Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

Thank you to the 11th Zurich Film Festival for broadening my horizon about Iran and the Dublin process for asylum seekers

I love movies. Especially Bollywood movies. I actually count flight times in Bollywood movies = Zurich –> Delhi direct 3 B’wood movies, Zurich – NYC 2 B’wood-movies and a few TV shows).

Zurich-Film-Festival-02

Picture credit: http://www.newlyswissed.com/

It all started when I went on a project in Bangalore in 2006 where I immersed in this aspect of the Indian culture. Before Bollywood I loved Almodovar, Cohen-Brothers, Tarantino, Weinstein and a recurring themes like James Bond, Starwars, Lord of the Rings. Let’s say I can spend a whole day in a movie theatre and I love the Zurich Film Festival (#ZFF).

I attend the ZFF every year but sometimes I just manage to see one movie and then I am annoyed with myself because we hardly ever get to see such a diversity of films. Before I started my business I made a wish that one day I will be able to afford the time and money to see 10 movies in the ZFF. This year I almost thought I’d miss the whole festival but due to clever re-prioritization and the right kind of friends I managed to watch five movies in three days.

What struck me as a movie aficionado during #ZFF2015 is how easy it is to teach culture through movies. A friend of mine was wondering why I had not responded to messages and I said that what I did there was actually work. Let’s say I did research my way. I am entrepreneur. I can do this.

When did I first notice that movies teach intercultural competence?

Even if Bollywood-movies are full of clichés and a lot of Indians despise them they teach us (Germans for example) a lot about the general mindset. Not only that: Watching Bollywood movies for almost 10 years now has taught me a basic understanding of Hindi and Urdu terms. I only realized when I went to Pakistan last year that I understood some of the conversations in my host family (the Urdu versions).

Movies have influenced our cultural upbringing and globalized our mindsets. In Germany in my generation (Gen X) we were influenced by Hollywood. When I first went to New York City in 1996 it felt rather familiar.

The first show I was allowed to watch after bedtime was “Dallas”. Later I preferred „Beverly Hills 90210“ over „Die Lindenstrasse“. We all watched French, Spanish and Italian movies in our youth. Some of us like Danish cinema. So yes, cultural learning through movies is not a new concept to me. I would love to offer a movie-based intercultural seminar. It’s another wish in my wish book.

What did these five movies teach me?

Let me summarize for you why I thought these movies were improving my intercultural competence.

Jag är Dublin” (I am Dublin)

The first one was a Swedish documentary called “I am Dublin”. I am Dublin is the story of Ahmed, a Somali stuck in the asylum process. He is real and my heart immediately feels motherly instincts. This “boy” has suffered, is traumatized but in a way also tough. He agrees to be filmed and he knows that the camera will save his ass. He gets deported and I am angry. The end of the movie (spoiler alert) is a relief but you and I know that now the real work starts. I know it from close friends. Once they are allowed to stay in Europe the real integration work starts. Improving language skills, finding a job and having a “normal” life. Being a refugee, asylum seeker and temporarily approved resident (ein “Geduldeter”) is a tough lot even in wealthy Europe. So definitely recommended. I was actually ignorant until a few weeks ago. (See other stories on #refugees)

“Un amour de jeunesse”

The second movie was French. Not everyone’s taste but I enjoyed to be able to hear the language, read English translation at the same time as it is again a good chance to practice. The content of the movie was more psychologically valid for me. The culture mix was interesting as the protagonist falls in love with a Norwegian. (I swear he spoke German with no accent). There is also an interesting scene covering Bauhaus, an important part of German architectural culture which unfortunately was overturned by the Nazi-style. (Can you speak of “style” in connection with Nazis?).

“The Risk of Acid Rain”

Then the third film and my main reason to attend the festival was “The Risk of Acid Rain”. This movie was touching and it taught me about Iran. I also noticed that Farsi is completely different from Arabic. I had expected that there would be more similarities but apart from “Salam” I did not recognize anything.

