Guillaume Hernoux

Thoughts, travels and inspiration

Four reasons parenthood can make you a better leader

Father and son
Father and son by MarcelaHernouxPhotography

Who has never met somebody at work and say a couple of years after, he or she was a real father / mother for me… I grew up so much during my tenure during this role. He taught me so much.. She cared so much about me and our team…

Leadership is defined by the New Oxford Dictionary of English as: ‘the action of leading a group of people or an organisation’. However the range of actions included in this definition remains vague and left to the appreciation of many.

In this article, based on my recent experience as a father, I would like to offer you four reasons parenthood can inspire you to become a better leader.

1- Develop a clear vision of what to become as a family

As a family, we are all different and unique but we are also one living together good and bad moments. From birth we will all experiment happy and difficult moments where our family is the very first place we can search out for strength and comfort.

However, for this to work, an ambiance of acceptance and encouragement has to be put in place. Trust is key to travel together in this lifelong journey and parents must be the captain in charge of sailing everyday the boat to the right direction.

As parents, we must make sure our children grow in a certain structure that will make them ready to live in society while offering them the tools to think independently and make the right decisions.

We have to build a vision of what we want to become together and develop it with the support of all family members. We have to find what unites us and not divides us permanently.

In a business the role of the leader is to create the right culture for its talents to thrive and reach their objectives both professional but also personal to retain them over time.

The goal is to lead to a common objective where both businesses and talents will be better off. As parenthood, vision is what unites people together, make them stick and grow unanimously.

Photo by Askar Abayev from Pexels

2- Define the values that power you as a unit

Values are what allow us to take the toughest decisions of our lives. They are defined as the moral principles and beliefs or accepted standards of a person or social group like a family or a business.

While the vision of what we want to become as a family is the ideal we want to work for, the values are the guiding principles through how we want to achieve that.

We are all different as individuals and we value different things unevenly. However, when we face tough decisions, we need to find common ground to respond the right way.

For some, it will be based on religion, others on rules that have always been in place in the family. Above all, we all need to get the same rules to respond in the right way, learn and grow..

For corporate leaders, this is just the same. People come from different cultures, background, religions and have different priorities in life. The role of the leader is to define and convey over time the set of rules that will be used to grow the business overtime.

How to do it ? Jack Welch, the ex-CEO of GE developed a specific matrix called the Performance / Values Matrix. It clearly states that culture fit should always be preferred to performance fit to develop a business in the long-term.

Performance Value matrix from Jack Welsh as explained by AVA

From quality, to honesty or care, some are just examples that I value and carry on through my activities while hiring or joining new businesses. Think about what yours are and hire and retain only people that fit yours. You will save many hours wondering if you made the right decisions in your career..

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

3- Deliver results through basic but powerful metrics

Numbers people, I have good news for you. Parenthood is also a lot about numbers. From numbers of baby’s bottles to give or the average volume a baby needs to drink from Mommy’s breast, to counting how much the little darling pees or poops to make sure everything is normal, there are a lot of metrics to keep in mind.

Sounds familiar ? Our way of working was to log everything to measure the progress days after days and months after months. The result? The capacity to anticipate baby being hungry at 4am, more comfort for him and longer(ish) nights of sleep for us.. Sounds regimental? People and businesses always go further, quicker and easier with systems in place. For more tips, ask your paediatrician 🙂

In business, many will have recognised the basics of a business plan and a forecast.. Look at the big picture, break it down in small steps, know the activities you have to do every day, measure them and act upon them. Fail fast, learn fast and grow quickly! In summary, be agile !!

Anybody can do a basic form of log tracking and bring more success to the growth phase of a newborn little darling or company. Take the time to review your market position per activity (the SWOT), think about micro / macro economics affecting your business (PESTEL / PORTER). Make sure to know what is your unicity or superiority in the market. Then, you’ll be ready for success.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

4- Prioritise what is important for growth

If parenthood can be described as something wonderful, it is also sometimes overwhelming, with the schedule of the new arrival added to the obligations of the house. From shopping to going out for a meal with the better-half or friends, everything becomes different and priorities must be reshuffled.

Like in business, parents’ days start early and finish late with sometimes (especially at the beginning) very little time to rest at night. Knowing and acting on what is truly important or or urgent becomes key.

For Eisenhower, we can assign tasks to four different categories depending on their importance and their urgency. Most importantly, if we should tackle first the important / urgent, we should focus most of our time in the important / not urgent to build a system for success.

The Eisenhower time matrix adapted from Business Savvy Mama

For parents to leaders, it is our duty to prioritise invaluable things and organise our days to make sure we tackle all roles in life. Nobody can do it for us and leaving the world running our priorities is a poor choice that will have one day or another an impact on our health and our career or lives over time.

The Wheel of Life as proposed by leading coach Tony Robbins can be a great place to start. Have a look at what matters to you in life, assess where you are today and set up the right development plan for growth in areas that matter to you and your happiness.

Photo by Elina Fairytale from Pexels

Parenthood and leadership a human growth accelerator

Parenthood is a unique experience making you live all types of feelings on a daily basis. It also teaches you key values like patience, care and dedication. It places you in a way bigger spectrum than where you thought you were before. If forces you to understand how to make life better for you and your family everyday.

Leadership is a similar experience at the head of an organisation. From defining the vision to creating the right team to deliver the expected results, it challenges you on a daily basis to manage people like a family. It makes you take difficult decisions with the right values to grow and for everybody’s best interest.

Parenthood teaches you so much on how to become a better leader. But realistically, we should all become more leaders’ of our own lives. And to those wondering, isn’t great leadership also the perfect learning opportunity to become amazing parents ?

Feeling like in the same boat and want to share your experience, leave us a comment below or drop us an email at contact(at)guillaumehernoux(dot)com. Parents, leaders, followers, tell us what you think and let’s have a chat !

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels

Four pillars to make your business digital

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

For many years, businesses have been driven by people who always searched for ways to improve their efficiency and their success with their customers.

From the use of rustic tools to shape things in prehistory, to automated machinery more recently, people and then companies have become more efficient at creating products and value to their customers.

