Category Archives: international coaching

What Does Interculturality Mean ?


 

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A number of studies on the development of intercultural skills and competences have shown that first-hand experience of ‘otherness’ and even sojourns in a foreign country are not sufficient conditions to foster interculturality.

Both study abroad and intercultural education literature state that, in addition to experience, intercultural learning needs reflection and analysis, and that immersion in a different culture does not in itself reduce stereotypical perceptions of otherness.

Interculturality does not mean comparing two or more countries, nor learning to adapt to a specific ‘national culture’.

Rather, the concept implies, for example:

  • Understanding how different types of identities (eg gender, age, racial, ethnic, national, geographical, historical, linguistic) impact on communication with others
  • Interpreting what people say about their culture as evidence of what they wish others to see about themselves, rather than as the ‘truth’ about a particular culture
  • Exploring the role of power in dominant discourses (media, political, institutional) and reflect on how these discourses affect the way we perceive people from other backgrounds.

Read Full article : Mobility is not a value in itself: intercultural education resources for mobile students – European Association for International Education

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Understanding Russia Today


Article: Destination Profile: Russia

Mobility magazine, December 2011, Sean Dubberke, director, intercultural programs for RW3 CultureWizard, New York, NY

Anne Egros‘s insight:

There are very few good and accurate articles about dealing and doing business with Russians in the 21st century and this article is one of them. However, it was written in 2011 before the reelection of president Vladimir Putin which has a great impact on the way Russia is perceived outside Russia via its leader.

With the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games I have seen a lot of misunderstandings about Russia and was surprised by some strong negative comments about Russians in general but most critics were specifically targeted to Mr Putin’s politics. If some media are clearly unfair, it is true that Russia is ranked as one of the most difficult countries to do business with although there is a clear improvement, jumping from #123 in 2011 to #92 in 2014 out of 189 economies according to Doing Business 2014 data for the Russian Federation.

I would not say that working with Russians is easy but  I really enjoy the dynamism and enthusiasm of most business people I meet in Moscow, especially women entrepreneurs, that can largely compensate the challenges of dealing with intercultural differences.

See on www.worldwideerc.org

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Russia, is among the 10% of the most power distant societies in the world. The huge discrepancy between the less and the more powerful people leads to a great importance of status symbols.

Behaviour has to reflect and represent the status roles in all areas of business interactions: be it visits, negotiations or cooperation; the approach should be top-down and provide clear mandates for any task.

If Russians plan to go out with their friends they would literally say “We with friends” instead of “I and my friends”, 

Family, friends and not seldom the neighborhood are extremely important to get along with everyday life’s challenges.

Relationships are crucial in obtaining information, getting introduced or successful negotiations. They need to be personal, authentic and trustful before one can focus on tasks and build on a careful to the recipient, rather implicit communication style.

Dominant behaviour might be accepted when it comes from the boss, but is not appreciated among peers.

Russians feel very much threatened by ambiguous situations, as well as they have established one of the most complex bureaucracies in the world

As long as Russians interact with people considered to be strangers they appear very formal and distant. At the same time formality is used as a sign of respect.

Read more on how to interpret Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimension model  and compare with other countries :

 

Is Humility A Universal Leadership Value Across Cultures ?


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Humility in leadership can be defined as the ability to understand yourself and bring the best from other people. You must first know your talents and limitations, then recognize that you have to rely on others and empower them to discover their own strengths and manage their weak points to focus on achieving a common goal.

Global leaders and managers working in multicultural teams must manage conflicts, poor communication and lack of teamwork as a result of misunderstandings and wrong assumptions from people driven by different internal core values and beliefs.

What we know, from the work of Professor Geert Hofstede on dimensions of national culture is that some countries have high power distance such as Russia that scores 93 on a scale of 1-100 and others have a low power distance dimension like United States that scores 40.

What it means, is that in Russia the power is distributed unequally and highly centralized with 80% of the financial potential concentrated in Moscow. It also means that in high distance countries people believe that power and authority are facts of life and inequality is institutionalized. Leaders are therefore expected to have a top-down approach to solve conflicts and take important decisions. Subordinates will simply comply with their leader.

