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

 

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Mintzberg: time to think of organizations as communities of cooperation

Our obsession with leadership, of any kind, causes us to build organisations that are utterly dependent on individual initiative. We do not allow them to function as communities. So when they fail, we blame the leader, and seek a better one. Like drug addicts, each time we need a bigger hit.

Consider that ubiquitous organisation chart, with its silly boxes of “top”, and “middle”, and bottom managers. How come we never say “bottom managers”? This is no more than a distorted metaphor. It tells us that we are fixated on who has authority over what and whom. The painting may not be the pipe, but to most of us, the chart has become the organisation.

Isn’t it time to think of our organisations as communities of cooperation, and in so doing put leadership in its place: not gone, but alongside other important social processes.

[O]bsession with leadership is the cause of many of the world’s problems. [L]et us get rid of the cult of leadership, striking at least one blow at our increasing obsession with individuality. Not to create a new cult around distributed leadership, but to recognize that the very use of the word leadership tilts thinking toward the individual and away from the community. We don’t only need better leadership, we also need less leadership.

via FT.com.

Managers who claim to know the future are more often dangerous fools than great visionaries

As complex systems go, the interaction between the ball in flight and the moving fieldsman is still relatively simple. In principle, most of the knowledge needed to compute trajectories and devise an optimal strategy is available: we just don’t have the instruments or the time for analysis and computation. More often, the relevant information is not even potentially knowable. The skill of the sports player is not the result of superior knowledge of the future, but of an ability to employ and execute good strategies for making decisions in a complex and changing world. The same qualities are characteristic of the successful executive. Managers who know the future are more often dangerous fools than great visionaries.

(…) Good predictions may be available in structured, well-ordered, situations – but, even then, forecasts are properly conditional or probabilistic. There are few certainties about the future: but one is that hedgehogs who make confident statements on the basis of some universal theory will be as persistently misleading counselors in the future as in the past. And that the foxes (…) who scramble everywhere for scraps of information will provide better, if more nuanced, advice.

via John Kay.

Why management matters

The [2008] crash illustrates the first reason why management matters: when it screws up everyone suffers. But why it screwed up relates to its role as a carrier of ideas.

This derives from the built-in amplifier that is the power of expectation. Well known to social science as self-fulfilling prophecy, expectation has the power to create its own reality. If managers expect subordinates to perform well, expectations tend to lead to better performance. The reverse is also true.

The consequences are profound. In management and economics, the battle of ideas is decided not by which best explain the world but which most affect it and thereby become true as a result of their influence. Companies are the battleground.

Firms whose managers act on the principle that employees are self-interested opportunists who must be forced to do their job will tend to create just that. Conversely, a company that functions on the basis of trust and co-operation creates a system in which honest, co-operative people flourish. Self-fulfilling prophecy makes every company a force for either good or ill.

Since the 1980s, the assumptions baked into the management model are the pessimistic ones. In the crash of 2008 we can see where the template based on them (incentives, compliance with letter rather than spirit, rejection of ethical considerations) leads.

If the 21st century that management makes possible is to end happily, managers will have to absorb its most important lesson from the 20th: what matters most in management is not what you make but what you believe.

via Simon Caulkin.

All of business is about values, all of the time

via The Management Myth:

All of business is about values, all of the time. Notwithstanding the ostentatious use of stopwatches, [Frederick] Taylor’s pig iron case was not a description of some aspect of physical reality—how many tons can a worker lift? It was a prescription—how many tons should a worker lift?

The real issue at stake in Mayo’s telephone factory was not factual—how can we best establish a sense of teamwork? It was moral—how much of a worker’s sense of identity and well-being does a business have a right to harness for its purposes?

Leçon pour chefs d’entreprise: « Václav Havel a toujours douté de lui-même »

Portrait of Václav Havel, a Czech playwright, ...
Václav Havel

Je me souviens toujours des mots de Platon selon lequel au pouvoir il faut des gens qui ne veulent pas gouverner. C’est exactement le cas de Havel.

Il a toujours, tout au long de sa présidence, beaucoup réfléchi sur lui-même, il a fait beaucoup de choses pour se défendre de devenir un politicien professionnel. Il a toujours douté de lui-même, et parfois avec ses amis il avait même l’air d’avoir honte d’être au pouvoir.

via Jan Sokol- Radio Prague.

Pep Guardiola y Fernando Trueba hablan de dirección

Con ocasión de una conversación sobre el futuro, Pep Guardiola y Fernando Trueba acaban hablando de dirección: imaginar futuros, jugar, sacar lo mejor de su gente, etc.