Cultural Intelligence, Lessons from the Field, Our Blog

Culture and Containment

This past weekend, I got an emergency notice on my phone from the Korean government officially encouraging “social distancing” for the next two weeks.  This seemed odd to me because, at least in the area where I’ve been living, we’ve been practicing social distancing for about a month already.

As I’ve watched the US start to grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve been struck by the strong contrast between how the people of the two countries have reacted.

  • Korea has experienced a shortage of surgical masks, but nothing else has been hard to get, least of all toilet paper.
  • It is social etiquette to wear a face mask in public, not just to protect yourself but to protect those around you.  
  • Schools have been closed since February, with all instruction delivered online, to protect children and teachers.

We are currently scheduled to return to classrooms after the 2-week social distancing mandate is concluded. 

In contrast, the US response has been panicked and chaotic. 

I think there are several reasons for this contrast.  It is only partially cultural.

Cultural: Korea has a collectivist culture, which means people tend to think of what is best for the group before their own comfort.  However, the individualist tendencies of the US encourage people to act in their own interests first.  This one point explains the prevalence of wearing face masks.  My understanding is that when I wear a mask in public, I let others know I consider their health to be important.  

Socio-political: When it comes to following guidelines set forth by the government, Koreans seem to be more willing than Americans.  In the past ten years, I’ve seen many Americans become more and more distrustful of anything the government says or does.  Additionally, Korea has seen coronavirus outbreaks before by facing both SARS and MERS. However, this is the first outbreak the US has had to endure.  It seems Korea has learned from past experience and has taken relatively swift action.  

The American reaction hasn’t been all negative.  I have loved watching celebrities and entertainers sharing their talents through social media in order to alleviate our isolation.  I have been encouraged by the number of educational and entertainment institutions that made their content available for us to continue learning, growing, and living.  It has begun to create the sense of community that I so admire in the Korean culture.

The point I remind myself and my colleagues here is that this is temporary.  “It came to pass”; it didn’t come to stay.  The social distancing is only for a season that, in retrospect, will seem so short – a month or two compared to a lifetime is really nothing.  The “introvert motto” really does apply here: Let us unite together … separately!  

Cultural Intelligence, Leadership, Our Blog

A Sure Path to Influence

By Tasha M. Troy

One of the key dimensions of culture is the “relationship-oriented / task-oriented” continuum.  As a product of American culture, and as an element of my personality, I began my career highly task-oriented.  I was focused on first, gaining the credentials and education necessary to reach my goals and second, getting as much information into my students as I could.

When I moved to South Korea, I had to learn a new method of operation.  In order to teach well, I had to build relationships with my students first.  It was in that season that I developed a greater appreciation for the people around me – their strengths, opinions, and values.

Today, I’d like to share a mini-lesson from my weekly Professional Development Essentials class on Developing a Greater Appreciation for Others.

In this mini-lesson, I made a reference to an earlier blog article I wrote last year.  Here is a link to that article.

Does Leadership Have to Be Lonely?

Cultural Intelligence, Leadership

A Key to Becoming a Leader of Leaders

By Tasha M. Troy
Originally published by The Leading Edge 

In 2006, while I was working as a corporate trainer at a multinational corporation, I started teaching in a professional development program designed for top performers in the company.  For the first time in my career, I had trainees who were, for the most part, older and more accomplished than I was.

The participants in this program came from several different branches of the company and were fairly senior mid-level managers.  One of them had published a book in his field, and another was a lawyer who had graduated from Chicago University.

I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated.

Fortunately, I had one participant, one of the more senior managers in the program, who took the time encourage me and thank me for the training.  His actions helped me see that we were all in this program together. From that point on, I viewed my work more as a collaboration with the participants than as one-way instruction.

Since then, I have learned how to establish myself as the expert in my field while recognizing and honoring the expertise and experience of the participants taking my course.

In his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John Maxwell addresses the question of “How does one lead people who are more knowledgeable when put in charge of them?”  He says, “You need to admit where they’re better than you, and look for common ground.” I have found this to be a highly effective approach.

Today, I am very intentional to be transparent with those I am training about what my personal and professional strengths are, and what they are not.  I am also intentional about finding the strengths of each individual and drawing on those strengths when called for.

