Are You Just Too Busy? And is it Good Busy or Bad Busy?

When would NOW be a good time to start your personal Trainer / Coach / Academic / Student – Time / Work Quality revolution?

  1. The Good Busy test. How much of the following (honestly) applies to you?

“I am Good Busy. My schedule is packed with exciting trips and assignments taking place in desirable locations, working with and for kind, progressive and generous clients who seem to understand me, appreciate me and, specifically, understand my worth to them.

Effective Time Management

They provide a stimulating brief that I am excited to get my teeth into. The work has plenty of variety, suits my strengths and allows me to be fully expressed, in the zone and at my best as I execute the work that I love.”

Have we described your life perfectly? Or, the one that you wish to have in 2018?

  1. The Bad Busy test. When I am not filling in or scanning endless administrative forms, I seem to be trapped in other unpaid, repetitive and unrewarding chores. Either that or I feel duty bound to travel and fulfil my Mephistophelean contract of vast acres of underpaid, boiler plate assignments in grubby locations with cheap accommodation for an unappreciative audience that would far rather be anywhere else than there. My clients are Monolith factory sweatshops that deploy above average people to perform stressful, complicated and disjointed work for little result beyond task completion, urgency and the avoidance of an escalation that sparks the harsh tongue of a similarly stressed supervisor hovering above them, micromanaging the process.

Both 1. & 2. are, of course, an exaggeration. The point of showing you the above two paragraphs is to get you to feel something and recognise elements of WHAT YOU WANT and what you are stuck with and wish to ESCAPE.

The Symptoms –

*Does your heart race or sink when a new work order comes in?

*Do you ever feel ill or experience a mild panic attack on the way to work?

*Do you feel low on Sunday and drink too much on a Friday evening alongside your equally disenchanted colleagues?

*Has your description of what you do become more cynical when are asked about it socially?

What needs to change in 2018?

  1. Audit. I am often asked what is the key to happiness when in the middle of the upheaval of changing country and one thing I learnt years ago is that externally enforced relocation, reassignment or revolution is the perfect time to take stock of your situation and ask some profound questions of yourself…

*Who were you when you set out in the world of work?

*Are you still that person?

*What do you want your day job to be in 5 year’s time?

*What do you want your legacy / eulogy to be?

*What do you enjoy most in your work?

*What activity fills you with dread?

*Are you healthy / happy / fulfilled?

*Are you EARNING what you are worth?

*Is the output of your work good, neutral or evil?

And

*Are you giving out something via your job that is adding value to the broader human experience?

What can you Do?

  • Say “No!” – The breakthrough moment came for me working as a freelance trainer and coach many years ago when I started saying no to discounted work, unfulfilling assignments, crappy locations, unprepared clients and work that was meaningless, harmful or just a tick box exercise for a corporate customer.

    Better fees

    “No!”

Instantly my life improved. I felt rebellious, free and more in control of my content, my audience and my outcomes. My income went up, my spare time went up, my boredom, stress and frustration levels went down.

My question became, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?”

Upgrade Everything – If you increase the quality of every little thing you work on and create something whole that is exceptional, people will notice, your brand will become REMARKABLE and your place in the world will change.

+How can you turbo charge your product?

+What will take your service levels to a place that commands a premium price?

+How can you find the courage to ask for an OUTRAGEOUS fee and keep a straight face?

+How can you create a niche that you will own, dominate and FILL with value?

+How can you spend your time being Fully Expressed, utilising your value and being totally connected to your client, their objectives and your transformational talents?

Excited woman working at desk in office. Using antistress ball.

Conclusion – You get the life you tolerate, so maybe it is time to take action and raise your standards.

Action

If you have been affected by this blog post and want to start your year with a bang – Do feel free to drop me a line and we can have a 5-minute conversation. I would like to hear your story.

Matthew Hill culture trainer 07540659995

Call Matthew

Thanks and “bon chance” for 2018.

 

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Cultural Risk Management Part III by Glen Burridge

Just how serious is it?

I’ve previously said there is a risk in our world that, by virtue of its very pervasiveness, we are more blind-sided to than any other. It threatens us with the most terrifying consequences if we do not respect it and, yet, if we harness its power, it can be an accelerator towards our greatest riches: It is that of Cultural Risk.

Assumption No. 2:

“Even if it exists, there is nothing to be done about it….”

This the biggest stumbling block we face and many people never get beyond this point.

This failure to see a solution is best explained by what can be ascribed to a malaise in both the Cultural and Risk fields.

Perhaps the question would be better re-framed:

“Why is the knowledge that exists to tackle it not being deployed more effectively?”

