Review by Grant Hall, Founder of the League Cultural Diplomacy, International Events Management Through the telling of his immersive life experiences in a variety of different cultures and locales, David Clive Price delivers practical advice on how to develop your … Continue reading
Then and Now…
Part 1 – THEN – 27th June 2016
“This weekend, with news of the results of Brexit spreading across the world, has been a very challenging time for a lot of People, and I would like to share not only what I went through but what some of my fellow European and pro-Remain British friends may have gone through too.
I am an Intercultural Consultant. I help expatriate and global managers adapt to their new environment. In facilitating their adaptation I always refer to the Culture Shock curve and its five stages: Excitement, Denial & Depression, Culture Shock, Acceptance and Acculturation. The last time I experienced the Culture Shock curve for myself was moving to Singapore 10 years ago!
Over the course of this weekend I moved through the first two phases and am now heading, at some speed, towards culture shock.
The excitement phase was before the Referendum results, I think most of us were positive that the UK would vote remain and thus demonstrate that we are a strong Europe and that Europeans fit naturally along side British folk. When the results came in on Friday morning, as I woke up at 5:30am, I couldn´t believe that Brexit had happened. I was in complete denial, I just couldn´t wrap my head around it although I had an aprehensive feeling that it might happen, but again, my excitement was stronger. I found myself accepting the decision of the British public, as I live in their Country, and I need to accept their wishes but, trust me, I still felt out-of-place especially going heading out for dinner that evening. The atmosphere felt colder than usual, but I put this down to my own projections.
Tears in the morning
The rest of the weekend was set aside for the depression phase – waking up in tears not knowing what the future will bring, especially working as a freelance Consultant and delivering Trainings to, mostly, European expats – teaching them how to integrate into the UK, so that was a big shock ! What will I do? I thought I would spend the rest of my life here, I have friends which are now part of my Family, I have a home that I bought, I have a car, what will that mean? What does the future hold?
I also had a few talks over the weekend with a few Young British People and asked them what they thought of Brexit and a lot were shocked and angry. They said they were “Europeans” and not British citizens, what will happen for their future and their kid´s future? They won´t have the opportunity to have work experience abroad, travel, learn languages and go abroad to train themselves, so, overall, a big shock all round.
When I spoke to European friends and colleagues most felt betrayed, stabbed in the back, not welcomed and also fearful for their future.
We now know that nothing major will happen over the next two years and that, as Europeans, we will be able to stay. What will be the conditions after though? I think the acceptance phase after the shock sounds like, “One way or another if there are no Jobs, I/we will have to move back to Europe”. I think this is what our culture shock is about, leaving a beautiful country, our friends, our lives.
For now, however, we need to wait and see and try to get out of the shock phase to get on and live our lives.
Part 2- NOW
6 Months post Brexit:
Six months have passed since the Brexit Referendum vote. What has happened up to now? How do I feel? And, how do we as Europeans feel in the UK?
Since the announcement of the referendum and even after Brexit was voted into reality, many of us, in the intercultural world and in broader Training and Development have noticed a significant slowdown in business. A colleague of mine mentioned that some of his programs had been canceled, another said that some clients were backing out of training committements and that they wanted to wait for the New Year. Why is that so?
Unfortunately there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, Brexit was one major event and shock in 2016. This was closely followed by the election of Mr Donald Trump, and now we can hear, throughout Europe, the loud voice of right wing movements, Austria was close and France will be the next test. What will happen there? At the pace we are going, everything is possible!
What will this mean for the world…for Europe?
What we can see is that there is mistrust of politics in general and a fear of the unknown and its consequences for peace, employment and our way of life. All of those participating in racist actions, protest votes and the results they are generating are people that want CHANGE . They are asking – who else can give them change? Noone but those who run against the existing political system.
We need to bring back trust and respect for one another. It is through cultural consciousness that we may avoid further conflict and make sure that our children grow up in a peaceful world, where citizens are respected, have a job and can practice their religion without challenge.
