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Building a Culturally Intelligent Organization: Starting a Movement

davidlivermore | September 14th, 2017 No Comments

Guest Post By Kristin Ekkens, MA

Developing a diverse, inclusive, and culturally intelligent organization is not easy – and the work is never done. It takes time, tenacity, courageous leadership, risk-taking, positivity, and resilience. It’s a team effort from across the organization involving HR, legal, finance, marketing, communications, and community relations (and more). Every department, as well as each employee, has a stake in the game.

How do you create enough momentum that it becomes a “pull” rather than a “push” system?

START A MOVEMENT

In the beginning of August, I had the privilege of facilitating a session with a group of sales executives from a multi-billion dollar furniture company. Together we examined how unconscious bias shows up on the sales floor, in the hiring process, and in everyday decision-making. After recognizing that bias exists everywhere, and that each of us in the room has the ability and responsibility to manage bias, one participant asked: “Kristin, how do we get more people in our organization engaged in this conversation? How do we change behaviors not just in our sales organization but throughout the entire company?” My answer was simple to say, yet complex to carry out. “Start a movement!”

What does it take to start a movement?

  • Determine your and your senior leadership’s motivation. Do you have the drive and confidence to do what needs to be done? Is this an authentic effort or a check-the-box requirement? What will it cost the company if it doesn’t do anything?
  • Understand the culture and climate of the organization. Is now the right timing? Would a pilot with a few target audiences work best to start or do you need to bring everyone together for an “all hands meeting” so everyone can hear the same message? Is there budget for the work this year? If not, is the company committed to providing resources?
  • Identify the key influencers – many times not distinguished by title – to develop a stakeholder map and strategy for engaging
  • Take action by defining and communicating the business case, key drivers, project scope, and projected impact. And lastly, begin to build your network of champions.

Simply put, to start a movement you need to infuse cultural intelligence (CQ Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, and Action) into your process from the start.

THE WHY

When you begin to involve other stakeholders, they will want to know, “What’s in it for me” and, “Why should I care about this movement?”  Whether you are a consultant, a D&I leader, or manager in your organization, the organizational needs stay consistent. This is what I consistently hear:

  • We need to scale these efforts across 4 regions, 3 shifts, and with large numbers of employees
  • We need to be able to measure progress over time and show the impact of our efforts
  • We need a way for leaders to hold people accountable to using CQ in the hiring process, succession planning, performance management, etc.
  • We need to help diverse teams work more effectively together

HOW? 

I recommend a few key steps for starting a movement to develop a culturally intelligent organization:

  • Make the business case. Explain “the why” in various ways to various audiences. Just stating it once or posting it on your intranet is not enough.
  • Obtain executive sponsorship and engagement.
  • Create a systemic approach, rallying the troops and weaving cultural intelligence into the DNA of your organization.
  • Share success stories. Celebrate the wins.
  • Establish accountability.

Again, easier said than done. Let’s break this down and focus on Step #3: Create a systemic approach. In our Building a Culturally Intelligence Organization chart from Level 2 CQ Certificationyou see five phases described:

Each phase builds on the next. It’s critical to help your organization or client move along the maturity model – not skipping over phases. To make efforts scalable, you may be tempted to jump to Phase 4: Training 2.0 – Everyone. However, without leadership commitment and engagement, you soon find yourself back at square one wondering what went wrong. Some clients choose to engage everyone from the beginning to set the tone for the movement through a motivational kick-off keynote.

WHAT NOW?

The first step toward building a culturally intelligent organization is sitting down to develop your own systematic approach. Use the steps recommended above and customize them based on the needs of your organization. Create tangible goals based on your available budget. Set project deadlines and assign the responsible person. That way, the large task at hand becomes manageable.  Connect with a mentor or partner that will hold you accountable, keep you motivated, and will inspire you throughout the journey!

My interview with Lynnette Collins, Diversity Leader at Amway

davidlivermore | March 16th, 2017 No Comments

Long before Uber or AirBnB, Amway was creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to build their own businesses by selling nutritional and home care products. Amway Business Owners (ABOs) and the staff that support them are an incredibly diverse group scattered across the globe. We’ve had the privilege of partnering with Amway to ensure their diversity and global presence is a driver of success. I recently sat down with Lynnette Collins, Amway’s key leader on all things related to diversity, to talk about how Amway uses cultural intelligence (CQ) and unconscious bias as part of their strategy for growth.


What’s your role at Amway?

I lead the team responsible for developing practices that enable high performance teams that are diverse, inclusive and focused on ABO success. That includes things like Amway University, Inclusive Leadership programs, Inclusion Networks, Gender Partnership Series, Diversity & Inclusion Champions and much more. It’s a dream job for me.


You joined Amway 20 years ago. How has the company changed since then?

From a vision and values standpoint, we have remained the same.  We have an unrelenting belief in people and we want to help others fulfill their potential.

From a strategy standpoint, we continue to quickly evolve and change to meet the needs of our ABOs, their customers and the communities we serve.  We are also much more global in the way we work today than when I started. Back then, each affiliate did what was best for their own market. Today, each market has to consider the impact of decisions on not only its own market, but on the entire enterprise across the world. This means we have to have to think, behave and work very differently than we did 20 years ago.


How does Amway approach diversity and inclusion (D&I) and how is it tied to your strategic vision and mission?

There are two overarching reasons for D&I at Amway – one is long term, the other is shorter term.

