Show ALOHA at work

ALOHA in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion and mercy. In Hawaii someone can be said to have or show ALOHA in the way they treat others

In the movie `The Fundamentals of Caring` with Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts, based on the praised novel `The Revised Fundamentals of Caring` by Jonathan Evison, the caretakers-to-be are trained in the concept of ALOHA. In this movie ALOHA stands for ask, listen, observe, help, ask again.

Shouldn`t we as leaders show ALOHA in the way we treat others?

Have conversations with direct reports in peace and show compassion and mercy?

Many questions I get about leadership relate to the fine line between showing compassion and taking over and owning the problem.

The stories I hear are the same: the problem is one of the direct reports, who is a complainer, takes up a lot of time, doesn`t want to solve any issue. In the end, the leader has the monkey on the shoulder and the direct report walks away unsatisfied.

Why does this happen? Why are the stories all the same?

Two reasons stick out and they both have to do with us, the leaders.

  1. We believe we do not have time for these discussions. Our diaries are fully blocked with 30 minute-meetings and we feel the urge to tick of as many boxes as we can during the day. The ticking off boxes has become our primary target.
  2. We do not love ourselves enough; we do not care for ourselves, as we should do.

 We end up in a vicious circle: we are under time-pressure, focussed on diminishing our to-do list day-in day-out. We actually believe we will save time by taking over the problems of others and solving it ourselves. Our shoulders are full of monkeys that do not belong there, left behind by direct reports and colleagues who do not know what to do with them.

What would change if you would decide that each monkey that enters your office, also leaves your office after each conversation?

If I ask this question, everyone smiles. Wouldn`t this be great?

You can make this happen if you make two deliberate choices: you are willing to invest time in the conversation and you care enough for yourself not to take the monkey!

Now ALOHA steps in: ask, listen, observe, help, ask again.

– You start by Asking one clear question.

– You Listen without judgement and do not interrupt. Let silence be silence.

– You Observe the emotions of the person talking and try to read between the lines.

– Then you take Time to Think, try to find the essence of the problem and check if this is the real problem.

– Then Listen and Observe. Most of the time by simply refocusing on the real problem, the person can come up with a solution.

– If not, Ask: How can I Help you? What do you need from me to move forward?

– Listen carefully again and Observe if this solution takes away the fear, anger or frustration.

– If so, show the person your trust in his or her ability to fix the problem and move on with the project.

– Ask the person to drop by or send you a short note to let you know how it worked out.

Nothing less, nothing more

It sounds simple and at the same time like a huge time-investment. But that is not true. You will feel relieved that the problem and the solution leave your room. You will see a confident person stepping out of your office. You have showed him/her the way as a leader. Nothing more, nothing less.

All you need to do from now is show ALOHA in the way you treat others, with compassion, respect and trust.

All your direct reports and colleagues are capable to do a good job.

You never need to do their job for them.

Find your passion back

For those who don’t know, I am Dutch and live since almost 8 years in Switzerland.

Last year I decided it was time to rebuild our house, built in 1987 and although I loved the charm when we bought it 8 years ago,  it now felt `aged` to say the least.

It was a great opportunity to literally feel the passion people bring to their work, since my office is in my house. To give you a brief summary:

Passion was next to zero!

Rather shocking isn`t it?

There I was, loving the work I do as coach and trainer, being surrounded by people who complain, sigh, only think when they get paid, call me for every unforeseen dilemma and wait for me to bring the solution. I tried everything: listening, offering coffee, once even a meal and finally total withdrawal. Whatever I did, only by exception I could detect a glimpse of passion. I wondered how these men would behave at home. With all their complaining, their children, for sure, will not follow in their footsteps.

Why do I tell this story?

Unfortunately many of us do behave the same, feeling caught in our golden cage of high salary and benefits, complaining at work and at home, without any intention to change your situation.

