Stage-Fright—our best Motivator

It’s time to hold a speech. Or it’s customers expecting a presentation. And then? The heart beats faster, we sweat and feel panic. The hands are wet and shaky. So what’s to do?

First of all, anxiety is not an illness such as depression, but a natural reaction of our body with our Savannah brain. That brain has not changed significantly since that time some 50,000 years ago when the first modern humans emerged and lived in a perilous wilderness full of deathly beasts. Still when we’re in situations that we perceive as threatening, the body releases stress hormones and adrenaline and leads us to fight or flight readiness. Fortunately, because this helped Homo Sapiens to survive!

We have no fear for our lives in today’s situations. But what we do feel is fear of failure and rejection. However, that stage fright has characteristics that we can easily transform to the opposite effect—to motivation! Stage fright can even inspire us to peaks performance. But how?

The adrenaline can give us a kick and help us to sharpen the senses. We become more attentive and are therefore able to focus on the speech or presentation. Excitement can turn into joy. And to relieve the tension, we use the walk-off instinct and actually do sport exercises. Even a walk outside or up and down the corridors can help. Many experienced speakers successfully practice the repeated tightening and loosening of muscles.

In addition to the “reversal” of stage fright, there are other tricks to gain confidence and hold a speech successfully. Some scientist had found out that the first seven seconds are decisive for the impression that the listener gets of a speaker. Therefore, the entry to the speech is the most critical moment. A joke, an anecdote, a pictorial scene—and the audience is won.

It is utterly important to prepare well for the speech and to act it out again and again in our head. How may the audience react? What critical issues might arise? Anyone dealing with that is not easily confused at critical points during the actual speech. This method is used professionally in telemarketing. Each call center agent has a list of so-called single-wall arguments or objection points before him.

In every audience there are potential “boo shouters” and “hooray cheerers”. Good speakers are always trying to make eye contact with those people who agree with them and look over the pessimistic ones. Thus, speaker and audience encourage each others. This creates a momentum that makes the whole scene move.

Speakers almost always have a glass of water in front of them, for good reasons. In stressful situations less saliva is produced and the mouth gets dry. Therefore: Prior to and during the speech always have a drink! The nervous movements of the hands can be turned into gestures that accompany the presentation. Avoid clothing that is manufactured from synthetic materials, because we sweat easily therein. Better is cotton or—if possible—breathable clothing. And of course a shirt in bright colors on which welding is barely visible.

Last but not least: Whoever repeats speech situations instead of avoiding them becomes a well skilled and qualified presenter.

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How Leadership Women Communicate Properly with Men

Why are women still underrepresented in leadership positions? Clearly: it’s up to them! They don’t find the right words to tell male counterparts what to do! That’s at least what a US satirist believes. So she gives hints how to communicate.

 By Jens Kügler

In one of its latest newsletters, the German advertising magazine w&v this week published a link to the page of the American blogger and comedian Sarah Cooper. I just want to reflect briefly the main content of the blog posting “9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women”. They are of course not really meant seriously. Rather, they show: This lady is humorous and holds up a mirror to women and men.

So, shall men accept strong women and not feel challenged by them? Yes, as Cooper writes. Provided that the ladies do not provoke them. Rule one: When setting a deadline, the power woman does not say to the male colleague “This has to be done by Monday.” Smarter, of course, is the question: “What do you think about getting this done by Monday?”. What do you think—that question is most important to men who want to feel to be important!

Rule number two is about sharing ideas or who is creative director. Instead of “I have an idea”, the sensitive female executive takes herself not so important and by using the words: “I’m just thinking out loud here.” The third rule concerns the e-mail traffic. Of course, instead of writing “Send me the presentation when it is ready”, she softens her email with emojis and nice words: “Hey Jake. :-) Can I take a peek at your presentation when it’s ready :-) Thanks !! :-) :-) “.

Strategy number four deals again with the question of ideas. This time it’s about what she has to say when the idea has been stolen from her. Incorrect is a disappointed face which expresses “Yes, but that’s exactly what I just said.” Correct: a smiling “Thank you for articulating that so clearly.” Rule five concerns sexist comments. Instead of saying something like “That’s not appropriate and I don’t appreciate it”, she simply smiles embarrassed over it with an awkward laugh.