The 21st century isn’t any different of the previous ones and recent events like the Covid 19 pandemic are only accelerating current trends, the main one being digitalisation.

Digitalisation defines digital transformation for a business. It is the process of using digital tools to acquire, manage, automate and simplify manually done tasks to increase efficiency.

Many studies have been done on its main benefits over time. On average, digitalising a business brings a revenue increase of 25%, cost savings of 20%, productivity, easiness to achieve projects and happiness at work.

With Luxfactory, I make digitalisation easy for our customers so they can achieve maximum efficiency, bringing optimum performance and results with the least number of inputs.

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Businesses are stronger when they build their processes and operations on strong foundations. Today, we are sharing our vision on the 4 pillars of digitalisation for a business:

1.    Human capital leadership is all about hiring, managing, promoting and supporting people in all situations. Talents are the core and the face of a business. Their achievements bring ultimate success to companies. Digital solutions can help make them better, happier and more productive. Tools such as talent management platforms or employee surveys tools can facilitate this process. 

2.    Digital customer relationships for an easier way of acquiring new customers who have shifted their purchasing habits to online with the pandemic. Know their preferences, serve them in an even, more professional manner and make them loyal to your brand for the foreseeable future. CRMs are usually the key for success as they provide a 360° view of customer relationships.

3.    Analytical financial performance: numbers are made to help make the best decisions for businesses and must be available on-demand. Billing, invoicing, accounting reports, etc should be accessible instantly to help determine the best path to follow for your business. Finances should be more dynamic, adaptable, analytical and not static, to offer your business more flexibility in management. Invoicing, payroll, accounting tools are the core of this pillar with all-in-one solutions often proposed. 

4.    Sustainable asset management for companies’ infrastructure, security, remote access and environmental footprint. All access to a business must be monitored to make sure the team gets the safest and cleanest environment to operate a carbon-neutral business that does good to their community and the planet. Asset management solutions can be deployed here easily as well as user authentication platforms to make your infrastructure more secure. Antivirus, firewalls and GDPR basic rules should also become the basis for companies to operate safely.

The four pillars for companies’ digitalisation success

The Luxembourgish Government has understood the importance of having more digitalised companies to serve their customers by creating through Luxinnovation, its national innovation agency, a range of digitalisation programmes.  

With 16 years of expertise in consulting services, Luxfactory has teamed up with Luxinnovation to offer you the Fit4Digital and Fit4Digital Packages programmes.

Luxfactory is offering to Luxembourgish SMEs the opportunity to get a creative assessment of their processes and systems to measure their efficiency and resilience for growth.

The recommendations from the report allow companies to avail of financial support going:

  • Up to 20% on investments (hardware, software)
  • Up to 50% on consulting services.

Made by a certified consultant, the recommendations are impartially provided, tailored to your needs and will allow you to work with your current IT suppliers to get the best digital solutions in the market to continue to develop your business.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. I will be delighted to help 😀

Four pillars leaders MUST consider during a crisis

Photo by Tatiana from Pexels

The world is currently fighting against one of its worst health crisis since World War 2 with the Coronavirus outbreak, which started a few months ago.

Recent developments have forced Governments to manage the situation both on medical and economical ways.

As much as political leaders are trying to do their best to get us outside of this troubling time, we cannot forget that we are also part of the solution.

The role of leaders is to find a path for their organisation and their people to prosper during good times but also difficult moments.

This article offers you four pillars to lead during a crisis, stand apart and respond effectively to the situation.

1. Not one leadership team but a network of teams

In an excellent article called “Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges”, McKinsey & Company suggest to look closely to our organisation practice and adopt leaderships principles to respond effectively.

In critical times, it is important to recognise that leaders have the paramount role to design a new strategy while keeping things afloat by giving sound directions.

Predefined answers do not work in extraordinary times and a top-down answer only is not sufficient to provide confidence and stability.

Leaders need to define clear priorities and then mobilise their organisations to find solutions and empower individuals to implement them.

The concept of network of teams is one of the best and most appropriate models to create, design and implement solutions for the challenges the organisation is facing.

Individual talents need to be brought together in teams with a common purpose to work together as part of new virtual teams for specific projects, while continuing to perform their current role.

McKinsey recommend that when in a crisis, a core number of teams should be created including workforce protection, supply-chain stabilisation, customer engagement and financial stress testing.

Incorporating key talents in the response team will not only strengthen their core belonging to the business, but also make them more efficient and resilient to serve colleagues and customers during this difficult time.

The illustration below shows a visual representation of the concept. Further information can be found in McKinsey’s article : Responding to coronavirus: The minimum viable nerve center

Illustrative network of teams proposed by Mc Kinsey for a pandemic response

Indeed, a multidisciplinary approach is needed in order to cope with unprecedented challenges.

Combining a multitude of expertise and disciplines can result in fresh and innovative solutions as well as different perpectives.

The leadership role is vital running the timing and output when delay in resolutions occur.

2. A leadership based on transparency and empathy

Leaders have the mission to make a positive difference in their teams’ lives by empowering their employees to be a better version of themselves.

More than ever, leaders should pay close attention to how people are coping with this difficult and unprecedented situation. Management meetings and 1 to 1s should be reinforced even more when employees are confined at home and have lost their habits and the proximity of their colleagues.

Emotional intelligence and empathy are key to this and leaders need to be conscious of their capacity to change employees’ lives by taking appropriate measures for their well-being.

Leaders must explain clearly how the company will take the necessary measures to protect their activities and their lives during these crucial times. On the verge of the unknown, teams expect and need guidance and direction.

Another point is that leaders should not forget their own well-being so that they are efficient at a time when their resilience is tested to the upmost. Crisis can last weeks or months and are more like a marathon than a sprint.

A healthy diet, coupled with some mild exercise, even at home if confined, are key to keeping fit and focused to tackle challenges. Being closer to our bodies, regularly check our temperatures and our heart beat can also prevent burnouts or spreading the virus, in case of asymptomatic carriers.

Mike Dillard in partnership with a nutritionist Dr Ann Shippy on his excellent podcast has published this week excellent advices and supplements that everybody should consider during this time to boost our immune system.

