The Leader’s Treasure Map in Navigating Business Cultures

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How many times have you wondered whether the person you were talking with really grasped the meaning of your message as well as its intent? What was your response? Did you summarize your point again with the hope that this time they would get your message? Do you look for validation that you’ve been heard correctly? What does it mean when people just politely listen, say nothing, and gently nod their heads while you speak? The answer? It depends on the environment in which the person was culturized.

In this global workforce with intertwined business relationships, the most effective and successful leaders will be culturally savvy. First, they will understand their cultural bias and the culture of those with whom they work. Second, the best leaders will modify their style to bridge these cultural gaps. Although technology will continue to shape the business landscape, those who understand how to successfully influence people across cultures will be valued and highly sought after by companies.

Early in my career, I experienced being part of American business teams that left negotiations with an Asian companies either questioning how well the meeting went or being overly confident in the outcome. Why the uncertainty? We typically viewed and interpreted the outcome through our own cultural lenses. Only when we returned home did we learn we hadn’t made as much progress as we thought. How can a team or even an experienced business person successfully navigate these international waters?

The answer lies in reading the treasure map of cultural behaviors, which Erin Meyer spoke about at the 2016 Global Leadership Summit (GLS). Meyer (2014) has studied business cultures and seen “the sad truth…that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work” (Meyer, 2014, p. 10). Meyer concludes that without cultural literacy, your default position will be to judge or misjudge others through your own cultural lens and assume that differences, controversy, and misunderstandings are rooted in individual personalities. The truth? Cultural patterns of belief and behavior frequently impact our perceptions, mindset, and actions (Meyer, 2014).

In her book The Culture Map, Meyer defines the 8 scales that map the world’s cultures and their location on the continuum.

  • Communicating: low-context vs. high-context
  • Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
  • Persuading: principles-first vs. application-first
  • Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
  • Deciding: consensual vs. top-down
  • Trusting: task-based vs. relationship-based
  • Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoids confrontation
  • Scheduling: linear-time vs. flexible time
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Today we no longer fly to another country to experience different cultures, because diversity sits in the office next door. You may be an American supervisor of an ethnically diverse group, whose style reflects the United States Culture Map. Believing in treating everyone equally, you may be left confused when trying to coach each of your team members who come from China, Japan, Asia, and Europe. You may wonder whether your coaching is making any impact outside of your circle of American colleagues. Your coaching style is likely straightforward with specific concrete examples (low-context) to back up your feedback couched with soft qualifiers (slightly indirect feedback). You probably sandwich negative feedback between two positives. Your Dutch subordinate expects direct feedback, so he may likely misinterpret the degree and importance of your message as he expects you to be straight forward with any negative criticism. You may feel frustrated at his lack of effort and progress in affecting change. Perhaps, you may even start to stereotype Dutch behaviors based on repeated experiences with that ethnic culture. It’s not uncommon for people to routinely experience a clash or misunderstanding of cultures. If we learn about culture, suspend judgment, and build bridges between these cultures to facilitate trust, communication, and ideas, we would harness the potential of every team member.

Giving and receiving constructive feedback is a necessary component of business but sometimes riddled with insecurity for both the giver and receiver. How should constructive criticism be given and taken? How should feedback be delivered to get the best result? How much feedback is lost in translation? How do the words absolutely, strongly, kind of, and sort of play out when delivering criticism? The answer depends on the culturalization of the giver and receiver. Certain phrases and qualifiers have different meanings. Take for example a British colleague providing feedback to his Dutch counterpart. He says, “Please think about that some more,” implying “That’s a bad idea.” A Dutch or German colleague, who expects and is comfortable with direct constructive feedback, would likely interpret that as “It’s a good idea. Keep developing it.”

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In business etiquette classes, we are instructed on the ceremonies which demonstrate respect. In Japanese business culture, it’s customary to exchange small gifts with visitors and present a business card with both hands towards the receiver who respectfully reads it upon presentation versus immediately putting it into his portfolio. Americans easily embrace these cultural mannerisms but fail to realize how communication and language may be used differently.

Frequently in my coaching practice, I reference scales from 1 to 10. Regardless of the attribute measured, when an issue between two people is greater than 2 units apart, the two parties will need concentrated effort to resolve differences. Meyer (2014) confirms my informal conclusion when she states that “what matters is not the absolute position of either culture on the scale but rather the relative position of the two cultures” (p. 22). Relative positioning determines how people will view each other.

