As we all know, performing well in one’s own familiar context or culture doesn’t automatically equal studying or working effectively in an international context and/or in a diverse team. Even though we live and work in an increasingly globalized world, in which we seem to look, sound and think more and more alike, we are faced with deep layers of cultural differences. Navigating these differences and being able to cross bridges requires developing these four intercultural competences: intercultural sensitivity, intercultural communication, building commitment and managing uncertainty.
In this webinar SIETAR Germany’s Gary Thomas will take a look at power talking and how it can impact and influence ourselves, those we lead, our peers, our partners and our environment.
Power Talking is a system of using common words to create uncommonly positive outcomes, developed in the USA by George Walther. The phrase he uses to define this concept is ‘What you say is what you get’.
Amy Hoggart explains Brexit. Whilst this is comedy, it is also one of the most accurate versions of the history of our current problem.
Are you one of many parents out there bringing up kids bi- or trilingually? Are you sick of parents of monolingual kids telling you “Wow, your kids are so lucky” whilst you trawl through Maths in another language when you actually never really got it in your mother tongue? You barely understand the order of operations BODMA rule in English let alone its German KLAPUSTRI equivalent?
Oh I get you! I seriously do. All very time consuming when you are working and homework sessions seem to go on forever. Bringing up children bilingually takes a lot of commitment and consistency. I know it as I’ve been there, done it and yes, have two wonderful bicultural and bilingual children that move in and out of languages and cultures with the flexibility of an American Express platinum card.
But the early days were tough. As a British mother bringing two kids up in Austria, a lot of my friends and colleagues were constantly telling me how lucky I was that my kids were bilingual. I knew in my heart of hearts that this would be great long-term and their future employers would profit from their linguistic assets, but at home I was listening to the dreadful sounds of Denglish, and there was a time when every sentence my kids uttered was painful to my ears. These ranged from word order issues such as “Mummy, I want to the toilet go” (German sentence structure), to verb confusion “French did entfallen today” (was cancelled) and general noun usage errors like “Mum, can you make me a Wurstbrot” (open sandwich with luncheon meat) for words that didn’t really exist in English.
The only book I read on the topic was a bit dry (there were unfortunately no blogs back then) but the message I extracted from it was “keep it consistent” and this has definitely paid off.
BILINGUAL TIPS AND TRICKS
Let’s break it down into bitesize pieces and see how raising kids bilingually can be done as effectively as possible. Here are five ways of ensuring that bilingualism works:
- Be consistent. If you are the parent responsible for a particular language, stick to your mother tongue. Even if your child answers you back in the local language and you speak that language fluently or with your partner. Just don’t budge!
- Correct your child in a genteel fashion – the best way to do this is to repeat the incorrect sentence correctly, without pointing it out to the child. This is a bit tedious at the beginning as you may feel that every short exchange turns into a mammoth dialogue, but it really helps.
- Expose your child to as much of the less present language as possible, this may be in terms of TV, films and books from the lesser predominant culture. Find ways of making the language attractive – watching films together, cooking, inviting friends over and speaking the language. Their friends will often find having a bilingual friend rather exciting. Talking to them is really important!
- Keep family ties going with trips to their “other” culture(s) in the holidays and with Facetime & co, it’s easy to stay in contact with grandma and grandad or other relatives across the seas. This should be encouraged at a young age as teenagers sometimes want to travel less for FOMO as they get more integrated into their local life.
- Maybe your child can gain recognised qualifications in a language in the country you are residing in. In the UK it is possible to do a GCSE in most languages and although the school can’t provide all the teaching, they are usually more than happy for pupils go gain qualifications in their mother tongue.
Many parents feel guilty about bringing up kids in different cultures as there are transitional periods when kids suffer from the change. Trilingualism (e.g. parents with two different mother tongues living in a third country) may take a bit more effort and it often depends on the child as to how they cope with it.
Thankfully, it will all unfold with time. My children have been penalised somewhat in school systems – in Austria their lack of knowledge of English grammar such as when to use the present progressive meant they didn’t always get top marks in English despite their fluency.
In the UK they were able to do their German exams (GCSEs and A-Levels) early but they found doing scientific subjects difficult in English because of lack of knowledge and language. In exam scenarios they have to think long and hard about the differences between “examine”, “explain” and “analyse” in questions, partly because this approach is very British but also because their vocabulary is smaller in both languages. And yet they were never considered by the system in the UK to need extra time as they didn’t sound “foreign” enough.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF LINGUISTIC ASSETS
Being a multilinguist is a great skill for future employers and companies love ‘em! The neuroplasticity of bilingual brains is extensive. Do they think out of the box? Quite frankly NO! Because they don’t have any boxes to think out of! They are flexible, open-minded, empathetic, inclusive and very useful team members as they see value in and create synergy from different ideas and approaches.
Gone are the days when bilingualism was frowned upon – the tut-tutting of immigrants using their language on public transport or when immigrants were told by kindergartens and schools to speak the local language at home.
