Category Archives: In English

PRAXI – another happy customer for 2014 –

Regarding our collaboration for Percassi we are very pleased with our work  with Pascale , especially the courses planned and delivered by you: “Fundamentals of Management for N-3”, and “the fundamentals of Recruitment for N-3” focused on the main tools for managers – and we very much would like to continue the good collaboration and other future customers.
Serena Candeo
PRAXI S.p.A. – Organizzazione e Consulenza –

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 3 – 10125 TORINO

Turning stress tactics into successful strategies

Here’s an excerpt from a book that I love: The Mind Gym. Highly recommended reading for those of you who wish to change their mental habits in order to achieve more, with less stress and in less time. In one word, to enjoy life!

Turning stress tactics into successful strategies:

  1. reducing the importance
  2. reducing the likelihood of the nightmare scenario
  3. reframing things in a positive way
  4. celebrating
  5. using mental energy wisely
  6. escaping
  7. seeking support from friends
  8. asking the right questions
  9. confronting

Tactics 1 to 7 are all to do with looking at the situation differently: they are emotion- or assessment-focused strategies.

Tactics 8 and 9 are to do with working out what action to take and then taking it. These are problem-focused strategies.

In order to but stress effectively, we often need to use a mixture of these techniques.

More info on The Mind Gym:

  • Number 7 in the UK’s Top 10 Business Books of 2006.
  • Winner of Best Management Handbook in the Management Today/MCA Writing Awards 2005.
  • Translated into 27 different languages.

Malaysia: A Land Of Opportunities (Part 1)

I stumbled upon Malaysia during my honeymoon in 1992. In Langkawi, I swam in the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden (and subsequently had two children…), and I enjoyed Malaysia so much then that I decided to take my backpack last December and explore more of the country. I found it like home, so I went back exploring again during the summer and made some business contacts. I would now like to build some business links with Malaysia as I found this country to be dynamic and growing fast.

Malaysia is a developing nation, thus like some others, it is replacing mature economies as the world’s engine of growth. Western multinationals are setting foot in Kuala Lumpur, in search of new consumers far, far away from the dreadful recession in Europe. Malaysia does seem like a land of opportunities.

On the French side, Vinci is helping with construction, Bouygues with the metro. The local oil industry is dominated by Petronas but DTS, a French company specializing in explosion proof lightings and panels is present on the drilling side.

The main industries in Malaysia are the wood-based industry, the food industry, basic metal products (iron, steel and nonferrous metals such as copper, zinc or lead), electricity and electronics, engineering support, medical devices, petrochemicals and polymer, pharmaceuticals, and of course machinery and equipment – identified as one of the key areas for growth by the Malaysian government because of its high quality-low cost ratio in terms of production.

Industry sectors are as diverse and multi-faceted as the population of Malaysia. But the most interesting fact is that Malaysia progressed from an economy dependent on agriculture and primary commodities to a manufacturing-based economy based on a program called NEM (New Economic Model), set on a vision for 2020 (Wawasan 2020). This makes Malaysia the 14th most competitive country in the world according to a 2012 survey by WCY (World Competitive Yearbook, published by the Institute for Management Development).

The communication system is outstanding: one can access the Internet nearly everywhere, and I mean it… Even in the middle of the jungle! From my own experience, the network is even better covered than in France.

Infrastructure is developing fast: the main airport KLIA is growing ever so swiftly (in the space of six months I could not recognize it!) and the roads are easy to travel on. Even in a jungly area like the Cameron Highlands, I found the roads wide and in perfect condition.

In Kuala Lumpur, the city is changing so rapidly that even taxi drivers have problems finding their way around the city. This can be challenging, as one of the main cultural traits among Asians is to never say ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t know…’

I personally find this city exceptional and got lost on the two occasions I visited it. KL is located about 90 km away east of the coastline and is surrounded by jungle. Soon after setting foot in Malaysia, I went on a hike in the FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) park, just near the Batu Caves (north of the city), and despite having completed a triathlon a few days before in Paris, I struggled with the heat, humidity… and jetlag I guess. I also got very scared of the leeches!

So climate is not the easiest thing to get used to in KL, as humidity exceeds 82% and temperatures are mainly in the 30°C from my experience.

