Bringing FLOW into your organisation

According to Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, being in flow is the key to real human happiness.

The pre-requisites for personal flow are:

  • Inner clarity of mission and vision
  • Clear goals
  • Balance between challenge and skill
  • Feedback about your performance
  • Fully in-sync with work
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Enjoyment and contribution

If we consider the Yerkes-Dodson performance law, being optimally stimulated (in flow) will yield the best performance, innovation and motivation.

So: If you want to create happiness and high performance/motivation and innovation in your people, you need to get them in flow!

The following is a list of ideas on how to get and keep people in flow at work, generated by PhD students during a leadership training session today:

  • Make sure that people understand goals correctly
  • Create a nice working environment, ergonomic, green …
  • Be sure that people are aligned to the company environment, culture and attitude
  • Give people space to work quietly on high-concentration work
  • Give people the relevant technical and administrative support in order that they can concentrate on their core tasks
  • Give people time and space to be creative and take initiatives
  • Ensure communication is good and clear
  • Have team building moments
  • Give regular feedback to people
  • Coach people
  • Give people the opportunity to express themselves, for example: A questionnaire
  • Sports facilities, power-nap, coffee, massage and zen-rooms
  • Regularly check people’s workload
  • Divide tasks to ensure that people are not over-stressed
  • Get people together, so that they can get feedback from their colleagues
  • Don’t leave “crisis situations” too long – ensure there is balance between challenge and skill level
  • Get to know your people better, work on really understanding their needs and motivation
  • Flexible working hours and home-working possibilities
  • Give more training and development initiatives
  • Job-rotation
  • Give people responsibilities so that they can grow
  • Relevant reward systems

For more ideas on flow at work, look at this short film:

Hope this was interesting! See you on or follow me on twitter

(Feel free to comment…)

Goal-setting: This time its PERSONAL

Everybody knows you need to be SMART and I am 🙂 … but I still get stuck achieving goals from time-to-time. I set myself the target of running another marathon last year, but then never got off the ground with training… I keep saying I’ll stop drinking Coca-Cola, but after a few weeks, I’m back on it. What’s going wrong?

My PERSONAL acronym outlines some of the better goal-setting habits I’ve come across and attempts to identify the missing elements that will turn your SMART goals into something a little more likely to get done.



Goals set from a negative frame of mind simply don’t work… ..or if they do, they require a huge amount of effort. Consider the following goals:

  • “Stop drinking Coca-Cola”
  • “Lose weight”

In order to even understand these goals my brain has first to compute the positive concept of drinking Coca-Cola or having weight, which is precisely what I want to stop doing by saying “stop” or start losing by saying “lose”. These are examples of negative goals.

If I wanted to be really positive, I might say something like:

  • “Drink only water”
  • “Weight 72kg”

To make positive goals, you need to:

  • Ensure to use only positive grammar (no negations)
  • Ensure that each individual word has positive active power (no “stop” words like in the Coca-Cola example)
  • Avoid sub-assertive language in your goals (e.g. “try” and “maybe”)
  • Be optimistic!



When I set goals, my wife (who is a kinesiology therapist) always asks me “And how do you feel about that?” Feelings should not be overlooked when setting goals. If you want to succeed in getting positive action off the ground and actually succeed in your goals, you have to:

  • Include feelings in the goal-setting process
  • Be sure that you feel good about the goal when actually setting it

To include feelings in the goal-setting process, ask yourself how you will feel when the goal is accomplished… …and don’t forget to make these feelings positive, e.g.

  • Not “I will stop feeling bad about sugar abuse” but “I will feel good about my eating and drinking habits”

..and if you don’t feel good about the goal when you actually set it, that is usually a sign that you need first to work on something else before starting that particular goal (in my case, feeling energetic without the use of sugary drinks).

Tip: One good way to include feelings is to use “I” statements in your goal-setting process



Ah, the SMART classic R!