It’s something to be proud of and companies definitely do not undervalue linguistic assets. These days being ahead globally means having both knowledge of foreign markets and speaking foreign languages. So being bilingual gives you a step ahead – and it’s okay if your kids are not perfectly balanced bilinguals. The effort and hard work you put in in their younger years is definitely worth it in the long run.
Email Vanessa now at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation on bringing up children multilingually.
And please share if you know anyone who may benefit from reading this.
About the author:
Vanessa has been training intercultural communication in various locations for around 14 years and is passionate about helping people relocate and reach their maximum potential from their time abroad.
Into the Valley of Stupidity Rode the 600, MPs
Warning – Contains Humour, flashing lights and insults for BOTH Labour and the Conservative Party – It is Insult Inclusive!
Must Try Harder – Poor Communication
600 MPs campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU. They did so because it made sense for trade, defence, jobs and the NHS.
And they did such a poor job of campaigning that, evil marketing genius, Dominic Cummings and the Leave campaign, easily kicked their collective arses and won. Ouch.
Must Try Harder – Arrogance
Before getting D – for communication skills, they cockily assumed that no one would be exposed to 1000,000,000 Facebook adds containing, persuasive, attractive but wholly untrue slogans – Take back control, Britain for the British, A Leave vote will save the NHS, We will get back our lost UK Sovereignty, Save the bendy banana, etc. MPs assumed an easy referendum victory and then overcommitted – The Government did not set the bar high enough requiring a 66% result before a constitutional change was triggered – Even, not-so democratic Turkey, managed that. They said that this vote would be final, thus changing an advisory referendum into a vehicle allowing the educationally deprived British public to make direct British law for the first time in history – INSANE.
Must Try Harder – Rat-Ification
And then the Labour leadership got behind job reductions, economic recession, loss of foreign investment, NHS staff shortages and the Tory and right wing media ideological coup that is Brexit, saying they would deliver a secret rainbow, paradise and unicorn version of Brexit where Bambi’s mum would be brought back to life and everyone would go to work on hover-scooters. (You can’t say that I am wrong because no one has ever seen their plan!)
Must Try Harder – Forget Britain
And whilst this shaming and shameful charade has been playing out, like the end of the Roman Empire – None of the real British issues have been dealt with. We have lost time, money and the political will to sort out key systemic UK problems because these very British issues have all now been blamed on Brussels – INSANE.
It was not Brussels that made some regions of the UK poorer than others – The EU offered salvation to these troubled poor spots with regional EU investment money. After Brexit, that cash lifeline will now disappear. They did not cut Government support for local councils by 60% – The UK Government did that to top up the coffers after bailing out failed UK banks after the 2007 – 2008 UK / US Sub-Prime bank scam. It was the UK Government that chose to let in all the EU workers in 2004 – They were needed then and are needed now to fill jobs, work hard and make a net positive tax contribution to this country – We could have controlled the flow of incoming hard workers at ANY time. There has never been a Brussels / EU legal directive that Britain has disagreed with. Why should there be? Why would 27 reasonable states cook up a law that was repellent to us? They wouldn’t. And we have always had a veto on adopting new EU laws anyway. Even the UKs stupidest negotiator, Dumb David David David Davies admits that we have never disagreed with any new EU laws, “It is the principle”, he says with the sort of simple arrogance that makes you want to cry, laugh and puke, all at the same time.
Must Try Harder – Selfish Selfish Selfish
MPs and Head MPs continue to put job security and their personal ambitions before country. This is, morally…treasonous. TMPM just and only wants to hold on to her job for another week, and another week, and another week. That is all – She does not want consensus, a great deal for business, solutions for the regions, or a safe and protected NHS. No – Just her job, for one more week. Last week was proof of that with, “I will go off to Brussels to ask them to re-open the closed UK-EU negotiations and remove the backstop, which took 2 long years to agree upon.” Impossible (or as the right wing press would tell you – A great victory of TMPM) All she wants is the PM job… for another week.
Must Try Harder – Jezza
F knows what he wants. A not so secret Euro super sceptic, he has played an awful tactical long game, hoping not to be PM (he never wanted that) but for labour to walk over the bombed out Tory rubble of a failed Brexit, into power and Government. A fairly avoidant strategy, based, not on his successful leadership (there hasn’t been any) but depending on Tory humiliation and British people leaving their Brexit CULT of their own free will (Maybe he needs further education on Cults to realise that people trapped on the inside of them almost never leave of their own free will.)
Oops – What he didn’t reckon on was the uselessness of MPs, the power of the media to make Brexit still seem like a reasonable option (Brexit was at no time a better economic plan than staying in the EU. There was never a Brexit plan. There couldn’t be one, and, there is not going to be a better choice than trading from WITHIN the EU, any time soon.)
God knows why JC wants an election – TMPM would probably get an outright majority by the time the press has made Jezza into Soviet Satan and the majority of good British people finally admitted that they STOPPED THINKING, READING OR CARING about Brexit, sometime in Autumn 2016 and now, simply, wanted it all to be over.
