SIETAR EUROPA DUBLIN CONGRESS REPORT

What really happened? – An opinion piece by Matthew Hill

As IC trainers, coaches and academics return from the SIETAR Congress in Dublin, we remember some of the highlights?

SIETAR Key Note 400+ People Attended the SIETAR Congress in Dublin, May 2017

With more than 400 attendees it was the biggest event since Granada (when we were joined by the mighty SIETAR USA.) An impressive focus on professionalism and detail delivered a technically advanced event at a top of the range venue – St Pats (Dublin City University) in Ireland has been transformed, enlarged and made relevant, providing an impressive and functional backdrop to the show. With fresh paint, bright colours and a modern social area and the addition of a professional conference organisation crew, this was SIETAR at its slickest, its most efficient and its best.

Special mention must be made of Pari, Barbara and Joe. Their 18 months of hard work, stress, decision-making and perseverance has paid off. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And the 12 volunteers – A great bunch of dynamic and pro active interculturalists working diligently to produce a memorable audience experience and calm the nerves of the presenters, some of whom had never seen a touchscreen interactive whiteboard before!

Whova logo Keeping us in touch

The Whova app assisted in bringing everybody together, warning us of logistical changes and generally connecting people, before the event, during the busy main days and, now, as we go back to our many countries and various other roles.

Lolo Mayer Lolo Mayer moved us with his story

We were lucky with the weather and there were some extraordinary moments to take away. Those who saw Lolo Mayer when he spoke will never forget the present and direct moment when this articulate 9 year old told us of his journey from South Africa to Germany and the reactions the people around him – “different race – same culture”. His honest narrative moved us to tears. A special experience.

Milton Bennett brought along an expert in Mysticism – A ripple of hesitation flickered through the full room. As the modestly cynical crowd began their hypnotic meditation submerging beach balls under water, a new line was crossed in SIETAR experiential learning and most of us came out of the exercise better and wiser practitioners.

A third highlight was Andra and Abbey in their WorldWork Trust session – The facilitation was excellent and the atmosphere was conducive to movement, exchange and a worthy end result for all.

SIETAR Openning Joe Kearns Opens SIETAR Dublin

I must mention the stars of my own film track – Having coerced two local heroes – Dave Walsh and Joe Kearns into attempting culturally relevant and difficult topics, they both more than rose to the challenge – Dave interpreting the cultural significance of “Father Ted” in the context of real events in the Priesthood in Ireland and Joe, with his deep knowledge of Irish and European Viking history, linking this eloquently to the successes and failures of mergers in business and highlighting the choice between cultural domination and cultural integration.

Seitar Crowd SIETARians Deep in Conversation

And a big thank you to everyone for forming a surprisingly large crowd at my Training films clips session – It was rewarding to see so many people getting fully engaged with the subject and the content.

Shock

It would not be a real congress report without one or two negative points to report on. A moan that was heard frequently around the Congress concerned the quality of some presenters when attempting to get their message across. On occasion we seemed to have regressed to pre-Valencia days. Many witnessed poor wordy PowerPoints, over emphasis on research methods vs practical application and a failure by presenters to project, engage or hold their audience’s attention. There were many many TED style talks that were far far removed from the slick professionalism of the real thing. (I will take up the topic of presentation crimes in a separate post next time.)

MariaJicheva Maria Jicheva

The drama of the Congress ended with a moving tribute to one of the pillars of SIETAR – Maria Jicheva who died two years ago. She had run and expanded SIETAR UK and SIETAR Europa with years of hard hard work and used her subtle style of influence to make it the success that is evident today. We heard stories and experienced strong felt emotion remembering her effect upon those who were fortunate enough to spend time in her presence. Maria – We know you are watching over us – The success of the SIETAR Dublin Congress in 2017 is a tribute to you, your values and the volume of work you put in. Thank you.

Where next?

We will see you all in Vienna (Just a GUESS at the next venue…)

Traditional mountain farm in the Alps

The Making of Donald Trump’s Mind

An Opinion Piece by German / American Interculturalist Patrick Schmidt

Back in the “Golden ’fifties”, the world was in awe of the American Way of Life. Elvis Presley, the Fleetwood Cadillac and “from dishwasher to millionaire” all reflected the culture. Fulfilling desires was a perfect response to life’s challenges and the formula quickly spread around the world.

Business Education Group

But this perception has changed radically since Trump’s election. The U.S. is no more seen as a model for the rest of the world, with Donald Trump’s shallow intellect, public bullying, disdain for facts, and nihilistic decision-making in the service of an us-against-them celebration of “America First”.

