The French Paradox, Part I: “Oui…mais…”, By Anke Middelmann

“Oui…mais…”, or,”Finding the Perfect Solution”

In the early years of my teaching and training career in France, I was often confronted with comments from such as: “All the French do is talk—but there’s no action” (Anglo-Saxon, North European, Indian, Chinese); “they’ve agreed to something and then change their mind at the last minute” (German managers), “they overcomplicate everything” (British), and more general remarks that “they contradict everything”, “always disagree and complain”, “are disorganized” and “cannot be relied upon”.

Man drawing a picture of Paris

Determined to find satisfactory answers, I had to look no further than the French Enlightenment philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650). And was delighted that all the above could, in some way, be linked to his theories, specifically his anti-thèse. Eureka!

Just how does it work? One of René (“I think, therefore I am”) Descartes’ main premise is that thinking should be driven by logic and rationality. His argued that “doubt is the origin of wisdom”, and that, in seeking the Truth, “it is necessary… to doubt, as far as possible, all things”. Moreover, to find this Truth (i.e., the perfect solution), “it is important to have a Method“—known as the thèse – antithèse – synthèse.

Still today, this Cartesian “method” is applied in all situations. The starting point (thèse) is straightforward—it’s the problématique, or proposition, situation, problem, or project to be dealt with. It’s the second stage, the anti-thèse, the process of figuring out the solution, that is tricky and that confounds non-French counterparts. While the British generally come up with an objective, devise a way forward, and change course if necessary, and the Germans develop, and follow, a structured approach, the French do something entirely different.

This is where Descartes’ “doubt”, or “scepticism”, comes in. Since the anti-thèse requires that everything be questioned, the French consider all aspects of an issue by “dividing each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it” (Descartes). It means dissecting, questioning, and possibly rejecting, all angles, knowledge and facts; it is important to decide not necessarily how or whether something will work, but rather why it might not, and if an existing or initial approach is indeed best. It leads to: “Yes, this might work, but…”; “What happens if we do/don’t do it this way?”; “How about this instead of that—or something else entirely?” In working through the anti-thèse, one may retain some initial elements, but discard others, inject new facts, develop new possible approaches, and subsequently review everything (thereby repeating the whole process!) to ultimately agree (often at the last minute) on the solution—the synthèse!

To onlookers, this contradictory back-and-forth thinking process, changing minds and plans, especially at the last minute, the lack of action until a solution is considered finite, the seemingly critical oui…mais, is time-wasting, exhausting and unnecessary intellectual acrobatics. However, to the French, not leaving any stone unturned implies doing a sloppy job. As one Frenchman observed: “We cannot work otherwise, even if, in the end, we go back to our first idea.” Although complex, complicated, contradictory and seemingly disorganised, the “Cartesian Method” can be highly creative and has made France a technologically and scientifically innovative power house: the high-speed TGV train, the Ariane space rocket, Minitel (a Videotex online system that predated the internet by several decades), the Eiffel Tower, the morning-after pill, to name just a few, are all innovations achieved through the Cartesian approach.

How to practically deal with the anti-thèse on a daily basis? Understanding goes a long way: international students and managers say that just knowing that everything will take longer, involve discussion and difference of opinion, makes things less frustrating; a German manager said he now sits back, patiently observing the commotion of the anti-thèse, and reorganising his time accordingly. Non-French university teachers adjust class content to give students more time to discuss their ideas. Others are delighted that their French counterparts’ frequent oui…mais is nothing personal. And yet others see the process as a worthwhile exercise to hone their own observational and thinking skills, and to develop new ways of seeing the same issue.

I’m not saying it’s easy to adapt; just like the process itself, it takes time, patience, and mental agility. Personally, I’ve learned to listen for the oui—without the mais—to know we’re ready to go.

Anke Middelmann was born and raised in Germany, the United Kingdom and Belgium. She spent most of her working life in Belgium, the United Kingdom, and the United States, before moving to France in 2004.

anke middlemann Anke Middelmann – intercultural trainer and coach

She is Lecturer in Multicultural Management at Skema Business School, and Director of two of Skema’s International MSc Programmes.

As an intercultural trainer and coach, she provides training and coaching on a range of multicultural and intercultural issues. She regularly provides training on “Living and Working in France” and the complexities of Franco-German working for Air Liquide, Eurosport, AXA, Valéo, Bayer, Areva, Thales, Adeo Services, Dassault, among others.

 

 

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You Gotta Hustle – Upgrade your Networking to be an EFFECTIVE independent trainer or coach by Matthew Hill

Ordinary or Deluxe?