For doing business In Russia, you must understand that hierarchy and status are important and that Russians respect age, rank and position as well as technological expertise. Russians see negotiations as win-lose and compromise as weakness.

On the other hand, in lower power distance countries such as the United States, there is a preference for consultation and collaborative leadership. Subordinates are encouraged to be independent  and contribute to problem solving. In the United States. business communication is informal and based on a win-win negotiation style.

If you are coming from the U.S. or another low power distance country when you have to deal with high power distance countries like Russia, you need to take your time  to understand who has the power of making decisions, otherwise nothing is going to happen especially when dealing with the administration and its very complex bureaucracy. For Americans, “time is money” but trying to force Russians to take quick decisions will only delay the processes and decrease trust.

So in a sense, humility in business negotiation is highly valued by Russians in general as humble business leaders have patience, try to understand first  and at the same time are strong enough to deal with conflicts without showing any sign of arrogance or superiority.

Most of the studies on humility as a value in leadership have been conducted in the United States and therefore it is difficult to separate the empirical and anecdotic from the real science-based evidences.

Leadership is a question of character (integrity, confidence, curiosity), not temperament (biology and genetics), therefore it is possible for global leaders and expatriated managers to learn cultural differences and the benefits of humility, holding judgment and avoiding placing one culture above another.

The role of effective intercultural leaders is to shape the corporate and local cultures of their organization to be understood and embraced by individuals of all races, ethnicities, religions, and genders with a minimum of misunderstandings. 

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Perception of Time Value In America and Russia


Business in Russia

Many managers working in multicultural teams or dealing with clients and business partners overseas have often little idea that conflicts could have underlying cultural differences.

Time and its perceived value is one of those key cultural differences. We may measure time with same metrics such as hours or days  but time is perceived differently on a personal level and on a cultural level.

Time management is a frequent cause of conflicts between Americans and Russians when doing business together and this is due to the cultural context.

For Americans the value of time is material:

  • “Time is money”
  • They tend to have a materialistic approach attached to achievements and time.
  • Time is sacred in the U.S.,  being late is very rude, deadlines  are fixed.
  • “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.”Peter F. Drucker

For Russians, the value of time is “elastic”:

  •  “People” come before time, a Russian proverb says: “seven people do not wait for one”.
  • Being late is not perceived as being rude
  • Deadlines are flexible
  • Russian management does not fit easily in “westernized” practices of time management
  • Planning is not rigorous
  • Issues and problems are solved under pressure and stress at the last-minute
  • If you want to manage your Russian team you better be a night owl. Often employees work late until 11 pm or 1 am (the direct consequence of dealing with things at the last-minute)

When doing business in Russia, American companies should spend more time than they usually do in the US on establishing personal connections before talking business. Frequent contacts should then be maintained.

Organizing bi-cultural meetings is often the first step of intercultural business communication. Handled poorly, those events can lead to frustration and lack of trust, jeopardizing collaboration. The organizers of such introductory intercultural meetings between Americans and Russians should create an environment in which time perception differences are explained and accepted by all. 

In the US, an agenda is always sent before a meetings and it is usually followed. In Russia there is often reluctance to put in writing a detailed plan. If the meeting is conducted in English, more time should be given to people who are not the native speakers. Do not rush the call and make sure to allow extra time for unplanned topics that could emerge during the discussion. Always send minutes or a summary of what’s been said just after the meeting. However, with Russian partners what has been discussed and perceived as agreed by their American counterpart may be challenged and rejected at any time.

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You Are What You Speak: How Language Influences Behaviors


Montage of languages. Prototype header for the...

Montage of languages. Prototype header for the language portal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If our language shapes the way we think, it also impacts the way we behave.

In its presentation, Keith Chen ask the question: Could your language affect your ability to save money ? The author gives various examples on how same information is delivered very differently from one language to another. For example in English, the following sentences:  “it has rained”, “it is raining” or “it will rain” are translated in Chinese in only one sentence because the information about time in the verb is never mentioned.