The long-term focus is weaving diversity and inclusion into the fabric of our entire Amway culture. Every one of our values has a connection to diversity, inclusion, or both. We can’t help people fulfill their potential unless we address their diverse needs. And the more they are included in the Amway family, the more that drives the potential for all of us. So, it’s really important that we think about diversity and inclusion as a lever to help us drive the culture we aspire to at Amway.

The shorter-term focus is considering the D&I implications for any strategy we pursue. It starts with hiring, developing, and promoting a rich, diverse pipeline of talent. We especially care about having diversity in key decision making roles, because we believe diverse perspectives bring more innovative solutions to support ABO success. And the more our leadership reflects the diversity of our ABOs, the more likely we will be a fast, agile organization to meet the needs of them and their customers.


What forms of diversity are you addressing most across Amway?

All dimensions of diversity are important to us, but we are currently focused on four that are most directly relevant to ABOs and our customer base: gender; race and ethnicity, generations, and workstyle.

Over 70% of our ABO businesses are run solely by or in partnership with women.  We operate in over 80 countries and territories around the world. The millennial population will quickly become the largest population in the workforce.  And as a sales organization, we are drawn to extroverts – but know we may be missing out on talent who would describe themselves as being more introverted. This is why we prioritized these four dimensions of diversity.

However, one thing I’ve noticed is that some groups can feel left out if our application of D&I doesn’t directly affect them. So we also discuss the concept of cultural identity, recognizing that we all have different elements that make up who we are. This has helped everyone become more eager to get engaged in the dialogue and actions to create a more inclusive environment for everyone.


You’re based in a small Midwest city in the U.S. yet 90% of your business is global. How does that influence the way you approach D&I?

When we first started, my global colleagues would say, “Diversity is important for you in the U.S., but it doesn’t apply to us”.  I believe this was because people were defining diversity as simply race or ethnicity.

Many of our markets don’t experience racial or ethnic differences in the way we do. The experience of under-represented ethnicities in Brazil or China is very different from here in the U.S.  As we started to define diversity more broadly, it became more apparent to my colleagues that diversity was relevant to everyone. And it really resonated globally when we began to define inclusive leadership and talk about specific ways to address the blind spots that come from unconscious bias and using CQ to work more effectively in any cultural context.

As you know, last year, we certified 29 facilitators (21 outside of the US) to implement our Foundations of Inclusive Leadership workshop, an interactive session for leaders that addresses unconscious bias and building cultural intelligence.  Our colleagues from the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia embraced it. Our goal was to have every leader of people in the U.S. complete the inclusive leadership program the first year and leaders globally to do so in years two and three. Within weeks of being certified, teams across the world were holding sessions with top executive leadership teams and making plans to roll out more broadly in 2017. It’s been very exciting to be a part of the momentum and we are thankful for the partnership with the Cultural Intelligence Center.  We couldn’t have done it without you!


“Cultural Intelligence” was an optional workshop at Amway for quite a while. But then you decided it needed to become a non-negotiable, leadership program. How and why?

We’re incredibly diverse across Amway. But we believe diversity without inclusion doesn’t work.  To be an effective leader at Amway, you must be able to work across any cultural context to enable employees to perform at their highest potential. And, you don’t have to work across geographies to work across different cultural contexts!  Finance has a different culture than HR, who has a different culture than Marketing, who has a different culture than R&D or Manufacturing – yet, we all need to work together to achieve business results.  That’s where CQ comes in. It allows our leaders to work effectively, whatever the “cultural” difference. So this had to be more than an optional offering.

As a result, we knew that we had to start with our leaders. They had to understand the realities of unconscious bias, know how to interrupt and manage their biases, and develop the skills (CQ) in themselves and others to work across the never-ending differences we encounter all day long at Amway. And if we want to be innovative and move quickly to find the best solutions for our ABOs and customers, we need diverse talent that feels valued for their uniqueness as well as a sense of belonging within the team and organization. That will only happen when we ensure that all of our leaders are equipped to lead with cultural intelligence.


What’s a misperception people consistently make of you?

I can’t escape being on the receiving end of unconscious biases people may have about me.

Personal – I have two bi-racial children and when people see me alone with them they assume either they are adopted or that they have different fathers or that I wasn’t married to their father.  All untrue.

Professional – I am an introvert and someone who is very attuned to others’ feelings and emotions. Because of this, it doesn’t take much for me to cry. Because I’m very expressive, sometimes people interpret that as weakness.  Also untrue.  For people who know me, they know I’m one tough lady – not afraid to take on a challenge, not afraid to have an unpopular opinion, not afraid to take risk.


I agree Lynnette. You’re one tough leader who cares ferociously for people, no matter what their background and story. Is there anything else you would like to share before we wrap this up?

We want to take full advantage of the various perspectives that come from having such a rich network across the Amway family. Developing inclusive leadership goes beyond a workshop.  We have incorporated tools to help interrupt unconscious bias in recruiting, talent identification performance evaluation and how rewards are determined.  This is one way to ensure the conversation is continuous and practices are implemented.

In just over a year, we have seen the shift in conversation amongst our leaders where they are calling out bias with respect and confidence, and its positively impacting the decisions made around talent. Our senior executives have taken a prominent and visible role in these discussions and have been willing to be vulnerable, share where they are developing and ask other leaders to join them on this journey as we take bold action for change.  We are getting into some tough conversations around gender, race and ethnicity, and we are all better for it.

For 2017, we are continuing to build on inclusive leader capabilities, but are also bringing employees into the conversation to focus on inclusive culture.  We are excited about the progress we have made and recognize we have a way to go to fully arrive to our aspiration, but we are confident we will get there!

