Introducing: The New Global Manager!

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I’m so excited. I have launched my new book, “The New Global Manager.”

This book has been a labor of love, born out of the conviction that, in today’s new global environment, all managers are now global managers. And global managers must be able to quickly make sense of situations where cultural differences add levels of complication.

Like most managers, you already know that cultural differences are significant when you’re dealing with business partners from other countries. You see what’s happening. You get that today’s marketplace is increasingly global.

But what you may not fully understand is that you need to learn and use global management skills to address these cultural differences—in every interaction you have. And, you may not realize, but you are probably already being judged on how well you are meeting increasingly complex demands.

“The New Global Manager”

As I say in my new book, “culture” is how we describe the norms, perceptions, and values that drive our behavior and that we use to evaluate the behavior of other people. We use the term “cultural differences” to refer to everything from corporate cultures, to differences in religious beliefs, gender orientations, countries of origin, ethnicity— and so much more.

And, when everyone has the same norms, perceptions, and values, interacting with others and doing business is pretty straightforward and easy. But things get more complicated when the people with whom you do business, who are your customers, employees, colleagues, or bosses, have different norms, perceptions, and values.

Why is this?

It goes back to something rooted in human nature. We all make choices based on our cultures; all of the influences that have shaped us. But the people we interact with evaluate our action based on their own cultures, which can create confusion, misunderstanding, and potential problems, at times. Especially in a global business environment.

The pressure on managers is intense. Managers must be able to work and react quickly to this rapidly changing global environment with the challenges inherent in digitalization, new markets, diverse cultural backgrounds.

Whether you are a new global manager or someone who has worked in management for the past twenty years, today you need to be able to quickly make sense of situations where cultural differences add levels of complication. You must learn to recognize, assess, react and solve complicated management situation where diverse styles, personalities, and cultures are in play.

Sound daunting? It doesn’t have to be.

I understand the dynamics at play and want to assure you that there are practical resources available to help you learn to be an effective global manager and work well with culturally diverse customers, teams, colleagues, and bosses. I use a broad range of tools and frameworks that I recommend highly, which help my clients, manage these challenges effectively.

In “The New Global Manager,” I introduce some of those including OAR™, a multi-purpose tool to help you become aware of situations that aren’t working or have suddenly changed, ask questions to help you analyze the situation, and react appropriately. The acronym, OAR, stands for Observe, Ask Questions, React. Using OAR, when someone behaves in a manner that catches you off guard, instead of responding immediately, you stop and observe the situation.

I wrote “The New Global Manager” as a daily resource for managers, to provide practical tools and frameworks like OAR and 4DCulture, and strategies and tips for successfully managing abroad and at home, face-to-face and virtually. Whether you are a new manager or a manager with twenty years of experience, this is the comprehensive resource you’ve been waiting for.

Click here to buy the $.99 electronic version of the “New Global Manager” today. Remember, this is a limited and exclusive offer, so don’t delay!

Let me know what you think after you’ve read it. And please, give me a review on Amazon!

The New Global Manager: Tools and Tips For Success!

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So you’ve made it! You’re a new global manager. Congratulations. These are exciting times. Our world is changing, becoming more and more connected–and as a new global manager, you will face challenges your predecessors didn’t. Are you ready for this?

Who is the New Global Manager?

Let’s talk about this. A global manager is defined by the work he or she is doing, frequently within a company with a global presence or operations. A global manager is responsible for managing teams of employees or business operations across diverse cultures and time zones, which calls for new skill sets and capabilities.

And, the new global manager is almost everyone working as a manager today.

Whether you’re working for a local, national or international company, you’re working across cultures, languages, regions or countries. You have to be savvy at quickly assessing needs, reading others and ensuring interactions are successful to meet deliverables and accomplish your goals.

There is a New Global Environment!

Business today is conducted in an almost borderless, boundary-free marketplace, made of multiple countries, cultures, languages, ethnicities and time zones. The number of companies with international offices and plants continues to grow as people from a broad range of countries move and settle in new locations.

Technology connects all of us 24/7 to geographic locations about which we’ve only just begun to learn. In truth, you’ve probably already noticed that the number of people you work with or come in contact with on a daily basis, has changed. Your employees and co-workers may well have backgrounds that are very different from your own.

There are three significant reasons for this.