Must Try Harder – Facts Fact Facts
All the facts are against what 600 MPs are going to do next – MPs will now be fully complicit in grinding out some sort of half-cock divorce with the EU, and, then grinding grinding out 5 to 10 years of post divorce EU trade negotiations with 27 states, where UK PLC will move either from, our current, First Class and Beneficial EU trade agreement to a Second or Third Class Non-Beneficial Agreement. – MPs will now “help” their 70 million constituents by deciding whether we shoot ourselves only in one foot, in booth feet OR, in the head! That is what our 600 MPs will decide for us. Well worth their £77,000 salary, topped up with some dodgy expense claims. And, well worth our votes and continuing support…?
It’s never too early to sidestep a cult
We don’t have to stretch and think of Waco, ISIS or the Moonies to find examples of Cult recruitment methods at work today. There will be many attempts to recruit you this year, much closer to home.
Whether it is Veganism, Brexit, continued support for Trump’s wall, Sci-entol-ogy, The NRA or Jehovah’s Witness – All have disturbing aspects of a Cult and we need to be more aware of the mechanisms they employ to protect ourself and our loved ones from being inducted against our conscious will.
BTW – If you are part of one of these groups, reading this article will in no way change you. Your programming will enable you to easily resist the 5 points below – In fact you will have already been inoculated against anything in written form that calls your group a cult. And, articles such as this one will drive you in deeper as they act as proof that the “enemy without” exists, thus reinforcing your commitment to your group.
Bizarrely, it is the phenomenon of your inoculation that forms part of the proof that your group is… a cult.
5 False assumptions about cults.
We think of US extremes and people being taken away from their families, being brainwashed to reject all outside communication and performing any act to support and show loyalty to their charismatic leaders – Including bringing in cash and actively recruiting new members. Yes that describes the obvious destructive cult, but be warned, there are other versions that can be equally bad for your rights, your agile mind and your future.
- Destructive Cults only prey on the weak – As you sit amongst your small family, reading a newspaper that is supposedly part of the free press, you may feel pity for the poor saps sucked into some a remote compound or made to sleep with their cult leader.
But, is it time the alarm went off? Actually, the sick, simple and poorest in our community are not the main target of cult recruitment. It is YOU. The hypnotic mechanisms of an effective cult induction programme are, actually, reasonably sophisticated and work best on the educated mind. Most dangerous is the thought that your education is sufficient to protect you from cult messages or you will never be inducted into a cult because you live your life exercising choices, freedom and your wits. Remember. there are those that went to investigate and never came back…
- Negative force is used in the recruitment process for cults
Whilst the mechanisms are manipulative and powerful, force is not normally part of the initial process. The opposite is the case. Love, energy and acknowledgement of the individual are the tools that will attract you in at the beginning (You will be enslaved later.) In my work with corporations as a soft skills trainer, I see that tough love by management is used as part of a behavioural regime of intermittent behavioural reinforcement, that conditions executives to work extra hard, buy into stretch goals and sacrifice more of their free time and other choices in the service of the main corporate mission and a big company vision.
With cults, a dirtier and more subversive version of this happens later in the conversion process and cult induction journey. To start with, the targeted individual is showered with praise, positive affirmation and is deliberately encouraged to feel fabulous and great about themself. This aims to break down the barriers that any sane individual would have when contemplating joining a band of isolated extremists.
The subtle part of the process then follows. The target passes through a barely noticeable series of non-return doors. These suck the prey in and make resistance difficult. Think about yourself at this point. You are really nice, middle class, and an educated person. With a good level of self-worth? So, what will it be difficult for you to do in these surroundings – being showered with love by decent and, supposedly, like-minded people? The answer – Be rude, ask challenging questions, get angry or walk out. (For the Brits it is, “I didn’t want to make a fuss.” This allows the brainwashing to take hold…
- They keep you there by force
The mechanisms of the one-way route during your induction into a cult are ingenious by design. Once your mind has flipped over from resister to congruent follower, You will be filled with a simplified alternative version of reality and “educated” that all other ways are not just wrong but that they threaten the existence of the cult itself. Brilliant gas lighting. When you are fully under the spell of the cult, you will eventually be trusted to venture out on your own. You will be theoretically free to run away – but you will not.
And, it is YOUR mind that will keep you there.
You will, by this stage, super-believe in the tenants of the cult. Hour upon hour of repetition of the key cult messages and models will have worn you down and ensured your compliance with the beliefs of the cult group. And, you will be super-inoculated against all attempts by outsiders to rationalise with you, contact you or plead with you to leave.
So clever is the communication strategy, that the more you plead the more the new cult recruit will smile and say, “They said you would say that.” Evil genius – Your newly brainwashed logic circuits will assign the role of “testing your faith” to outsiders where their pleas make you an active participant in maintaining the cult’s parallel universe. The outsider’s logic will ensure the new cult recruit now believes that the all-wise cult leader was RIGHT all along!!! In a twisted way – you have to admire their dirty craft.
- I live in a democracy and am, therefore, immune from cult recruitment
No, there will be a point in your life when you will be vulnerable. This will come when you are in a state of emotional flux – The death of a parent / child / friend, divorce, recovering from long illness or after being made redundant.