“America First” means only a certain America. Ironically, it resembles the media images alluded to above — TV from 50 years ago. Blacks, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, immigrants of any kind are virtually invisible, as are homosexuals and anyone else seen as too different to fit in (hippies, socialists, atheists, the handicapped).

Donald Trump personifies a sizable segment of “Middle America”, people who avoid complicated questions, prefer simple answers and some form of instant gratification. This gradually withers the ability to think beyond an elementary — and subjective —worldview. Hence, the preference to bomb the hell out of anybody who doesn’t agree with us rather than spending time reconciling complex problems.

But what have been the cultural factors that created such a self-absorbed, ignorant wannabe showman and allowed him to get to the number one position in American society?

Donald Trump, like myself, learned early that what made the country unique was that it was the “land of the free”. Citizens were free to be and do what they wanted — it was a nation of unlimited opportunities, a beacon for people all over the world, which rebelled against the traditions of the Old World and greeted new ideas with enthusiasm.

One in particular was Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophy that if man decided to believe in the good of others, society would become highly efficient and dynamic because trusting people would eliminate the time-consuming process of doubting and judging. It was exactly what America needed to develop itself; when building a nation, decisions have to be made quickly. “Time is money.”

This simplistic notion of life ignores complexity and nuance and has created the typical American trait of being unsentimental, inherent in a people wishing to break away from the past and march into the unknown. It also paved the way to a certain superficiality in human relations, which magnified itself with increased material prosperity.

Rich natural resources, Yankee ingenuity and shrewdness, few real historical tragedies, and militant individualism, all in the “pursuit of happiness”. It’s no wonder America transformed itself into the most powerful and influential country in the world. The belief that anyone could evolve from “rags to riches” allowed millions of poor immigrants to move up the social ladder. These were the seeds that gave birth to the “happy ending” myth.

This belief, however, sends the childish message that good guys always win and bad guys lose. That’s all fine and dandy for a 10-year-old but when a complicated problem arises, Americans often refuse to see it from every aspect. This is the result of always wanting to believe in the inherent good of everything. When TV was introduced in the 50s, it reinforced this mindset.

By the time Trump hit television in 2004 with his ersatz “reality show”, things were far more cynical. TV had long been used to transform complex issues into superficial images but “The Apprentice” went one step further. It was a Roman circus spectacle for peasants in which a series of victims are humiliated (“You’re fired!”) over the course of a season before one winner is crowned…and given a job. Trump’s audience saw the process like a sports contest, mirroring a simple-minded attitude toward life.

 

Donald_Trump_2013_cropped_more

“The Apprentice” provides us a look at Donald Trump’s idea of reality. (Photo Wikipedia)

Now that he’s in the White House, Trump prefers watching cable TV to reading government reports and meeting with advisers. Not only does he not read newspapers, he gets most of his worldview from Fox News reports, which pander to the people who voted for him.

But how has this numbness to real survival issues come about? Excessive material wealth, technology and consumerism may provide a clue.

At the end of WW II, the U.S. found itself in a unique position in the world — unlike Europe and Asia, its massive production facilities were virtually untouched. It converted its manufacturing potential into peace-time goods and catapulted the country into a consumer paradise of unbelievable dimensions.

Add to this the technological revolution, which has profoundly altered our ways of feeling and thinking. Take the pocket calculator, for example. At first glance, it saves an enormous amount of time and frees you from laborious mental calculations. What we forget is that it leads us one step further toward non-involvement.

The long-term consequences of passively consuming technological goodies (from TV to the iPad) have slowly resulted in a couch-potato lifestyle, exemplified by Homer, star of “The Simpsons”.

Worship for both consumerism and technology creates insecurity by sheltering us from real-life experiences. We notice far too late that our thinking and judgment have gradually diminished. This is clearly noticeable when you meet a person who exclaims “wow” as a reflex but can’t explain why. One gets the feeling that this person doesn’t want to pursue the thought any further and is perhaps unable to communicate in any real depth. A high degree of non-involvement often generates a half-developed personality.

Trump’s rallies, both before his election and since, regularly feature primal chanting and barely-disguised racist themes. Trump’s own speech patterns are similar, as well as the lack of detailed thought. As Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

In the early ‘70s, I already sensed the symptoms of a non-involved lifestyle. Growing up in the southern California, I experienced the era of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”, pushed to the extreme. California was engrossed with hedonic “wow” pleasures and far more advanced in material consumerism than the rest of the country.

