A Collection of proLearning Blogs
Managing Across Culture: Your Style or Mine?
One of the many things that differs from culture to culture is the notion of managing and management style. What makes a good manager? What makes a good direct report? When manager and staff are from the same culture, they usually have similar answers to these two questions. When they come from different cultures, they may not be on the same page, which can pose real challenges for such managers and also for the HR professionals who support them.
As exhibits A and B of the impact of culture on management, consider these two exchanges. Note that in the first exchange, Ravi reports to Sharon; in the second, Sharon reports to Ravi.
SHARON: How is the data analysis going, Ravi?
RAVI: It’s finished, ma’am. We can start on the report anytime now.
SHARON: Good. How long do you think it will take?
SHARON: To write the report.
RAVI: I couldn’t say, ma’am.
SHARON: You don’t know how long it will take?
RAVI: When would you like it, ma’am?
SHARON: Well, I want to give you enough time to do a good job.
RAVI: We’ll do a good job, ma’am.
RAVI: How is the data analysis going, Sharon?
SHARON: The analysis? Oh, I finished that last week. I’m almost done with the report now.
RAVI: You finished the analysis last week?
SHARON: Right. That was the deadline we agreed to.
RAVI: But I haven’t seen your analysis yet.
SHARON: No. I think it makes more sense if you get the analysis and the report together. Besides, I knew you were really busy last week with those visitors from the UK.
RAVI: I might have had some suggestions.
SHARON: Excellent! I can’t wait to hear what they are.
RAVI: I’m sure.
In the first exchange, Sharon, a typical North American, hands-off manager, is expecting her direct report to take responsibility—to take ownership—of a task she has apparently delegated to him: to analyze some data and then write a report. Typically, she would have outlined the work in a general way and then let Ravi take it from there, assuming he’ll come back to her if he needs guidance or support or has questions. The understanding, in short, would be that she’s “there” for him whenever he needs her, but she’s not going to check in all the time and “micro-manage” him.
Her understanding, perhaps, but probably not his. Ravi is used to a more traditional Indian style of management where bosses do not delegate as completely as many western managers do and where micro-managing is often the norm. Ravi could very well assume that it’s not his place to make these decisions about the report, that Sharon would expect him to check in with her after he completes the analysis to get her feedback and any input she might have before proceeding (because that’s how this would work in a lot of Indian companies). In the end each speaker is disappointed by the behaviour of the other: Sharon because Ravi requires too much managing; Ravi because Sharon doesn’t manage closely enough.
In the second exchange the tables are turned; the North American Sharon now reports to an Indian manager, and in this dynamic the Indian may be more of a hands-on manager and not be pleased that Sharon is taking so much ownership and making so many independent decisions. Ravi wants to manage Sharon a bit more, and Sharon assumes the less Ravi has to manage her the happier he will be.
I was once asked to coach an Indian manager in Calgary who was on the verge of being dismissed by his company. He was born in India but had spent his entire work life in the Middle East where he had performed very well for the company. A few months after his move to Calgary, his all-Canadian team began complaining about him, saying things like: “He doesn’t trust us.” “He’s always questioning our decisions.” “He’s always interfering.” In discussions with senior management and with this man’s staff, (we’ll call him Ravi), it was obvious he was applying a more Indian management style in a North American setting. Ravi’s employer was surprised because Ravi had never actually worked in India, but it turned out that in the Middle East he had only ever managed other Indians.
I took as my assumption for this coaching assignment that Ravi wanted to succeed in his new working environment, and once that was affirmed my strategy had three parts: (1) to help Ravi understand how he was being perceived by his staff (not very favourably); (2) to ask him if he was satisfied with these perceptions (he was not); and (3) to show him where these perceptions were coming from and how he could change them. Thus, we embarked on raising Ravi’s awareness of cultural differences in management style. In due time he understood how his style was clashing with Canadian norms and began to make the necessary changes in his behaviour to succeed in Canada.
The lessons of this story for HR professionals are: (1) that every culture is going to have its own version of the Good Manager; and (2) that if individuals from one culture want to succeed as managers in another, they will need to become aware of any cultural differences. And once they are aware, they will then see what changes they may have to make to be successful in their new work environment.
Whether or not they are willing—and whether they are able—to make such changes will depend on the individuals. HR can play a critical role here by helping the Ravis of the world understand whether and how well their management style fits in the new culture, and then provide support (a mentor, a coach, cultural training) for any changes the manager needs to make. But before HR folks can do any of this, they themselves need to be aware of and attuned to how culture influences management style. This is yet another example of how in management, as in so many other activities, one size does not fit all.