At this point in your life journey, your normal programming about, “Life being fair” or “You get out what you put in” etc. will fail you. In this moment there will be no easy answers at hand. It is now that you will find yourself most open to external warmth, love and the “meaning” of a cult. This is when their powerful weapons of persuasion will work best on you.
Your uncertainty and doubt is their opportunity.
Think of young offenders in prison – lonely, frightened and confused – perfect fodder for the clear, simple story of a radial preacher – Providing a richer context and narrative for their poor and low value lives. It is almost too easy.
- Charisma won’t work on me – I am too rational
People are not rational. That is a myth. We buy emotionally, hate irrationally and our fears can be manufactured quickly, grown cheaply and exploited simply. We are herd animals with the additional hindrance of actively seeking out stories, membership to tribes and having a desperate need to be loved and approved of.
Time and again in Europe, South America and the USA, a population has been swept away by a charismatic leader, only to pay a great cost later. Cult mechanism fuelled the growth of Soviet communism, Chinese communism, Nazi propaganda, the messages of Brexit, and, the divisive communications of British Trade Unions in the 1970’s and the persuasion of the many to give up so much for the benefit of the few. (- please note the balance.)
A Cult Leader
A great public speaker, who understands rhetoric and the key fears of their target audience, can quickly work out, practice and find a platform to deliver cult promises representing a clear and simple alternative to the current state of business.
You too can become a cult leader…
You could do it yourself – Just jot down all the complaints of your community (no matter the actual origin), work out which faction to blame (it does not have to be this targeted group’s fault), come up with a simple alternative reality (it does not have to work) and, hey presto – You have a cult and a speech that will definitely start to draw people in and have them loyally follow you.
You will grab the hearts, minds and wallets of the people who resonate with your list of rapidly cobbled together complaints – just about every time.
For good or evil, a repeated message of clarity, simplicity and improvement works – Obama’s “Yes we can”, Blair’s “For the people”, May’s “The will of the people”, Trump’s “We are going to build a wall”, Thatcher’s “No one has to remain working class – vote for me and your can own your own home”, or, Boris and Dominic Cummings’ “Take back control and save the NHS with lots of money we currently pay to the EU.”
It is so much easier to start a cult than fix real core problems. Problems are
complex, multi-sourced and require intelligent consensus, time, money and commitment from a disparate range of stakeholders. Gathering the necessary support requires… a compelling vision, a charismatic speaker and the recruitment of followers. OMG – we are back here again!
And a democracy (multiple groups having a say and being listened to) makes it much easier for one strong and clear alternative cult guru’s voice to be heard and followed.
Irony stacked upon irony
And once in, there is no quick way out. Rational debate is not possible. The time for listening will be over. Facts will fail.
For the cult member, the need and desire to stay congruent with the cult’s key messages, to feel consistent, loyal and belong to the cult in-group, requires violent rejection of logic and all alternatives. And, more – Rejecting, even the possibility, that their cult might have got it wrong.
And it is this dynamic that generates aggressive words, physical intimidation, lawyers letters, or, at its most miserable extreme, fighting to the death in a foreign land, whilst deluding yourself that you are dying for something valid and real, and, you are dying as a sainted martyr.
Stay vigilant people
Your next cult recruitment message promising a good and simple alternative the complex issues we face today will be coming your way today or tomorrow. Wake up and smell the coffee before you end up being asked to drink the Kool-Aid!
About the Author
Matthew Hill is an Intercultural Trainer, Speaker and Marketeer.
PROGRAMME – A BLANK SLATE?
