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Sense of humor is one of the tools we need as leaders. It helps us to become approachable and a leader easy to work with. As leaders, we need our people to give us tough and constructive criticisms. We need them to take chances and willing to fail. We need them to feel safe to suggest ideas that may seem silly. Sometimes, the solutions that we need desperately may come from those ideas people discount as silly.
If we’re unapproachable, it becomes very hard for other people to work with us. If we’re too formal and too rigid all the time, it makes getting along with others a little tougher. It’s also unlikely to get serious feedbacks from others. Our people won’t be willing to take risk. They may not venture to speak their mind.
So far, some leaders resisted this recommendation. They came up with so many reasons why they cannot and/or won’t use humor in the workplace. Some of the justifications make sense. Nonetheless, one of the most frequent reasons that haven’t convinced me yet is: “We all aren’t gifted comedians”.
Yes, we all can’t make jokes every other minute like Trevor Noah and David Letterman et al. Yes, we all aren’t comedians. I myself struggle in this area. But, I learned to make jokes on my stumbling and myself.
By the way, you don’t need to make jokes on a minute-by-minute basis to become approachable and playful. There’re many opportunities around you, here and there, which you could tap into and become playful once in awhile.
Warning! If you aren’t a gifted comedian don’t make jokes, especially in the expense of others. The safest approach is, I found out that, making jokes on yourself and your stumbling, and so on.
Try it! You may find it helpful. However, note that if using humor and becoming playful isn’t appropriate and right fit to your organizational culture and the situation you find yourself, be creative to come up with other methods, using humor is just one of the approaches you may consider. Good luck!
Success Pathways, LLC (www.successpws.com) provides interactive and dynamic soft skill and leadership workshops for diverse clients using latest adult learning methods.
Someone from my LinkedIn network posted the quote of Robert Kuok- the richest man in Malaysia: “When I hire people, I look for great attitude. I don’t look for MBA or PHD.”
I liked the quote. Normally, I’d have just liked it and moved on. But, the quote is a perfect fit to the theme of my upcoming book. Thus, I wrote the following comment: “It’s a great strategy. I forgot where I read but John C Maxwell, a renowned leadership expert, suggested that employers should first look for affinity- whether the person has the right mindset, and attitude to fit within the corporate culture- followed by character, and then skills necessary to do the job. This shows that soft skills (intangible) skills are more important that hard (technical) skills. The temptation, however, for many leaders is to look for skills, and qualifications first.”
Following the above comment, in the comment section, someone posted a very good question: “Well, why then waste all the energy in going school trying distinguish yourself. I would have a better attitude if I don’t owe all that money on student loan.”
This is a legitimate question. If we don’t put Robert’s quote in context, it looks like he undermined the importance of skills. He is not. You cannot just hire a very impressive bystander to do heart surgeries in your hospital. You are not crazy enough to give your BMW car for a guy who isn’t a mechanic but full of positive attitude and people skills. You got my point…
Here is my response: “Good question. Why wasting our time, energy, and finance to go to school if hard skills like accounting, engineering, IT, surgery, and hundreds of other technical skills we need to perform our primary job description aren’t important compared to attitude and character? Going school and acquiring these skills is mandatory. They are the bare minimum. We need them to get into the door. But, they cannot help us succeed without the right soft skills like positive attitude, and other people skills, which many schools neglect to offer to their students. Employers would like to make sure that the new hires fit into the corporate culture. Therefore, if they have hundreds of candidates all of whom have PhD in physics and they need one person, most employers go for the one who has the right attitude and character who would be the right fit to the existing team than the one who has the highest GPA. The most important thing to professionals is to master our craft (technical skills) plus invest on our soft skills to become skillful in our communication, EI, problem solving, decision making, teamwork, etc. These intangible skills, which we may not get from formal education, are our competitive advantages to succeed in any career/environment….”
Well, I thought you might be interested to read this interesting conversation.
By the way, how do you rate your people skills (1 to 10, 1 being very poor, 10 excellent)? If you gauged your soft skill competency below 8, you need help. Whatever time, resource, and energy you may dedicate to improve your soft skills, it’s worth your investment. It compliments your technical abilities. It also empowers you not only to survive in this very competitive era, but also to excel and thrive.
