Three Ways to Promote Tolerance in Your Workplace

After the latest act of hate and violence in this country, I feel compelled to take a detour from my typical blog post and comment on the topic of tolerance. As the wife of an African American business executive and member of a biracial family, I am acutely aware of the professional and personal challenges African Americans face. Being White, I don’t pretend to understand what racial intolerance feels like, but I do hope that empathy will guide my ability to reflect and act in a way that helps to eradicate racism.

With the recent prevalence of brutality, riots, and killings in the US, it is clear racism has not gone away or even abated in our society. And while we would like to believe it does not exist in the business world, I think we still have a lot of work to do to change mindsets and promote equality. Evidence even exists in our paychecks. Research by the American Institute for Economic Research found that Hispanic, Asian, and Black skilled workers earn a lot less than their White counterparts, as reported by USA Today’s Jessica Guyunn.

But, we can’t lose hope. Even small changes can make a big impact towards increasing tolerance in our society and organizations. In fact, I’m going to suggest three actions you can take in your workplace today:

Say something. Be aware of comments and don’t let them slide. When someone makes an inappropriate or racist comment, or puts another group, race, or culture down—show civil courage. Say it’s not okay or ask them to think about how they would feel if someone said something negative about their culture, race, or group. Don’t be afraid to have the conversation to emphasize how hurtful these comments can be and how prejudice can permeate the entire organization; slowing innovation, productivity and growth.

Include others. Examine your workplace and pay extra attention to how cultural and racial groups are integrated. Who is sitting with who in the cafeteria? Are you friends or work with others from diverse backgrounds? Are you truly engaging in conversation and work projects with those that have diverse perspectives? Chances are if you look around and it is more segregated than you realize, there may be an issue around inclusion in the workplace. People may not feel included or comfortable mixing with those that are different from themselves. This can be detrimental to your organization’s company culture and its ROI for talent. Research shows that organizations profit from being able to leverage Diversity because workers feel more engaged and thus are more productive.

Refresh your Diversity programs. Many companies have in-house Diversity and Inclusion departments that offer Diversity training, unconscious bias workshops, and other types of programs to help bridge differences, encourage empathy, and breakdown barriers. This is commendable. But many of these companies may need to reexamine whether these programs are meeting today’s needs. Programs may be focused on addressing the needs of gender and race while not addressing today’s issues around generation, sexual orientation, and culture. As our organizations become more global, we need to recognize that needs have changed. Ensure your Diversity programs are reflecting what’s happening in society and that your organization has a clear stance on advocating for the rights of all groups and dimensions of Diversity—not just a few.

While it is painful to witness our society’s struggle with racism, I have hope that as individuals we can take the opportunity in our personal and professional lives to speak up, observe, and learn more ways to increase tolerance. By adopting these three best practices in our workplace, we are on our way to making a social impact in our teams, companies, societies and the world.

Wanna Expand Your Business Internationally?

I have this vivid memory of when my life path changed course forever. It happened when I was 28 years old. I was walking down a street in Berlin called Friedrichstrasse. On that walk, I decided this was where I was going to live—and start my own business. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t know a single soul. But I knew I had something working in my favor. I had a desire to do well, an insatiable curiosity, and absolute confidence that I was going to be successful.

What I didn’t know was the ubiquity that global business would become today. Reflecting on my own experience launching a global business and helping hundreds of executives find their success abroad, I have uncovered three striking truths that I absolutely believe will help you and your organization expand internationally.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

This may sound obvious. But before a lot of executives expand a company, they ask questions about the business market they want to enter, such as what is the best location or what will be the ROI? Yet, they often overlook learning about other less obvious but just as important intervening factors such as political dynamics, infrastructure, logistics, family values, and culture. A recent survey of senior executives in a hundred global corporations, conducted by Worldwide ERC, found 95 percent of the respondents believe national cultures of the places they do business in play an important or very important role in the success of their business mission. Yet, an Ernst & Young survey found that many companies lacked the diversity of thought and culture needed to handle global business. Don’t make that mistake.

