5 Steps as a Leader to Build a Safe, Inclusive and Collaborative Environment

Last week, we talked about why building professional relationships is harder for expats. Now let’s discuss another side of the coin – how to create an inclusive environment for expats. If you were Dr. Rainer Schulz you’d probably ask yourself what you could do to build a safe and collaborative environment with people from different cultures.

1- Deal with your Gollum

If you are an expat leader and want to create an environment where people trust each other, you will need to show vulnerability and role-model trustworthy behaviour. If you wish to be trusted you might have to show your weaknesses, your Achilles’ heel and let your team know how they can best support you. You might have to explain what triggers your emotional side, what makes you feel weak. You might even have to accept that you are not a superheroine or hero and that nobody apart from your “Gollum” is expecting this of you. My advice is that you seek coaching to work with the inner critic and put him in his cot.

2) Work on your Implicit Assumptions and Biases

It could also be that you have formed assumptions about the host culture or about certain behaviors that are not appropriate and could end up impacting your relationship with your international team.
One way to address this is to bring up your implicit assumptions for discussion in a learning environment. This gives you the opportunity to not only correct your biases but also learn more about the host culture and its nuances. In my view, it always helps to attend intercultural competence development training.

3) Reduce your Language Complex

Moving to another culture often comes with a form of language limitation. It could be that the host language is entirely different than your mother tongue or that you are speaking the same language with a different accent and different cultural references. For example, American English often uses references from Baseball in every slang, which doesn’t translate into our context in Europe.

Sometimes even a small difference in how you pronounce a word can create an entirely different meaning for a sensitive listener. Humor, sarcasm or irony often do not translate so well and we haven’t even discussed the pace of speech, tone of voice, the use of silence and interruptions. I try to listen more in conversations and take notes and often I have a hard time then to say something right away without the proper reflection time.

The older I get, the more introverted I feel and I find it quite hard to follow a meeting. I prefer to express myself through the written word. So, often I walk out of a meeting a bit lost. Maybe you know this feeling. I wish sometimes I could respond faster but the trouble is that knowing everything I know I need proper reflection time to come up with a good solution. My brain goes in overdrive.

You could make an effort to learn the host language better, use common phrases, get the dialect right and pronounce names correctly. This requires that you learn the names of everyone; from your clients, team members and colleagues, to the receptionist and mail person.

4) Accept diverse Working Styles

Effective global teams allow for a variety of working styles and priority setting. However, many managers prefer to work with staff members who function like them. Unconsciously they find it easier. You can move out of your comfort zone and discuss differences in style with your team members directly. You could also address your preferences and request that team members accommodate your style to a certain degree or you could agree the checkpoints that your need in order to feel safe.

Also, if you prefer to be included in certain communications you should address that. When you are in your first 90 days with your new team in the host company, I recommend a symbolic kick-off meeting where you discuss roles and responsibilities, collaboration rules and principles and develop the short-term action plan together (assuming you move to a participatory, egalitarian culture such as Switzerland or Holland).

5) Co-create Culture-Appropriate Roadmaps

Nowadays, discussing vision and mission is often perceived as an alibi exercise by management as the pace of change hardly allows for a long-term vision or strategy 80ies-style. Hence, I recommend you focus more on the next six months and weekly actions to get closer to your vision. You should still create a vision board for yourself and maybe paint a picture or write about your vision. You could also write a mission statement for your area of responsibility. For your team though it is probably more important that you are fully present, your best self and have their back when they need you.

If you wish to work on all of the above you could join our RockMeRetreat starting 21 November and ending 28 November 2019 in Kressbronn, Southern Germany. I’m available on 28 June 2019 and 19 July 2019 for personal meetings to discuss your participation. Email me now for your reserving slot: angela@globalpeopletransitions.com

Or sign up here for a personal conversation with me:

Have a great week ahead!

Angie

PS: During the RockMeRetreat I will support clients to overcome these challenges by applying the 4 P’s of building professional relationships (Purpose, Preparation, Presence and Promises).

Committing to Work – When you say “I do” and then you do

Do you remember the last time you actually closed down your computer only to realize how many open documents and unfinished business you have? Or do you remember the five new business books you ordered from Amazon and when you wanted to dive into them after the first few pages you got a call and then, did you follow up on that?

I laugh at myself when I look through old diaries or notes that I have taken 10 years ago or even longer. I see that my essential challenges are still the same. They boil down to finances, back pain and imposture syndrome. On a bad day, I will probably fall into the trap of telling myself the same story all over again. I also notice that nowadays when I maintain my weekly “sanity rituals” I get out of that self-talk with my inner monster Gollum a lot faster. (I decided to call my inner critic “Gollum” because deep down inside I believe that I am Bilbo Baggins’ granddaughter.)

Do you still believe that it is the agenda and influence of your manager, the loud colleague from the other end of the open plan office or your wife that stop you from completing projects?

On the surface, it is easy to blame others for what we don’t do or don’t achieve. I find it wonderful to use the “I cannot afford it” excuse in order not to invest in my education or in new clothes for example.

When you say “I do”, how can you keep yourself on track?

Here are four approaches to improve your commitment to projects that are important to you.

1) The Engineering Approach

  • Prioritize your projects with an easy classifier such as ABC.
  • Set a deadline for the overall completion.
  • Break down the projects into milestones.
  • Write a project plan that breaks down every milestone into a task and plan time for completion.
  • Do it and tick off every achievement on a daily basis.

 

2) The People Approach

  • Visualize the end result and paint a detailed picture of it.
  • Add post-it notes of people you see connected to this end vision.
  • Consider which role they will play in your end vision.
  • Reach out to them and let them know that you need their help.
  • Find two commitment buddies who will check in with you on your success and report to them on a weekly basis.

 

3) The Agile Approach

  • Focus on one project at the time
  • Pick the one that has the highest lever for you.
  • Work from the bottom up by defining what you would like to achieve in the next three weeks (“sprint”).
  • Spend 80% of your work time on this sprint.
  • Then take a week of reflection, check what worked and what didn’t and take a long weekend off.

 

4) The No-Pain, No-Gain Approach

  • Pick a skill that you would like to have and that you always avoid.
  • Invest an incredible amount of money in order to force yourself to commit (an example could be a personal trainer to follow your fitness routine, or an MBA or a course in Excel).
  • Tell your mother about it and see what happens.

 

I would suggest that you try to work with the approach that speaks to you most. Whichever approach you take you will probably notice that you are committing yourself to DOING rather than just THINKING ABOUT DOING.

What I’ve thought about before writing this was that I would like to share a secret with you. I took an important decision for next year. I’ve applied to a Masters programme in “International Human Resource Management and Global Mobility”. While the thought of spending two intensive weeks with GM Professionals from around Europe totally excites me, I also feel anxiety creeping in as I have graduated back in 97 and universities have changed a fair bit since then. It’s one thing to teach in a program and another to actually go through it yourself. I’m also considering an additional coaching education that will require funding and time. Imagine me running my business and doing a double degree in one year. I’m taking a mix of a no-pain, no-gain approach and a people approach here. Step 1 completed.

Have an inspired week!

Angie