The Eagles’ song “Hotel California” articulates this perfectly. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but I knew a society couldn’t last long if its highest goal was only that of continuous pleasure.

Hotelcalifornia.jpg

The Eagles’ worldwide hit describes a consumer society gone amok. (Photo Wikipedia)

Those were the conditions when I left the country at 23 and ended up in Stuttgart by sheer accident. It was such a sharp human contrast — Germans were still recovering from the horrors of WW II and displaying unusually sincere feelings. Human interactions were more real and done with the goal of the betterment of the community. It was like living in the States in the late 1930s as the country was coming out of the Great Depression.

Two generations later, Germany and most other western European countries enjoy a high standard of living but are showing signs of social fatigue, though not to the extent that we see in the U.S.

Each generation of humans has to face circumstances not of its own choosing, where character is measured and spirit is tested. In the last 70 years, the American mindset has embraced an almost magical consumer lifestyle. Many people live a make-believe existence, where real crises can be denied and reality is replaced by a virtual world of memes, tweets, Facebook.

In a fragmented, attention-challenged America, Donald Trump has now become, if not the norm, the President.

Patrick Schmidt Author About the Author – Patrick Schmidt is an intercultural trainer, past President of SIETAR Europa and author of such books as; Understanding American and German Business Cultures (1999) and In Search of Cultural Understanding (2007).

12 Training Film Clips – Culture, Leadership and Teams – Resources For Your Classroom

Training Resource Films – Intercultural Exchange, Diversity in Work, Leadership and Coaching, Conflict and Debate & the Power of the Individual in Business.

12 Films to use in your classroom

12 Films to use in your classroom

1, Wild Tales (2014) 6 Tales of Revenge. Directors – Pedro Almadova & Damian Szifran

Training Themes; Revenge, risk taking, morality in business and relationships

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNURIZWLm1M&list=PLhbb3wdghNhRk69plSRI2BMy5aXING4G-&index=1

2, The BP Coffee Spill – Humourous Metaphor – UCB Comedy Channel Team

Training Theme – Introducing a difficult topic into the training room.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AAa0gd7ClM

3, Morning Glory (2010) – First Meeting Scene – Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton. Directed by Roger Michell

Training Themes; Multi – Focus orientation, assumptions about youth, change, active listening, testing authority & managing in chaos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWrw5ogawS8

4, Recursos Humanos (2013) Rosio Manzano, Xavier Pamies, Director Juan Alvarez Llados

Training Themes, Sexual harassment, trading favours, wielding power and gender assumptions, bias and prejudice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS7PM9AUFjQ

5, Deloitte Diversity & Inclusion in Business (2015) Deloitte University Press

Training Theme – Diversity, inclusion, values in business

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G0OUHnCudw

6, House of Cards (2014) Frank Underwood Ruthlessness Kevin Spacey, Netflix

Training Theme – Power, corruption, manipulation & ethics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5Ha3IWeXOo

7, Suits – A Different Kind of Power – Donna Poulson – Sarah Rafferty, Netflix

Training Theme – Alternative sources of power, female roles – defined, prescribed and actual in business.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfX_lXvi008

8, The Intern (2015) – Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway

Training Theme – Age discrimination & diversity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6p2exVZttE

9, Erin Brokovich (2000) – Julia Roberts, Veanne Cox. Directory Steven Soderburgh – “F*cking Ugly Shoes”

Training Theme – Social status, educational prejudice and the consequences of assumptions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZMg4vFcRQs

10, Andrew Stanton (Writer of Toy Story) – The Clues in the Story TED (2014)

McGregor the…

Training Theme – Reputation, story telling & humour.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxDwieKpawg

11, Finding Forrester (2000) Murray F. Abrahams, Rob Brown, Sean Connery. Director – Gus Van Sant

Training Themes; Assumptions about scholarship students and social status,

white privilege, institutional compliance, rules, power & race.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSnraJOeOyM

12, Any Given Sunday (1999) – Motivation Speech – Al Pacino. Director – Oliver Stone

Training Themes – Responsibility, consequences, reputation, coaching, leadership, accountability, sacrifice, personal choice, motivation, power & salvation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_iKg7nutNY

Please share and let us spread the word.

A Big thanks to all those that contributed to this list and those that took the time to prepare the work for YouTube.

What can YOU do at the SIETAR Congress to change your life?

A Guide to the European Intercultural Event of the Year by Matthew Hill     1, Meeting people With up to 360 people attending the SIETAR Congress in Dublin later in May, There is no better opportunity this year to … Continue reading

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…