Let me offer an example as to why knowing what you don’t know is vital. Sub-Saharan Africa is a boom economy because of investments in the oil and mineral business. To be successful in this area, companies must have close ties with the government which is concerned about how business may impact its society and community. Thus, if you try to do business in this region without state officials and diplomats at the table, chances are your deals will be blocked.

Having a comprehensive understanding of the country you want to expand to, whether it be in Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia, is critical.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

A lot of executives shy away from talking to others about how to expand globally because they don’t know what they don’t know—and don’t realize what they could learn from others. Ego and fear of lack of confidentiality also hold executives back. It is possible to maintain confidentiality and avoid learning by doing. It is worthwhile to be a bit transparent about investment intentions to learn from others that have entered the market successfully—or unsuccessfully.

In doing so, I suggest looking for unlikely experts. For instance, instead of hiring a global market research firm, look to former military or intelligence experts. The head of your security team may have invaluable experience and better insight than an expensive research group. The resources are out there to help you determine the best way to enter the market. Use them.

Think before you act.

There is a tool I developed called the Readiness Checklist which can arm you with the right list of questions to prepare for expansion. Get the right answers for those questions, check them off, and ensure you have the right people and strategies in place before you enter the new market.

Every market has little nuances that may catch you off guard and make your investment more expensive than you planned for. For example, European companies that invest in the U.S. gravely underestimate the cost of logistics because they don’t realize how big the U.S. is. In Latin America, taking time to build relationships is critically important to build trust with venture partners. In Southeast Asia you may need a third party negotiator.

Also, it is important to prepare for worst case scenario and create the right exit strategy upfront. Trying to close down an operation can be very expensive if you don’t have sound knowledge of regulations such as labor laws. Be thoughtful and mindful. Try to learn everything you can and then develop a plan.

My curiosity to learn everything I could about Germany and other countries combined with my confidence and determination set me up for success. I got comfortable taking the time to learn about the market before diving in. I strongly believe if you do the same, you will be successful in your international expansion goals.

To learn more about how to enter into the U.S. market, my book, Market Entry into the USA: Why European Companies Fail and How to Succeed (Management for Professionals), is available for pre-order on amazon.

Managers, Shut Up and Listen!

Something the world could use more of are good listeners—especially in the C-suite. Being a good listener is not in the job description for most managers. In fact, a 2013 study by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business found that few chief executive officers excelled at listening. Actually, a review of the business leaders’ performance evaluations showed listening was rarely even mentioned as an evaluation metric.

Yet, everyone—employees and managers—can benefit from learning to shut up and listen.

Leaders who listen are able to assess how they are leading. By listening to those who follow, they can determine if they are leading in the right direction. This also creates mutual trust and respect and with that comes commitment, motivation, and engagement.

So what does it mean to shut up and listen? Here are three tips.

Be Present

I had an interesting conversation with a leader, once at Microsoft and now at LinkedIn, in which he shared with me an epiphany he had about shutting up and listening. When one of his employees was going through a tough personal situation, he merely heard her out. Later, she told him that he was the only one that truly understood what she was going through. The leader was surprised because he did not say or do anything; he just listened. He was present. Since then, he has experienced many positives from his being present and empathizing with employees, including a stronger bond with a harder working team.

It is important to note that being present goes beyond just being quiet. It means being aware of your body language, facial expressions, and demeanor. It is also a full-time job in which a good leader has a high emotional intelligence and, thus, the ability to know when to ask an employee their thoughts or if something is troubling them.

Ask, Don’t Tell

Sometimes being a good listener means being able to ask good questions. Not unlike how Socrates led his student Plato to truths, managers can help employees come to solutions by discussing issues and asking probing questions. The result is an employee who feels empowered to develop solutions themselves. And these solutions have the potential to be even better than what the manager would have come up with.

