Business Counsel Associates

Leading a Multicultural Team

September 15, 2014 By: azjogger Category: Management, Marketing & Sales

CBR003314By Marwa Hijazi

Managing a multicultural team can be a rewarding experience, giving leaders the opportunity to work closely with employees from diverse backgrounds and offering the chance for personal and professional growth. However, operating a team with genuinely different people also comes with a number of challenges that must be overcome to create a productive work environment.

Leaders must be knowledgeable and open minded of different cultures to gain a better understanding of employees and find a way to help them work together as a team.

Breaking Down Cultural Barriers

It’s easy for misunderstandings to occur on a diverse team simply due to cultural differences. When people have different values and are accustomed to certain behaviors, it can take some work to get everyone on the same page.

Some cultures have a more direct style of addressing problems, while others prefer to focus on the relationship and take a more subtle approach. For example, the Dutch have a reputation for being very straightforward, while the Japanese are typically more reserved and formal.  Team members from these cultures may have to make an effort to adapt to each other’s style and expectations.

Time is another major issue that often causes rifts in multicultural teams. While Americans plan their day according to the clock, other cultures are often much more relaxed. Employees from such backgrounds may believe it’s perfectly acceptable to let a meeting run over the scheduled time period or show up late if they were in the middle of an important conversation ─ which is bound to upset those who prefer to stick to a strict timetable.

The phrase “time is money” translates well for most cultures, since money is a universal priority in the business world. If everyone on the team respects each other’s time as they would respect each other’s money, that can go a long way.

Forming a United Workplace Culture

Multicultural teams are often composed of employees who would rarely interact with one another otherwise. While their individual cultures should be celebrated, it’s important to shape a cohesive and constructive atmosphere for everyone involved.

Management should talk to employees ─ creating focus groups if necessary ─ to learn more about similar problems faced by workers. If there isn’t one obvious solution to these issues, it’s a great idea to ask for input on the best way to manage them, so everyone feels like they’re being heard.

Understanding Cultural Differences

Business practices, customs, and acceptable topics of conversation vary greatly from one country to the next. So while the behavior of an employee may appear inappropriate in America, it could very well be the conventional way of doing business in their native country.

Gaining a solid understanding of the key issues associated with a multicultural team will allow management to be much more effective. While certain employees may initially be viewed as difficult, lazy, or rude, digging deeper to explore their cultural norms can offer valuable insights that help all members of the team understand each other better.

Have you had an experience as an employee or employer – or even as a customer – where cultural differences affected a situation negatively?  Consider how making a careful and informed effort to overcome them might have mitigated the problem.


Why You Have to be a Politician at Your Job

June 04, 2010 By: azjogger Category: Human Resources, Management, Training

By Jan Leslie and William A. Gentry

In the office the word politics makes many of us think of favoritism, back-stabbing and self-promotion at its worst. But workplace politics is present in all organizations and probably always will be. Avoiding or ignoring it limits you and your organization. To be an effective leader you must acknowledge political reality in your organization and develop your political skill.

Politics, at its core, is neutral. There is good political skill, which most people appreciate, and there is bad political skill, which causes a lot of dissension. People who think badly of politics often associate it with negative personal experiences. Someone got a raise that didn’t seem justified or a promotion for which better candidates were bypassed. When politics works to a person’s advantage, however, they are more likely to see it as a justified result of skill and hard work.

Politics: the ability to understand and effectively influence others

What is political skill? We define it, based on the work of Professor Gerald Ferris, a management and psychology professor at Florida State University, and his colleagues, as the ability to understand and effectively influence others for personal or organizational benefit. Politics does not have to be a zero-sum game, so good political skill can bring positive results for all parties, allowing people to tailor their behavior to particular contexts and people and helping organizations unlock their potential. Leaders continually need to adjust to different people and situations, particularly in this economically rocky time. Politically skilled people know how to do that. They can diagnose a situation and adjust their behavior accordingly. They can also rally support for their views because their peers typically perceive them as more competent than leaders who lack political skills.

A lack of political skill, on the other hand, can have serious consequences both for leaders and their entire organizations. Our research at CCL shows that managers who are not politically astute run the risk of being demoted, fired or otherwise slipping off their intended career tracks, inevitably leading to real disruptions in personnel charts and organizational performance. We’ve found that the less politically skilled managers are, the more likely they are to have problems with interpersonal relationships and with building and leading a team. That means they’re more likely to damage their careers, since CCL research has also shown that poor interpersonal skills are the biggest reason promising leaders’ careers go off course.

Leaders who aren’t skilled look manipulative or self-serving

Here’s an important paradox: If you have political skill, you appear not to have it. That’s because skillful political behavior usually comes across as genuine, authentic, straightforward and effective. Leaders who aren’t politically skilled, on the other hand, end up looking manipulative or self-serving. We all know both kinds of people.

Professor Ferris says politically skilled leaders are masters in four crucial areas: social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability and apparent sincerity. At CCL our research has identified two additional dimensions of political skill: thinking before speaking and managing up. As a leader it’s wise to work steadily on each of them. Here’s a rundown of all six:

Think before you speak. Politically skilled managers are careful about expressing feelings. They think about the timing and presentation of what they have to say.

