only further aggregated these feelings. 

As I explained in my earlier blog article on Stephen Covey, it’s particularly important during such times to recognize the options we have for dealing with such challenging situations. One possible model is offered by Hilarion Petzold’s “5 pillars of identity.”

Hilarion Petzold is a German psychologist. His model offers us a way to develop an idea of how to strengthen our identity through subjective evaluation and self-awareness.

Petzold assumes that our identity, i.e., our self (the answer to the question, “Who am I?”), is like a roof supported by five pillars.

These pillars provide us with resources for dealing with stress, difficult situations, and crises. Each pillar stands for an area of life. 

These areas are:

  1. Work and achievements
  2. Social environment
  3. Material safety
  4. Body and health
  5. Values and meaning

In each person’s life, the five pillars are filled up to varying degrees. Of course, this also depends on where in our life cycle we find ourselves at the moment of observation.

Ideally, the pillars are strong enough to support the “roof” of our identity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all five pillars must be equally strong, but we should at least have two or three strong pillars to support our identity. 

The goal of working with this model is to fill the pillars in such a way as to permanently achieve solid inner stability through a balanced distribution of the pillars in our lives. If, due to illness, separation, etc., for example, this is not achieved, if a supporting pillar crumbles, this can lead to crisis. It’s also worth noting that the more significant a crumbled pillar’s supporting role, the more intensely we tend to experience the crisis.

Investigating the meaning of the pillars in our lives can enable us to become more closely aware of the areas in which we may have some “catching up” to do. In other words, we may find that we’ve neglected some area of our life or perhaps even completely ignored it. This is how we can develop an awareness for what might be possible and make adjustments or shift our focus so we can deal with rough times in a psychologically stronger and more stable fashion.

Let’s take a closer look at this.

Our society attaches particular importance and focus on the “work and achievements”pillar. This pillar includes questions of success, career decisions and efficacy. For many people, work in particular, as well as the achievements made, is closely linked with appreciation and recognition.

And isn’t it precisely this area of life that constantly confronts us with new challenges, lures us out of our comfort zone and stresses us with its speed and constant demand to remain flexible?

And please note: Housework as the focus of daily occupation also falls under the category of this pillar. In fact, it’s not about what I do to make a living, but with what kind of activities I fill my daily life.

So ask yourself:

  • What is it that fills up this column in your life?
  • Do you enjoy it? And if so, what exactly do you enjoy about it?
  • What is it exactly that gives you fulfillment 
  • What would you like to do more of under this pillar?
  • What other goals do you have?

The “social environment” pillar is about the connections that we have, and that we actively live and shape, with other people, whether friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, etc. They may be able to support us during difficult times and provide us with a sense of relatedness and belonging that keeps us feeling connected, instead of lonely.

  • Who are your confidants?
  • Who can you call to ask for help, even in the middle of the night?
  • With whom can you be yourself?
  • Who appreciates and encourages you?
  • With whom can you laugh and be exuberant?
  • With whom do you feel you belong?

Another pillar that is getting more and more attention from my coachees and clients is that of “body and health.” You probably know the Latin expression: mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body). We often have a “gut feeling” when something isn’t quite right. For instance, our hair simply doesn’t seem sit right when we’re coming down with the flu. And our heart races when we feel excitement or joy.

  • What do you like most about your body?
  • Do you keep moving and work out regularly?
  • What’s your diet like?
  • Do you get sufficient rest and recovery time?
  • Do you sleep deeply, and sleep enough?
  • How do you care for your body and soul?
  • Where can you best relax?
  • Do you take time for yourself?

Worries about job losses and financial worries are particularly prevalent right now. These are part of the “material safety” pillar. Financial and material safety describes a basic need for existential security. Of course, every individual’s needs are different when it comes to the money they require for their personal material safety as they perceive it. And this certainly depends on a person’s specific life commitments, too.

  • What does material safety mean to you?
  • Have you ever checked your monthly fixed costs against your respective income?
  • Do you have financial protection in place?
  • Are there any things you could do without?
  • Who do you have in your life who could advise you on financial matters?
  • What wishes or goals would you like to fulfill in your life?