He called  “futured languages,” those like English that  distinguish between the past, present and future, and “futureless languages,” those like Chinese that use the same phrasing to describe the events of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Chen found that huge economic differences accompany this linguistic discrepancy. Futureless language speakers are 30 percent more likely to report having saved in any given year than futured language speakers

Unlike English, many languages have a grammatical gender system. For example French, Spanish, Russian or German languages use genders for inanimate objects. Cross-linguistic differences in thought can be produced just by grammatical differences even when the person speaks English.

Different languages divide color space differently. Some colors like “Yellow and “Orange” for example don’t have different names in certain languages but it does not mean that people don’t see the differences. Unlike English, Russian makes a distinction between lighter blues (“goluboy”) and darker blues (“siniy”). These differences have a direct impact on the way meaning is attributed to colors.

Language, cultural rules, norms, personal experience etc., all influence the way we interpret what we see,hear or feel in a very complex manner. Words are interpreted as thoughts and thoughts trigger behaviors.

In doing business in different countries, global companies need to deliver messages to consumers or employees that can be interpreted in the right way. Corporate culture and employee training programs for example should be adapted to local culture and delivered in local language. For global executives and expatriates, intercultural training can be done in English but should be highly personalized and designed based on the culture and experience of the recipients. Looking at differences and similarities between languages can give many clues on what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviors.

 Related articles: 

Who Needs Cross-cultural Training ?


Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

This article posted in  www.expatica.ru is giving a great overview about cross-cultural training

Expatriate failure is defined in literature in a variety of ways, with intentions to leave listed prominently

Anne Egros‘s insight:

Tailoring cross-cultural training programmes to the individual’s situation

Cross-cultural trainings should start by the selection of the best candidate for a specific international assignment. Succesful international leaders share some personality traits such as:

-Active listening skills

-Curiosity

-Emotional intellligence

-Global strategic thinking with understanding of local issues/market

-Influencer

-Life long learner

-Creative

-Diplomatic

Expectations and goals should be clearly defined as well as the key performance indicators including both contribution to local and global performance with in mind long-term impacts of the decisions taken during a short-term (2-3 years) mission. Including colleagues of the host country in the decision process is also a good idea.

Ideally, the family should be assessed too or at least get pre-departure cross-cultural trainings and transition coaching

See on www.expatica.ru

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American Culture: The Non Vacation Nation


OECD Countries Blue

Who get the most paid vacation ? Check this list Minimum Employment Leave By Country

France is one extreme with minimum 5 weeks vacation up to 8 weeks when combined with various holidays and compensation time when you work more than 35 hours /week.

United States is the other extreme, being the only developed economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays. As a result, 1 in 4 U.S. workers do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays.

How does this translate in term of productivity ? You can see in this table compiled by the OECD on Labour productivity levels in the total economy  that France is very close to the US with GDP per hour worked as % of USA (USA=100) = 97.9

But does GDP a good indicator of well-being, quality of life and  happiness ?

What You Measure Affects What You Do-Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize in Economics

The OECD has developed a tool called the Better Life Index using various parameters such as housing, jobs or health. They have designed an interesting interactive map that you can use to select the parameters that are important to you and compare how various countries perform: http://oecdbetterlifeindex.org/

So if you just take one parameter such as “life satisfaction” , the results are better for the U.S. than for France:

For the United States, the self-reported life satisfaction has been rising over the last decade. In recent polling, 70% were satisfied with their life and 80% believe that their life will be satisfying five years later. 76% of people in the United States reported having more positive experiences in an average day(feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 72%.

For France, in recent polling, 51% were satisfied with their life and 64% believe that their life will be satisfying five years later. This is however a very low ranking when compared to other high-performing economies in the OECD. 73% of people in France reported having more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is close to the OECD average of 72%.

The self-evaluation has some biases however as French are more critical and less prone to give positive feedback than the Americans.

You can also see the ranking of countries for work-life balance :  People in France people work 1554 hours a year, lower than the OECD average of 1739 hours. People in the United States work 1768 hours a year, higher than the OECD average of 1739 hours. In theory the less hours you work the better you can balance your life but this is not counting the fact that working more and getting paid more can help you buy some time and the United States has a great culture of services to individuals.

