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Leadership for Life: passion, fear and business performance

The successful tradition of the conference-concert mix continued with a fifth annual meeting of a hundred of inspired managers, directors and business owners.

The uplifting atmosphere of the baroque hall of the Benedict monastery in Břevnov, Prague, along with the bells of the St. Markéta church, created a unique framework for a relaxed and joyful conference that ended with a spontaneous circle discussion and unplanned participant stand-ups about how they conquered fear. An essential part was the performance of the Brixi Academic Choir that enhanced the atmosphere with songs about fear, passion and fearlessness.

The first part of the forum Where there are emotions, there is life, moderated by Barbora Krásná began with a presentation by Itzik Amiel, the founder of the Power Networking Academy, an international speaker and the author of the book Attention Switch. His presentation, consisting of a discussion of emotions, an interactive section on trust and of highlighting the importance of attention and interpersonal connection, was illustrated by his personal story: a close encounter with death as a result of a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, which subsequently pointed him in a different life direction and opened him up to love for people. “Trust, love and care are the air that we breathe. Trust increases performance, and is a connection between the management and employees. Trust does not stem from electronic contact, but from interpersonal, face-to-face contact experiences. Attention leadership reminds us of the reason we are here [at the workplace]; it is positive recognition. Even a small measure of attention has a huge effect – ask your employees what they need, because if you don't, your relationships with them will fall apart. Take time to build trust first, before you need it!"

Nora Kurzová, Chief Privacy Officer, Tyco International Management Company, LLC – an international corporation with a focus on security and safety – discussed her personal experiences with paralyzing fear; for example those, which she gained during her time as a consultant against corruption in Eastern Europe. Nora is convinced that fear should not control your decisions. However, she admits that fear also has a positive connotation – sometimes it is simply cautionary, in which case you should follow your instincts. How then do you distinguish between the limiting paralyzing fear and caution? According to Nora Kurzová's instructions: “You need to ask yourself, if you would mind your grandma or children knowing about the decision/step you are about to take. Would you mind if it appeared in the news? If, while imagining these different scenarios, you feel ashamed, then it is not the correct decision/step to take. In any case: whatever happens, the decision regarding what happens next always remains in your hands."

Hannu Kasi, Country Managing Director, ABB Česká republika is a Finn who has experience with directing global corporations in multiple countries. In his presentation, he focused on his typically Czech experiences of passion and fear in the workplace. “The Czechs say 'I will try this', instead of 'I will do this'. They like their comfort and do not want to change their familiar surroundings – they refuse to move for work. They are unsure and fear their bosses. What is my recipe to awaken passion and become a true leader? Give people interesting tasks, delegate, emphasize and reward change and innovation. Employees need constant feedback, acknowledgement and a good salary. Minimize uncertainty, communicate, celebrate successes and make people laugh!"

Václav Muchna, the owner of the company Y Soft shared his opinions and experience concerning the development of start-ups. His successful and rapidly growing company, founded in 2000, produces software for printers. Today, he has customers all over the world (80 big global corporations), 270 employees, 12 offices and double-digit growth. The biggest challenge for Y Soft was communication and effective growth management. When tackling this challenge, they were inspired by the processes and standards of the corporate world, but kept the openness for change and flexibility in communication, which characterize start-ups. “Process is education aiming to teach people to do things in the same way. Each employee should also have an understanding of what his/her task is and how they contribute to the company; they need to feel useful."

They choose people who fit within their six values – principles formula: be driven – the need to generate and accept changes; openness; passion; the ability to give and recharge energy; be accountable – the ability to work hard; and ethics. With their rapid – and international – growth the synergy of performance and culture is seen as an absolute necessity.