Whether you are a professional, business owner, politician, activist, community organizer, what have you, you need to work on your people skills. Your technical abilities cannot take you far; they cannot separate you from the crowd in your field/industry.
Just so you know, your zeal to serve isn’t enough!
Assegid Habtewold (AZ) is an author, consultant, coach, speaker, and trainer at Success Pathways, LLC (http://www.successpws.com). He facilitates soft skill workshops for some government agencies, technology and research companies, and non-profits. If you’re interested to empower your people with key soft skills to experience harmony, synergy, low turn over and conflicts, and so on, you may contact us via email: Assegid@successpws.com (and/or email@example.com) and we’ll be happy to work with you to create customized workshops right for your team.
By the way, Assegid’s upcoming book, which will be published soon, addresses the very theme touched in this blog. We’ll announce on our website when the book becomes available. Stay tuned!
In the 21st C, where competition is fierce and going to be fiercer, inclusive leaders are the only ones that are capable enough to lead their organizations to the next height. Inclusive leaders don’t feed their ego and seek to be right all the time. They are graceful when their ideas and positions are questioned. They don’t demand compliance from their people without merit. They’re confident enough that they are not threatened when diverse views and ideas are expressed within their organizations.
They, on purpose, promote diversity of viewpoints internally. They are inclusive who entertain ‘organized disagreements’ knowing that such an organization enjoys a great deal of benefit from the collision of diverse ideas. They understand that when ideas collide, the best idea prevails. Rather than being entrapped by ordinary and common ideas and preventing their organization from becoming the best in what it does, inclusive leaders liberate their organization from such imprisonment of mediocracy by creating a safe environment that encourages well-organized disagreements.
For their organizations (whether they are for profit, non-profits, charitable organizations, political parties, NGOs, etc.) to innovate and continuously improve and grow- they pay the necessary price. Some of the prices include but not limited to being vulnerable to be challenged, willing to listen even those ideas they don’t like and understand, and open to be corrected when they are wrong, and when their ideas and proposals are inferior.
Your country, community, and the world at large needs confident and inclusive leaders in the New Year who are willing to design within their organizations organized disagreements, entertain diverse views, and who are willing to tolerate outliers within their organizations.
Inclusive leaders, rather than attempting to build cult around their personality and surrounding themselves with a monotonous team filled with ‘yes’ men and women, they are committed to the higher purpose of the organization and the Greater Good by allowing people to speak their minds freely and without being ostracized!
What kind of leader do you want to be? What will be your legacy? Do you want to be remembered as a control freak? Or, are you willing to become inclusive? It is your choice. Here, in front of you, is a New Year to become a more inclusive leader. If you’re not in a leadership position right now, what kind of leaders are you supporting? What role (s) should you play in the New Year to make your team and leaders more inclusive?
If you would like to become an inclusive leader in this New Year and beyond, first, be bold and decide to break away from the tradition of intimidating dissenters. Purposefully invite people that may not agree with you all the time. Recognize and incentivize those in your team who are willing to risk and express differing views.
Create a culture that promotes diverse viewpoints and a corporate culture that embraces inclusiveness if your desire is to tap into the talent, uniqueness, experience, and full potential of all of your people! It’s a different era, demands to have a different attitude and approach as a leader in this awesome century.
Wish you in the New Year success as you attempt to become a more inclusive leader!
Assegid (AZ) Habtewold is the owner and lead trainer at Success Pathways, LLC. He facilitates Diversity and Inclusiveness workshops. Here is the link to learn the learning objectives of our Diversity in the Workplace workshop: http://successpws.com/?page_id=1990
Are you wondering why your team/organization is stuck? Do you feel like you stagnated? You tried somethings to change your situation and take your team and organization to the next height but it looks like they are not working? Why don’t you invite me to understand your situation, talk to you and your key people, and come up with a 30 – 90 minutes keynote to inspire, challenge, engage, and direct your people to make the right changes that take your team and organization to the next level.