NEUROSCIENZE E CULTURE / BRAIN SCIENCE AND CULTURES
AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
Florence Firenze, 4th-6th April 2019
Thursday 4th April (3.00-6.00 pm) – Inaugural session
Palazzo Vecchio, Salone dei Cinquecento
Roberto Ruffino, Fondazione Intercultura Benvenuto/Welcome
Issues about the transfer of culture
Steven Pinker, Harvard University The Blank Slate (video presentation)
Lamberto Maffei, Università di Pisa Guardare, vedere, immagini del tempo
Peter Richerson, University of California Not by Genes Alone: How Culture
Transformed Human Evolution
Martin Gessmann, Hochschule fur Gestaltung Mind Meets Brain: The True Impact of Neuroscience Offenbach am Main on Philosophy
Mai Nguyen Phuong Mai, Amsterdam University There is no blank slate. The role of genes,
neurons, behaviour and geography in the
reshaping of cultures
Panel Discussion (9.00 pm)
Firenze, Hotel Mediterraneo, Centro Congressi
Milton Bennett IDRI Institute – Ying-yi Hong, Chinese University of Hong Kong:
A debate “Culture, Cognition, and Consciousness”
Friday 5th April (all day) – Parallel Workshops
Firenze, Hotel Mediterraneo, Centro Congressi
09.00 -11.00 – We are all human beings
Shalom H. Schwartz, University of Jerusalem Universal values across cultures
Lilach Sagiv, Hebrew University Jerusalem
Richard Nisbett, University of Michigan Culture, genes and intelligence
Andrea Moro, Scuola Univ Sup. IUSS Pavia Sintassi, cervello e lingue impossibili
Alberto Piazza, Università di Torino La conservazione della memoria genetica
Giuseppe Mantovani, Universià di Padova L’educazione interculturale al tempo dei sovranismi
con Simone Giusti Storia globale e traduzione nella scuola
Mark Pagel, University of Reading Origins of the Human Social Mind
Adriano Favole, Università di Torino Nature e Culture: l’irriducibile pluralità
Stefano Allovio, Università Statale di Milano dell’umano
11.30 -13.30 – Cultures and the unconscious
Sudhir Kakar, Psychoanalyst, Goa Cultures and Psyche
Paolo Inghilleri, Università di Milano La cultura e i geni non si trasmettono da soli:
il ruolo della mente
Hannah Monyer, University of Heidelberg Brain Plasticity and Memory
Giacomo Rizzolatti, Università di Parma La doppia vita delle espressioni emozionali
Fausto Caruana, Università di Parma
Neil Levy, Macquarie University Sydney Neuro-ethics
Shinobu Kitayama, University of Michigan Interaction between culture and brain
Romano Madera, Universita di Milano Bicocca Dalla pseudospeciazione al capro espiatorio
15.00 -17.00 – Cervello, coscienza, culture/Brain, consciousness and cultures
David Sloane Wilson, Binghamton University Cultural evolution is a blank slate in the same way as other evolutionary processes
Joseph Shaules, Juntedo University A Deep Culture Approach to Intercultural Learning: Culture Cognition and the Intuitive Mind
Milena Santerini, Università Cattolica Milano Educazione morale e neuroscienze
Franco Fabbro, Università di Udine Basi neuropsicologiche dell’esperienza religiosa
Marcello Massimini, Università di Milano Definire e misurare il valore dello stato di coscienza
Guido Barbujani, Università di Ferrara L’invenzione delle razze
Saturday 6th April (morning) – Plenary session
Firenze, Hotel Mediterraneo, Centro Congressi
- Video-summary of items from previous day’s workshops
- Dialogo su culture, cervello, geni e valori/ A dialogue on cultures, brain, genes and values:
- Ian Tattersall, NY Museum of Natural History
- Susanna Mantovani, Università di Milano Bicocca
- Francesco Cavalli Sforza, Università San Raffaele di Milano
12.00-13.00 Wrap up and Conclusions
- Roberto Toscano, Presidente Fondazione Intercultura
If you haven’t got cred, why get out of bed?
Whether you are a university professor battling your painful way up the academic ladder, an independent trainer providing stimulating sessions in a classroom, or, a coach drumming up new clients, there will be one thing that walks into the room before you do – Your Credibility.
It is the label that attaches to you. If you are late for a dinner party or social gathering you will be introduced with that label or property – “Sarah Smith is coming, you know, the one who XXX.” Where XXX represents your reputation / key knowledge asset or the story that sticks to you most.
In the next post – Credibility Part 3, we will outline the key actions you must take in order to boost your credibility to the max and escape any negative aspect of your reputation that is holding you back.
So, what are the components of your credibility? Let us skim the surface with just 11.
*1. Skills and competence – We would not be having this conversation if you were not talented, brimming with potential and waiting to add value to various groups and communities. It is the things you know, can apply and that have an effect that are important.
Action – Make a note of all the skills, competences and value you have and can bring to a group. When you carry out this exercise with true diligence, the breadth of your list may surprise you.
- Benevolent energy – Basically are you a nice person, doing nice things for people who have a clear need? It is the opposite of malevolence – wanting something bad to a happen to a group of people – Imagine the rare instance of a racist politician (hard though that is to imagine.)
Action – Take a brief look in the mirror and ask yourself if you want something good for your target audience? We wish you well with your answer.
- Consistency – When you keep your promise, show up on time and deliver results, your credibility will skyrocket. It is simple, though many fail to recognize the importance of this component.
Action – Honesty test – Are you a woman / man of your word?
- Look and smell like a winner. As I write this piece it is London Fashion Week (It seems like it always is.) Magazines, Hollywood gossip or Friday night at the pub – The focus is on outer appearance. We are simple forest creatures and we pick our mates and leaders visually. So, you do need to look the part. Tall people do better. Blondes outscore brunettes and bald men are paid less that the lion maned – Nobody said life was fair.
Action – I did attend a serious conference in Germany a few years back that included a specialist on this topic and she concluded that we should all rush out and get a lift, tuck and liposuction! Food for thought…
- Eloquent Connecters – We have included two components here for expediency. If you can start with your audience – Work out who they are and communicate effectively with them, you will gain great credibility rapidly. It is less about you and more about them. On top of this if you have a memorable and effective public speaking style, then you will gain bonus credibility points and will experience more control over your own destiny.
Action – Study influencing techniques, learn advanced presentation skills and book yourself some singing lessons this week.