3. A calm and optimist behaviour to take necessary risks

In emergency times, leaders’ experience is very important. However, during a whole new crisis, team character and unified response is equally key in order to respond appropriately.

For McKinsey, leaders should display “deliberate calm” and bounded optimism” to respond to crisis.

Leaders alone don’t have the answers. Their role is to empower their teams to provide the right insights to mature their analysis and collaborate together to define the appropriate solutions.

At the same time, leaders need to reassure their teams about the situation and provide their ongoing conclusions in the most human way.

In a crisis, taking risks to tackle challenges is decisive. Not doing anything will always bring a loss.

Dimitrios Spyridonidis in his excellent analysis (Warwick Business School blog post) invites leaders not to be afraid of taking risks and making errors as speed trumps right.

Leaders should display strategic leadership by asking though-provoking questions, experimenting solutions and taking conclusions from what they know.

4. A forward thinking attitude to prepare the future

Working from home has not been something most companies have been used to, but it has become a new norm in times of lockdown.

Organisations need to adapt to this and deploy tools to allow a better collaboration among their teams. I have spent the last couple of weeks discussing with leaders all over the world how they were approaching and tackling this crisis.

Mario Gago, CEO and Founder of Pink Room, a Portuguese software development start-up impressed me when sharing his extensive experience in remote working and how processes, rules and tools are important to him to succeed especially the technological part.

Technology offers a fantastic portfolio of tools to work remotely like Trello, a dynamic freemium board to measure progress on key actions and collaborate with teams on different categories of projects.

From smaller projects to those impacting large teams, I have been using it with much success for the past years and can only recommend it to you.

Trello board management categories

Video conference tools like Zoom or Join-me or more comprehensive solutions like Microsoft Teams encapsulating everything a company needs to work remotely.

Elsewhere in Europe back home, a Luxembourgish company EuroDNS is offering a 6 month trial of their solution for free in this dedicated URL.

Managing a team in those conditions is completely different as well as motivating people to give their best while loved ones or even themselves could feel sick or demotivated.

Teams need also to continue to live as much as possible by catching-up every morning for an early session of check-ins and brainstorming. 1 to 1s should continue at the scheduled times to offer a personal and more intimate conversation during this time.

Moreover, leaders and companies need to start thinking heavily about what could become a new norm.

With an ever increasing number of people commuting to towns to live and work, putting environmental sustainability at risk, working from home could become the new standard to get better work-life balance in the future.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Conclusion

Governments are doing their best to keep populations alive and business moving during these though times. But, let’s not forget our responsibilities to lead our businesses and our teams forward through the crisis.

While we won’t be able to change everything, we can be actors in our businesses, for our employees and our teams. Our ingenuity, our resilience and our hard work need to complement this effort as much as possible to relieve Governments on the business front, help them focus on the ones that need the most and focus on the health side that is very under pressure right now.

During this difficult time we need more than ever to collaborate together and offer solutions. If you currently have other leadership practices or ideas leaders and companies should implement during this difficult time, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Let us know below and let’s discuss how we can all use those dramatic times to change for the better.

Thank you.

Five reasons to volunteer in 2020

Photo by Marcela Hernoux Photography

Last December I had the opportunity to be part of one of the biggest self-development event TEDx in Luxembourg City. Most people are familiar with the TEDx model of conferences: ideas worth sharing being delivered in 10 – 12 minute talks, made available to the public online, so that more people can have access to them.

From the importance of sharing knowledge to engaging ourselves for a cause, the TEDx conferences offer a possibility for everyone to grow not only as individuals, but also as a society. It’s meant to inspire, stimulate and motivate attendees, stirring up new and thought-provoking ideas and concepts.

This made me think of the act of volunteering: offering my time and services for free and not expecting payment in exchange. I realised throughout the process that the experience has given me so much that my time was actually paid, not in a pecuniary form, though.

Volunteering has numerous benefits and I would like to encourage you to think about it in 2020. Here is a modest list of 5 of these benefits that I felt were my paycheck.

1- Volunteering gives a sense of purpose

In a world going faster and faster, we sometimes feel stuck in a routine, doing the same actions again and again.

After long hours at the office, on the phone or on a road to meet clients, picking up the kids at school or enjoying a bit of free time with one or two beloved activities, we develop the “Sunday evening feeling” that the next week is another one before another break or holidays.

Volunteering offers a tremendous opportunity to be part of something bigger than us and to give our best for something that can change the life of many. It allows us to nourish our values and to transform us into an instrument of goodness, without the mechanised feeling of routine tasks.

With strong values of quality, respect and freedom, volunteering with TEDx offers me the opportunity to reflect on topics that can be interesting to develop my values and share them with the people around me.

It allows me to be part of a bigger group of bright minds that give their best to share knowledge with others.

2- Volunteering helps to develop deeper relationships with people

Volunteering is usually a privileged moment to meet a lot of people in a different context detached from the routine.

Listening to an older person who is retired and feeling lonely, giving a hand to a part of the community who is in need or offering some free time to teach a passion to kids or disadvantaged people is a fantastic opportunity to connect with others and build a strong relationship with them.

Offering my management skills to TEDx enabled me to meet people I sometimes work with in other contexts and develop a unique collaboration without any other interest than serving a cause I dearly care about. The interaction becomes more spontaneous and genuine, and the environment is more friendly and less competitive.

3- Volunteering is good for your career

Volunteering is also good for your career. As we all know, careers can be pretty linear with the same type of activities done with different companies at different levels of complexity over time.

Doing another type of activity, sometimes completely different in a volunteering role can turn into a chance of doing something different we like or haven’t had the opportunity to try before.

Once experienced, the volunteering activity can become a vector of experimentation and even change if successful, bringing a huge opportunity to target better things and even a career switch into a more appreciated position or sector.

Volunteering at TEDx offers me the opportunity to connect better with the crowd and the public and be in contact with events. It is a great platform for my passion for sharing knowledge and helping people, as well as assessment of practices and activities I would like to develop in the future.

4- Volunteering is good for the community

We are all part of a community of people working to make our lives better. Some having done this throughout their lives and others starting now, growing up to adulthood and getting their place in this community.