If you have teenagers or older children, be aware of the message you send. The millennials, those between 20-35 years, are too often blamed that they are lazy and pursue happiness, but isn`t that what we tell them in disguise? That going for career, the big money and security only pays off financially? My children, my friends children, the millennials that I work with, all tell me the same story: they see their parents working their butt off, continuously stressed by targets to achieve. They respect their parents, but wish their parents would stop working so hard, sometimes-even fear for their health.

Find your passion back!

I am lucky to have made the change: less easy-money, more freedom & happiness and my children are thankful.

But there is no reason to make such a drastic change. You can try to find the passion back in your current job.

The carpenter, who came in my house complaining that he always got the difficult assignments, left my house in high spirit, because he `has done it`. I could help him to find his passion back after he told me that his father, who was also a carpenter, had given him as a young child a small worktable to work on. While talking he realised that he had all the knowledge and skills to solve the problem.

One of my clients inherited a big company with 5 affiliates and felt miserable, because following in his father`s footsteps did jeopardise his marriage and role as father. One year later he managed to change the holding structure and the roles & responsibilities. He can now focus on strategy, people & innovation and has enough time for his family.

It requires guts to find your passion, but the payback is more than money can buy.

In-between Jobs? Dare to take a Sabbatical!

It can happen to all of us. One day you secretly wish for more time for yourself and your family & friends and the next day you are asked to leave, making your secret dream come true. However, since this decision is forced upon you, even if you had seen it coming, you, like will most probably see one big black hole and will walk away in frustration or anger with a broken ego or damaged self confidence.

Although you know that you will find a new job, the real enjoyment of your freedom and spare time starts after you have signed a new contract, leaving you with just a few weeks for yourself, family & friends.

It takes guts to approach this situation differently, but if you dare to take a sabbatical and take time to enjoy life, reflect and find out who you really are and what you really like, what your passion is to understand what makes you tick, this sabbatical will be a life-changing event. You will end in right job without hundreds of applications.

You would wish your best friends could go through the same process at least once in their life.

Why is this?

Try this out: ask 10 people how they landed in their current job and which deliberate choices they made to end up here. Listen, let them talk and you will be surprised. Nine out of ten will realise, while talking, that they actually have done nothing more than `go with the flow`, that their career-path was in fact decided by others. Some will even share that their higher education was not their own choice.

Imagine yourself for a moment at this crossroad: without your doing you are in-between jobs. How would you feel, what would you think, what would you do?

You would know how long you could survive without a job, taking you package and savings into consideration, but would you have the guts to use this money to take the time, once in your life to find out what your really what next? Would you dare to take a sabbatical, to buy time just for yourself, to find yourself and your new destination?

Most people don`t! They treat the redundancy package as something they earned and do not want to touch it for a living. It should be spend on something concrete, as a token of their frustration, their miss-hap.

The few people I know who had the guts to take this sabbatical at their crossroad in live are the happiest people I ever met.

Look at the family man who deliberately resigned and took a sabbatical. Where ever he was and whomever he talked, he shared his search for meaning in a new job and whether it was at the school of his children or at the tennis court, there were always people who suggested him to talk to someone. He followed up on these suggestions, drank a lot of coffees with people, who secretly envied him for his guts to take a sabbatical. and he landed in the perfect job.

Or look at the sales-lady, who was fired and took a sabbatical. Despite her financial situation and all well-intended advices to apply for sales-jobs, she found out that she really wanted to become a teacher at the high school. She went back to school to get her teaching credentials, has already found a school where she can do the practical part and of course is one of the best of her class.

They dared… do you?

A burnout can save your life

Between 6 and 13% of the European employees have a burnout and around 25% of all employees are exhausted, trying to keep all balls in the air at work and at home. The biggest fear of these exhausted people is that `they lose it` and get a burnout. They all feel that when they drop the balls they will not be ill for just a week. So they struggle on. They need physiotherapy for undefined back or shoulder pains or visit many doctors for stomach problems, high blood pressure or sleeping disorders. They struggle on, feeling they proud they kept the stigma of a burnout just far enough away, but feel miserable and not happy and healthy for the rest of their working life.


Although it may sound awkward: a burnout can save your life.

A burnout is a wake-up call. Making you finally realise that `you only live once` and it is up to you to make the best of it.

