Archive for the ‘Personal Growth’ Category

The So-Called “Round Table”—The Appearance of Equality Doesn’t Guarantee Equality

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Are you among participants in negotiations where you sit at a “round table?” The “round table” is convened whenever the aim is to discuss something free from the constraints of hierarchy. The seating arrangement at a rectangular table always gives an indication of who is in charge—the individual at the head of the table or in the middle, according to the occasion and the gathering. A round table is supposed to signify that everyone seated there is equally empowered.

But that’s usually not the case. In television broadcasts of political gatherings, have you ever considered, for example, how cameras and national flags are arranged? Have you ever considered where entrances and exits to the room are or who sits next to whom? Of course there’s a hierarchy, even at a round table, and naturally, everyone present knows what it is.

Don’t let yourself be bullied: There are inequalities in every negotiation. If you want to grow, you must be aware of this and use it to your advantage.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: The Messi Effect

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Ready Set Grow
Before I am innundated by a flood of emails: Yes, Lionel Messi is an outstanding soccer player, with this proviso: Messi also makes mistakes. And Messi plays badly from time to time.

But during the World Cup, has it occurred to you that Messi (almost) always did everything right, brilliantly, strategically—at least in the opinion of the commentators. Even when he made a particularly bad move, it was “strategically well-conceived.” When Messi took a shot, “Messi, Messiiii, Meeeeeesssssiiiiii!” Too bad he missed, by ten feet. Commentary: “That was really, really close. A great idea from the Argentinian star player, but his teammates let him make his run all by himself. Even the best can’t do anything that way.” Ho hum.

There it is, the “Messi factor.” The star can’t play badly, because that isn’t on the agenda. If he doesn’t get a shot, it’s because “he was taken out of the play by four, five opponents.” I see.

There’s an on-going Messi factor in daily life. The authorities make no mistakes, and everything that the authorities do has a reason (supposedly). It reminds me a little of a satire by the great Ephraim Kishon, wherein he describes a guided tour through a museum. The guide kept asking, “What is the artist trying to tell us?” But Kishon never had an even half “correct” answer because he saw only meaningless sculptures or moronic images having four squares instead of the alleged epiphany before his eyes. At the end of the tour, near the exit, Kishon pointed out to the guide and the tour group a pile of sand, ingeniously formed so that it seemed that it must have a very special significance. The guide: “Oh, the fire department forgot to remove that after the last drill.”

Don’t let alleged authorities bully you. We all make mistakes. All of us.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved. © Sprinter: mezzotint_fotolia –

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: Be Seen

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Ready Set Grow

There was once a much-derided concept called “management by walking around.” These “management by” techniques fell short because a good, growth-enhancing management- and leadership style is marked by situational behavior within a framework of guard rails, not with “management by” techniques.

But, it is an indisputable fact that it pays to show yourself regularly on the “shop floor,” especially if you are a manager. All too often, we hear the complaint that the people “up there” haven’t the foggiest notion of what “we” do down here (in assembly, fulfillment, logistics, and so on). All too often, an ivory-tower mentality arises. All too often, a barrier exists between blue-collar employees and white-collar staff.

Our most successful clients regularly appear on the shop floor. They visit production. They take a look at the warehouse. They go through the specialty departments. They drive to branch offices. And they take an interest in relationships. Please note: We’re not talking here about acting the benevolent uncle, but about genuine interest. By the way, it is not much of an excuse to say that, in doing so, you’d be interfering with the employees’ immediate supervisors. Having “no time” is just as bad an excuse. Better to hold a shorter meeting on the shop floor.

Show some interest. Be there. Be seen.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved. © Sprinter: mezzotint_fotolia –

Ready, Set, Grow! This Week: Develop a Quick Wit

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Ready Set Grow
How quick-witted are you? How often have you been upset with yourself, after a conversation during which you were perhaps challenged personally, that you didn’t have the perfect riposte at the ready. Don’t get upset. It’s not worth it.