Let me give a current example of how this looks in real life.

I am currently teaching a professional communication course that covers public speaking and leading meetings, but it also includes a bit of cross-cultural communication instruction.  In my class right now is a woman who is an expert in cross-cultural psychology.

While I have quite a bit of experience and knowledge about cross cultural communication, it has not been my primary focus professionally.  I have to recognize her as a greater authority in this area.

When cross cultural topics come up, I still present my material, but I finish up by asking her if she has anything to add to my explanations.  Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t, but I honor her expertise while still accomplishing my purpose for the class.

This strategy is effective regardless of the field of expertise in question.  I have found that often a simple question to check in with the “expert” is enough to show that person I recognize their knowledge and experience and to communicate to the group my respect for that expertise.  The best thing is often that respect is further expressed by the other training participants.

Leading a group of people who are accomplished experts can be daunting.  Whenever you find yourself in a position of leadership or authority over someone that may intimidate you, I encourage you to remember to “give honor where honor is due.”

Cultural Intelligence, Our Blog

Three Keys to Connecting as a Woman in a Man’s World

By Tasha M. Troy

I have been very fortunate to have been raised and lived most of my life in the USA.  It is rare that I am seen as less simply because I’m a woman.  This is not the case in many places around the world.

However, because of my career choices, I often find myself working with men from other countries.  In these situations, I have had to establish my influence myself, not necessarily starting from a place of mutual respect.

When I talk about cross-cultural communication and relationship building, one question women in particular ask me is how to navigate relationships in cultures that don’t esteem women in the same way we are used to here in the United States.  In addition to the perhaps obvious suggestion of learning about the cultural values and master a few key phrases, I have three things I do to establish trust and rapport.

  1. Respect the culture of the person you are interacting with.

I hate to say it, but the stereotype of the “ugly American” is based in reality.  I have seen so many Americans interact with other cultures and feel disgusted because the culture didn’t do things the same way as we do in the US.  That is no way to win trust, gain respect, and build rapport!

You have to first give respect before you can receive in these cases.  Take time to learn the primary cultural values and find things about the culture that you can appreciate.  Complimenting those things will go a long way towards gaining you goodwill with the people you are working with.

  1. Don’t fight the system; work within the system.

I may not agree with how the culture views women or even how women in that culture are treated.  However, I will accomplish nothing by pressuring for change or demanding an individual disavow his own culture before I can work with him.  Instead, understand your role within the cultural context and work within those expectations.  Trust me, it is possible to work with cultural norms, accomplish what needs to be done, and still take pride in who you are and what you do.

As an example, I spent several years working for Samsung in South Korea, training their managers in business English and intercultural communication.  When I was there, the culture in general was about a generation behind the US in terms of how women were treated, especially in the workplace.  To illustrate this, only about 10% of the managers in our training programs were women.  And don’t get me started on the “men only” drinking clubs and “hostess bars”!  It was very much an “old boys club.”

If I had decided to protest the cultural norms, as some of my North American colleagues did, I would have lost the opportunity to connect with the trainees and Korean management, removing me from a place of influence.  By respecting the culture and working within the system, my voice became trusted when advice and insight was needed.  Eventually I was asked to be “lead instructor,” a position similar to a program manager, partly because I was in a position to bridge differences between the management and the English language faculty.

  1. Exceed expectations.

Initially respecting the culture and working within cultural expectations can only go so far.  In the end, it is your performance day in and day out that will win over the respect you desire.  It is in going the extra mile – both at work and in learning to navigate the culture and language – that will help you to stand out as trustworthy.

Looking again at my time with Samsung, I committed myself to serving my students and preparing them for long-term success.  By standing out in this way, I positioned myself to be eligible for the promotion to lead instructor.

Of course, this is a longer process, but it pays the best dividends!

Take It Deeper

These three keys may sound simple, but they can be very challenging to live out.  They require maturity, humility, and self-confidence.  But as difficult as it is, success is all the sweeter.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

 

 

 

Cultural Intelligence, Interpersonal Communication, Our Blog

A Blueprint for Cross-cultural Communication

By Tasha M. Troy

In 2001, I made one of the biggest, most impactful changes of my life; I moved to South Korea and stayed there for just over eight years.