So, where am I then, after these last 6 months? I think I am still in the shock phase. And there is hope. I am edging toward the acceptance phase. we need to wait and see, and to see past what the press is telling us, go past what politicians are trying to sell us (from their own position of confusion, choas and fear) and make sure that our objective is for harmony and making sure that we engineer the conditions that allow for all of us to live together in peace.
Author Profile – Nadège Welsch
Nadège is Franco-German starting her career with a major German Telco based in Munich where she worked with Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa.
She expatriated to Singapore for a year and half before immigrated to the UK to pursue her passion for culture. With an MSC in Business Psychology she created Be-a-Chameleon seven years ago, training individuals as well as groups in cultural awareness, working effectively across cultures and working effectively in multicultural teams.
Nadège speaks English, French, German and Spanish and is a passionate advocate for cultural consciousness.
Last month marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the destruction of the Iron Curtain. This year I found myself in many training rooms with people whose parents were most affected by these changes.
A common legacy from those times is an abundance of negative language, even from the mouths of employees in dynamic global companies. I thought it pertinent to revisit negative language and ask, “What’s really going on?”
- Stress test
From my time in the Czech Republic a generation ago I finally worked out what the excess of questioning, pessimism and doubtful language really signified. The Soviet context had been one of low expectations, cynicism and a constant diet of untruths disseminated via radio, television and newspaper. When the new country invaders from Germany, France UK and America arrived, their language of promises, short-term sacrifice and future riches must have sounded sickeningly familiar.
Over time it became clearer that the doubting questions, the need for proof and the hesitation were intended to stress test the foreigner’s promises. So the reframe for negative language heard in those times was a simple question, “Are you for REAL?”
Entropy describes the universe in its inexorable journey towards chaos and randomness. Pessimists are often closer to the mark with predictions of the future than their optimistic counterparts. The second reframe of negative language can be to see it as the pure and selfless pursuit of accurate forecasting!
I was working with a large group of people from Central and Eastern Europe recently and, as we began an American open form group exercise, I was hit by a wave of resistant language, critical questions and dire predictions. These individuals were subject matter experts and had been ripped out of their home environment and resettled in downtown London.
The context is important. Their reluctance to perform this random task was a reflection of their hesitation to embrace the change that they faced. They were cautious, fearful and their language betrayed their inhabiting something like a childlike state of not knowing.
- A good old moan
There is comfort and a bonding warmth to be found in having a moan, gossiping or whinging about shared circumstances. It is a large part of British small talk and I encounter it frequently when travelling to a new country and meeting a new training group. This seems to be a social attempt to unify diversity through articulating common themes and so building a temporary harmony that fosters the conditions in which a relationship can form. This of course comes with the caveat that it is frequently used for political ends in economically challenging times to unify disparate people to hate one minority, foreigners in general or the government of the day.
- Forced positivity
If I were to control your working hours communication with the directive that all of your words have to be optimistic, positive and upbeat, would you comply? For a lot of people this is a reality and their answer is yes. A couple of years ago I used to meet socially with a group of guys from a very famous American pharmaceutical company that pursued this linguistic policy.
What struck me as funny and a little tragic was that, under social circumstances in a Twickenham pub, the other side of their lexicon came out in a torrent. It’s as if, for every forced positive phrase, one negative phrase had to be uttered later to restore their inner peaceful balance.
- Permitted negativity.
There are 2 examples that stick in my mind. The first are some famous fictional detective figures that have full permission from society to be grumpy old men. Their surly belligerence is portrayed as a essential part of sleuthing genius and their tortuous ability to always get their man.
The second example is much more dangerous. In my UK trainings it is the overtly racist exchanges between English and French executives or the permitted taunts between groups of men and groups of women. The third horror is to be found in the inter-departmental jibes as, for instance, between sales and marketing.
