A new project: the People & Management Monthly Links newsletter

When my friend Xavier took an interest in my master’s thesis he started suggesting books and journal articles that he thought might be useful to my research. Soon thereafter I started doing the same whenever I bumped into something I thought might be useful to his doctoral dissertation (and later to his research and classes).
 
I also began doing this to other friends and colleagues. It had been (and still is) a great experience for me and I wanted others to experience the same.
 
This has been going on for decades now. Of course, paper cuttings and photocopies have become emails with links and attachments.
 
I am thinking it is time to broaden the circle. And that is why I am creating the People & Management Monthly Links newsletter.
 
The content of the newsletter will follow my consultancy practice and intellectual pursuits: leadership development and executive coaching, that is, people managing themselves, others, their team, and their organization.
 
My hope is that as a subscriber to the Monthly Links you will also become a contributor of material that might be interesting to other subscribers. Please send your suggestions by replying to the newsletter email you receive – you can subscribe here.
 
Happy reading!

Holding a meeting of people from different cultures

In one of the People and Business Management workshops that I facilitate we ask participants to outline how they would approach their first meeting as the manager of a multicultural team. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the imagination and inclusiveness of the responses.

This article in the Harvard Business Review provides useful guidance. Here’s an excerpt:

Do

  • Study up on the variations that exist among cultures and how those differences play out in the workplace
  • Create protocols and establish norms so that your colleagues understand how meetings will run
  • Incentivize colleagues to step outside their cultural comfort zones by institutionalizing rewards around what you’re trying to motivate people to do

Don’t

  • Be hung up on how people from certain cultures are supposed to act—remember, people are capable of adapting and adjusting their cultural default
  • Force a perfect dynamic in meetings—solicit colleagues’ opinions in other venues and encourage people to provide feedback in different ways
  • Overlook the importance of team bonding—encourage colleagues to get to know each other outside of meetings so that cultural differences won’t seem as glaring

 

Become more worldly, not more global

Henry Mintzberg and Karl Moore suggest that “managers should be urged to become more worldly, not more global.” I think it’s a relevant suggestion for all.

The Oxford Dictionary defines worldly as “experienced in life, sophisticated, practical.” The worldly person seeks out diversity as a way to enhance his understanding of other cultures while adding nuance and appreciation to his inherited background.

The global person, on the other hand, conforms to an emerging singular culture.

via Forbes.

Obese? Smoker? No Retirement Savings? Blame the language you speak

Study suggests that if your language’s syntax blurs the difference between today and tomorrow as do, say, Chinese and German then you are more likely to save money, quit smoking, exercise and otherwise prepare for times to come.

On the other hand, if you have three dollars in your IRA and a big credit-card balance, it’s a safer bet you speak English or Hausa or Greek or some other language that forces speakers to distinguish present from future.

The point is not that some peoples are futureless—all human beings understand the difference between today and next year just fine, no matter what tongue they speak. But languages, as the linguist Roman Jakobson observed, differ in what they require speakers to think about.

via Big Think.

Recent report on world’s largest bilateral trading relationship

The United States and Canada maintain the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship, one that has been strengthened over the past two decades by the approval of two major free trade agreements.

Although commercial disputes may not be quite as prominent now as they have been in the past, the two countries in recent years have engaged in difficult negotiations over items in several trade sectors, including natural resources, agricultural commodities, and intellectual property rights. (…) However, these disputes affect but a small percentage of the total goods and services exchanged.

From a recent report on Canada-U.S. Relations from the Congressional Research Service.

A bi-cultural executive

She might have three selves, but she also has two different styles. The French one, which loves these abstract ideas of freedom and the future. And the American one, with its management clichés of teamwork and listening. The two make an odd mixture.

Perhaps she herself is a miniature version of GE in France, which she says takes 20 per cent of its culture from the US and 80 per cent from France.

via FT.com

Cultures must be seen in their wider context

A great introduction to my Spring 2009 cross-cultural communication class from UNFPA‘s State of world population 2008:

Culture – inherited patterns of shared meanings and common understandings – influences how people manage their lives, and provides the lens through which they interpret their society. Cultures affect how people think and act; but they do not produce uniformity of thought or behaviour. 

Cultures must be seen in their wider context: They influence and are influenced by external circumstances and change in response. They are not static; people are continuously involved in reshaping them, although some aspects of culture continue to influence choices and lifestyles for very long periods. 

Cultural customs, norms, behaviours and attitudes are as varied as they are elusive and dynamic. It is risky to generalize, and it is particularly dangerous to judge one culture by the norms and values of another. Such over-simplification can lead to the assumption that every member of a culture thinks the same way. This is not only a mistaken perception but ignores one of the drivers of cultural change, which is multiple expressions of internal resistance, out of which transitions emerge. The movement towards gender equality is a good example of this process at work. 

Appeals for cultural sensitivity and engagement are sometimes wrongly interpreted as acceptance of harmful traditional practices, or a way of making excuses for non-compliance with universal human rights. This is far from the case – such relativism provides no basis for action and produces only stalemate and frustration. Values and practices that infringe upon human rights can be found in all cultures. Culturally sensitive approaches determine what makes sense to people and work with that knowledge. Embracing cultural realities can reveal the most effective ways to challenge harmful cultural practices and strengthen positive ones.