In Conclusion: Don’t rely on simple numbers to decide your next international assignment. There are so many cultural factors to include on top of economical data, that you better talk to people who have lived or are working in the country you are interested in to get some information. If your company does not provide pre-departure cultural training, you may need to hire an expat coach to help you make your decision. Here the link to the Expat Coaching Directory.

Personally I think the quality of life in the U.S. is better than France but lower than Japan

Real experience is what matters, can you tell your story about living abroad ?

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How To Understand Cross-Cultural Communication ?


This blog has been inspired by an article published  by Rana Sinha How to understand cross-cultural analysis?. I have summarized Rana’s key ideas and added my own sources of information

Origins and Evolution of Cross-cultural Communication.

 Typically anthropologists and social scientists tend to study people and human behavior among exotic tribes and cultures living in far off places rather than do field work among white-collared literate adults in modern cities. Advances in communication and technology and socio-political changes started transforming the modern workplace yet there were no guidelines based on research to help people interact with other people from other cultures. To address this gap arose the discipline of cross-cultural analysis or cross-cultural communication. The main theories of cross-cultural communication draw from the fields of anthropology, sociology, communication and psychology and are based on value differences among cultures. Edward T. Hall, Geert Hofstede, Fons Trompenaars, Shalom Schwartz and Clifford Geertz are some of the major contributors in this field.

[The popular 'Iceberg model' of culture developed by Selfridge and Sokolik, 1975 and W.L. French and C.H. Bell in 1979, identifies a visible area consisting of behaviour or clothing or symbols and artifacts of some form and a level of values or an invisible level.]

What is culture ?

 A simpler definition is ‘the unwritten rules of the social game’.

Generally culture can be seen as consisting of three elements:

  • Values – Values are ideas that tell what in life is considered important.
  • Norms – Norms consists of expectations of how people should behave in different situations.
  • Artefacts – Things or material culture – reflects the culture’s values and norms but are tangible and manufactured by man.

Most of people working with cross-cultural communication and intercultural training and coaching  have heard about the Five  Hofstede’s Intercultural Dimensions (http://www.geert-hofstede.com/).

Geert Hofstede defines culture as “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another”. The “category” can refer to nations, regions within or across nations, ethnicities, religions, occupations, organizations, or the genders.

What Are The Five Hofstede’s Intercultural Dimensions ?

  1. Power Distance : Measures inequality
  2. Individualism: is the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups
  3. Uncertainty Avoidance : indicates to what extent people  feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations.
  4. Masculinity/Feminity: Masculinity versus femininity, refers to the distribution of emotional roles between the genders
  5. Long-Term Orientation: Long term oriented societies foster pragmatic virtues oriented towards future rewards, in particular saving, persistence, and adapting to changing circumstances. Short-term oriented societies foster virtues related to the past and present such as national pride, respect for tradition, preservation of “face”,  and fulfilling social obligations.

What about the 5 Cultural Dimensions For the USA? 

If we explore the US culture through the lens of the 5-D Model, we can get a good overview of the deep drivers of American culture relative to other world cultures.

Power distance: The United States score low on this dimension (40)  this translates the focus on equal rights in all aspects of American society and government. Within American organizations superiors are always accessible and managers rely on individual employees and teams for their expertise.  Both managers and employees expect to be consulted and information is shared frequently.  At the same time, communication is informal, direct and participative.

Individualism: The United States, with a score of 91 on this dimension, is a highly individualistic culture.Individual freedom  is the most basic value that all Americans share. Individuals have control over their own destiny and they want to have free choices on every topics. Personal success is priority number one. Americans are expected to take initiative regarding education, employment, personal development or well-being. As a consequence, Americans are assertive and straightforward while interacting with others and sometimes labelled as arrogant by other cultures who value group interests over individual success. In the business world, employees are expected to be self-reliant and display initiative.  Also, within the exchange-based world of work, hiring and promotion decisions are based on merit or evidence of what one has done or can do.