Through volunteering we can give back to those who are making our home or welcoming cities a good and safe place to grow as individuals, professionals and families. It allows us to provide a service and give something we know how to do well for the benefit of the society.

Participating at the TEDx adventure in Luxembourg City is for me a way of offering the Luxembourgish community something of value for having welcomed us so well from the time we arrived last year.

It gives me the opportunity to bring knowledge, care and thoughts to a country and city we love and want to see growing and thriving in the next coming years.

5- Volunteering is good for yourself

Finally, we are all here for a reason and the best way to be is to give in order to exist and grow. Volunteering is sharing, caring and growing for ourselves too, and it is extremely useful to do so.

It allows us to transform ourselves through our passions and see the immediate results with the people we are volunteering with and the others we offer our services.

The feeling and the emotions brought by the TEDx Luxembourg City Women event in December were absolutely astonishing. It was impressive to see people connecting as one and offering a unique moment of knowledge and passion to the crowd.

It was one of the moments where I felt the most at home in Luxembourg and I have build many friendships and connections around the event.

Photo by Marcela Hernoux Photography

To wrap up, volunteering is good for a lot of reasons and the ones I listed here were the ones that resonated the most with me. This doesn’t mean you won’t find others, maybe even more relevant for your personal view and needs. I believe everyone should volunteer even if it is once in their life time. You can be surprised to learn that it is as much about yourself as it is about the others you help.

Let me know your thoughts about it. Are you volunteering? Are you thinking about doing something like this? What does it make you feel? Please connect and share your opinion. I would be delighted to hear more about you and know how volunteering makes you feel 🙂

5 reasons to discover Luxembourg now!

Abbaye de Neumünster, Luxembourg Grund

Summer has passed so quickly and it’s a pleasure to welcome you back after the holidays with some more pictures of my travels around Europe.

A business opportunity brought us to Luxembourg and we have been able to enjoy a fantastic summer surrounded by new landscapes that I wanted to show everyone. So here are 5 reasons to visit Luxembourg and maybe surprise yourself!

1- Summer is nice and sunny

Luxembourg is not a year-round warm country, but its continental climate offers a good choice for summer weather while being really reasonnable regarding its European neighbors.

This Summer most of the days were around 25 degrees with nights around 15 mainly due to the forests surrounding its capital and main towns. Temperatures feel really comfortable, bringing enjoyment to outdoors activities. Even on cloudy days, a good walk is always pleasant.

Luxembourg can be easily accessed by road, train or plane and its national airline Luxair, is well known for its quality and punctuality. And it is always good to remember, from the 1st of March 2020, all public transport will be totally free in Luxembourg.

2- Its capital is either buzzling or peaceful and cosy

Luxembourg city has very different neighborhoods, either very international and busy around the main station (Gare) or the business area of Kirchberg or more quiet and very close to the nature, like the Grund. It’s a city of contrasts.

The heart of the city is the Ville Basse, the lower level of the city. It’s a scenic and picturesque area, with plenty of green areas and preserved buildings and structures from medieval times, such as the Bock Casemates, a group of tunnels and galleries build in 1644 during the Spanish domination to serve as defensive passages.

The welcoming Abbaye of Neumünster (in the Grund, ville basse) is one of our favorite places in the city and is a great place to unwind and walk during the long summer evenings.

Some great restaurants offering international cuisine are also located in the area of Clausen (ville basse) and are to be discovered.

The Ville Haute, higher level of the city, is where all the buzz happens. From the historical city centre with its squares (place Guillaume and place D’Armes) and the Palais Grand-Ducal, to Kirchberg, business area of the city with great options of entertainment (MUDAM – Modern Art Museum, and the Philharmonie).

3- Its community is vibrant with exciting activities

Luxembourg is a small country where most of the international communities are represented to offer a unique and amazing opportunity to meet the world.

The Schueberfouer, yearly funfair happening early September is an amazing opportunity to celebrate the town and its diverse community around the ferris wheel and its numerous attractions. It also counts with a great deal of typical food such as the Gromperekichelcher (Luxembourgish potato fritters), and stands selling souveniers and interesting objects.

Located on the Place du Glacis, its attractions offer amazing photos like the one below.

4- Its landscapes are breathtaking

Leaving the city to the North of the country, numerous castles can be visited like the one of Bourscheid pictured below.

The beautiful region around Esch-sur-Sûre offers to the visitors gourmet cuisine and tremendous views on the river Sûre and the forests surrounding it.

5- Its towns are full of colours and history

Leaving the region of La Sûre, it’s worth driving East to the Mullerthal, its beautiful waterfalls, its long trails into the woods and the town of Echternach.

Located at the border of Germany and home a very well known festivals and religious processions, it’s for sure a very well spent Sunday in one of the most traditional towns in Luxembourg.

Those pictures are only a few taken over the summer of beautiful Luxembourg. Other locations worth visiting are Vianden and the iconic castle, or Remich and its vineyards close to the Moselle river.

Different websites are also easily accessible for more ideas and information like Visit Luxembourg, Luxembourg City Tourist Office or the official website of the City of Luxembourg.

And you, have you already visited Luxembourg? Are you planning to do so? Let me know your thoughts and happy to help you create your journey around Luxembourg.

Did you like the pictures? All credit goes to my better half Marcela Hernoux. You can check her work on www.marcelahernouxphotography.com

10 wonderful places to discover

From the time I have started this blog, I try to promote my thoughts for a better world.

Thinking, debating, offering ideas is key to build better lives for our families and the people we love.

Travelling is one of the best ways to open our minds and understand how others do things. It triggers our curiosity and enhances the respect we need to have for each other.

Over the last 10 years, I had numerous occasions to travel and to discover great places around the globe where I like to go relax, think and spend some good time.

Today I’d like to share a few spots that have inspired me to look at the world, understand and appreciate the beauty of it. Some of them are also not very obvious choices and can definitely amaze visitors. Let’s not wait, here are 10 places you need to discover soon!