Let’s start with the most obvious. The first: An increasing number of U.S.-based companies are doing business internationally. For example, more than sixty-eight percent of the top 250 U.S. retailers have foreign operations, according to a report published by Deloitte. And, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), global trade growth is projected to stay above-trend. This growth in international operations is expected to continue.

The second reason for the new global environment is U.S. Demographics have changed dramatically. According to the Pew Research Center, immigrants are driving overall workforce growth in the U.S. New foreign student enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities doubled between 2008 and 2016, from 179,000 to 364,000, far outpacing growth in overall college enrollment. As the report stated, “Once arrived, rising shares of immigrants have become citizens, and naturalization rates are up among most of the largest immigrant groups.”

Finally, the third reason for the new global environment is that more American managers work for companies that are headquartered outside the United States. Companies like Burger King, Budweiser, Medtronic, Purina, McDermott, Seagate Technology, Good Humor, Frigidaire, and Actavis/Allergan are among the iconic U.S, company names that have moved headquarters from the United States to other countries in the past few years, according to a report by CNBC.

In the new global environment, managers work with teams of people from different cultural backgrounds, locations, and levels of experience. This rapidly changing global environment, with diverse customer demands, new markets, and digitalization means managers need to react quickly in situations of extreme complexity and ambiguity.

Mastering the Art of the New Global Manager: OAR and 4DCulture Tools

As I explain in my new book, The New Global Manager, to be a successful New Global Manager, you’ll need to incorporate a combination of skills and new tools–like the OAR process. Use the three following steps, Observe/Ask/React, to quickly assess any situation more accurately.

The basic rule for OAR is that when someone behaves unexpectedly, instead of responding immediately you stop, and Observe. What did they do or not do that surprised you? When another person’s behavior doesn’t match your expectations, it’s time for the second part of OAR. It’s time to Ask Questions. Once you’ve gathered more information, then React.

Another tool New Global Managers are employing is called 4DCulture. When you know you’re going to be in a situation with someone whose culture is different from your own, you should do some homework. The 4DCulture tool will help you analyze the cultural forces that may be in play. The tool gives you a way to make your first determination about how you’re going to act and then to ask the questions and analyze the situation so that you do better.

The New Global Environment is all around us.

Suffice it to say, immigration and globalization trends will not reverse any time soon. They will drive the environment you work in every day. Advances in technology further stir the pot, making it more likely that you will have frequent contact with people with diverse norms, perceptions, and values. You will, of necessity, need to develop a global mindset and perfect your global management skills. This is an exciting and challenging time for all of us.

Do you need help getting up to speed as a new global manager? Contact me. I have more than 20 years of experience in international leadership development, coaching, and team-building, and have helped countless individuals and organizations to be more equitable, productive, and happy. I can help you too.

Ten Never Fail Strategies for The New Global Manager:

  1. Check your assumptions at the door
  2. Slow down, speak clearly, and use slang sparingly and carefully
  3. Add ‘in country X’ to indicate you are thinking globally
  4. Memorize five facts about another country or culture
  5. Act like an anthropologist: Observe and listen
  6. Seek out global news sources
  7. Travel adventurously, but take precautions
  8. Ensure everyone contributes in meetings
  9. Give constructive feedback but consider the receiver
  10. Alternate meeting times to accommodate time zones

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: 123rf.com

Best Practices for Managing Dispersed Teams

dispersed teams

You manage a team of people who are working from multiple locations and time zones. Initially, everything looked really good. You developed the project plan, created timelines, task lists and met with the team to kick the project off.

And it was a really strong start–at first.

But after awhile your team members lost energy, stopped hitting it out of the park and began to miss meetings. And now you’re concerned. You’re looking for solutions, for tips or ideas on how to get the project back on track and manage your dispersed teams successfully.

For someone who is managing a virtual team, this is a familiar story.

Leading a virtual group can present real challenges. Maintaining clear communication, engagement, and focus can be tough. And, for more and more managers this is a daily reality as the number of companies with remote workers continues to grow. “Despite occasional stories of a company ending its remote work program, the long-term trends all show steady growth in the number of people working remotely,” writes Sara Sutton Fell, founder, and CEO of FlexJobs.

According to a recent study published by Upwork.com; globalization, skill specialization, and agile team models will change the workforce in the next ten years. The second annual Future Workforce Report found that 63 percent of companies have remote workers but more than half – 57 percent – lack the policies to support them.