Masculinity/Feminity: The United States score 62 on this dimension and is considered a “masculine” society driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the “winner” or “best-in-the-field.” This value system starts in school and continues throughout one’s life – both in work and leisure pursuits.
There are strong shared values that people should “strive to be the best they can be” and that “the winner takes all”. As a result, Americans will tend to display and talk freely about their “successes” and achievements in life, here again, another basis for hiring and promotion decisions in the workplace. Typically, Americans “live to work” so that they can earn monetary rewards and obtain higher status based on how good one can be.  Conflicts are resolved at the individual level and the goal is to win.

Uncertainty avoidance: The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? The US scores 46 on this dimension and therefore, American society is what one would describe as “uncertainty accepting.” Consequently, there is a larger degree of acceptance for new ideas, innovative products and a willingness to try something new or different, whether it pertains to technology, business practices, or foodstuffs.  Americans tend to be more tolerant of ideas or opinions from anyone and allow the freedom of expression.  At the same time, Americans do not require a lot of rules and are less emotionally expressive than higher-scoring cultures.

Long-term orientation: The United States scores 29 on this dimension and is a short-term oriented culture.  American businesses measure their performance on a short-term basis, with profit and loss statements being issued on a quarterly basis.  This also drives individuals to strive for quick results within the work place.  There is also a need to have the “absolute truth” in all matters.

How France Compares with the US ?

Power distance: In France, hierarchy is needed the superiors may have privileges and are often inaccessible. The power is highly centralized in France. In management, the attitude towards managers is more formal, the information flow is hierarchical. The way information is controlled is even associated with power, therefore unequally distributed.  

Individualism: France scores high on the individualistic index but lower than the U.S.  This means that the French favor individual and private opinions, taking care of themselves and immediate family rather than belonging to a group. In the work environment, the relationship with work is contract based, the focus is on the task and autonomy is favored. The communication is direct  but much less than in the U.S.

Masculinity/Feminity With 43, France is a relatively Feminine country and so very different from the U.S.With its famous welfare system (securité sociale), their 35 working hours/week and 5 weeks holidays per year, France cares for its quality of life and focuses more on work in order to live than the reverse. Competition amongst work colleagues is usually not favored. Material signs of success, especially flashy ones, should not be too visible.

Uncertainty Avoidance: France has one the highest scores on the Uncertainty Avoidance Index. Certainty is reached through academic work and concepts. Teachings and trainings are more inductive. In management structure, rules and security are welcome and if lacking, it creates stress. Therefore planning is favored, some level of expertise welcome, when change policies on the other hand are considered stressful.

Long-term orientation: At 39 France is a short-term oriented society. This means a great respect for tradition as well as a need for norms and absolute truth as guidelines. In terms of business this short-term orientation focuses on quick results. Consumption is driven by immediate gratification, sensitivity to social trends and rituals.

Managing and organizational culture

Managing international business means handling both national and organization culture differences at the same time. Common organization cultures across borders are what holds multinationals together.The cultural differences between nations are especially found on the deepest level; i.e. on the level of values. In comparison, cultural differences among organisations are especially identified on the level of practices. Practices are more tangible than values. Organisational Culture can be defined as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one organisation from others”

Read more about building third culture teams: http://zestnzen.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/how-to-lead-highly-effective-third-culture-teams/

Aims of cross-cultural analysis

Cross-cultural communication or inter cultural communication looks at how people from different cultural backgrounds try to communicate. It also tries to produce some guidelines, which help people from different cultures to better communicate with each other. Culture has an interpretative function for the members of a group, which share that particular culture. Although all members of a group or society might share their culture, expressions of culture-resultant behavior are modified by the individuals’ personality, upbringing and life-experience to a considerable degree. Cross-cultural analysis aims at harnessing this utilitarian function of culture as a tool for increasing human adaptation and improving communication.

Cross-cultural management is seen as a discipline of international management focusing on cultural encounters, which aims to discover tools to handle cultural differences seen as sources of conflict or miss-communication.