I do not want to disregard the misery a burnout brings to the patient and his or her family in the first few months. I have been there and I know it is tough. Very tough!


But let`s focus on the recovery months or years or maybe the rest of your life.

A burnout defines `the point of no return`.

My first encounter in this for me unknown field was with a talented lady was requested my help as a business coach. With her last energy she had drawn up on a list of all the things she wanted to achieve: career, family, recognition. She was hanging in a chair, more lying than sitting, and formulated her goals in such a way that her goals became my targets, while she could relax and reenergise in the mean time. Since I always try to draw a clear line between coaching and therapy, I suggested her to first look for professional help and that I would be at her service once she was back on her feet. A little confused and a bit insulted, she accepted my proposal, went for professional help and called me a few months later. Now, a few years later, she had started a family and still works happily in the same company.

The next was a female sales-rep, who returned to work for 50% after a burnout: beautiful, funny, but insecure and like us all, with luggage/baggage from the past. Great sessions, improvements and set-backs until she was back to square one and I advised her to look for professional help while I would back out. She called me on month later, telling me she went on holiday two weeks before and deliberately had forgotten to bring her medication, that she was doing great (puff) and was now ready to continue the coaching. Her personal journey was the realisation that she wanted to stay in her job and not be and feel treated like a patient far away from the real world. We worked on managing her time and her frustrations and within 3 months she was the best performing rep and she found her big love. They are still together and she is still doing great.

Sometimes people are simply in the wrong job and need a burnout to dare to change their life.

A very sympathetic leader asked for my services as team coach and business coach. He worked 50% due to his previous burnout and wanted to use this time optimal. Although we managed to solve all his daily problems, his private life did not improve. Once he realised that he simply was in the wrong job, he had the guts to resign, start a new business with his partner and they lived happily ever after.

Don’t try to keep all the balls in the air and jeopardize your health and don`t necessarily wait for a burnout. Take a break, take time to reflect and look for help. You only have one life: your life!

You are your worst enemy

You can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy


Whether it is an important presentation to the CEO, a meeting with a top client or the first round in a job interview, we make sure we are fully prepared.

Our slides and hand-outs are of top quality and we are able to answer all questions…… in theory.

We in fact over-prepare: we double check data, we make short lists and key notes, do dry-runs and prepare hand-outs.

What we forget to do is take a break and ask ourselves `what do I fear the most` and take time to answer this question honestly.

The first thoughts that pop-up will always be critical questions about facts: disappointing sales, high investments, insufficient data, or in a job interview certain steps in your CV.

Don`t stop now! Dare to think a few minutes longer and dig deeper and there you are: your biggest fears. Now we are talking.

Suddenly it is no longer about facts and figures, but you visualise scenarios, like movie-scripts, that wouldn`t look bad in Hollywood.

You picture a shouting CEO, who fulminates that `you should pack your bags and leave the building`, after having seen the disappointing sales numbers.

You picture your boss, always a supporter of your investment plan, suddenly withdrawing and agreeing with the CFO that this investment plan has no foundation.

You picture your colleague, an expert in the field, interrupting you and taking the floor, making you look like an complete idiot.

You picture yourself in the job interview, stressed, sweating and looking for words or far too relaxed, talking endlessly about your previous company or boss, not showing yourself as a focused and calm leader and best candidate for the job.

Don`t stop now! You are now living your worst nightmares. All created by you, yourself!

1st: Ask yourself if these scenario`s are realistic. For sure most of them are not. They are created by your fears, by you!

2nd: Tell yourself to delete these 80% unnecessary negative thoughts. They bring you nothing. You are your worst enemy and allowing these thoughts to prevail is surrender to fear. No one has a fulminating CEO and a distrustful boss and a non-supportive colleague, all in the same room. Should this be really the case, then there is only one option: pack your bags yourself and find a better place to work.

3rd: Focus on the 20% realistic negative scenarios. There is some truth in them. Run the movies again in your head and look at your own role: what do you say or what do you do to trigger their behaviour? Say it out loud and write the script, word for word.