Ireland

Ireland has fantastic sceneries and has been home for 10 years in my life. While Dublin City centre, the Guinness factory or the Cliffs of Moher are something to see, here are three places to enjoy aside from the crowd.

Dún Laoghaire is a town located at 20min in the South of Dublin and home to a lovely harbour and a couple of old Piers. Walking at the end of the day on one of them can offer you sceneries like below. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/qetaVzb8FFo2xDRq6

East Pier, Dún Laoghaire, Ireland

Slightly further South, Vico Road offers a splendid view on all the South Coast of Dublin up the towns of Bray and Greystones. You can go on foot from Dún Laoghaire, use the DART or the car to Killiney. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/BK3kiSiDmD62LCHe7

Vico Road, Killiney Hill, Dublin, Ireland

Forget about Dublin, head down to Cork and its beautiful English Market. Take the car and go to Kinsale for some fresh fish at the Bulman. Once done, drive to the extreme South and the Downmacpatrick Old Head. Stop before the private Golf Club and admire the landscape both on your left or on your right. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/vSs2nBc559p2KMm67

The Old Head of Kinsale, Cork, Ireland

Portugal

Portugal is a gem in Europe with one of the nicest food and landscapes in Europe. Starting in Lisbon, take the end of the day to go and admire the sunset from Miradouro da Graça. The light on the bridge reflecting all over the city is a perfect time for the shot of the day. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/V184Rz3NpXcsZDS8A

Miradouro da Graça, Lisbon, Portugal

Leaving the city and driving North to the region of Leiria, take some time to lose yourself in the beautiful streets of Torres Vedras. Admire the blue sky and the sun reflecting on the tiles after a good lunch in town… Where? https://goo.gl/maps/cBW4y6C7ujELhp8K8

Torres Vedras, Portugal

At the West of Lisbon, Cascais is a must-see town close to the ocean. Go for a stroll on the harbour to get a bit of quietness from the tourists and enjoy the view. Best of all, the picture was taken in February 🙂 Where? https://goo.gl/maps/Gqzv2qvj9Vodar3v8

Cascais, Portugal

Before leaving Portugal for another destination, just take one of the fast ALFA and nonetheless cheap trains to go to Porto. Spend a few days in town and cross the Dom Luis Bridge a few times to admire both sides of the city from it… Where? https://goo.gl/maps/6xb6Uvm8yaFGgVfX7

Ponte de Dom Luís I, Porto, Portugal

France

Plenty of pictures can describe France from the Eiffel tower, one of its famous monuments. Just for a change, I bring you to the Alps and Le Grand Bornand, close to Annecy. Fantastic mountain village, you will be able to eat good food, plenty of cheese and also admire la Chaine de Aravis.. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/7gUZvdJq2KMU6FDE7

Le Grand Bornand, France

Spain

What about a weekend in Spain and sunny Catalonia? Take some time to visit the Parc Guëll and admire some of the nicest views of the city. Be ready for a bit of hilly walk but the reward is definitely worth it! Where? https://goo.gl/maps/GVhCw2zp6dwteQpm7

Parc Güell, Barcelona, Spain

Arizona

Last but not least, let me share with you, one of my favourite pictures of 2013 and a trip to Phoenix in Arizona (US). This is not the closest place to Europe and not the most known in America but I highly recommend it. People are very nice and food very tasty as well 🙂

Phoenix, Arizona (US)

Do you also love travelling? Do you enjoy taking pictures? Feel free to drop me a line or comment on this article. I would love to publish more during the summer among other more academic articles.

6 principles for better charities

The world is better when people work together. And the word is better with charities. From the smaller charities of our local towns to the biggest ones, everyone should consider giving a bit of their time, money or skills for a better world. But how do those charities really operate behind doors? How to make sure that your charity reigns with the most trusted ones?

By law, charity trustees have individual and joint responsibilities for what happens in their charity. They are responsible as individuals and as a board for their charities meeting their legal duty. This article aims to explain in a simplified manner what are the state of Irish charities in Ireland, what are the legal duties of charity trustees, the main principles of charity governance and ten steps charities should follow to reporting on compliance.

The charity context in Ireland

Over the last couple of years, I have tried to work with companies having in mind sustainability as a key component of their strategy. Appian Asset Management, one of the most trusted investment company in Ireland organised last week a conference with Mazars and Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC) to explain their approach to the Charity Sector in Ireland.

MHC mentioned that at the end of 2018, Ireland had more than 9,000 registered charities. However around 15% have not completed their details on the Register and 1% didn’t even fill their annual report. Those charities are currently at risk and can be removed from the Register if they don’t disclose this information.

At a moment where the number of charities continue to grow year after year, the Charity Regulator has decided to bring a new approach and build a new code to help charities align their actions into key principles and better compliance to regulations.

As a Member of the Institute of Directors in Ireland, I’ve also got the chance to get a presentation of a new code regulating charities to help them meet their legal duty under Charity law. This code available in the Charity Regulator in Ireland website can be downloaded here. The code written in plain English is principle-based and should apply on a “comply or explain basis”

The six principles of charity governance

Charities trustees have the mission to make sure their charity is working properly and comply to the different legislations in place. In this sense, six different principles have been elaborated to help trustees to build their actions on a daily basis.

The first principle for trustees is to help advancing charitable purpose. The Charity Act 2009 defines four different categories with poverty, education, religion or any other purpose that a community can benefit. This should be indicated in the Charity governing document with the outcomes the charity want to achieve and how this will be done.

The second principle is about ethics and behaving with integrity. Values are key in a charity and trustees need to be independent and act on the interest of the charity, not on their personal ones.

Leading people is the third key principle. Trustees must clarify everybody’s roles and value the effort of the volunteers, employees and contractors. As every business, they have a duty of care and must promote respect inside of the charity.

Exercising control is set as the fourth principle. Planning is key but execution is even more important. Charity trustees must make sure the strategy is properly executed and understand the governing document of a charity is legally binding and needs to be respected. This means that funds must be controlled and risk must be reduced as much as possible.

The fifth principle is about working effectively as a team. Building a team with the correct talents from board members to volunteers is a must for a charity success. Trustees need to build a good mix of experience and skills and provide proper training to new charity trustees.