But, as I’ve said before, leaders are discovering innovative ways to rally and connect teams no matter how far away they are from each other. Whether or not actual policies exist, there are best practices for leading a team of remote workers successfully and building a sense of trust, belonging, and commitment to the team, the project, and the organization.

In my workshops about building and leading effective virtual teams, one of our first activities is designed to increase awareness of virtual team characteristics and complexities. We talk about what works well and what must be done to achieve positive results. Over the years I have learned some of the best practices for managing dispersed teams. Let’s a take a look at three of them.

Create Context

As the leader, it’s your job to provide the context for the team. In addition to sharing the project specifications and requirements, you need to paint the big picture for them and bring the importance of their roles to the forefront. Help your employees understand, not only what their roles are, but why they matter–and why each of them benefits individually from being truly engaged in the team goal overall.

While this may sound like Leadership 101, a dispersed team needs help understanding the company’s vision, the purpose of the project, and behind-the-scenes information they miss by working at a distance from the home office. Teams need to know exactly how they are expected to collaborate. Remember, working remotely, while offering fantastic benefits to both employees and organizations, can provoke feelings of isolation and disconnection.

As part of creating context, set clear and measurable performance goals and make sure your team understands how those goals figure into the project and the organization’s plans as a whole.

It’s on you, as their leader, to help the members of the group connect the dots, get to know you and each other and feel like part of a team, working together toward a common purpose.

Communicate, Maybe Even Over-Communicate

Communication is one of the first things to go in a virtual team setting. The inability to read non-verbal clues presents hurdles to dispersed team members that don’t exist for in-person teams. It’s all too easy to misunderstand a text or email because virtual communication lacks the non-verbal clues we get from face-to-face interaction. It’s better when communication is through video chatting tools like Skype or Slack.

Since 55 percent of communication is non-verbal, 38 percent is para-verbal (how you sound), and 7 percent is verbal, removing 93 percent of the context of communication forces a disproportionate dependence onto the verbal spoken word. Also, physical distance can contribute to avoidance of conflict, and it’s easier to default to “dealing with it later” if an exchange was tense or unclear. If you don’t handle a conflict proactively, unresolved negativity can fester.

So set up the ground rules with regular check-ins using a video conferencing tool. And make a point of meeting face-to-face at least once during the project–that contact will increase your team’s productivity by as much as 50 percent. Remember this guideline: Make a point of intentionally connecting with the people on your team three times as often as you do with the people you see spontaneously in the office. This effort will pay off for you in increased engagement and strong connections with each of your team members.

I like to remind people of the ten times rule: phone calls are ten times more effective than email (or text), and face-to-face communication is ten times more effective than a phone call. So just remember, “ten times, ten times, ten times” on the communication front.

Cultivate Community and Respect

We all work better when we feel like we are part of something larger. In addition to creating context, cultivate a feeling of community for your team. Develop a strategy to pull each of the team members into the group and then cement that feeling of community by acknowledging the team’s efforts and celebrating its successes. Work to develop a feeling of trust between you and your team and between the team members themselves. Building trust in virtual teams involves two different types of trust: cognitive (in team members’ heads) and affective (in team members’ hearts.)

Take the time to nurture these new relationships and try to understand what motivates each of your employees to perform well. Ask them what they consider appropriate incentives, and what aspects of the project they find compelling.

Make a point of being accessible to the team, and allow one-on-one time for each of your employees. Be considerate of their obligations, work commitments, and especially the time zones they are working in. Set meetings and calls as thoughtfully as your own schedule allows, and include group meetings on a regular basis as a way of touching base and offering encouragement.

Ask your team for feedback. What works for them? What isn’t working? What can you improve or create differently? If you encourage feedback and listen thoughtfully, not only will you learn important information about your employees and the project, but you may also find new leaders within the group; people you can work with and those you may promote for future leadership roles.

Be respectful of the individual group members and the team as a whole. This feeling of respect and community will go a long way toward building trust, and engagement, from a team that takes pride in delivering top-notch performances.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com

Photo: Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Bridging Cultures: The Missing Link in Your Agile Transformation

Bridging-cultures

Note: I am honored to share this post on my blog, written by Karl Ostroski and my colleague, Alice Leong, and first published on Medium.com.

