Of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh

Mar 22

COMMUNICATE #3: Postcard-Resilience

by Claudia Linker (Monnet)

At the latest since omicron, the "what can we do" optimism has been mixed with resignative accents in open conversation. That's why resilience exercises have been even more important than usual in my consultations and team moderations in recent months.

I had already started writing this article when I was asked for tips on the topic at the online roundtable of the Spitzenfrauen im Norden (top women in the north) Spitzenfrauen im Norden. I held the book up to the camera, from which I will quote here: "The Big Little Book of Resilience".

Matthew Johnstone says, "Learn the art of communication," and illustrates the tip with two people facing each other in a truly real way.

But now omicron. It's excellent that we can meet via video. Digital conferences will certainly remain with us beyond the pandemic, because they have proven to be resource-saving and efficient. We've also become pros at getting the lighting right, as well as the framing.

But it's also reduced communication. "Zoom fatigue" is something we experience because it takes much more effort to assess and understand people and groups with whom we are only virtually connected. Being physically close helps to be humanly close.

It is therefore no surprise that the renowned psychoanalyst Hans-Jürgen Wirth published an article at the end of 2021 on the potentially pathogenic consequences of isolation. Too few encounters are a danger to mental health. We can all confirm that by now from our own experience: why else would we miss cinema? After all, movies are usually available in streaming.

Resilience means accepting what we can and cannot change, Johnstone said. I can't change omicron. But writing by hand is another, very effective way to create human closeness. Wirth speaks elsewhere of the inner dialogue between the writer and the reader: "Auch wenn man alleine ist, ist immer jemand da, wenn auch nicht aus Fleisch und Blut" ("Even when you're alone, there's always someone there, even if not flesh and blood.").

So I'm writing more again. And I'm writing postcards. I've been using them in trainings, workshops, and coaching sessions for decades. For example, as an icebreaker exercise: "Which card best matches your expectations right now? Or as a transfer exercise: "Which card motivates you to implement what you have learned? Where do you place it? What thoughts do you jot down on it?" And also quite classically, to personally thank, congratulate, greet.

As long as I've been using postcards in a professional context, browsing for new ones also serves me to bridge waiting times for connecting trains. If a motif makes me smile or fits a theme, I often buy several of them, enough for at least one seminar. In the meantime, I have accumulated many, many remnants. I like to use them to surprise people in my network whom I miss.

Give it a try: A postcard or handwritten letter in the midst of the usual mail is a surprise, arouses curiosity and probably triggers as much joy when you read it as you ideally felt when you wrote it. Which brings us to three resilience tips:

Tip 1:
Write with pleasure using a fountain pen or other beautiful writing instrument. Enjoy the writing itself and thus practice appreciating the little things.

Tip 2:
Rejoice in the good memories that move you as you write. Become aware of your joy with a conscious deep exhale. It helps to sigh "Well, yes" with a smile or to breathe a very long "Nice".

Tip 3:
Have the courage to use warm, personal words and use them to practice letting your heart speak.

You feel the idea is beautiful, but you wouldn't know WHAT to write specifically? Well, as Johnstone said: Learn the art of communication.

I just received a postcard from a coaching client myself. My joy was great!

Dec 21

COMMUNICATE #2: Women to Careers

by Claudia Linker (Monnet)

I recently gave a talk for the Nord-Ostsee Sparkasse in Schleswig.
The topic: "Women to careers".
My agenda in six points:

Yes, there are obstacles on the career path that only apply to women.
Science helps to accept the facts.
Science also provides valid approaches for effective change.
And science dispels the notion that women should only blame themselves.
First conclusion: It is the age of women. (And that is essentially for purely economic reasons.) Let's make something of it!
Second conclusion: Clever communicative strategies can help. We are talking about communication with others and communication with oneself.

An important source and warm recommendation: "Invisible Women" by Caroline Criado-Perez.

My presentation was wonderfully underlined by the experiences of the other speakers, such as Katrin Stieglitz, Director of Business Development at Nord-Ostsee Sparkasse.

