Tag Archives: culture

Leadership’s Biggest Concern: How To Manage Their People

Many leaders had been looking forward to physically reconnecting with their teams for the first time, whom they may have only seen virtually for the last six months. However, the government’s recent announcement means this may now be delayed indefinitely.


It may have been hoped that a return to a form of ‘normality’ will signal an end of their leadership challenges, yet the recent setback means that managing their people is now the biggest concern.

Over the past two months, Tom Graham, a Consultant within Berwick Partners’ Procurement & Supply Chain practice has been speaking with Chief Procurement Officers across the globe, from a range of different sectors to discuss their leadership concerns during this next phase of the crisis. The discussions focused on the complication’s leaders may face as we enter the next stage of the crisis in addition to the part office-based, part-remote way of working at some stage in the future. Together, they discussed the concerns leaders have with re-engaging their teams, how management styles must change and the mental fall-out after a period of isolation, health and economical stress.

A remote/office combination

When I began to write this research piece, the focus had been on the partial return to the office. Yet the UK government’s recent announcement demonstrates how difficult it is for leaders to plan, manage, and motivate their teams.

Over the last six months, the word ‘unprecedented’ has often been used. From the discussions I’ve had it now looks increasingly likely that the long-term effects on leadership will also be unprecedented in scale.

THE IMPORTANCE OF LEADERSHIP

Engagement

As the crisis roles on, the potential for team disengagement intensifies. CPOs are aware of how imperative it is that they are able to quickly re-engage with their teams, recognising that a lack of engagement could have major implications on the success of their future strategies. A recent report from McKinsey, “COVID-19 and the employee experience – How leaders seize the moment”, stated;

Organizational responses are having a tangible impact on employees. Compared with respondents who are dissatisfied with their organizations’ responses, those who say their organizations have responded particularly well are four times more likely to be engaged and six times more likely to report a positive state of well-being”.  

However, many leaders will find themselves in a challenging situation, needing to set a clear path of direction whilst not having all the answers to all their team’s questions.

One CPO explained the challenges they had faced with motivating a team who had experienced mental fatigue; a peer from a national retailer corroborated that their team has also sought answers and long-term reassurances which they cannot give, leading to a negative impact on employee motivation. McKinsey’s report states: “leaders need to help rattled workforces believe in the future”. One procurement leader believes that this should be one of their biggest concerns, as they look to strike the balance between keeping good practices in place, whilst adapting their approach as we enter a period of increased outbreaks. The combination of lockdown fatigue and a physical disconnect from an office and colleagues will, or may have already, accelerated disengagement. Leaders need to act swiftly to reconnect, re-engage and motivate a team which may have lost members, enthusiasm and direction.

Culture

Rebuilding employee loyalty, whilst not physically connected is a major concern for nearly all leaders. McKinsey’s report once again raised this point, “It would be a mistake to assume that the camaraderie that has sustained many employees early in the crisis will endure long term. Leaders need to take active steps to ensure continued relationship building, particularly for remote workers.”

Across the board, there are overwhelming concerns centred around how the current or future, mixed office and remote dynamic will impact team culture and long-term engagement with the business. A CPO from a major retail bank discussed the on-going challenges they have faced in preserving team culture when working remotely, a concern which has been reiterated by senior leaders in the pharmaceutical sector (they discussed the concerns around dilution in connection points between their team members). Previously, the office environment may have facilitated this, but the sense of being together as a team, is near impossible to create in this hybrid world. One CPO explained how some staff have voiced that they have felt a loss in ‘connection tissue’ to the organisation, where as another explained their concerns around the ability of a team to challenge leaders remotely, questioning whether this new way of working may result in a lack of diversity of thought.

As we enter the next stage of the crisis, organisations must adapt to building teams and onboarding people in a way that they feel connected to the culture of a business. The concerns around erosion of social capital during onboarding processes were raised by one CPO from a global consumer goods company, with a procurement leader from a global entertainment’s organisation wanting to know when we will see an increase in employee’s mercenary mentality. It is predicted that as staff feel less connection to an organisation, we will see a spike in salaries as organisations battle to attract talent.

Communication

The loss of personal connection will be exacerbated as teams find themselves out the office or in at different times and regularity. Potentially, this may create even greater division within the workforce and in some cases, presenteeism is now more of a premium than ever before, with certain team members feeling that a commitment to the office in a time of crisis, will accelerate development opportunities.

Leaders must quickly learn how to successfully (and fairly) manage a physically divided team. It is imperative that those working remotely are not put at a disadvantage compared to those in the office. Concerns from across sector were around the ‘offline’ or ‘coffee conversations’ that could be missed by those who are working remotely, with 86% of those spoken to being airing concerns. Across the board, there are concerns around ‘accidental exclusion’, with one-to-one calls leading to decisions being made that have not been co-ordinated with the team which can cause certain members of the team to be forgotten about. This was confirmed by one CPO who raised concerns around some staff feeling their views would not be heard.