Agile transformations require trust and many small, thoughtful iterations to succeed. When teams struggle to communicate, you may need to dive deep into what might be the underlying issue.

The team from Mexico doesn’t know what they’re doing.

That wasn’t true, but it was the first thought that came to mind. The project was to transform our primary operation and billing system to meet the legal and business needs in Mexico. It worked for us, so it should work for them with some minor tweaks. We followed agile development principles, made several on-site visits and had gotten nothing but a unanimous “Vamanos” from our colleagues in Mexico. That’s why, after months of work, we were shocked when we had to roll back the project. Upon review, we missed over 40 show-stopper requirements. What went wrong — and why? We realized that what we tried to do was akin to taking a well-read book in English and translating it into Spanish — it misses the mark.

While the usual technical and personality nuances were involved, we quickly recognized a bigger problem in our approach: we didn’t take into account that there may be cultural differences in communication styles or in how members interacted with authority. We took a very American approach with the team. We assumed that everyone knew they were empowered to express disagreements and risks openly and that activities would follow a plan-do-check-adjust process as we moved along. This was not the norm for our counterparts in Mexico. Since the US team had not solicited their input in a way that aligned to their cultural style, the Mexico-based team did not bring up the many project warning signs they had uncovered.

“We quickly recognized a bigger problem in our approach: we didn’t take into account that there may be cultural differences.”

We need to anticipate better how cultural differences affect communication styles closer to home, too. On another project driven by a Chicago-based team, a scrum master asked our Chicago-based South Asian colleagues if we could expand the scope and still complete our sprint. After hearing “Vinoth and I will work on that,” everyone assumed the question was answered and shared with senior leadership that we were on track. At the end of the sprint, the team lead was shocked to find out that the work wasn’t completed. Not only that, the entire team eventually realized that it would take three more sprints to get it done. Here again, we didn’t consider the potential significance of cultural differences.

In the US, direct conversations are common. When we hear someone is “working on that,” we assume it will be done and, if issues come up, someone will let us know. Where was the disconnect? Don’t we all want to get the task done and done quickly? In many cultures, there is a higher value placed on relational harmony than on the task. Telling a manager, you can’t get something done could result in the loss of the manager’s confidence and jeopardize the relationship. Similarly, bringing up unsolicited issues to the manager may be perceived as insubordination. Could we have done a better job clarifying our understanding of next steps and timelines?

As intercultural communications expert Craig Storti points out in Speaking of India: Bridging the Communication Gap, there are ways to navigate these conversations, but it requires skill and cultural awareness to do so. Just because you can speak a common language doesn’t mean you have the same perspectives or values. Have you ever wondered why someone didn’t speak up in a meeting? Why they’re not responding with the same sense of urgency as you? Cultural backgrounds may be at that heart of those differences.

The Agile Manifesto states that we should value “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” Think of each individual or interaction on your team as an iceberg: what is underneath the surface influences what we say and do. On the surface, we see only our team member’s behaviors and overt communications; without understanding some of the experiences and values that drive the individual’s perspectives, you may miss a critical piece of the person’s work and communication style. It takes some deep diving to get the whole picture.

Bridging-cultures

Photo by Alexander Hafemann on Unsplash

Key research indicates a link between culture and communication style. Geert Hofstede, a much-referenced anthropologist, and sociologist of culture published his seminal research¹ on the dimensions of cross-cultural communications, their effect on behavior, and their application in international business. Anuradha Sutharshan, in her graduate research at Edith Cowan University, incorporates Hofstede’s framework to demonstrate how this affects the implementation of agile methodologies across cultures. Sutharshan’s work aligns with the Cultural Intelligence Center’s research and Hofstede’s¹ framework to link how key cultural values and dimensions impact the effective application of agile principles.

As one example of how dominant cultural values influence teams, let’s look at how Relationship to Authority (also known as the Power Distance Indicator, or PDI) aligns to agile principles. To interpret the PDI, the higher the index number, the higher the deference to authority. The lower the index, the greater the emphasis on equality among individuals and a greater willingness to expressing one’s own opinions.