What I thought was interesting was how the main characters in the movie deal with the Sharia police. In our minds here we also probably did not expect that homosexuality would be touched as a topic. It was alluded to twice in the movie. What really was very funny was how the relationship between the three main characters evolved and dissolved again. My Bollywood driven mind wanted to see a “happy family reunion” at the end but the end (again spoiler alert) is more realistic. The movie was banned in Iran because of the homosexuality. You need to look for it and be warned as a “Westerner” to actually recognize it.

ATOMIC_HEART_01

Picture credits: https://zff.com/

“Atomic Heart”

With a break of 24 hours I continued with the Iranian theme. “Atomic Heart” starts out as the Iranian version of a road movie with two young women on a night out and their little adventures. The movie later falls into a surreal narrative where Saddam Hussein and another crazy character dominate the plot. The movie is funny and artistic. It helps in switching perspectives. What I realized there is how limited my knowledge of Teheran really is and again the images in the movie do not match my expectations. Teheran comes across a lot more modern, almost hip.

“Bright Day”

Another break of 24 hours later and now with a certain expectation I saw “Bright Day”, the movie I really wanted to see. I have to say that the movie was shown very late and I was already a bit tired. It touched me emotionally but some of the dialogues were lost on me. This movie was probably the most “realistic” story. In my view it showed a typical issue in a country, where power is abused by those who own money over the poorer employed staff, where those who depend have to obey and are threatened when they want to adhere to their values.

The fight of “good” versus “evil” is exemplified in the person of a taxi driver. The theme is similar to an Indian movie (“Jolly LLP”) and is ultimately about standing up for your values. Interestingly enough looking at this movie I found again, that we Christians have more in common with Muslims than what is often suggested.

I was happy to see that in all three Iranian movies the movie theatres were rather full and the audience was very interested in how life in Iran really is. I am hoping that through entertainment and art we will find more access to each other. At least, movies offer good dinner conversation and having another narrative than the typical individualistic Western-style is worth watching out for.

So how could you set up an intercultural seminar based on movies? Which bias would you need to avoid?


Writing for starters
Picture Credit: Pascal Willen

Sitting in front of a white paper to write a blog post can be a daunting experience. It happened to me several times this year. I wanted to write but did not have a topic or did not find my way in. Blogging used to be diary style so there were no rules initially. With the digitalization of our lives, the style of blogging changed. Today whatever you want to say you need to say it in a tweet or a video.

I wanted to be a writer as a child

Some members of my family laughed about this. My German teacher R. M., the best teacher in our school also encouraged my creative process. My dad supported and encouraged me to continue to write poetry and short stories. Two of my short stories were published in children’s compilations. I never won a price but hey, my name was out there in print. Dad and I went on a holiday to Italy and both sat on the beach writing or reading for a week. It was heaven.

The same year my father and sister died in a car accident. With them, I buried most of my hopes at becoming a writer. For a long time after this traumatic experience, I was in “survival mode”. I never thought I would write again. At the time, I only read how hard it was to become a journalist or start a career that involved writing.

Like many people with many talents, I studied International Business Studies at the University of Paderborn (Germany). In 1992 this was innovative. The course contained a major in English and French (or Spanish) language and cultural studies. We were only the elitist second year (with around 70 students) and you needed to have a high GPA to get in. While I had no clue where exactly Paderborn was when I enrolled, I learned that I was lucky that I studied at a university with a well-known IT research department and a well-known professor in international human resources. (Sometimes dots do connect Mr. Jobs).

Call it fate, but at the age of 23, I was the guinea pig and went to study with an inspirational professor at the University of Tasmania (Australia). Thank you to Dr. Peter Dowling and Dr. Sarah Knowles. Through Peter, I was able to write a thesis which inspired the idea to build my company Global People Transitions GmbH. I drove back from Hobart (Tasmania, Australia) in a blue 1972 VW-Beetle after having conducted interviews with civil engineers. These civil engineers had been sent abroad without proper training and without the right framework (financial, social security, tax, immigration…there were all sorts of issues). I did not feel ready to start out on my own, so I went into the corporate HR world.