I’ve been a leader and served organizations from diverse industries for more than two decades. Since 2007, I closely worked with leaders to mentor, coach, train, and consult them make organizational changes. My doctoral degree is Strategic Leadership, and majoring in Global Consulting. While still a full time student between 2009 – 2013, and since graduation, I’ve lots of opportunities to promote change in organizational designs, configure or reconfigure corporate cultures, conduct values alignment assessments, and more.
I’d like to help you transform your team and organization. Of course, I don’t stop at the first stage, which is keynote. If your team is convinced that I know the root cause and the ability to support you fix it, I’ll work with you to further conduct interviews, send questionnaires to gather further info and inputs, and also come up with a consulting report that layout the next steps. Once we discuss on the proposal and reach a consensus on how to move forward, I closely work with you during implementation, and the follow up stages. If necessary, I’m available to provide individual and group coaching to make sure that we develop the capacity of your people to implement the change plus continue to sustain the change.
If you would like to know some of the motivational themes, you may check out this link: http://successpws.com/?page_id=21, and if you are interested to read some testimonials, here you go: http://successpws.com/?page_id=30
You may please contact me for more details or if you may have any question.
The lack of self-awareness of a leader, and/or the inability to raise the self-awareness of his/her people creates so many blind spots, grey areas, uncertainties, and indecisions. Many of the confusions, conflicts, and disarrays that exist in many organizations, communities, and nations could have been avoided if the leaders have holistic self-awareness. Unfortunately, individuals and organizations give little attention to self-awareness. High priorities are given to the day to day challenges, demands, and distractions leaving self-awareness neglected.
In this post, I’d like to share with you the benefits of increasing your self-awareness so that you may be willing to invest your time, energy, and resources. Below are some of the major individual and corporate benefits you will enjoy when you increasing your (your team’s) self-awareness. It’s taken from my book:
I. Benefits at Individual level:
- Knowing your true self and worth. Once you pass through this process, you won’t be the same. You won’t settle for less than who you truly are. You may experience some important rebirths during your lifetime. One of the most important rebirths is when you come to know your true self and the reason of your existence. When that happens, you start to say more of I can than I cannot. You seek to redeem your true self-worth. You restore back yourself to its original blueprint. This process may even involve changing your genes to fit your perception about who you truly are. Latest scientific discoveries have shown…
- Aware of the power that resides in you. When you dig deep and understand your make up, you start to realize that there is a greater power working within you and in your favor. You aren’t just flesh, bones, blood, and ligaments. You originated from something more powerful than you. He had a purpose in His mind when He created and released you at this time and generation. He is in you, and you’re in Him…
- Becoming humble. Self-awareness prevents you from pride. Rather, it leads you to humility. Not only do you know your strengths but also your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. You now know that you are part of the bigger picture. You are part of the universe, and everything that exists in this awesome universe. When you reach this level of consciousness, you let go of your ego and believe that everything is not about you. You relinquish acting as if you are the center of the universe but part and parcel of an amazing movement and you are one of the critical players…
- Remain alarmed and alerted. Once you are self-aware, you know your comparative and competitive advantages. This knowledge alerts you to identify the right job, relationship, and partnership you should have. You become so alarmed in your steps that no one can sway you where you shouldn’t be or you don’t stay for long at a wrong spot. Once you are self aware, no one manipulates and uses you because you know your breaking points. You discern people’s intention, and avoid traps. They don’t easily prime you to say and do things as they wish…If you are an alarmed and alerted person, you are aware of what is happening on all sides of the box. You tap into the opportunities, avoid traps, pitfalls, and distractions.
- Productive, creative, and cooperative. Self-awareness raises your productivity. You know your priorities and where to invest your time and energy. If we have enough self-enlightened business leaders, engineers, artists, doctors, and politicians, we would have a different world. Humanity would have experienced a quantum leap jump because of the creativity that comes from self-awareness. The latter expands your consciousness. It can bend your reality in your favor. You become a creator. The more you know your place in your team and society, the more constructive roles you may play. You seek to contribute your best, and bring out the best from others…
- Creating synergy and focus. Self-awakened individuals don’t step on someone’s toes or run on someone’s lane. They spot their unique place within their community, organization, and nation. They completely understand that they are better if they stay where they matter the most, and help others do the same. When you increase your self-awareness, you create synergy and avoid unhealthy competition. You are no longer jealous. Others’ achievements won’t intimidate you. You create synergy because you know that you need the help of others around your weaknesses. You also become focused to contribute your unique roles only in the area of your strength.