Relevance is all about making your goals worthy. In the business environment, we imagine that a goal must make sense to the employee, the manager and the company. In PERSONAL goal-setting, relevance is accounted for on 4 levels:

  • Relevant to me = completion of the goal has to have some positive impact for me
  • Relevant to relevant others = completion of the goal has to have some positive impact for others
  • Relevant to my environment = completion of the goals will make my world a better place
  • Relevant to life = completion of the goal will support the universe and everything in it

Now, how do I make sense of my Coca-Cola example? When I can truly understand the relevance of the goal, it will become much easier to achieve!



Another SMART word! You have to make goals specific!

For example, I have set a goal about running the 20km Brussels race this year. I started by saying:

  • “Run the 20km of Brussels this year”

Although I found it realistic and achievable, it was not specific enough to actually enthuse me (more on that later). Running the 20k is too easy. I needed a challenge! To create this personal challenge and make me actually move my arse, I have added a specific measurable element: Time

  • “Run the 20km of Brussels this year in 1h51m or under”

The inclusion of this specific element ensures that I have something really measurable and (more importantly) something I can plan for better.

Tip: To really make your goals specific, I propose to make a kind of work breakdown structure to help understand in-depth what is meant by each part of the goal.



The objective part of a goal might have included the measurable element of SMART but is actually about 2 other important parts of objectivity:

  • When measuring success, the level of objectiveness must be proportional to the goal being set
  • Even if my goal is not about numbers, I must include some observable measurements

An example of objectiveness being proportional: If you weighed 120kgs and wanted to lose weight, you might set the goal of “weighing 100kgs”. When it comes to making a measure, jumping on the bathroom scales might be acceptable. But imagine you were running a race and had made a bet with a friend to complete it in less than 4 hours: Would he accept your word on how long it took or would you get an objective 3rd party to time things?

…and when my goals are not numbers based, I still need to have something to measure objectively afterwards. For example: “I will feel better when running” or “I will be perceived as more smiley” or “My colleagues will consider me to be more polite and empathetic”.



One the problems I have when setting goals is that I just don’t get started! This is usually for one of 3 reasons:

  • Procrastination
  • Completion of the goal is too far ahead in time to feel relevant to me
  • I can’t do anything now

By setting goals that make sense in the “now” you can avoid all sorts of worry and inaction. The simplest way to bring “now” into your goals is to ensure that something can be done immediately today, however small. This “now” action will get you started and give energy to your goal.

As an example, last year my wife and I sat down to complete an exercise from Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Work Week” about our dreams. Both she and I said we wanted to buy our dream house. Although we had no idea what the house would look like and how to go about trading our actual home for something better, we were very careful to identify immediate actions that could be taken (thanks for the advice Tim!). We agreed that she would simply give a call to some estate-agents to get an estimation of the value of our house. This one simple action was completed within the first week and gave birth to the second action: The next week, we found an example of a nice house we liked and noted down the price so that I could have a decent conversation with my bank manager about budgets… …before you now it, we bought our farm and lived happily ever after J

Whatever goals you set, make sure you do something now. For as Goethe says, there is providence in action!



The last of the SMART elements that must nonetheless be retained here: Make sure goals are achievable.

Yes, I can run a marathon. Yes, I can do it in just over 4 hours. I can probably even do it in less than 4 hours. But I will never be a marathon world-record holder! …and if I try, I will only spend a whole lot of energy disappointing myself.

To ensure goals are achievable, ask yourself:

  • What resources do I need to achieve this? Who or what can help me?
  • What am I missing? What don’t I know that might have a negative impact?
  • Do I have enough time to achieve my goal?
  • How am I underestimating the goal or overestimating my own ability?



I had to work hard to find a way to make this last idea fit into “L” and if you have any better suggestions for the words, let me know. …. But the point if simple: My goal has to breathe life into me if I am going to get anywhere! If I am not feeling the El-Magico inside, it’s not worth doing.

