My 10 Commandments for A Better 2021

Two weeks into the new year, I am sure that most of us had the chance to look back at 2020 and sum up its learnings. For many people 2020 has been a massive wake-up call. Perhaps we discovered vulnerabilities in our business models – or in our relationships. Perhaps we realized that, if we want to move forward, we really need to learn new skills and competencies. Perhaps we discovered how truly addicted we are to dopamine-triggering distractions and that we miss them dearly, even though they really don’t bring much added-value to our lives.

Or perhaps we discovered new strengths and competencies we didn’t even know we had. Kudos to all the parents out there who became teachers overnight and found a way to juggle remote work, full-time home schooling, family and relationship maintenance. Maybe we’ve learned that we can do more with less, that we need less of everything and be so much happier. Maybe we also started to notice the real value of emotional presence, gratitude, kindness and positive attitude.

Regardless of where we come from, 2020 opened our eyes on aspects that we might have continued to sweep under the rug otherwise in the pre-Covid normalized rush we called life. For me it was very much like that – until March 2020, that is.


2020 started on a delightful note. Five days after I landed from a monthly rejuvenation stay in Sri Lanka I flew with one of my major corporate clients to Sweden for a leadership development retreat. From there I took a few days to discover the beauties of Copenhagen. Three weeks later I flew to Cairo for the International Enneagram Association’s first conference in Egypt. If all had gone according to the plan, I was supposed to visit 17 countries for leisure or work last year.

Bu then people make plans and Gods laugh. Between March 8 and 13, when the first lockdown was imposed on the Czech Republic, ALL my contracted business deals for the rest of the year got cancelled or postponed. Ten years in the business and this kind of shock can still feel like a massive earthquake shaking all foundations you believed stable and true.

Fortunately, I always have been loved by Gods. On the one hand, in 2016-2017 I had worked for a global client managing integrated communications for a division with people on three continents. It was then that I got introduced to the value of remote communications. In 2018 I conducted the first Remote Leadership workshop and consulted with a global client during the roll out of a whole-company remote leadership development program. A year later I joined the board of the International Systemic Constellations Association (ISCA), which had been using Zoom for global member calls for several years. Thus, I got familiar with Zoom and its wonderful community building opportunities. So, when the pandemic hit, I guess I was, in a way, relatively prepared.

Following the onslaught of deal cancellations, I decided to open three virtual workshops on Zoom on March 11th on how to turn crisis into an opportunity. A major corporate client liked my work and booked 29 virtual workshops for their people working from home for the first time. We started the program on March 16th. To its honor, this corporate client also decided to support its business ecosystem and pay all their supplier invoices within 24h for a limited period of time, which saved my cash flow. Afterwards, more clients followed. When I drew the line at the end of November, I realized that in 2020 I managed to survive, acquire new clients and earn a total of 300 EUR more than I made in 2019. Given the last year’s circumstances and the heartbreaking job and revenue losses all around us, I consider this a small miracle.

The fast transformation of my client portfolio also made me realize four core vulnerabilities.

  1. MY DEPENDENCY ON TOO FEW INDUSTRIES. At the beginning of 2020, most of my clients came from three industries: banking, retail and FMCG. For a former financial journalist this spread would be somehow understandable. However, it didn’t make less painful the realization that I really need to add more customers from IT, e-commerce and healthcare / pharma to my portfolio.
  2. WAY TOO LARGE DEPENDENCY ON THE CZECH MARKET. The second dependency I realized was to my domestic Czech market. Even though I am Romanian and Czech is my fourth language, since 2010 I did everything I could to adapt and serve my domestic clientele according to their needs. Heck, I wrote my first book You, the Brand – Personal Branding for Career Growth in Czech. However, in times of crisis the Czech market is known to contract. People and organizations prefer to save money (Czechs are one of the greatest savers in the European Union) and to leave their development and growth for better days. My nature is different – in times of crisis I expand. I go out looking for opportunities, new ideas and possibilities. Our different approach made things economically and emotionally difficult for me last year.
  3. MASSIVE DEPENDENCY ON IN-PERSON WORK. This vulnerability goes hand in hand with being too dependent on the Czech market. When people are in the same rather small city or when you can cross the country in 4 hours, everyone expects you to come and deliver services in person. Don’t get me wrong - I love my clients and work in person does uplift my spirit. However, I can no longer ignore that, for a solo professional, you can never leverage and scale in-person work. This is why for me Covid had been, in fact, a blessing in disguise. With more people and organizations embracing remote work, from virtual meetings to virtual coaching & mentoring and virtual people development, in 2020 I could breathe for the first time in 10 years in business because I could finally see the opportunity to scale – not to speak about the luxury of being able to work from anywhere, really.
  4. MASSIVE DEPENDENCY ON OPERATIONAL PEOPLE. The fourth and perhaps my most painful realization was that I was too dependent on operational people – HR and PR. This is also understandable. In 2010 I started my business by providing companies with media training and crisis communications. Thus, my key stakeholders were the heads of communication departments in organizations. As my portfolio grew, I stretched towards HR, who were able to show me how to address their companies’ complex people development needs. However, in 2020 both categories of my “best friends” went under the water. Communication specialists were drowning in requirements to handle internal and external crisis communications with reduced budgets, while HR specialists moved their focus from people development to people safety, which was understandable under the circumstances. However, with both my strategic partners drowning under the weight of operational management, I could not unsee how vulnerable I had become because I had simply forgotten to build stronger relationships with those who, in crisis, are in charge: the CEOs.