And what if her male colleague wants to tell her something that she has already known for long? This is subject to rule number six. She does not say it like “I’m the one that taught YOU this six months ago”, but “I’d love to hear you explain it to me again”, so he feels useful! Rule seven is about her discovering his mistakes. Threatening would be: “These numbers are wrong!”. Non-threatening is: “I’m sorry, are these numbers right? I’m not 100% sure , I hate numbers”.

Rule number eight concerns collaborating. Of course, she does not write faster than him by rapid touch typing on the keyboard with all ten fingers. She works slow using only one finger. The last rule, number nine, advises women for correct behavior in case of disagreement. And that is really quite simple. If she says: “That strategy will not solve our problem”, she should wear a mustache. Then, as the blogger believes, the male colleague will agree. So easy goes female leadership!

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Immigrants—Germany’s Jobmakers

Entrepreneurs with foreign roots are a stimulus-movers in Germany. A recent study reveals this impressively.

“Foreigners out”—people calling inflammatory slogans like these are usually not only afraid of foreign cultural influences (a still permitted party of the radical spectrum uses the term “alienation”). Another one of their motives is often the fear of loss of jobs taken by immigrants. But that’s utterly nonsense. Foreigners do not take jobs away. They create them!

One of the good news of this week has been making the rounds since yesterday: It is the result of a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, carried out by Prognos AG. Thereafter, the number of sites that have been created by entrepreneurs with foreign roots, increased by 36 percent from 947,000 in 2005 to 1.3 millions in 2014. In the same period, the number of entrepreneurs with an immigrant background rose by around 25 percent from 567,000 to 709,000.

Kebab shops? Chinese restaurants? Kiosks? Greek vegetable shops? So—all just micro or family businesses? No, these are old clichés. Nearly half of all non-German origin entrepreneurs work in the services sector, one in five in the manufacturing industry. Only 28 percent are engaged in trade and catering.

But the workplaces that foreign-born entrepreneurs create spread very unevenly across the 16 states of Germany. In other words: They are mainly located in the west. In North Rhine-Westphalia alone there are 300,000 such jobs. In the five former East German states they are altogether just 31,000. However, these states still have the highest unemployment rates, but also the biggest and loudest manifestations of xenophobia. It’s an irony for a society that the jobs don’t come where they are most needed because of people afraid to lose something.

Previous studies have already shown that in Germany the founders rate among people with a migration background is about twice as high as among people with indigenous roots. One of the reasons for this is actually a form of discrimination: people with foreign names—especially those sounding Mediterranean or Oriental—find it difficult to rise to leadership positions in German companies. They lack the confidence, but also the networks in the management level. They start businesses because they have to be self-employed if they have ambition, entrepreneurial spirit and want to earn good money.

By the way: More Bertelsmann studies arrive at results as “National welfare benefits from immigration—22 billion euros relief” or “Germany needs more immigration from non-EU countries to close gaps in the labor market”. Nice if some more news like these would be published and discussed. Instead of crude simple slogans.

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The Brand Men

Most brands promise the greatest product and performance advantages. However, the most successful brands are those that are not best known for a logo, proposal or claim. But for a face.

Steve Jobs, Dale Carnegie, the Game blogger Pewdiepie or—for Germans—Claus Hipp, J.J Darboven, Adolph Freiherr von Knigge, Mr. Grupp of the Trigema shirts: there is one thing that all these people have in common. Although they live or have lived at very different times and work or have worked in very different environments. They have made themselves and their personality a unique brand that not only won a kind of unique sales proposal through it. Their brands have become synonymous with an entire product category, service purpose or mindset. These people seem to be what they offer. Their product is perceived by them and really got a face.

Why are “people-brands” more successful than others? It’s easy. We humans prefer to buy from a man with a personality instead of an anonymous company. We trust his personally expressed promise. Why? Because this man obviously stands so confident behind it. He seems to put all his strength and energy in the product and the customer service.

But how does a face become a trademark? It is not only the convincing appearance or permanent presence. Rather, these brand-men have stories to tell. They provide content, as we call it today, they do storytelling. They do not only build up an expert status. They are opinion leaders, opinion makers.

The modern media, the social networks make it easier than ever to become a person-brand. But they also make it harder. More and more people try to position themselves. And the perception of an audience does not allow an infinite number of such familiar popular faces. To be successful, a business-man must first reflect and find out for himself: Who am I? What do I stand for? What is my USP?