Tim Ferriss suggests in “The 4-Hour Work Week” that goals that excite you are far more achievable than goals that don’t excite you. I believe that we all have the natural resources we need to achieve the things we really believe in. If you set a goal and you don’t believe in it (or yourself) you can forget about it. But if you do…… Wow !!!



Good luck with your own goal-setting. If you need more inspiration, check out these links:


Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment…

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Infinite Learning © …a short intro

The Infinite Learning © vision is a proposition concerning how learning can take place in organisations.

It states that learning can happen:

  • In all directions
  • At all moments
  • Using all methods
  • For all people

…as such, learning should not be limited to classical classroom training.


The Infinite Learning © vision is based on 5 truths:

  1. Learning does not imply training
  2. Training does not imply learning
  3. Humans want to learn
  4. Humans can learn
  5. We live in a culture of sharing


To get some more information about Infinite Learning © follow one of these links:


…watch this space for an upcoming report on Infinite Learning in Belgian organisations….

See for more L+D resources or follow me on twitter

Learning does not imply training

In 2001, a young African boy called William Kamkwamba built a windmill. His story has become known worldwide as an example of triumph over adversity and the ability of man to innovate in his own circumstances. It is also a story that highlights the first assumption of Infinite Learning © = You don’t need formal training to learn.


William came from a family of farmers in Malawi. When drought struck in 2001, they had neither food nor money. William’s family could no longer afford to send him to school. Hungry for learning and dissatisfied with his lot, William went to the library to continue learning by himself. It was there that he found books on science and, later, a book about windmills. Realising that these wonderful machines could delivery electricity and pump water, William aged 14 decided he had to build one.


Where do you start building windmills? In Belgium, I would go to Brico and ask the expert for a plan, all necessary materials and a nice IKEA-style guide to building my machine. William had to rely on 3 of the most natural resources: motivation, initiative and time. While he set to looking for useful materials in local dumping grounds, his friends and family thought he was crazy, wasting his time. When he adding the finishing touches to his windmill, the villagers stood and watched, ready to mock him for his folly. When the windmill turned and the light-bulb in his hut came to life, they ran away …to get their mobile phones chargers!


William’s approach to learning, growing and innovating is a flagship story for learning and development people in modern organisations. It reminds us of the first truth of Infinite Learning: You don’t need formal training to learn. Whilst the Googles and 3Ms of the world know that motivation, initiative and time are enough to bring about such learning, change and innovation, many other organisations have the attitude of William’s family, friends and village neighbours: If you try to learn and change without formal training you are crazy and wasting your time.



Watch William’s talk at TED here

If you would like more information about Infinite Learning © contact me

22 questions to analyse your team effectiveness

What are the REAL keys to effective team work? Answer these 22 questions to find out and see where your team can improve.


High-performance teams need leadership, mutual responsibility, compatibility of competence, sharing of work and an agreed approach to achieving a common objective. Some teams create charters about how we should achieve these things (open communication, respect, decision making processes etc…). And then there is the REAL stuff that awesome teams deal well with…


Here is a list of questions that you can use to assess your own team-ability. When you have the answers, ask yourself: What can we do to have a positive influence on this within your own team?

  • How do we help people understand their roles and responsibilities?
  • How do we deal with team motivation?
  • How do we make decisions?
  • How does our leader function in the team?
  • How does our team deal with ambiguity and assumptions?
  • How do we create team interaction?
  • How do we evaluate our position as a team?
  • What happens when we are under time pressure?
  • How do we deal with frustration?
  • How are we creative as a team within our own working environment?
  • How do we deal with rules and processes?
  • What do we do when things are not clear?
  • How do we give each other constructive feedback?
  • How do we deal with (lack of) resources?
  • How do we create common understanding and a common vocabulary?
  • What do we do with incompetent people?
  • How do we encourage people?
  • How do we get everyone involved?
  • How do we react when things don’t go as planned?
  • What happens when we really want to win?
  • What do we do when our goals are not achieved?
  • How can we be proactive as a team?