Manage up–and down. Leaders need to skillfully manage up by communicating with their bosses and keeping higher-ups informed. But this can become a double-edged sword; research shows that the people who are most skilled at managing up tend not to invest enough energy in building and leading their teams. True political skill involves relationships with teammates and direct reports as well as higher-ups.

Influence effectively. Managers who are effective influencers have good rapport with others and build strong interpersonal relationships. They also tend to have a better understanding of broader situations and better judgment about when to assert themselves. That, in turn, creates better relationships. Skilled influencers are not usually overtly political. They are seen as competent leaders who play the game fairly. Their graceful political style is taken as a positive, not negative, force within the organization.

Get your cues right. Socially astute managers are well-versed in social interaction. In social settings they accurately assess their own behavior as well as that of others. Their strong powers of discernment and high self-awareness contribute to their political effectiveness.

Network well. Skilled networkers build friendships and working relationships by garnering support, negotiating and managing conflict. They know when to call on others and are seen as willing to reciprocate.

Be sincere. Politically skilled individuals display high levels of integrity, authenticity, sincerity and genuineness. They really are–and also are viewed as–honest, open and forthright, inspiring trust and confidence.

Whether we like it or not, politics are a mainstay of organizational life. As leaders we can pretend they don’t exist, or we can get in the game right now in a positive way.

From Center for Creative Leadership

Five Leadership Skills You Can't Do Without

November 14, 2009 By: azjogger Category: Management

A glaring gap exists between the skills leaders have now and the ones they will need.
Leadership is like a muscle. The more intelligently you train, the stronger you get. Research at the Center for Creative Leadership reminds us why leaders everywhere, from Fortune 500s to the smallest of nonprofits, need to get to the gym right away.

Leaders today live in an age of remarkably complex challenges. They range from expanding into volatile international markets, to dealing with the fallout from natural disasters, to navigating their organizations through a broken global economy while preparing for future opportunities.
Complex challenges, our research has shown, don’t yield to quick fixes. They don’t respond to standard approaches or conventional knowledge. In fact, 92 percent of executives surveyed by CCL said the challenges their organizations face are more complex than they were just five years ago. On average, they take two years to solve.
Over 2,000 execs contacted
Our research also tells us this: you and your colleagues at every level of your organization do not have all the skills needed to lead effectively in the future. CCL surveyed more than 2,000 leaders from 15 companies in the U.S., India and Singapore. We asked these leaders to rate 20 leadership skills in terms of how important they are right now for success and how important they will be for success over the next five years.

The upshot: the four most important future skills – leading people, strategic planning, inspiring commitment and managing change – are weak points among today’s leaders. There exists, in other words, a glaring gap between the skills leaders have now and the ones they will need in just a few short years. At CCL, we call it the “leadership gap.”

In a world of increasingly complex challenges that demand leadership traits many of us do not yet fully have, there’s no time to waste in developing ourselves and the men and women in our organizations. Based on CCL’s research and practical experience over the past 40 years, we believe the leadership gap can be closed by focusing on these five areas:

Teamwork and collaboration
Managing change
Learning agility/growth mindset

Printed with permission: Center for Creative Leadership



Some Things Don't Change

September 08, 2009 By: azjogger Category: Human Resources, Management, Training

Today’s businesses, communities and leaders are all about change. The business media, the popular press and even many recent issues of Leading Effectively have focused on the fast pace of change, the need to adapt and the challenges of leading in times of great uncertainty. All the talk about change might have you believe that leadership itself has completely transformed, too. David Campbell begs to differ.

Campbell, whose groundbreaking work on career development made him renowned in the field of industrial and organizational psychology, is a CCL Honorary Senior Fellow.

Reflecting on a long career working with leaders from around the world, Campbell shared 21 observations of leadership with readers of his publication. His comments include:

  1. Leadership can be taught, or at least learned. I am also fairly certain that it can be stomped on fatally.
  2. A definition of leadership that makes sense to me is, “Actions that focus resources to create desirable opportunities.” I have been using this definition for years, but no one else seems to be impressed by it.
  3. The world will inevitably focus on the frailty of the leader. If a leader scores a 9 on a 10-point scale, the 10 percent gap between reality and perfection will be what draws public attention — but, as the English say, better a diamond with a single flaw than a perfect pebble.
  4. Creative leadership is distasteful to most organizations; it almost always creates unwelcome turbulence. The status quo will usually reign or, perhaps, suffocate. Leaders who attempt to be creative either have to be brilliant or be completely in control. It helps if they are both.
  5. People in charge will hang on too long.
  6. Two basic dimensions of leadership — task orientation and relationship orientation — have constantly appeared and reappeared in the leadership research literature. Both people and productivity are important.
  7. Sooner or later, and it is often sooner, almost all organizations will demonstrate dysfunctionality. Even the simplest organizational tasks escalate in complexity over time, creating either bad feelings or poor performance. Simply assigning parking places or getting the coffee pot cleaned daily will eventually lead to friction.
  8. Poor leadership is far more visible from below than from above, which means that in most organizations, those responsible for evaluating leaders — usually their superiors — are poorly positioned to do so.