Yet a formalised method of communicating does not solve all problems, particularly around individual connections to leaders and the business. Whilst virtual coffees and spontaneous conversations have reduced some challenges, they have not replaced office small talk. Leaders from both chemicals and insurance businesses stating that ‘golden rules’ need to be created, with the key point being meetings should either be virtual or physical, but never a mixture.

One CPO felt that more personal desk conversations were often a major motivator for their team. Video conferencing and virtual coffees no longer felt natural and could often feel contrived which again could negatively impact engagement and productivity.

For many, working remotely has highlighted greater inequalities in a team, with the CPO’s we spoke to explaining that younger generations will feel a greater impact on their lives than those more senior in the business. The lack of social benefits and often more challenging, remote working conditions could ultimately lead to a more divided work force.

Rebuilding spirit

Throughout the crisis, we have seen introverts and extroverts handle the crisis very differently. Leaders have needed to home in on their facilitation skills, ensuring that both parties can equally contribute to discussions.

The methods used by leaders to engage their teams are going to be tested like never before, with McKinsey stating that ‘mental and physical fatigue is now people’s default’. How leaders will overcome this will be a major hurdle.

One CPO explained his concerns around how they will overcome this, citing a historical reliance on social engagements with the ‘party pot’ being a default tool to create comradery. Yet there are concerns that this may not be possible in the short term and no longer suffice in the long-term, with leaders having to find new ways to rebuild team relationships without the adequate training or prior experience.

LEADERSHIP STYLES & BEHAVIOURS

Managing performance

Leaders must ensure that their management style is fit and ready for a hybrid way of working. Overwhelmingly it was agreed that leaders must adapt to managing through results and outputs however a CPO from a major retailer explained more focus must be placed on performance management and development, which can easily be missed when working remotely.

How leaders will objectively measure performance, with many of their team working remotely is an area of concern for some. It was commented that different team members living environments, would make it difficult to fairly measure performance in a standardised manner.

Leaders must be authentic and lead from the front. Managing through presenteeism, must be ignored. Concerns were raised from leaders of pharmaceutical and financial services business who believe mid-managers that are not experienced in managing through outputs with too many leaders being inexperienced in effectively managing remote teams.

EQ

The EQ of leaders has been tested throughout the crisis and must continue. Team members will have been impacted differently during the crisis and several CPO’s stated it is essential that their junior managers suspend judgement and develop greater observation skills of potential issues, showing greater empathy.

Managers must develop into leaders and understand how to get the best out of their teams in a period which is still not ‘normal’. A procurement executive from a global insurance organisation stated that leaders must recognise that there is nothing ‘normal’ about what we are going into and must appreciate that for many the next period is a transient phase. Managers now need to understand how to get the best out of individuals, empowering them to make independent decisions. A CPO within the chemicals sector believes that greater training must be provided around having more honest conversations, considering language and cultural nuances when communicating with multi-national teams.

THE WORKPLACE

Purpose in the workplace

Executives from across sector are now reviewing the purpose of the office. As Deloitte discuss in their paper ‘Workforce strategies for post COVID-19 recovery’;

“It is important to remember that transformative change can be difficult and unsettling for many workers. Whilst some may prefer working from home, others may be uncomfortable or unproductive outside the traditional work settings. How leaders accommodate and balance these divergent expectations will help define the future of trust in their organisation.”

There are concerns from across sector as to how being away from the office and your stakeholder community for a sustained period may impact business partnering and the involvement in decision making. Concerns exist as to how social capital can be built upstream when working remotely.

Several leaders explained that certain members of their team have struggled to virtually replace ‘informal coffees’ with their stakeholders.

There are serious concerns that working remotely may have stalled individual’s professional development and stifled creativity. Leaders from both the retail and pharmaceutical sector believe that a lack of sidebar conversations will have a negative impact on innovation.

Maintaining team cohesiveness and connectivity currently – and when 30%-60% of an office may not return – will be extremely problematic. Some believe that we are under the illusion that collaboration has been successful, when the reality is that teams have rallied together during crisis.

A sector wide response has been to look into creating more collaboration areas. Yet the practicality of this has come under question, with the CPO from a leading manufacturing organisation stating that most offices are not currently built to support this, and group size restrictions still apply. With many businesses looking to ‘survive’ during the crisis, it is therefore unlikely that fit out projects or new office space is a realistic priority.

Role requirements

Many employees are likely to seek clarity towards their job responsibilities, particularly if some of their colleagues have been made redundant. An executive from a leading food and beverage organisation stated their concerns in the blurring of roles, with individuals wanting to increase their responsibilities and value to the business.

An executive from a leading hospitality business believes that the crisis may see a broadening of roles and required skill sets longer term. This may have an impact on the external talent organisations look to recruit, or the training and development programmes put in place internally.