There are many other positionning tools available for teams including, for example:


I hope this post has been useful. Feel free to add comments.

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Thanks for reading!


10 tips for effective SWOT analysis

10 simple ideas to help you make the most out of a SWOT exercise. This blog post goes hand-in-hand with my other blog-post that contains my favourite SWOT questions.


Doing a good SWOT is about more than just asking the questions…  (a new post on THAT topic will follow soon). Follow these 10 tips to do it well.


Take the time to do it

Most people don’t. Do. It’s as simple as that! SWOT is a great tool for assessing your own position. Once you have outlined your objective/mission, answer each of the SWOT questions in turn. Give your spontaneous answers first. When you have done that ask each question again, really looking at each important word in your objective or mission statement.


Do it with other people

In training, I ask participants to do a SWOT exercise together – it’s amazing to see the different points of view on even the most simple questions.


Ask for feedback

If you want to know your own strengths and weaknesses, ask for feedback from people around you. (Which reminds me, one of my clients has asked me to complete a 360° for her….)


Read industry literature, go to conferences, training etc..

“S”+”W” are about your internal strengths and weaknesses. “O”+”T” are about the outside world. If you want look for ideas about what is going on around you, industry literature, conferences and training events are great ways to see what are the new trends.


Share best practices

And if you share your own best practices, you’ll be helping other people. We live in sharing culture and what goes around comes around!


Social networking: Linkedin, twitter, yammer, Facebook, etc…
I’m a big fan of using tools like these to find out what other are thinking. If you join groups on linkedin and create lists on twitter you can easily see what others are working on, what is new and what people see as opportunities and threats.


Be honest with yourself …and others

There is no point over-estimating your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest. This idea goes hand-in-hand with the idea that you should take good measurements to have a clear idea of what is good and bad. And when people ask you for feedback, be honest yourself!


Brainstorm for opportunities, using tools like 6 thinking hats

Brainstorming is a managed process of using creative thinking techniques to find new ideas and solutions for a specific topic, objective or problem. By doing effective brainstorming, you can identify new ways to tackle opportunities, but maybe even see opportunities that you didn’t see before. Follow training with me on how to develop and facilitate a brainstorming session or read a nice book like “6 thinking hats” by @Edward_deBono for ideas on how to “think differently” when doing your SWOT.


Find good strategists who can help you

When you have your answers to the SWOT questions, the trick is to identify the links between elements in order to underline strategic priorities: How can this strength by used to face a threat or opportunity? What are the links between different elements of the SWOT? What can we do to ignore, manage or build on a weakness? etc etc… Some people are born for this kind of strategic thinking and if you know people like this, use them!


Complement with other tools like PEST, Jo Owen’s Influence Grid (How to Influence), Johari Window…

SWOT is not the only tool for assessing your position – there are hundreds. Here are a few I tools I like:


If you have comments of ideas to share, please post them below.

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Thanks for reading!


Why I see Citroen Xsara Picassos everywhere and why you should care

When I worked for Logica, I drove a Renault Espace. Every morning, I would drive down the E411 between 6.45am and 7.30am. My eyes would pass by  thousands of cars during this time, either overtaking or just seeing them around me, or coming in the other direction. How many did I actually “see”? Not many.

When I decided to leave Logica, I had to buy a car. I spent some time looking around for the perfect answer to my needs: Not too small, 3 real kiddy-seat spaces, more-or-less economic (not the Espace again!). I decided on a Citroen Xsara Picasso. I hadn’t bought it yet, just decided…

The morning after making that decision, I jumped back in my Renault Espace on the E411 to drive to Logica (during my notice period). Same time of the day, same route, I suppose same number of cars (more-or-less). And what happened? Citroen Xsara Picassos everywhere!!


I told this story the other day to training participants and they all smiled knowingly – many people can relate to this story. The funny thing is that even that night, driving home (in my Citroen Xsara Picasso 🙂 )  I could again see them everywhere. And I bet my training participants did too!