I look forward to hearing from you if you too want to promote women through scientific and communicative means. Then I will also tell you why I love talking about Clara Schumann and Fanny Hensel. A little spoiler: Do you know Fanny Hensel? No? Exactly!

Mar 20


by Claudia Linker (Monnet)


The German word for being quick-witted though, is “schlagfertig“ and it means: being ready to beat … the “adversary“. That’s why, so far, I had refused requests for lectures on the subject. Do a picture search in your search engine for that German "schlagfertig". Well? Exactly. Boxing gloves, fists, thunder arrows everywhere. No wonder, with the German word, your brain will automatically generate violent associations: you’ll feel at least a little bit like you're tripping in the boxing ring and ready for the punch. But the boxing ring doesn't fit  one of my two core concerns: successful communication.

I shared my thoughts with entrepreneurial women in Schleswig, where I spoke on 5 February 2020: "You're also allowed not to reply sometimes," I said. “A confident break is the most powerful communication strategy.“ Behind the desire for quick-wittedness are needs: I want to be treated with respect. Having a conversation, I seek openness, genuine attention, mutual understanding and attention for each other.

The idea of a counterattack means something different and that idea is inherent to "schlagfertig": there are winners and losers and we’ll rather be rocking up and down with heated minds. How could even we Germans develop a more harmonious term? I like to use my penchant for languages (see also my blog entry of 1 December 2015) and ask myself: What is the word in other languages? What associations come with it?

I do like the English: to be quick-witted – to answer with a quick joke really can help oftentimes.
But I am even more fond of the French “répondre du tac au tac“ – ... Well, how should I explain that?!

"Du tac au tac" is an onomatopoeia from the fencing sports. We do know the idea of having to fight out something, don’t we? But when I hear the "tac-tac" sound, I can almost see the elegance of the "piste": the fencers dancing back and forth in a crazy tempo, elegantly leading the foil – and the metallic "tac-tac". There is a lot of fun to it. Nobody is knocked out. At best "touché". It’s by contact that you win in fencing. Oh yes, I like that much better!

Charmingly disarming. Doesn't that sound better than "right in the face"? Verbal disarmament seems to me in many places to be the order of the day. Rather elegantly eloquent.

Welcome to my training, whoever wants to practice:
Taking breaks confidently (and enduring them!) is, by the way, a topic in "Performing convincingly"
Charmingly disarming in "How to get your words across - and with ease"

Sep 17


by Claudia Linker (Monnet)

I have a confession to make: The way I conduct strategic consultations differs considerably from the standard business scheme. I formulate softer. I have modified, extended and supplemented standard business schemes.

The declared goal in business is always to strategically define an area for myself in which I can and will strive for market leadership. Now my name is not Steve Jobs and I don't feel called to " put a dent the universe". I prefer quieter sounds and cautious developments. Prudence is one of my favourite words, and I mean, in the biblical sense of Wisdom.

But I don't mention Steve Jobs here for nothing either. He must have been a rather choleric person. All I know is that Bill Gates, who is more sociable and more circumspect, is much more likeable to me. However, Steve Jobs could also speak inspiringly and his Stanford speech is highly recommendable!
Poetically and emotionally, he describes how he and I think about strategic planning. He certainly wasn't aware of that at all. But I am grateful anyway, that in the speech he talks about what we believe in at heart.
He calls it: "the dots will connect": The little stones of my life will connect to a mosaic and the connections will be strong, if I only collect those little stones that really mean something to me. This dimension of personal resonance is what I absolutely add to strategic consultation.

In my life many mosaic stones lay around unconnected for a long time. I had almost forgotten them. Strategic work, however, directs our gaze exactly there, to the almost forgotten: What becomes visible is what nourishes you (still), but slumbers unused and lies idle. Treasures that want to be lifted become visible.

For me, there are three large thematic areas:
Art and Culture.
Faith and Learning.

I have been intensively involved with languages, art and culture for a long time and wanted to use it professionally. I studied " something with art " in France and speak a bunch of languages more or less well. Then I married a professor from Flensburg and joined the existing consulting firm with great pleasure.
Later, I found my way back to my Christian faith and that was through the study of the neurobiology of human learning.

