Maria Jicheva – A Charismatic Force of Nature! –

Maria Jicheva – a few words by Matthew Hill

MariaJicheva

As we mourn the passing of Maria Jicheva, we may take a little comfort from our memories. There has been a unified expression both about the shock of her sudden passing and of the positive and quietly influential woman that she was.

She was at her most visible as president of SIETAR Europa and when leading the committee and volunteers to putting on an important and memorable Congress in Sofia, Bulgaria – a country that was significant to her in many ways.

The extraordinary thing about Maria was that she was accepted by trainers coaches, academics and business professionals alike. If you take a minute to think about it, this cannot be said about most people.

My experiences with Maria were mostly set in the context of SIETAR UK. Here she provided solid support and advice for her successors – Stephan Dahl, Robert Johnson and myself.

In meetings and conference calls she would be the soft articulate voice of wisdom, suggestions and common sense. When we were lost Maria would have an answer. When we had a problem Maria had a solution.

Other obituaries have mentioned her honorary title, “the Queen of diplomacy.” This is true and was really put to the test prior to the Bulgarian Congress. Through no fault of her own, a rather critical comment about the “father of culture”, Geert Hofstede, in an e-mail chain had reached the esteemed professor’s office and caused a minor explosion. It is the sort of nightmare that no volunteer President ever wants to face – that of having the most prominent figure in your field completely upset with the volunteer organisation promoting the values of that field.

We know the outcome – shuttle diplomat Maria calmed the waters, facilitated the seeing of reason and offered the esteemed academic a public space to expound his central theories. Few know how close we came to a different outcome.

Continuing the Hofstede theme, Maria introduced Prof. Michael Minkov, first to SIETAR via Bulgaria and then to us at SIETAR UK. His hotly debated theory was later adapted to become an additional Hofstede dimension.

Her successful long-term partnership with Caroline at Coghill Beery saw her flying to many countries and delivering training and coaching to some exceptional senior executives and high-powered teams. Here she was professional, credible and had the depth and persona to deal with the egos and challenging behaviours that she encountered. Not only did the offices of Coghill Beery have just about every book published on culture (normally by Nicholas Brealey) but one sensed that Maria had read, understood and remembered most of them too.

As well as being charming Maria was also tough. Her success in committees came not just from her smile. When a principle was being violated Maria was a charismatic force of nature.

Her legacy is a more mindful and caring SIETAR. It is a standard of principled integrity that was shown to us by an extraordinary exponent of coaching, training and leadership.

For us the spirit of Maria continues with every Congress and, in a way, every training and coaching session. Thank you Maria. You have been heard.

Moving tributes are to be found at http://mariajicheva.com

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Trainer Resource Films – Marshmallow, Appreciative Inquiry and Norwegian Culture

  1. The Marshmallow Challenge Exercise and Debrief – A Ted Talk with Tom Wujec from design software company Autodesk              .team work at conference workshop

This film shows you the equipment list for the game and what the concept is. There is a wonderful and shocking debrief of who does well, who does not do well and the phases and needs that come out of the task.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0_yKBitO8M

Thanks to Tom Wujec and Ted Talks for publishing this.

  1. Appreciative Inquiry

Overview of the Appreciative Inquiry methodology and an example about a hotel with Jackie Kelm. The film expands on the positive core, the 5 principles, the 4D’s and more…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwGNZ63hj5k

Thanks Jackie for making the film and publishing it on YouTube

  1. Norwegian Culture – Stereotypes and Beyond

Nice light TedX with Italian Pellegrino Riccardi about Norwegian culture that can provoke discussion and exchange in your training group. Wonderful example of the particularist perspective to parking from a Police Woman!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMyofREc5Jk

Thanks Pellegrino and TED for publishing this on YouTube.

SIETAR Europa Congress – Valencia – Observations

This year’s congress felt large, professional and inclusive. Set in the city, drama and history of Valencia almost 400 people gathered to experience the breadth and depth of some of the best presentations we’ve experienced in recent times.

Panorama of  Placa del Ajuntament with City Hall  in evening. Valencia, Spain

Panorama of Placa del Ajuntament  –  City Hall

At some points, the delegate’s choice was what to MISS across an array of talent filling 7 parallel presentation steams.

Highlights for me were Dr. Sonsoles Morales and her witty and powerful introduction to Unconscious Bias, Dr. Jackie van der Kroft with her exploration of Non Violent Communication and Dr. Noor Azizan-Gardner’s insightful overview of diversity and inclusion within an American university setting. I felt busy rushing to 14 presentations but that meant not seeing more than 90 other contributions in a packed and varied schedule.

Of the key notes – Thiagi held our attention with his humble authority, present wit and his naughty truths.

On a personal note, seeing the documentary about Dr. Geert Hofstede went some way to reconcile the range of strong feelings about the man and his work. Films were presented at the Rialto Cinema in the Ajuntament Plaza as part of the film festival organised by Dr. Marianne Van Eldik Thieme.

The ADEIT Fundacion Universitat-Empressa de Valencia provided an impressive learning space with modern facilities and a wonderful outdoor patio for breaks and the cocktail party.

There is always a little moaning to be heard at any Congress. This time it was about the use of more than one site for the presentations, the lunch and a little drama at the Gala dinner. For me this adds flavour to the story and is to be expected when 400 paying customers attend an event organised by volunteers.

On a personal note, the appointment of Manuel Garcia Ochando has enabled SIETAR Europa to gain a new level of quality and the dynamic committees seemed to have successfully focused the varied voluntary contributions into concrete Congress results. Notable hard workers amongst many hard workers include; Pari Namazie, Barbara Covarrubias Venegas and Joe Kearns.

SIETAR Europa Congress Gala Venue

SIETAR Europa Congress Gala Venue

Praise and thanks go to Dr. Livi Thompson for the unenviable task of “herding cats” and bringing together the opinions and ideas of more than 50 volunteers.

The sad feeling of leaving Valencia and the SIETAR family was softened by meeting so many delegates at the airport and sharing a plane back to London in the company of Richard Lewis – that man is never dull!

There are calls for a different SIETAR Europa event to occur before the Congress in Dublin May 2017. Let us see what emerges…