Three Ways Women Unintentionally Exclude Men

The other day I was in a meeting with a group of sales people. The conversation was energetic and lively with lots of great ideas bouncing around. I was watching this exchange and noticed something. Out of nearly a dozen people, there were only two men. And those men weren’t speaking much. Why? Because men and women communicate very differently.

The women in the room were having an open dialogue and effective interaction but their style unintentionally left the men out, causing them to shut down. Most likely, these women—and most others in the workplace—–aren’t aware that their natural tendencies can affect the feelings and participation of men. But being cognizant of these behaviors can help you be more inclusive.

Here are three ways women unintentionally exclude men in the workplace:

  1. Our communication patterns. Women are considered very collaborative so we tend to finish each other’s sentences and add onto each other’s points. We use a lot of filler words, words that are rooted in emotion such as “I feel,” or cheerlead, “Absolutely, great point!” Research has shown that we want to create a good environment, a sense of community and maintain positive relationships with the people in the room. Men, on the other hand, are more pragmatic and direct in their communication-style. It’s not that they don’t want a good atmosphere, but it isn’t quite as necessary. Women should consider giving more space and time for men to contribute to a conversation. We should aim to streamline our messages by dialing back the emotion or relationship-focused words. We don’t need to eradicate our style of communication but be aware and scale it back so everyone feels comfortable to participate.
  2. Competing with each other. Women want harmony—until competition enters the picture and then that harmony can break down in a bad way. While competition for men is viewed as natural and positive; for women, it’s widely seen as a negative force that can wreak havoc on the work environment. In my gender cooperation training, men have told me that they feel very uncomfortable when there’s competition between two women. For men, they can compete with a colleague, compartmentalize, and head out for a beer. For women, it’s a different story. Competition often erodes the effectiveness of the team and can even brew a toxic environment. If you see that competition is having a negative impact on the team, try to quickly resolve any conflict and move on. This way it won’t confuse men—and women—on the team and everyone can get back to working towards the same goal.
  3. Big thinking. When most women wake up in the morning, they’re thinking about the entire day ahead of them—all the way to bedtime. Men, on the other hand, often think about just the first twenty minutes. Does this ring true for you and your partner? Research backs it up. Mark Gungor has found that men and women’s brains work differently. His research has shown that women’s brains are more connected so when we’re thinking, more areas of the brain are involved. When we are considering a project at work, we think about its impact on all the stakeholders involved including ourselves and our professional and personal lives. Men, on the other hand, think linearly. Only one area of the brain is involved during thinking. (It’s important to note that a Stanford University study contradicts these findings and asserts that socialization is responsible for brain signaling). We can’t retrain our brains, but women can aim to be more present in the moment. We can try to shrink our decision-making process so that it does not encompass a multitude of aspects and angles—overwhelming both ourselves and our male colleagues. If we want to show the bigger picture to them, we should do so in a way that’s explicit—linearizing our multi-thinking process.

Women don’t need to entirely change who they are and how they do things in the workplace, but being more self-aware of how our behavior may impact the feelings and participation of our male counterparts and adapting our styles when appropriate, will help our working relationships.

In case you missed it, check out my LinkedIn article on ways men may behave sexist and how to avoid it.

Image Credit: Fotolia iofoto

5 Ways to be a Better Global Leader in 2016

Global business is rapidly becoming the new norm, yet leadership is not keeping pace with this growth. One study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity actually found that global leadership development efforts have declined in a time when organizations are increasingly working with global partners.

The ability to successfully manage a business across borders where there are different societal, cultural, political, economic, and legal norms and systems cannot be overstated. Without it, you and your organization are destined to fall behind.

But even if you don’t have a program in place to develop global leadership skills, there are actions you can take right now to help you and your leaders successfully navigate in multiple environments to achieve your organization’s goals.