There are construction sites everywhere. New buildings are popping out like mushrooms and the most exceptional one I was lucky enough to visit was equipped with God knows how many swimming pools, gardens with mini-pools on the 37th floor… It was even possible to enjoy a BBQ party on the top floor overlooking the city (it felt like the 80th floor, but it probably just was the 50th floor I suppose…)!

The rest of Malaysia is absolutely idyllic, but what I really enjoy the most is its people. Any conversation with and about Malaysians (that is, anyone born in Malaysia regardless of ethnic background) immediately leads into issues about the differences between the country’s majority Malay population and the sizeable Chinese and Indian communities. The stereotypes on how Malays are mostly rural, traditional people and the Chinese mostly urban and capitalists… Or how a Chinese minority received British education, and the second generation is now called ‘banana’ because its members are considered yellow on the outside (i.e, Chinese) and white on the inside (i.e, thinking as Europeans).

The Indians, the next largest group after Chinese, are divided by religion and linguistic background. A small English-educated Indian elite has always played a prominent role in Malaysian society (such as in politics) and a significant merchant class exists, but the largest part of the Indian community, imported as labourers by the British, remains a poor working class (often working long hours as taxi drivers or plantation workers).

There are also some ethnic minorities such as the Orang Asli, or ‘original people’. They have been forced to migrate from a nomadic life in the jungle to a more organized life, and they are not so well integrated in society as was originally intended. The ones I met had adapted well though, taking tourists inside the jungle to go and hunt the biggest flower on earth (the Rafflesia) while still keeping their traditional culture and a high respect for the jungle.

Generally speaking, the various ethnic groups all get along pretty well. It seems that a fruitful economy and a warm climate foster friendliness and hospitality. This blend of ethnic communities makes the Malaysian culture incredibly rich in terms of food or religion (even though Islam remains the official religion in Malaysia), which overall helps bringing up open-minded people. However, intermarriage seems to be fairly rare, or at least seems to happen more among Chinese and Indians, sometimes also mixing with Europeans.

I experienced the same sense of openness and friendliness while making business connections. As a European, or a ‘white-face lady’, my status was regarded with welcome curiosity and many times was my photography taken, because a white person attending a business convention is often perceived as bringing it more credibility.

As for the women’s place in Malaysia, I identified many opportunities that, as a coach, I could work on alongside with them. It was lovely to see that women entrepreneurs (I saw many Chinese business ladies) are really hard-working, well-organized and truly have a vision. However in my opinion, they somehow lacked self-confidence in Malaysia, as compared with neighbouring Singapore where women can be prominent figures.

Malaysia being a Muslim country, it is accepted for a man of muslim faith to marry two ladies but he must first ask for an official authorization. I read in the local newspaper that about 1,500 families applied for this authorization last July. On the West coast fewer ladies wear the tudong (headscarf) but on the East Coast of Malaysia, it seems to be the norm.

In Part 2, we shall survey the Malaysian food culture and how coaching is so well perceived by the Chinese business community.

Transferring Sport skills to Business : How to develop one’s business acumen?

Business acumen “is keenness and quickness in understanding and dealing with a business situation in a manner that is likely to lead to a good outcome” (Wikipedia).

I am currently building up my company and am convinced that I would not be where I am today without my sport life. I belong to the infamous Expatriés triathlon club (, ran two Paris Marathons, and will be taking  in July, my third Olympic  Paris triathlon .

Training is time consuming and tiring.  I was pondering on the advantages of the situation and especially what can I transfer from my sporting life to my business life?

During the winter months I train through chilly, windy, snowy or even stormy weather. I follow a program and I need to stick by it…my goal being ‘the Marathon’

In business it operates in the same fashion: I work no matter what…through sickness and through health (now it reminds me of something else!).  I do have a vision, an objective and I sail my boat towards this objective, through windy, stormy, snowy weather.

Now let’s analyze in a more refined fashion

At the start of a training program, I always create a training program…which, of course, I do not follow to the T…but it allows me to get structured and most importantly to break the big Goal into some achievable little goals.

I make sure I reach these ‘mini’ goals on a weekly basis; this methodology supports me in becoming stronger week by week. I usually realize this after about three weeks of efforts. Every time I go out and train, especially if it raining, or early in the morning (not my favorite activity…) I make sure I congratulate myself on the achievement…keeping a positive outlook on my efforts, however small they might be on that particular day.