While in Korea, I grew in so many ways:

  • I discovered my niche student population.
  • I learned how to connect with my students, drawing out the quiet ones and reining in the overly talkative ones.
  • I developed key strategies for interacting with my Korean students, managers, and friends as well as my remarkably diverse language faculty colleagues.
  • I broadened my experience and deepened my understanding of different countries and their cultures.

 

I achieved a modest level of professional success, and I became very confident in my skills.

 

New Adventure

In 2009, I made another of the biggest, most impactful decisions; I moved back to the US.

I came back to the US feeling that I was now an expert with unique skills.  While this was true to an extent, I still had some hard lessons to learn.  While the basic demographics of my students were largely the same as my last few years in Korea, my classes were now quite culturally diverse, with no more than two students from the same country and no more than four speaking the same language.

Furthermore, the students used a communication style that I had become unaccustomed to.

 

A Communication Blueprint

You see, what I didn’t realize was that there are three general cultural communication styles, according to Susan Steinbach, who uses three sports metaphors to describe these styles:

  • Rugby – a loud style that involves a lot of “talking over” each other and frequently interrupting each other. It is very physically demonstrative and seems chaotic to an outside observer.  This style is used in South America, the Middle East, the Mediterranean nations, and most of Africa.
  • Bowling – a quiet style that involves each speaking clearly getting their own turns to speak with little or no interruption. It seems very reserved and orderly to an outside observer.  This style is used primarily in East Asia and Northern Europe.
  • Basketball – a moderately loud and somewhat fast-paced style that includes limited interruptions. It seems lively and relatively (though not perfectly) ordered to an outside observer.  This style is used in the US and Central and Western Europe.

 

The bowling style of Korea suited my personality, which helps explain why I was so comfortable living in S. Korea.  However, I now had several students from the Middle East and Africa, and my classroom gave me culture shock; I felt like someone had taken me off a bowling alley and thrown me onto a rugby pitch!

 

Moving Forward

It was my openness to learning, adapting, and growing that enabled me to come through those first years back in the US stronger and better able to connect with students from all communication style backgrounds.

Today, I know that many people face cross-cultural communication situations regularly, if not daily, and I know that there are many miscommunications that create tension and conflict.

  • Is it possible that you are misreading someone in your personal circle, whether at work or at home?
  • Are you misinterpreting intentions?
  • Are you giving the wrong impression?

 

If you want to connect with those around you, especially if they are hard to connect with, it is time to do a little self-examination and recalibrate your perceptions.

 

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

 

 

 

Cultural Intelligence, Leadership, Our Blog

The Magic Key to Influence

By Tasha M. Troy

How often do you open up to someone who clearly isn’t interested in your perspective?  For me, it is never.  That is why showing “mutual respect” is one of my foundational values.

For many years, my classrooms have had a high level of cultural diversity.  That’s the nature of the field of teaching I went into.  At one point, out of a class of 12 or 15 students, I had 8 or 9 languages and nationalities and at least 3 religions represented.

Respect in the Classroom

In order to create a flourishing learning community, I have to establish mutual respect.

As the instructor, I set the example for respect:

  • I respect their time by not assigning “busy work.”
  • I respect their personal goals, as distinct from the training program goals.
  • I respect the time and effort they have already invested to achieve whatever level of success they’ve achieved.

In turn, I expect them to respect me as their instructor and to trust my judgment and expertise, and I expect them to respect each other for who they are.

Respect in the Real World

Outside the teaching environment, I continue to endeavor to live out this value of respect.

  • When a friend makes an outlandish comment, I ask for clarification before challenging their assumptions.
  • I accept that people think differently and have dramatically different perspectives from me, and I can accept that they are still good people regardless of our point of disagreement.
  • I recognize that my priorities are not another’s priorities, and I choose not to get upset by that.
  • I choose not to take it personally when someone attacks a belief or position I hold. (Ok, I’m still working on this one!)

When we start from a place of respect, we open the door to progress on the issues that matter most to us.

We all come to the issues of our day from different perspectives, by different routes.  We must respect the journey others have taken if we want to have influence with them.