Here 5 ways to be an effective global leader in 2016:

Live and travel abroad. Leaders need to experience what it’s like to live and exist in another country. As noted in the Harvard Business Review, this experience will help them appreciate cultural differences, incorporate what they learn into their work lives, and build networks of global relationships. The best global leaders are those that are comfortable in different cultures and understand the nuances of doing business outside their home country. Not to mention, living abroad, and seeing and experiencing new and different things can lead to a more fulfilling and enriched life.

Have an open mind. Global leaders have the ability to accept that a particular situation may not be like anything they’re familiar with. They recognize that what works well in one culture could be unintentionally alienating in another, causing a rift between a manager and his or her team. They adapt their approach to specific dynamics and are able to mirror the shifting standards of multiple regions. This style of leadership is also known as Situational Leadership. For more about this approach, view my blog post on Situational Leadership.

Be inquisitive. The best global leaders are curious about anything and everything new and different. They ask questions of their teams, customers, clients, and partners and put aside opinions and criticisms. They’re eager to learn, and listen more than they talk.

Be flexible. The global business world is comprised of varying perspectives and ambiguity.
A global leader is comfortable with this and is responsive to true differences in problem-solving among countries. They have the ability to learn from mistakes and to balance shorter and longer term objectives.

Be self-aware. Effective global leaders know their management style and how it might be received by different cultures. For example, most of us have experienced both the micromanaging boss and the hands-off boss. In some cultures, teams will expect a manager to keep a tight rein and will feel abandoned by a boss who allows more independence. Other cultures are the opposite. Other differences to be aware include how decisions are made, how recognition is given, how feedback is given and how time is viewed. For more on this, visit here.

As businesses continue to expand and wrap around the globe, the gulf of truly developed leaders widens. Today’s successful businesses need managers who can think, act and lead globally. Are your leaders and your organization prepared?

Three Ways to Give Praise in the Workplace

This week is Thanksgiving in the U.S. and it has me thinking about the power of praise. Over the past decade or so, scientists have looked into the effects of positive-to-negative interaction ratios, or compliments-to-criticisms, in our work and personal lives. It turns out you need to hear a lot more positive words to overcome a single negative one—about five positives to one negative. That’s the finding of psychologist John Gottman who studied 700 newlyweds and very accurately (we’re talking 94 percent of the time) predicted which pairs would stay together and which ones would divorce after scoring positives and negatives in a 15-minute conversation. Those couples that fell below the 5:1 ratio split up. Those that met or exceeded it were still together ten years later.

A little bit of praise can go a long way in the workplace, too. Some benefits include a more positive mood, greater engagement, improved performance, and enhanced job satisfaction. What’s more, showing gratitude is a great way to improve your own mood, too.

Here are 3 ways to implement more praise into the workplace:

Say it in public. Look for opportunities to give public recognition to direct reports that’s unique. For example, give a specific compliment in front of others during a meeting. For other ways to give effective feedback, check out my blog post on creating a culture of feedback.

Leave a takeaway. A handwritten note or one of those deck of cards with positive quotes is a wonderful and creative way to share your appreciation for the good work your team has done.

If you think it, say it. If you have a positive thought about someone, whether it’s about the job they’re doing or a nice haircut, say it out loud. That small compliment can make a big impact on someone’s attitude—and performance.

It’s important to note that the interpretation of praise is not universal. For instance, in Germany, compliments are seen as superficial. In Israel, compliments are seen as brown-nosing. In some cultures, a hug or cheerleading is effective praise whereas in others it’s seen as inappropriate. If you’re showing gratitude with people from different cultures, be sure to do your homework to understand how to say something nice and have it received the right way.

4 Ways to Wake Up Your Emotional Intelligence

You’ve heard of IQ but have you heard of EQ? EQ is the measure of your emotional intelligence—your awareness of your actions and feelings and how they affect those around you. Having a high EQ is key to being successful in life, including in the workplace, as it helps you relate to others.

