Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Maternity is the time of your life when you see all the cartoons all over again ;-)

Lyrics | The Aristocats - Thomas Omalley Cat lyrics

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How the organisational culture changed me

It`s been 11 months since I`ve started my "institutional" job. And as August is a slow month at work, most people being on holiday, I`ve been mostly on my own - I`ve got my own mind back, so to speak. And I`ve been reading this amazing book called "Leading change" - I go to a seminar with the same name in September so I`ve decided to do my homework thoroughly.
So, slowly but surely, I came to realize that I`ve been changed during this 11 months. The organisational culture got me, in a very subtle and insidious way. It is true, this is by far the largest organisation I`ve been working in (with about 4000 people in Luxembourg only) and it is over 50 years old. So it had all the time and the manpower to develop a strong organisational culture. I am still amazed how fast it worked, I just did not see it coming. So what changed?

1. I stopped taking any risks, even smaller ones. The organisational culture is risk averse, so everytime I came with an idea that was different and which has not yet been tested, I was being told nicely that it is better to stick to the old proved ways. And after several months, with a baby at home and with a challenging family life, I just left my job take a place somewhere in the background.

2. I started taking longer to do a task. I appreciate now having weeks or even months to complete a task - I do not feel this makes me deliver better results, just gives me more space in terms of workload.

3. I started using e-mail as primary communication tool. I am still amazed when I look at my send items at the end of day (20 to 30 a day). No wonder I have so little time for "real" work. However, I am acutely aware that many things would be better solved by phone or face-to-face talk. When you just show up in someones office, the urgency of your demand gets a big boost.

4. I stopped writing.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Swimming babies

I have been today with Marie to another "swimming" lesson. It becames more and more boring and dissapointing. There are 10 lessons in total, we have been to 5 so far. At the first one I thought they are just starting - so it was normal not to do anything interesting (for me). However, today as I was pushing Marie back and forth from one side to the other of the swimming pool, I have found myself looking at the big clock on the wall every 5 minutes or so. And a lesson only lasts 30 minutes!

Today was the day when both parents could attend the lesson together with the child. So we have done simple exercises, that could be done by any of the parents. I went alone, was a bit dissapointing for me, but Marie don't think it noticed anything different from the previous lessons, and this is good, she has a constant experience.

Monday, June 1, 2009

First management lesson: Trust your boss

Quite early in my professional life I have learned you need to trust your boss. People say that you don't get to choose your boss. I would like to argue differently. You do get to choose who you work for. And if things do not work out the way you expected, you can always walk away. This is the beauty of being an employee - you can walk away. People don't always get it.

You get to choose your boss and luckily, by the start of your job you have already an opinion about the person. In my experience, it takes less than a month to say if your initial assessment was right on the money.

In my first job, the boss didn't turn out to be what I hoped for and I walked out after a month. It was during my University studies. Truth been told, looking back now, neither of us had enough experience to deal with the other. I was looking for a mentor, he was also still looking.

I took the second job because of the boss, whom I arrived to know during my studies and gained a deep respect for him. He was my boss and my mentor for two years, until he retired. With him I have learned my first lesson in management: trust your boss. I was 22, rebellious and wanting things to move faster. He was in his 70th, wiser and with a different notion of time and of the flow of things. By staying two years in the same position, I have come to trust his judgment, even when I was deeply convinced of the contrary. Because there have been too numerous the times when he proved me that experience and wisdom do prevail in the hands of the right person. I learn to trust him, and not to question so much as I used to his decisions. Because I knew that in a while I will get the whole picture, and there will be one more lesson for me to learn. However, the whole time I stayed true to my believe that commitment to an organization it is not measured in the years you've spend there, but in the things you have done in the brief period you were there. Even though at the time I was convinced that I will someday take my mentor's place and retire with honors from the same organization where I have started my true working career.

My third job was a liaison job. I didn't knew the boss or anything much about the job in itself, except the salary was three times bigger than my current one. With quite a good management experience and a lot of confidence, I proceeded to discover my new workplace. It turned out that my new boss was not to the height of my previous one (who retired) and I kept looking for a mentor during my 2,5 years while in the job. However, here I would say I learned Management lesson no. 2: Learn from your co-workers. We were so diverse, so with high hopes and high education and we had so much fun together that it is, to the day, the best crew I've worked with. And they became my friends.

Then I took a year off work to do an internship. Change of country, change of scenary, change of workplace. Looking back now, was quite a good year - I spend most of my time traveling, meeting with friends, keeping in touch. And I did find a mentor in my voyages. Management lesson no. 3: Take a break!

Job no. 4: When coming back, I was prepared to be my own boss - or at least that's what I thought. For a year, was really great. In the second year, things started to crack: I had no direction, both personally and professionally, and it started to show. However, I didn't see the signs in time.
Management lesson no. 4: Have a back-up plan!

By the end of the year, I was pregnant and changed country again. Being all the time tired and emotional took out any possibility of having a real job during that time. I was going to conferences, reading a lot, and mostly sleeping.

Job no. 5: Being a mother. New year, new job: Full-time mom. Too bad I didn't do an internship or a shadowing to prepare me for this one. As with all my education, all the books and experiences I've had, nothing prepared me for it. And it was awful. Management lesson no. 5: There are things you are not prepared for!

So by the end of year I was starting job no. 6. A new team, which I instantly liked at the interview, a new boss, which impressed me with her perfect way of chairing a meeting in my first day of work. It seems that both personally and professionally I do have a direction now. I have someone to learn from and someone who's learning from me. And this is how I came to write this post: I was just thinking the other day that is such a great thing I've learned early in life that if you determine your boss is trustworthy, then you can trust him or her all the way. This saves you both lots of time and strengthen the relation. You don't have to challenge everything being told, you don't have to fight to prove anything. You can just learn - and as it is being said over and over again, knowledge is power.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Crisis

The Crisis of Credit Visualized

Third time is a charm

The month of March will see the 3rd edition of Pro Action Cafe Luxembourg. This will show if the cafe is sustainable here, if it answer a need, if it can integrate into the local life.

I have put many hopes in the Café, and I have considered it for a long time as the place where I truly belong, my safe heaven and an unlimited source of energy. However, I find myself now at peace with its future, whatever that is. As I have said a long time ago, in what seems a previous life, in a previous blog, "Brussels is a state of mind" - I can now say that the Café is a state of mind. If I could just preserve somehow the energy I find in the café, if I could just keep myself in that state of mind... then I will not be scared of the possiblily that the Café will not find its own space here.

And as I looked at the forest this morning, and heard the birds singing the spring, I realized that I am not scared anymore. Third time is a charm. There is a time and place for everything - and this is a saying as old as the world. Time will come and time will go, and things will only happen when it is their time. I can only do my best and enjoy the ride.

Where is the world heading?

Vicious circle to virtuous circle - collective development spiral

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First holiday with Marie

First holiday with Marie. Going away with a 10 months old was quite ok, she seemed to enjoy the diversity. Was difficult sometimes, to find places to feed her, places to change the dipper, to remember to take with you the baby food and the changing equipment. We survived, all three of us. However, I was for a week on medical leave after. Not related, of course, it was just a bad cold.