There are after all not one, but two fields of expertise meant to be dealing with this.

Let’s start with a simple representation of broadly pretty much any activity human beings engage in:

At the heart of this view lie two inescapable elements:

  1. What drives how groups of people behave: “Culture” (the shape of their collective motivations)
  2. What people do for the results they want: How they judge the benefits against the “Risk” (ending up in a desirable place in the range of possible futures)

    Glen Burridge Cultural Risk Model

    Cultural Risk Model

Why the intercultural signal has been lost

The field of intercultural studies should be a coherent whole, but isn’t. This is a deep irony as much as it is a tragedy.

Originally born of the need for anthropologists to make sense of “exotic” cultures that were cut from cloth very different from their own, the study of the ethnic or national dimension of inter-cultural relations carries with it a genuine, and life-affirming curiosity to explain, reconcile and improve relations between communities, whether they be tribes, regions, nations or even global blocs. Its remit can be said to range from the village green to the UN.

Equally, there have been various attempts at understanding the way assemblages of people work together as organisations since the 19th Century. Driven by a far more prosaic imperative of effectiveness, it reaches to understand the same dynamic of how people can work better together, whether it is in the name of financial profitability, optimising supply chains, guarding reputations or simply completing a mission.

Despite tackling many of the same material questions about human collective behaviour, these two perspectives remain unreconciled; the latter may not even be aware – let alone, seek co-operation with the first – with protagonists finding themselves having to delve into psychology, business studies, sociology, applied linguistics and communications for answers.

The only potential touch-point you’re likely to find is within international management studies, where the interface of culture is all but inevitable, but this is a niche. Pick up a publication from the two sides of the cultural coin and expect little overlap in thinkers.

In recent times, a third dimension has taken on a consequence all of its own, due to the ability for the global community to talk to and between itself. These are the self-identifying and potentially ephemeral cultures (manifesting, as they do, often in digital form) of networks. If there is one global social activity that perhaps defines our current time, it could arguably be this one phenomenon.

This fracture is at the heart of why we do not see our most pressing questions of the day framed in intercultural terms. There is no shortage of expertise or technique. It’s that the brand is simply too weak.

If you want a perspective on what the intercultural can offer and Glen’s own take on what holds it back, see his 2014 presentation slide deck from the Dialogin international management conference in Konstance here:

http://glenburridge.com/what-constrains-the-impact-of-cross-cultural-thinking-on-global-leadership-a-consultants-view-2/

Management’s nasty secret: It too easily forgets all risk is human…

The fundamental issue that has still yet to fully dawn on many organisations is that their greatest risk has always been and always will be human. No technology or opaque algorithm is going to change that anytime soon.

“All aircraft accidents are human factors accidents”

Captain Dan Marino, International Civil Aviation Organisation – pioneer of human factors in aviation safety

We are reluctant to contemplate the role of our own Human Factor in the vulnerabilities of a given situation. The complexity of our world and the challenges we create for ourselves mean this reticence to consider the risk we create from our own collective psychology is no longer tenable. The wonders of neuroscience, probability theory and data visualisation have also marched too far for any more excuses.

Now, some subjects are so huge and the issues so pressing, they require a whole new literature and approach. For the most eloquent raising of the warning flag on the way the spectre of uncertainty is handled by organisations, look no further than Douglas Hubbard’s brilliant The Failure of Risk Management. Otherwise, follow Alexei Sidorenko on LinkedIn, who posts almost daily on this theme.

In short, what’s gone wrong with the classic manifestation of “risk management” as we understand it today is that it is shot through with our own fallibility – to the point of its own self-destruction. We need to couple our stunning abilities to numerically model a sweep of possible outcomes and their probabilities with the Human Factor. Only then can we hope to provide the best chance for quality decisions and a far more realistic and resilient vision on the true uncertainty we are facing – from which threats will surge or benefits develop.

As we’ve moved into the 21st Century, a whole new field has become dedicated to this very task, born out of the lessons of behavioural economics and social psychology, namely Decision Science, a topic I will no doubt return to, since it is our greatest hope for a vehicle to resolve this.

Cultural risk management as a trade

The other good news is that the two most fundamental applications of cultural risk management happen to have been foundations of our global society for thousands of years. So much so, we can be forgiven to taking them for granted: They are the relationships we form with each other through diplomacy and through trade.

The art of finding a mutually agreeable solution between multiple sources of power must rank among the oldest three professions (even if others commonly are accorded the epithet!) and the fate of everything from individuals to, at times, the entire human civilisation has hung on its success.