When I struggle, I do not push my body too hard, otherwise I lose momentum and get discouraged. It’s the same with my business, when I struggle, I always come down one step before jumping again in the frying pan…it can be highly frustrating at times…believe me.

I launched my business in July 2010 and applied this methodology to help me sail through busy times, and bleak times. I have a vision, an objective in developing my business. I decided to give it a 10 years objective. I will become an expert in my field.

I try to mix the activities, according to the level of being busy in order to make the most of my time. I also broke the big objective of 10 years into some smaller objectives. For example, getting the website absolutely spic and span, making sure I get some training once a year (remember I do want to become an expert in my field). I have set up several little objectives on a yearly basis. This year is setting up the website and the legal structure of the company as well as my training. I mix mid-term projects with long-term projects in building my company (this year was to get some awards which I just did with joining OMECA an organization for experts, accredited by U.N.O.

I never close doors or think in a negative fashion, as per my sport life, hence considering that every little steps achieved (could be just buying a company business stamp) is one less to complete and I always keep my big objective in place. Business comes to me in different ways, I found out that no matter how hard I try to control the situation, people’s referral is the preferred method of getting new clients for me and it comes in unexpected ways.

Building my company requires a lot of energy and I am glad that I have learnt to focus my energy in a constructive way through my sporting life. I also learnt to keep at it, and take risks. If it does not work, I’ve not lost the war, but rather one battle. So I review my strategy and go back for another battle once I have replenished my energy.

Talking of which, strategy is paramount in sport as well as in business. The second triathlon I completed in a shorter time, was the result of getting better equipment but also training in a more strategic fashion: i.e. training less hard, more often and letting the body recuperates between training sessions in order to not start the triathlon too exhausted. It’s the same in business: in order to keep my energy for the long run (the big objective of 10 years) I need to make sure I spend my time on high quality leads and need to qualify the project before I give it my full attention.

Like in sport, where running through the finishing line makes you feel like the champion of the world, in business it’s the same: I make sure I celebrate every success in a formal fashion. I treat myself by sharing a glass of champagne with a friend, or a nice lunch. This yearns to complete the project or the challenge is, according to Maslow’s pyramid, the highest level with the desire of self-achievement.

The last comparison would be based on risks assessment. From my point of view, I have not yet taken a sporting challenge that I could not achieve. I might not finish it in the time of my dream but I know for sure that I’ll be on the finishing line. Even an injury did not prevent me from completing the Marathon.

So I guess with Vernetticreative, it’s the same. I know it’s going to succeed; I just need to keep on being dedicated and create my own luck. However long this project is, I’m building it no matter what!

How to recruit in a professional way : The ORCE Methodology


I  used to go out in the morning really excited to meet lots of new extraordinary people and …believe me I did that absolutely every day.

I’ll let you guess my job: I serve a lot of glasses of water, visit a lot of different hotels, ask a lot of questions, observe a lot of different behaviors, and have to dress immaculately, be charming and smile a lot.

Now I can imagine you SMIRKING…You got it wrong…I am a PROFESSIONAL….double wrong!!!…I worked in England as an independent assessor on large recruitment campaigns. Now you might wonder what is the difference between the UK and France in the recruitment process?  Competencies are paramount in the UK, where experience is most important in France for a start…hence we ask more personal questions in France.

You might wonder how to define a competency : the name given to “any combination of skills, knowledge, attitude and underlying motivation which can be applied in a way which delivers effective or superior performance on the job”

Here are a few mishappenings that usually sent me to the water cooler pretty quick (YES…more water..). Stress makes you act in really weird ways from time to time.

Candidates unable to speak any English…and using every trick in the book to save themselves time, in order to be able to grasp what the question actually means: “could you repeat that please? …what you mean is …” then he repeats exact wording of the question….is this correct? “ I usually repeat the question once more, and then rephrase the question in Pidgin English: You…preparation for this interview? And… after all this effort, the candidate does not answer the question …

When recruiting Vernetticreative follows the ORCE Methodology, an objective assessment for Selection and Development. The company is qualified Level A with the British Psychology Society and Level B theory.

ORCE : Observe, Record, Classify, Evaluate.

Orce is a four stage assessment methodology used throughout the UK and USA in large recruitment projects.

Unlike traditional methods of assessment that often combine observation and evaluation, Orce includes two additional stages in the process, i.e Record and Classify the evidence gathered during observation in order to permit a more objective final evaluation

The practical advantages of the ORCE methodology :

–          Interview questions relate directly to the skills needed for the role.