The mosaic stones "Languages" and "Art and Culture", however, lay around for a long time without any connection. I found it very difficult or even impossible to integrate the faith reference. I don't want to convert. I even believe (neurobiologically well founded) that this is not possible at all. So I didn't even think of this stone as belonging to the mosaic. Has this changed with the company's strategic reorientation? The answer is: not so far, with an emphasis on so far. Because these issues have clearly moved forward.
For years I have been making myself at least a little smarter every day in six languages: Danish, English,

French, Italian, Russian, Spanish. I put our website online in four languages right from the start. My Russian is still too bad. But Spanish has long been on the to-do list. Maybe it will work out some time soon?
In the summer of 2017, many mosaic stones in the field of "art and culture" were added to this. I spent a whole week at documenta 14 in Kassel.

In the picture above you can see a kind of mosaic. On YouTube you can discover: It is in motion. The work "The End" by the Greek artist Nikos Alexiou is inspired by a floor mosaic of the monastery Ivirion on Mount Athos. What the YouTube video doesn't show: Visitors enjoy this work of art! They place themselves in the light, many even lie down on the floor. Many take a light shower for minutes.
Should and may art be fun? I will write more about it.

Oct 16
Kaheman thinking fast and slow


By Prof. Wolfgang Linker


Our late chancellor Helmut Schmidt once said: “People with visions should go see their doctor!“. Well, in this case, our most honored grand man of recent German history was wrong. Visions, when things go as they should, are by no means delusional ideas, but precious guiding principles. On the other hand: maybe he was right, after all? It’s quite true: self-employed people, entrepreneurs, managers, they oftentimes need a “doctor“ remove the ill tissue of unrealistic illusions and to pamper the healthy tissue of realistic wishes.
Illusions and visions differ in three ways: content, motivation, strategy.   

If I aimed to earn a Nobel Prize, that would be an unrealistic reverie. At age 75, my guarantee has already expired: e.g. the guarantee for necessary forces to run longterm research.
Healthy visions thus answer the question: specifically what would be a reachable goal?

There are things I can do to contribute to my fitness in old age. With an emphasis on “do“. It takes the determination to do it, that means, it takes motivation. That is the second difference between illusions and visions.
Healthy visions thus also answer the question: why would it be tempting to reach a given goal?

The third difference is in the promising plan.
Healthy visions thus further answer the question: exactly how can I reach that tempting goal?

No sooner said than done? No! I have known for ages, that I could to a lot to stay fit beyond the “guarantee terms“. I also know - rationally: It would be possible for me to finalize my second book on communication, sitting in my drawer with two thirds being done. Content, motivation, strategy, all that is clear. In theory. For it takes one more thing. Something fundamental. A fourth prerequisite. Fasting and hiking prepare the ground: it takes distance from visions. 

At a distance and only at a distance, we will discover that, when it comes to our own judgments, we tend to be overconfident. All of us. All the time. Time and again. Even age and wisdom don’t help it. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman proved the overconfidence bias so well that it earned him the Nobel prize in Economics in 2002. (His book “Thinking, Fast and Slow“ is highly recommendable, but also very heavy. For those being reluctant to reading 500 pages: part III is entitled … yeah … right: overconfidence. And its only 65 pages long).

Overconfidence bias sounds unpleasant. It’s worse: the overconfidence bias prevents that we even take into consideration new aspects - especially, if they seem to be against us, or pessimistic. Love turns blind. Greed is stronger than reason. Right? Right!, says Kahneman in a slightly more scientific manner: Our Known Knowns knock out most Known Unknowns (and make us completely forget that there could be Unknown Unknowns). That means that another difference between visions and illusions is the …

Healthy visions answer the question: how will I create the necessary distance to give room for objective strategic thinking?

Which leads us back to Fasting and Hiking and my two personal strategic goals:
stay fit.
write book.
We left our office and, by doing so, our many silent and seated work.
We went the the island of Sylt.
We hiked and, with new acquaintances every day, we talked about everything under the sun.
We made use of our idle periods to set up our strategic plans - in an unusual physical and mental state.
Pure distance!
Lo and behold:
I really saw things in new and creative ways.
I saw the previously overlooked.
I asked myself new and different questions.
I also realized and with joy: I am on the right track.
I double-checked my thoughts, with my wife as feedback giver.