Our emotions drive our behavior, and, according to a Gallup survey, the culture we’re from plays an important role in what emotions we feel. Gallup asked people from 151 countries whether they had experienced a set of ten different emotions on the previous day (five positive and five negative). They then ranked the countries for EQ. The countries with the highest EQ?—the Philippines, El Salvador, and Bahrain. The countries with the lowest EQ included Lithuania, Georgia, and Singapore. You can see the differences in cultures’ EQ in the way people act. For example, those from Brazil wear their emotions on their sleeves. In Germany, they like to discuss different opinions.

Learning how to steer our own emotions while navigating the myriad of others takes skill. But, luckily, it is a skill that can be learned. Here are four ways to help you raise your EQ.

Test your EQ. Get a baseline of your emotional intelligence. There are many online tests, such as this EQ quiz. Find out your weaknesses and learn strategies to improve those areas.

Pay attention to your own reactions. Notice when you rush to judgment and ask yourself if you know all the facts? Are you stereotyping? Try to put yourself in the other person’s place and be open to their point-of-view.

Press pause on your actions. Before you do something, think about how it might impact other people. Will it hurt their feelings? Would you want to be in their shoes? If you must take this action, think about how can you help other’s deal with its effects. If you hurt someone’s feelings, be sure to take responsibility and apologize.

Take a stress test. Not the kind that puts you on a treadmill but instead examine how you react to stressful situations. Do you get angry? Do you place blame? Staying calm and in control of your emotions is highly valued—especially in the business world.

More and more countries around the world are placing importance on EQ. Many are now using it as a gauge when hiring new employees. Being self-aware and emotionally intelligent is a powerful tool in cultivating relationships inside and outside of the workplace.

Give YOURSELF A Year-End Review

It’s the end of the year and for many that means year-end review time. But while you’re getting ready to talk about the past year and goals for 2016 with your teams, think about scheduling some time to review someone else—yourself.

A year-end review of yourself can offer the invaluable opportunity to reflect on things you did well and the things you didn’t—and chart a path forward to be better. A successful review involves asking questions of yourself and also checking in with the important people in your personal and professional life.

Here are 4 more effective ways to see how you’re stacking up personally and professionally:

Check-in. I sit down with my partner every New Year’s Day and discuss stress levels, work/life balance, and how we were able to support one another throughout the year—and then use that conversation as a springboard to make improvements next year. It’s an effective exercise and one that can be done regularly with partners, friends, family, colleagues, and managers. Ask these people how they think your relationship is, how you’re interacting with them, and then discuss potential solutions. For example, if your partner wants you to work less while at home, set boundaries for when you will work, e.g. from 8-10 p.m. but not 5-8 p.m. (For more tips on setting boundaries, see my blog post on work/life balance). This conversation should be treated as an opportunity for both sides of the table to get honest feedback and constructive criticism that will maintain and improve your relationship.

Self-assess. Schedule time to ask yourself questions such as: what percentage of last year did I feel relaxed? What percentage of last year was I doing things fun and enjoyable at work? On a scale of 1 to 10, how successful was I at achieving my deliverables? From 1 to 10, how successful was I at cultivating relationships with my manager or colleagues? After you answer these questions, set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound) objectives. For example, instead of setting the vague goal that you will be a better communicator, set a goal to have 30 minute one-on-ones with team members each week.

Create White Space. It’s important to also carve out time to do some strategic thinking about the past year and the year forward. Ask yourself questions around what you did well, what you can do better, and what your goals are for next year. You can then apply the popular coaching GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, and Will) to your own career-path, that is, coach yourself. With this model, first you decide where you are going, think about your current situation including potential obstacles, explore your options, and then commit to actions.

Meditate. Finally, practice the art of meditating. Never underestimate the power of quiet time and its ability to clear your head. Take the time for reflection and quieting the mind to ensure that your physical and mental states are healthy and fulfilled.

Doing a year-end review of yourself can paint a complete picture of how well you’re achieving your personal and professional goals. You will likely be surprised by what you’re doing well or not doing well just by taking the time to stop and look back on how far you’ve come. By taking this pause, you can then chart a clearer path forward for 2016.