Without functioning diplomatic relations, you do not have much of a basis for society-level stability, the ability to assure safety nor to progress through exchanging ideas and material objects with other groups. There’s a very close and immediately acting correlation between lack of diplomatic effectiveness and anarchy.

The first place to look for mastery of this art is, therefore, among the great diplomatic successes of history, sometimes which are acts by single individuals. And, then, to look, by extension, at those who seem to have an uncanny ability to reach out to many groups, either with ideas or products.

Stripped back to its elemental, cultural evolution comes down to the (sense of…) distance between parties and whether they have anything which the other feels is of value, whether that be material, knowledge or even an idea. This was true in the hundreds of thousands of years when we were not much more than a clever pack of apes eking out an existence, as it is now when a quantum scientist, salesperson or political commentator speaks to a collaborator, customer or journalist on the other side of the planet. We might wrap it all in cultural artefacts like research funding, capital and network analysis, but the essential dynamic is just the same as it was on that river crossing, tundra or forest clearing back in our earliest days.

About the Author – Glen Burridge is a management consultant who’s come to the conclusion that intercultural risk is the greatest threat and opportunity lurking in all we do. To handle it, we need to think of culture as multi-faceted, ever-present and a context for every decision we ever make.

Contact Glen at glen@glenburridge.com 

#culturalrisk #riskmanagement #humanfactors #intercultural #crosscultural #management #risk

Cultural Risk Management Part 2 by Glen Burridge: Deadly Assumptions

Now, I hope I started to frame this last time, but let’s take that first assumption and look at some practical evidence of why it needs dispelling. This won’t be the normal size of my blogs. This is just too important an subject. But stick with me….

Assumption No. 1    “This topic has little or no effect on my world: I have more important things to worry about”

This is so big I’m going to break it down into two parts.

Part I: Every Human Grouping Has a Culture

Let’s start with internal culture, the one that exists in every grouping or organisation of human beings on the planet. This is the aspect most people are familiar with.

In the world of business, the evidence of its importance is legion and its consequences run from operational ineffectiveness through to life and death:

  • In a 2008 survey of more than 1500 industry executives, IBM found that roughly half of all projects fail due to “company culture”

http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/bus/pdf/gbe03100-usen-03-making-change-work.pdf

  • Deloitte ‘Core Beliefs & Culture’ survey from 2012 illustrates the power a corporate culture has on how happy and valued employees feel:

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/gx-core-beliefs-and-culture.pdf

Exc orgs 

  • The Final Report on the Investigation of the Macondo Well Blowout by the Deepwater Horizon Study Group (2011), one of the worst industrial accidents in of recent years:

“It is the underlying safety culture, much of it so ingrained as to be unconscious, that governs the actions of an organization and its personnel. [These are] cultural influences that permeate an organization and an industry and manifest in actions that can either promote and nurture a high reliability organization with high reliability systems, or actions reflective of complacency, excessive risk-taking, and a loss of team situational awareness.”

http://ccrm.berkeley.edu/pdfs_papers/bea_pdfs/dhsgfinalreport-march2011-tag.pdf

We also know that increasing the variety of the people who make up an organisation, in terms of the most fundamental traits, has a positive impact:

Diversity

http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

And you don’t have to take my word for it, listen to what these two men have to say about the topic of organisational culture, who know a thing or two about running a business….

“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not be even aware of the extent to which this is happening”

Edgar H. Schein. Renowned American organizational psychologist, Emeritus Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

Peter Drucker. 20th Century business management guru and writer

The ends might be different, but the same undoubtedly goes for the public sector and our governments. Any listing of the largest organisations on the planet,

e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_employers

is dominated by state-driven entities. Just contemplate the complexity and cultural diversity – in every sense – of a collection of several million employees represents for a moment. By any standards, these are equivalent to nation states in themselves. Even a several thousand employee organisation will have its own clans, power struggles and centres, outlying regions, dialects and a clear sense of norms and networks of communication and action.

Part II: When Worlds Collide

For an organisation that remotely cares about its interaction with its operating environment, it’s very tempting, especially for a commercial entity, to simply state that what’s important above all is their relationship with their customer(s). This makes complete sense…..on the face of it, but the correlation between corporate health is mixed, as examples:

The truer reality is any organisation, whether public or private sector, sustains its existence with its overall relationship with its operating environment.

Crudely speaking, it is fed by a demand from within that space, whether it be from a market or a power centre. Its survival may assured through various means: extracting profits, exchanging goods, offering expertise, a social contract, acting on behalf of a governing mandate or through distributing services altruistically, among other things.

Whatever your organisation does, it will inevitably be interacting with others, no matter what your or their motives. And each will possess a culture(s) which will never switch off, constantly interplay and collectively shape a new reality.