Well, of course this has become a business meanwhile. Personal branding agencies offer help in finding the core competence and the positioning. They help build a reputation in the electronic media. For a “human brand testimonial”, it is important to spread his messages permanently through channels such as Facebook or Twitter. On their blogs these brand people offer their fans much added value by entertaining information and discussions. They substantiate their competence. And they offer their “fans” a platform to communicate and take them seriously. Finally, they appear honest and sympathetic in all that they communicate. Who is willing and able to do this, too, or allows professional help, has a chance to become the most successful people-brand of tomorrow.

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In Leadership 4.0, Most Bosses Fail

The further the digitalization advances, the larger gets the gap between the wishes of employees and the behavior of the bosses. However, the fast changing technologies require a changing management culture, too.

Principally, the digital transformation makes companies more powerful. But very few use the possibilities. digitalization and Industry 4.0 are a challenge—not only technical but also to the leadership culture. The more frequently this thesis can be heard today, the less it can be ignored or denied. Recently it was confirmed by a study conducted by TNS Infratest on behalf of Microsoft.

More than 1,000 German employees were interviewed. The key results: 85 percent of all addressees want better access to relevant information. Just as many—85 percent—wish to be enabled to take more independent decisions. 84 percent would like to get more regular feedback from their superiors. 71 percent expressed the elementary desire that many associate with the digitalization and the mobile Internet: they want to be able to work more flexible in terms of time and place. And how do they assess the reality? Only about 20 percent said that in times of modern IT they get faster feedbacks or more workplace and time flexibility.

Undoubtedly, the digitalization gives the opportunity to make knowledge more transparent and work more flexible. Yet, the technology advances significantly faster than the change in the minds of managers and executives. Apparently they lack the ability to deliver more responsibility and decision leeway to employees and teams, although those are much closer to the market and have the “ear to the customer”. However, the study does not reveal that the chiefs would no longer be needed. On the contrary. Their role has to change.

In numbers? While 85 percent of all employees want to work more flexible, 60 percent ask for more support from their boss. In short: the ideal manager of today is a coach rather than a controller or commander. In the Infratest study, however, only 41 percent were satisfied with their boss as a coach or mentor. The bottom line is that executives are more in demand than ever, because they need more skills than their employees. Skills to guidance and support. And they need to learn more than their employees. They must learn how to trust.

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Mobile Recruiting. Applicants top, employers flop.

Candidates of today want mobile usable career pages. But very few companies come to meet these needs. This is known, but is confirmed by a recent study with a closer look on the topic.

Written by Jens Kügler

“Skilled workers? No thanks,” said our blog article only two weeks ago. And this week, “Wollmilchsau” (who that is? See next paragraph) publishes a new study. This confirms that candidates and companies are far apart in terms of needs and desires in the application process. About 70 percent of the German population use the mobile Internet today. And constantly grows the number of those who do not only want to google, shop or read football results, but would like to do such practical things like applications, too.

Wollmilchsau? That is a digital agency for personnel marketing and employer branding, roughly translated to English as “jack of all trades”. In the annual edition of its Mobile Recruiting study the agency examined the 160 companies in the German Stock Exchange indexes Dax, TecDAX, MDAX and SDAX in terms of mobile usability of the online sites for career and job. While in 2015 not even half of all these companies offered any optimized candidate sites for mobile devices, the rate increased to 61 percent, according to the current survey. So far so good.

But most of the applicants still have to overcome significant barriers. Only 56 percent of the companies have adapted their job exchange sites for smartpone users. The application forms were only at 31 percent of all responsive. And just about 16 percent of the companies offer social connect options. With social connect, the applicants can link to their Xing or LinkedIn profiles. Instead of filling in long forms and upload documents, they can easily share their personal contact, skills and resume information with a simple fingertip.

Many online career sites facilitate the so-called orientation phase with easily accessible information about companies or positions. But for the application phase and process steps, many of these sites are still miles away from mobile user friendliness. And while these “half ways” appear at about 25 per cent of all companies that offer mobile career pages, in just under five percent it is even reversed: Application form pages wow, orientation pages pooh.

27 percent of companies with mobile-candidate sites are ranked by the agency as pioneers where everything turned out the best satisfaction. However, the largest group are the laggards with great need for improvement: 30 percent. It would be interesting if one could ever find out how many potential candidates get lost for all these companies …

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The Germans: Married to the Job?

This week a study was published. Its topic: The relationship of the Germans to their job. Some figures are quite startling …

Written by Jens Kügler

Some torment keyboards, roll files, move machines or build cars. Others clean offices, drive vans or even save lives. What they all have in common: They are not doing this purely voluntarily. It is their job. And indeed, the Germans seem to take them as serious as the world believes they would do (in many countries, the stereotype of German is hard working and busy).