What do you do when you realize that you are vulnerable? You fix that. So here is a list of my 10 Commands for 2021. I intend to apply and hold on to them so I can continue walking on my mission to develop the marvelous human potential, thrive and enjoy the process.

  1. 2021 KEYWORDS: DIGNITY, DISCIPLINE, TRUST AND SERVICE. People who work with me know my core values: Integrity, Freedom, Partnership and Service. Yet this year I feel te need to add a few more words to my key list: Dignity, Discipline and Trust. Dignity is about an attitude of self-respect and courage of standing up for one’s self. As for discipline, I am absolutely convinced that it is the key to focus and deep value creation, while trust is what makes and keeps our relationships alive regardless of the outer circumstances.
  2. ENGLISH FIRST. This is the first of a few major shifts that my business will be making this year. With the exception of my early start in business, my primary language has been Czech. Yet, in 2020 I experienced moments when I needed to send new regional and global clients offers, referrals or proof-of-work and I didn’t have them in English. This stunted my business potential in a moment when I needed new customers the most. By moving (back) to English first I make sure that all my clients can meet on a common ground and that I can build truly thriving and diverse communities. At the same time, I will continue to provide language-localized services (in Czech, Romanian and French) by adapting them to individual customer needs for an extra cost.
  3. 80%-20%. This is another major shift in my business. In 2021 and in the future I will strive for 80% of my work to be done remotely, regardless of the location of my clients. This includes most client meetings, all coaching & mentoring sessions and most virtual training sessions. The remaining 20% of in-person work will be dedicated exclusively to services related to people development where physical presence is the added-value creator, like for example leadership, emotional and systemic intelligence development and they will be provided as a premium, to honor the time, travel and presence investment required by in-person service delivery.
  4. NO MORE ONE-OFF TRAINING DAYS. This is one of my boldest moves this year. It broke my heart to read in a recent report by McKinsey that only one-third of leaders say their capability-building programs achieve business impact. That can be true – when we engage in a one-off training day, we can tick the activity off the development list, but there is little that we can do to guarantee that people will remain in a developmental mood once the training is over. This is why last year I transformed all my one-day training sessions into a U-shaped people development program made of three four-hour modules. Instead of a one-off 8h training day my clients now receive 12h of training and A LOT of homework in between. I make sure the project includes sufficient time – and budget - to assess people’s needs and competency levels at the beginning, during and at the end of each program, thus proving black-on-white how people advance and how to continue to grow after our work together. More, my experience shows that 3 to 4-hour virtual workshops are also more sustainable, as people can focus and still use half of their day for operational activities.
  5. NO MORE TENDERS. All my individual, group and team development work is premium and tailor-made. Even so, in the past I used to join corporate tenders for people development projects. Not anymore. In the future I am happy to invite my clients to become familiar with my work, then we can move together into a space of co-creation. For that I am willing to go the distance, to communicate more and to offer a rich palette of complimentary experiences. At the same time, this is the only way how I can guarantee that all my work is top-of-the-shelf, impactful and perfectly calibrated to the client’s needs.
  6. DEEP WORK FIRST. This item is a bit connected with my key word discipline. Most of my work involves coaching, mentoring and training. This requires my full mental and emotional presence. This is why I need to be less present personally on various digital communication channels, so I can be even more present for client interactions. It means that I will need to delegate more and you will probably start hearing more from my team members. And that’s ok – as long as we all carry the same spirit and serve the same purpose of top-quality communications and client service delivery.
  7. DEEP CONVERSATIONS. Last year was no different – people kept calling and asking to take a coffee together. Well, let’s make it different ? In 2020 I exchanged coffee shops for long walks with clients and friends in parks or in the forest, with my dog as a loyal companion. Scooby was happy, we got our portion of movement and we were able to enjoy hours of intimate chat in fresh air. I feel that this move deepened my relationships, so I intend to continue doing it in the future as well.
  8. CEOs FIRST. As I noted above when speaking about vulnerabilities, CEOs – from corporate leaders to company founders and entrepreneurs – have been painfully missing from my client portfolio. Not anymore. While honoring the firm pillars of PR and HR, upon which my business has been built, I feel the need to close the “Holy Triangle” and add more executives to the portfolio of people whom I serve. I also expect many of them to be women, given my track record of female leadership development programs conducted in the past.
  9. DISRUPTORS FIRST. Speaking of diversity, I can no longer ignore my first vulnerability – a limited industry portfolio. This is why I will pay more attention to customers from the IT, e-commerce, fintech and healthcare / pharma industries. This is where disruption is coming from, this is where we can expect massive growth in the future and this is where I want to put my skills and energy to the service of those who can drive positive change in our society.
  10. COURAGEOUSLY WALKING MY PATH IN MY ENTIRE WHOLENESS. LIFE AWAITS. This last commandment is actually a quote that came to me during an exercise at the end of the Systemic Leadership course held by the Whole Partnership Institute that I graduated this January. Sometimes, in order to overcome a massive shake-up, we need to become the shake-up. To overcome a wave, we need to become the wave. And sometimes we need to be aware that we are so much more than that what we got used to and that a whole world is out there, waiting for us to realize that we are only a step away from living our full human potential.