The sixth and last principle states the importance for trustees to be accountable and transparent. Accountability for charities means to stand in any circumstances for the charity values and being able to present it to any person querying the purpose of the history of the charity.

The legal duties of charity trustees

Charity trustees have the same obligations as any other director. However, on top of their business skills, they must have the sustainability component in mind linked to the purpose of any association.

Here are the legal duties that charity trustees need to comply with:

  1. Comply with their charity’s governing document
  2. Manage their charity’s resources responsibly
  3. Ensure their charity is carrying out its charitable purposes for the public benefit
  4. Act in the best interest of their charity
  5. Act with reasonable skill and care
  6. Be accountable and comply with the law

Other legal requirements beside the Charities Act 2009 exist for Charity trustees. It is recommended to pay a particular attention to the data protection legislation, the employment legislation and the health and safety legislation.

Ten steps to reporting on compliance

The Charity Governance Code available online on the Charity Regulator website offers a framework to follow to report on compliance every year. Here are the 10 simplified steps to follow:

  1. Read the code in full
  2. Decide if your charity is more complex for the purpose of the code
  3. For each standard, define the actions needed to meet this standard
  4. State each action next to the relevant standard in the Compliance Record Form
  5. If any standards do not apply to your charity explain it in the previous form
  6. Decide what evidence you can provide for every action undertaken
  7. State this evidence in the Compliance Record Form
  8. Review and agree the accuracy of the Form at a board meeting
  9. Declare your charity’s compliance level when submitting your annual report
  10. Review your alignment to the code standards every year before reporting it to the Charity Regulator.

How to get more information?

The Charities Regulator website offers plenty of information and documents on how to get support related to public questions as well as the charity questions.

Charities can find more information in a dedicated section of the website. The code mentioned in this article can be found here.

Information for the Public is also available online, more particularly the Charities Register and how to raise a concern if needed. The Charity Regulator can be contacted online, by phone in Ireland at +353 1 633 15 00 or by email mentioned on their website.

The summer is coming and there is no better time to engage yourself in new activities or to make sure your charity is benefiting from all the respect it is due. Having better working charities will not only benefit society but also ourselves too. The world will say thank you and your community too!

Five things you should know before starting an MBA

Doing an MBA had always been a life time goal! “Why?” would you ask. Does it really make you a better professional? Does it change you as an individual? And actually, what is it really to do a Master’s in Business Administration?

After more than 2 years of studying, dreams come true. In September, I will graduate with an Executive Henley MBA from Henley Business School. At a time when I enjoy looking back and reflecting on it, here are 5 things you should consider before starting your own MBA…

1. Why do you want to do an MBA?

Doing an MBA is always an intriguing thing. Indeed, lots of people start to ask you questions to demystify it… Many of them will be linked to money and how much you might earn after it. Others will ask about your capacity to handle the volume of study and how it will definitely challenge your resilience. All well considered, the major question you should ask yourself is what do you want to achieve from your MBA?

An MBA is a generalist degree that offers a strong level of knowledge to develop, manage and scale a business or a team at a large and sustainable level.

Think in terms of career progression, what do you need to develop the most? Is this a generalist approach to business to grow your capacity to be part of larger projects and lead them to completion? Or do you need to get more specific knowledge in an area where a Master’s of Science (MSc) would be more appropriate? Do you even need a degree, or a certification is enough? Think well about this before committing to it.

A good way to discuss that is to talk to your colleagues, friends and family about how you see your career and what you need to move to a next stage. Your manager should definitely be part as well of the conversation and your career planning strategy. Feeling lost or unsure? A coach or a mentor can also help you in this direction.

2. What will you study during your MBA?

During your MBA, you will study practical business cases covering all company areas and impact on the wider society. In some Business Schools, like Henley, you also have a very good in-depth personal development module on top of the fundamental topics below.

The first year will be focused at looking inside of your organisation. Management of Systems and Processes, Finance and People is covered in depth with a particular application made on how to implement your suggestions.

The second year will be more strategic and will ask you to look outside of your organisation. Company strategy, international business, leadership and change and finally strategic marketing will be the core of your studies. You should also be able to pick an elective module and make a study trip somewhere in the world to develop your consulting skills.

Exams and assignments per modules will sanction your progress or will offer you another try to make it to the next stage.

Finally, the last six months of your studies will be focused on aligning your knowledge to an industry level challenge with a Thesis. I chose to focus on Leadership and Employee Retention in partnership with some Irish Associations like the Institute of Directors. Topics are free as much as you deep dive into one of the modules.

This is the best part of it as you can really undertake a full project, launch interviews and draw conclusions with the support of your supervisor. Be prepared all over the course to read a lot of books and take notes along the way in a development journal to be able to see your progress overtime!

3. How committed are you?

Doing an MBA is a long marathon with a few sprints at the middle with some yearly exams and some assignments to deliver every quarter or so. There is no right or wrong amount of work to do to get them right but you should forecast more or less 80-100 hours of study per module to get a pass grade.

As an example, from October 2016 to March 2019 I spent a total of 1,200 hours of study in total, and around 300 hours for the last piece of work, a thesis of 15,000 words.

I would advise to spend a minimum of 10 hours of study a week including a session of 4 to 5 hours non-stop (usually on the week-end) to deep dive into the materials and get the most of it.

Every module included for me an assignment based on my company and I spend around 25% of my time on gathering the right information, populating the models and writing my conclusions.

4. Which Business School should you pick?

Choosing the right Business School is very important to make sure you get the right quality level of teaching. My preference is to go mainly for triple accredited MBAs (AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS). You can find a list of them on the different websites like Find-MBA.com.

You will be often asked to do a GMAT Test to check your analytical writing and your verbal, quantitative and integrated reasoning. You can find more information on the mba.com website.

Your professional experience and your English proficiency can also be checked so make sure to contact the different schools you are interested in and check all their requirements before making a decision.

Finally, Business Schools price MBAs very differently based on their reputation, their location and the prestige of their alumni. Cheapest ones start around €20,000 and can go up to €100,000 for the Top MBA schools.