 

Lynnette Collins
Director, Talent Development Enablers,
Diversity & Inclusion

Top Two Reasons Organizations are Building CQ

davidlivermore | July 20th, 2015 No Comments

By David Livermore and Linn Van Dyne, PhDs

Whether it’s tapping the opportunities in emerging markets, avoiding a cultural faux pas on Twitter that goes viral, attracting and retaining the best talent, or increasing profitability and cost-savings, the ability to work and relate effectively across cultures addresses a burgeoning number of organizational concerns. Top executives agree. Mikkel Ohlsson, CEO at IKEA, believes getting people to work effectively across cultures is both the right thing to do, and it makes business sense. In discussing this point, he says, “My leadership on this is vision-driven from a business point of view and values-driven at the foundation.”[1] Jonathan Broomberg, chief executive of the South African insurer Discovery Health is convinced that the rainbow nation’s mosaic of cultures is its most valuable source of creativity and innovation.[2] And Robert Mortiz, chairman of PWC in the Americas says, “CQ is a critical capability for navigating today’s increasingly global and diverse business environment….It’s so important that we made it one of our core behaviors at PwC.”[3] Among these varied motivations of executives, the top two reasons organizations are building cultural intelligence (CQ) is the growth of diverse markets and the increasingly diverse workforce.

First, organizations need culturally intelligent managers and staff in order to successfully reach the diversity of markets at home and abroad. Fortune 500 companies expect their greatest revenue streams over the next decade to come from emerging markets; and top universities are recruiting students from around the world and from groups previously underrepresented on their campuses. As a result, organizations need individuals who know how to design and adapt products and services that meet the needs of these increasingly diverse customers. Doug Flint, CFO of banking giant HSBC, says,

If you were to go into any business forum in Europe and America and ask which country is going to be most important in the global environment in the next 25 years, I suspect that a vast majority would say China, and the second-highest number might say India. If you then ask how much do people in Europe and America understand about the history and culture of those countries, the answer would be a negligible amount.[4]

Organizations need managers who can help them tap the opportunities that exist in emerging markets at home and abroad.

Second, organizations need to equip staff to work effectively with each other. Workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse, and this can be an asset or a liability, depending upon how it’s managed. When internal diversity is used strategically and combined with cultural intelligence, it offers a proven way to reach diverse markets more effectively. Rather than solely relying upon market research and surveys, a diverse workforce offers first-hand insights on the motivations and concerns of diverse customers. Ajay Banga, CEO of MasterCard, and Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, personally chair their companies’ diversity and inclusion councils. They believe there’s a direct link between their diversity efforts internally and customer satisfaction. Moynihan says, “When internal diversity and inclusion scores are strong…[we] will serve our customers better, and we’ll be better off as an organization.”[5]

The convergence of consumer diversity with workplace diversity is the nexus of the greatest challenges and opportunities for a culturally intelligent approach. Understanding culture and its seminal role in how people think, work, and relate is the first step toward harnessing the potential of diversity within the organization and the diversity of customers. But cultural awareness isn’t enough. Organizations need leaders, teams, and staff who can simultaneously advance the values and needs of an organization while adapting to the cultures touched by the organization. This requires more than cultural sensitivity and awareness and it’s where cultural intelligence becomes the truly essential intelligence for the 21st century.

 

[1] Boris Groysberg & Katherine Connolly, Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work, Harvard Business Review, September 2013, https://hbr.org/2013/09/great-leaders-who-make-the-mix-work
[2] Ibid
[3] Robert Moritz, “The Four Q’s of Career Success”, LinkedIn Post, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20130621191454-73785410-the-four-qs-of-career-success
[4] Economist Intelligence Unit. CEO Briefing, 14.
[5] Boris Groysberg & Katherine Connolly, Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work, Harvard Business Review, September 2013, https://hbr.org/2013/09/great-leaders-who-make-the-mix-work

 

 

10 Questions to Consider When Negotiating Across Cultures

davidlivermore | May 12th, 2015 No Comments

Imagine you’re negotiating a contract with a bank where your brother is a senior executive. To what degree should both of you be directly involved in the negotiation? This was the dilemma recently faced by a U.S. executive working in Mexico. His U.S. company was negotiating a deal with a Mexican bank where his brother was a vice president. The Mexican bank believed it was essential that both brothers be directly involved in the negotiation because their ties and reputation were an asset to the deal. But the U.S. company said, “Absolutely not. That’s a conflict of interest!”

Regardless of the cultural context, the objective in negotiation is to reach an agreement that mutually satisfies both parties’ interests. Accomplishing that across cultures requires a high level of cultural intelligence. Jeswald Salacuse, author of The Global Negotiator, suggests ten questions to consider when negotiating across cultures. These questions, together with the four CQ capabilities, provide you with an effective strategy for negotiating across cultures.

1. Negotiating Goal: Contract or Relationship?
For some cultures, partnering implies building a relationship, whereas for others it’s primarily a contractual transaction. Determine the goal as soon as possible. If you’re trying to partner with relationally driven negotiators and you over-emphasize your ability to deliver a low-cost contract, it can cost you the deal. For those who primarily want a contract, trying hard to build a relationship may be viewed as pandering and wasting their time.

2. Negotiating Attitude: Win-Lose or Win-Win?
Many negotiation books presume everyone is after a win-win; however, some cultures and organizations are driven by an approach that assumes one side wins and the other side loses. Win-win negotiators see deal making as a collaborative, problem-solving process, whereas win-lose negotiators view it as confrontational.