Meyer’s (2014) first piece of advice when interacting with someone from another culture is to “listen before you speak and learn before you act” (p. 27). Understand how culture will impact the conversation. For example, the United States is the lowest context culture with Japan having the highest context in its communication. In simplest terms, the people culturized in America tend to communicate literally and explicitly. They value clarity and place accountability of the intended message on the communicator to accurately convey the meaning of the message (Meyer, 2014). On the other extreme, Asian cultures often convey messages implicitly which requires the listener to read between the lines. Good communication is layered and subtle, and the responsibility of its accurate transmission is shared between the sender and receiver. The Japanese have been culturalized over many generations to become skilled at “reading the atmosphere.”

Education can further exacerbate the cultural divide, by moving people more towards the extreme version of their dominant culture. Highly educated Americans are taught and encouraged to communicate more effectively in writing and orally and to take more responsibility for the messages they send. American leaders are typically rewarded for having and implementing the answers within their organizations. On the other hand, Japanese leaders are listening more to what is meant as opposed to what is said. In my informal survey of American and Japanese business people attending a meeting, I find that at least 75% of the words spoken are by the Americans and 25% by the Japanese. The Japanese typically spend more time reflecting and reading body language and other non-verbal clues. When they do speak, it typically includes more clarifying questions. Frequently, my American colleagues have misinterpreted the meaning of a nod, assuming their Japanese counterparts are in agreement. In truth, head nodding is more confirmation of being heard.

In past decades, businesses have relied on preference tests such as Myers Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) as the source of team-building activities to help team members communicate, process ideas, handle data, and make decisions. These business teams were more homogenized in culture, but today’s global business environment demands everyone to be equipped with a new set of skills that embrace diversity in the workplace. Meyer (2014) delves deep into communication and evaluating and also takes the reader through a journey to explore other important cultural attributes. Understanding, respecting, and working with the deep roots of various cultures will forge and strengthen relationships and performance. Culturally diverse teams will continue to populate the business landscape and every leader would benefit from learning more about cultural diversity and its impact on business success.

Reference

Meyer, E. (2014). The culture map: Breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business.   New York, NY: Published Affairs. ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business and life coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership. She partners with clients to help them develop and grow successful businesses. She also works with individuals to create their life plans and build better relationships by identifying and living out their personal values, enhancing their skills and competencies, and holding them accountable to execute their defined goals. Sandra welcomes comments, questions, and feedback at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com.

Core Values: the Link Between Life and Business Coaching

lee-vue-Ik5V3W8y96Q-unsplashWhen I life coach, invariably my clients will complete a core values assessment. Why? Because whether they are aware of it or not, core values drive personal meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. And I want to help my clients understand why they make certain decisions, choose to act in specific ways, and feel joy as well as frustration. Discovering your core values will help you understand certain dynamics in your life and empower you to choose a new course for your future.

Businesses, like life coaching clients, also set visions and define missions. If you work for any size company, you’ve likely noticed vision and mission statements nicely framed and hung in conference rooms. Perhaps the leadership has gone so far as to laminate them on a business card for their employees to carry around. In most cases, however, there’s likely no values to complement the vision and mission.

I find that many businesses skip values and rush straight to developing their strategy. Wait! Values are an incredible part of defining who the company is when it grows up. Values shape culture, provide operating guidelines, and attract people who have a shared passion for the vision and mission. People tend to resonate more with values than they do with vision and mission statements. Current and future employees want to know what a company stands as they make a judgment on whether this is the place for them to work.

If you’re a business leader and your company hasn’t defined its values, I can help your team as a coaching facilitator. If you’re an individual who would like to learn more about what makes you tick, reach out for a conversation.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Don’t Forget to Pack Your Core Values for Your Business Mission

Vision and mission, a staple of life coaching, have easily translated into business. Almost all companies of any size have some sort of vision and mission statement. They serve as a legitimizing tool, so when a company doesn’t have an answer to, “What’s your vision and mission,” it’s almost as if the leadership doesn’t know what the company wants to be when it grows up.

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In my experience, vision and mission statements range from a check-the-box activity such as creating a website to serving as the foundation for strategy and critical decision-making. And identifying the company’s values that underlie the vision and mission becomes the fuel for business growth and hiring decisions.

When I life coach, I help clients identify their core values, because whether clients know theirs or not, they are trying to live them out in their behaviors and decisions. I’ve had many clients have light bulb moments and say, “That explains it,” as they work through struggle and roadblocks.