Three examples of quick wit:

1. Musician Frank Zappa was once interviewed by Joe Pyne, a talk-show host who had a wooden leg. Pine was known for giving offense.
Pine: “So, I guess your long hair makes you a woman.”
Zappa: “So, I guess your wooden leg makes you a table!”
(Different versions of this dialog are quoted, but the exact wording isn’t the point here.) Text from

2. Recently, a female member of our management-consultant network in America was curtly labeled a “trainer” by a banker. Whereupon, she said, “You’re mistaken. The difference between me and a trainer is the same as the difference between you and an ATM.”
Result: astonishment.

3. In a project meeting,
a member of the project team, unreceptive to valid criticism of the progress made in his department: “If my boss were here now, he would not stand for this.”
At that, the project leader responded: “That would in no way make him more correct.”
Result: a huge burst of laughter.

Here’s the best way to be quick-witted: Be in the present, don’t censor yourself, remain cool and above the beltline. In the worst case, you’ll ge more respect; in the best case, you’ll all have a good laugh.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved. © Sprinter: mezzotint_fotolia –

Perceptible Concentration—Not Only for Children

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Try this experiment: Take a small cardboard box—perhaps somewhat larger than a cigarette box—and a small can that fits into it. To the can, add a substantial weight of small pebbles or fine gravel. You can also take a small bag and fill it only part way, then cut off the top leaving enough to fold over and wrap with a rubber band. A weight-ratio of 1:4 is optimal (say about 20 grams of packaging and 80 grams of contents) is ideal. Place the filled can or bag in the box. The diameter of the can should be about one-third the length of the box.

Now ask someone hold the box along with its contents. Take the can out of the box and ask this same someone to hold the can, including its contents, of course. Ask your subject which seems heavier. In eight out of ten cases, the subject will say that the can without the box is significantly heavier than the assembled “parcel.”

Although this appears be explained logically by the concentration of the weight, this experiment offers a proposition that can be carried over to our professional practice: Even with less cost (here, the lower weight of the can including contents compared to the entire parcel) a greater effect can be achieved (here, perceived weight), when energy is focused. When the distributive effect (the parcel) disappears, a greater impact results.

Focusing is the opposite of scattering. Every child understands such everyday experiments.

(Most recently I have done this with beads for cleaning decanters: Box dimensions (measured): 10.5 x 6.0 x 3.5 centimeters. Total weight of of the box including contents (weighed): 95 grams, of which 20 grams is the weight of the packaging. Can with beads: 4 cm in diameter and 3 cm tall.)

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Risk or Regulation/Rules: Which Do You Prefer

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Life is dangerous, no doubt about it—especially if you believe those who concentrate only on life’s hazards. Anything can happen. But most of the things that can happen, won’t happen. They simply will not occur. This fact doesn’t protect us from regulators, who never tire of wanting to write rules, just in case something might happen.

We can’t protect ourselves from everything. Life carries with it some residual level of risk, which is comparatively low, especially in Germany. Meanwhile, the regulation-frenzy waxes apace, or so it seems. Conversations about the requirement to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Twenty-mile-per-hour speed-limits sprawling into silly places. Email that can be delivered only between the hours of 7:00 am and 6:00 pm. The list grows, haphazardly. Instead of betting on citizens’ improving judgment, instead of counting on their learning how to assess danger, we are burdened with regulations of questionable value in an effort to protect us from unavoidable catastrophe. Companies are almost exactly as active as legislators in this endeavor.

I would wish only that we placed more value on explaining connections. I would wish only that citizens and employees be taken seriously, and that more time was spent on persuasion than on creating laws and regulations. Doing so takes longer, but the payoff is greater.

What did Hans Andersson—in his day H&M’s regional manager for South Korea and Japan—say to me during one of our conversations right at the time of the tsunami and the Fukishima catastrophe? “Mr. Quelle, you cannot control a tsunami. You have to rely on company values and managers’ judgment to do the right thing.”

Enough said.


© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: “That Won’t Work Here!”

Monday, May 12th, 2014

There are two significant differences between successful people and less-successful people. Today’s growth tip and in coming days, both differences will become evident.

“That Won’t Work Here!”

Whenever I hear this statement, two things happen with me: head-shaking and sympathy. How often I hear this formulation: “That’s all well and good, Mr. Quelle, but . . .” (the “but” negates whatever has just been said) “. . . that won’t work here!” Exclamation point. Discussion over. Topping this is: “That can’t possibly work!” Variations are: “That’s all right in theory, but we are pragmatists here” or “That is all too academic.”