3. Personal Style: Informal or Formal?
Some cultures, such as Koreans, prefer a formal style of negotiation that emphasizes titles and avoids discussions about personal matters. North Americans usually begin more informally by starting negotiation discussions with some small talk and referring to people by their first names. It’s safer to begin with a more formal approach and move toward a more informal one when it becomes evident that the culture and situation allow for it. 

4. Communication: Direct or Indirect?
In cultures that rely on indirect communication, such as many of the Confucian Asian cultures, an initial meeting will rarely disclose a definite commitment or rejection. Indirect negotiators are wise to recognize that their direct counterparts may not accurately understand what’s occurring if it isn’t explicitly stated. When CQ is low, direct communicators interpret indirect communicators as being passive aggressive and indirect communicators perceive direct negotiators as being aggressive and pushy.

5. Sensitivity to Time: High or Low?
In many Asian and Latino cultures, it’s impossible to reach an agreement without extended time to get to know each other. This may include going out for dinner or drinks, visiting national landmarks, playing golf, or going to a cricket game. In contrast, many Western European and North American cultures value expediency in reaching a deal. For these individuals, vast amounts of time socializing can seem like a disregard for the value of one’s time. Adjust your expectations and remember that it almost always takes longer to negotiate across borders. 

6. Emotionalism: High or Low?
To what degree should you express the emotions you feel related to reaching a deal? Affective cultures such as Latin Europe are more likely to show their emotions at the negotiating table, whereas neutral cultures such as the Dutch and Japanese are unlikely to disclose their feelings toward the deal. Start more neutral and follow your counterpart’s lead.

7. Form of Agreement: General or Specific?
North Americans typically prefer detailed contracts that cover any type of situation that may arise. However, many other cultures, such as the Chinese, prefer contrasts that represent general assumptions and guidelines, believing that the agreement is based primarily upon the relationship between the two parties, not an abstract document.

8. Building an Agreement: Bottom Up or Top Down?
The norm among French negotiators is to begin with agreement on general principles, whereas North Americans begin with agreement on specific deliverables and develop the principles based on those. As with all of these, an organization’s culture and the individual personalities involved also play a significant role in whether a bottom up or top down approach works.

9. Decision: One Leader or Group Consensus?
Any effective negotiation requires learning who ultimately makes the decisions. But this isn’t always easy to determine. Many collectivist cultures have large groups show up for a negotiation meeting and many others not at the table may also be involved in reaching consensus. And many individualist cultures expect that one or two key individuals will ultimately be the ones who make the decision. Don’t assume you know who the decision maker is. Use your CQ Knowledge and Strategy to figure it out. 

10. Risk Taking: High or Low?
Finally, determine where the other party falls on the uncertainty avoidance dimension. Those from high uncertainty avoidance cultures such as Israel and Japan will often want much more information and detailed processes to help alleviate ambiguity. In contrast, those from low uncertainty avoidance cultures may be frustrated with an over-emphasis on too many details.

As always, beware of an overreliance on broad cultural norms. They’re a good first guess, but they can derail your entire negotiation process when applied too broadly or mindlessly.

Once you have a negotiation plan in mind, hold it loosely and be ready to adapt. Anticipate ahead of time where you will and won’t adjust. And the more you become adept at using these kinds of questions and reading the cues, you’ll find they make you a better negotiator within your own culture as well.

—-

Excerpted from the new edition of Leading with Cultural Intelligence, now available in bookstores everywhere.

 

Cultural Intelligence and the Afro-centric Worldview

davidlivermore | April 14th, 2015 10 Comments

 

 

Guest Post by Buhle Dlamini

Africa has some of the fastest growing economies in the world right now. Forget the news headline like “Ebola in West Africa”, and “Violent Militants in Africa”. The reality is that these challenges pale in comparison to the amazing opportunities this vast continent has to offer.

Corporations looking for growth in emerging markets are opening offices in multiple sites across the continent. This is where cultural intelligence comes in, and in particular some understanding of the Afro-centric worldview is essential in order to succeed.

Being a native of South Africa and a Zulu raised in rural Zululand, I have an inside scoop on the different ways that Africans see the world. While not every African holds this Afro-centric worldview, most will identify with it. And we take this view for granted until we’re exposed to something different. In my cross-cultural marriage to my wife Stacey, a Canadian from Nova Scotia, I started to note the ways we held different worldviews.

Take for example the differing views when it comes to how time, family and ownership are perceived from an Afro-centric perspective.

Time
The majority of people with an Afro-centric worldview see time very differently from Westerners. Africans operate from the “Event-time” orientation, meaning the emphasis is put on the event and the person rather than an artificially imposed time. Time is negotiable. This is why events in an Afro-centric setting tend to be much longer than in other cultures.  It is considered disrespectful to allow time to get in the way of interacting with each other. If you run into a friend or family member on the way to work, surely you will take the time to greet them and ask about their family.

  • When working in an Afro-centric context allow more time for the unexpected rather than simply scheduling everything into a rigid timeframe. In a “clock-time” oriented culture the watch dictates when things start and end, whereas in an Afro-centric setting, people dictate the length of an event.

Family
In some cultures, family is narrowly restricted to focus on the nuclear family and a limited extended family. The Afro-centric definition of family is far more reaching and even extends to anyone who shares a similar surname. This can be confusing, especially because people may refer to extended family members as uncles and aunts when there actually is no direct connection in the way that other cultures would understand those terms.

  • ‘Ubuntu’ is a collective and shared identity, or togetherness, which links everyone’s humanity to the connectivity they maintain with other humans. As a result weddings, funerals and other important events tend to be a much bigger affair and open to a much bigger group. Turning down an invitation to a co-worker’s family event may be a much greater offense to an African than it would to co-workers from many other cultures.