–          Candidate’s responses are based on actual experiences and behaviors, meaning the information collected is highly relevant.

–          CBIs (competency based interviews) follow a systematic process which can be repeated by multiple interviewers.

–          It can be used as a benchmarking tool

–          The 4th phase can be moderated according to the number of applications received.

How does it work?

1/ Once the competencies are defined for the role, each competency will then be defined individually.

For example : team skills could be defined as follows:

–          Enjoys working with people

–          Likes to share his/her ideas

–          Takes on board the opinion of others

–          Perseverant in contributing to the ideas of others

Then a list of positive and negative indicators will be precisely defined as follows

Positive   indicators Negative   indicators
Likes to   share his/her ideas Prefer to   work alone
Prefer to   work with others Poor   communicator
Offer   support to other to help them build their confidence Is   critical of other’s ideas
Has an   active role in the team Difficulties   to be clear/understood
Open   minded Keep   information to themselves
Ability to   summarize his and other’s ideas Does not   display logical argumentation

2/ A situation question will be indicated in relation to the competency searched for. This could be : ‘Can you think of a situation when you had to work as part of a team? How did you proceed? What was the end result? What could you have done better?

The expertise of the consultant is to then ask probing questions in order to get enough material to classify and evaluate

3/ the answers are then analyzed in comparison to the positive and negative indicators

4/ finally the Evaluation is taken care of as follows :

A/ grading system

–          Highly acceptable (when all indicators are in the positive side)

–          More than acceptable (when most of the indicators are in the positive side with one in the negative side)

–          Acceptable (when the majority of the indicators are in the positive side with two in the negative side)

–          Less than acceptable (the majority of the indicators are in the negative side)

–          No evidence (when the candidate was unable to explain a situation in particular despite the consultant probing on several occasions)

Each competency must be graded individually and the key is to analyze the answer word by word, hence the importance or recording the answer precisely.

B/scoring system :

A score is then given to the answers for each question

– 1 for fail

– 2 points for acceptable

– 3 for more than acceptable

– 4 for highly acceptable

The beauty of this system is the fact that the passing rate can be adjusted according to the number of candidates interviewed. i.e the passing rate can be moved from 10 to 20 accordingly. It still remains objective and neutral.

Still we must not forget that we are still dealing with people and people can be unpredictable !

During a role play,ie a situation given to the candidate who has to prepare himself for a specific scenario happening… the candidate took the brief so seriously and literally that he wrestled the assessor to the floor shouting: DON’T MOVE… I’ll call an ambulance!!! It was so entertaining that the second assessor (another lady who serves glasses of water and visits lots of different venues…!) observing the exercise, let it proceed for a while before calling for a halt when it became…too dangerous for the assessor’s health!!

Body language is another tool that helps greatly during the interview…

Closed body language: pen and finger pointing…feet inwards pointing…arms crossed. I even interviewed a candidate who had kept his anorak on (it was July…) and… , I realized when I took him back to the reception room….his backpack (which by then had become fairly flat…) on during the whole interview. The candidate was obviously keen to run away as soon as possible.

Talking about unpredictability …

One of my colleagues (that is a chap serving glasses of water (yes, you got it this time…) ran into my assessment room one day and breathlessly described how he had called for a “Sharon Smith” in the reception area unable to identify a lady waiting, when a deep raucous voice answered that she was Sharon. He was so shocked that he could not establish the sex of the candidate and was asking for my help!! His chosen criteria were that the candidate had…small feet and a handbag so she was a lady for sure…I have to admit that it was the hardest ever interview to run and I was glad for the ORCE methodology as I realized that we pass judgment really quickly. We expect the ladies to react in a certain fashion and display certain qualities and men others. In this instance, I could not refer to any of these, thus the interview was highly neutral and the candidate went through the process with flying colors.

And the skills I have acquired you may ask??? Mastering the art of holding several glasses of water at the same time…I am also an expert at tuning in to thousands of different accents and way of speaking…when in the beginning a candidate kept on referring to “we” I was confused about how many brothers and sisters he must have…now I am used to the royal “we”.

I have also learnt to never make assumptions (which believe me can be absolutely nearly impossible sometimes…!).

For more information about this service please contact Vernetticreative :