Under the guise of banter, badinage and permitted cheek, these exchanges seem intended as proof of a trusting in-group bond but feel sadly like a rain of micro-inequities and acts of aggression.
Negative phrases provide a fabulous opportunity to ask, “What lies beneath the surface conversation?” Certainly from my time in the Czech Republic it was possible to separate the human from their words and the human’s intention from their deeper fears.
Part 4 in the series How to Be an Excellent Intercultural Trainer by Intercultural Trainer Cathy Wellings
This month, Cathy looks at the various breeds of difficult delegate and asks, how can we best manage them during our intercultural training programmes?
Let’s be honest, we have all met those delegates who don’t seem to want to be in the room with us, or who try to dominate every discussion, interrupting their colleagues with their own personal stories or those who say absolutely nothing at all. We can meet these delegates on pretty much any training programme but here we are going to look at some of the challenging behaviours peculiar to intercultural training.
‘Been there, done that, know it all, impress me if you can’
You will meet delegates who have many years of international experience, perhaps they have more experience than you or they have studied cross-cultural management as part of an MBA programme, or perhaps they even grew up in the country you are training on. Most will be humble, keen to extend their knowledge even further and develop new skills and we shouldn’t feel daunted by this experience in itself. However, occasionally these experienced delegates may be waiting for the opportunity to catch you out, disagree with what you say or simply demonstrate their superior knowledge. A key point here is to know and to acknowledge this experience from the outset and to ask for permission to draw on it throughout the day. Make sure you do an individual needs analysis before your training so that you already know what experience you will have in the room and at the start of the training ask each delegate to share what they hope to get from being there so that even the most experienced are pushed to think about gaps they have or new perspectives that might help them. Capitalise on their experience but make sure you also add value through your own expertise – you might also gently challenge some of their assumptions or ask them to think about different approaches to the situations they recount.
Undoubtedly you will stress the importance of not stereotyping or making sweeping generalisations about cultural groups but you may encounter the delegate who is disinclined to see any kind of cultural norm and can only focus on individuality and exceptions. When asked ‘How might this play out, would this be acceptable, what might be a typical response to this situation in your culture?‘ the response will always be the same: ‘It depends.’ This can be a tricky one to manage as the last thing we want to do is to encourage simplification or over-generalisation but of course when we are talking about culture, particularly on short corporate programmes we do need to make generalisations. Culture is something shared after all. It can help to probe a bit deeper with your questions, to turn them around and perhaps ask what response would be likely when people are stressed or under pressure.
‘When in Rome ok, but this isn’t Rome’
If you are training delegates who work with an international client base or are part of a multicultural workforce but are sat very firmly in their own country you may occasionally hear: ‘Of course I would adapt if I went to visit them in their country but they are here in mine so why should I change the way I normally do things?’ Or perhaps they work for the head office of an organisation that has made an overseas acquisition and feel that; ‘they work for us now and so should adapt to the way we do things.’ It can be helpful to respond to this kind of statement to by asking about desired outcomes. Of course, it’s absolutely fine not to adapt and to do things the way you usually do but what to do you want to get from this particular encounter and how might a slight adaptation in your behaviour help move you both towards a more successful outcome?
‘I’m authentic, take me as you find me’
Sooner or later you will come across the delegate who tells you that it’s much more important to be authentic, to be true to themselves than to try and adjust their behaviour or adapt to the different styles of colleagues or customers from different backgrounds. ‘I prefer to communicate directly, I like to tell it like it is, that’s just me, it’s the way I’ve always been and everyone knows that’s how I am.’ As with the previous example it can be helpful to ask this delegate about desired outcomes and personal impact. Introducing Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity might help them to see the benefits of taking different perspectives.
So be ready for these delegates because at some point you will no doubt encounter them. Allow them space and give them options but if things start to become heated have a private word with them during the coffee break to try and limit their impact on other delegates. Above all else, never take it personally, don’t become defensive and don’t enter into arguments with the difficult delegate.