- Quality – “Good is not longer good enough. You now have to be remarkable.” (Seth Godin) Excellence is the new normal and we all have to step up in ALL areas. Charm will take you just so far (my spelling mistakes are charming to all those who are not full-on OCD.) Taking your work and output to a new level of accuracy, depth and style will make a big difference.
Action – Use editors and designers, and, practice your pitch in front of constructive critics to take your game up a level.
- Be a problem solver (and not the problem) The parenthesise refer to Princes and Princess who are perceived as being high maintenance. This becomes their label and overshadows talent, value and core message. There is nothing more attractive to an audience than a fixer, travelling through work and life being willing and able to untangle cables, solve the issue with the numbers, and, move on to deliver results, solve the puzzle and allow others to win.
Action – Please attempt to be user friendly. Practice root cause analysis and problem solving. Learn how the world works and give away your victories.
- Reframe pessimism as optimism – Are you a radiator or a drain? Do you suck the life out of a room or illuminate the space in front of you? When you replace low energy passivity with realistic enthusiasm, you will be loved. When you take the negative and reframe it positively, you will be respected. It is easy to join in with a depressed bunch and chime in with the collective moaning – misery loves company. Please do not be tempted to do this. It will become your label. Whinging Winston / Wendy. Nobody will want you at their party.
Action – Practice reframing low energy, blocked and negative group input constructively and positively, adding energy and inspiration into the mix for good measure.
- Become the Go To Expert GTE – Taking a couple of the points above, there is a space waiting for you as a Subject Matter Expert – SME. This is about depth and breadth –Mastery of content. When you get there you will, automatically become the GO TO EXPERT person. Is that what you crave? Can you handle the pressure? Are you prepared to step up, take on the role? And deliver?
Action – Study, learn, read, ask to become an SME in your chosen field.
- Opinion Leader – Subtly different from point 9. Being an OL is a specific role that combines expertise with communication. It is the embodiment of Credibility in action. It actively connects the value that you have with the attention, need and desire of your audience to engage with you, follow you, relate to your purpose and DO WHAT YOU SUGGEST. When you are at this level (the top of the mountain), you will have the power to drive audiences to take meaningful action. You will be able to direct attention to a fruitful and ethical agenda, and, you will be able to make a leveraged difference through the crowd you have gathered. It is an awesome space with a large quotient of moral responsibility. SO – PLEASE – USE YOUR PLATFORM WISELY.
Action – Decide upon a utilitarian path, do the work to get to the top, use your powers for good, and, DO NOT BELIEVE ALL THE HYPE.
You will have noticed the common themes of selflessness, great communication, inclusion of others, putting in the work and keeping to an ethical stance. The rest is up to you.
Question – What will precede you into the room in one year’s time? That depends on what you start doing now.
About the Author – Matthew Hill is a trainer, coach, facilitator, author, public speaker and broadcaster, helping executives and leaders to uncover their soft skills talent, strengthen their competences and, whilst reaching their own potential, benefit their teams and their environment.
Most people, most of the time, are not in collaboration mode – they are pursuing a totally different agenda
Tool 1 Active Listening
Before you dismiss this with a, “ ‘been there, done that, know it all already!” (that would indicate that you are overdue for a listening refresher course), let us remind ourselves that most people, most of the time are not listening actively. They are more likely to be;
*Waiting their turn to give their version of what has just been said, and, if they are super competitive, to story top and WIN! This is not active listening.
*Asking WIIFM? “What’s in it for me?” This person mines your data looking to extract personal gain and advantage from your content. It is a search function akin to selective attention. Test this by throwing in some test words, “Sex, beer and Netflix” and watch thier reaction. When they twitch they will know you are on to them. This is not an empathic activity.
*I know best. The Listening Observer Critic sits high up, even whilst standing, and allows their privilege to leak out with advice, constructive (or undermining) criticism to let you know that they are just a little bit better than you. These people lack empathy and their contribution may leave a bitter residue.
And now the real thing – Active Listening
The missing elements include;
*First attempting a broad understanding of what is being said and then taking a further empathic step – to understand the speaker as the SPEAKER intends to be understood. This is the Platinum level of listening.
*Psychological proof. This stage is not attained by the listener repeating what they have heard. A smart phone can do that. They are tasked with processing the information from their own perspective, attempting empathy and seeing the matter from the speaker’s Point of View – POV and, then, expressing what they think they have heard. Here we may add, checking for clarity and the confirming the intention component as well. This will sound like, “So, IF I have understood you correctly, I heard XXX. Is that the message you wished me to receive?”
*Letting them finish. The talking stick remains with the speaker for as long as they wish so they finally can feel they have said their piece.
The first time you try these ideas out with a passionate person, the results may overwhelm both them and you. This may be the first occasion when they have actually felt listened too with respect, depth and acknowledgement.
Tool 2. Point of View – POV
This is a POV and reconciliation exercise that can be practiced as a training exercise and then used in real conversations. The training version is simple. Split the group into 3s. The first person takes the role of Finance Director, the second, New Young Executive and the third, the Project Delivery Leader. The context is set – The 3 of you are discussing the progress of a critical 90-day work project for your Golden Goose customer. As it stands, you are not going to hit either the quality mark or the tight deadline. Q. What do you do? The suggestion that you are now going to form an opinion on is; PAID OVERTIME. Are you for it or against it in this instance?