The concept of core values defines who you are, what you stand for, and provides predictability. This applies to an individual’s life and even more so for a business. If leveraged appropriately, a company’s values help define culture and help leadership provide the how of work for their employees. Values are also important in the hiring process, because they provide clarity to prospective employees on what they would be signing up for when they join the team.

If you’d like to learn more about the power of core values and/or go through a core values coaching session(s) for you or your business, reach out for a conversation.

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About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can engage her as your coach by reaching out to coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or learn more by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Diversity & Inclusion: Which Comes First?

christina-wocintechchat-com-eS72kLFS6s0-unsplashOne of the hot topics in today’s business world is Diversity and Inclusion or more commonly known under its acronym D&I. Although people are likely to have different definitions of what that means, most wouldn’t disagree that the purpose of D&I would include (1) affording equal opportunities and a working environment for all people to succeed and (2) leveraging the positive effects of diversity to achieve a competitive business advantage. However, the big question we should be discussing and deciding is whether diversity (numbers) comes before inclusion (behaviors) or whether inclusion drives diversity. Diversity and inclusion: which comes first?

When businesses focus on diversity first, they can and some of them do, end up with silos built around ethnic and gender lines and never achieve the win-win for both employees and employers. I believe diversity does not necessarily create inclusion, but inclusion always supports diversity. Why not focus first on inclusion? When companies focus their efforts on creating cultures that value and reward inclusive behaviors, diversity should be a natural outcome.

What can businesses do that will help promote inclusive behaviors with the staff they already have on board?

  1. Seek input from more employees across more functional and hierarchical lines
  2. Listen to colleagues who are speaking until they feel understood
  3. Ask lots of questions
  4. Identify misunderstandings and resolve conflict
  5. Seek to understand each person’s value and contribution
  6. Examine your assumptions about people

How well is your company practicing inclusive behaviors with the employees it has now? The truth is that many companies haven’t achieved any inclusive milestones even with a concerted effort to hire and retain a diverse workforce. The question of whether diversity or inclusion should come first is similar to the age-old question of whether the chicken or egg came first. Where will you decide to focus your efforts?


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

COVID-19: What have you learned? What will you change? How can I help?

damir-spanic-cMe5lwooOig-unsplashCOVID-19 has been a kick in the butt for many businesses. Some are not sure if they will make it. Others have tightened down the hatches and believe they can ride out the storm. Others are actively pursuing new opportunities to thrive on the other side. Remember the old saying: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

Whether it’s survive or thrive, every company should ask where they rank on the continuum of flexible versus agile. What’s the difference? Flexibility means adapting to circumstances beyond your control. On the other hand, companies who are agile proactively change to take advantage of opportunities on the other side.  Where is your company on the continuum of flexible versus agile?

If you’re not sure, I have a few questions that can start the conversation:

  1. Describe what the new normal looks like on the other side of COVID for your industry and market?
  2. Based on your answer to the first question, what changes do you need to make now to set you up for success for the new normal?

As an example, some businesses believe virtual meetings will be a greater part of the new normal. How well do your people communicate in the virtual realm? Communicating virtually has specific nuances you need to be aware of and manage to ensure that it’s as powerful in person as it is across a computer connection. Communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% words. How you set up your environment for a visual call can also makes a huge difference in how you’re perceived. Do your people know what changes they need to make to shine?

Leadership coaching and consulting can help prepare your team to be the best version of themselves for the new normal. Let’s have a conversation on what post-COVID might look like for your business, so we can set you and your team up for success.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She administers DISC® and Myers-Briggs/MBTI® testing, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

 

Why Innovative Businesses Offer Coaching for All Professionals

Coaching Has Power

Competition drives businesses to innovative—but innovation isn’t just for the products and services they market. Innovation also includes how companies get the product to market. With “people operations” being a large cost to the bottom line, businesses are looking for ways to reduce pay or get more productivity from their employees. With change comes opportunities as well as challenges. With a changing mix of generational work preferences and soft skills, business leadership should be asking how the increase in remote working, competition for talent, and managerial coaching will affect their profitability in the future.

Remote Working

In more recent history, the open-floor plan with cubicles and few closed-door offices exploded throughout corporate America, touted by consultants as the next best thing to sliced bread as far as office design went. C-Suite took their bait on the selling points of innovation and productivity. How that concept passed any reasonableness test still baffles me today, but it’s easily explained as a cost reduction exercise in rent per employee under the disguise of collaboration. Open floors drove people to mediate their circumstances by either working from their home office or donning headphones to block noise and distracting hallway conversations. I would argue that employee collaboration took a step back, as technology allowed employees to work more remotely and independently.