This article was written by Craig Storti, a nationally known expert in the field of intercultural communications who heads up proLearning innovations’ Intercultural Programs Department.
Recruitment and Cultural fit
Cultural fit is critical when hiring new employees. The candidate you are considering for a particular role may have the perfect skill set, knowledge and expertise, as well as years of experience to meet the specifications of the position for which you are hiring. But you might still be hesitant about their fit within your organization.
No matter how perfect the match on paper, finding a candidate with an upbeat, positive personality may well outweigh the job spec and be the critical component for long-term success. A mismatched personality can quickly lead to a costly disaster and negatively impact the team. Whether you are hiring for a technical, marketing, admin, or sales role, first impressions are lasting impressions. That initial phone screening can speak volumes.
The phone interview is the perfect tool for examining a potential new hire’s fit within your company culture. That initial screening call should be used to assess character and personality to ensure the right fit. Following are some positive personality attributes to look out for on that first call:
- Upbeat personality
- Thirst for knowledge and asks the right questions
- Positive attitude
- Friendly demeanor
- A good listener who responds directly to the questions asked
- Gets to the point without overselling themselves
- Demonstrates flexibility by being open to change
The personality that builds a healthy rapport with you through an initial conversation will stand out above the crowd.
The next time you are hesitant about a candidate, evaluate their personality traits with a critical eye. Remind yourself that pairing the right candidate (someone with the right attitude and personality) with your company’s culture is just as important – if not more – than skills and expertise.
For more information about other ways to determine if a potential candidate is the right fit for your organization, and to assist you to find the best candidates, contact proLearning innovations at 647-847-1853 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our recruitment services. Our experienced recruiters can train your staff on how to source and hire the right person, or can do the work for you if time and/or resources are limited.
The Language of Appreciation in the Workplace
With so many employee recognition programs and public ‘pats on the back’ in the workplace – why is it that the number of unhappy and unfulfilled employees is still on the rise?
Research indicates that human beings respond best to having appreciation expressed to them in a way that is unique and truly meaningful to them. “Employee Appreciation Days” or a “Good job!” in the weekly department meeting simply doesn’t work for the majority of people. Not to mention many employees would rather not be recognized at all than be singled out in a meeting or public setting for a job well done.
Statistics show that 79% of employees who quit their job cite lack of appreciation, not lack of compensation, as the reason. And well, over half polled stated that they had not received any recognition or appreciation in the last 12 months whatsoever.
Understanding how employees best receive expressions of appreciation based on their own unique personality is a sure fire way help them be more effective in their jobs. This also helps improve overall staff morale. Individual expressions of appreciation include words of recognition, quality time, tangible gifts, acts of service, and appropriate physical touch.
Ignoring this important fact leads to a host of problems in the workplace, including unmotivated employees, cynicism, poor productivity, strained work relationships and an overall negative environment, to name just a few.
Cultivating a healthy and successful working environment starts with understanding and implementing meaningful ways to say “thank you.” We help our clients do this by teaching them how to determine what each individual employee needs to raise their spirits, motivate them to succeed and fulfill their need to feel valued.
To learn more about our unique Appreciation at Work workshop, click here or call us at 647-847-1853. Let us help you understand how you can create a highly motivated and dedicated workforce that willingly does whatever it takes to ensure both individual and organizational success.
You Can’t Say That !
At our upcoming 2015 Best Practices Leadership Summit, our keynote workshop will focus on how to work more effectively with and manage employees from different cultures. As most of us work in highly culturally diverse workplaces and/or work with global teams (it is not unusual to have 25 or more cultures in one workplace!), this is area of concern and relevance for many.
The following is written by Craig Storti, a nationally known expert in the field of intercultural communications who heads up proLearning innovations’ Intercultural Programs Department. Take a moment to read it to understand how he justifies the practice of generalizing in order to help ensure both employees and managers thrive in a multi-cultural workplace.
An occupational hazard in my field, usually referred to as the field of intercultural communications, is the practice of generalizing. And the problem with generalizing, a perfectly legitimate activity, is that it feels uncomfortably close to and is often confused with another, quite unsavory activity – stereotyping. While these are in fact two very different activities, the terms are often used interchangeably, and the latter has understandably given the former a very bad name. So much so that otherwise clever and savvy trainers, HR professionals, and, come to think of it, anyone who oversees or works with a multicultural workforce—are all a bit wary of the whole cultural conversation because they don’t know how to talk about culture, about distinct groups, without generalizing.