Be aware that companies are more and more willing to participate in the education fees to contribute to employees’ professional development. They may also be interested in benefiting from your future assignments to review their whole strategy. You can start to be involved in more projects internally and grow your career quicker this way.

Always check as well incentives from Governments to understand what will be your real net financial investment in the programme. Ireland has put in place a tax relief for third-level fees that is worth studying on Citizens Information for anybody thinking in starting a new degree.

5. What is the real value of an MBA?

I often get this question. Is it really worth the price? It’s so expensive to do an MBA, isn’t just too much money for something you could gather yourself along the way…

There is definitely not a standard answer to this question but I do believe it has been greatly beneficial to me for different reasons.

  • The alumni network everywhere in the world is huge and with more than 28,000 members Henley Business School has allowed me to connect with leaders all over the globe.
  • The knowledge proposed by the school has been challenging and fascinating in many aspects to force me to think out of the box and manage successfully every component of a business or a division.
  • The international character of the school grants a diversified programme with study cases from all over the globe. It also offers another level of impact to different businesses and leadership styles globally.
  • The Executive aspect of the MBA, allowing me to apply my different modules to my company challenges, has allowed me to grow my business acumen and take better and more factual decisions over the course of the programme.

Final thoughts

Doing an MBA is not easy, it is a commitment to work hard with yourself, to get constant support from your family and understanding of your business during the 30 months of studies. Having the correct level of work / study / life balance is important and people we love are key to our success.

The support of your study team will be key as well, and taking the time to rest without guilt is capital to go through this transformation process.

Tracking my time studying was capital to me to make sure I was keeping myself stimulated to deliver results while allowing some breaks and exercises outdoors. Free tools like Myhours are great for that and super easy to use.

I would encourage you to think carefully about what motivates you to do an MBA and write exactly what you want to get from it.

It will help you celebrate better your successes and ease difficult times you may have along the way. If you need any help or have any question, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to share my experience and help you make the right choice for you!

Micromobility, evolution or revolution?

“It is cold outside…” ; “This train will never arrive…” and “What time is the next bus?” These are usual thoughts of many people when it comes to commuting. Indeed, as modern transportation started at the end of the 1800s’ in London before flowing all over the continents, we always had to adapt to the transportation modes more than they were adapted to us.

A few years ago, though, people started to hail electronically chauffeur companies like Uber instead of picking-up a taxi. Cars and bikes sharing options appeared in major cities. Then, two years ago, scooters appeared in California: the transportation options were adapting to us and people say it’s a revolution!

The Context

Over the last 10 years, I have travelled to many cities, some of them huge and extremely populated like San Francisco, London or Paris, others a bit smaller like Dublin, Lisbon or Lyon.

Everywhere, I have been able to notice the same pattern: traffic congestion.

McKinsey, through their mobility series offers precious statistics confirming this. From 2010 to 2016, congestion in major capitals has raised over 10% with a peak over 30% for Los Angeles and New York.

Ireland has not escaped from this phenomenon and Dublin has become in a few years, the third most congested city in the world with an average of 246 hours lost per driver, which would account for more than 1 hour per day according to the Irish Times.

The Challenge

With more and more crowded towns due to the concentration of jobs and facilities in single places, cities concentrate wealth and also over-growing challenges for citizens to live together.

Users, with ever changing needs, lack flexible options to go from point A to point B quickly and easily. Their total cost of ownership of a car, including its insurance, fuel and parking, has become higher than ever (you can check this EU calculator to understand the cost of ownership of your vehicle)

Public transport offer a good alternative to driving a car but sometimes lack accessibility and convenience. They have also a certain schedule and only run through a predicted journey. Late at night or early in the morning, they are often infrequent and insecure in some areas.

Taxis or their private alternative like Uber, Addison Lee or Kapten (ex Chaffeur-Privé) can be pricey for some and also struggle with traffic. What is the point of paying for a ride when you can walk faster than the cab stuck in traffic?

Most of the journeys in towns are no longer that a few minutes or a few kilometres.

Logically, people have started to seek solutions to facilitate their mobility and electronic scooters appeared in 2018 as the perfect mode of transportation to cut the traffic and offer a renewed sense of freedom to their users.

A struggle for the legislator

Being able to commute faster, cheaper and greener should make most of us, users, happy. However, the apparition of new technologies in our roads is not without consequences.

Not every country is starting equally in the mobility space.

Nordic countries have been leaders for decades and have in principle a substantial architecture to support “new kids on the block” like the electronic scooters. In other countries, they have just started to appear in the middle of vehicles and sometimes on sidewalks bringing chaos.

Legislators have just started to understand the size of the challenge. The Economist in their article by Arthur House, describes the chaos existing in Los Angeles right now among pedestrians, car users, vans and scooters. A nightmare overlooked by the authorities despite the ban imposed by the Major of Los Angeles.

However for as cheap as $2.20, the author was able to ride his 1.6 kilometres journey in 7 minutes, a performance in one of the most congested city in the planet.

But, users are not always disciplined enough to have a 100% safe mode of transport bringing a form of conflict among vehicles, bikes and pedestrians.

So some towns like London or Dublin have completely banned micromobility for now. Indeed, the Irish Times explains that the Minister for Transports in Ireland, Shane Ross, has asked the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to research what is currently being done in other European countries to see how this could be replicated in Ireland.

An opportunity to think about the future

According to Le Point magazine, up to 40,000 scooters could be on Parisians’ streets before the end of 2019. A law already approved by the French Sénat will be discussed and voted during the summer by l’Assemblée Nationale, the French Parliament.

Indeed, some cities have started to create legislation to allow scooters to enter safely in their market. In Paris, the operators will have to pay a €50 to €60 tax for every scooter introduced to the market in order for the authorities to manage better the risk involved with the presence of those 15,000 scooters.

A fine of €135 has also been proposed for anybody spotted using sidewalks with an electronic scooter. At a speed up to 30km/h, this is certainly a danger for pedestrians that could generate a lot of issues if left unregulated.

A win-win situation for everybody

Congestion, lack of parking, security and pollution are never-ending problems to cities. They need to be overcomed so city dwellers can have a better quality of life. Indeed, towns need to offer more options to reduce congestion and offer a sustainable future to their citizens.