+ The first task is for the 3 to get into character and give a one-line opinion, yes or no, with, maybe, one line of explanation.
The answers are normally the expected ones – The Finance Director says, “The new money is not in the budget – No,” Etc.
+ The second task is to work out a strategy for how to reconcile the 3 points of view to reach the required quality standard, and, put in enough work hours to finish the job and end before the deadline.
There normally follows some creative thinking, challenge to opposing positions and a reconciliation that ends come up with a strategy that is, 1) paid for, 2) creates more hours of labour to complete the project, and, 3) can be agreed upon by the 3 people in the discussion.
This exercises mirrors what is required of a Collaborative Working Group – the robust exchange of truths, creating options, reconciling differences and mobilising around a common outcome to stay focused on the task, and, not get distracted by difference.
Once the training version has been completed it is time to have a go in the BWW – The Big Wide World.
Tool 3. Letting Go of Defensiveness
If there were just one freeing exercise that was mandatory for all boards, groups and committees, this would be it. Humans are emotional, primal and full of fear. It is mostly misdirected fear around the participant’s core needs not being met that causes so much grief and delay.
When a board member’s core needs are threatened, defensiveness can easily follow. The 3 needs are;
*Significance – Privilege, status, power, importance or position – When this is threatened or exposed, defensiveness will never be far behind.
*Competence – Another key component of a board member’s identity tool kit is their ability and skill level. When this is challenged, called into questioned or undermined in real time, defensive will surely follow.
*Likable – To generalise – We all have a deep deep desire to be admired, liked and approved of. It is a critical part of most of us and the one need that is examined the most – “Do they like me?” “Will they like me?” “Am I being likable now?” Etc.
How does defensiveness manifest? We can make progress when we spot the symptoms of defensiveness, spot them early and interrupt the negative behaviour that will inevitably follow.
Examples include; plunging into sulky silence, The “poor me” victim script, All or nothing, polarised thinking, wanting and needing to be right, spreading the blame or shame, experiencing a sudden drop in IQ, experiencing energy ripping through the body, doom mongering / catastrophizing, needing the last word, obsessive thinking, Needing to pour out information or saying, “I don’t really get defensive.”
Action – With self-awareness, each board / committee member can learn to notice their own pattern of moving into defensiveness. The next move it to interrupt that normal course of events, reset, and, move in a different direction.
If you start to witter when you feel attacked – Stop, centre yourself and remain silent. If you suffer a drop in IQ, stop and focus on an intelligence enhancing strategy such as collecting symptoms from the recent conversations and attempting to derive a root cause that can be dealt with. If you feel like pointing the finger, interrupt yourself and focus on environmental causes not ones originating for any individual in the room. And so on.
Tool 4 The Licenced Pessimist
If you are familiar with Edward De Bono’s Six Hat Thinking Model, you will know that the Black Hat is tasked with thinking of the biggest risks and the worst outcomes. This function is essential if a group is to combat GROUPTHINK. Groupthink happens when overly homogenous groups, often lead by a strong or charismatic leader, get behind an idea and really go for it. When it is a particularly extreme point of view, risk management goes out the window and, suddenly, something bizarre ends up being carried out by an enthusiastic lynch mob. Remember the HSBC credit officer who saw the 2007 subprime loan property disaster unfolding in the US and spoke up. He was fired by the group-thinking board and disaster followed shortly after.
Asking people to rotate and take a turn to act as the devil’s advocate is a great way to stress test all ideas, and challenge all assumptions before bad outcomes occur.
Hint – It is best to keep rotating this role through the group or an unconscious bias will grow and that single Black Hat will begin to be seen as not playing a useful role but OWNING their tasked negative perspective permanently.
We hope you have benefited from these 4 tools and ideas and will implement them with your committees, boards and teams.
Please like and share if you are going to take action or think others could benefit from this input. Thank you.
About the Author – Matthew Hill is a trainer, facilitator, coach and public speaker helping executives and leaders uncover their soft skill talents, develop their communication competences and, whilst reaching their own personal potential, help others to enjoy a better work life and great business outcomes. Contact him by telephone; 07540659995
Are we making assumptions and mistakes?
Our many many assumptions only delay the building of effective collaborative structures and getting to positive team collaboration.
The assumptions about collaboration, and, how we should all be able to instantly achieve this nirvana like state, give insights into the difficulties we face, and, they often betray our cultural origins too.
In this, the first of 3 short posts, we will explore the barriers to collaboration in order to confront them, raise self-awareness and, finally, be able to put together a blueprint for effective collaboration across place, time and difference.
10 Assumptions and Mistakes
- Its all about the goal – Action based organisations or individuals are all about starting fast and ending with the achievement of a goal – growth, profit or the production of a new object etc. Whilst this approach has been enormously effective (with only 5% of the World’s population, the US accounts for 23% of the World’s economy), the magic that creates collaboration happened between the start and finishing lines. We can easily find ourselves looking in the wrong place and focusing on the wrong things.