 

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

Cultural Intelligence, Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

The Secrets to Connecting with People at Work and Beyond

By Tasha M. Troy

It is difficult to describe what I do in just a sentence or two:

  • Do I provide professional communication skills training?
  • Do I coach people in cross-cultural situations and environments?
  • Do I develop leaders?

The answer to each of these questions is “YES!” Modern leadership of any sort is becoming more demanding.  Position is not enough.  You need a whole suite of skills. Our focus at Troy Communications is at the intersection of each of three distinct fields: professional communication, leadership, and cultural intelligence.

Professional Communication Skills: 

For over 10 years, I have worked in professional development programs, equipping adults with the skills needed for workplace success – giving effective and engaging presentations, participating in and leading discussions and meetings, preparing for and engaging in negotiations.

While the participants in these programs have all been non-native English speakers, I have come to recognize that many of these skills are lacking among native English speakers as well.  There is power in being able to communicate clearly and effectively, and I am passionate about empowering people through communication, no matter their role.

Leadership Skills:

In 2014, I decided to partner with one of the world’s top leadership experts when I joined the John Maxwell Team.  I didn’t realize how little I understood leadership until I read his 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  Twice.

Dr. Maxwell promotes a style of leadership that is interested in the personal and professional development of those under the leader’s authority, making it an others-focused leadership.  The book changed the way I teach.  Instead of focusing only on language and communication development, I also endeavor to instill sound leadership principles into my teaching style and my lessons.

Cultural Intelligence Skills:

While my entire career has been in cross-cultural settings, in early 2016, I stumbled upon the field of CQ, or cultural intelligence.  Since the 80s, I’ve learned many skills and principles of cross-cultural competence through both studies and experience, and it has even been an element of the language and communication courses I’ve taught for the past several years.

What I discovered with CQ was a way to go deeper, a framework for assessing intercultural effectiveness and identifying areas for continued development, in myself and in those I am training.

Where these three fields intersect could be called “The Communication Skills of Culturally Intelligent Leadership.”

Starting with a personal awareness combined with understanding key principles from each of the three fields, we aim to develop effective leaders for our globalized and multicultural society, whether it is an international businessman or a grassroots political activist.  When we learn to connect with each other across dividing lines, we all win.

  • Take It Deeper

  • Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net
  • If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.
Cultural Intelligence, Our Blog

Three Keys to Understanding Any Culture

By Tasha M. Troy

Since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by different cultures. I learned my first Spanish words when I was 6, and I’ve been going ever since.

Through college and my professional years, I have intentionally put myself in positions where I was in the minority – ethnically, culturally, linguistically – giving me the opportunity to learn about intercultural relationships first hand.

It hasn’t always been easy; I’ve made my share of mistakes and learned some difficult lessons.  However, through keeping the attitude of a learner and humbly working to right my mistakes, I have learned some powerful keys to developing and maintaining meaningful personal and professional intercultural relationships.

Getting Started

The first step to understanding people from a variety of cultures is to learn about how cultures differ.  However, there are several research-based models out there that portray cultural systems, and it might be hard to know where to start.

Through studies, travels, and experiences, I’ve come to see three elements of culture to be essential to get a basic understanding of any culture.

 

Time: How does this culture see the flow of time?

Cultural views of time are described in both the Hall and Trompenaars models of culture.  There are a few different elements of time that can be highlighted – long-term vs. short-term orientation, past/present/future orientation, or linear vs. cyclical views.

If you want to understand people’s everyday decisions, I think the most useful element to focus on is linear vs. cyclical.

In the US (and most Western countries), time is seen as moving in one direction towards a particular end.  This is where utopian and dystopian novels and movies come from.  For example, the Star Trek T.V. shows and movies all portray a future global utopia where race is no longer an issue, disease is eradicated, and there is prosperity for all.

In contrast, in much of the world time is seen as cyclical, moving through repeating seasons.  Ever see a movie where the ending implies the story is about to repeat itself?  Jumanji is one that comes to mind; the final shot is a new family discovering the Jumanji game, and the story begins again.  Or if you are a fan of the Wheel of Time novel series, this cyclical view of time is a major element of the overall storyline.

