By Soraya (Morgan) Gutman, President, Executive Services of Brand Launcher (www.BrandLauncher.com) & Convene Speaker
If you’re anything like most business owners, you face a challenge that didn’t exist years ago - managing a multicultural, multi ethnic staff that spans generations from Millenniums (16 - 35 years old) to the Boomers (52 - 70 years old). The landscape of how to be successful in business today has changed significantly and many generations from different backgrounds and values now cross paths on a consistent basis in your company.
And like most Convene leaders, you probably struggle to effectively manage these diverse groups of people.
Maybe it’s the communication barrier. Maybe it’s a struggle to get a team of diverse ages, interests and cultures to bond and function together in harmony. Maybe you have no idea how to get them to be passionate about their work like you are. Maybe you simply have no clue how to manage conflict.
Add in the stress of how the competitive market is now moving at a dizzying speed, it’s hard to determine what exactly to focus on especially when your staff is not getting along.
No wonder most business owners and C-level executives are stuck! In fact, according to Gallup (2010 – 2012),* more than 70% of Americans are disengaged at work and Dun & Bradstreet ** reports the the primary reason businesses fail is a lack of managerial experience, leadership and the inability to positively connect with employees, customers and stake holders.
As business owners and C-level Executives move to email, webinars, social media, and videoconferencing as primary methods of communication, they need to recognize that those tools can’t be used generically across all generations and cultures their customers, employees and shareholders.
The good news is that overcoming conflict in a healthy way is possible. The fact that you are a Convene member means you are already open to growing, learning and helping others in an impactful way. That’s a great first start. But there’s more. I call it CAD – Connect, Authentically and Disarm.
I was born into a family of immigrants. My father is first-generation Egyptian, my mother a first-generation German, and my husband a first-generation Russian (who is also Jewish). Let's just say that we have quite the family reunions! They showed me that bridging cultural gaps isn’t impossible and being raised in this multicultural environment taught me these 3 important lessons of how to bridge those gaps using CAD.
STEP 1 - CONNECT
First, it starts with our connection with God.
“That the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:17
Then, it is our connection with ourselves. Everyone is either a “German” or an “Egyptian.” Identify, first, which one you are so you can best connect with someone like you or who is different in the most impactful way. This is where my family story is relevant. From observing my family, I developed a theory: the business leader is either what I call an “Egyptian” or a “German” – And I am not talking about their ethnic or national backgrounds.
In my own extended family I noticed that the Germans did not adapt well to change. They were steady, deliberate decision makers who did not like to be rushed into things. They produced and expected very high standards, regardless of changes occurring around them. Many business leaders share these traits – I call them the “Germans” of business; so when interacting with these steady, deliberate decision makers, it’s best to:
1. Approach them in a straightforward, direct way.
2. Ask questions about facts and data.
3. Stick to business.
4. Keep your body language subdued and deliberate.
The Egyptians in my family, on the other hand, were results oriented, direct, made quick decisions, challenged the status quo, and initiated change actively within an organization. You’ll find plenty of business leaders like this, too – the “Egyptians” of the business world, and when interacting with them, be sure to:
1. Be stimulating, fun loving, and fast moving.
2. Use animated body language.
3. Take an emotional approach.
4. Plan interaction that supports their dreams and intentions.
If you can quickly – and in real time – identify whether an employee, colleague, or customer is a “German” or “Egyptian”, then you will significantly increase your chances of disarming them in a positive way to get what you need to do done.
STEP 2 - AUTHENTICALLY
The next step is to be authentic. e sincere, and act without guile. The best way to authentically connect with others is to identify and communicate your Purpose. Why are you here? What is your unique gift?
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
STEP 3 - DISARM (Rhymes with Charm)
How important is it for you to be right? Naturally, we all want to be right. But, as anyone with a teenage child, or has gone through a divorce, knows - being right is ultimately irrelevant. What’s important is to connect and communicate. By using specific disarming skills, you can more effectively connect with people in varied situations, regardless of personalities, ages, or cultural backgrounds. Wise use of body language, the right words, and specific attitudes are the keys.
Body language is powerful: it shapes how you see others and how they see you. First, ask yourself if they fall into the “German” or “Egyptian” categories. This admittedly quick-and-dirty assessment will give you an advantage in connecting with them in a way that will be natural for them and will put them at ease. For the first seconds especially if this is a contentious encounter or someone you don’t know mirror what the other person is doing with his or her body and speech. o this while being conscious of your own body language and speech patterns at the same time that you are intently observing the other person.
If that person is standing, . If he moves his arms a lot, you should do the same. If she speaks using simple words, use simple words. If they talk rapidly, you should too. If they make a lot of eye contact, you should as well. If they make very little eye contact you, you get the idea. The goal is to simply make the other person feel comfortable by mirroring them.
When there is conflict, tensions can run even higher than they might normally because of cross-cultural challenges. This is especially true if it’s during the “getting-to-know-you” phase with someone you haven’t connected with yet. So, always, not matter what, be HUMBLE, especially if you are in a position of authority.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Here are four little humble sentences you can use to diffuse tension and help everyone relax. They are, “I may be wrong. I am often wrong. I want to get it right. Let’s go over the facts.”
As a leader, a positive attitude is critical to successfully managing your crew. People of any culture will be more productive in a positive environment than a negative one. The bottom line is if you are the leader, your attitude sets the tone for the environment.
Sometimes something as simple as a smile is the perfect opportunity to connect with someone. It’s a universal symbol of a humble, positive attitude and is hard to misinterpret even when there is a large communication barrier. t builds the foundation of trust between you and the other person.
But, make sure you aren’t putting on a false positive attitude. Because smiling is a universal language, it’s also pretty universally understood when it isn’t sincere.
General Grant is quoted as saying, “all plans fall apart as soon as the boots hit the battle ground.” Knowing that ahead of time, you can better plan and prepare. These 3 simple steps of Connecting, Authentically by Disarming could be the difference between frustration and stress and a productive, healthy and happy workforce that consistently engages individuals not because of their differences but despite them.
*Gallup, State of the American Workplace Report, 2010 – 2012
**Dun and Bradstreet, Peacock 1985