Printed with permission of Center for Creative Leadership. Adapted with permission from Leadership in Action, Volume 28, Issue 4, 2008; Copyright (c) 2008 Jossey-Bass Publishers/A Wiley Imprint

Does Your Boss Like to do Your Job?

August 29, 2009 By: azjogger Category: Management

By John Riley

 These days, it is not surprising to find someone who has a boss that does her job for her.  Most people would call that micro-managing  and attribute it to insecurity brought about by a fear of making a mistake or having one’s subordinate make a mistake during these uncertain times.  I think it’s more complex than that.


While insecurity is certainly one factor at play here, there is a professional element as well. I’m talking about the person who is a perfectionist and feels that their subordinates do not share the same attitude toward their work. As result, the fear comes from concern a subordinate might make a mistake and the lack of professionalism would reflect on the supervisor.

 Another possibility that fosters micro-managers is a greater feeling of power.  It probably stems from their feeling that what got them promoted was what they should do as a supervisor except to a greater degree.  That produces a doer rather than a manager and has its own set of problems.

 Unfortunately, whatever the reason, employees resent micro-managing bosses.  And why not?  It shows little respect for the subordinate, prevents their professional development and provides no chance for recognition.  Yet, management seems to tolerate such behavior because the work gets done.

 A common management  justification is, “we’ll deal with it after we get through this difficult period”, but that never seems to happen.   A micro-manager response is, “if I don’t control everything, something bad will happen because my people aren’t up to speed yet”.

 Most observers offer advice to the suffering employees when it is the supervisor that should be dealt with.  Specifically, management should add a remedial action item to the supervisor’s job goals after discussing it with him, the supervisor should be sent to a Manager training program, and he should be scheduled for a performance review in six months.  If, after these three steps, the supervisor’s behavior has not changed, management should find a non-managerial position for him.

 Does your boss like to do your job?   If so, leave a copy of this article near the copy machine.

Boss, Promote Me! I'm Ready.

August 25, 2009 By: azjogger Category: Human Resources, Training

By John Riley

 When an employee raises this issue in a performance review, it’s usually not a surprise because the boss  is thinking the same thing about her career. But, for both the timing isn’t right. Faced with an uncertain economy, executives at companies  large and small have reduced staff and heaped more responsibilities on surviving managers at all levels, frequently without compensating them financially or with a new title. In the process, managers seek to cope by working longer and harder.


 However, there is a better way.  Deliver a performance the executive management  can’t ignore.

When that happens, you will break out of the pack and be on the fast track to promotion.

 What I am suggesting is that you concentrate on mastering four skills: organization and planning, communications, managing people and problem solving.  Working within the company culture and on work teams are two high profile venues management uses to evaluate managers effectiveness. So that’s where you need to showcase your skills. While other skills are important too, they aren’t nearly as likely to get you promoted as mastering these four.

 Company culture is an amalgam of many things. Most often, it is strongly reflective of the CEO and his or her vision and values. Cultural habits and norms are powerful reinforcements of the status quo so it is vitally important that you aware of and understand the culture.  That’s because, at one time or another , you will want to execute an idea or project and find out some aspect or element of the culture has become a barrier to your success.  To be effective, you have to know how to change or get around that barrier.

 Working on teams, particularly as team lead, demands great people skills. And here I would suggest you insist on receiving some training before taking on a team lead position. Conflict resolution is one ingredient of that training that is essential.  As team lead, there will be negotiation and discussion upwards, sideways and downward in the organizational chain which will give you the opportunity to show how to get things done through others among other things.

 Organization and planning is ever present in any manager’s job.  One of the fundamental precepts managers need to keep in mind is, what got our company here today, isn’t what will get us where we want to be in the future.  You have to overcome the fact that It’s always more comfortable to do what you’ve been doing than to change.

 Managers spend over 70% of their time communicating.  Unfortunately, the message we usually  hear is completely different than the one that was sent.  According to recent studies, approximately 90% of our understanding of personal communication comes from non-verbal things  such as body language. However, the biggest problem in communicating  is poor listening skills; active listening is considered a learned behavior.

 Companies that have success year after year characteristically have core values that remain fixed. These values play a vital role in managing people so know them well.  Motivating employees helps maintain and exceed performance levels. Whether by incentive programs or introducing new and more difficult tasks, the manager’s role is to make it happen.

 Problem solving and making decisions is at the core of a manager’s responsibilities.  Prioritize your problems first. You don’t want to react to a problem, you want to understand it. Then, if it’s a complex problem, break it down into parts and begin to deal with it one part at a time.  There are excellent analytical tools to help and you should know what they are.  If it’s a decision your boss has to make, take it to him, but with your recommendations on what should be done.  

 There are a variety of ways to master the four skills, i.e. books, community college courses, company training programs, or watching how other managers have progressed up the promotion ladder. Whatever avenue you choose, start now and then you can tell your boss, “Promote Me! I’m ready.”