The trouble is that if you ask a random person on the street what “inter-cultural relations” are, chances if they have the patience, they’ll figure out more or less what it should mean. However, except for those working in certain fields, it’s far less likely to be something they systematically think about much and there is even less chance they claim it as an area of expertise deployed on a frequent basis.

Even those who are consummate interculturalists most likely don’t name it and will often put it down to “good personal qualities” or the like. The idea that groups they belong to are actively engaged in such issues will take some head scratching. Even though the consequences may be very apparent to them, only if pushed, are they likely to bring the C-word into it. And don’t be surprised if – even if you get here – when they refer to culture, they will be exclusively talking about ethnic or national ones (…we’ll get to that, in a bit).

It’s not that Culture isn’t ever-present or of capital importance, it’s that most people are simply not taught to frame relationships in intercultural terms, which is tragic since its master practitioners literally save the world or, at the very least, your world every day. Each diplomat who recognises that the point being made in a treaty negotiation stems from a deep-seated historical perspective born of an ancient sleight, each business person who realises that a sale needs to occur in a certain pattern to gain trust in this market, each presenter who outlines their arguments in a way which reaches out to a colleague from another discipline…..they are all making the world an easier place to live in and moving forward human progress. Belligerent, selfish or malignant actions taken in the world are, by definition, anti-intercultural in that they drive away mutual comprehension and productive co-existence.

Yes, I told you this stuff was important, didn’t I?

Maybe it is my training as a geophysicist, but I like to think of the inter-cultural relationships acting as a wave-field. Like the sun’s energy that bathes us, culture is something we are constantly bathed in. The spectrum frequencies change slightly with every moment, but it is inescapable and complex, but if you make an effort to understand it, it is something you can harness for all sorts of good.

We’ll get back to what goes into that ocean of waves, but for moment I just make one plea – don’t limit your thoughts on this subject to flags, languages or belief systems. There are complete strangers you can meet from the other side of the world who you will have instant an instant cameradery with, based on affinities that go well beyond those factors. Have a think….

Now, if you still don’t think this subject is of capital importance, take a look at this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

Culture plays a significant and inescapable role in pretty much any one of these effects that warp and shape our activities. Go through any of them in your professional life and see if you can think of an event where you saw this effect in play.

And now, count up the cost…..in money, reputation, uncertainty and RISK.

Billions of $’s in accumulated financial losses have resulted from not adequately addressing for this element of risk, hard-earned standing and reputation has been dissipated and yes, many lives lost. And what’s worst is that it, if deployed, it presents one of the greatest opportunities for all-round gain and it is sitting in plain view to any organisation that decides to engage with it.

That’s where this concept of Cultural Risk Management sits, right under each of the human behaviours that influence the full sweep of your organisation’s operations.

Talk to the AuthorGlen Burridge. For a discussion of the topics raised in this article and associated blogs, please feel free to get in touch with Glen at glen@glenburridge.com or via LinkedIn.

Cultural Risk Management – Part I of a new series by Glen Burridge

This is the first of a series of articles where Interculturalist and Earth Scientist Glen Burridge be looking to highlight a topic that confronts us every day in all aspects of our lives and yet is frequently neglected by both organisations and individuals: Cultural Risk Management

Crowd. A large group of people of a white background.

If we have one characteristic as humans that represents both our greatest capability and our greatest weapon it is our ability to self-organise.

In other words, to create cultures.

In these groupings, we become actors in the world, through our organisations, societies, tribes, networks and communities. Through them, we trade and we exchange, we engage in conflict and war and we create things of beauty and value. In doing so, they form the basis of our identities and influence our behaviour at every moment. Some stem back to the origin of our species, while others are bubbling up as we speak.

Culture as Lifeform

We may do our best to romanticise them, especially those identities to whom we belong and find the most meaningful, yet a culture is – at best – no more than a meta-stable life-form. As ambient conditions vary, vulnerable cultures die, a few coalesce, whilst others are born. They are susceptible to changes in the environment, undergoing perpetual fashioning by external challenge and interaction – an analogy with viral behaviour would not be unfair – and our increasing connectivity with each other accelerates this process.

History tells us that cultural ‘entropy’ has operated since our earliest times: As human populations have expanded and come in closer proximity, there is a tendency for any extensive culture to produce homogenisation of society in their image. In order to survive the onslaught, any target community will require strong traits – either of adaptability, invincibility, suitability or to defy the threat by virtue of distance or size. There are moral and practical consequences to what is lost and gained by such an organic course, but it could be argued that this is simply the to-and-fro of natural selection at play; a culture is no more than an elegant ecological solution to a problem at a given time.