Some employees who enjoy the freedom of working from a home office express feel less connected from their co-workers. Without face-to-face engagement, relationship bonds can weaken, and in many cases, remote employees never forge a relationship with new employees. Remote staff have limited opportunities for casual conversations in the break room while grabbing a cup of coffee or in the conference room before a meeting. Connection is built in small interactions over time and keeps the team accountable to each other.

Generational Work Preferences

Technology has enabled people to isolate themselves while working remotely. Even when a boss requires an employee to work in a cubicle, email and SharePoint allow one to communicate without a verbal conversation. Need to learn something new? YouTube probably has an instructional video.

Effective communication requires one to use all parts: words, tone of voice, and body language. Did you know that words comprised only 7% of the message? How much is lost in translation when one primarily uses email and other forms of word-based technology to convey messages.

A teacher recently shared that with every incoming 4th grade class, the students resist more and more when asked to work in groups. They beg to do the assignment by themselves. What happened to the days when the teacher announced a group project, and the kids responded by raising their hands and pleading who they could work with. Are soft skills under attack and underdeveloped based on the technology advances?

Managerial Coaching

Technology has also shifted the responsibilities of supervisors by pushing more administrative duties onto their plates. Managers had to make room for these tasks, and in some cases, even added work assignments to the mix for the sake of increased productivity. What would you think was prioritized out of their day? If you answered, “time coaching their team and helping their direct reports be successful,” you’d be correct. Managers would like to spend 25% of their time coaching, yet many have no time left over other than to make sure the work gets done.

A Professional Coach Is One Solution

How will businesses respond to the changing work climate? They can certainly restructure work and put coaching at the forefront of a manager’s responsibilities. Given the prolonged impact of technology, some managers have never developed the skill of coaching or perhaps need a refresher. A professional coach can help a manager learn to be a better coach for his or her team.

A second option is to make business and leadership coaching available as an investment for all professional employees. In the past, coaching has been reserved for top executives, but the benefits of coaching can be leveraged at any level so long as someone wants to be coached. Many employees like the confidentiality afforded in a coaching relationship and feel less vulnerable asking for help from a coach as opposed to their direct manager.

Coaching Can Be Justified

Companies offer tuition reimbursement, training, and other educational options as a benefit to attract talent. Many also budget for personnel development. How much does your company spend per person on employee education and training? Coaching can be a value-add to this portfolio. Personalized coaching is a win-win and can be a company differentiator in attracting top talent, because it sends the message that we value you and want to invest in you if you are willing to invest in yourself.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She administers DISC® and Myers-Briggs/MBTI® testing, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

 

 

How Can Coaching Help You?



GreatnessI’m frequently asked what I coach on. Although it’s probably not a useful answer, the simple answer is quite a lot. Most coaches focus on a niche market and clientele. As a former business executive, who specialized in business development, marketing, and sales, I fully agree with this strategy. However, I’ve taken the road less traveled by offering a diverse range of coaching services based on my unique skill set and passion to see people grow across all dimensions of their lives. I’ve coached people in:

  1. Leadership
    • Improve ability to influence colleagues’ performance at all levels and across generational cohorts
    • Develop skills for coaching direct reports and teams
    • Identify and overcome personal barriers to performance
    • Cultivate stronger relationships
    • Improve communication and conflict resolution skills
    • Manage through a crisis
    • Build teams with the right skills sets and behaviors to succeed
  2. Career/Job
    • Select a job or profession aligned with preferences and strengths
    • Create a powerful resume and LinkedIn profile
    • Prepare for a job interview
    • Lead effective meetings and projects that deliver results
  3. Life
    • Create a personal, value-driven vision and mission
    • Identify core values and strengths and use for purpose and success
    • Establish and drive on meaningful goals
    • Balance work and family
    • Handle difficult situations
    • Navigate through different seasons of life (young adulthood, empty-nester)
  4. Business
    • Create a compelling vision and mission
    • Develop strategy and winning execution plans
    • Build and lead teams that deliver results
    • Identify and expand brand awareness
    • Prioritize and manage time to focus on the right things
    • Enhance productivity with limited resources
    • Develop sales and negotiation skills
  5. Financial
    • Create short- and long-term financial goals
    • Learn budgeting and financial skills
    • Understand money mindset and how it influences decisions
    • Build and be accountable to a personal budget
    • Plan for retirement
  6. Marriage/Premarital
    • Learn effective tools to communicate and solve conflicts
    • Understand different spousal personalities and how they work together
    • Define and meet marriage needs
    • Blend families successfully

When clients engage me as their coach, they learn and practice new skills and behaviors that translate across all life dimensions. Many clients see a holistic life improvement, even though they may have initially focused on one area. For example, relationship strategies in how to lead people at work are transferable to family life.