Do you see that you in a way trigger their responses? Once you realise this, you can rewrite the script and rewrite it again. By rewriting the script, the roles change and suddenly you are in control of the conversation. Wow! You wish you could do the presentation or have the talk right here and now. You are ready! You are now your own best friend!

Don`t let your fears run your life. Of all the bad things your vivid mind can imagine, only a few, just a very few, things will actually happen. And of these few only a very small portion is out of your control.

The best way to predict the future is to create it

Create your own future.


`The best way to predict the future is to create it` according to Peter Drucker and Abraham Lincoln.

We are all familiar with this quote. Many times abused by leaders who demanded extra effort, `take the extra mile` to secure their own career and high bonus.

Try to forget the abuse of this quote and use it to your own advantage.

If you wait for the system to promote you, you will need a very long breath.


Career-promises are worth nothing once you have signed the contract, unless you are part of the very small inner circle. It that case, you will not read my stories.

Even in companies with full transparent career-systems in place, you will not advance in your career by just ticking of all the boxes.


First of all, the principle of a pyramid organisation-structure tells us that the numbers of positions above your current level are limited, and mathematically there are only 5 to 7 of you who are allegeable candidates. In practice however, there are far more candidates for each open position, since the higher in the organisation the less people move on. The Peter Principle sets in: “Managers rise to the level of their incompetence”-


Secondly, there are many good reasons your boss wants you to stay put.

If you are the person who knows everything and is willing to help everyone out, why should your boss support your next career-step? You made yourself indispensible!

Other reasons can be based on unwritten rules, like `Per year only 2 people can get a promotion`, or ` There are two people in line before you`.


Thirdly and most important, most to-be-candidates only have their own interest at heart. They demand a next career-step and become frustrated when they are passed.

They are `ready now` according to the system or believe they are `ready now to move one step up` based on their comparison with others or their years in their current job.

What they forget to integrate in their situation-analysis is ……. almost everything that really counts.

  • How do others perceive them? Perception is reality!
  • Are they known, liked and trusted in the higher regions? Everything else being equal, people give jobs to people they know, like and trust!
  • What is their passion? Are they really passionate about the new job or do they apply to any possible career-step that comes along? Too many talented people ruin their own career by applying to too many jobs.


Creating your own future starts with knowing yourself and your passions & drivers, with open-minded listening and internal networking long before the vacancies exist.

  • When you are perceived as blunt, strong-tempered, impatient or rude, work on your behaviour and accept that it takes time to change their perception about you.
  • If they say you lack certain experience, find projects to have something to show for.
  • If no one knows you, how can they like and trust you? Start networking and communicating successes and ensure all your messages are positive!
  • Use these network encounters to find out more about other departments, their challenges and their goals and be open-minded. Everyone wants to contribute and everyone beliefs their efforts matter. Once you approach others non-judgemental, you will learn more about the company, you enlarge your network and your heart and gut will show you your direction for the future.
  • Once you know what makes you tick, ask for informal coffee appointments or shared lunches to find out more about their work and departments. These talks are not about you. Let them talk as much as possible and be interested! `People seldom remember what you said, but the will remember how you made them feel!
  • Once the unique opportunity arises, you know who to talk to, they will see and feel your passion and they will hire you because they trust you and others won`t object because they know and like you.


A lot of work? Certainly!

Worth the effort? Absolutely!


You will make your next career-step, without the stress of applying ten times, being one of thirty and feel insecure all the time. You will land in this new job with full support of your new boss and you can follow your passion.

You will have found your dream-job. Isn`t that worth all the effort?

A simple Yes or No will do

December and January are slow months for coaches and trainers. Therefore I planned my hand surgery beginning of December. One and a half year later than wished for by my surgeon.

Once in hospital, the fact that my patient-chart mentioned my profession as coach let to many interesting interactions. Doctors, nurses, head of staff, all used me to let of steam and speak out their mind. The fact that my health was in their hands and that I was groggy half of the time made me an even better listener. My listening also taught me that I could better decide for a full narcosis, since my surgeon liked to work in a quiet environment, as mentioned by operation staff. So I did.

