Louise and the 5 Chairs -Owning our Behaviour – Louise Evans

SIETARian, Interculturalist and Corporate Coach, Louise Evans gives a profound and inspiring talk expanding on the work of Marshall Rosenberg  – Father of Non Violent Communication, at TEDx in Genova. Own your Behaviours, Master your Communication and… Determine your Success. Thanks Louise.

The 5 Chairs

Intercultural Mediation at Work – Written by Susanne Schuler – Reviewed by Patrick Schmidt

Applicants need graciousness, benevolence and love  Mediation, as defined by Wikipedia, is a dynamic, structured, interactive process where a neutral third party assists disputing parties in resolving conflict through the use of specialized communication and negotiation techniques. A theoretical, dry … Continue reading

Maria Jicheva – A Charismatic Force of Nature! –

Maria Jicheva – a few words by Matthew Hill

MariaJicheva

As we mourn the passing of Maria Jicheva, we may take a little comfort from our memories. There has been a unified expression both about the shock of her sudden passing and of the positive and quietly influential woman that she was.

She was at her most visible as president of SIETAR Europa and when leading the committee and volunteers to putting on an important and memorable Congress in Sofia, Bulgaria – a country that was significant to her in many ways.

The extraordinary thing about Maria was that she was accepted by trainers coaches, academics and business professionals alike. If you take a minute to think about it, this cannot be said about most people.

My experiences with Maria were mostly set in the context of SIETAR UK. Here she provided solid support and advice for her successors – Stephan Dahl, Robert Johnson and myself.

In meetings and conference calls she would be the soft articulate voice of wisdom, suggestions and common sense. When we were lost Maria would have an answer. When we had a problem Maria had a solution.

Other obituaries have mentioned her honorary title, “the Queen of diplomacy.” This is true and was really put to the test prior to the Bulgarian Congress. Through no fault of her own, a rather critical comment about the “father of culture”, Geert Hofstede, in an e-mail chain had reached the esteemed professor’s office and caused a minor explosion. It is the sort of nightmare that no volunteer President ever wants to face – that of having the most prominent figure in your field completely upset with the volunteer organisation promoting the values of that field.

We know the outcome – shuttle diplomat Maria calmed the waters, facilitated the seeing of reason and offered the esteemed academic a public space to expound his central theories. Few know how close we came to a different outcome.

Continuing the Hofstede theme, Maria introduced Prof. Michael Minkov, first to SIETAR via Bulgaria and then to us at SIETAR UK. His hotly debated theory was later adapted to become an additional Hofstede dimension.

Her successful long-term partnership with Caroline at Coghill Beery saw her flying to many countries and delivering training and coaching to some exceptional senior executives and high-powered teams. Here she was professional, credible and had the depth and persona to deal with the egos and challenging behaviours that she encountered. Not only did the offices of Coghill Beery have just about every book published on culture (normally by Nicholas Brealey) but one sensed that Maria had read, understood and remembered most of them too.

As well as being charming Maria was also tough. Her success in committees came not just from her smile. When a principle was being violated Maria was a charismatic force of nature.

Her legacy is a more mindful and caring SIETAR. It is a standard of principled integrity that was shown to us by an extraordinary exponent of coaching, training and leadership.

For us the spirit of Maria continues with every Congress and, in a way, every training and coaching session. Thank you Maria. You have been heard.

Moving tributes are to be found at http://mariajicheva.com

SIETAR Europa Congress – Valencia – Observations

This year’s congress felt large, professional and inclusive. Set in the city, drama and history of Valencia almost 400 people gathered to experience the breadth and depth of some of the best presentations we’ve experienced in recent times.

Panorama of  Placa del Ajuntament with City Hall  in evening. Valencia, Spain

Panorama of Placa del Ajuntament  –  City Hall

At some points, the delegate’s choice was what to MISS across an array of talent filling 7 parallel presentation steams.

Highlights for me were Dr. Sonsoles Morales and her witty and powerful introduction to Unconscious Bias, Dr. Jackie van der Kroft with her exploration of Non Violent Communication and Dr. Noor Azizan-Gardner’s insightful overview of diversity and inclusion within an American university setting. I felt busy rushing to 14 presentations but that meant not seeing more than 90 other contributions in a packed and varied schedule.

Of the key notes – Thiagi held our attention with his humble authority, present wit and his naughty truths.

On a personal note, seeing the documentary about Dr. Geert Hofstede went some way to reconcile the range of strong feelings about the man and his work. Films were presented at the Rialto Cinema in the Ajuntament Plaza as part of the film festival organised by Dr. Marianne Van Eldik Thieme.

The ADEIT Fundacion Universitat-Empressa de Valencia provided an impressive learning space with modern facilities and a wonderful outdoor patio for breaks and the cocktail party.

There is always a little moaning to be heard at any Congress. This time it was about the use of more than one site for the presentations, the lunch and a little drama at the Gala dinner. For me this adds flavour to the story and is to be expected when 400 paying customers attend an event organised by volunteers.

On a personal note, the appointment of Manuel Garcia Ochando has enabled SIETAR Europa to gain a new level of quality and the dynamic committees seemed to have successfully focused the varied voluntary contributions into concrete Congress results. Notable hard workers amongst many hard workers include; Pari Namazie, Barbara Covarrubias Venegas and Joe Kearns.

SIETAR Europa Congress Gala Venue

SIETAR Europa Congress Gala Venue

Praise and thanks go to Dr. Livi Thompson for the unenviable task of “herding cats” and bringing together the opinions and ideas of more than 50 volunteers.

The sad feeling of leaving Valencia and the SIETAR family was softened by meeting so many delegates at the airport and sharing a plane back to London in the company of Richard Lewis – that man is never dull!

There are calls for a different SIETAR Europa event to occur before the Congress in Dublin May 2017. Let us see what emerges…

Rising to the Challenge of the Challenging Delegate Cathy Wellings

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.

‘It depends’

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.Profile_professional