Roger Claessens No Comments

The like-ability factor

You may know the life-shows, where candidates walk from the backstage to the front stage in a few seconds….and we have “that impression”…, very often a lasting impression. Why are some candidates or some groups particularly like-able? Like-ability, like many concepts, is quite difficult to define but we, sort of, all know what it means.

Have a look at the X –Factor UK 2015, the girl group called the “Fourth Power”. It is magic, like one soul that would have chosen four different bodies to be on this planet. The first audition is worth noticing but even more so the six seat challenge. One of the judges, Rita Ora, called it “perfection”. As a professional trainer, I love that word! What could be better than perfection? Simon Cowell, the ultimate referee called the performance, “amazing” and the future mentor of the group throughout the competition, Cheryl Cole, now Cheryl Fernandez-Versini called the group’s performance: “phenomenal” whilst adding: “You and I together can create magic”. Another one of my preferred words.

What makes these singers so likeable? I have not all the answers yet and promise to revert but, for sure, I have the conviction that they worked hard, very hard on it. They form like one personality. They are hug-able. There is something about them. There is a personal good factor there, emotions, cool, natural, joyous. They provoke a smile on the faces of the judges and the shouting of the crowd when they appear. They are powerful, dancing, charming and singing of course. I almost forgot that they are singing!

I took them as an example for a like-ability factor. In case you might wish to check what I just wrote, have a look on YouTube, the X Factor UK 2015. But this is not just about them. Quite a few participants have this, like my other favourite, the seventeen year old Louisa Johnson. Simon Cowell told her: “You are seventeen and singing like that; that is not possible!” In an interview he qualified her as the likely winner of the 2015 competition. The odds are certainly in her favour unless the like-ability factor plays in favour of Cheryl with her strong brand and her singers, the Fourth Power. As a matter of fact, Louisa has also this amazing like-ability. She is a teenager looking like the flower people of the sixties. Long hair, smile, determined, emotions and cool.

One of my preferred colleagues specialised in appearance, the way to be dressed, presentation and all the factors which improve the perception of who you are and ultimately shape you and allow you to be different. In my courses on branding I always announce the aim of branding to be seen as different and, if possible, better than the others. However, like-ability is more, it is more emotion loaded. It goes deeper than branding which is often visual and verbal. Here we talk about what happens with substance, hard work, deep believes and just being the way you are at your best, no, at your very best. Getting close to perfection is certainly part of this like-ability linked with this amazing charm which makes you want to see these people over and over again. You know: this repeat button!

Roger Claessens No Comments

The first seconds of the Decision Making process & and predicting a divorce

The book by Malcolm Gladwell with the title “Blink”, Back Bay Books, 2005 covers the “Decision Making process” during the first TWO SECONDS of the decision making process! This corresponds to the system 1 of Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning author. See our previous blog on Decision Making.

Both authors complement each other. Actually Mr. Kahneman refers to Blink in his well know book “Thinking Fast and Slow”. Blink is about intuition and as stated by D. Kahneman, depends on frequent exposure to a known environment. Is it about “just knowing”! Blink is not about instinct which is part of the characteristics of living beings on this planet. It covers the result of knowledge, experience or extreme professionalism in a given field. This is even truer in times of stress.

blinkTo quote the author, “We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world. My aim is to demonstrate that decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.” Consequently, the issue is summarised in the following question: “When should we trust our instincts, and when should we be warry of them?” And I would add, particularly when stressed! The author underlines that there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.

The book provides interesting examples such as the fake ancient Greek statue, the measurement of the sweat glands of players under stress and an unforgettable example of Mr. Gottman who observed thousands of married couples and after one hour of observation of a husband and wife talking, he could predict with, 95%, yes ninety five percent, accuracy whether that couple will still be married fifteen years later. If he watched a couple fifteen minutes, this success rate was about 90%. In fact three minutes proved to be sufficient. His research was based on what he calls “thin slicing” which refers to the ability of our conscious to find patterns in situations and behaviour based on very narrow slices of experience. According to the author, “thin-slicing” is part of what makes the unconscious so dazzling. Thin-slicing is not an exotic gift. It is a central part of what it means to be human. In this case it is an observation of the same pattern over and over again. Predicting divorce is like tracking a Morse code operators, it is a pattern recognition.

“When we leap to a decision or have a hunch, our unconscious is doing what John Gottman does. It’s sifting through the situation in front of us, throwing out all that is relevant while – we zero in on what really matters – And the truth is that our unconscious is really good at this, to the point that thin-slicing often delivers a better answer than more deliberate and exhaustive ways of thinking”.

Another interesting example and observation is speed –dating. “It is the distillation of dating to a simple snap judgment. It is finding the answer to a very simple question – do I want to see this person again? – To answer this question there is no need for an entire evening”. This brings me to the likeability factor which I so often observe in competitions such as the X-Factor. In fractions of seconds we have a feel for the contestant. Questions and answers will often confirm this first impression and set the level of the expected performance.