Whatever their origins and health, what the human story makes abundantly clear is that the simultaneous greatest threat to our future wellbeing and opportunity for positive development comes from the interaction between cultural groups. This is where interculturalists operate and (ought to) have a capital role to play in our future.

Yes, it really is as important as that.

Limited Space

The Earth, at present our sole home, has a surface area of 510 million square km. That might sound like a lot to you and me, used to possessing only an infinitesimal morsel of that terrain, but of that immense expanse only roughly 20% is habitable. In terms of the volume of our planet, only a fraction of 1% is a survivable biosphere. We are currently adding over 200,000 extra people per day to that space.

It pays for us to get along well with each other.

The Other

Cultures, with their attendant values, motivations and artefacts will come and go, but the perennial question that matters is whether these groupings – and their representatives – are able to find a common basis in which the existence of the Other is not a accompanied by fear. No group is ever going to fire a nuclear warhead deliberately at itself, it will always be at an Other. ‘Civil’ Wars are anything but civil. They entail the disintegration of the façade of a collective identity under exterior pressure or internal reckoning.

Equally, all valuable endeavours we embark on culminate, in some form, in a collective effort. At all scales of our lives, this entails an association of existing bodies, whether they are political, commercial, humanitarian or social. We therefore know we are going to face a myriad of interfaces in much of what we do. We ought to be prepared. Any organisation that neglects the multiple dimensions and effects of culture is ignoring not only its own DNA, but that of the environment it operates in.

Yet, despite a whole field of solutions that now stretch back more than half a century, the risk associated with cultural interactions remains the one we are collectively most reluctant to address in business and in the world at large.

The worst kind of success

The worst kind of failure is when we ignore a critical factor that was staring us in the face all along. The worst kind of success is one achieved without the capacity to repeat it, carrying threats into the very next situation we find ourselves, but now with a perilous confidence, until the moment of drama when we realise we have made a serious misjudgement, when it becomes no longer a risk, but history.

In the following articles, Glen will open up the discussion to explore further dimensions of cultural risk, how deeply it reaches into our lives, society and business, which go far beyond the familiar cultural realm of national identities.

For a discussion of the topics raised in this article and associated blogs, please feel free to get in touch with Glen at; glen@glenburridge.com or via LinkedIn or leave a comment below.

glenEarth Scientist and Interculturalist, Glen Burridge

 

 

Polish Heroes A Book review; Tim Bridgman “Positively Disappointed – Business Across Cultures in Poland”, Szkolenia Lodz, 2015

When I was handed the manuscript for Positively Disappointing, I thought the title was brave. Having personally experienced the negative language and assumed pessimism of Poland’s neighbour, The Czech Republic, some 20 years ago, I was keen to read of Tim’s experience and his analysis of the country’s culture as it exists in modern regional Poland.

The Culture of Poland

The Culture of Poland

This short and pithy book has 9 fictionalised stories that are based on the author’s real life experiences over the last decade.

By not attempting an opus major or tackling the whole of Polish culture, Tim has given us an accessible doorway via a foreigner’s Polish experience. With chapters about the ordering of coffee, being a disappointed vegetarian or, the enthusiastic cyclist, taking his life literally in his hands, Tim filters his perceptions through Hofstede’s dimensions and allows us to draw our own conclusions.

The main thrust of the book is post-Soviet Poland’s EU membership, the outflow of Polish talent and the influx of foreign investment. The author develops an argument for a genuinely changing culture with the challenges this presents for both foreign and Polish managers running businesses and leading people in markedly different ways.

The book works because of Tim’s vulnerable and honest confessions – the mistakes of a naïve outsider, and his even-handed treatment of the stories that are remembered.

The beginning of the book gives lesser-known historical facts – the post-war persecution of a Ukrainian minority and the expulsion of the sizeable German population.

I found the book to be a little light on the specific inheritance of the Soviet years and not to say enough about the catholic contribution to the Polish psyche. Having said this, the tome achieves its objectives and stimulates the mind whilst informing the reader about the local zeitgeist.

Who should read this book?

British and overseas managers who have worked for a couple of months in Poland and overcome their initial trauma will benefit from picking up this book, enjoying the stories and contemplating answers to the questions posed at the end of each chapter.

An English – Polish glossary is a very sensible addition and makes this sometimes esoteric book easily accessible to any Pole that wishes to see the foreigner’s point of view.

In conclusion, the author has done Poland and foreign managers a favour by producing a functional book that combines fact, reflective exercises and stories that can genuinely help build bridges across nations and prevent a few escalating culture and commercial clashes in regional offices around Poland.

The book comes out in February –