So, these are my 10 Commandments for 2021 and for the years ahead. I hope that, in the wake of the pain, loss and transformation that occurred last year, these efforts will take me a step closer to my mission: to make the world a better place one leader, one team and one organization at a time. And, if perhaps one day I could do this from my own center of personal develop by the sea, where I could have my family nearby on the one side and my clients happy and restored on the other side, well – that would be the miracle of my life. When that happens, I will recognize it because the center will have, written with beautiful violet on its white entrance wall: “Courageously walk on your path in your entire wholeness. Life awaits.”

Hybrid Leadership. Welcome to the New Normal

Since the beginning of March and the Corona quarantine, our lives have been turned upside down. For some, their stream of income has completely dried up. For some others, fast profiling in other professions – like a hair dresser I know who started offering child sitting during the day, so parents can work peacefully, helped them to survive. A few lucky entrepreneurs and companies selling products and services online were riding the wave, as customers moved inside.

Physical distancing didn’t by any means bring social or emotional distancing – people were more keen than ever to reach out to each other, to talk, to share and to hold each other through the downturn. One other less visible category has been also massively impacted by the crisis. Their name: corporate managers.

 For years I have been hearing how Czechs people are not ready to work from home. In the past, companies offering even a handful of home office days were turning their apparently benevolent approach into a major benefit. All that changed irreversibly on March 13th, when most of the Czech Republic went to work from home. All of a sudden, remote work was not only possible; it was vital for the survival of organizations. As always, abrupt moves tend to tear the veil on what used to be hidden in the background. Unfortunately, we were also able to see what was really behind the unwillingness of companies to allow people to work from home:  decrepit IT infrastructures and poor people and managerial remote working skills.

The king is naked. Long live the king?

While coworkers adapted fast – some even started to use their personal IT infrastructure to cope with the challenges of remote work, the same cannot be said about managers. The reason is simple: for managers, the missing skills are not hard (how to share a file on Zoom or on Teams), things that can be learnt in a snap of a finger. For managers, the missing skills are much deeper and more insidious. All of a sudden everyone could see, with painful consequences, the lack of communication skills, emotional intelligence (self-mastery, empathy and conflict management being just a few of them) and, simply, leadership. Despite the relative investments into these areas over the last few years, the fact that people development has been done superficially and unsystematically became painfully obvious, as coworkers started to complain about lack of clarity, confusion, anxiety and a general lack of sense of direction for team and individual performers. All of a sudden it was clear for everyone: in the remote environment, the king was naked.