My Experience

In my own view of time, I have started shifting from a strongly linear to a somewhat cyclical view.  Have you ever been on a diet?  My dieting downfall has always been “office food” – when coworkers bring in tasty homemade treats.  A linear view looks at office food as a one-time opportunity, which always derails my best intentions.  I have begun looking at it as one of many opportunities, realizing that this isn’t my last chance to eat a brownie!  This is a bit more cyclical view of time and opportunity.

How do you view time?
  • I see life as a series of recurring events
  • I see life as a journey towards a destination

 

Relationships: How are people expected to relate to each other?

In my opinion, how cultures prescribe the way people interact properly is one of the most visible differences between cultures.  In particular, Hofstede’s model of cultural differences includes the concept of individualist vs. collectivist cultures, which I think is a foundational difference.

Many Western countries, and especially the US, focus on individuals.  People are expected to take responsibility for their actions, and particularly in the US, children are expected to move out of their parents’ home at a certain age.  This is such a strong element of American culture that is can be seen in every “coming of age” movie out there, from The Breakfast Club to The Dead Poet’s Society to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

In many other countries, the focus is on communities and groups.  Independence is deemphasized while responsibility for others is highlighted.  I think in the US we had a bit more of a community focus in the past, especially in pioneer days when we only had the close-knit townsfolk to help in times of trouble.  We also see this illustrated in many military movies where individuals make huge personal sacrifices for the sake of their division or platoon.

My Experience

When I lived in S. Korea, I had many experiences that demonstrated this cultural difference, but one stands out.  One evening I was out with some Korean friends, and one member of the group had recently bought a new car.  Instead of celebrating his purchase by showing off his car, he celebrated by buying dinner for all of us, around 15 people!  This struck me as odd at the time, but it was a way for him to share his excitement over the new car with all of us.

How do you view relationships?
  • I have to take responsibility for myself and my own actions.
  • I have to take responsibility to make sure my friends and family are on the right track.

 

Worldview: How do you determine what is right and wrong?

There are so many different worldviews – Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, humanist – the list goes on and on.  However, worldviews can be boiled down to three somewhat overlapping elements, sometimes called worldview lenses, based on what is the most necessary to live a good and moral life: innocence, honor, and power.

Because I see the greatest impact of innocence and honor on individual decisions, I will focus on just these two elements.

Western cultures often embrace an “innocence – guilt” worldview, and I believe this is the basis for a “rule of law.”  If you follow the rules and obey the law, you are innocent and can become successful.  If you don’t, you are guilty and must take steps to remove your guilt.  The concept of justice is very important, even if it’s only poetic justice.  The Superman movies illustrate this worldview; Superman never kills his enemies, but he finds ways for the justice system to take its course.

In much of the world, the “honor – shame” worldview is predominant.  Rules and laws are intended to keep relational harmony, and therefore they can be bent or broken if a relationship is threatened by them.  When you act in a way that damages the peace of the group, you become shamed, and everyone close to you shares your shame.  Your actions are a reflection on all who are associated with you.  Steps must be taken to restore not only your own honor but also the honor of your family and friends.  One novel/ movie that illustrates this is The Count of Monte Cristo, the story of how a man takes vengeance on those who have wronged him, thus restoring his honor.

My Experience

Korean culture is decidedly an honor-based culture.  As an example, in Korea divorce is still considered a major failing for a family.  The fact of a divorce is kept hidden and quiet, so no one really knows about it outside the family.  However, the children from divorced families have no outlet, no opportunity to deal with their own emotional wounds.  There were several times a Korean friend confided to me that their parents were divorced, finding in me as an American a safe confidante and someone who could relate to their painful experiences.

What is your worldview?
  • It is important to me to keep out of trouble.
  • It is important to me to keep everyone happy.

 

Next Steps

If you now realize that cultural differences may be at the root of some of your misunderstandings, I have prepared a couple free resources for you to help you start identifying where you stand in relation to these three elements of culture, and thus begin to understand those around you better as well.

  • Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net
  • If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.
Cultural Intelligence, Our Blog

Cultural Intelligence – A Key to Working with Diversity

By Tasha M. Troy

Since I was a child, I have pursued “cultural intelligence.”  No, I didn’t call it that at the time, but that is when I began developing an appreciation and affection for cultural and linguistic differences.