Mental Health

The mental health fall out as a result of the pandemic is the overwhelming concern for leaders from across sector. 96% of those spoken to raised concerns around the mental health issues forthcoming of their team members. During the early stages of the pandemic, the World Health organisation issued a statement that noted “elevated rates of stress or anxiety” caused from lockdown. Leaders unanimously felt unprepared and untrained to suitably tackle the topic as we return to the workplace.

Immediate

A CPO from a leading retail bank stated their concerns on how their teams would adapt to life when they get back in the office, raising concerns around their team’s loss of perception of self, and acknowledged that spotting signs of mental health concerns may have been challenging remotely, yet much more apparent in person.

A recent study suggested that extroverts are more likely to struggle when adapting to life back in the office. It was claimed that the common question of ‘what have you been up to?’ could prompt anxiety, with extroverted team members feeling that they have failed to adequately answer the question with ‘nothing’. An executive from a chemicals business agreed that this is a major concern.

A recent study conducted by the University of Manchester and University of London, called ‘Lancet Psychiatry’, described the mental health inequalities caused by lockdown, “with people living with young children showing greater increases in mental distress than people from child-free homes”. It continues:

The greatest increase in mental distress was seen in young people aged 18 to 24 and those aged 25 to 34”. It goes on to find, “new inequalities in mental distress have emerged, with those living with young children and those in employment at the start of the pandemic being at risk of larger increases in mental distress”. It concludes, “Our findings suggest that being young, a woman, and living with children, especially preschool age children, have had a particularly strong influence on the extent to which mental distress increased under the conditions of the pandemic.” 

Ongoing

The mental health fall-out will be an ongoing issue. A CPO we spoke to explained, “‘humans like a beginning, middle and end and we are in the middle with no end in sight”. This is something leaders must monitor closely with time. The Lancet Psychiatry states;

“As the economic fallout from the pandemic progresses, when furloughs turn into redundancies and mortgage holidays time out, the researchers say mental health inequalities will likely widen and deepen and must be monitored closely so that steps can be taken to mitigate against a rise in mental illness”.

This is a concern for many leaders who recognise that further job cuts and a recession, will have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of their teams.

A CPO from a leading insurer, stated that it is imperative that team members feel that they have more to offer than just ‘the day job’. Leaders must have the confidence to ask difficult questions, showing authenticity and concern. McKinsey’s recent report, titled ‘Communications get personal: How leaders can engage employees during a return to work’ they state;

“It provides a historic opportunity to overcome the stigma of mental and emotional health as taboo topics for workplace discussion, especially the feelings of isolation and shame that are attached to job losses and other employment casualties.”

Leaders must learn how to manage their own mental health and wellbeing. Nearly all spoken to agreed that measures needed to be put in place to mentally support the leaders too.

Conclusion

As we enter the next phase of the crisis, leaders are going to be tested in ways they have never been tested before. For organisations and functions to emerge from the crisis strongly, it is imperative that leaders find solutions to the multiple problems they may face. Engagement, management styles and mental health are all going to be on-going issues. Organisations must build new strategies, whilst rebuilding team culture and togetherness. Whilst we may be coming towards the end of one crisis, without the right stewardship, businesses may be hurtling into another.

Tom Graham specialises in recruiting senior Procurement and Supply Chain leadership roles across all sectors. This article was originally published on LinkedIn an has been republished here with kind permission.

Providing Feedback Across Cultures

Providing feedback can be tricky at the best of times. However, throw in cross-cultural considerations and you’re talking a completely different game.

cultural feedback
Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

As we continue our Cultural Intelligence series, I thought it would be useful to discuss some of the different ways of providing performance feedback that is culturally aligned.

For a start, giving feedback, both positive and constructive is an important aspect of professional development. Most managers appreciate that it is a necessary requirement of their roles although in my experience, many find it difficult and uncomfortable to do it well. It becomes even more tenuous when doing so across cultures.

A client who is a senior leader, recently related an incident where giving performance feedback across cultures backfired. The client, who was in Japan, but not Japanese, was giving feedback to one of his direct reports there. The purpose of the conversation was to improve the performance of the person and their team.

However, the outcome of the feedback session was that the employee felt inferior and inadequate in their role and offered to resign. This was definitely not the intention of the senior leader. As a result, he then had to invest significant time to re-engage the employee, boost confidence and reconsider his delivery style.  

Paved with Good Intention

This is an example of how a good intention can be derailed through a lack of cultural understanding. When working across cultures, it can be useful to have a repertoire of different approaches to feedback so that the intended intentions are achieved.

I want to acknowledge one of my early mentors, Dr Asma Abdullah, who introduced me to these different models of feedback. They are somewhat tongue in-cheek but do provide some alternative ways of thinking about how to give feedback. They are:

The Hamburger

This is a long established, traditional style that most multi-nationals use. It’s where you start with a positive comment (the bun) followed by the negative (the meat) and then conclude with a positive comment (the other part of the bun). So, it’s a (+-+) framework.