Bridging-Cultures-chart

Based on this graphic, one may generalize that individuals in the US are more comfortable engaging with other team members as equals, whereas individuals in India and Mexico focus more on obtaining direction or approval from leadership. A deference to leadership may increase complexity and time for decision making which is counter to agile principles. This doesn’t mean high PDI countries are unable to work within an agile framework — it just means consideration of cultural styles needs to be built into the agile transformation process.

“Culture is not just dictated by what country issues your passport.”

You may be saying to yourself, “We don’t work internationally, so that’s not really a factor.” While geographic, cultural distinctions were noted in the examples above, challenges arise even in teams from the same location and department. Culture is not just dictated by what country issues your passport. It is much broader than that. Departments have “cultures” which drive their values (e.g., Finance — ROI, fiscal responsibility; Operations — process efficiency; IT — data integrity/integration). Generational perspectives influence communication preferences or work style (e.g., email, phone, instant messaging; traditional waterfall or agile project framework). Competing values and styles in our examples reduced productivity and suboptimized outcomes. We’ll examine other cultural factors in a subsequent post.

So where do you go from here? First, recognize that culture may be a factor. Start asking questions, pick up a book, or spend extended time being part of a group with which you’re not in sync. Dig into the culture to understand those values affecting your project. Second, if you notice your teams are comprised of members from different corporate, department, ethnic, or geographic cultures, consider using a cultural assessment tool such as the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Assessment to learn how well your team is at engaging across cultural differences.

Guest Authors

Karl Ostroski is a Consultant in Slalom’s Business Advisory Service practice and is based in Chicago. He’s been delivering successful IT changes around the world for over a decade. Certified in Scrum, SAFe, and CQ, Karl loves helping cross-cultural teams drive success. Follow him on Twitter: @karlostroski

Alice Leong is a Consultant in Slalom’s Business Advisory Service practice and is based in Chicago. She has extensive experience establishing and leading cultural transformation initiatives for global companies across different industries. Her focus is on coaching companies to leverage the power of diverse teams across their organizations.

A version of this post was first published on Medium.

Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash, and  Alexander Hafemann on Unsplash

References

¹Hofstede, Geert. (1991). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. London, UK: McGraw-Hill

Gift Ideas for the International Jet-Setter

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Secrets of buying for the most difficult gift recipients.

My nephews have every kids’ dream–they’re from a family of mixed religions, so they celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas. Needless to say, they get a lot of presents. So many, in fact, that they often forget to even open them all.

Thus, it’s often hard for me to give gifts that they will find special amongst the plethora of Xbox games, sports equipment, and train sets they receive. Last year, though, I nailed it.

I was in South Africa and saw these handmade drums. They were beautiful, so I knew they wouldn’t be stuffed in a closet by their parents but instead put on display. And, they were functional. I could see the boys having jam sessions for hours. And, (bonus!) the money I spent went back to help a local community in South Africa.

I’m sure we all have those people that are difficult to buy for–including family, friends, colleagues, and clients. Instead of trying to buy the latest gadget or trend, try opting for something with meaning, sends a message, or has a positive impact.

Here are a few international gift-giving hints for the notoriously most challenging people to buy for.

People who have everything.

People who have everything don’t need more stuff, so don’t even try.

Instead, give a gift that gives back. Here are a couple of ideas–give a microloan in that person’s name. You can loan a small amount of money to someone in a developing country to help jumpstart their business.

A hundred dollars can help a woman in Africa, for example, open a store in her community. The recipients have to pay the loan back over time, but the small amount can make a huge difference in helping them self-sustain.

You can also make a donation on someone’s behalf to a cause they care about or to a charity that supports global issues such as Oxfam or Children International.

Gifts for people who care.

Many people are becoming more aware of where their goods are coming from and are careful not to support unfair labor practices or production that negatively impacts the environment. Thankfully, it’s easier now more than ever to consume responsibly.

There are many companies out there that share where their products are sourced and have a mission to not harm the environment, like Uncommon Goods, for example.

Also, most cities have stores that only sell sustainable and organic products. (I love my hometown of Phoenix’s Local Nomad shop which sells jewelry, clothes, and collectibles). Go this route, and you’ll feel good instead of guilt with the things you buy.

Gifts for the people who want unusual things.

Not everyone wants to be part of the latest trend. They want something that’s unique and different.

To get ideas, tap into the experiences of your friends who travel. Ask them what they’re seeing on their trips that may be popular in other cultures or indigenous to other lands. If they’re close enough friends, they may even be able to make some purchases for you that you can reimburse them for later.