- Becoming wise. When we pass through the process of self-awareness, we uncover so many truths, and knowledge. When we apply these truths and knowledge, we increase our wisdom. Self-awareness is the road that leads to wisdom. The latter starts with knowing who you are, why you do what you do, with whom to relate, work, and partner. We need wisdom to succeed in life. Without wisdom, it is hard to pursue and fulfill our purpose in life. As we live, work, and do business in this complex, ever changing, and competitive world of the 21st C, it is unlikely to succeed without employing wisdom. Those who are succeeding, achieving, and changing the world positively are those who developed and refined their wisdom…
II. Benefits at Corporate level:
- Highly productive and competitive. No community, organization, or nation can arise above the collective self-awareness of its members. When you have many self-awakened individual members, your collective awareness increases. The more enlightened members you have, the more corporate success and productivity you may enjoy, and the more competitive you may become.
- Increased cooperation. Since your people know themselves and their unique roles within your organization and community, they become cooperative. They avoid unhealthy competition against other self-awakened members of your community.
- Birds of the same feather fly together. In a given society or organization where the majority of the members are self-awakened, it is easier for members to find the right people with whom to work together. People who share the same passion can easily create a win-win partnership.
- Less conflict. When the majority of your people are self-awakened and know their strength, they most probably avoid conflict. You enjoy more peace and friendship among your self-awakened people. You won’t spend valuable resources, energy, and time to resolve conflicts.
- Improved synergy. Once your people know who they truly are and their relative position among their peers, it is easier for them to choose the right path that leads them to fulfillment. They know which school to enroll, which organization to join, which business to open, etc. When the majority of your people are on the right path, they collectively create synergy that advances your progress.
- More solution providers and contributors. When the majority of your people are self-awakened, you have more solution providers and contributors than trouble makers. And more…
The above excerpt is taken from my Book entitled “The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks: For continued success in leadership”. Page 26 – 28, Building Block 1: Self-awareness.
By the way, Success Pathways (www.successpws.com) provides a one-day dynamic and interactive workshop to empower you and your team increase your individual and collective self awareness. This workshop is designed to help you understand the different dimensions of self-awareness to enjoy the benefits that come with it (which I shared with you in the above post). The workshop also provides you tools, approaches, steps, and packed with small and large group discussions. If you’re interested, let’s know (Tel: 703-895-4551)
If you’re a Change Agent, you’re already familiar with what I’m going to talk about. You have attempted, succeeded or not, to change the status quo, and paid some penalties for your ‘transgressions’. You’ve the scar to show 🙂 You understand that when you challenge the status quo, people attack you. They use verbal attacks, and even sometimes, they may use physical force to shut you up. They may threaten, intimidate, blackmail, call you names, and/or insult/assault you to stop you from ‘disrespecting’ their ‘god’- their culture.
The majority of people in a given culture defend the status quo religiously. They’re blind loyal. The funny thing is that they do so without even knowing why they do what they do to ‘defend’ the ‘god’ they (their ancestors/predecessors to be exact 🙂 themselves created.
There was an experiment that illustrated the power of culture. I’d like to share it to show you how extremely powerful culture is so that if you don’t have the stamina to withstand ‘troubles’ that may come with being a true Change Agent, don’t enter into this ‘fight’- you may not come out alive 🙂
The experiment was conducted in a lab, which was configured to spray cold ice water throughout the room when the ladder in the middle is touched. There were five monkeys in this experiment, and bananas on top of the ladder. The starved monkeys ran toward the ladder to reach the bananas as soon as they entered the lab. When they touched the ladder, all of them were sprayed with brutal cold ice water. The water was so cold that they immediately descended without grabbing the bananas. After a couple of trials with the same brutal cold ice water spray on all of the monkeys, they developed ‘group thinking’ and stopped trying to avoid the cruel cold-water spray.