My clients have said I’ve changed their life for the better. What can I help you with? I welcome a conversation. We can talk about an approach and how to get from here to there. Although I live in Houston, my clients live across the country. Video calling is a wonderful tool for coaching. Don’t let distance between us stop you from getting the coaching you want.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and life coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com or engage her as your coach by reaching out for a conversation at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com

How Can Coaching Help Your Small Business?



At times people reference business and executive coaching interchangeably without realizing they are quite different. Each contributes its own value, and when pursued together, these two types of coaching can accelerate performance. Sometimes small business owners have difficulty understanding how their leadership styles and certain competencies limit their business’s success, because they are too involved in the daily operations of the company. For this reason, executive coaching for the leader and business coaching for the team can be a powerful investment.

What is Business Coaching?

A business coach works with the leadership and their teams to define vision, mission, and/or goals that the company wants to achieve—more commonly thought of as the coaching objectives. Business coaching is typically lead by coach who has a firm understanding of the various moving parts of business (i.e. finance, operations, marketing, customer service, and sales) and how they come together to deliver a product or service that attracts target customers. A business coach doesn’t necessarily have to be an expert in the industry but should have a working knowledge of how successful businesses operate.

The coach works with the team to gather data and help evaluate the company’s operations, systems, people structures, and communications, looking for obstacles to remove, more effective methods to deploy, and resources required to improve the organization’s effectiveness.  The coach may help the team:

  • paint an accurate picture of the internal and competitive landscapes
  • help leadership perform a gap analysis from where the company stands to where it wants to go
  • develop or modify processes and systems that enhance the business operations
  • brainstorm and select a strategy
  • create a plan with a schedule of critical milestones
  • provide facilitation and accountability

Leadership decides what they do, how fast, and how involved they want the coach during the different phases of execution.

In many cases, hiring a coach to help identify the root causes of underperformance is worth the cost. You’ve likely heard the expression that sometimes it’s lonely at the top. As leaders rise in the ranks, they typically don’t receive all or accurate information of what needs to be addressed within their company. A business coach can help uncover the facts, so a company has a firm understanding with what they are dealing.

What is Executive Coaching?

Executive coaching deals with the worldview, thoughts, and behaviors of a leader and how these impact his team and ultimately business performance. Executive coaching focuses on what the leader needs to acquire, shed, or change in order to achieve a personal goal, move the company in a specific direction, or prepare him for another role. Leaders will usually be coached in one or more of the following areas:

  • Identifying and developing personal strengths
  • Minimizing overuse of a strength where it may become detrimental
  • Understanding leadership style and enhancing leadership skills
  • Developing a professional presence
  • Improving collaboration and communication
  • Driving successful team behaviors

In many cases, success is proven by how people respond to the executive. Although executive coaching implies a high-ranking individual in a large organization, executive coaching is very appropriate for a small business owner. I prefer the label “professional” as opposed to “executive” coaching, because everyone can benefit from individual coaching.

What Impact Can Coaching Have?

Leaders influence work processes, cultures, and how employees feel about themselves, their work, and their employer. How employees feel is reflected in how they treat their colleagues, vendors, and customers as well as how they speak about their employer. Leaders who embrace the coaching process can realize higher self-fulfillment, see their business thrive, and have greater impact on their employees and community.

Coaching can help with:

  1. Focusing on structure/boundaries/performance issues to increase productivity while creating a positive working environment
  2. Reducing or creating processes that make doing business more efficient
  3. Empowering employees to deliver a more positive customer experience
  4. Changing leadership behaviors to reduce organizational anxiety and increase focus on what’s most important
  5. Increasing collaboration and communication to build alignment and drive faster execution
  6. Creating a more positive working culture that draws in talented employees, customers, and strategic partnerships

Executive coaching is for leaders who want to lead their businesses well. Sometimes the most effective approach is for small business owners to commit to an executive coach and then move into business coaching with their team.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in business and leadership. She coaches individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people and be the best versions of themselves and see businesses thrive. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com