Rightly so the author underlines the dark side of thin-slicing. Indeed, “What happens if that rapid chain in thinking gets interrupted somehow? What if we reach a snap judgement without ever getting below the surface? Part of what it means to take thin-slicing and first impressions seriously is accepting the fact that sometimes we can know more about someone or something in the blink of an eye than we can after months of study. But we also have to acknowledge and understand those circumstances when rapid recognition leads us astray”. Further to this, the author states that we make connections much more quickly between pairs of ideas that are already related in our minds than we do between pairs of ideas that are unfamiliar to us. Research shows that our unconscious attitudes may be utterly incompatible with our stated conscious values.

Let us revert to stress. A study mentioned by the author shows that when people make decisions under pressure, such as nurses, intensive care unit personnel, firefighters, they do not logically and systematically compare all available options. That is the way people are taught to make decision, but in real life it is much too slow. These people size up the situation almost immediately and act, drawing on experience and intuition and a kind of rough mental simulation. Let me underline the key word, i. e. experience. “How good people’s decisions are under the fast moving, high-stress conditions of rapid cognition is a function of training and rules and rehearsal”.

Let me finish with what the author says about information. Often you need to know very little to find the underlying signature of a complex phenomenon. Often, the extra information is more than useless. It can be harmful. It can confuse the issue. It can overwhelm

The author concludes, not unlike Mr. Kahneman, that there two important lessons from the research on decision making. The first is that truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking. Deliberate thinking is a wonderful tool when we have the luxury of time, the help of a computer and so on. The second lesson is that in good decision making frugality matters.

Roger Claessens No Comments

Corporate Governance

This article is based on the highlights of “The Belgian Code on Corporate Governance”, elaborated by various economic associations, the central bank and the supervisory authorities in Belgium in 2009. The original code from this workgroup dates back to 2004 but was revised after the much publicised financial crisis. I could have inspired myself from other countries but Belgium had a special reason to review the code as its largest bank was in dire straits. As a Belgian national I spent quite a bit of evenings defending the financial majors in my country of origin and hopefully convinced the audience that the future might be brighter in the case the professionals would adhere more strictly to a code of conduct. I had the pleasure to defend this in a TEDx presentation for UBI Wiltz in Luxembourg.

Crisis have shown that a code is not a luxury but should be at the fundamentals of economic activities in all sectors of the economy, obviously not just the financial sector. The list of organisations that have come in the news for non-respect of laws, rules and regulations is, sadly so, far too long and consists of prime names of both the financial and non-financial industries. Fines have been significant but worst of all trust has been damaged. Some sectors really suffer a branding image issue, to name just one sector, the financial sector.

Most of the readers will be familiar with the anti-money laundering regulations (AML) but this is just a small part of a bigger issue as shown below.

Corporate Governance

The anti-money laundering regulations or AML/KYC (know your customer) as it is often referred to fits into the compliance obligations which covers, amongst others more particularly insider trading, market manipulation, preservation of information and so forth,….These obligations, in turn, fit into what we refer to as governance and in turn governance is part of the broader responsibility or corporate responsibility.

Governance is about core values, it implies words such as ethics, corporate culture, policy and charter, teamwork, integrity, principles, accountability, customer focus, code of conduct, and you name it. It is a top down responsibility and resulting strategy. Unlike compliance, which should be regarded as everyone’s responsibility, governance is a top-down responsibility. It starts at the highest level of a corporation and influences the way the mission is translated into the reality. Corporate governance will be translated into a mission statement, a policy and a charter. Its aim is to assure a correct management and control of an organisation, based on laws and rules and appropriate behaviour of management and staff. It is a matter of “culture”.

The nine principles of corporate governance


The company shall adopt a clear governance structure.


The company shall have an effective and efficient board that takes decisions in the corporate interest.


All directors shall demonstrate integrity and commitment.


The company shall have a rigorous and transparent procedure for the appointment and evaluation of the board and its members.


The board shall set up specialised committees.


The company shall define a clear executive management structure.


The company shall remunerate directors and executive managers fairly and responsibly.


The company shall enter into a dialogue with shareholders and potential shareholders based on a mutual understanding of objectives and concerns.


The company shall ensure adequate disclosure or its corporate governance.

Respecting above principles require managers with a sense of integrity, involvement, honour, experience, expertise, responsibility and objectivity. It starts with the qualities of the board members and the executives of an organisation. It translates into a code. It reflects who we are as individuals and when working in a corporation as members and ambassadors of a group of people aiming at reaching the common goal. It is the basis for corporate social responsibility, i.e. all the people who have an interest in our existence. Ultimately it is relevant for your future and your job. It can do more for you than you might think at first glance.

The full document is available on