Leadership Today
Cultural Diversity
5/24/2010 4:04:39 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment


In this second entry on diversity, I’ll introduce the topic of culture and cultural differences. To get started, I researched some “official” definitions for the term culture. Dictionary.com had a dozen different definitions. Here are the two that best fit our topic of diversity:

-The sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.
-The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.
This really amounts to a set of collectively held values. Many of us think first of race or nationality when we consider the term culture. And since many organizations operate on a global scale, cultural diversity in the workplace is frequent. Individuals from different parts of the world can have different approaches to doing business. Examples include:
  • Time Management
  • Communication Styles
  • Perspective on Results
  • Business Relationships
  • Power and Authority
  • Handling Conflict
 This is only a partial list. You can imagine the potential differences that can arise from these examples alone. There can be breakdowns or misunderstandings in each of these areas and many others. One person’s “way of doing business” can be very strange or even offensive to individuals with different cultural backgrounds.
This dynamic applies to most of us. We work for a global organization, exist in a diverse workplace, or have customers or even competitors from around the world. If any of these apply, it can be important to spend some time focusing on cultural diversity.
There is challenge as we work through our cultural differences, but there is also the opportunity for a widened business perspective that can benefit the individuals and their organization. As I mentioned in my last blog – we should strive to leverage our diversity rather than allowing it to limit us in our work.
There are many models, books and articles that can provide insight into cultural diversity. Awareness of potential differences can prepare us for actions in others that might differ from our own behavior. This can be a valuable starting point, but it’s important to remember that no model should be considered in absolutes. It would be a critical mistake to generalize based on race or country. Everyone should be considered an individual.
Remember these important points:
  • There are no right or wrong, good or bad in cultural differences. Try to see differences as a possibility rather than a problem because “they aren’t doing it my way.” 
  • Learning about cultural differences is not about trying to be like the other person/people. The richness in multi-cultural teams comes from the differences. Embrace the differences.
  • Whatever you know about cultural differences, it won’t all apply, or even apply in the same way to everybody.
  • However much you think you know, you will always get some things wrong. The key is to show genuine interest in learning. Be empathetic, respectful and interested.
 More to come next time.
Thanks for your continuing interest,
Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations 

5/17/2010 6:45:24 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment


This entry will be the first in a series of blogs that I’ll post on the topic of diversity.    Organizations have been participating in diversity training for many years. The topic has been around for a long time, but organizations still struggle with the challenges that diversity can present.

To begin, it’s important to define what diversity really is. When we think of the term diversity in the workplace, we often consider only cultural or ethnic diversity.
Being diverse simply means being different. Within any organization, there can be cultural, behavioral/personality, age and gender differences. This is only a partial list of the ways we are different! Obviously, with so much diversity, there are plenty of opportunities to differ in the way we approach doing business.
From my perspective, when a team is addressing diversity, it is best to approach the issue in a positive way. NOT, How can we deal with diversity? Instead, What can we gain from our diversity? Diversity can be a challenge, but it is also a huge opportunity.
Think about a time when diversity impacted one of your work projects. Maybe there was a brainstorming session where no one agreed. Perhaps the members of your project team had completely different ideas about how to approach project goals. 
  • How much frustration did the team experience? 
  • How much time was wasted in unresolved disagreement? 
  • How was the project outcome impacted?
An answer to these questions can help you gauge how successfully your team is addressing diversity. If the project was hindered by the team’s differences, you might need to implement some strategies for addressing diversity.
Here are a few quick tips:
When leading or participating in a diverse team setting:
1.    Show a genuine interest in others- ask them questions to explore their perspective and opinions
Understanding someone’s “frame of reference” can be really helpful when you’re trying to come to agreement.
2.    Respect other’s rights to be different - you can respect without agreeing
This is critical! You must maintain respect in all of your work and communication with your team. The minute the respect is gone, the team is hurt – trust and the commitment to support one another are diminished.
3.    Reserve judgment -- watch out for your filters
Our filters are our preconceptions about others based on the qualities we observe or think we observe in them. An example – making an assumption about the validity of someone’s opinion or actions based on gender, age, religion, ethnic background, etc. 
4.    Don’t be intimidated by differences
It’s human nature to avoid people or situations that are different than what we’re used to. Make an effort to avoid this tendency. Be open to differences.
I remember a particularly frustrating meeting that I participated in with individuals from a variety of countries. We were having a really difficult time aligning on an approach for a new training curriculum. I found myself getting emotional and resentful. Then I asked myself, “What do they see that I don’t? And what can I learn from their experience that I’ve yet to learn?” Thankfully, I slowed myself down enough to be open. I’ve repeated those questions to myself more than once over the years, and they’ve served me well.
My next entry will focus on cultural diversity. There are some interesting definitions and models that I’m eager to share. In the meantime, think about the diverse make-up of your team. How can this diversity be leveraged to reach your organizational/team goals?