This effectively buffers the negative comments with positives ones. Cultures in which this approach would be appropriate are the USA, Australia, UK and Canada.

The Open Sandwich

This style is somewhat more direct, providing constructive comments (the meat) followed by some positive ones (the bread). So, it’s more of a (-+) framework. Cultures where this style is best utilised are the European countries – France, Spain, Italy, Germany -and Nordic countries.

The Meat Only

This is a more direct approach than the open sandwich style, where only the constructive comments are given. There is no buffering and hence it’s a (-) framework. This style would only work in cultures where very direct communication is valued and appreciated such as in The Netherlands, South Africa, Finland and Israel.

The Vegetarian

This style is a rather gentle and indirect way to give feedback. Instead of being direct with the constructive comments (meat), it is hinted at  or subtly made through the use of a story, analogy, metaphor, suggestion or an example of what is expected.  It’s more of a (++) framework.

This approach would be best used in high context cultures such as India, Pakistan, China, Korea, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Consider Your Feedback Repertoire

Giving feedback in a way that achieves an objective and brings about positive shifts and encouragement is greatly assisted when it is done in adherence to the cultural context of the situation. Take some time to assess and consider which style or styles you use. How effective are they in your own cultural context? Would they also be effective in a different cultural setting?

What other styles do you think you may need to add to your own repertoire? Why don’t you try the different models and see what feedback you get!

Bridging the Cultural Gap – A Case in Point

Having an understanding of Cultural Intelligence in one thing. Knowing where and when to apply it is a different thing altogether.

Photo by Wojtek Witkowski on Unsplash

Over the last few months we have discussed the idea of what Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is, the 4 key components that comprise CQ and how they are can be utilised in the workplace to assist us to work more effectively across distance, culture and time.

From here I will describe some case studies so that you are better able to grasp some of the issues that can arise when working across culture. Then I will explore ways to reduce tension and miscommunication.

Recognising the Cultural Differences

Recently I was with an Australian organisation that has a global presence. As their business grows and matures in the international market, it is becoming increasingly important for them to adopt a more culturally agile approach. During the discussion an incident was raised that did not have the desired impact.

Due to the growing awareness around mental health and the increasing rate of suicide in Australia, a dedicated day called “R U Ok Day” is held on September 12 every year to focus on mental health. The idea of having this day is to encourage people to ask others how they are feeling, if there are issues to share, so that they feel supported and not isolated.

It is recognised in Australia as an important step towards reducing suicide and developing a strong and supportive network for those that may be struggling with mental health.

This organisation extended the recognition of the “R U OK Day” event to it’s international offices, thinking it would be a powerful, well received and progressive gesture.

Despite the good intentions held by the organisation in promoting these values of openness and support, the organisation received a lot of resistance particularly from offices in the Asian countries. The pushback from the Asian offices occurred because, while the organisation acted with the best intentions they did not foresee the impact of those intentions.  

The organisation failed to take into consideration how this kind of discussion might be received in different cultures. In many Asian cultures, discussing mental health or experiencing mental health issues is very taboo.

Admitting you have problems is a source of shame in these cultures so understandably this initiative caused unease and tensions for the offices. The offices felt that this had been forced upon them and it was anything but well received.

Avoiding Cultural Tension

How then can we avoid a situation like this in our own workplaces?

Some points for consideration are:

  • Be Conscious:

Be aware of our own biases – this means being mindful that the way in which you view a behaviour, practice or topic may not be the same as some one from a different culture. Culture is effectively the lens through which you view the world, so it is important that whenever you are working across culture you consider how your actions, attitudes and behaviours will be received.

At the same time, how do you attempt to understand the “other” point of view?

  • Ask Questions:

When introducing new initiatives, it is imperative to ask questions and receive feedback so you are able to gauge the response before putting things into place. Listening to the perspective of those in a different culture will broaden your perspective especially with new initiatives.

  • Be Adaptive:

If an initiative is introduced and not so well received in a different cultural context, then it becomes necessary to consider how to adapt, adopt or modify this so that it can be more easily accepted by the cultural group involved.

These types of situations require the utilisation of all of the components of Cultural Intelligence that we have previously discussed – Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action. By incorporating these elements into our cross cultural interactions we are in a better position to maintain and strengthen our relationships, which will lead to better outcomes.

Procurement Across Borders – Looking Into The Cultural Mirror

A useful tool for developing cultural intelligence is the Cultural Mirror, which plots culture across nine dimensions…

By tankist276 / Shutterstock

As part of our ongoing article series on Cultural intelligence (CQ) we are discussing each of the four individual components of CQ and how they can be applied to effectively work across cultures. In earlier articles we discussed what Cultural Intelligence is and CQ Drive, which is the motivation that individuals have in approaching and interacting with different cultures. Now we move onto the next component which is CQ Knowledge.

CQ Knowledge refers to your own personal knowledge and understanding of other cultures. Differences and similarities between cultures can be assessed in terms of core values, beliefs, norms and behaviour.

