Achim Nowak

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Achim Nowak Posts

Lunched with Victor, youthful president of a global-ueber-electronics firm, in the Chicago burbs this week. I relish Victor’s smarts. He reads brainy stuff, thinks in unexpected ways, keeps me on my conversational toes.

“I just watched this TED talk about the power of introverts,” Victor volunteers. “Interesting!”

I find myself starting to boil inside. Not at Victor – no, at this infuriatingly narrow and culturally perpetuated narrative about the introvert/extrovert dichotomy. Here it is, again.

I appreciate Susan Cain, the lovely and immensely articulate power-of-introversion speaker Victor references. Cain is a leader of the lets-reclaim-the-introvert movement. A backlash against a North American business culture that values constant collegial engagement.

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I spent time with a group of magnificent MBA students at a university in Boston last week. We explored personal presence. We talked about personal energy. We went to the well.

“So what IS energy?” a young lady named Melinda asked.

Ah yes – that question.

Melinda asked it with a big beaming smile, and I wondered, does Melinda know that she has a high-energy smile?

I had great fun with the “so what is energy question” when I wrote my book INFECTIOUS. I talked to a bunch of energy experts. Here are some answers that stuck:

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90-minutes of focused activity, followed by a 10-minute interval of conscious rejuvenation, maximize productivity.

Yes, that’s the 90/10 rule.

Who came up with that, you ask? Professor K. Anders Ericson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.

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They’re commonly known as affirmations. The simple yet powerful things we say to ourselves to claim our highest good – radiant health, wondrous prosperity, boundless love.

I like the word self-talk. Because that’s what I am truly doing when I make an affirmation – I’m talking to myself.

I talk to my self every day.

The self-talk that I find utterly irresistible is the one that shifts my energy. Instantly. You know, when I’m about to enter a meeting and feel anxious (and being anxious is not helpful). When I feel tired (and showing up tired is not an option). When I, for whatever reason, do not care for a person (and that person is a crucial client). Yep – time to shift energy!

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I sit in an old German Brauhaus on the outskirts of Frankfurt with Martin, the European General Manager of a global manufacturing firm, and our talk quickly settles on members of his staff.

“Sabine, your assistant, was immensely helpful to me all day,” I let him know.

Martin chuckles and says. “You know, I inherited her from my predecessor.” I know the history behind this comment. When Martin became GM, he inherited quite a few folks who did not perform all that well.

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Please indulge a little travel metaphor.

If you’ve ever flown Singapore Airlines, you know. The flight attendants pamper you from the second you board. They make you feel cherished.

If you’ve ever flown Spirit Air – uhuh, you have experienced the dark side of travel. A calculated disregard for your well-being from the moment you arrive. No effort – truly none – to put you in a joyful state of mind.

Imagine that every day, as you rush from meeting to phone call to networking lunch to yet another meeting, you are your own inner flight attendant. So – which airline are you flying? Spirit, or Singapore Air?

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As we excavate our salads, sitting on the porch of Ft. Lauderdale’s Riverside Hotel, Marge Schiller slips me a copy of her book.

“Inscribe it, please,” I beg. I’m a fan of appreciative inquiry, and I am tickled to receive a copy of Marge’s Appreciative Leaders: In the Eye of the Beholder.

Let’s “plerk” together and see what happens, the inscription reads.

Plerk – that’s play and work, Marge, right?

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My professional life began in showbiz. First time I got a job in “the real world,” I was in my mid-thirties. Trainer for a Social Services Agency in New York City. And I had this very real fear: What would it be like to work with “these people” in the real world? Showbiz had been a culture of play; was I about to rot in a culture of drudgery?

Surprise! “These people” were fun. Heck, our meetings were a lot more fun than any of the meetings we ever had in my theatre life!

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You know who they are, right?

They hurtle toward you at a party, corner you in the hall. Ramble on about something or other, whining complaining joyless stressed. Rabid narcissism in extravagant bloom, venom raging under a veneer of social grace. On and on and on they go, and not a word they say interests you …

Yep. They’re the energy vampires, sucking you dry.

A minute or two in their presence, and you feel your spirit shrink, life draining right out of your soul.

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“He’s my absolutely favorite client,” Dan Oropesa, the Relationship Manager at my firm, proclaims with great conviction as we sit at the computer, charting the next few months of my life.

He’s talking about Rich, the head of a large securities firm, a fellow I coach.

Here’s the part I want you to get: Dan has never met Rich, never even spoken with him on the phone. This is a business relationship charged solely by emails to schedule appointments. The ridiculously mundane stuff of conducting business.

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