5 Ways to Enter the US Market Successfully

First published on the BDO Blog Site, by Jakob Sand

America is like the Promised Land for many companies in the technology, media, telecoms and life sciences sphere. It is a market with enormous potential, it offers great access to funding and is the place to be, if you want toscale your business as quickly as possible. However, this only holds true if you know the ins and outs of the American journey you are looking to set out on. It is more than likely that a company pursuing the US market will have blind spots, which can lead to unnecessary complications and delays. “We have seen many companies that try to take on the whole process of establishing themselves here in the US on their own. Often, they end up looking around after six months with a sense of frustration over the fact that they have not really gotten off the ground yet,” Mik Strøyberg, CEO of Lemonsqueeze, which specialises in helping companies establish themselves in the US, says. Done right, there is no doubt that the US holds great promise. This is doubly true in the country’s main technology and start-up hubs, like New York, where Lemonsqeeze is based, and Silicon Valley. “Silicon Valley is a unique area with an immense concentration of talent. Just being here can give you global recognition. It is, however, also an area where understanding the ecosystem and the likely challenges you will encounter is essential,” Aftab Jamil, Partner at BDO USA and Global Leader of the BDO Life Sciencesteam, says.

1: Make sure you all understand the ‘why’ of America

Ralf Drews, CEO of the German company Greif-Velox, spent many years working as a top-level representative of European companies in USA. He is co-author of ‘Market Entry into the USA – Why European Companies Fail and How to Succeed’ with Melissa Lamson, president and CEO of Lamson Consulting, which helps foreign companies enter the US market. One of their points is that you need ‘organisational readiness’ to achieve success. While it is debatable what qualifies as an organisation being ready, a minimum requirement is that the entire organisation understands the move, what it is meant to achieve and what it might mean for the rest of the organisation. This requires a clear strategy and goals, which should include whether the move is solely to seek entry to the US market or a stepping-stone in regards to further expansion. Alfredo Coppola is the Co-CEO of the US Market Access Centre (USMAC), a tech accelerator that helpscompanies with entry in the US market. He explains that a presence in Silicon Valley, where USMAC is based, can open doors across the whole world. “Today, a presence here is a stamp of quality that can be used in entering other markets. The early adopter nature and global outlook of Silicon Valley means that it is an excellent route to broadening your international presence,” he says.

2. Figure out how to make the business proposition work

One of the first steps in regards to making the move into the US is formulating a clear, detailed strategy. What is the market that your company is pursuing? What are some of the possibilities and challenges that face you in that move? What is your value proposition? What is the business model? What is the time frame? What are your goals and target? Does the way you make money work without any changes in a US setting? The list of question goes on, and all parts need to be answered before deciding to commit.

Often the best first step for a company will be establishing a sales office in the US and working from there, and potentially basing some R&D resources in the US market as well. For start-ups, there is the option of making the US your home market by founding your company in USA.

In regards to both strategy and establishing offices, it is often a good idea to consult your financial experts. This is doubly true is if they have US contact networks or US offices that can provide help with the process of setting up in the US. Alternatively, you can collaborate with experts or dedicated companies that offer to handle various aspects of the process for you.

3: Getting in takes lots and lots of paperwork

Setting up in the US will require – as is the case everywhere – filling out forms, followed by filling out forms, filling out forms and filling out forms. Partnering with a local company or a dedicated agency can be a great help for many companies to cut down the time spent on these tasks, which otherwise descend into Catch 22 situations. “In some cases, you cannot get a bank account opened, before you have an address – but you cannot rent anything, before you get a bank account,” Mik Støyberg explains.