And they’re right. It isn’t possible to talk meaningfully about culture and cultural differences—the shared values, mindset, and, to a lesser extent, the attitudinal and behavioural predispositions of a particular group or subgroup of people—without making sweeping general statements. Scores of excellent books do it all the time, and any honest practitioner will tell you that to deliver effective cultural training, you have to venture far out onto the slippery slope of generalizing. And before you know it you’re fending off charges of stereotyping.
So what are we to do, we who aspire to help people of different nationalities understand their differences and work together more effectively? We who aspire to making the world a better place by showing people how to bridge the cultural gaps that divide us?
The first thing we should do is to clearly distinguish between generalizing and stereotyping, and then not be afraid of the former, while studiously avoiding the latter.
The essential difference is that while generalizing confines its observations to distinct groups of people with broadly shared characteristics, stereotyping is making judgments—positive and negative—about individuals based on previous experiences with their type. To put it another way, while we can safely make general statements about the Chinese or the Germans, let’s say, we cannot safely make generalizations about any particular Chinese or German national.
As long as we realize the limitations of generalizations, that they only apply to groups and not to individuals, then they are a useful way of categorizing information. In making cultural generalizations, it’s usually a good idea to bring up the bell curve and note that while a particular generalization may apply to a lot of people in the middle of any given curve, it will not apply to whole swaths of folks on the right and left side of the bulge. And it will not always apply to anyone anywhere along the curve.
Workplace Engagement & Morale
Earlier this year, proLearning innovations began working with a client who had a unique problem – their public approval rating for delivered services was 98% while their internal survey indicated employee satisfaction at 60%.
What was particularly interesting about this situation was that in spite of dissatisfaction on the part of so many employees, due to their extraordinary work ethic, employees continued to deliver exemplary service. One employee summed it up by saying “the client deserves it.”
Management quite rightly realized that if nothing was done to address the employee morale issues, ultimately both customer service and the bottom line would be impacted. In fact, there was already evidence of emerging troubles – they did not get even one response to a recent job posting. Talk about the tremendous impact of company brand once unhappy employees start spreading the word!
To deal with this serious situation, I assigned one of my highly experienced facilitators, Brian McCulloch, to work with this client. My gut told me that Brian would be the right choice due to his extraordinary ability to gain the trust of both employees and managers, and his past success working with organizations with staff morale challenges.
Part of Brian’s success to date is due to his use of a very powerful tool that has worked wonders in situations like this. This tool, entitled Lumina Spark, helps participants gain tremendous insight into behaviour preferences and “differences” – theirs as well as others they work with. In almost all cases, the result is a significant positive shift in the workplace due to improved communication within and between colleagues/teams, more effective and open communication, a greater understanding and acceptance of others, and far more effective managers, to name just a few.
I am delighted to report that based on the outcome of this intervention, the results were exactly as we had hoped. The Lumina tool was instrumental in this success in that it helped employees at all levels of the organization:
- Better understand their reactions and behaviour in various situations, as well as the reactions and behaviours of others
- Adjust their approach to adapt to the other person or situation
- Control their emotions in order to have outcome-based, collaborative conversations
A small sample of the positive comments from the participants included:
- “I enjoyed learning about the colour “personalities” and learning what others expect from the employees. Thanks for coming”.
- “It was great to get everything out on the table. Interesting on the colour chart character evaluation, with how you see yourself and how your peers see you as well. Overall, a great experience”.
- “I liked learning about different people’s energy colours. It made me think about different ways to react with co-workers and how to deal with them better”.
Based on the honest, passionate and thoughtful discussions that took place during this initial workshop (including an information-gathering exercise focusing on issues within the workplace that accounted for the initial concerning employee survey results), Brian put together a solid Plan for moving forward. The objective of this Plan is to ensure the organization continues to move in the right direction. Accordingly, this Plan included the need for further work to be done in the areas of leadership development, performance management, respect in the workplace and team building. Based on the success of the first workshop, all suggestions were readily accepted by the President.
Since we began working with this company, employees are reporting that morale is up. Employees will once again be asked to complete a survey once we have moved further along in our Plan to ensure that our objectives are being met, which is to ultimately attain a 98% satisfaction rate on the part of both employees and customers. Based on anecdotal evidence to date, we appear to be well on our way to meeting that objective.
Look out for future blogs where we focus on companies with particularly interesting HR challenges. Learn about the steps we took to move organizations from dysfunctional, segmented, and largely unproductive silos into highly functioning, cohesive and more successful organizations.