Mandat and I have already helped many businesses to raise prices or fees, to create services that had previously been unimaginable, to recover millions upon millions of euros where processes interface, to implement growth-projects in one quarter of the alloted time, to create growth strategies that catapult our clients into a new league. In this context, “That won’t work here!” sounds a little odd.

The first difference between successful- and less-successful people and businesses is characterized by the little word “quite.” “That won’t quite work here” is a legitimate response; it sparks a discussion. Much of what I observe among our colleagues in the U.S. doesn’t quite work in Europe, but in such cases, we adapt a good idea to the European market. What’s the problem?

Successful people ponder how they can devise a suitable way of implementing one good idea atop another. Less-successful people see the same idea as absurd.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Personal Growth: Speak Extemporaneously Instead of Following a Script

Friday, May 9th, 2014

As most of those who work with us know, I speak frequently each year about business- and personal growth, and generally speaking, the feedback I get tells me that the presentations are effective.  An essential aspect of their impact is that I do without PowerPoint® or other technical aids. Interaction with participants from the stage, a flip chart—perhaps projected from the camera for the audience if there are several hundred people in the room—and a good topic suffice.

Last year in Switzerland, I worked intensively, one-on-one with Matthias Pöhm, arguably Europe’s foremost public-speaking coach. The objective was to further my development in matters rhetorical and not to stagnate. Pöhm calls PowerPoint® presentations “assisted reading.” A superb concept.

Not long ago, we stopped by our Lions Club in Dortmund’s Jewish community to learns something about working and living there. For almost 90 minutes the speaker, Mr. Katz, spoke to us inside the synagogue, explaining things and answering questions. PowerPoint®? No. It wouldn’t have fit in. At our recently-completed strategy session, each member of the Mandat team spoke individually about past successes and the associated templates for success, partly in English, as a matter of fact. PowerPoint®? That era has passed. If someone really understands something about a topic, he or she needs no transparencies that offer reading assistance to the speaker or the audience.

Freedom for speakers and the audience; out with assisted reading!

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: You Need a Filter

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Today, the possibilities available to us with virtual media are immense and offer huge advantages. But there are also disadvantages. One of them consists of the fact that, in the virtual world, anyone can write about or comment on anything, and it’s becoming more difficult to ascertain whether what someone has written has any substance. The disadvantage increases when someone, who understands little or nothing about something, writes something. This in turn is read by many who don’t take the trouble to research whether the author is offering only an opinion or has some understanding of the matter.

You need a filter. You need a frame of reference that makes it possible for you to filter out the rubbish that patters down on us every day from the Web and to shovel it where it belongs— onto the virtual trash heap. Trust blogs least, because most of them contain junk. Don’t waste your time in forums, where anecdotal evidence is all too often applied en bloc. Trust only serious news portals, because many others simply want to generate quotes, so they accept things without verification.

The healthiest filter is your own development and education, what you’ve read, your having grappled with important topics, both in your private affairs and in business. No one can take your own experiences from you. And for all the allure of the virtual, your personal and varied real-life experience leads to significantly superior insights than does pursuing a pseudo-reality at the level of Facebook.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

The Absurdity of External Motivation

Monday, April 21st, 2014

The chatter about external motivation never stops. We’ll try to remedy that here: Motivation from the outside is neither possible nor necessary. Executives should inspire, not motivate. They should discover and develop talent, and not stage a walking-on-hot-coals kind of theater. Employees are highly motivated when they start a job. Take pains to see that they remain so.

And the talk – I nearly called it “blather” – about lazy youngsters or young adults, who only want to have fun and not to accomplish anything, can’t be allowed to stand. As a professor at the SRH College for Logistics and the Economy in Hamm, Germany, I am really quite close to young adults and their level of performance – which every now and then, I see as right noteworthy. First, you don’t get good grades from me as a gift. Second, I don’t give them for rote learning. And yet, consistently there are students who have earned a well-justified “A” from me. That comes only through internal motivation, which is where achievement originates.

Instead, let’s seek out talent, help it to find itself, and give it the structure it needs to achieve excellence. Is everyone willing to do that? No, but we can change those people only to a very limited extent. First and foremost, this is not about “motivation.” That’s too trivial.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.