Gifts for the globetrotter.

Speaking of people who travel a lot–it seems like they can get anything they want since they seem to go everywhere.

Instead of trying to dazzle them with something unique, make what they do more pleasant.

This holiday, I’m giving essential oil sniffers as stocking stuffers to my fellow global travelers to help revive themselves when crossing many time zones. Other ideas include lightweight travel blankets, compact luggage, and silky soft pillowcases. Check out this past post for more ideas.

Gifts for everyone.

Finally, food is always a crowd pleaser. To add a twist, go international.

Shop at a local foreign restaurant or food market to assemble a basket of interesting treats from around the world. I like to hit a local Mexican restaurant to share with friends the Mexican Christmas tradition of tamales (knowing they can enjoy them during the holidays or freeze for later). Even chains like Trader Joe’s feature special European cookies and chocolates that you can sort and share with colleagues or clients.

When in doubt, go for the stomach. Food is a gift that is universally enjoyed. It can be fun, neutral, and shareable.

Make this holiday season special, fun and unique with gifts that give back or presents with a multicultural flair. Your colleagues, friends, and family will appreciate the extra effort and thought put into your holiday giving.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Five Friday Highlights: Traditions and Stereotypes

Global Stereotypes

Our world changes rapidly. Despite these accelerated changes, some deep-rooted global stereotypes persist as society evolves around them. Such is the case in this week’s selections. Venezuela and Brazil struggle to find lost power while stereotypes remain entrenched in Africa and Japan. Finally, a look at the world’s cities with the best work-life balance.

Venezuela Burning by Danielle DiMartino Booth explores the history behind Venezuela’s current crisis state. She asks, “How has Venezuela spiraled so far out of control in the wake of the commodities supercycle that built modern-day China, one that filled the coffers of resource-rich exporters worldwide?”

Challenging Africa’s Albino Stereotypes from the BBC explained the obstacles to acceptance people with albinism face in Africa. One woman (Celestine Mutinda) said, “Some of us are scared of walking along the streets of Nairobi. Sometimes while walking some people do say ‘this is money’. They believe that albinos can be sold. Some albinos end up isolating themselves because of discrimination.”

Adult Adoption in Japan from The Economist explains mukoyōshi, a practice almost unknown outside of Japan. This practice is one in which grown men are adopted by the families of the women they marry. This keeps the family line from ending and therefore prolongs their place in the business world. Read this fascinating article to learn about the 90% of adoptees in Japan: adults.

Finally, let’s learn about The 13 Cities With the Best Work-Life Balance in the World from Business Insider. Want to know which cities have the best balance between work and leisure time? Then this is the article for you! You’ll need to read it yourself to find out who is number one, but I’ll give you one hint: if you want great work-life balance, you’d better like Europe!

Have you read something this week that gave you a new perspective on another country? Email me to let me know!

Image Credit: 123rf/everythingpossible

Five Friday Highlights: Hours, Wages, and Interculturalism

Global Working Conditions

When choosing this week’s highlights, I was reminded of the wide gulf in global working conditions. Some workers in Sweden are getting an opportunity to work 6-hour days with no cut in pay, while exhausted workers in China sleep at their desks (with permission) and others in Russia have not been paid in months. The last two articles are broader: a primer on how to disagree in other cultures and thoughts about the impact of female leaders on emerging markets. I hope these selections give you deeper insight into the world around us.

By traveling throughout so many countries, I am fortunate to have a front seat to many workplace experiments, such as manipulating the number of hours per week employees are required to work. In The Six-hour Workday Works in Sweden. But What About in Workaholic North America? from the Financial Post, I was most intrigued not by the specifics of the way the government-funded experiment to shorten workdays would increase productivity, but by the rigorous data collection and investigative integrity. Without outcome data, no decisions will be made that benefit the Swedish workforce as a whole (or workforces in other countries).

It no longer surprises me to see images of workers asleep at desks or in designated rest areas as described in China Tech Workers Asleep on the Job – With the Boss’s Blessing from Reuters. I was intrigued not just by the accommodations made for issues related to work conditions (employees who sleep at the office to avoid hours-long commutes two ways each day), but by the potential productivity benefits (“For technology, it’s more of a brain activity. Workers need time to find inspiration”) and the pitfalls (“My kid misses me, I get home and he lunges at me like a small wolf,” Liu said, speaking about his three-year-old son who he only sees on weekends. “That makes me feel a bit guilty.”).