Ownership
Ownership in an Afro-centric worldview is very collective. When I first bought a car and drove it back to my village, everyone responded, “We have a car! We have a car!” In the majority of Afro-centric contexts there is a community ownership of everyone’s resources. This often translates into ‘what is yours is ours’.

There is an unspoken expectation that when you succeed in one-way or another you have to carry the rest with you. If one owns a car and others don’t, one is expected to use it for the benefit of the rest.

  • Failure to comply with these expectations quickly earns one the reputation that they are selfish and ‘un-African’. Consider how HR policies may need to be adapted when expanding into Africa. Understand the expectations an employees’ community will have on them.

These tend to be extremes of the Afro-centric worldview and many younger leaders are beginning to adopt more Western values. But before assuming a young leader lacks confidence because he won’t look you in the eye or a staff member is irresponsible because she shows up late for a meeting, stop to consider what competing values they may be facing. Don’t too quickly judge their motives and find ways to discover more.  Most of us Africans are quite welcoming and eager to share our culture but when rebuffed in our attempts we may hold back. The key is to be open-minded and use cultural intelligence to be surprised by the rich things you can learn.

Africa awaits! Wozani Nonke—Come All.

Buhle Dlamini is based in Canada and South Africa and is available to offer speaking, training, and consulting to help organizations develop a culturally intelligent approach for working in Africa. He’s a CQ Certified Facilitator and is founder and chair of Young & Able, a consultancy offering CQ training in Africa.

Four Myths of Global Leadership

davidlivermore | March 17th, 2015 No Comments

 

Culture matters. It’s more than just a “nice-to-have.” It’s a key factor in what makes or breaks today’s global leader. As a result, organizations in every sector are clamoring to find effective global leaders. Those who can lead with cultural intelligence are in demand. Yet much of what gets talked about in the global leadership space is informed by myths and anecdotes rather than empirical evidence. Even many top-rated MBA programs assure prospective students and employers that their curriculum will develop global leadership, yet there’s little done to measure and develop global capabilities in their students. And many organizations rely most on technical expertise when looking at whom to put in charge of a new, global project. I regularly encounter the following myths when reading, listening, and talking with others about global leadership:

Myth #1: Leadership Is a Sixth Sense
Conventional wisdom among many business executives is that leadership is a sixth sense: You either get it or you don’t. You have to lead from the gut. And frankly, there’s some research that backs up the surprising strength of seasoned executives using their gut more than data or detailed analysis to make good decisions. That’s because the “gut” has been subconsciously programmed through years of experience. The problem is, the subconscious programming is specific to a culture and may not be a reliable source when making split judgments and decisions in an unfamiliar culture. This explains why some individuals have been incredibly successful leading in one context only to fail miserably when attempting to lead in another. The “sixth sense” of leadership has to be retrained and developed when the cultural context changes.

Myth #2: The World Is Flat
I have enormous appreciation for Thomas Friedman’s compelling argument that the economic playing field has been leveled globally.[1] A Filipino start-up firm can go head-to-head with a behemoth multinational company and leaders in all contexts are wise to wake up to this reality. But I often hear people applying Friedman’s “flat world” idea more broadly than it was intended. I’m regularly asked, “Isn’t there a global professional culture emerging where people are more alike today than different?”

When you observe people in airport lounges in Dubai, Sydney, and London, it certainly seems like we’re all more alike than different. And if you predominantly experience different cultures by visiting hotels and offices that are built for guests like you, it’s easy to miss the differences that exist. But when you get beneath the surface, you find we’re remarkably different. Leaders have their head in the sand if they think they can lead people the same way everywhere. Culture doesn’t explain everything. But it is one of the driving factors in how to effectively negotiate, build trust, foster innovation, and motivate people toward a shared objective.

Myth #3: If No One Follows, You Aren’t Leading
Surely a “leader” with no followers might not be leading. Or he or she might be attempting to lead in the wrong context. Leadership is not only about the values and style of the leader. As evidenced by the findings in the GLOBE leadership study, not all followers want the same thing from their leaders. The cultural values and preferences of the followers strongly influence who can effectively lead them. Some followers want larger-than-life, charismatic leaders like Bill Clinton. Others want modest, understated, practical leaders like Angela Merkel. This is explained by an idea known as implicit leadership theory, which says that whether you lead effectively is not only based on your leadership skills; it’s also a reflection of your followers’ expectations of leaders. Because culture is one of the variables that shapes what people expect and want from a leader, a culturally intelligent leader is wise to understand this before accepting a new leadership role or assigning someone else to one.

Myth #4: Matrix Models Are Better Suited for Leading Across Borders
Many companies have moved away from headquarter-centric models of leadership to matrix models. Reporting lines go in multiple directions, teams are co-located, and decision-making is more collaborative than top-down. Most of the world, however, prefers a more hierarchical style of leadership in which authority lines are clear and followers are given clear, specific directions. There’s great potential in matrix models for international growth and expansion. But a matrix model requires an additional level of cultural intelligence in order to effectively use it.

I’ve interacted with leaders at Google about this. Google has an extremely strong corporate culture and recruiters are given a clear standard of how to spot the Google DNA when searching for new Googlers. But the questions and techniques recruiters typically use to get a sense of a job candidate’s interests, personal accomplishments, and innovative ideas need to be significantly adapted based on the cultural background of the candidate. And the ability to find the right candidates who fit with the more matrixed structure of Google requires culturally intelligent recruiters.