The fifth pillar deals with “values and meaning.” In the past, most people never asked themselves questions about meaning until the last third of their lives, but today we’re seeing that even young people are increasingly seeking meaning. No matter our age, values and meaning serve as guardrails for our actions. When we’re challenged to make decisions, they can provide us with support and security. They define who we are and where we’re going and often carry us through times of crisis.

  • Which values are particularly important to you?
  • Do you live by your values?
  • Do you see meaning in what you do?
  • Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What for?”
  • How would you like to be, and how would you like to be seen?
  • What causes are you involved with?
  • What’s important to you in life?
  • Do you surround yourself with the “right” people?
  • What makes you stand out?
  • What do you believe in?

Maybe these questions have enabled you to take a closer look at your five pillars. Have you perhaps even painted and visualized them?

What did you realize? Did anything surprise you? Was one column less filled up than you thought it actually was? Or vice versa?

  • Which of your pillars gives you the most strength and stability?
  • Which pillar would you like to focus on more in the future?
  • Which pillar do you want to fill up more and strengthen? And how?

I truly hope I was able to give you some insight and support on your journey through this model. And perhaps you even found a takeaway for action that will give you strength and confidence—that would be even better!

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me at any time—I look forward to hearing from you.

And always remember: No matter the result of your consideration, the journey itself is the reward and it begins by taking that first step! 

In this spirit,

Go for it!

Your crisis manager

Selbstmanagement und Organisation – wie definiere ich Ziele und bringe sie in die Umsetzung? (Teil 3)

In my March blog, I introduced you to the Disney Method for defining goals. I also promised that I would introduce you to a self-coaching variation on this method—and that’s what I’d like to share with you today.

The Disney Method – self-coaching 

Find four chairs and name each of them according to their roles: the visionary, the realist and the critic. The fourth chair is for entering and exiting the process and takes a meta-position.

Sit down on the meta-position chair and choose a topic you’d like to address today.

As soon as you’ve identified a relevant topic, sit down on the visionary’s chair and consider some questions like these:

  1. What situation are we ideally trying to achieve?
  2. What arguments are in favor of it?
  3. What might a solution look like?
  4. What ideas do we have for a solution?
  5. What’s our vision when it comes to this solution?
  6. What are our options and possibilities?

Afterwards, please switch to the realist’s chair. This is all about implementing the previously dreamed dream, or vision. Ask yourself some questions like these:

  1. What changes will need to be made?
  2. What resources are required?
  3. What costs are involved?
  4. Who will do what, with whom, and by when?
  5. What does the implementation plan look like?
  6. What else would be helpful for the implementation?

After that, switch over to the critic’s chair. Now ask yourself questions like these:

  1. What are the consequences?
  2. What are the risks?
  3. What is missing?
  4. What could be improved?
  5. What mistakes/weaknesses can be identified?

After completing a first round like this, do a second round, and again, start with the visionary’s questions. The findings of all the thinking chairs should be incorporated into this second round and developed further. Be sure to keep a written record of the respective findings.

And now I invite you to try out this process on a personal goal. What are your experiences with this approach? How did it work out for you? Feel free to contact me any time if you’d like my support. 

Until then, wishing you lots of fun and great insights!

Go for it, 

Your crisis manager

In my previous blog article from February, I explained George T. Doran’s SMART formula, which is a proven way for defining achievable goals. In my article, I promised you a second part introducing another method: the Disney Method. It’s named after Walt Disney, who   ran his company according to this approach, and with highly successful results.

The Disney Method

Visionary and perfectionist Walt Disney created this organizational model. He first explained his approach to work in an interview with Robert Dilts: He’d created for himself three different “thinking chairs” – one for the “dreamer/visionary,” one for the “realist” and one for the “critic.”

Whenever he sat on the chair of the dreamer, he allowed himself to

  • be creative,
  • come up with dreams,
  • collect ideas and solutions,
  • have a positive attitude where anything at all was allow.

Once he had finished with the respective thought processes, he moved on to the chair of the realist. On that chair, based on the ideas of the visionary, he only allowed himself, with logic and realism, to

  • develop concrete implementation steps (plan),
  • put together whatever was needed for implementation,
  • distribute the tasks,
  • and determine the implementation costs.