Work hours and rest accommodations are one labor condition related issue but an utter failure to be compensated is a different and more harmful problem. In Russia’s Car Workers Who Struggle On No Pay from the BBC, the author profiles employees whose salaries are being withheld by hundreds of small and large companies. “The explanations may differ: mismanagement, bad economy or plain criminality,” explains the article, “but for workers the end result is the same.”

Taking a higher level view of working globally, I found The Secret to Disagreeing With People in 20 Countries from the Washington Post both accurate and thorough. The featured chart “combines two different scales. The first scale looks at how emotionally expressive people in that culture tend to be.” The second scale “measures how confrontational people in a culture tend to be.”

Finally, as an interculturalist who also specializes in gender work, Women in Leadership Dominate Emerging Markets … And It Pays Off from Forbes was a perfect dovetailing of my two interests! The author shares, “In my global search for quality investments, I stumbled on a trend that should be good for everybody….as competent women take more leadership roles, it should raise the bar for everybody, and provide a fresh – and profitable – prospective.”

Have you read something this week that gave you deeper insight into another culture or way of doing business? Email me to let me know!

Image Credit: 123rf/Kirill Cherezov

 

Five Friday Highlights: Joy, Fear, and New Cultures

Learning New Cultures

When you decide to visit a new country, is your initial sentiment joy or fear? Maybe a combination of both? For some people, of course, it’s not really their decision. As organizations become more global, work-related international moves are becoming more common. For person doing the moving, though, “common” may not be the first word that comes to mind! Today, five selections about people’s experiences with other cultures, some short-term and others more permanent.

As organizations become more global, international moves are more common. But for the person moving, “common” isn’t how it feels! {TWEET THIS}

Let’s start with one individual’s experience and expand into larger groups of people. In Introverts, Arriving Early, and my German Adventure, author Jennifer Kahnweiler shares her takeaways from her recent business trip to Germany. She was impressed by the vigorous attention given to debating all sides of issues (and how disagreement was not to be taken personally).

Every international trip I embark on transforms me and this one was no exception. – Jennifer Kahnweiler

Speaking of transformation, when workers move to a new country and must assimilate into a new culture, transformative interactions are sure to take place! In 5 Ways to Acclimate Multinational Employees from Talent Management, activities to enhance workers’ abilities of “self advocacy, ownership, speaking up, facilitating meetings and knowing what topics are safe for their work environments” are presented.

Trading Persian Tea for Seattle Coffee from The Atlantic is a detailed look at how the Iranian community in Seattle established their lives (and livelihoods) while also staying true to their heritage.

A tree cannot stand without the roots…and I cannot be excited as a proud American if I’m not proud of where I came from. – Ali Ghambari

The 70 executives consulted for Leading Across Cultures: The Five Secrets of the World’s Top CEOs from The Guardian have undoubtedly encountered their fair share of intercultural issues in the workplace! One of the five secrets is fearlessness, with the author asking “Are you comfortable being uncomfortable? Do you like situations where there’s no road map or compass?” My travels have confirmed that — embracing the risk of inserting yourself into a new situation is often difficult but almost always worth the risk!

Sometimes, it is possible to cross cultural lines without actually going anywhere, and to do it in a way that divides instead of uniting. A Point of View: When Does Borrowing From Other Cultures Become ‘Appropriation’? from BBC News, is an opinion piece on the evolution of political correctness. Citing incidents such as a 2015 “Kimono Wednesday” issue at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts when an activity designed to engage people led to protests over perceived cultural insensitivity, the author concludes “appropriation is far more often empowering than oppressing.” What do you think? Email me here to let me know!

Image credit: 123rf/scanrail

How to Self-promote (Globally) Without Being Obnoxious

Global Self Promotion

Nowadays, self-promotion is almost synonymous with getting ahead. It can show your boss you’re ready for more opportunities. When done right, it can show your team you’re their advocate.

Doing it should be a dedicated task, particularly in large global organizations. People don’t know what you’re up to and what you’ve accomplished unless you tell them. This can be true, in some cases, even with your immediate boss and team.

