Holding a meeting of people from different cultures

In one of the People and Business Management workshops that I facilitate we ask participants to outline how they would approach their first meeting as the manager of a multicultural team. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the imagination and inclusiveness of the responses.

This article in the Harvard Business Review provides useful guidance. Here’s an excerpt:

Do

  • Study up on the variations that exist among cultures and how those differences play out in the workplace
  • Create protocols and establish norms so that your colleagues understand how meetings will run
  • Incentivize colleagues to step outside their cultural comfort zones by institutionalizing rewards around what you’re trying to motivate people to do

Don’t

  • Be hung up on how people from certain cultures are supposed to act—remember, people are capable of adapting and adjusting their cultural default
  • Force a perfect dynamic in meetings—solicit colleagues’ opinions in other venues and encourage people to provide feedback in different ways
  • Overlook the importance of team bonding—encourage colleagues to get to know each other outside of meetings so that cultural differences won’t seem as glaring

 

Become more worldly, not more global

Henry Mintzberg and Karl Moore suggest that “managers should be urged to become more worldly, not more global.” I think it’s a relevant suggestion for all.

The Oxford Dictionary defines worldly as “experienced in life, sophisticated, practical.” The worldly person seeks out diversity as a way to enhance his understanding of other cultures while adding nuance and appreciation to his inherited background.

The global person, on the other hand, conforms to an emerging singular culture.

via Forbes.

Obese? Smoker? No Retirement Savings? Blame the language you speak

Study suggests that if your language’s syntax blurs the difference between today and tomorrow as do, say, Chinese and German then you are more likely to save money, quit smoking, exercise and otherwise prepare for times to come.

On the other hand, if you have three dollars in your IRA and a big credit-card balance, it’s a safer bet you speak English or Hausa or Greek or some other language that forces speakers to distinguish present from future.

The point is not that some peoples are futureless—all human beings understand the difference between today and next year just fine, no matter what tongue they speak. But languages, as the linguist Roman Jakobson observed, differ in what they require speakers to think about.

via Big Think.

The secret to greater productivity: a nap

“You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner,” Churchill said, explaining that this includes taking off one’s clothes and climbing into bed.

“Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one.” (New York Times)

Silence serves to connect in Finland

A cross-cultural case of silence:

A professor of Nordic literature at the University of Helsinki, tells a joke. How do you know if the Finn on the elevator with you is outgoing? When he’s looking at your shoes instead of at his own.

The key to the Finnish character is quietude. Finns rarely enter into conversation with strangers; words are chosen carefully; small talk is considered suspect. Instead Finns revere “sacred silence” and hold that keeping quiet is healthy and promotes thoughtfulness.

(…) Some researchers view the trademark Finnish reticence as more pathological, linking it to depression and emotional repression and citing Finns’ high rates of suicide, alcoholism, and high blood pressure. In 2004, a theater director named Turo Herala made big news in Helsinki when he began offering anger-venting classes–a true novelty. “Anger in Finland is a bigger taboo than sex,” Herala explained to a reporter.

Laughing out loud isn’t common either. Children are taught early on to resist their impulses. Bragging about personal accomplishments is the worst thing a Finn can do. “If you can’t control yourself, you are regarded as immature,” explains Keltikangas-Järvinen.

Given the right situation, though, Finns can become excited and voluble. In the familiar environment of the sauna–there’s one for every two Finns–they sometimes become embarrassingly open and candid.

And things are changing; the technical revolution has kicked the shy Finn out of the closet. They are among the most wired–and wireless–people in the world; 95 percent own a cell phone. In the remote summer cottage, the modem Finn still finds his sacred silence, but nowadays he mixes the Internet with this primitive escape.

Source: Psychology Today; Jan/Feb2007, Vol. 40 Issue 1, p28.