When you hear the word hustle what you think of? My older readership will envisage Paul Newman as a con artist in a snooker hall playing dumb to ensnare innocent victims and relieve them of their holiday cash.

Successful entrepreneur, Shaa Wasmund, has a different interpretation. For her it is the noble and creditable activity of UPGRADING any ordinarily networking opportunity into a LEVERAGED and dynamic one that will strengthen engagement and drive customers and contacts to you.

Aerial platform for repairing works against a sky background

Are you upgrading your networking opportunities?

If you count the number of moments that happen to you in a year where you could benefit from applying the principles of the Hustle – building your business, growing your contact list and deepening your relationships, you will easily find 300 or more magic times.

AND

What are you doing with them? The answer for most people, is, “the bare minimum.” I meet people who have a healthy collection of business cards gathering dust in their desk drawer. I meet people at networking events who still ask, “and what do you do?” I know people who read great books written on their own specialist subject. They take no notes and do nothing further other than slowly forget the content. I know people who pay premium prices to attend conferences, speak to three audience members, attend all the speeches and then leave empty-handed. I speak to people who are actively terrified of meeting a legend in their own field. They would rather that person did NOT make contact with them as they feel awkward, tongue tied and unable to function.

If any of the above applies to you, know this. It all changes now.

Here are 10 ideas to Hustle upgrades from the next opportunity that comes along.

  1. Meeting a Powerful Person – let’s start with an easy one. The device that allows you to read this post has a search bar where you can dig, delve and find out anything on the web about the legend you are about to meet. Don’t go for the obvious because everyone else will do that and your target star’s communication will be numb and automated in response.

Find the interesting and subtle quality, property or activity that this person is really all about. If you can drill down to a deeper level and, with a bit of luck, find a connection to common people, common experience or a shared qualification, then you have engineered the possibility of creating an INTIMATE moment with someone you admire. This further enables the chance to make a connection, a suggestion or to offer something that will result in a second meeting, a leveraging of the moment or, at the very least, creating a charming talking point. It’s all about doing your homework.

  1. LinkedIn posts – 89:10:1 – 89% of web users are basic consumers of info-tainment. They do nothing. 10% are interactive and can work their way around a keyboard – they may like or share a stimulating post found on Pulse. You need to be in the 1%, those people who are actively engaging, who are converting their experience into authored words and, possibly, authority. The next time you read a stimulating post, take matters into your own hands, locate the writer’s e-mail or ask for a connection with the author and begin an appropriate and respectful dialogue, asking simple questions, showing appreciation and contributing your value through opinion or example. Don’t be a contrarian, but align instead with their point of view. In such a way, you can form a relationship with thought leaders, opinion leaders and business leaders and engage at a professional level gaining access to what is otherwise impossible to achieve.
  2. Meeting an impressive mortal. By this I mean coming across a film, post or live speech made by someone who is of high calibre. They are on the way up and, maybe, you appreciate them for their talents more than those around you. This creates mutual leverage. Let me illustrate this with a story. When I see someone who is a BYT, a bright young thing, with a brain the size of a planet, a charismatic presentation style, and a slightly cautious approach to their audience, I will endeavour to meet them afterwards, thank them for their speech and invite them to give a webinar for my audience if appropriate. Because they are on the way up, they will often take up the opportunity that is being provided for them. In such a way we have captured the energy and spirit of many great people and presented it (free of fees) to a hungry audience, some of whom will tell me later that they are amazed at how I find such unique talent.
  3. Get a quote – sometimes, your face time with the Guru or Star is too controlled or limited to ask for a full favour. In this case a simple quote will do. What question have they not been asked before? What question will access their passion? And what answer will be of value to you personally? If you rack up a number of such questions you will always be prepared for that next spontaneous encounter with a legend.
  4. Hustle at a conference. Why be a passive member of the audience, being fed great but repeated keynote speeches when you can turn the event into a business accelerator? There are many ways to do this. If you buy a ticket to some great people like Joanna Martin or Tony Robbins, you may get asked to be a runner or a volunteer the next time. Don’t resist on the basis of your dignity or ego. Yes, they will have you running around in a silly T-shirt and singing and dancing but think of the amazing opportunity. You have stardust on your shoulders and borrowed authority being a runner at the event. You may channel your personality, and speak to an unlimited number of great people.