You need to create opportunities for visibility. {TWEET THIS}

But the global aspect of our business world can be a double-edged sword. While it makes it a must to promote your work, it also makes it tricky to do so. Different cultures view self-promotion differently. In the U.S., people tend to admire the “skill” of being self-confident and the ability to tout your own successes. In Europe, on the other hand, self-promotion can be seen as distasteful. If you’re going to boast, you better boast about how your actions benefited others. In Asia, the collectivist mindset means self-promotion is more akin to talking about the accomplishments of the team and company overall.

Because most of us are working globally, we need to master the art of self-promotion so that it’s done in a way that is tasteful, increases our credibility, and makes ourselves, teams, and bosses look good across cultures.

So, here are three ways to do that:

Focus on results. When speaking of your success or actions, talk about the impact on your team. How many customers did you attract? How much money was made? What changes, developments, or innovations were caused because of what you and your team worked on?

Create opportunity for visibility. Write articles, blogs, or make videos about you, your team or company’s success. Look for speaking opportunities on panels or at conferences to talk about what you did. Conferences, in particular, love to hear real-world examples from people in the trenches.

Don’t forget to network. Consider spending 10-20 percent of your time on targeted networking. Targeted networking means you identify those useful to your career, team, or boss, and create opportunities to link up. Invite them to team meetings, host events, have lunches and happy hours, and spend time chatting.

The global nature of our business world has lent itself to flatter structures which means we can no longer rely on top management to do the promotion of individuals and teams. We need to be advocates for ourselves. So get comfortable and learn the authentic, genuine ways to promote the good work you and your team are doing.

Image Credit: ryanking999 / 123RF Stock Photo

Don’t Forget About Cultural Diversity

There’s a lot of talk today about unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion, and how to successfully go global, especially hyper-growth companies. However, with all this talk, an important specific discussion point is being pushed aside—that of cultural diversity.

This is a mistake.

Very likely your business or organization is made up of people from different cultures, is located in multiple countries, and/or has customers from diverse cultural backgrounds. In today’s business world, we need to address cultural diversity head on. If we don’t, the success of our organizations could slip out of reach.

Here are three cultural dimensions for you to be aware of that can cause challenges in cross cultural teamwork.

Process- or results-oriented. The way we set goals and work to achieve them differs depending on culture. If a culture is process-oriented, that means they have a carefully thought out plan in place and understand how they are going to achieve the goal before they start moving towards it. If a culture is results-oriented, the plan or even the results may change as they work to achieve them—which is okay because it is all part of a greater vision.

Cultures such as American or Israeli are more results-oriented whereas cultures such as German or Russian are more process-oriented. There are pros and cons to both. Being a results-oriented person, one could get results faster but not to the level of quality of a process-oriented individual. On the flip side, being process-oriented may be more thorough and higher quality, but slower in execution than a results-oriented person.

Time-controlled and -uncontrolled. The way cultures view time is not uniform. Some cultures, such as the Swiss, view time as something that can be controlled. (I mean they make watches!) Other cultures, such as India, see it as something that is more flexible. For cultures in which time cannot be controlled, people take priority. For example, in these cultures, if you bump into a friend on the way to a meeting—you talk to that friend. Spontaneity plays a role. Deadlines are flexible. Schedules vary. In cultures where time is controlled, you tell that friend that you need to catch them later—you have a meeting to get to! Time is linear. Schedules are rigid.

High and Low Hierarchy. The org chart is higher or flatter depending on where you’re doing business. In high hierarchy cultures, the manager or supervisor is the expert and isn’t to be questioned. The culture is much more directive and hands-on. There’s less initiative and debate. In low hierarchy cultures, the manager and individuals of the team collaborate, they share thoughts, and debate questions. I’m reminded of a French manager I consulted with who was leading a team in Mexico, a high hierarchy culture. He asked one of the team members to present problems to the team related to a project. Soon after, the team member disappeared and eventually left the job. This was because he thought this act would be an insult to his boss and put his job on the line. Whereas, in reality, the manager—who comes from a low-hierarchy culture—merely wanted his expertise.

While these differences are profound, when you work to bridge and balance them, great synergy can arise. In fact, having a multicultural team with diverse perspectives is a rich breeding ground for innovation to meet the needs of the global marketplace. So, stop pushing the topic of cultural diversity aside. It is time to talk about our differences!