Bus what does it exactly look like? A personnel services company with the beautiful German name ManpowerGroup wanted to know. In April, they interviewed more than a thousand people and published their study now. What is the “highest result” from this?

68 percent would find their lives boring without a professional job. An exclamation mark. The second one? Colleagues are to some extent “professional family” for 59 percent of all respondents. I remember the chorus line of a hit from the 70’s, sung by a woman: “Then go and marry your office. You love it anyway.” Has nothing changed since then ? Do the Germans live for their work instead of working to make a living?

Not quite. 56 percent put their cross on: “My real life begins after the working hours”. And it sounds almost southern-style relaxed what 52 percent said: If I did not have to work, I would stop tomorrow. Stop tomorrow … well, (I’m curious to see results the study would have revealed when carried out in Spain where is tomorrow means mañana and always really means something like:. “Mañana, I’ll come to fix your faucet,” and, in reality, he comes weeks later. Or never).

After work, 51 percent of all Germans go out with their colleagues every now and then. So are they more loyal to their job than to their family? Or even most loyal to the company? No. At least not all. 38 percent said they could not imagine to remain in the same company for 30 years, even if they liked their job. This is after all a vast difference to daddy’s old days. He still has the pewter plate from his boss and staff hanging on the wall with thanksgiving to 50 years work in the company (and he has always been proud of it).

And finally a last result. For only 29 percent of all respondents, professional matters have always priority. The conclusion: For us Germans, nothing goes without our job. But nothing without the leisure life, too. At the end we Germans are more contradictory than we thought: ordinary people that do not fit into any cliché drawer. Maybe we can be a little bit proud of that.

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Skilled workers? No thanks! 42 percent of the candidates break off from application processes.

Applying is complicated. So complicated that almost half of all candidates have canceled application processes. This and many more striking facts were revealed by a recent study.

You know this? Probably, you made this experience, too: You are on the “Careers” page of a company and fill in the online application form. Unfortunately, your PDF is too big. Unfortunately, you have not scanned certificates and cleanly sorted them in a document. The other day, you would like to use the travelling time conveniently for applications. Unfortunately (again), the career page is not “responsive”, not adapted to mobile devices. You cannot even reach the “Submit” button. Who can still say that this never happened to him?

In this context it is no wonder what a study by Indeed revealed this week. Indeed is the world’s largest job portal. They interviewed over 500 HR managers and more than 1,000 applicants. The result: 42 percent of all surveyed candidates have interrupted application processes at least once. Nearly 25 percent have even refused to take a job offered because they did not feel sufficiently appreciated in the application process. But why?

One reason is the cover letter. Half of the candidates see the most stressful part of an application in writing the draft. And the recruiters? Nearly 70 percent absolutely expect these letters to get an idea of how a candidate can “express himself”. 45 percent even see it as a “necessary laborious task!”.

Which ways of application do the candidates prefer? They like to use the more innovative tools than those offered by the HR managers. 63 percent of all candidates would like to be able to apply directly using the online job sites (and really be able to use them. Not as described above!). Around 20 percent want mobile channels and social media pages as application tools. And the businesses? They still prefer the classical ways by mail or email. It does not look very much like these expectations are compatible.

Even more: In the effort of creating the documents, the personnel departments see how—as they think—motivated the candidates are! Incidentally, the HR professionals estimate the time needed for this completely wrong with 51 minutes. In reality it’s 74 minutes, as the study says. The candidates, however, think that only 42 minutes are appropriate. A little more than half of the time they actually need. What a discrepancy!

What about the feedback to the candidates? 60 percent of all companies do not inform their candidates regularly about the status of their application. Although … 99 percent of all applicants want this! No feedback, however, leads candidates to quit and apply elsewhere. Who wants to blame them?

All this would not be dramatic if we had an oversupply of candidates and the HR people could pick and choose. But wherever you go today you hear nothing but complaints about “skill shortages”! There is a glaring mismatch between traditional HR-expectations and candidate wishes. In a job market with several options for each candidate, the applicant’s needs are as important as the needs of the most sacred of cows, His Majesty King Customer.

In short: Employer branding begins with candidate friendliness and convenience. Only those who realize that have understood and a shot at the most skilled. Yes, Indeed.

