The Cultural Synergist - Issue 9 October 2008

Welcome to The Cultural Synergist

Hi ,

Welcome to the Cultural Synergies October 2008 newsletter.

Kind regards

The Cultural Synergies Team
October 2008

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
What a month it has been, one that we are not likely to forget for a while, I�m sure.  We live in interesting times to say the least � well established world banks closing their doors, government bail-outs, unfortunately the list goes on. And let�s not forget the upcoming U.S. elections, which I have been following with much interest and anticipation.  The current state of the global economy has had a significant impact on the latest Obama and McCain campaigns. 

I don�t want to focus on the doom and gloom that we have been inundated with of late, because as we all know we don�t have to look too far to find it!  However, I think that it is critical for our emotional, psychological and professional wellbeing to reframe the situation and come up with some innovative ideas and changes that we can make to our current ways of thinking; and approaches in both our personal and professional lives.

There is no doubt that we are living through some tough economic times.  It is often in these periods of economic downturn that people start to reflect and rethink their current situations.  Granted, it is not always a choice, but none-the-less these periods can act as precursors to reflect on the things that are working well and those that are not. 

You may recall that the late 80�s, early 90�s were also economically challenging times.&nnbsp; The organization that I was working for at the time collapsed and left me out of a job.  After I overcame the shock and disbelief and dusted myself off, I began to reflect on my professional life and reconsider what it was that I actually wanted to do. As it turned out, this led me to change careers. I went back to study and a process of evolution led me into consulting, and the rest is history.

From a professional perspective, to remain afloat in these current times, we need to improve our skills at all levels � individual, team and organizational levels.  We need to re-strategise, in order to develop and expand our overall levels of efficiency.  Perhaps this may involve creating some new strategies, a reallocation of current resources, or improved teamwork.

How many times have you heard comments such as �we don�t actually know what other divisions within our organization actually do� or �each department has their own way of doing things�.  Often what you find, particularly in the larger organizations, is a siloed mentality.  This is not good business practice.  The outcome is wasted time, human capital and resources.  Knowledge and expertise need to be shared between departments and across borders. Some of the areas that we can be thinking about are, sharing best practices, running forums across divisions/departments, or encouraging innovative ideas from team members and people in the front line.

As we are living and working in a global world we need to start living and working with a global mindset. Organizations can no longer survive with a siloed mentality, and the current climate further highlights this.  Skills, such as emotional intelligence, cultural agility, flexibility and open-mindedness are not superfluous, they are in fact fundamental requirements in today�s competitive market.  I would argue that these skills are probably even more critical in periods of economic volatility. Organizations need to recognise these components in order to maintain a healthy level of flexibility and adaptability to adjust to the global economic climates.

Often what happens in tough times is that organizations pay less attention to the �soft skill� areas. There can be a tendency to focus on areas that can be more readily observed and measured.  The soft skills are often deemed to have less value, when in fact they are quite the opposite.  The skills to deal with uncertainty, ambiguity, conflict and stress are imperative right now. As difficult as change can be to cope with, if organizations want to have a competitive advantage, particularly those that work across borders, they need to embrace and enhance some of the soft skills.

Some of the key areas that need to be a focus:

  • Increase Communication.  Effective communication is at the heart of all organizational operations and international relations.  It remains the most important tool we have for getting things done.  It is the basis for understanding, cooperation, keeping people informed and ultimately for action.
  • Ensure Organizational Alignment.  Alignment of organizational missions, visions and objectives across regions and countries is critical, from both a structural and morale point.  These values need to be shared and understood by all areas of the organization.
  • Increase Inclusion.  An inclusive organization has greater reach and ability to capitalise on the talent of its employees.  They can retain and recruit the best people whilst also improving the provision and delivery of services to diverse customers and communities.

In times of uncertainty and pressure there can be a tendency to respond with irrational behaviour.  We have seen panic in the global economic markets and we have seen in the recent political debate in the United States discussions that have become personal. We need to focus on the issues at hand, be resilient, remain optimistic and be mindful that the glass is half full � because it is!

New Product

Watch this space for Tom's new DVD and CD set on Developing Cultural Agility, coming out next month.

 Recommended Book
The Experts Edge: Become a Go-To Authority People Turn to Every Time:  Ken Lizotte, McGraw Hill: 2008 

I was recently recommended this book and was instantly drawn by the concept of the "Five Pillars of Thoughtleading". In a nutshell they are: publishing articles and books, speaking regularly to groups and organizations, fresh thinking, ongoing media attention and leveraging on the internet.

�The Experts Edge� has some easy steps on how to become recognized as a �thoughtleader� and a �go-to person�.  It highlights and demonstrates the importance of establishing credibility, the importance of developing and creating new ideas and achieving maximum return on your intellectual capital. One example Lizotte gives is the importance of leveraging on all of those business cards that we receive at various business community seminars and engagements.  Rather than filing them away, use the email addresses to create data bases and as a way of establishing and maintaining relationships.

No matter what your specialty, level, experience or personal style, �The Expert�s Edge� has some great tips on how to become the �go-to authority� and develop a competitive edge.  I found myself several times thinking how obvious and simple  some of the approaches are and yet how effective they are.


'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.

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