I like the GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) coaching method because it is simple and effective. To see an example, visit this video of Sir John Whitmore demonstrating the difference between coaching (or asking) and instruction. Spoiler here—the student who is coached is much more enthusiastic about playing golf than the student who was told what to do.

For more on coaching, visit my Global Intelligence for Managers blog post.

Flip the Table

Being a good listener also applies to meetings. Dare to take a different approach to your meetings and allow your staff to do the talking instead of you. You can still lead the meeting and ensure objectives are met, but give time slots to speak and share. Hosting guest speakers to discuss what they are working on or present something that is different for the team can transform meetings into learning opportunities. Many managers are finding this approach is good for their image as it allows them to be been seen as part of the team. Not to mention it is more relaxing because you aren’t the only one filling up the space. This type of meeting sets the stage for anyone to feel comfortable talking.

When you are a good listener, you hear more about what is going on with the team. You establish trust and credibility. Your image is improved because direct reports see you as accessible. And your people will be more engaged, take ownership and be more productive. Everyone wins.

Now, give those ears a workout.

Managing is Like Parenting

Personal Issues at Work

Last week during one of my management development workshops, we were discussing topics like time management, motivation, building trust, and giving feedback, and it struck me how similar managing is to parenting. Although your employees are not children, there is a strong parallel between rearing well-adjusted, productive kids and happy, high-performing employees.

Commitment

As a parent or manager, you should show commitment by connecting your values to your actions.

Imagine this—your younger child, Jack, grabs a toy from his brother’s hands and because other parents are around you feel uncomfortable disciplining him. You say and do nothing. Later, at home, this scenario repeats itself and Jack is sent to his room—confused. He took the truck before and nothing happened but now he is in trouble. Your lack of commitment to your value of respect sent a mixed message, and as a result, Jack was unclear of how to behave.

The same scenario plays out every day in the workplace. For example, if a manager says he or she is committed to a culture of feedback yet they aren’t around, never invite feedback or are defensive when an employee offers constructive criticism, this lack of commitment to their values sends a mixed message and employees do not know what is expected of them.

Similarly, like a parent, managers need to show their commitment to their team (or family) by making sure they are present for them. Most parents are not going to leave their children every weekend to hang out with their friends or relax at a spa. Instead, they are shuttling their kids to ball games and sitting down to dinner. Managers need to show the same commitment. They need to be available to talk, be present at meetings and conferences, and generally show an interest in their employees.

Consistency

Parents and managers should consistently contribute their whole self.

Let’s talk about Jack again. Jack loves playing soccer and really loves when his parents are there to watch him. Sometimes you are the loudest, proudest parent at the game. But other times, you are distracted by emails on your phone.

While the situation is understandable, the inconsistency does your child a disservice. Time management is crucial to building trust—for both parents and managers – and trust is the ideal outcome of consistency. It allows your children—and employees—to know what is expected of them so they can be as productive as possible.

If a manager sets a regular meeting at 9 a.m. but often misses it due to an exceptionally busy schedule, he or she risks sending the message that his or her employees are not important. Missing meetings can also disrupt staff’s workflow.

Managing your time effectively is a great way to consistently support your employees—and kids. If you commit to a time, stick to it. If you say you’re going somewhere, do it. If the team’s all going to go to present at a conference and it’s a great opportunity, don’t back out at the last minute.

Consequence

Parents and managers should help children and employees learn from their mistakes.

When Jack stole his brother’s toy truck, he suffered the consequence of not being able to play with the truck and going to his room. You explained to him his wrongdoing and how he could be better by either waiting until his brother was finished or sharing. Parents must show their children that their actions have consequences—and how to make better decisions.

Managers must do this, too. If an employee has performance issues that need to be remedied, the manager should explain to them what needs to change, help them develop corrective action plans, and follow up with periodic evaluations. (See my former post on Giving Effective Feedback.)