4: The money is there – but so is the competition

You might think that market shares, talented employees and funding is readily available in USA. Definitely in a place like Silicon Valley. That is also true, but there is an equally strong competition for all of them. If you are looking for software engineers, you will be going up against the likes of Facebook and Google. If you are looking for funding, there is a line of companies going around the block looking for exactly the same thing. This makes it important to stand out to ensure that VCs notice you. Aftab Jamil stresses that it is important for companies to highlight their unique attributes, the problem that they are trying to solve with their product and the market for it. “If you are talking about entering a market worth $100 million, many of them will probably switch off. What VCs are looking for are products that can solve problems and occupy markets worth more than $1 billion a year,” Aftab Jamil says. The same approach applies to exploring markets and securing customers.
It is also important to realise that the huge American market is segmented and the needs of clients can vary greatly, depending on where in the country they are located.

5: You need at least two cultures to succeed

American work culture is something that non-American companies do not necessarily understand. This can become an issue when you hire US workers.“In some European countries, there is a three month kind of ‘honeymoon’ after you are hired. Here, in the US, you expect to come in and deliver from day one. This makes it very important to establish clear milestones from the beginning and have guidelines for new, US employees’ performance is measured,” Mik Strøyberg say. If not, what Europeans consider a relaxing easing into a new position can become a period of acute stress and uncertainty for the new US employees – whom you will want to hire.

Melissa Lamson has worked as lead consultant for many foreign companies looking to enter the US market and has written a number of books on the subject. Based on her experience, the optimal approach is to create office environments that include both Americans and people from the country your company is based in. “One of the most interesting things that came out of looking at the success rate of companies was that it is important to have a mix of locals and foreigners throughout the organisational structure,” she says.

“In my experience, it has been a good idea if many of the top VP execs are native. Your CFO can be European, but in many of the other roles it is a very big plus for the people to have a ‘native level’ insight into the way the market works,” Ralf Drews adds.

5 Ways to More Global Business Success in 2016

Global Business

A commodity crash. ISIS threats. Last year was not a smooth one for global markets. Despite all these bumps in the road, world business expanded 3.1 percent. This year, it will grow even more—up to 3.6 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook. There’s no doubt that global business is the new norm. We live in a world where nearly all high-growth companies work across multiple time zones and in diverse cultural contexts.

But the truth is that even experienced business leaders can sometimes get caught up in the small contextual differences of working across different regions and cultures. The solution? Paying attention to little details that can ensure potential business deals— and new professional relationships—go smoothly.

Here are 5 easy ways to help make this year’s global ventures your most successful yet.

Be aware. When speaking about the particular way something’s done in business, add “…in this country or in country X” at the end of your sentence. This will help remind you and others that it may not work the same way in other countries, and could, in fact, function quite differently. This will also let your colleagues from other countries know you’re aware that their experiences, assumptions and values might differ from your own.

Set your clocks. Remember to set the right time zones in your new 2016 calendar. Also consider alternating meetings times to make it convenient for all attendees. Having a meeting at three in the morning might not be ideal for you, but neither is making your colleagues in different parts of the world stay late at the office. (Sometimes it’s the 1 or 2 hour time zone differences that cause the most confusion!)

Fact-find. If you’re working in a new, specific, region of the world, get online and memorize five facts about that country or culture. When interacting with colleagues or business partners, use those facts as ice-breakers. In new sales or vendor meetings, you’ll be seen as credible. And by showing an effort to learn about their culture, you’ll gain respect and show genuine interest in your new associates.

Be an anthropologist. Make a resolution when traveling to global locations that you’ll discover new places, people and things. Don’t just rely on tourism books; ask locals to show you around and view sight-seeing as an opportunity to support your business dealings. Just like a real anthropologist would, pay attention to the local communication style and values, the holidays people celebrate and why. You’ll develop deeper relationships with your business contacts and acquire a more nuanced understanding of their backgrounds.

Read the news. Seek out global news sources, read books set in other countries, and watch international films. And don’t just read about the disasters. Find out what is going on the world of business, politics and the social arena. Look for neutral, positive stories.

These tips may sound simple, but I promise they will go a long way toward helping you foster positive and lasting professional relationships in global environments. Finally, remember that developing global mindset isn’t only a business benefit; the growth and enrichment that comes with cross-cultural experiences can be as personally rewarding as it is professionally.