If you are interested in knowing more about Lumina and/or other ways we can help your organization reach its full potential, please contact us at email@example.com or call us at 647-847-1853.
Doing Things Right
Peter Drucker famously stated that “management is doing things right; but leadership is doing the right things.” Over the years, I have worked for, worked with and was privileged to have been mentored by individuals I would consider excellent leaders. Without the invaluable guidance and support of these esteemed individuals, I am certain I would not have achieved the professional success and satisfaction I enjoy today.
Great leaders possess a number of common characteristics. Based on my experience with great leaders I have been privileged to work with, the following are just a few examples.
Great leaders are not afraid of change, nor do they seek out change just for the sake of change. Instead, great leaders have an uncanny ability to determine, often through feedback from colleagues who feel comfortable speaking their mind, what is working and what is not.
Based on this rich information, a great leader takes whatever steps are necessary to improve the situation. And because of the trust they have gained from others, any suggested plan of action is welcomed with far less trepidation than if made by a leader they did not have the same degree of respect for.
Great leaders also have the ability to identify and focus on what really matters instead of getting lost in a maze of far less relevant activities and details. Their ability to do this results in the achievement of results in shorter time as valuable time and resources are not wasted.
Finally, great leaders truly care about others and recognize the importance of each individual contribution. While attaining individual and organizational goals are of prime importance, great leaders recognize that in order to achieve goals, they need to draw on the expertise and skills of others who likely have diverse views and approaches. In other words, HOW these individuals achieve goals sets apart a good leader from a great one, and helps to ensure desired results both in the short and long run.
There are of course, a number of other characteristics that define a great leader. I look forward to discussing these in my next blog.
Please take a moment to share any leadership characteristics you feel are some of the most important ones based on your past experience both with great leaders, and equally importantly, with leaders you felt lacked key leadership capabilities.
Getting the Most From Your Employees – A Recipe for Success
Company success or failure depends on a variety of factors, all of which affect the bottom line. An organization that is floundering or stalled does not create confidence in the market, which makes investors unhappy.
Based on our years of experience helping organizations large and small enhance their success in the marketplace, some of the most common issues that result in less than desirable outcomes are:
- poor hiring decisions,
- staff retention issues,
- poor or ineffective communication,
- interpersonal conflict,
- ineffective performance management processes,
- lack of accountability,
- an “exclusive” workplace,
- conflict with suppliers.
The following is an example of one of the more complex organizational situations we were brought in to help resolve.
One of the two branches of a particular organization (located in different countries) had not produced a profit in the past two years. To better understand what was causing this situation, we facilitated individual and group conversations with each member of the leadership team. It quickly became evident that a change in strategic direction was needed to address uncertainty around the mandate and direction of the company, as this was leading to many of the challenges the organization was experiencing.
What made this situation somewhat different than other companies we had worked with in the past was the impact of racial differences within this organization. Not only were there obvious cliques, but there was underlying tension and anger on the part of many employees due to the fact the majority of managers were expatriates while the majority of employees were locals. This led to a lack of trust and honesty between managers and employees. Employees were therefore afraid to take risks, speak their minds or offer solutions – a classic “blame or witch hunt” culture.
Another problematic issue was the high turnover, particularly amongst the management group. And those who did stay lacked good people management skills. We personally observed behaviour that was not only aggressive, but that bordered on bullying! In addition, most managers were unable to manage projects in a positive way, often interfering in the work of others under the guise of trying to assist.
The company was at a standstill and the Chairman was ready to “clean house” and start again.
Using a team approach, proLearning innovations designed a 3-part strategy that addressed issues at both ends of the spectrum. We felt that in order for our intervention to be successful, both management and employees needed to be committed to the transformation that needed to take place and directly involved in the solution.
Phase One: A redesign of fundamental aspects of the organization needed to occur. To know where to best focus our efforts, we:
- Created and implemented an information gathering process that all employees took part in.
- Developed a communication plan designed to share the results from this information gathering exercise with all employees. The plan included recommended ways to address problematic areas.
- Facilitated a team building activity in each of the two branches. The activity consisted of:
- An initial introduction by the CEO in order to:
- express appreciation of everyone’s participation in the information gathering exercise
- assure employees that their invaluable feedback would be acted upon
- A “reintroduction” of all managers and staff to each other so they could see one another in a “new light”
- The involvement of all in the development of a new image for the company, including a new mission, vision and values
Information about the two additional phases will be provided in upcoming blogs so stay tuned. Please contact proLearning innovations at 647-847-1853 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how we can help your organization be more successful.