Alternatively, on a more earthly scale, if you see a conference coming up in 3 or 6 months time, contact the organiser and offer a keynote speech. Instantly reject any organisation that asks for a fee from you to speak. I know that seems strange, but it happens. In such a way I have spoken at many conferences and it is the number one converter of your time into a business enquiries – Aim to speak to a warm qualified audience on your core topic and make it punchy and memorable.

  1. Read a good book, write a good review – as I write this post I have checked in for a flight early tomorrow to Prague. 100 minutes flying time is a great opportunity to get into a good book. One was recommended to me 3 days ago, I ordered it on Amazon Prime and it arrived yesterday. I will read it, take notes and convert those notes into a review for either Amazon or my blog site AND create one, two or three posts that result from my thoughts and reactions to the content of this good and recommended read. In such a way I am repurposing the knowledge that I gain, enhancing my chances of retaining the wisdom held in the pages, and teaching and sharing the goodness I encounter thus creating equity and enhancing my reputation amongst my tribe.
  2. Warming a prospect. Let’s assume that you have someone on your list with good prospects. They know vaguely of your existence but they have yet to be wowed by you or given sufficient evidence of your greatness. Where is the Hustle opportunity? If you’re confident in your abilities it is time to spend a little of your hard earned money and take proactive marketing meaures and reach out. Sending one of your information-based products as a gift with a clever note achieves many things – Robert Cialdini’s law of reciprocity means you have created a small psychological obligation. Philip Kotler’s marketing formula suggests that you are engineering another “touch” and Gary M. Reynolds’ Engagement theory says that you are creating trust as you qualify your prospect either IN to your philosophy or OUT of contention. Posting a book, a disc or a memory stick can be an amazing leveraged step to forming a potentially high-value relationship.
  3. Proper networking – there are endless posts telling you that you must give first in order to get later. For me the greatest thing you can do is to be a network facilitator. The best fluid movers in a room listen to your story and actively connect you, “A”, with, “B”, someone you can help or who can help you. It is this seemingly selfless act that marks you out as a sophisticated player and somebody to be taken seriously. Your noble act can pay back many times over in the course of your relationship with both “A” and “B”.
  4. Peer to peer – in the new sharing and collaborative economy it seems sensible to explore the Hustle opportunity between equals. My favourite Hustle, when I spot a rising star, is to offer them a little of my time coaching, indulging in a divergent thought session or exploring opportunities for cooperation and exchange. It is a pleasant way to spend the time. The other party seems to have fun and how there is ALWAYS something to trade.
  5. Journalists and editors – this strange breed require special handling. Interacting and commenting constructively after reading articles by adding your thoughts and comments after publication goes down well. Remember most people or in the 89%. It always surprises me when speaking to journalists to hear how rarely they are called up or engaged in conversation by their readers. There is the perception that they sit in an ivory tower and are, somehow, unapproachable. In fact the opposite is true. A journalist contact, an editor or a PR friend are an incredible resource. The turbo version of this is to become an accredited subject matter expert – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Being known as a cooperative source who will say something intelligent, witty and apposite will have journalists coming back for more. Everybody wins. They meet their deadline and get the job done easily. You win because your name is in print, again.

    VIP - Very important person - gold 3D render on the wall background with soft shadow.

    Are you ready with your clever question?

89:10:1 – if you stay in the 89% you will do nothing, you will not hustle anybody and nothing special will help build your business. If you are in the 10% you will like and share this piece – it’s a start (And Thank You 😉 ) If you are in the 1%, your heart will be racing, your hands sweaty and you will have already worked out how to apply at least 3 of the 10 ideas above and be well on your way to Hustling for your next rich, rewarding and exciting opportunity.

So. Which are you? The 89%, 10% or 1%?

Register for the Consultative Selling and Networking Webinar from the Intercultural Training Channel, Tuesday, 17th May 2016, 12 noon London time, 1PM, Amsterdam and Paris Time. – A lunch and learn session for the intercultural entrepreneur.  Follow the link to register for the who with Gotowebinar; https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4557222083732664323 

Author – Matthew Hill is a freelance trainer and executive coach working in multiple European countries with some of the largest transnational corporations in the world. He has worked for 3 Governments, written 3 books and regularly speaks on the subject of Consultative Selling for Independent Trainers who wish to up their game.

 

Are you a trainer suffering from Marketing and Social Media GUILT – “Should’a, Would’a, Could’a done more…”? By Matthew Hill

“My Social Media To Do List is longer than my Shopping list” Let me start by giving you all a guilt amnesty! Your list of “If only I had done X, Y and Z for sales, marketing, branding and my … Continue reading