Soon after, the spray was discontinued.
The monkeys would have enjoyed the bananas without being sprayed if they changed their mind and attempted to climb the ladder again.They didn’t. After awhile, one of the original monkeys was substituted with a new monkey. The latter didn’t have any clue about what was going on. When this newcomer ran toward the ladder to grab a banana, the four original monkeys attacked it thinking that the water spray treatment was still in place. The beating continued even if all the original monkeys, which witnessed the cold-water spray firsthand, were substituted- one by one- with new ones.
What these monkeys that defended the bananas knew was that they had been beaten the first time when they tried to do the same even if they didn’t know why. Afterward, they also watched other newcomers were trampled. Soon after, they joined the ‘group thinking’ and started to defend the bananas from new comers even if they didn’t have any clue why this beating started in the first place.
The same with culture; people zealously defend their respective culture including those unproductive cultural attributes without knowing why they were installed in the first place.
The moral of the story is culture is powerful because its inhabitants guard it obsessively, including those status quos that prevent the society/team from advancing.
I’ve studied the dominant cultures in the world as I prepared to facilitate workshops on diversity, change management, and as I consulted organizations in configuring (reconfiguring) their corporate culture and aligning their people and processes along side their corporate shared values. These opportunities gave me to realize that this is a universal reality. Every culture (whether societal or corporate) has ‘worshippers’- status quo maintainers. They get you in line if they perceive that you don’t worship as they do with the same commitment they’ve toward the culture.
Whatsoever great and positive name you may give your change agendas, and whatever extraordinary outcomes you may promise to the dwellers, the majority’s default response is an emphatic NO! Your innocent, genuine, and passionate drive to change things around for good may be taken as disrespect to their ‘god’.
Here is the truth- there’s no true transformation without reforming a culture. This tremendous task, however, requires bold and courageous leaders who need to find ways to increase the awareness of their people about both positive and negative influences of the culture in bringing lasting changes. That is why Change Agents should be aware of this truth, and should make a conscious decision whether they would like to proceed as true change agents to transform their community, organization, and society. If they do so, congrats! But they should be skillful in gaining buy-in from the majority or else, prepare to face ‘beatings’ like the monkeys 🙂
Some corporate values maybe there just to appease some stakeholders internally and externally. These kinds of values are toothless. They’re there for public consumption.
You can easily check yourself whether the values of your organization (Or business) are consequential. Answer the following simple questions:
- How often your leaders bring up the values of your organization during one-on-ones?
- Do values are part of the agenda of some of the group discussions?
- Is the organization talk about its values during some of the companywide meetings?
- When was the last time, your organization fired a leader or employee for disrespecting one or more of its values?
- When was the last time a supervisor or manager was demoted for the lack of demonstrating loyalty to his/her company?
To succeed in the 21st C marketplace, which is filled with diversity, it’s mandatory to increase your cultural intelligence. One of the steps you should take to increase your cultural IQ is to make some efforts and dedicate time to learn about other cultures.
However, there are some obvious challenges. There are hundreds of cultures in the world, if not thousands. As a leader, you have so many things on your plate right now that you don’t have enough time to master all of these cultures in the world. Even if you have the time, it is too wide to cover. You don’t want to be “Jack of all trades, master of none”.
To tackle this challenge, I suggest my audience who attend our workshops on Diversity and Inclusion the following couple of tips, which you may also find helpful:
- Rather than attempting the impossible- studying every culture individually, first recognize the two major cultural divides in the world.
- And evaluate to see the main differences between these two major cultural divides.
- Identify the cultures that you would like to embrace in your organization or cross.
- Compare and contrast your native culture with these dominant cultures you intend to embrace or cross.
Let me quickly give you some pointers as you implement the aforementioned suggestions. Many cultural experts agree that the world’s cultures can be divided into two major categories:
- Individual based, and
- Communal based.