It came to no surprise that there is a lot of stress in the hospital world and that they cannot afford the `luxury` to close the hospital for a day and meet in the beautiful Swiss mountains to work on better understanding, higher engagement and flawless execution.

My surgeon, who told me on December 1 that he wanted to talk to me, finally raised his point on December 16, when he removed the stiches:

Dear Mrs Bonnier, my life as a surgeon would be so much better if you could train my staff to answer me with a simple Yes or No.

Oke. His remark landed. It made me think.

I had recently coached two people to prepare for their 2nd and 3rd interview for a new job and I had had a session with a coachee who was brilliant at work but who managed to land in an very unhealthy discussion with a peer during a business plan presentation. On top I had prepared a workshop for the female leaders in a company to increase their self-confidence, their self-esteem and their leadership presence.

I realised that what I had tried to achieve in these coaching sessions and the planned workshop is help my clients to reduce their talking by 70%, make a statement in the first sentence, take out all emotional words and end with the solution. But it could be even simpler.

If the situation benefits from a simple Yes or No, say Yes or No!

My surgeon is right.

I always suggest my coachees to stop defending or apologising themselves upfront. What better way to practice this by simply saying Yes or No?

Sometimes, in case the listeners expect more – like in a job interview, a clear answer in two or three short sentences will do.

And if your colleague is bashing you during a business plan presentation, thank this person for the highly valued very detailed information and propose to focus on the strategy and key points for the rest of this presentation. Two sentences!

As executive & business coach and workshop moderator, I have the privilege to work with talented men and women with many different nationalities. Thank you all so much for my learnings each day of my life.

If men support men, women should support women

`Be the Change, you want to see in the world`.

Last Wednesday, September 17, 2014, I was invited as panellist at the symposium `The essential Role of Women in Business for Economic Sustainability`, organised by the South African Embassy of Bern.

There would be a panel discussion with the public from 16h.30 until 17h.45, followed by a diner at 18h.00.

Since I arrived late the night before from from my first Female Business Friends Retreat in Italy – the pilot – I used my time in the car, driving to Küsnacht am Zürichsee, to prepare for the answers and ideas I could bring in as response to questions that might would arise. I was still in high spirit due to my first Italian retreat, my mind was open and many creative ideas popped-up, like publishing on the website of the South African Embassy in Bern a list of all small female entrepreneurial companies in South Africa that offer services or products and a list of all small female entrepreneurial companies in Switzerland that offer products and services.

I also gave my subject `the importance of networking`, some more thought. In the end, I was invited as VP Career Development of the Professional Women`s Network Zug & Zürich to shed some light on the importance of Networking.

For me personally networking is important. All my business for my company Bonnier Business Coaching comes from networking, whether it is from the PWN Zug & Zürich or from the Benelux Women in Pharma & Medical Devices, a Networking group I started in 2012 and that has 750 female managers as members, or from my many contacts during my career of 27 years in the Health Care Business. I suddenly realised that over the last 3 years, since I started my own business, I have never used marketing or advertising, while this had been my specialism for 27 years.

If Networking is – as Angie Griffin says –`People do business with and refer people to, those people they know, trust and like` ….. Men will prefer to do business with Men and therefore Women should do business with Women. We should not wait for men to change the current state. That will never happen!

To cut a long story short: The seminar started at 14.30 and due to all formalities, like the usual 5 minutes formal thanking – at the start of each speech – of the deputy-minister, the ambassadors of South Africa and Switzerland and all other high officials and other important guests, the panel discussion, including the discussion with the public, started at 17h.30, meaning 30 minutes instead of the planned 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Since I was the third in line and time was running out, I used my 2 minutes answering the question `why is networking important for female entrepreneurs`. I answered that I got all my assignments through my network and I repeated the quote of Angie Griffin `People do business with and refer people to, those people they know, trust and like`. Since there were only 10 men and 90 women in the room, I made the joke that `men know and like women…. but they don`t trust them… so we women should not rely on men to get business`. Laughter, of course, which was my intension in the first place… to build trust.