Global leadership itself is not a myth. It is possible to lead effectively across multiple cultures. This is the very thing we’ve been studying in our research on cultural intelligence for the last couple of decades. We have growing evidence that a leader’s cultural intelligence predicts several important leadership outcomes. Effectively leading across various cultures is a capability that can be measured and improved. But it begins with a more thoughtful, situational understanding of leadership.

…This is an excerpt from the revised edition of Leading with Cultural Intelligence, releasing this week in stores everywhere. Read more about the book and download a sample chapter here.



[1] Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005).

Culturally Intelligent Leaders Know When it’s “Cultural” … and when it isn’t.

davidlivermore | February 20th, 2015 4 Comments

 

 

You’re talking to someone from a different culture and he won’t look you in the eye. Is it cultural? Is it a personal quirk? Or is something else going on? How do you know? And what difference does it make?

“A problem is a problem, regardless of the source.” But getting at what’s behind the problem and knowing how to interpret the communication you receive is a critical part of leading successfully in today’s multicultural context. In fact, few things more quickly demonstrate your cultural intelligence than whether you can sort through what’s cultural and what’s not and how to respond.

I spend many of my waking hours thinking, writing, and talking about culture. How does culture influence the way someone is motivated? To what cultures is a leader’s style best suited? And what cultural values shape the way an organization images itself?

Culture lurks at every corner, influencing how we see the world. But culture doesn’t explain everything. Sometimes the behavior you encounter is more a reflection of someone’s personality than his or her cultural background. And sometimes you’re being played. “Cultural differences” are sometimes used as a disguise for something else.

How do you tell the difference? When is it cultural”? When is it personality? And when is it some other factor?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you sort through this:

1. How does the “unusual” perspective or behavior you’re encountering compare with what research indicates about the norms for this culture?
Find out whether empirical evidence supports that this behavior is something often utilized by individuals from this culture. This is where some of the most widely recognized work in the intercultural field is helpful, whether it’s Edward Hall’s work on communication norms or the cultural dimensions from Hofstede, Trompenaars, or the GLOBE leadership study. For those unfamiliar with this work, a few places to begin are:

2. What are other possible explanations for this perspective and/or behavior?
Rather than just assuming culture is the only explanation, stop to consider the variables you should include when understanding any unusual encounter or situation. Go through the following categories and consider whether these shed light on what’s occurring in addition to or instead of culture:

  • Personality: To what degree does this reflect a pattern of behavior from this individual? When have you seen this among others? Might this be an idiosyncratic behavior?
  • Circumstances: What else is going on that might explain this? I was recently interacting with a senior executive whose behavior seemed unusually bizarre to me. Only later did I find out that just before we met, he had learned of some devastating news regarding a family member.
  • Organizational Factors: What pressures exist within the organization? And in what ways might the individual be primarily representing a dynamic that reflects more on the organization involved than anything else?
  • Power struggle: I recently walked into a situation where I was told there was a cultural conflict; but the more I learned about the situation, the more it became evident that two managers separated by several time zones and cultures were vying for the same senior leadership position. There were certainly cultural aspects to how they approached the power struggle. But the cultural difference wasn’t the primary thing causing the conflict.

3. How do others who have experience and understanding with this culture perceive the situation?
I always want a safe person with whom I can ask unfiltered questions about whether my experiencing aligns with their understanding of the culture. Particularly when the situation involves a culture with which you have limited experience and familiarity, a cultural interpreter is essential. One time I thought I was being deceived by a West African leader but when processing the situation with a trusted, West African colleague, I learned that my approach was making it impossible for the leader to give me the kind of input I wanted.

4. Consider whether confirmation bias influenced your interpretation.
If you’re convinced all Millennials are entitled and all white guys are sexist, you’ll be predisposed to find examples that support your premise, something described as confirmation bias. So before you decide what explains a behavior, stop to consider whether you really sought to understand the situation and put your assumptions at bay.

With enough information, any behavior begins to make sense. Sorting through what’s cultural and what’s not is a critical part of leading with cultural intelligence. With the insights you gain through improved CQ, you know whether a customer complaint stems from an isolated situation or whether it’s something you need to address for an entire market segment. Heightened CQ helps you know when a negotiation tactic is playing dirty versus a cultural norm for doing business. And you can more quickly discern whether the absence of eye contact means respect, insecurity, or deception. Those insights separate the culturally intelligent from the culturally naïve leaders.

[The second edition of Leading with Cultural Intelligence releases next month. The new edition features brand new research on cultural intelligence, case studies, and leading practices from executives and organizations using cultural intelligence around the world.]

5 Things Culturally Intelligent Universities Do

davidlivermore | July 8th, 2014 No Comments

Guest post by Dr. Sandra Upton  

Today more than 2.5 million students are studying outside their home countries. Estimates predict a rise to 7 million international students by 2020. Students from Asia are entering the major academic systems of North America, Western Europe, and Australia and vise versa. Countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada have adjusted visa and immigration requirements to attract foreign students. But what happens once they arrive on campus?

In my nearly 18 years of working in higher education I’ve observed the impact of these changes. Smart institutions realize that competing globally means creating culturally intelligent campus communities that embrace and leverage diversity. Those who tie diversity to academic and institutional excellence will be the ones that are most successful.

The colleges and universities making the most strides in becoming authentic, culturally intelligent institutions adopt the following practices:

1. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is tied to strategic, measurable outcomes.  