Why is this interesting? Because my Citroen Xsara Picasso story holds one of the keys to effective communication, effective presentation skills, influencing, leadership, motivation,  sales…. Read on!


Humans cannot pay attention to everything. There is simply too much going on. At the moment, if I really pay attention, I can hear the sound of the door banging downstairs, I can feel the tips of my fingers on the keyboard, I feel hunger and my cold in my nose, I can hear a tractor in the distance, there is light on my screen and of course, my screen is filled with information.

These are the things that “pass before my senses” that I am aware of, but there are many more things going on that. Although my eyes and ears and other bits receive the sound or light waves, I don’t really seem to register them or notice. Despite being an excellent multi-tasker, I simply cannot pay attention to everything.


I have to “choose” what to pay attention to. If you and I were standing in Brussels Midi station right now and someone said the name “DAN” at a normal speaking voice, chances are you wouldn’t hear it. But I might! This is because it means something to me. And my brain pays attention to the things that mean something to me. I filter out everything else and let (filter) in what I care about, what I am interested in, what means something to me. In NLP, we would talk about physical, cultural and personal filters. My mother would call it “selective hearing” ….and she regularly accused me of this when I was younger!

This is the key to the Citroen Xsara Picasso story: The car means something to me. And until it did, I never noticed it!

So: How is this relevant to effective communication, effective presentation skills, influencing, leadership, motivation,  sales…?


If you want people to listen to you, you have to say things that mean something to them. And if you want to get along with people, you have to be familiar. You have to be “on their wavelength“. If you want to “sell” something to someone, motivate them, get buy-in… you have to offer them something that is beneficial, that is: An advantage to them. If you want to get and keep my attention, you have to mean something to me.


So: What do I need to do to get people’s attention, to influence, to create rapport?

  • Find out what makes the other person tick, what turns them on, what they are interested in, their situation, values and needs
  • Find out how they process information, their VAK representation system, the words, phrases and example they use to explain themselves
  • Define what you have in your offer/product/message/request that might mean something to them: What elements will they recognise? What are the benefits for them? What might help them in their situation, with their values and needs?
  • Tune into and draw-on the way the other person thinks, acts and talks. If they say “BU” instead of “business-unit”, so should you. If they like golf, use a golfing analogy when you talk about your need for a pay-rise! If they talk fast, talk fast. This is known as “synchronising”.


If you do this, you’ll get reactions like “Oh, that sounds nice” and “Tell me more”. If you don’t, you’ll just pass by unnoticed like all the other cars on the E411…



Hope this help!

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Building proactivity

I received this reference by email yesterday from Sophie Kuypers, a previous training participant who also had individual coaching with me last year. I didn’t ask for the reference, so I am feeling very nice about myself 🙂


Ce midi, j’ai déjeuné avec une copine et elle m’a parlé d’une formation qu’elle a suivie dans le cadre de son travail et qui l’a beaucoup fait réfléchir sur des tas de choses. Elle m’a parlé des qualités du formateur qui en plus d’être compétent et dynamique, était psychologue avant de me donner son nom et… c’était toi pour “Building quelque chose“.

Très bon feedback. Continue à donner, c’est magique.

C’était le clin d’oeil du jour, un rien personnel  :o)

Make a presentation in 5 steps (5): Content

There are lots of different types of presentation content and its important to treat it all well. Focus on the minimum effective dose. This post explains how.

(If you haven’t aleady seen the overview blog-spot for making effective presentations, read this first)


Develop content in order to deliver the minimum effective dose

Now it is time to create the content for your presentation – if you are like most people, this will either mean copy/pasting from previous presentations or putting in everything you know about the topic and then cutting out as much as necessary to make it fit into the time slot you have been given. Try applying the lessons in this blog-spot instead!


First of all: Don’t grab everything and then cut out in order to be on time or be less boring – you have to think about BUILDING your presentation up instead of cutting down from your 100% knowledge of the topic. Concentrate on the minimum effective dose!