When this perspective was also completed, he sat down in the critic’s chair. Here, in response to the realist, he only allowed himself to

  • carry out evaluations,
  • identify risks and dangers,
  • think of potential threats,
  • look for any weak points and
  • find opportunities for improvement.

He switched between chairs and roles until he was comfortable in all three chairs. Then he separated the thinking chairs both in terms of time and space to avoid disruptions in the process and to be able to fully engage in one view at a time. Later on, he also set up respective rooms in his company for his employees. This is how Walt Disney passed on his work approach to his entire team.

I invite you to give this method a try. In my next article I’ll show you how to transfer the Disney Method to self-coaching.

If you have any questions or would like me to write about a specific topic, feel free to contact me any time. And as always:

Go for it, 

Your crisis manager

Selbstmanagement und Organisation – wie definiere ich Ziele und bringe sie in die Umsetzung?

In the personal sphere, we all like to set goals for ourselves, typically in the form of New Year’s resolutions. In the professional context, we tend to talk about projects. In most cases, however, it remains unclear as to whether we’ll achieve these goals – either resolutions or projects.

Why is that? 

First, we need to ask ourselves whether we’re really, truly keen on pursuing a specific project: Are we intrinsically motivated to do so? Implementation tends to fail because the respective goals were defined at the wrong time or, as the case may be, not correctly defined in the first place.

A proven means for defining goals, which also fundamentally increases the likelihood of implementation, is the so-called SMART formula.

In this blog I’d like to present this very formula to you – even though you may already be familiar with it – as I consider it to be valuable and pragmatic. Let me direct your focus to it once again:

Defining goals according to the SMART formula

The five letters making up the acronym SMART each stand for a specific aspect of the goal, the definition of which should make it both concrete and attainable:

S = specific
M = measurable
A = attractive
R = realistic
T = time-phased

In addition to focusing on these aspects, however, it’s important to consider further steps in the goal formulation so that the envisioned and planned goal can be successfully implemented. Unfortunately, these further steps are often overlooked or forgotten about in practice.

 Here’s a possible sequence:

  1. Goals should be phrased in the present tense. In other words, grammatically, we “act” as if we’ve already achieved them.
  2. The goal should be as specific and concrete as possible (e.g., “I am the leader of the XY-team.” or “I am slimmer.”).
  3. In addition, it should be measurable, so that we make achieving it as concrete as possible (e.g., “I am in charge of 10 employees.” or “I weigh 10 kg less.”)
  4. The goal should be attractive, in other words, desirable, so that we are truly motivated to make the effort to attain it. The more attractive, the higher our intrinsic motivation. Our motivation is also increased if the goal is not just factually appealing, but emotionally appealing, too. 
  5. The goal should also be realistic. Of course, it’s fine to set oneself big goals, but they must always be achievable. The more realistic the definition of a goal, the more likely it is that we will pull it off.
  6. Many goals are never achieved because they are not scheduled. The many unachieved New Year’s resolutions are a typical example of this. Often, they simply peter out. In other words, a well-defined goal should include a target date. (e.g., “On March 31, 2022, I will be responsible for team XY.” or “On September 1, 2022, I will weigh 10 kg less.”)
  7. Another important aspect is the to use the “I” form. Because of course it is I who wants to achieve the goal and not someone else.
  8. Also, the achievement of the goal should be independent of any conditions. So, it should not contain any “if x then y” connections. Conditions such as these would make us too dependent on the “if” event, which may be beyond our control.
  9. And finally, the goal should be achievable without any external help or support, in other words, through our own efforts. Otherwise, we may be putting ourselves in an unfavorable position of dependency.

While at first, it may look as if you need to plan for plenty of time for each goal, this is not the case. You may require a little more concentration at the beginning. But once the application is put into practice, things tend to start moving very quickly – and all the more effectively.

Of course, the SMART formula in and of itself is not a guarantor for goal achievement and implementation, but it certainly takes us a significant step closer to reaching our concrete goals.

In my next blog article, I’ll share with you what additional aspects you should take into account, what alternative ways there are to proceed and what we can possibly do cumulatively.

If you have any questions or are looking for any specific input, just let me know. And as always:

Go for it, 

Your crisis manager