Beside Geert’s model, Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997) model expands the core level of the very basic two-layered model, rather than the outer level. In their view, culture is made up of basic assumptions at the core level. These ‘basic assumptions’ are somewhat similar to ‘values’ in the Hofstede model. Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner use seven dimensions for their model of culture:

    • Universalism vs Particularism (what is more important – rules or relationships?)
    • Individualism vs Communitarianism (do we function in a group or as an individual?)
    • Neutral vs Emotional (do we display our emotions or keep them in check?)
    • Specific vs Diffuse (how far do we get involved?)
    • Achievement vs Ascription (do we have to prove ourselves to gain status or is it given to us just because we are a part of a structure?)
    • Attitude to Time
      • Past- / present- / future-orientatedness
      • Sequential time vs Synchronic time(do we do things one at a time or several things at once?)
    • Internal vs External Orientation (do we aim to control our environment or cooperate with it?)

Criticism of current models

One of the weaknesses of cross-cultural analysis has been the inability to transcend the tendency to equalize culture with the concept of the nation state. A nation state is a political unit consisting of an autonomous state inhabited predominantly by a people sharing a common culture, history, and language or languages. In real life, cultures do not have strict physical boundaries and borders like nation states. Its expression and even core beliefs can assume many permutations and combinations as we move across distances.

There is some criticism in the field that this approach is out of phase with global business today, with transnational companies facing the challenges of the management of global knowledge networks and multicultural project teams, interacting and collaborating across boundaries using new communication technologies.

Some writers like Nigel Holden (2001) suggest an alternative approach, which acknowledges the growing complexity of inter- and intra-organizational connections and identities, and offers theoretical concepts to think about org

Invent Your Future Job: Be Unique, Be Social, Be Global


The fast-paced changes of our societies have affected all industries and is changing the nature of work for the next 10 to 15 years. There are three major challenges for the workforce of the future increasing pressures on organizations to become innovation centered, highly productive and a magnet for global talent :

1-Shifting demographic patterns: Over the next 10 years, the world population is expected to rise from the current 6.83 billion to approximately 7.7 billion, with most of the growth in emerging markets generating  high economic growth. We already see an aging and declining population in developed countries with slow economic growth.  U.S. and European businesses are dealing with the challenges of a multi-generational workforce with three distinct generations Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. Employers will need to develop highly individualized solutions to accommodate the career needs of each generation. We will not see long careers of 10 or more years in one company but maybe 6 years with either functional or geographic changes every 2 years. The youngest  generation  will probably have 15 to 20 jobs during their career and multiple jobs at the same time because that is what they want to do.

2-Rapid technology changes: From nanotechnologies to neuroscience discoveries, many new technologies will be developed and globalization will continue to drive the utilization of advanced mobile technologies reshaping the workforce with increased telecommuting,  virtual  teams and overall more work flexibility.

3-Economic globalization  In our information overloaded global work environment, knowledge is not a competitive advantage anymore as it goes out of date extremely fast and anybody on earth with an internet connection has access to it in real-time. The critical skills to be successful in the new working environment are vision and  foresight.to anticipate or respond to change very quickly, make wise decisions and take action now to create a better future.

More than a year ago,  I had the chance to listen to Seth Godin “live” in a promotional event in Antwerp about the launch of his book “Linchpin”. I collected about 10 very interesting new ideas from his speech that I posted on a blog : “TOP 10 Seth Godin’s Quotes Made in Antwerp, Belgium. April 1, 2010”

Seth Godin is the bestselling author of more than seven books. He writes about marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect. His idea about our current economy is that the current recession is a “forever recession” because it’s the end of the industrial age, which also means The end of the average worker (Read more : article )

Nobody will ever be the only one on the market AND people have an infinite ways to access information. Humans evolved from Hunters, Farmers, Workers and now they have to be Artists-Seth Godin

HOW DO YOU BECOME UNIQUE  ?

1-You don’t need to become somebody you are not. Your uniqueness has to be authentic, you need to know who you really are, what is your dominant character, talent, personality, skills, strengths, what motivates you, what’s your passions in life ? How is your  business acumen and leadership style ? Can you summarize all those information in a compelling story for potential employers or clients?