For any D&I initiative to be effective, it must be an integral part of the institution’s mission, core values and strategic plan. There must also be a high level of synergy and alignment across the efforts of various departments and divisions. Most significant, and the weakest link at many colleges and universities, is the need to evaluate the effectiveness of D&I efforts with measurable outcomes. It’s easy to engage in a lot of useful activities like diversity fairs, multicultural awareness weeks, and workshops. But the question becomes – Do our D&I efforts support the overall goals and objectives of the university and can they be measured for effectiveness?

2. Diversity is important. Inclusion is even more important.  

I recently heard someone say, Diversity is inviting everyone to the party; inclusion is allowing everyone to dance. Colleges and university’s that diversify and do nothing else set themselves up for failure. The real test comes with creating an environment where everyone on campus thrives and is able to achieve their maximum potential. Inclusively excellent institutions consistently engage in the process of identifying and eliminating racism and other biases (conscious or unconscious) by changing systems, structures, policies, practices and attitudes so that power is redistributed and shared more equitably. This occurs by using the next three practices.

3. Cultural Intelligence is prioritized for everyone on campus – students, faculty and staff.

Recruiting a diverse group of students, faculty and staff is essential but it’s not enough. It has to be followed by a strategic plan that fully equips the entire campus community with the skills to relate and work effectively across cultural differences. Whether it’s equipping Chinese students to engage with their North American peers, supporting underrepresented staff to succeed within the institution, or helping faculty understand the different needs of Latino versus African-American students, the CQ of students, faculty, and staff make or break whether a university truly becomes a more diverse, inclusive place. The conversations, lectures, and group projects that occur behind closed doors ultimately reveal whether a campus is becoming more culturally intelligent. Creating a learning and development plan for improving CQ is essential.

4. Diversity content is strategically integrated into the curriculum.

Since colleges and universities are ultimately about education, diversity must be built into the curriculum. Each department needs to identify learning outcomes and create a rubric for assessing courses and students in light of the priorities of diversity and inclusion. Students need to see how diverse perspectives enhance their understanding of the material being taught and they need to see how hands-on experiences on campus, in the local community and through study abroad programs tie to their personal and professional goals.

5. Leadership Commitment

University leaders (President, Provost, VPs and Board of Trustees) must personally demonstrate cultural intelligence and strategically integrate it across the institution. This means intentionally including the contributions of all stakeholders within the organization by ensuring all stakeholders are represented in every conversation, decision, and new initiative. And it means building an institutional culture that views diversity as an institutional treasure and inclusion as a strategic imperative.

I am thrilled to be joining the team at Cultural Intelligence Center and am looking forward to using my years of experience as a faculty member, administrator and leader in facilitating several MBA global business experiences, to work alongside my colleagues in the higher education space around the globe. Given the global changes coming our way, it remains a critical yet exciting time for institutions of higher learning around the world.

How Facebook Develops its Global Leaders

davidlivermore | October 18th, 2013 5 Comments

[Excerpt from upcoming global issue in People & Strategy Journal]

I recently sat down with Bill McLawhon, head of leadership development at Facebook and a seasoned executive coach….First a little context: Many of Facebook’s nearly 5,300 staff are under the age of 30. It’s a company Bill describes as being “hierarchical and title-agnostic”. But don’t expect one more boomer rant about narcissistic, entitled Millennials from Bill.

So how does the first Millennial-run organization to hit the Fortune 500 develop its global leaders?


Silicon Valley has a reputation—young, entitled engineers who don’t believe they have a whole lot to learn from seasoned, corporate leaders. To what degree is that fair and how, if at all, does this influence the way you develop leaders at Facebook?

Bill: As a 56-year-old guy, I went through a period where I looked at these young kids and thought, “Wait until you get your butt kicked out in the real world.” But I quickly realized this is the real world. And they’re making it their own. This is the future of work. It doesn’t look much like the world of work where I started. But I’m completely awed by the high performing individuals I get to coach everyday, most of whom are young enough to be my kids.

Our whole approach to leadership development at Facebook is coherent with the fact that we’re an engineering company to the core, and we’re led and run by Millennials. We have no interest in a competency-based model of leadership. That doesn’t fit who we are. Our engineering, Millennial roots shape who we are from top to bottom.


How does that shape the way you approach leadership development?

Bill: Engineers are trained to be skeptics. As a result, you see an embedded-skepticism all across the company. There’s zero tolerance for talking heads. The driving question is “What works?” There are posters all over campus that say things like, “Move fast and break things” and “Done is better than perfect.” Our engineering DNA shapes everything we do, including leadership development.


How do you convince engineering techies that soft skills like cultural intelligence matter?

Bill: I haven’t thought about my coaching work as providing “soft skills” in a long time because there’s a hunger for these kinds of skills by our people. We’re an extremely flat, meritocratic company. So it’s impossible to get anything done unless you have the ability to influence and inspire people. You can’t run to a boss and have them issue a mandate to get something done. You’re going to have to figure out how to get it done yourself. So I don’t have to convince leaders at Facebook that they need these capabilities. They almost unconsciously know that these skills are the only way to get things done in such a flat, meritocratic organization.


I was surprised to learn that 70% of your users are outside North America. How does your global presence influence the way you recruit and develop leaders?

Bill: The percentage of users outside North America is steadily growing. I expect that most of Facebook’s second and third billion users will come from the developing world, where access to the web is through simple, mobile devices with low cost access to data.

These global realties significantly influence what we do all across the company. We’re increasing our global footprint with data centers, engineering offices and sales offices placed in strategic hubs around the world. And we’re creating teams in those regions that reflect the cultural complexion of the region. Most of our international offices are made up of local talent, with a few expats from other regions brought in when a specific expertise is needed.