The second part of the conference Let's not be afraid of fear, moderated by Martin Dokoupil, Blue Strategy and glossed by Jan Bílý, a holistic coach, began with a presentation by

Loredana Popasav, Transformative Coach, Making Change Work UK, titled Do not be afraid of your experience! She focused on natural fearlessness: “We are most afraid of our own illusions, our thoughts. Our fear is based on our imagination and thought processes. There is a fundamental difference between fearlessness and courage. Courage tells us: feel your fear and do it in spite of that! Fearlessness does not even let us feel our fear. Every one of us has to conquer their fears by themselves. Let's get rid of our desire to control the situation and accept it as it is."

Zuzana Ceralová Petrofová, the president of Petrof, spoke about her personal experiences, drive and self-confidence that she gained while managing business during the crisis period of the post-socialist Czech Republic. She represents the fifth generation of the Petrof family in the 150 year-old, family-owned, piano-making company.

Pavel Kusý, Marketing Director, Edenred, Global Collaborative Marketing Strategist, contributed a point of view on the various forms of fear lived by middle management and employees in businesses going through a transformation period: “How big is the fear of job loss? According to a global statistic, 23% of people are afraid of being fired; in the Czech Republic it is, however, almost 37%."

Lenka Hejduková is the Commercial Manager at Havel, Holásek & Partners – the biggest law firm in the Czech Republic, with a primary focus on international clients. She shared her story of an emotional trap, a dissonance between feelings and the brain, which forced her to reaffirm who she is and what she wants to do.

The afternoon discussion, Emotions and company performance, which took place in a big open circle, and in which Marek Ditz, a member of the Board of ČSOB and the Managing Director; Dušan Fornůsek, Marketing Manager, Ford, and Dalibor Pulkert, Head of Etnetera Mobile, as well as other previous speakers actively participated, was moderated by Martin Dokoupil.

Dušan Fornůsek launched the topic of group and team management: dealing with collective intelligence and emotions, especially fear and hate during transformation periods. Together, the participants searched for a solution and discussed open communication, dealing with bad mood originating in small groups (e.g. smokers) and communicating bad news. Jan Bílý remarked, “...that, which is not openly said and of which the management is not mindful, erupts from the subliminal. It is good to get rid of formal structures with specific rituals and celebrations, recognize ideas originating from the bottom and give people their place and recognition."

Dalibor Pulkert talked about the principles of freedom and the long-term implementation of free company culture, for example by publicly publishing the costs, profits and salaries. He also touched upon the question of favouring one team to the detriment of others and the company culture. His story about how to properly fire a person who is closely tied to the company culture but burnt out was also positively received.

Marek Ditz discussed fear as business instigator in bank and finance areas and how to prevent this fear – a good helper outside of the company – from dominating internally, within the bank; how to ensure balance between the production of worst-case scenarios and the compensation for fear by aggressive business behaviour. He talked about the need of everyone, even large corporations, to create an atmosphere, such that ideas originating from the bottom – from seven levels under the highest management – can be successfully implemented; a situation, in which every employee has the chance to earn praise and be rewarded (e.g. dinner with the managing director).

The conference participants shared a common fear of receiving notice from specialized employees, experiences with the anonymous line for complaints or how to utilize fear for innovation. They also discussed trust – how it is impossible to control the outcome of a situation sometimes. Lastly, they examined how a company can test the strength of its culture and attractiveness by, for example, purposefully sending employees as job candidates to other companies in order to get a comparison.

Finally, the “founding father" of the leadership conferences, Jim Cusumano, spoke about his way to deal with fear: “Ask yourselves what you are afraid of and why. When you arrive at the answer, your fear won't be as big as before, because it was just a word that controlled you."

Towards the end, one of the conference participants, a financial director of a big global corporation, observed: “I did not know that a conference does not have to be serious and a bit boring. I not only had a good time today, and even sang a bit, but also became inspired as never before!"

Conference Details:
Barbora Krásná, Blue Events
Barbora.Krasna@BlueEvents.eu, +420 222 749 841

Contact for Media:
Aneta Zímová, Blue Events
Aneta.Zimova@BlueEvents.eu, +420 730 184 505

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