A review of “Intercultural Readiness” written by Dr. Ursula Brinkmann and Dr. Oscar van Weerdenburg published by Palgrave MacMillan, May 2014.
Review written by Matthew Hill
Does this book constitute evidence of good teamwork, high intercultural competence and the completion of a demanding task in a diverse context? These are the questions that popped into my mind when turning though the pages.
That two people can collaborate based on many year’s work supported by a large body of data and yet manage to compress the resulting output to a tome of 197 effectively written pages may suggest positive answers to at least some of questions above.
Based on the International Readiness Check questionnaire developed by the authors, Brinkmann and van Weerdenburg, detail the premise of their work and make a bold claim – that cultural knowledge, in-group charm and good fortune are not enough to ensure the emergence of healthy diverse teams, the smooth passage of a new company in foreign lands or that a diverse team will outshine a homogeneous one.
Referencing their own cultural experiences and those from their network of associates and telling representative stories from some of the “larger than life” executives they have encountered in the last 20 years, the authors build a case for considering 4 essential cultural competencies;
- Intercultural Sensitivity – Being mindful – cultural awareness and paying attention to signals.
- Intercultural Communication – Active listening and adapting communication styles.
- Building Commitment – Strengthening relationships and reconciling stakeholder needs.
- Managing Uncertainty – Openness to cultural diversity, tolerance of ambiguity and exploring new approaches.
“Intercultural Readiness” also refers to the reconciliation work of Dr. Fons Trompanaars and moves beyond country etiquette and the dimensions of difference to include leadership, self-development and plenty of business oriented psychological research on culture, teams and diversity.
I smiled as, in a few places, the text resembled a graduate dissertation in psychology with references to a large number of organisational psychologists offering succinct summaries of their findings.
In any short book there is always the temptation to include dramatic stories that illustrate a point, offer a clever corrective intervention and, thus, support one’s favoured model. These tend to frequently conclude with a positive outcome.
As with many psychological papers, the chosen examples seem to distill a simple answer from the chaotic cloud of international commercial reality.
Balancing this, the authors are up-front about the limits of diverse teams and how, without the management of emotion and interaction, they can easily be less effective than homogeneous ones. There are plenty of warnings included to help the young team leader find a safer path in managing their diverse teams.
Who should read this book?
If you are a tired and jaded HR partner, a habituated intercultural trainer or a coach, this book will lift your spirits with its wit, abundant references and intelligent analysis.
If you are a commercial leader with little regard for statistics you may, however, choose to skim over the more analytical parts in the second half of the work.
This book opens the door on the International Readiness rationale and helps readers to decide upon the merits of this way of thinking.
The book’s key findings are that culturally diverse teams can engender great task accomplishment but that the emotional and relational strains often deter team members from joining forces on subsequent projects. Alleviating this problem can be achieved by including team members that have a developed competence for managing uncertainly. This, it is argued, can prevent the newly formed team splitting into two or more subgroups, from which unity cannot easily emerge.
Also, ratings of personal satisfaction in diverse teams can be much lower than in the cosier environment of a homogeneous team.
With a blue print for things to watch out for within a corporation and when leading a diverse team, this book represents an approach to culture, coaching and competence that is hard to beat for pithy wisdom, peer based analysis and wide referenced sources. Its subtle depth is balanced by an enjoyably readable style.
It is enough to help you continue to believe in your diverse commercial team.
Buy Intercultural Readiness at Amazon; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Intercultural-Readiness-Competencies-Working-Multinational/dp/1137346973/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402243074&sr=8-1&keywords=intercultural+readiness+brinkmann
The reviewer, Matthew Hill, is an author, cultural facilitator, a past president of SIETAR UK, and founder of the Intercultural Training Channel.
Welcome everybody to the Intercultural Training Channel Blog. The aim of this not for profit space is for Intercultural practitioners, academics and enthusiasts to have a voice, exchange ideas, promote their “haves” and air their “wants”. Feel free to comments … Continue reading