Beyond that, I got fresh “food“: short presentations on health issues provided me with a wealth of new information, e.g. on edibles and their components. More importantly, I heard once more what I had read before oh so many times, judged correct oh so many times, and neglected anyway oh so many times. I am harming myself with my belief “Any kind of physical exercise is a nuisance and a waste“. So far, knowing that didn’t help. But now I heard recommendation in a completely different mind set: after physically strenuous, but satisfactory tours followed by gratifying mental work. That overcame my couch potato attitude.

I am know proud owner a a deluxe caddy and walk to the grocery stores. That is 30 minutes of physical exercice which I can do and stick to. I also picked up writing on my book regularly. At a desk set up on purpose at a remote place of our house, providing the seclusion that helps me. 

Finally and after all, Helmut Schmidt was right: I was in need of “medical help“: by Kahneman, the speakers, my wife.

Which “doctor“ would you nee to turn illusions into visions?

Aug 16


by Claudia Linker (Monnet)

For a while we didn't eat. At all. Instead, we walked, in wind and weather, between 12 and 15 km per day. And used that to do our yearly strategic planning. And yes, we consider this of enough value, to recommend you to do so, too. Both: yearly strategic planning and registering to a course in fasting and hiking. After a week on Germany's beautiful Sylt Island, our backpacks were filled with very specific plans and so far, they seem to sprout. Also and especially the professional ones.

While - als far as we know - noone yet is offering a mix of fasting, hiking and strategic business development, you can still use thoughts from this series of articles to tinker your own strategic plan, with or without fasting (and / or hiking). Or you get in touch with us for further support. We'd be pleased.

"Specifically what would we like to do (be it continue to do / start to do / do at all)?", this question has an urge to be asked and answered. In 2015, the urge was even stronger, partly because Wolfgang was nearing his 75th birthday. Slowly but surely, age made him feel like wanting a bit more to look for the "bare necessities, the simple bare necessities". Djungle book's baloo is so right: those bare necessities, they really tend to come to you, at least at a given age. But there was another reason for our strategic urge to be so particularly strong in 2015: Claudia was nearing her 50th birthday. And that is not yet the age to oft completeley for Baloo's bare necessities. The stronger inspiration is Bagheera. 

Somehow we had to fairly well balance these very different stages in life - and to put the company on that track. And so we did. It took us some months of thought-giving, putting in writing, discussing, deciding, rejecting, focussing, 4-6 hours per week. Then we ended up with a neat strategic plan, and with energy, luck and coincidences, it worked out surprisingly well so far.

So now, in summer 2016, it was about time for a provisional evaluation: What had we been able to realize? Or not? Why? Based on our successes and failures, how would we decide to move on? 

However, our calendar was full, which, generally speaking, is pleasant, yet harbours the risk to prefer the urgent to the important - thus making strategic work impossible. So we decided for one intense week, which with some effort we were able to block. 

Additionnally, we decided to fast again simultaneously. Simultaneously because we already new that real fasting automatically induces deep pondering, assessing and reorganizing. And yes, to fast really means: to eat nothing. Nothing you could bite, that is. Unless you'd count the parsil on the then evening broth among solid food. New to us was the combination with hiking, which meant to move and really a lot. Rough and about four to five hours per day, in all weathers. And trust us: Sylt even in July 2016 absolutely meant all weathers, or nearly so. Until then, we'd been to monasteries for fasting retreats. They would make you move, but a lot more moderately. Also, especially Claudia can really dive into her inner self in a monastic setting. Her fear now was, not to reach that depth with all that physical acitivity. The opposite turned out to be true. 

So what are those specific plans that we put into our backpack? That's what we'll let you now little be little on this site. Just this for today: strategic planning puts us in touch with what we really want - or not. Strategic planning puts habits on hold and questions them. Strategic planning takes off the shackles of false constraints und unchains heartfelt desires. Replace "strategic planning" by "fasting", alternatively by "hiking", maybe even by "fasting" and "hiking".

Want more? Pleasure!