A useful tool for developing CQ Knowledge is the Cultural Mirror, which plots a culture on nine dimensions. These dimensions are based on the work of anthropologist Geert Hofstede, Fons Trompenaars and Asma Abdullah that I amalgamated. The Nine Dimensions of Culture provides us with a continuum of values and by exploring each of these and where a culture sits on the continuum, we are able to gain insight into the culture itself and how it operates. It is critical to firstly appreciate where you sit on the cultural mirror yourself.

Here is the Cultural mirror and the Nine dimensions:

We will look at the first three dimensions in this article and understand what they are, how they are applicable and provide some tips on how to navigate these cultural differences.

Dimension One: Relationships – Task

In some cultures around the world the focus in the early stages of interactions is on building the relationship. In these cultures, getting to know the people and establishing trust is much more important than simply achieving the task. Examples of countries on the relationship end of the continuum are Saudi Arabia and Brazil. In other cultures the initial priority is on getting the task done. This is not to say that the relationship is not important, however the focus is primarily on getting the task done before building the relationship. Examples of countries that are on this end of the continuum would be Australia, Germany and Finland. In both situations, the outcome is to get the task done but the approaches are different.

Tips for those coming from a relationship oriented culture working with a task oriented culture:

  • Be focused and clear on outcomes
  • Give clear instructions about the task

Tips for those coming from a task oriented culture working with a relationship oriented culture:

  • Spend time initially building the relationship
  • Invest in small talk to make people feel more comfortable

Dimension Two: Harmony – Control

This is the view of how humans deal with the environment, nature and with people around us. People from harmony based cultures believe we need to live in harmony with nature and have an external locus of control. They believe in concepts such as yin and yang, fate, destiny and karma. Countries which are more on the harmony end of the continuum include Pakistan and China. Conversely, people from control based cultures believe that you are the master of your own destiny. You are in control of your life and you need to control the environment. Countries more towardes the control  continuum  are the USA and Switzerland.

Tips for those coming from a Harmony based culture working with a Control Culture:

  • Be aware that rigorous debate maybe encouraged
  • Be conscious of delivering on timelines

Tips for those coming from a Control based culture working with a Harmony Culture:

  • Be mindful that open conflict is likely to be avoided
  • Learn how to disagree in a polite manner

Dimension Three: Shame – Guilt

 In shame orientated cultures, avoiding a ‘loss of face’ is important. Thus, what others think of you and how they judge you is a strong motivator. Examples of countries which are more on the shame end of the continuum are India and Japan. Conversely, in guilt based cultures, it is more about up to the individual to judge themselves on their conduct. Guilt based cultures include Italy and Argentina.

Tips for those coming from a shame based culture working with those from a Guilt Culture:

  • Allow time for experimentation and brainstorming of ideas
  • Appreciate that candour may be present and encouraged in discussions

Tips for those coming from a Guilt based culture working with a Shame Culture:

  • Encourage participation through group based tasks to remove attention from individuals which may cause “loss of face”.
  • Do not expect public or rigorous debate

For the three dimensions we have discussed, please consider where your cultural preferences are and how that influences your interactions with others from different cultures?

Procurement Across Borders – Understanding CQ

In the first of a series of articles, Tom Verghese introduces Cultural Intelligence (CQ), what it means and why it is so important in business today.

By StepanPopov / Shutterstock

Last year, one of my clients returned from a holiday to India. She expressed to me her dismay at the different entrance prices at various monuments and tourist site sites that she had visited. She believed that the different pricing structures for locals and tourists was unfair. and that there should be one price for all entrants, regardless of their status.

I reminded her that she was a visitor and that what she considered to be fair pricing was reflective of what she was familiar with. For example, in countries like the US and UK the pricing structure tends to objective, and having one price for all is considered to be fair and equitable. However, in many parts of the world pricing is subjective with many variables influencing price such as how well I know you, the relationship we have, the company that you represent, the links and connections that you have, and even what time of day it is.

This example serves to demonstrate how ‘culture’ can play a part in even the simplest everyday situations at both a personal and professional level. In this story, the conflict of one set of cultural norms over another highlights how cultural differences can create conflict and misunderstandings.

Let’s take a look at some of the defining features of culture so as to better understand how we interact with culture. Culture is the lens through which we view the world.

  • Culture is subjective. That means we use our own culture as a reference point. The practices in our culture are what we use as norms and we use these to compare other cultures
  • Culture is deep. Culture is mostly transmitted through stories, which provide a history of that culture. When we look at tensions or animosity and hatred that passes from one generation to another, it’s because those stories are passed on and perpetuate a view that may no longer be accurate
  • Culture is biased. This means that each one of us interprets and makes judgements by the standards inherent to our own culture
  • Culture is tacit. That is we never really consider or think about our culture until we are outside of it. Culture is important because it essentially impacts the way we think and behave and impacts our worldview.