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Generation Du

In many German companies, people go away from addressing each others formally (“Sie”) and use the more casual form (“Du”)–from interns to presidents, decreed from above. Is it to win the coveted, qualified professionals of Generation Y?

Du? Sie? Both means “you” in English. But germans distinguish just like the french or spanish (tu / vous, tu / usted). Sie is formal and usual among adults and young ones addressing the elder and higher people in hierarchies. Du has been what peers, friends or kids say to each others. But in times of Facebook friendships, things are about to change.

In January this year, the mail order company Otto has introduced Du as general form across the enterprise, between all levels. The Chief Executive Officer Hans-Otto Schrader describes this as part of a “cultural change 4.0” in allusion to the digital world where applicants today are recruited from. And right: Inn particular, Otto is looking for several hundred experts in IT, BI and e-commerce this year, as the marketing trade magazine w&v published this week.

Why Du? Employees of all levels shall communicate at eye level with bosses and colleagues, as the Otto-protagonists are cited in the journal. Applicants can also choose whether they use Du in the interview and even in the letter. The hiring managers expect to gain more relaxed candidates. By the way: Otto’s applicants don’t even have to write any old individual letters anymore. They simply fill in the online form, that’s all. If they want, they can answer so-called motivational questions. On their profile they follow the progress of their application as by a tracking feature. In a trainee blog they exchange opinions and information. Otto even throws out the fishing rod on the net: Some potential candidates to have been led from their social web profile directly to the company’s sites.

The deeper motivation comes clear with the intention behind it: Otto wants to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for candidates. And that is understandable, considering that companies must compete for the best heads of today. “Du” is the usual form of a generation that doesn’t like to adapt old conventions and structures.

However, with its so-called cultural transformation 4.0 Otto not revolutionary. In many startups and e-commerce-companies people have always been greeted informally with Du. Even the digital chief of Volkswagen, Johann Jungwirth, thinks about generally introducing Du. The magazine mentioned above quotes him in another article with the words: “I would love to abolish the Sie”. As former years-long executive of Apple in Silicon Valley, he could not make friends again with formalities such as Du or the usual German suit or tie. These things would create distance and trenches, he thinks.

Certainly the Sie may still have a future in classically conservative industries such as banking or insurance. But in many places, encrusted structures get replaced by more modern and informal ways.

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Application today: digital, different—but still like once

Apparrently, digitisation leaves no stone unturned in the world of work. But no mattter how fast the recruiting world has turned: The fundaments of the application process have not changed that much to this day.

Well, there are headhunters poaching employees. And there are companies that actively approach potential candidates—in skill shortages even more frequently. But still the most job changers or job starters have to search on their own. They need to watch the job boards just as once the job advertisement sections of newspapers. Applications have to be written and interviews are to be held. Technology does not replace the work of the candidate. But it makes it easier and opens up new possibilities.

Today, a lot of information sources can be used by anyone who is interested in the job in a particular company. On the web and on social networks there is more “glasnost”, openness, than ever before. Thoroughly surfing on the company web site should therefore only be the start for searching. A company does not only produce, it also has a corporate culture. And it has bosses and employees with individual preferences—both professionally and personally. On networks like LinkedIn or perhaps even Facebook, one can often read postings about what the people of the company think or do. They can also be contacted directly. Genuine interest and insider knowledge is ultimately a strong strike and a very good start when presenting.

What about the CV and professional experience? The procedure follows the same rules as ever. If you write that you meet requirements which you don’t acutally do, you will be measured at the claimed and fail in your daily work. In addition, a new entrants need not seek a position with executive directorship after just one year of experience. What matters is to outline actual personal core competencies. If you are no specialist yet, will not benefit from the skills shortage.

What remains essential in many industries are case histories or examples, especially in media or creative professions. The advantage in today’s online world is that no thick wallets with dozens of copies must be created and sent by post anymore. Everything can be deposited on the homepage or social media profiles. But beware: if you send links to your work sites or homepage, everything must have to be top-maintained. And above all, it must be accessible. A link to the dead end is a debacle in the digital age.

At last consider two things. First, a candidate should offer a test working day, if he has the opportunity. The future employer will not expect perfect performance. But the applicant can prove his ability to think into new tasks. Second: Always be up-to-date. Read relevant media and newsletters, attend trade shows. Deal with technical terminology. If possible, attend trainings. To be able to “have a say” in an interview on the subject rather than to just listen clueless may be the ticket to the dream job.

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