Later, as a communication skills instructor, I came to recognize and appreciate measures of individual difference, all the things that make us unique – personality, learning styles, talents and abilities.

The Human Dichotomy 

These observations and experiences brought me to a point where I operate with an unusual tension:

  • The more I meet people from around the world, the more I realize we are all really the same – same hopes, fears, dreams, and needs.
  • The more I work with individuals, the more I realize we are unique, a “culture of one” – there are no two people who are identical on all points (even identical twins have differing personalities and interests!).

Most of my adult life has been learning to operate within this tension.

 

A Proliferation of Differences

In today’s globalized and interconnected world, we are often in the position of working with people who seem to have little in common with us.

Cultural differences abound, even between people who come from the same country and speak the same language!  Today, living in the Washington, DC, area, I see cultural differences all the time: East Coast vs. West Coast, public sector vs. private sector, Democrats vs. Republicans.

If we are all so very different from each other, how can we possibly work together?

 

Developing Cultural Intelligence

I believe the most effective leaders today demonstrate the ability to read cultural differences and navigate those differences to bring successful outcomes for all involved.

However, developing this level of leadership, with a dedication to reaching people where they are, is not an easy thing to attain!

  • It requires not only knowledge but also maturity and character development.
  • It demands selflessness and a focus on others.
  • It engages emotional intelligence and interpersonal wisdom.

But the payoff is so worth the investment!  In their book Real Influence, authors Mark Goulston and John Ullmen say, “When we break through barriers of geography or language or age … we create new possibilities and identify new paths to great outcomes.”

And isn’t that what every professional wants?

 

Let’s Start a Conversation

For the past several years, I’ve been working to develop my cultural intelligence for the sake of my students and clients, enabling me to work with diverse groups to achieve individual and group goals.  I have learned some hard lessons, but I’ve also gained invaluable knowledge about effective intercultural leadership.

 

Take It Deeper

What questions do you have about cultural intelligence?

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

Cultural Intelligence, Leadership, Our Blog

Four Guidelines to Help Manage Workplace Diversity

By Tasha M. Troy

As I walked into the room, the three or four conversations subsided, and ten pairs of eyes turned to me expectantly.  It was the first day in an intensive six-month language and communication training program.  The individuals in the room spoke nine different languages and came from five different regions of the world.  It was my job not only to teach them the intricacies of professional English communication skills but also to create a mutually supportive community that could endure the six months together and beyond.

It is fairly easy to get along well with people who are very much like you.  The Law of Magnetism, from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell, states that you attract who you are.  However, in today’s globalized environment, it is more common to be in a room where there is little in common, at least on the surface.

I have observed that most people tend to avoid diversity assuming that under such circumstances, cohesion and community will be extraordinarily difficult if not impossible.  However, I personally have found that it is possible; my students and clients have often stated that the diversity of the group was a major asset, one of the key benefits of the program.

After years of working with ethnically, linguistically, and occupationally diverse groups, I have developed some guidelines to create a sense of community:

  1. Respect individual differences and strengths
  2. Set clear guidelines for appropriate behavior
  3. Present shared goals and shared mission regularly
  4. Provide opportunity for individual expression

 

What might this look like in a typical office setting?

Primarily, you have to verbalize each of these elements: respect for differences, guidelines, goals, and invitations for opinions.  It is important to act respectfully, but not everyone perceives respect in the same way, especially if they come from different cultural backgrounds.  Never assume that your good opinion is perceived and understood until you have explicitly stated it.

Speaking out your perceptions of strengths, enforcing guidelines, and reviewing goals is also very important.  John Maxwell says that “vision leaks”; when it is not regularly presented to your team, it will be forgotten until there is a problem.  Trust me – this is a time where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!

Remember also that some personality traits and elements of cultural background hinder people from speaking up in meetings and other group settings.  Find ways to create smaller “task forces” for specific projects or take the time to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your team members.

Working with a diverse team is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and when managed well, it can provide rich benefits to your team, your department, and your organization.      It takes a bit of extra effort, but the rewards far outweigh the costs!

 

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these weekly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.