Most people believe that they have some degree of cultural awareness. This may mean they can identify the languages, foods or traditional dress of certain countries, or other defining characteristics.

However, in our increasingly interconnected and globalised world, as organisations are being required to source talent and conduct business across multiple countries with people from a diverse range of backgrounds, a broader understanding of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is necessary. Having an understanding of what CQ is and how to practically apply it can make it easier to navigate different cultures. For specialists in procurement, the ability to use CQ is particularly relevant. One of the biggest challenges when working across cultures is that we have expectations that people are similar to us and operate according to the same rules. This is a grave error.

What is CQ?

CQ is the capability to work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It goes beyond existing notions of cultural sensitivity and awareness to highlight a theoretically-based set of capabilities needed to successfully and respectfully accomplish your objectives in culturally diverse settings either locally or globally.

CQ can be broken into four components. These components can be both inherent and developed. These four components are:

  1. CQ Drive – The interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. It consists of intrinsic (i.e. meaningful work) and extrinsic interests (i.e. financial rewards) and the drive to learn and understand cultures, their norms and behaviours
  2. CQ Knowledge – Understanding cultural similarities and differences. This includes knowledge of the values, norms and practices in different cultural settings
  3. CQ Strategy – Awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions. It incorporates how we apply our CQ Knowledge insights
  4. CQ Action – The ability to appropriately adapt verbal and non-verbal communication in cross cultural situations, including how well we can adapt when things don’t go according to plan

Over the next 12 months we will be discussing each of these components, what they are and the ways in which you can further develop your own CQ and make improvements on your performance when interacting in cross cultural situations to obtain better outcomes.

Arianna Huffington: No More Brilliant Jerks In the Workplace

#ISM2018 keynote Arianna Huffington is on a mission to end the collective delusion that burnout is the price we pay for success.

In 2007, Arianna Huffington collapsed in her office. “I hit my head on my desk, broke my cheekbone, and came to in a pool of blood. I asked myself the question: is this what success looks like?”

By any of the usual metrics, Huffington is an undeniably successful businesswoman and a role model for many. The Greek-American author and syndicated columnist has written 15 books and is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, later acquired by AOL for US$315 million. She is a regular inclusion in lists such as Forbes’ Most Influential Women in Media, The Guardian’s Top 100 in Media, and Forbes’ Most Powerful Women in the World.

But, as Huffington tells the audience at #ISM2018, having money and power as your only metrics of success is like trying to sit on a two-legged stool. A third leg is required if you’re going to attain balance – and that’s where the concept of “Thrive” comes in.

The size of the prize

We’re currently operating in the midst of a global epidemic of burnout and stress. “What’s sad is that it’s completely unnecessary,” says Huffington. “When we take care of ourselves, we’re more effective in what we’re doing.”

Issues which used to be the province of health magazines are now entering the mainstream. Businesses are increasingly recognising that performance improves when employees take care of themselves. The three pillars of self-care are nutrition, movement and – Huffington’s favourite topic – sleep.

Sleep is the best performance-enhancing drug

Ever heard the phrase “we can sleep when we’re dead”? That kind of attitude, according to Huffington, only brings forward the time when we’ll actually be dead. Sleep affects your well-being, your cognitive performance, and subsequently your company’s bottom line. Not long ago it was common to see business leaders competing in terms of who can operate on the least amount of sleep. U.S. President Donald Trump, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and television personality Martha Stewart all reportedly operate on 4 hours of sleep or less.

Huffington knows that when she’s exhausted, she is “the least good version of herself”. Lack of sleep translates into lower creativity, a lack of empathy, more reactive behaviour, a greater likelihood that she’ll take things personally and miss red flags. Similarly, former President Bill Clinton famously said that every one of his major mistakes was made when he was tired.

Here’s the good news. High-profile CEOs are “coming out” as champions of a good nights’ sleep, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Bezos wrote a piece about why getting eight hours of sleep is a top priority not only for him personally, but for Amazon’s shareholders, as a well-rested CEO is much more likely to make good-quality decisions.

Fix your culture to reduce attrition

“Taking care of your employees is no longer just a ‘nice’ benefit,” says Huffington. “It directly affects the business metrics.” Burnt out employees are highly likely to change jobs, with their companies bearing the brunt of attrition costs. Lower engagement, reduced productivity and higher healthcare costs are the other risks faced by companies that run on burnout.

When we prioritise a healthy culture, says Huffington, we’re much more able to deal with problems as they emerge, and respond to crises quickly. “A thriving culture means that everybody knows you cannot sacrifice empathy and caring on the altar of hyper-growth”, she says.

Huffington uses Uber as an example, where from her position on the Board she has seen first-hand the negative effects of a hyper-growth culture that is fuelled by burnout. “The idea that everything will be forgiven if you’re a top performer is no longer sustainable. I promised Uber that going forward, no more ‘brilliant jerks’ will be allowed in the organisation. The truth is that no matter how brilliant you are, if you’re not there to support colleagues, be empathetic, and be humane, in the long term you’ll have a deleterious impact on the business.”