2-You need to remove blocks that prevent you to excel at being truly you: fears, unmet needs, negative self-talk, lack of training and anything that is holding you back.

3-You need a vision, a purpose and a road map: No matter how old you are, how life has treated you in the past, how much money you have or how many debts, you need to give permission to yourself to have dreams, explore your possibilities and identify your options. We all have choices but we need to use our imagination to see them. You need to let your right brain expresses emotional intelligence and free the artist in you. Once you know where you want to be, then put your strategic thinking at work to identify your goals strategy and action plan to get you there.

BE SOCIAL, BE GLOBAL !

You can’t stop globalization even if you close borders and build walls made with bricks and mortars ! The internet, and social media make the world smaller and smaller everyday. Maybe your company is based in the U.S. but  vendors might be in India, and customers in more than 40 countries. That’s why multinational companies need employees able to think globally but communicate locally with cultural sensitivity. I like to use the term “glocalization” to instill the idea that global products and services need to be designed in the early stages of research and development with cultural sensitivity too.

You cannot claim to be a global leader if you have visited many countries as a tourist. It is like learning swimming in a book, you need to get into the water and get wet .

If you are still in college, learn key languages maybe Mandarin, Spanish, Brazilian or Russian will be a good choice in today’s economy. Find an internship or a job abroad for minimum one year.

If you are already a manager employed in a multinational companies, become the first on the list to be picked-up for an international assignment by participating in global projects and working with multicultural teams.

Learning a new language should not depends on age, you don’t need to be fluent but it is important to understand how a language is structured to get some clues about cultural values and unspoken social rules or business etiquette. You can learn about the fundamental cultural dimensions from colleagues or local intercultural clubs and of course online through many specific forums and social media.

Continued learning in a large variety of topics every day will become mandatory.

Where do you see careers heading in 2012 and beyond ?

 Have you invented your future yet ?

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The Grass On The Other Side Is Always Greener !


greener side

When you see how it can make things better, you get more interested in making the change happen.

(Spencer Johnson-Who Moved My Cheese?)

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Five months ago we moved from Belgium to the U.S. because we decided to live in a place where we think  we will have more chances to be happy than in Europe where my husband and I were born. We do think the grass is definitively greener from this side of the Atlantic.  We think the education system in France is too rigid and focus on the negatives while we see the American culture more incline to do  praising and positive reinforcement at school or at work which make people more positive in life than focusing on the negative. In America people have an entrepreneurial spirit and we think just because the country is still the number one economy in the world that statistically  there are more opportunities here on several aspects of our life.

Some psychologists may perceive this attitude as not being able to be happy with what you have and  immature or even unhealthy,  but I challenge that idea because this thinking has also the power to make your life more extra-ordinary. This way of thinking is a strong motivator to change and it is a survival mode too when things turn bad. It is important to make choices without comparing what you have with what other people have in a negative way like being envious or jealous. You need to have an explorer mind to discover new ways of thinking or people who enrich your life.

I am an expatriate by choice because I do find more positive than negative to live abroad even after 12 moves, back and forth across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. In a previous post, I explain that people who are overcoming obstacles in unknown environments like expatriates in new cultures develop more resilience .(See:  Are Expats More Resilient ? )

For sure you can make you own grass greener if you don’t take is for granted and continue to take care of it, putting water removing weeds. However, you won’t be able to bring the world diversity in your backyard easily. It is also hard to predict changes and adversity  like new bugs or weeds that will destroy your grass or the one on the other side of the fence,  but adapting to changes is about moving on and looking where the grass is greener.

Interestingly I hear very often  the same things from Americans thinking France and Western European countries are better in term of education, healthcare, employment and quality of life in general as opposed to what they think about their own country.

We all agree that our perception is our reality and thinking that you can start a new life in a new place and that sky has no limit, foster a great positive mindset and makes you do things other people think there are impossible.

Life IS change ! What do you think ?

Do you have a pioneer mind ?

Here a short movie about Spencer Johnson’s book  “Who Moved My Cheese”

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