When you are a writer you need to face a white piece of paper every day.
When you are a writer you need to face a white piece of paper every day.

Within my career in corporate HR, I started to write again. First, it was a training manual one of my colleagues introduced me too. I wrote blog posts. I wrote down stories of international assignees and their intercultural experiences. I wrote for HR magazines for free. One New Year’s day I explored and developed a mini-poetry blog on Blogger. Then I practiced writing by writing a short story. Through a friend I met at The Powerhouse Zurich I was introduced to a whole new world, started to join writer’s workshop Zurich and did an online course with Ash Ambirge on copywriting.

Still I was not able to say “I am a writer…” without blushing or without playing it down.

After reading a book by Jeff Goins called “You are a writer: So start acting like one” I learned that I need to actually write every day. I wish I would. At least, I managed to self-publish two books already. These days I am working on “The Global Career Workbook”. I love the work again. I want to improve and feel ready to take in more.

I have a tendency to overwhelm myself with trying to achieve too many projects at once. So in the middle of working on my newest book I ran out of money last year. I had to ask providers to stop working for me until I had more funds…and then I shelved (or “drawered”) the draft. My editor moved into another role and I did not feel the pressure to finish. I got a rather negative feedback, wrote a post about it and got busy with other work. Between January and July 2015 I hardly wrote. I procrastinated, found excuses, got afraid and I guess that is when I started to glare at white paper. I often closed my typewriter. (I don’t work with a typewriter, but I call my MacBook air “Schreibmaschine”).

As a writer, you can easily get distracted and I knew that I made a mistake when my coach Dr. Eva Kinast called me out on it. She said, “I think the writer in you is neglected.” I knew she was right because in my vision of what I wanted to do at 65 it was a writer. I want to write and publish novels, I want to read books like the maniac reader I was as a child. I want to critique books and write for magazines. I would love to write screenplays and I want to use my creative brain in the best manner possible.

But often we do not do what we want…but everything else.

When I listen to other writers I understand that I am not that crazy. That they also have self-doubt, writer’s anxieties and block. I feel encouraged when I hear how long it took them to succeed. And all the time I tell myself: “But you are not an English native speaker. You will never be as good as they are.” (It’s true.)

When I wrote this I realized that I had English as a major in university. Even though I am not a native speaker I write at a fairly high level. There are editors out there who can correct errors. The world is full of collaborators. Why am I still staring at a blank page?

It’s the worry monster again. The fear of failure. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of being called out.

And while I am typing this I know that I have never been as ready as today to tell you.

I am a writer!

There is a fantastic personality test on this blog. Find out if you are meant to be a writer too and if yes, let me know if you need any resources.

 



first published on www.sietar.ch.

by @angieweinberger

Values are the foundation of your global virtual team. Values are what clients feel instantly when they work with your team. They feel the connection because true values come from the heart.

If you are a leader of a global virtual team you have probably faced many intercultural challenges until your team was ready to perform. You might have underestimated the challenges of global communication under pressure or you have taken promises at face value.

When you bring your team together for an offsite you have probably already developed the team vision, mission and brand statement but have you considered your values? I am not talking about the value statement you read in the corporate magazine. I am talking about the values you and your team members all share and the ones that your clients feel.

We recently developed ten values in an intercultural team intervention. In intercultural settings values could be expected to go into various directions but when you break them down you will see that there are similarities or universal values that we all share. Research by Schwartz and Bilsky (1990) suggests that we have universal values although they research was mainly conducted in Western cultures (and Hongkong).

achievement, enjoyment, maturity, prosocial, restrictive conformity, security, self-direction

From values you can derive team principles of communication and of working together. Then in case of conflict you have principles to base your decisions on.