- Nail down the strategy – We are taking a large step closer when we talk about strategy and the HOW? How will we get there? Here, however, the focus, all too often, again, misses out the human, the relational and the emotional. The assumptions made are like an engineer in a factory – building a sausage machine, fill it with sausage meat and casings, and turn it on. We look at process and give emphasis to the technical, whilst again, overlooking the human.
- Measurement improves business – You get more of what you measure? Why? Because that is where you put your energy and attention. It is easy to manage activity, and compare input with output – Notice we are back with the sausage machine analogy. This risks drifting into Stephen Covey territory where we are super-EFFICIENT without being that EFFECTIVE. There is a critical difference we must become aware of. You can be driving in a super-efficient way – in the WRONG direction!
- Man management will get us there – So we have reached point 4. Are we finally, going to to deal with the emotional human and how we can get them to collaborate? Not quite yet! Historically, humans have been treated as muscle machines; expendable commodities whose freewill must be minimised and whose bodies must be made fast, and, whose minds must be made compliant. Take a moment and consider how obedient are you expected to be in order to continue to receive your pay? It is a little scary. There is an unwritten subtext where you must sublimate much of yourself in order for your face and behaviour to fit in.
I remember my Welsh English teacher, Taff Davies, beginning the year with exactly this metaphor. “What is the key characteristic of an efficient machine?” He asked. Silent running was the answer, he wished to extract from the class.
- Privilege – Do you notice who gets promoted? Class based advantage helps promote pale males ahead of others. This happens because of the two confidences – Theirs and ours.
Their confidence is drummed in – Noblesse oblige, duty, leadership, expectation (BTW – This is not a walk in the park – There is a large promise that must be delivered upon by our silver spooned chewing heroes.)
Our confidence comes in the form of preferring to deal with a middle class white male when it comes to anything important. We are ALL compliant in this skewed system.
Society has programmed us to accept a specific and prescribed minority as the dominant leaders in our community. This is historical, political and economic. We have spent much less time, money and energy working to create the conditions necessary for wider, productive and sustainable collaboration.
- Me me me – Either from the elite in point 5. or coming from the wide lands around them, the personal agenda of the individual can so easily compete for attention and resources as to undermine the chances of everybody playing nicely, collaborating for something worth achieving, or, the key audience being served at all. Just look at the ego of that person in your own group. You know who I mean.
- Defensive feelings – It is too easy to get passed people as machines model only to take everything personally. This leads to drama and personal battles that have little or nothing to do with the mission, the team or the service that is to be delivered. – Defensiveness is at the heart of most escalations, team malfunctions and litigation. It is a primal human reaction and will not lead to 1000 create collaborative moments.
- The oppressed marginals are included – The opposite of 5., those stuck in the margins have learnt behaviours necessary for them to exist, persist and survive. Their voice is quiet and avoids critical challenge, licenced pessimism or contributing their own innovative ideas. No risk – no punishment. That is the motto of the un-empowered came up with to keep on living.
- I don’t do bias – The problem with us humans, is that we think we are objective, intelligent and sophisticated creatures – That we are above the fray. We subconsciously dismiss the views of outsiders, outliers and those not in our gang. And we only vote for our own and take comfort in the tranquil voice of the social leaders as with point 5. We all have plenty of unconscious bias that has been programmed in via parental chat, education, entertainment and, particularly, with every political speech we have heard.
- Pleasing people pleases people – We end in irony. Groups comply rather than offer rational challenge for a reason. It is because they wish to enjoy harmony and for each member to be liked.
The assumption is that nice people, doing nice things for the needy is the way to go. It is not.
People pleasers don’t please people. We get nowhere and the wheels eventually fall off the bus. Group thinkers take wild decisions, create unsustainable levels of risk and cannot self-correct.
When we replace groupthink with licenced criticism, we start to create the conditions for GOOD conflict, robust exchange and the possibility of progress. This is challenging in most subcultures, where confrontation is actively avoided (How many times do the Brits say, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry every day?)
Being nice is not always a necessary condition for collaboration.
Conclusion – A raft of assumptions and mistakes stand in the way of forging effective teams, committees and communities that can act with purpose, from a strong based of shared values to achieve worthy and sustainable outcomes.
Next time we look at some exercises that can get us from the 10 assumptions and mistakes mentioned above and move towards behaviours supporting full-on collaborative teams working in a robust, courageous and effective way to fulfil their mandate.
About the author – Matthew Hill is a facilitator, presentation coach and leadership trainer, working with commercial and voluntary organisations to help them operate as robust executive teams, fulfilling individual promise and delivering overall results that are extraordinary.
*** SIETAR Congress in Malaga *** – Matthew Hill and Susanna Schuler will be running a workshop on the second day of the 1st SIETAR Spain Congress in Malaga. Saturday, 29th September 2018. After lunch. Do join us if you can…
Matthew Hill – 07540 65 9995