Cultures in the US, Europe, Canada, and Australia can be categorized under individual based cultures while cultures in Africa, Asia, and South America fall under communal based cultures. There are some common features among cultures that fall under the same category. However, don’t forget that there are subcultures within national cultures, and there are exceptional individuals who may not possess all of the characteristics of their endogenous cultural attributes.
We can compare and contrast these two broad cultures using three parameters suggested by the renown sociologist and cultural expert Edward T. Hall:
- Time, and
Let me just take one of these indicators and make a comparison. Within the Ethiopian culture I grew up with, as a high context culture, most people express themselves and their ideas covertly, implicitly, and non-verbally. Most people are reserved to express themselves, and are inward. When I came to the U.S., I observed the opposite. As a low context culture, most Americans expressed themselves and their ideas overtly, explicitly, and verbally.
Let’s stop this discussion on the importance of increasing your cultural intelligence. If you’re interested me to facilitate a workshop to help your people embrace multiculturalism, and develop cultural intelligence, please check out this link to learn the objectives of the workshop: http://www.successpws.com/?page_id=1063
In this globalized and highly networked world of the 21st century, culture shock is more prevalent than ever. Almost all of us have been exposed to other cultures, thanks to globalization and the Internet. These days, many of us reading this article have been virtually connected, related, and worked with diverse people from different cultures using advanced telecommunication tools or, at least, be friend with them on social networks such as face-book and LinkedIn. In short, we have crossed cultures. We either exposed to or visited or lived in cultures other than ours.
What do we all have in common when we first crossed a culture? We have experienced culture shock, especially during the early stage, before we familiarize ourselves with the new culture. At this stage, you may ask, what is culture shock? According to Wikipedia, culture shock is the anxiety, feelings of frustration, alienation and anger that may occur when a person is emplaced in a new culture.
Why we feel these symptoms? This is because we haven’t prepared for it. We have been nurtured and shaped by our culture in certain ways and when we are exposed to a culture different from ours, we don’t know how to communicate, behave, and do things in that particular culture. And therefore, we display the above mentioned signs of frustrations.
Of course, the magnitude of the shock may vary. For some of us, it might be 1 or 2 Richter scale while for some of us it might be even greater such as 7 or 8 or 9 Richter scale. I had that experience when I was exposed to the cultures of some African countries in the western and southern Africa. I travelled to some African countries while I was a student leader of Addis Ababa University in 1997/98. I had similar culture shock, more than six years ago, in the early days of my stay in the US.
The question is what we should do to mitigate culture shock? I said mitigate because we cannot totally escape some level of culture shock. For now, I have three suggestions. First, we should understand the major cultural divide in the world. Many culture experts agree that the world cultures can hypothetically be divided into individual-based and communal-based cultures. Most of the western countries such as the US, Canada, and Europe can be categorized under individual-based cultures while cultures in continents such as Africa, Asia, and South America can be categorized as communal-based cultures. Of course, we have subcultures within these broader categories. There are also exceptional individuals who may not display all of the features of the culture they are living in.
We can compare and contrast these two broad cultures using three known parameters suggested by culture experts: Context, Time, and Space. Let me just take one of these indicators and make a comparison. The culture we Ethiopians grown up, as a high context culture, most people express themselves and their ideas covertly, implicitly, and non-verbally. Most people are reserved to express themselves, and are inward. When I came to the US, I observed the opposite. As a low context culture, most Americans expressed themselves and their ideas overtly, explicitly, and verbally.
Second, we should also take time to study and research the main characteristics of a given culture before we cross it. Third, we should also take some advices from individual adherents who lived in that particular culture we intend to visit. These ways, we may, at least, avoid committing lethal cultural offenses, and mitigate the magnitude of the culture shock we may experience.
In conclusion, culture matters. It determines who we would become at the end of the day. It makes or breaks us. It releases or binds us. Thus, we should understand the impact of the culture we live in, and shed those cultural elements that restrain us from progressing and succeeding. We should also embrace multiculturalism, and develop cross-cultural communication skills so that we may mitigate culture shock, effectively communicate, relate, and work with diverse people from different cultures.
This article is published @ http://ezinearticles.com/?Mitigating-Culture-Shock&id=6861248