With kids or adults, learn what motivates them and tap into that. A child who loves sports needs to know the privilege of playing may go away if they fail to do their schoolwork. An employee who wants to travel to a conference learns to get their work done in order to take advantage of a trip

Remember your three C’s.

Whether it is teaching little Jack to share or graciously receiving feedback from an employee, parents and managers hold the responsibility of harnessing others’ potential to allow them to become the best they can be. Remembering the importance of commitment, consistency, and consequence will help you be the best parent or manager you can be.

Contact Melissa www.lamsonconsulting.com, melissa@lamsonconsulting.com

Global Intelligence for Managers

I recently facilitated a training in Europe. As I returned to the US, I reflected on the motivated people I met, and the fact that successful managers everywhere share certain qualities.

To succeed globally, managers need to retain those universal qualities of managerial success and take additional steps toward increasing their global intelligence. These are three top recommendations:

Three Key Skills For Global Management Success

Adapt Your Style

Your ability to adapt to individual employee needs is one of your biggest assets. Consider:

Do people need encouragement to reach stretch goals?
Do I need to be more hands-on?
Is this particular direct report better suited to autonomy?
Is this employee bristling against too much structure? Not enough?
How do I need to accommodate individual personality styles?

When working in a global context, there are additional considerations having to do with the influence of cultural background on time management, attitudes towards hierarchy, or communication style.

Some examples:

In Asia, a manager will typically be more hands-on at first, giving explicitly detailed instructions, then later on as people feel comfortable, the intense detail orientation of instructions will be scaled back.

In Eastern Europe, decision-making really needs to be made in the correct hierarchical chain; people do not feel comfortable questioning authority.

In the US, Americans like to be given a high level idea but resist too much hand holding which is perceived as micromanagement.

Give Constructive Feedback

How do you want your employee to see you? If you want them to see you as a manager willing to invest time in their development, giving feedback is a large part of your approach. The key, though, is knowing how to deliver the feedback and in which situations.

Giving constructive feedback is a critical skill for managers to develop in order to earn trust. Constructive feedback is the foundation of effective conversations that feed maximum productivity.

When considering cultural approaches to feedback, take the time to learn about interaction patterns in specific countries. Take, for example, this scenario from Japan, where feedback is most effective when presented in a more indirect manner:

In Japan, a team of four people included one team member who needed to improve his performance. The team manager used a metaphor of a table that had four legs. He explained that if one of the legs became wobbly, the entire table would be unstable and vulnerable to collapse. The individual who needed to improve was never told directly: “you need to change ‘X’ or ‘Y’” but it was clear to all involved what had to change.

In Germany, the approach would be quite the opposite: the employee is going to prefer to hear directly what needs to be improved and to be given specific details about the problem. They want to know the “bad stuff” in order to work on and improve it. They don’t need the blow to be softened.

Coach Instead of Mentor

At some point in your management career, you are going to confront the fault line between your energy limits and your team’s needs. Coaching is a methodology that helps a manager delegate, empower and solve without wasting as much time and energy. As Jeremy Stover, Head of the Executive Coaching Program at LinkedIn, wisely reminds people: “Coaching makes it possible for managers to scale themselves.”

One resource I recommend to understand the role of coaching is this vlog from Leigh Nagy Frasher. Coaching relies on you to give your people the resources they need to unlock their own potential. It takes longer in the beginning than simply telling them what to do (or, worse, doing it yourself), but the dividends are huge.

For those of you who manage globally:

In France, it’s important to have a bit of a more in depth conversation about a topic that you’re coaching on because the French take a more philosophical approach to management. Your discussions may need to allot more time for discussions around the theoretical before you arrive at the pragmatic.

In Argentina, people are highly inspired by psychology and psychological methodologies so they may appreciate more of a psychotherapy approach to coaching. They’re willing to go deeper into the issues.

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