Effective communication begins with listening: An interview with Helena Javitte

As the China Innovation Manager at Accuracy, Helena Javitte is committed to helping international corporates better understand Chinese innovation and find the right match to create business opportunities, building-up on her previous experience at DayDayUp.

Combining a full-time activity with exciting side projects has always been her trademark regular lifestyle.

Now a Global Shaper, Helena is building BARE, a safe space for people to be their true self and relate to each other in order to find the support they need to cope with the challenges of the modern world.

As former president at the French Lab, her main project was the launch of the Be Inspired Conferences meant to discover the real side of entrepreneurship.

Helena is incredibly passionate about fostering a broader culture of strength through vulnerability and creating a space for people to inspire each other by having them share their personal stories, what they've learnt from their challenges and support each other to achieve even higher goals together.

Highlights from the interview:

BARE logo
Q: What is BARE about?

Helena: BARE is about creating a safe space for people to be their true self and relate to each other in order to find the support they need to cope with the challenges of the modern world.

Our society encourages us to only share about our successes, put a mask on and only show our best side. But this leads to us comparing who we really are with the image that others are projecting to the outside world.

We compare our reality to a made-up story and set goals that might not be the best for us. Through conferences, workshops, panels, after-work parties, dinners and interviews, BARE is an opportunity to dig deeper, to increase our empathy, compassion, and resilience by sharing and listening to the behind-the-scenes we rarely have a chance to express.

Q: What reasons drive people to come to BARE events?

Helena: Each event addresses a different specific topic, so it depends on the event. If we do communication workshop (e.g. how to give, receive and ask for feedback), sometimes it would be managers who are curious about how they can improve their management style, some people would like to come because they would like to improve their relationships with their boss.

When we do conferences about burnouts, it's because people feel particularly stressed and they want to know how to deal with the feeling of burnout and how to overcome it. When we do a panel about suicide, peole are interested in the discussion by breaking the taboo of suicide and they want to know what are the causes of suicide.

Q: What challenges have you encountered when working on BARE?

Helena: We have a majority of women attending our events. To me it's a challenge, because when I talk about BARE, many men are interested, but I'm curious how we can create formats that are more interesting for guys, and that is how the idea of after work parties started. Guys tend to enjoy being in the bar with alcohol, and they don't want a topic that sounds too serious. For instance, topics like the art of asking the right question, or burnout, are a little bit too heavy and men might not feel entirely comfortable. It needs to be more casual, very free and liberating, for men to feel comfortable to talk.

Q: What do you think is the key to communication?

It is about learning how to listen. The reason people can't communicate well is often because they are afraid of being rejected and afraid of being challenged. Active listening is difficult and that is why BARE is doing many workshops that are focused on listening. For instance, when we focus on how to give, receive and ask for feedback, it's not only about A giving feedback to B or A telling B what B should be doing. It's also about A asking B, "please tell me what you think about me". That's a difficult exercise because it requires being vulnerable and accepting that there is room for improvement. This example works for professional but also romantic relationships. We tend to blame our partner for not being supportive, and it's very hard to question our own behaviour and ask if there is anything that we can do better.

Q: How can employers communicate better with their employees?

Helena: It is still listening. One of the reasons is that, our leaders or managers come from a place of authority, and they believe that because they have the title therefore they know better, and they have the right to ask their team members to obey. But I think that very often they forget to let their team members express themselves.

When we do performance reviews, managers would often tell their team members this is what he/she should be doing, they're happy with this and not happy with that. But I don't think that during this performance review, managers ask "how can I manage you better and how can I give you the resources to perform better?".

If someone gives you their feedback, you just have to take it, instead of fighting against it.

Because when you try to fight against it, you are actually not listening, you're simply trying to convince the other person that your vision is right, even if it is just in your mind. Managers can improve the atmosphere at work by listening, and creating a safe space where their team members can make initiatives. You cannot expect your company to be innovative whenever a team member is making a suggestion, and you destroy that suggestion. If managers and team leaders could actively listen to one another, without judgment, it would fundamentally change the management culture.

Global Shapers Community Beijing

BARE is a project from the Global Shapers!

Born out of the World Economic Forum, the Global Shapers Community is a network of inspiring young people under the age of 30 working together to address local, regional and global challenges. With more than 6,000 members, the Global Shapers Community spans 376 city-based hubs in 156 countries.

In each city, teams of Shapers self-organize to create projects that address the needs of their community. Projects are wide-ranging – from responding to disasters and combating poverty, to fighting climate change and building inclusive communities. Shapers are diverse in expertise, education, income and race, but are united by their desire to bring about change.

Find out more here:


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