Then I asked the people in the audience to be completely honest. And they nodded. I asked the question: `Please think of the last three products or services you bought as embassy, government or company. Who can honestly say that she/he bought the last three products or services from a female entrepreneur?`  Only three hands were raised, and fortunately I also could raise my hand.  Then I said: `Do I need to say more?`

Message clear, statement made, mission accomplished.

The moderator repeated my proposal at the end of the seminar and closed with the famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi: `Be the Change, you want to see in the world`.


Just take a few seconds to think about this. Women all want to advance in their careers and grow with their companies. Women are at least equally smart, creative and trustworthy as men. If women are not actively seeking to do business with women, can we blame the men for not speeding up the career advancement of women? No!

All women should live up to the saying of Mahatma Gandhi: `Be the Change, you want to see in the world`

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I thank you for your part in my journey

We must find time to stop & thank the people who made a difference in our life.


I am a strong believer in Trust, Appreciation and Sharing, the three pillars of 21st century leadership.  I hope that my blogs inspire visitors and gives them the confidence to try out new things.

On my journey to become an experienced neuroscience-based executive, business coach and team coach, I came into contact with many great people who were open to share their knowledge and ideas with me.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all.

Judith Glaser, who trained me and 920 other coaches in Conversational Intelligence, CIQ .Conversational Intelligence is in my humble opinon the next step for people who have developed themselves and have grown their EQ.

Marshall Goldsmith is the first person who inspired me. He not only offered his materials on his website to all who are interested, but also answered my specific coaching questions related to a team in crisis.  He responded to my email within 24 hours.  I have used his guidance and experience with great success.

Ben Croft is the founder of the World Business Executive Coaching Summit, WBECS.  He started the WEBECS in 2011 with 30 webinars by the top coaches in the world and 8,000 attending executive coaches and leaders.  In 2016, the WEBCS had 18,000 attendees.  Ben is “a believer in sharing”, responsive to everyone who sends him an email, and supportive to whatever need or question I have.

Justin Kennedy, Professor in Neuroscience in Pretoria and Switzerland, replied to my question in one of the LinkedIn groups and offered to talk by phone.  He introduced me to the world of Neuroscience, which for me, as a Biochemist, felt like coming home.

Grant Soosalu, who wrote the great book “mBraining”, together with Marvin Oka, and introduced me in the idea of the three brains:  the Head, the Heart and the Gut.  Grant was also willing to share his Head-Heart-Gut test with me and compared our results.  I have used their test and process to resolve many of my coaching clients’ decision making issues.

Chris Kennedy, my motivator, supervisor, and supporter, gave me the confidence to start my own company and always backs me up if I wonder if I should proceed with new ideas.

My coaching peers in Switzerland who engage and inspire me during each monthly Coaching “Austauschgruppe”, professionally moderated by Dominik Godat.

The 900 great female managers and leaders in Pharma & Medical Devices who all joined our Benelux “Women in Pharma and Medical Devices Networking Group”, and who give me the energy and motivation to keep developing myself to be able to define high interest programs for our bi-yearly WiPMD-events.  Suzanne Torenvliet challenged me to change my old website and create this beautiful new 21st century website.

My professional female friends of the Professional Women’s Network Zug & Zürich (PWN) and the HBA in Basel, who challenge me to stay on top of the latest views on 21st century business leadership & behaviour.  I am most grateful for all the great mentees who showed me their vulnerability, trust and ambitions.

My private coachees make me realise, day in and day out, how privileged I am.  In return for offering them “Time to Think”, they offer me their trust, their thinking and their solutions.  Their guidance is always better, more concrete, more practical and leads to greater results than anticipated prior to the coaching.

Last but not least, all the brave leaders and managers in companies who hire me as workshop moderator or executive coach and who are committed to really creating a change in order to make their organisations better places to be.  These leaders and companies show me again and again the pool of knowledge, ideas, experience, talents, and creativity just waiting to be revealed in order to create higher engagement levels, better results and better