Users, more and more driven by on-demand solutions are keen on new technologies and pushing for more mobility solutions. Encouraged by the availability of new modes of transportations, they have started to change their habits and use more and more diversified mobility options.

Cities and their citizens including micromobility users and operators need to work all together to solve this challenge. They need to find an adequate balance between the benefits proposed by new technological solutions and the necessary risk management approach that cities must have over time.

Recommendations

Taking a holistic view of the situation

Cities need to prioritise solutions that offer a safer and cleaner way to commute for their busy citizens. They need to fight bad behaviours and look after the health and safety of their citizens.

Riders want solutions that are close to them and available immediately. They want total reliability on the machines they ride, the highest level of autonomy and be protected during their journeys.

Technology providers such as Lime, Bird, Uber (Jump), Scoot, Lyft or Ford (Spin) and others have a critical need to manage better their assets to scale in an easiest way.

McKinsey notices in their latest micromobility check-up from January 2019 that if a scooter is economical after 4 months, it may not even last this amount of time depending on how riders care for them.

Using the future of technology to improve management platforms

A clear and predictable management platform of the scooters, including at 100% visibility level of their use with their location and profitability rate per day is essential to ensure technology companies continue to offer an increased level of mobility options to their users.

Machine Learning and AI could definitely help prevent accidents and avoid collision with objects and pedestrians. Centimetre-level accuracy technologies would also dramatically improve the behaviour of riders.

Those technologies have started to appear in the market and their development is key to the development of more secure and optimised mobility solutions.

A vision for seamless mobility

From users, technologists and urbanists, everybody wants to participate in the debate and discuss what their vision is of this evolution of mobility.

McKinsey in his “Integrated perspective on the future of mobility” has identified the five key indicators of success for seamless mobility below.

Availability, Affordability, Efficiency, Convenience and Sustainability.

Their simultaneous improvement will bring benefits to every actor and will define a better vision for the future of our cities. Numerous technology improvements need to be made in order to reach this ambitious goal.

McKinsey article insists on the improvement needs for the four trends below: better connectivity through IoT devices, more autonomy for vehicles with autonomous driving, more sharing options like car-sharing and a stronger electrification of road transport.

For now, this is the time to take each step at a time with specific questions to be addressed. The main one is how to allow new mobility options to integrate into preexisting infrastructures or how to develop necessary ones to allow a co-existence between users?

Only together, as a group, we will manage to change the face of our cities, and make them more human, greener and more accessible to everyone. This is an exciting challenge, one that defines a generation, one that can transform an evolution into a revolution. Are you ready to take off?

Extreme leadership, an invite to be a better version of yourself

Last week, the Dublin Tech Summit invited one of the most prestigious Tech Leaders in the world to speak about the future of Technology.

From consulting businesses to blockchains specialists and digital banking, one guest was specially exciting, as he represents the dreams of many school boys, including myself at that age. Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian astronaut to walk in Space and stayed in the International Space Station (ISS) 166 days of his life. Yes, you read it right almost 6 months of his life in space!

Over the course of one hour, Chris made us dream about what seems impossible for most humans: going to the moon or another planet and living there. Chris came to Dublin with a precise idea in mind, talking to us about “Extreme Leadership”. But above everything, he demonstrated to us that everything is possible, even for a boy raised on a farm in Southern Ontario. How?

Chris Hadfield at DTS 2019

Chris knew from very young age what he wanted and applied to himself what he described as “Extreme Leadership”. This strongly impacted the way he envisioned himself and the world around him.

“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.” 
― 
Chris Hadfield

I would like to present my interpretation of his vision in 6 ways that leaders can easily apply to their businesses and cause impact onto them as well.

1* BELIEVE impossible things happen, every single day.

I know this sound like an overstatement, but this can be easily proven. Most of us have in our pockets, a smartphone that didn’t exist 10 years ago and we bring it everywhere with us, to take pictures, write to our friends, connect with our followers on social medias, etc. Impossible you said?

Just go back in time and think about it… Look at memories, photos, objects of your childhood. How many impossible things have happened in your life? You will be surprised how far you have gone with the time.

2* PLAN for success, don’t wait for success to come to you.

Success comes from the repetition of small things every day until you master them. Look at what you know and what you are going to do next. Know what it really matters to you. If the step is too big, divide it in smaller steps that are achievable.

Think SMART for each goal and break down your activities in a Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Time-oriented way.

3* THINK BIG, think strategically and think as a team

Vision, team empowerment and problem solving are key to success. Use creativity and technology like Chris in the ISS to achieve things in an ingenious way. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Go back to the V2MOM discussed in a previous post. People of all ages like to understand why they do things. They will teach you things too. You could be even surprised and learn to do something you know faster and better.

4* Share knowledge around you

Knowledge is a treasure free to share with people you meet every day. Start with a smile and engage conversation. Be keen on people and remember the chance you have to be able to learn every day. Teach something to somebody every day and listen from people what they think of it. You know what? I bet you will love it!

5* Improve yourself

Never settle, always try to be a better version of yourself. Join an association, register for a conference, read books, learn a language. A word a day is nice, simple and can stimulate your brain for more. What about ordering your coffee next summer in a French brasserie like a local with a nice “‘s’il vous plaît”?

6* Play an instrument (or communicate with music)

Music is a universal language. Families, companies and teams are often composed of people with a lot of different sensibilities. Be the one uniting them. Don’t wait for it to happen by itself…

You can bring people closer by sharing a moment around a nice song. Why not doing it? Everybody will enjoy and you will have a good chance of offering them a good moment. Check Chris’ video below, that was how he built team spirit at the ISS with colleagues from all over the world!

Chris Hadfield original recording of Space Oddity onboard on the ISS

So, after all, what is “Extreme Leadership”? Is it something new? Something difficult? Something impossible? Not really. More than anything it is a good reminder that everything is possible if we dearly want it.

More than ever 2019 is the time not only to dream your life but also to live your dreams.

So what is your plan? Which items do you prefer most? Do you need help? Let me know, I’ll be happy to help, as always!

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