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  THE CULTURAL SYNERGIST
ISSUE 37
August 2014
 

I wanted to bring to your attention this month a recently released report that I had the good fortune of contributing to by way of a focus group.  The study was conducted by the Diversity Council Australia in partnership with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and IBM Australia, amongst others.  The research report 'Cracking the Cultural Ceiling' was based on a survey of more than 300 leaders and emerging leaders from Asian cultural backgrounds who were working within Australia.  My apologies to the international readers for this �parochial� topic but I think you will be able to see some applications for this in your own countries.

There is a lot of focus currently in Australia about 'Embracing the Asian Century' and providing goods and services to the fastest growing region in the world.  The study looked at why, despite large numbers of entry level and middle level Asian managers, there are so few Asian leaders reaching the top in Australian organisations; and further how Australian organisations could realise the promise and potential of Asian talent.

Some of the key barriers that were identified as locking out Asian talent in Australia were:

  • Cultural bias and stereotyping
  • Westernised leadership models
  • Lack of relationship capital
  • The case for culture is misunderstood.

This report highlights the under-representation of Asian leadership that is fundamentally hurting Australian organisations.  Given that 46% of Australian consumers are born overseas or have at least 1 parent born overseas, that over � of Australia�s exports go to Asia and that by 2030 Asia will account for 60% of the global middle-class consumption, studies such as this deserve attention. 

When I read statistics such as 30% of Asian talent are likely to leave their employer within the next year and that only 17% strongly agree that their organisations usilise their Asia capabilities well, indicates that Asian talent is being seriously undervalued and under-leveraged. The impact that this has on organisations, not just in terms of talent, but also innovation potential and the impact on existing and possible international markets, demonstrates wasted opportunities within the Australian landscape.  While 'Cracking the Cultural Ceiling' was an Australian based study, barriers such as those identified here continue to exist in a similar vein in other Western countries. You can also extrapolate this to other categories such as gender, generational, LGBT, the disabled and others.

Leadership needs to be re-defined, it isn�t a singular stationary model. Cultural intelligence needs to be built into the organisational DNA, it needs to be a business as usual process.  Cultural intelligence can assist organisations to navigate themselves successfully through the ambiguity and ever changing business and talent landscapes that exist even in local/domestic markets let alone cross-border markets.  

While I support recommendations from this report such as improved leadership models, unconscious bias training, improved mentoring and professional networks of workers with Asian backgrounds, we need to take one-step back.  Before any of these can be implemented one of the key challenges I see is around supporting organisations to realise that the cultural ceiling does in fact exist within their organisations.  There needs to be a level of candidness that exposes organisational deficiencies, such as the under-valuing and under-representation of workforces and the cultural biases and stereotypes that continue to persist. This can be a confronting and intimidating exercise to say the least; hence it needs to be conducted in a supportive and well-planned manner that is deemed as the next step in the organisational growth structure.

 
If you would like to read or follow our Cultural Intelligence Blog go to:
http://culturalsynergies.wordpress.com


Best Wishes
Tom Verghese

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Simon Sinek has delivered some fabulous Ted Talks that I have enjoyed watching, particularly �Start With Why.�

In his latest book Sinek questions what makes some teams have a deep and entrenched level of trust, while others never achieve this no matter what incentives they have on offer.

He observed that in the Marine Corps the custom is for junior marines to eat before senior staff ; therefore demonstrating a symbolic level of care and sacrifice to the junior staff that is reciprocated through higher levels of trust and loyalty.

This is a fascinating book that includes some great case studies, interesting research, and the biological and anthropological explanations for why the most successful organizations over the long-term are those that create a strong sense of belonging and trust.

Sinek claims that the principle cause of failure among organizations is due to the  tendency to focus more on numbers and short-term results than on people. When numbers are prioritised over people, the result is a lack of safety and care within the organisation. The premise is that in order for people to work together and face the never-ending external challenges they need to feel safe.

'Leaders Eat Last' includes some great thought-provoking, real-life examples of how long-term, sustainable success can only come from a culture of empathy.  It effectively plays on the old adage that people are more productive when they are happy and engaged.
 
 
RECOMMENDED BOOK:
" Leaders Eat Last
: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't ." By Simon Sinek (2014).
 
   
   
       
     
 
RESOURCES

'Raising Your Cultural IQ - DVD and CD

'Raising Your Cultural IQ' explores the issues around culture, the challenges that culture can pose and provides some great strategies on how to leverage on cultural differences and similarities.

 

'The Invisible Elephant - Exploring Cultural Awareness'
2nd Edition by Tom Verghese

Many aspects of culture are invisible, yet culture has an enormous impact on our lives. Like an Invisible Elephant, if ignored these aspects can lead to misunderstanding, stress and conflict. Alternatively, if attention is given to the Invisible Elephant, it can enhance productivity, improve teamwork and create more joy in our lives.

Book testimonial by Asma Ghabshi
Learning And Development Manager, Shell Oman:

"The Invisible Elephant made my perspective of my national culture in comparison to my personal culture more visible. It has given me a deep insight into dealing with people of different cultural backgrounds."


'Pillars of Growth - Strategies for Leading Sustainable Growth' - Book by Tom Verghese, Kerry Larkan, Steven Howard and Brad Tonini
Written with the business leaders and entrepreneurs of Asia in mind, 'Pillars of Growth' provides a road map to assist you in thinking through four critical concerns that impact the sustainable growth of every business.