Confronted with this painful realization, some managers rubbed their hands at the thought that in May we would be going back to work and all will go back to “normal.” Surprise surprise: the reality that expects many managers upon returning to the office is not that simple. Their lives got complicated by the fact that many people simply got used to working from home. Most often, these are the same competent people with entrepreneurial spirit, who are able to be productive and deliver results regardless of their circumstances. These people, perhaps after many years, took a taste of that myth that we’ve been talking about for the last decade: work-life balance. In the safety of their homes they found themselves (relative) masters of their days. Some could do more work early in the morning, before their children woke up, then be with their families, then work again, then be with the family again. Some found room for more exercise – from home or around the home, but nonetheless. All of a sudden people didn’t have to choose between themselves, their families and work anymore, as they had everything in one place. The enormous time and financial savings became also obvious and people won’t want to part with that so easily after the quarantine easement in May.

For all these reasons managers should now expect that some of their best performers will want to continue working from home. And even though some people might feel threatened by job loss short term, when we look long term the footprint of their work-life balance experience will stay with people and they will want to replicate it sooner rather than later.

What does this mean for managers? While in the past we were living in a polarity: teams mostly connected through presence in the office or teams working remotely, as in the crisis, now we are faced with the new reality of leading hybrid teams: teams mixed of people working regularly from home AND from the office. This new move on the labor market brings a few structural shifts that we need to pay attention to and integrate into our practices and our companies.

  1. Motivation über alles

In order to manage people in hybrid teams, managers will simply need to know how to work with people’s deep, inner motivation. No amount of money can buy a lack of well-being, as people understood during the crisis that our lives are simply short and it is vital to spend our time on this earth wisely. This means that we can expect more investments in the future into managerial training in motivation, communication skills and strategic enablement skills in general.

  1. Productivity measurements will experience a revolution

A manager’s first and most important task when leading a remote workforce is the capacity to set a clear purpose of the team, a clear vision and clear goals. Then it is on the manager and the company to mark the journey towards achieving those goals and to measure people’s progress. If in the past productivity was measured mainly through yearly evaluations and hard KPIs (the number of calls made, the number of customers retained etc.), in the future measuring soft KPIs (like the capacity to communicate with empathy, sharing information fast and sensitively, leading effective virtual meetings etc.) will become more and more important. This is why we can expect a revolution both in productivity measurement systems in companies, but also with productivity measurement service providers.

  1. The entrepreneurial career will finally take off

I have been talking for a while about the entrepreneurial career, where movements are possible in all directions leading to a wider, deeper and more meaningful expertise and life and where there are no career gaps, as long as people use their time meaningfully for rest, education and family matters. People will also start to have more employers, some of them located abroad (and paying more), which will take the war for talent to the next level. We need to understand that the ability to work remotely removed the barriers for career management for competent people; not only they can now work from anywhere, they can also work for whomever needs them and is able to pay for their expertise.

  1. Brands will need to cope, compete and become more authentic

In order to win the war on talent, brands will need to put even more efforts into becoming visible through authenticity. Corporate brands will finally understand that having visible, strong personal brands to represent them is nothing wrong – by the contrary, such personal brands can become magnets for outside talent, as they stand as a living guarantee that people fare well in that company. It will also lead to more efforts in corporate communications and, hopefully, to that long expected transition into integrated communications.

  1. Office spaces will decrease in size and be reallocated

As less and less people will want to travel to the office, more and more office spaces will be reallocated. Former open offices can all of a sudden become innovation hubs, art galleries and spaces for encounter, dialogue and a deeper form of humanity. In the same spaces where just a few months ago stress was rampant we might the light at the end of the tunnel through innovation, mindfulness and peace.

  1. Sustainability will become about sustainable lives

All in one, thanks to the last two months we have a chance to reconsider what it means sustainable living. With more people working remotely we have less traffic. People will spend less (which also means less waste in terms of food, packaging etc.), but they will spend it more mindfully on meaningful things and experiences and they will also create more personal savings that won’t let them so vulnerable during the next crisis. In a word, sustainability will move from being a corporate slogan into becoming a lifestyle.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to live in this new world.   

This post has been first published by the Czech & Slovak Leaders Magazine in my personal column I, the Brand. Republished with permission.