Why do people become jerks? “When employees are burnt out,” says Huffington, “they act out.”

Thrive

In the age of machine-learning, artificial intelligence and continuous disruption, it’s more important than ever to protect and project our uniquely human qualities – namely, empathy and creativity. Huffington singles out these two qualities as they cannot be replaced by AI. She notes that although we regularly celebrate advances in the field of augmented reality, we need to prioritise and cultivate “augmented humanity”.

Alibaba Founder Jack Ma spoke in Davos recently where he introduced the concept of LQ (Loving Quotient), or how people treat one another. In business this will become increasingly important as maturity develops beyond IQ, through EQ, and finally to LQ.

Put the smartphone down

“The next stage of technological disruption will involve technology that will help you disconnect from technology,” says Huffington. She speaks persuasively about the negative effect devices have on people’s wellbeing, and the importance of taking the phone out of the bedroom to ensure a proper night’s sleep. “Your phone is the repository of every problem that you’re dealing with,” she says. It certainly shouldn’t be the last thing you see before sleeping, or the first thing you see when you wake in the morning.

“Learning to manage relationships with our phones is key, but putting boundaries on technology doesn’t mean we don’t love technology. At present our culture values people who are always on, always texting back,” she says. “Where we put our attention determines our lives.”

Huffington leaves the audience at ISM2018 with the image of the three-legged stool. The third leg – the Thrive leg, is built from a sense of well-being, connectivity with your own wisdom, giving back, and feeling a sense of wonder about life, she says. “So often, we don’t even look up.”


Are you at ISM2018? Visit Procurious in the Exhibitor Hall – Booth #207!

Don’t miss out on Procurious Founder Tania Seary’s inspirational & informative ISM2018 Session titled “From The Amazon to The Moon: The Possibilities for Procurement” on Tuesday 8th May, 3.45-4.45.

Different Country, Same Procurement Culture?

Heading off to begin a new procurement chapter abroad? Make sure you’re preparedto accommodate, and adapt to, a new culture.

Have you ever wondered what courage it would  take to pack your bags and set off across the globe in order to start an entirely new chapter?

Juggling a new home, new job and a new life isn’t a challenge for the faint-hearted but it’s one you’re unlikely to regret and something that ISM board member, Kim Brown, knows all about!

Throughout her impressive procurement career, Kim has enjoyed roles at Reynolds and Reynolds Company, General Electric, Toys R Us and, most recently, at Dell, Inc as Vice President, Global Materials.

Kim’s lengthy career has taken her around the world so it’s unsurprising that she’s honed and developed her cultural intelligence (CQ) over the years. When we interviewed Kim, we were interested to hear about her global experiences, both what she’s learnt and how she’s adapted to different circumstances, and gain some advice on what it takes to hold a position on a board as noteworthy as ISM.

Procurement around the world

“I’ve lived in quite a few places, four or five US states and two countries,” explains Kim. ” I also did a stint as an ex-pat in Mexico city for a year and spent on year in Singapore.”

Was she able to observe distinct differences in working cultures  during her time abroad? “Very much so, particularly at the beginning of my time in Mexico, which has a very, verY different culture. I was working for General Electric at the time and accustomed to the direct and process-driven culture in the US. In Mexico, the conversations with suppliers, local people and colleagues were very family-based. They wanted to know about me, and understand what my family life was like before doing business with me.”

In Singapore, Kim faced the challenge of managing a widely dispersed and culturally diverse team. “I had team members in 26 or 27 different countries, all of which had cultural nuances.”

Pulling together a strategy for a large team is challenging at the best of times but it becomes even more so when you must be cognisant of how different cultures are motivated by different things. “Something that someone in the US would regard as a very small factor might mean a lot to someone in India, for example.

“Singapore itself was a very different culture.  It seemed at times cautious and a little shyer than in some other parts of the world. I’m the kind of person who says hello to a lot of people, and in Singapore they would look at the floor in response! However, once you get to know them and they get to know you I found the community to be friendly and outgoing.”

This, in a way, is the motto of Kim’s story. Working across cultures and borders requires patience, tolerance, compromise and understanding from both sides.

“As long as you go about making a change in the right way, it will work. When I first started in a global role I tried to supplement it with videoconferencing. I quickly found I was questioned “When are you coming, when will we see you?”  And there is no substitute for that. Employees are often very excited by and enthusiastic about a visit from the regional office – I’d arrive in Malaysia, for example, and find that the room was packed with people who wanted to see me, listen and ask lots of questions.”

What a board wants

If anyone knows the answer to the question “what does a board want?” it’s Kim Brown. As well as being treasurer for ISM, she’s held positions on two additional NFP boards, one of which had 70 board members. “When I went on [the board with 70 people], I wanted to be really involved, to be on the executive committee and be a decision maker, not just a voter. These roles are extracurricular but if you’re going to do it, do it!