The minimum effective dose is a concept I first read about in the book “The 4 Hour Body” from Tim Ferriss. This book has nothing to do with presentation skills! It is written by Tim Ferriss, the author of “4 Hour Work Week” which has some really great principles on lifestyle design and being effective. Tim has a great blog  site with lots of good information, links and references…

The basic principle of the minimum effective dose is this: The smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome.

(If you want to read an excerpt from Tim Ferriss’ book on the minimum effective dose and its history in body-building and how it applies to getting a tan, read here!)


In your presentations (and everything else) anything more than the minimum  effective dose (of content) is waste. Adding more content willl:

  • Not create understanding and even detract from your key message
  • Create confusion by drowning people in details
  • Use time unneccessarily
  • Bore people


Note that there are 2 concepts at play here: “minimum” and “effective”. This means you must not have more than necessary and that what you choose to share must be (in itself) effective.

To avoid the problems noted above, ask yourself the 5 following questions in order to create the minimum effective dose of content:

  1. What must people understand in order to get the message?
  2. Which methods, media and ideas will be most effective in passing across the message?
  3. If I could only present 3 things to get my message across, what would they be?
  4. What have I included that is unnecessary?
  5. If I didn’t give all the details myself, what tools/references/resources could I point out so that the audience can continue without me?


The minimum effective dose can be applied to the speech you make, the slides you create, the way you talk to other people, exercises, content of training programmes etc etc…

I hope this helped. If you followed the 5 steps you should have a nice overview of how to build up effective presentations.

Good luck!


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Make a presentation in 5 steps (4): Structure

Your presentation structure will help keep attention, creating better understanding and recall of your message. This post outlines the fundaments of good presentation structure.

(If you haven’t aleady seen the overview blog-spot for making effective presentations, read this first)


Build a structure that supports the message and is easy to follow

It is important to have a good presentation structure in order to:

  • Create fast ROI for the audience
  • Help your audience follow the message
  • Keep audience attention
  • Improve recall of your message


There are many different types of presentation structure and I will outline the possibilities in a future blog-spot. Today, I will show you the most classical structure, which I believe is relevant for most business presentations: The diamond structure.


The diamond structure is based on the “Pyramid Principle” from Barbara Minto – you can get more information here or buy the book on Amazon. For a visual representation of the diamond structure looks like, follow this link.

I have seen lots of different basic structures in presentations and the most recurring problem is this:

  • People give details before they make their point

Minto explains that this can leave the audience confused as they listen and search for the links between details, trying to understand “What is the point?” This will encourage them to switch off (and sleep) and they will be less likely to remember what you told them.


Here is how you should structure things:

  • Have a clear introduction that gives your message immediately and points to the structure that will follow (if you are not convinced about this, read Minto’s book or come to my training )
  • Develop the points of your message in a logical order in the body of your presentation
  • At transition points, refer back to your main message using the “Dora-the Explorer” and “Learn-to-drive” techniques described in training (to be published on a future blog-spot)
  • If you have a formal question time, put it before your closing section
  • To close, summarise what you said and finish by repeating your main message

..simple as that!


For the messages outlined on the blog-spot on creating a strong message, you can see the structure by following these links *:

* note: look carefully at how I applied the “message before details” principle at each level of the structure. If you are using PPT, this same principle should be applied to each slide, meaning that the titles of your slides will give the key message for that slide, before you give the details.


To help you create your own diamond structure, answer these 5 questions (write down your answers!)

  1. What are the key elements that must be addressed in order to present my message? (If you did a good job of creating your message, these will be clearly noted in the message itself)
  2. What is the natural order of things ?
  3. What must I tell first in order that what follows is best understood?
  4. How will I link 1 part of my presentation to another?
  5. Looking at any random part of my presentation, how does this follow on from what came before and lead to what is next?

Now its time to build the minimum effective dose of content


If you have questions, contact me:

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