Many thanks,

Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations 



Building Trust

As mentioned last time, a key ingredient to achieve successful empowerment is trust.

We can teach principles related to trust, but that does not have much to do with building trust.
Trust is not a skill that can be acquired intellectually. You cannot gather all of your team members into a classroom one day, and say, “Folks, today we are going to learn to trust each other.” It simply does not work that way.
How does Trust develop? Trust develops over time, based on our experience with each other. It takes time, but this important topic should not be left to chance. There is too much at stake to not pro-actively try to create team relationships that are strong – relationships that are based on trust. Remember, if trust is absent, the result will likely not be neutral; the result will probably be negative.
Covey's "emotional bank account" metaphor.
Stephen Covey, in his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, refers to an emotional bank account that we all have with each other. Our actions toward each other either make deposits, or withdrawals, to and from these accounts. Covey states beautifully that if we make deposits, through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping commitments, trust levels increase. The opposite affect occurs if we are not courteous, if we are disrespectful, dishonest, etc. When this is how we treat people, these emotional withdrawals reduce or eliminate levels of trust. 
Leaders and team members can be taught principles such as Covey’s metaphor, but it still does not necessarily facilitate building trust. Training efforts have a better chance of creating movement toward increased trust if they include strong elements of experiential learning that can bring the principle of trust to life for groups.
Techniques for building trust.
The best facilitation process for building trust, through demonstration of trustworthiness, is by using experiential facilitation and learning processes.
With experiential learning processes, people get to experience firsthand the impact of trust. They experience that trust is essential to successfully accomplishing the training activities. The impact and importance is usually quite vivid. The experience in the activity then provides a safe and comfortable platform for discussing the issues related to trust in the work place. The focus is on what just occurred in the activity, but the lessons stick, as they pertain to the group’s real mission.
Experiential learning processes can accelerate the development of trust. It is the most powerful way to pro-actively educate and stimulate the building of trust within a team.
These important lessons can be woven into the processing and discussion that accompanies experiential exercises. 
Facilitators can often weave powerful learning activities into sessions that are designed to teach other topics to their group. This provokes important thought, consideration, and reinforcement about individual and group actions within the context of the additional topics, such as communication, and how they are critical to building trust.
High levels of trust within any group are a clear advantage. There is a lot to be gained by investing in facilitation processes to help a group understand and build their levels of trust. It is the key to effective relationships, relationships that will result in effective teamwork toward the objectives of the organization.
Still yet, leaders must understand that nothing is more important in building trust that the day-to-day actions and work methods that speak tons to employees and teams about what really can or cannot be trusted at work.
Sometimes specific efforts must be facilitated to help groups overcome difficulties and pain from their past experiences, and to mend and/or create solid working relationships.   This can be true following periods of downsizing and restructuring that perhaps were not smooth or accompanied with effective communication and engagement.
Trust is a powerful enabler for an organization. On-going and enduring trust can be essential to:
  • Empower people effectively
  • Enhance organizational performance through the implementation of changes and improvements
  • Breakdown silos between organizational groups that may have been holding back progress
  • Improve the total effort toward accomplishing the business mission, rather that sub-optimizing with improvements at the individual team level
Many thanks,

Trust and empowerment
5/5/2010 7:28:24 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment

empowerment, trust

The series we just completed dealt with keys to successful empowerment.

That topic is about relationships and the distribution of power and authority within those working relationships. Today we begin a brief series on a key ingredient to achieve successful empowerment – trust.
Levels of empowerment can be gauged by observing the interactions among working relationships as well as the interactions with customers and others external to the organization:

·         Are people empowered to use their expertise to help customers (external and internal)?
·         Is the group empowered to create ideas and opportunities?
·         Are the people and groups in the organization empowered to take the actions necessary to succeed?
As we previously defined it, empowerment means vesting people with the responsibility for action, action that will help serve the enterprise, and make the business successful. The process of increasing empowerment, whether to an individual or a team, occurs over time. It is definitely not an instantaneous change. The change involves two parties, the person or team receiving increased empowerment and responsibility, and the party giving up some of their responsibility or authority. 
At the heart of this giving and receiving of empowerment is trust.
It requires trust on the part on the one doing the empowering, and trustworthiness on the part of those receiving the increase in scope of work and responsibility. It requires both time and experience for this trust to evolve.
The scope and freedom in each of these areas of interaction may be increased in small ways at first. When these are handled successfully, an increasing level of action and authority may be enabled. 
It is important for both parties to understand the dynamics of this, so that they will know what is at stake in their activities as empowerment is increased. Knowledge of this will accelerate the process, because everyone will be expecting an outcome that moves the process forward. 
The result will be increasing levels of trust and demonstrated trustworthiness, which in turn enables increased levels of empowerment. Success leads to both trust and confidence as people grow in their roles.
Next time we will examine the process of building trust.
Warm regards,




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