“At ISM, we have very robust conversations, which is fun! I learn a lot and have the opportunity to interact with a whole bunch of new network contacts. I try to look positively upon any experience where I can learn something new.”

Kim’s top tips for procurement when presenting to the board:

  • Keep your strategy clear and concise and ensure you know how to sell it!
  • You need goals and objectives; lay out the salient points and present them in a way that makes sense
  • Get your act together! When you’re presenting, make sure it’s in an understandable manner.
  • Do your homework and always  look at alternatives and contingencies.
  • Use your  junior team members! I really like it when CEOs do this. It gives your team an opportunity to showcase the work they’re capable of doing, and allows us, as the board, to show your team that we’ve got confidence in them!

Smashing through the bamboo ceiling

You’ve heard of the glass ceiling – the male privilege which has historically prevented women from rising to the top of their organisations. Less well-known, however, is the concept of the “bamboo ceiling”.

It refers to the processes and barriers that serve to exclude Asians or people of Asian descent from executive positions in Western-run organisations. The term was coined by Jane Hyun in her book focusing on Asians in American workplaces, Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians.

We’ve recently witnessed a cultural shift in our most progressive organisations wherein gender equality in the workplace is now firmly on the agenda. There are a host of agencies such as Catalyst and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency that are working to address the imbalance, although there is a long way to go.

The difference between the glass and bamboo ceilings, however, lies in the fact that while a company may admit to historic gender bias and pro-actively work to address the problem, racial bias remains in the shadows. Cultural diversity quotas and programs do exist, but the statistics at the executive level are particularly damning. In the US, for example, Asian-Americans hold only 1% of board seats. Australia shares this problem: a recent report by Diversity Council Australia revealed that while 9.3% of the Australian labour force is Asian-born, only 4.9% make it to the senior executive level. Similarly, only 1.9% of ASX 200 senior executives are Asian born, despite 84% of surveyed Asian talent saying they plan to advance to very senior roles. There’s a huge disconnect here – if you are Asian in Australia, chances are very slim that you will make it to the top, no matter how ambitious you are.

The consequences are alarming. 30% of Asian talent have said they were likely, or very likely, to leave their organisation within the next year. For one in four, negative cultural diversity factors significantly influenced their decision.

Tony Megally, General Manager of specialist procurement recruitment and search firm The Source, says that while Australian organisations are hiring more Asian-born talent than ever before, there are still significant cultural barriers to overcome.

“We’re seeing a trend where talented Asian professionals feel they have to change, or Westernise, their names in order to make sure their resumes aren’t passed over”, Megally says. “This shows that there’s still significant cultural bias in Australian organisations, although no recruiter would be willing to admit they passed over a candidate due to a hard-to-pronounce name.”

Bias holding back Asians in business – even in Asia
Even more alarming is the existence of the bamboo ceiling in Asia itself. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, locals rise only so far at Western firms, with multinationals still relying on ex-pats to fill top jobs decades after expanding into the region. Tellingly, 40% more Westerners are placed in CEO-type roles in the region compared with other roles.

Dr Tom Verghese, author and founder of Cultural Synergies, says there’s a real lack of Asian leaders in the top echelons of business. “I’ve been working on developing Asian leaders in the market for 12 years”, says Verghese, “but multinationals do have some understandable reasons for using expatriates in Asia. All global companies inevitably have their organisational culture rooted to their country of origin. There is something in having a person familiar with your language and culture as that link with head office. A very human tendency that we need to be conscious of is our sense of comfort – or bias – that ‘same is safe, and different is dangerous’. Companies want one of their own ‘guarding the store’, and there can be advantages to having an outsider in the top job because they can make changes that an insider would hesitate to make.”

Bad for business
Having less diversity at the top can be bad for business. Companies need to reign in their use of ex-pats, in part because they are expensive hires, and having white-majority executives means a lack of understanding of consumer needs, trends, purchasing power and brand positioning. In short, organisations are excluding the very people who know Asia best.

Multinational organisations in Asia need to focus on the following ways to shatter the bamboo ceiling:

  • phasing out the reliance on expatriates for top roles
  • actively developing and grooming local talent for leadership positions
  • training local talent to fill perceived capability gaps rather than looking elsewhere
  • seeking out talent that knows the local market and understands cultural hierarchies
  • setting quotas for local representation in executive teams
  • understanding the difference in what a good leader looks like across different cultures.

“Multinationals need to embrace cultural intelligence and develop a much broader context around what global leadership looks like”, says Verghese. “A facilitative leadership style may be effective in Australia, for example, but a directive style works better in Asia”.

The Faculty Asia Roundtable hosts quarterly meetings in Singapore, where CPOs from the region’s leading organisation meet to share learnings and best-practice. Please contact [email protected] for more information.