When working with my clients in 1:1 career or executive sessions I always build in a session on values at work. What I felt are the seven most commonly cited (this is anecdotal, not academic data) are these:

  1. Quality
  2. Client Service
  3. Collaboration
  4. Integrity
  5. Relationships
  6. Sustainability
  7. Leadership.

Let’s assume these seven values form the basis around the globe for excellence. My clients come from all continents so I am hoping there is no cultural bias here.

If you are now thinking about working on this basis with your global virtual team I’d love this approach. You just have to remember that the meaning behind these words is culturally different so in a team setting you should ask your team how they show these values at work. Ask them for examples and stories. You might get different views on Leadership and Integrity but having the discussion or collecting stories will help the team see those differences.

►Building principles

Before you can formulate team principles ensure that you are all on the same page. Suggest every team member to contribute their wording. Even if it is messy. Create a team page or social media space where you can share your wording for values.

When you develop team principles it is important that you word them in the form of „We do…“ (active and positve). Example „We support each other achieve excellent quality by giving honest feedback.“

►Take photos, videos and allow images

When you see the values at work take photos and allow your team members to create videos or graphics. Put them on your coffee cups or shared file area. Be creative.

►Aligning language of your global virtual team

When you start this exercise you might notice that the language of your team members is not always aligned. They might say similar things with different words. Aligning the language of your global virtual team means that you come up with definitions, quotes and images. I often hear people telling me they work hard but I need to understand what in means in their context. In Switzerland working hard means getting up at 5 AM and being in the office at 7 AM and leaving the office at 5 PM to work in the community fire brigade or study in the evenings or raise four kids. In the US working hard might mean working 80 hours per week no matter when. In India „working hard“ might mean coming to the office even if you are unwell or even if your family needs you at home.

►Drop the assumptions

The more I work with global virtual teams the more I would advise you to drop your assumptions or at least to critically reflect them. You might only have a glimpse of understanding of the values of your team members until you have a personal conversation at a business conference at 2 AM in the morning. Sharing values requires trust and that is only built over time by people who show their values towards their colleagues constantly.

Liebe Freunde,
wir suchen immer noch nach einem deutschsprachigen Global Mobility Consultant für einen Kunden. Das solltest Du mitbringen:

– Master oder vergleichbarer Hochschulabschluss in International Business Administration, Human Resources Management, BWL, Psychologie, Finance, Jura oder Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaften
– Mindestens fünf Jahre Berufserfahrung, idealerweise im Personalwesen, davon mindestens zwei Jahre Berufserfahrung im Bereich internationale Mitarbeiterentsendungen
– Kenntnisse im Immigrations-, Steuer- und Sozialversicherungsrecht und in der internationalen Personalentwicklung
– Starke analytische Fähigkeiten und Freude am Umgang mit Zahlen und Berechnungen- Interkulturelle Kommunikationsstärke, Beratungs- und Verhandlungsgeschick, Überzeugungsfähigkeit
– Fähigkeit zu Priorisierung und vernetztem Denken, nachgewiesene Erfahrung in der Lösung komplexer Fälle
– Hohes Maß an Eigenmotivation und Selbstmanagement- Sehr gutes Beziehungsmanagement, Fähigkeit zum schnellen Aufbau persönlicher Netzwerke mit Kunden und Kollegen
– Fließende Deutsch- und Englischkenntnisse, weitere Fremdsprachenkenntnisse wünschenswert
– Fortgeschrittene Kenntnisse in Excel und Powerpoint- Kenntnisse in SAP HR oder PeopleSoft.

Wenn Du mehr wissen magst melde Dich doch bitte direkt bei angela@globalpeopletransitions.com.

 


Did you ever spend an intimate moment with your partner where he or she was telling you something that was important to them. You talk, sooth each other and you feel like giving everything to this loved person. Then she checks her phone. Or he gets up and gets a beer from the fridge.

