by Susanne Van Panhuys


Posted October 15, 2019

When I was asked to write a post for our new International Leadership Academy (ILA) blog, my thoughts started running away with me and, as always, about 25 ideas ruminated at the same time.  But then the doubt kicked in, ‘Who will be interested in what my experiences are?’. That has always been a thing for me, ever since my Dad in the 90’s started sending an end of year newsletter to friends and family, making me cringe now just thinking about it (sorry Dad). Will my blog posts be in a similar league? Hope not, but please feel free to let me know otherwise😀. Here it goes, my first blog post ever! 

After some research on “writing blogs for dummies” I decided that my blog was going to be about my own journey professionally and personally, about my struggles and successes, about finding a new professional path, about a decent work life balance, or rather the way towards that, about being 10% braver on a daily basis, about stretching myself for insight and about daily trying to make a difference to the people around me.  

The Power of Moments 

In working with over 2500 international school staff and coordinating over 70 programmes that support them to professionally learn, grow and develop, I know how important individual and personal connections are.  In our ILA team we strive for efficient and effective communication, organisation and, of course, impactful programmes. This means that our relationships need to be authentic, caring and supportive so colleagues feel that this is an environment where they can be vulnerable and open to new ideas and learning. This is critical for all working in professional learning. 

My Eureka Moment  

This week we had an evening of loveliness and meaningful exchange with a group of colleagues and guests at the #LeadershipLounge here at the ILA, where we talked about the book The Power of Moments by C. & D. Heath. Just to make this clear, I am not a person who has loads of self-help books on the shelf, but this book did and still does something to me. It put into words what I already know to be true:  moments matter. 

We can be the designers of moments that deliver elevation and insight and pride and connection.  These extraordinary minutes and hours and days – they are what makes life meaningful.  And they are ours to create. 

C. Heath & D Heath ‘The Power of Moments’ (2017) 

My main takeaway from it is that we have the power to create beautiful, surprising, special moments in our lives in the present which will create amazing memories for the future. These are the moments we remember and that inform our future. This is critical for anyone working in events management – we’re all about the peaks! Who would not want to create moments like this? Well, I have done so sometimes but not always fully realising what I was doing.  I recently received this message after a retreat: 

Thank you, Susanne, it is a testament to the ILA and the hard work of the team that these programmes are so beneficial. A great deal of thought has obviously gone in to creating this opportunity for reflection. For professionals to develop having time to share and think in the right setting has benefits that go beyond a regular expectation. 

Little did this participant know the blood, sweat and tears (quite literally!) in finding the right venue for the right retreat experience. It took hours of research, site visits and a little bit of an obsessive attention to detail.  I wanted the environment and the experience to support the space for learning.  I wanted it to feel great and to be great; to make a difference. Whilst I didn’t think of it in the way that Chip and Dan describe in the book, I was being purposeful and intentional in breaking the script to create moments for learning. This got me thinking more about how we can create these impactful and oh so precious moments in all that we do, without them becoming bumps rather than peaks? 

So how do you break the script consistently enough that it matters – but not so consistently that customers adapt to it?

C. Heath & D Heath ‘The Power of Moments’ (2017) 

Thinking in Moments and Creating Peaks  

A person who is amazing at that (without having read the book) is my lovely husband. Once in a while he arranges something for me that blows my mind.  

This summer I spent a week in London for a rather intense – almost pushing me over the edge intense – and (therefore) amazing CIM accredited Event Management programme. This in its own is an experience I will share with you the next time, once I have sat and passed 😀 my exam (equivalent to A Level exam) in the middle of October.  

During this week of the course it happened to be our 8th wedding anniversary, which we never let go by without doing something a bit special on the day.  On this occasion though we decided to make an exception and celebrate at a slightly later date. Day 3 of the course came around and our training location for the lectures was in Tower Bridge (which, needless to say, was unique, special, beautiful and memorable). In retrospect, I wonder if our course director Claire had read the book too?  

My powerful moment of the day happened just after lunch when the lovely person looking after us with drinks, tech and so on, came back into our epic room (with private lift access) to ask for Susanne. At this point, all eyes on me, she hands me a wonderful bunch of flowers with a card and a bottle of my favourite champagne (and believe you me, I have expensive taste). Here’s the picture to prove it. 

Needless to say, I was ever so slightly overwhelmed and a tad emotional, and all of my colleagues were going “Aawwhh’ and “Oooohhh how romantic” and “I wish my husband would do things like that”. You will have guessed that the stressful training course had made me completely forget about the wedding anniversary. How on earth my husband found out all the way from back in the Netherlands where in London (which it’s rather big) we were hanging out that day is still a mystery to me! This moment will be one of many more special moments forever, maybe not just for me but also to the people who were part of this.  

My suggestion to you – personal and professional – is very simple: read the book and see how it resonates for you. And possibly let me know what your thoughts are on this. And… surprise someone around you with something special, small or a wee bit bigger and see how you feel. What experiences and moments can we create that have a formative impact for now and for the future? 

Bye for now, take care until next time with some stories about my Event Management programme and how it sometimes seems that life starts at the end of your comfort zone. 

Dan Heath on how to ‘Build Peaks, Don’t Fix Potholes’

The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath 

In this latest New York Times bestseller by the authors of Switch and Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath explore why certain brief experiences can jolt, elevate and change us – and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our own life and work. 
What if a teacher could design a lesson that he knew his students would remember twenty years later? What if a doctor or nurse knew how to orchestrate moments that would bring more comfort to patients? What if you had a better sense of how to create memories that matter for your children? Many of the defining moments in our lives are the result of accident or luck – but why leave our most meaningful, memorable moments to chance when we can create them? 
In The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath explore the stories of people who have created standout moments, from the owners who transformed an utterly mediocre hotel into one of the best-loved properties in Los Angeles by conjuring moments of magic for guests, to the scrappy team that turned around one of the worst elementary schools in the country by embracing an intervention that lasts less than an hour. 
Filled with remarkable tales and practical insights, The Power of Moments proves we all have the power to transform ordinary experiences into unforgettable ones. 

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