Headquarters remains in Menlo Park but we’re looking at how to avoid a purely unidirectional flow—from Menlo Park to our global regions. Instead, we’re creating ways for a parallel flow of information, strategies, and leadership that goes both ways. This might include having a functional head based in a place like Mumbai who manages a team located around the world, including individuals in Menlo Park.


You’ve described a very strong culture at Facebook—hierarchy-agnostic, fast, autonomous, no victims/excuses, take risks etc.  Many of these values are diametrically opposite to the core values of most developing world cultures. How is that influencing your approach to leadership development globally?

Bill:  You’re absolutely right and I know this can be an issue. We’ve already observed it among some of our teams. We want to find the right individuals globally who are culturally synchronous with both their local context and Facebook. It won’t work if they can’t bridge both cultures.

We’ll cease to be Facebook if we eliminate all our core values from how we operate. But we’re conscious of this challenge and it’s one of the things that we’ll be prioritizing most this next year —how do we develop high performing teams who can effectively utilize our diversity across the world to make even greater impact?


Read the full interview with Bill McLawhon as well as a series of articles on culturally intelligent leadership in the upcoming issue of People & Strategy Journal.

Bill McLawhon is Head of Leadership Development at Facebook and oversees the coaching process across the company. Prior to coming to Facebook, Bill spent 13 years coaching executives within High Tech, Bio Tech and Financial Services, following a VP position at Charles Schwab & Co. When he isn’t keeping up with Millennials at Facebook, he enjoys cooking Indian food, spending time in Paris and Kauai, and thinking about what’s coming in the world of work.

Four Myths of Global Leadership

davidlivermore | September 13th, 2013 10 Comments

 

The vice chairman of one of the largest Fortune 100 companies in the world was recently speaking to a group of Asian executives in Singapore. The North American chair spent half his keynote telling the audience how much he loved Asia. He said things like, “I spend 200+ days a year here…I love the food. I just can’t get enough of this place. Asia is the future! I want to be here as much as possible.”

The mostly Asian audience seemed to appreciate the enthusiasm for their part of the world. But during the question and answer period that followed, the audience began asking some follow-up questions:

 “So what are you changing about your business strategy given your interest in Asia?” The executive looked a little bit like a deer staring into the headlights and he gave some nondescript answers about working on some focus groups to determine that.

And then someone else asked who on the company’s board is from Asia, to which he said, “Well, we meet quarterly so it’s not realistic to fly them to the U.S. that often” And when they asked him what challenges he’s faced in leading people in Asia, he again had nothing of substance to say.

This North American executive was a very articulate speaker. He had a likable personality, impressive leadership portfolio, and he exuded charisma. But his enthusiasm and charm didn’t work with this Asian audience. And when the questions started coming, he was caught blindsided.[1]

There are a number of myths that permeate discussions about global leadership. I’ll share a few and would love to hear some that you’ve observed.

1. Leadership is a Sixth Sense
Conventional wisdom among many business executives is that leadership is a sixth sense: You either get it or you don’t. You have to lead from the gut. And frankly, there’s some research that backs up the surprising strength of seasoned executives using their gut more than data or detailed analysis to make decisions. That’s because the “gut” has been subconsciously programmed through years of experience. The problem is, the subconscious programming is specific to a culture and may not be a reliable source when making split judgments and decisions in an unfamiliar culture.

2. The World is Flat
I respect Friedman’s compelling argument that the economic playing field has been leveled globally. A Filipino start-up firm can go head-to-head with a behemoth multinational company. But I often hear people applying this idea more broadly when they ask me. “Isn’t there a global professional culture emerging where people are more alike today than different?”

When you observe people in airport lounges in Dubai, Sydney, and London it certainly seems like this is true. But when you get beneath the surface, you find we’re still more remarkably different than similar. Leaders have their head in the sand if they think they can lead people the same way everywhere. You have to account for culture as one of the significant variables that effects negotiation, building trust, fostering innovation, etc.

3. If No One Follows, You Aren’t Leading
Surely a “leader” with no followers might not be leading. Or … they might be attempting to lead in the wrong context. Leadership is not only about the values and style of the leader. It’s also about the values and preferences of the followers. Some followers want larger-than-life, charismatic, leaders like Bill Clinton. Others want modest, understated, practical leaders like Angela Merkel.

Some leaders with a massive following in one context may find no one follows them in another. Why? Because implicit leadership theory explains that whether you lead effectively is not only based upon your leadership skills; it’s also a reflection of your followers’ expectations of leaders. And culture is one of the variables that shapes what people expect and want from a leader.

4. Matrix models are better suited for leading across borders
Many companies are moving a way from headquarter-centric models of leadership to matrix models. Reporting lines go multiple directions, teams are co-located, and decision-making is more collaborative than top-down. But most of the world prefers a more hierarchical style of leadership where authority lines are clear and where followers are given clear, specific directions. There’s great potential in matrix models for international growth and expansion. But it requires an additional level of cultural intelligence to use matrix models effectively in various places around the world.

Global leadership itself is not a myth. It is possible to lead effectively across multiple cultures. This is the very thing we’ve been studying in our research on cultural intelligence across the last fifteen years. We have growing evidence that a leader’s cultural intelligence predicts several important leadership outcomes. Effectively leading across various cultures is a capability that can be measured and improved. But it begins with a more thoughtful, situational understanding of leadership.

What do you think? What would you challenge from my list? What myths would you add?


[1] Personal conversation with Guido Gianasso, http://guidogianasso.wordpress.com/

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