Then out of nowhere you are getting frustrated, negative and even aggressive. You lost the place of love and went into the place of need. The atmosphere is ruined.

The same can happen at work. You thought you have a good relationship with a colleague or a manager and then one day out of the blue they shout at you. Or they send you a really long email how you disappointed them again and how you ruined their day.

Did you ever experience this?

What I have learned over the last three years of being an entrepreneur is that we can influence the way we respond in 80% of the time. In 20% of the time I still want to learn to stay calm and compassionate. Here are seven steps to responding in order to avoid negativity in relationships.

1) Take a break

Emily Bennington held a talk at the Powerhouse Zurich in September 2013 and explained the space between stimulus and response. In this area we can decide if we shout, cry or explode. Often we are losing control though and just act out.

We could pull us out of the situation and respond with compassion and love. Often when we get emotional it helps to remove ourselves from the situation and look at what is going on.

Ask yourself: “What do I need now to feel secure and loved again?”

 2) Respond by expressing your need

Instead of shouting back or answering with another long-winded email we could say “I understand that you are tired today but my need for order and a structured week gets messed up when we do not finish the housework on the weekend.”

To your colleague you could respond to the email saying: “I understand why you are angry but I’d prefer to discuss this in person. When can we talk?”

 

3) Listen to the signs of your body

Our bodies are featured with red lights. Some of us have been on the autobahn of our lives for too long though to see the red lights when they go on. After years of training as a coach and lots of sensitivity exercises I now recognize the red lights better.

You might feel dizzy in the stomach or head, your heartbeat increases, blood rushes into your head or your hands start to shiver.

When I feel overwhelmed with stress another indicator is severe back pain in the lower part of my back.

I listen to my body and when I notice any signs I take a note in my diary and ask myself what I need right now.

Sometimes it could just be water, food or a break but often it is an emotional need.

Sun Flowers
Give people more Flowers!

4) Let your written response simmer in your draft folder

I once in my young career made the mistake of answering all emails immediately. Everything always seemed urgent. Until I made a mistake and my manager gave me advice to let emails simmer in the draft folder. So now I have a rule not to send emails I wrote under emotional pressure for a minimum of twelve hours.

I risk to be considered slow. Most people who know me well already know that I must be thinking hard as I am usually VERY responsive and fast with email.

In 2015 I deleted at least ten emails the next morning or even two hours after they were written. Most of the time I recognized that I was talking to my inner worry monster, not the person who emailed me initially.

5) Have a conversation with your inner worry monster

Do you know anyone who likes negative feedback or criticism? I don’t. But I know that when I have a good relationship and someone gives me a feedback on what I could improve I am happy and thankful. UNLESS and here is the catch they put their finger right into the wound that says „Thou art not worthy.“ (you are a scam).

Millions of women (and a lot of men) are suffering from the imposture syndrome. Thank God I finally stopped dreaming that I did not pass university and have to take the math test again (which funnily enough was my best subject).

The worry monster attacks us when we are moving out of our comfort zone into unknown lands of skills we never had to master. Next to practicing daily it might help you to speak to your worry monster. Tell him all that you have done already to practice and how you will continue to do so. It could be that the worry monster appreciates your efforts.

 

6) Listen to guided meditations

Ok, I know that meditation is not everybody’s cup of tea but sometimes when the negative talk is too loud you need to hear another voice. Give yourself 5 minutes in the morning and listen to a guided meditation.

 

7) Go running or walking

A lot of people I know go running or walking to “get their head clear”. I think they alsIMG_0183o clear their hearts. Both exercises are helping your heart digest the emotional food it has been served. Maybe you are a very sensitive person. I often pick up emotions of my clients or they remind me of my own emotional state a few years back. I developed rituals to help my heart handle these emotions.

 

Tell us how you made a difference by responding with kindness and compassion instead of emotion and aggression?

 

Watch more: