Highroad’s End of 2011 Reflections and Recommendations
How do you appreciate the millions of little moments that made up our 2011? I think I’ll take the Zen approach and keep it undemanding.
Life on the Highroad this year has given me so many opportunities to learn, sometimes discovering that the solutions to our challenges across cultures are deceptively simple.
Here are 4 discoveries I have made this year that I would like to share:
1. Many of our difficulties, misconceptions, and stresses across cultures could be set right simply by asking questions and listening for the answers. This may not sound profound but it’s true. When I went to Germany this year I discovered that some of the German team members had been working in a virtual environment with Americans for years, yet stereotypes and inaccuracies about the culture abounded. While I was visiting they asked me questions and I answered, clearing up some of the misconceptions in five minutes. I did the same, and by the end of our time together we had created a true sense of team spirit. Ask questions. Don’t be too afraid to offend people. If you ask in the spirit of curiosity and authenticity offense will be minimal, but the reward will be great.
2. Most cross-cultural workplace difficulties and mishaps happen not because of cultural differences alone, but because of the misalignment of expectations. For example, in the U.S. if a problem comes up on a project, the team in charge typically informs the customer or stakeholder right away upon discovery of the issue. Then they proceed to work on a solution. In the IT environment in urban India, the more common response is to do everything in your power to resolve the problem first, then inform the customer or stakeholder. Neither of these approaches is inherently better or worse than the other, but imagine putting them together without knowing the difference. The solution? Have “alignment discussions” where you strategize the possible gaps and how you will handle them. Set norms and agreements around mission critical issues. (For more detail, read this study: http://www.vantagepartners.com/uploadedFiles/Offshoring_Study.pdf)
3. Global leaders can navigate the balance between cultural adaptation and authority by looking within. Leaders of global teams constantly face the challenge of how much to adapt and flex to the different cultures on their team. On the one hand they must take different communication styles, preferences, and work customs into account to create an inclusive environment. After all, inclusion creates value for the organization. On the other hand the leader must know when to enforce a decision, especially one involving safety or quality. This balance or integration can give headaches and I’m not sure you ever “resolve” it. Instead you can first look within and define yourself as a leader. What do you stand for? What are your values? How is your culture influencing you? What is your personal mission? Once that core is defined and strong, you can stretch that envelope to include other cultural styles and ways of doing business. You can be an explorer, captaining a ship and open to possibility, yet firmly knowing when you would leave the treasure behind and protect your crew.
4. Try exploring your universe outside of work, no matter how much you love what you do. This was a big one for me. Highroad is not only a company or a job to me, it is my passion. For the last eight years it has captivated me and still does. I wake up excited to come to work. This year, however, I decided that I could serve my clients best if I explored more facets of myself, learning to be more authentic and creative. I have played guitar for many years off and on, but this past October I took up lessons again and am preparing to put on a performance in my home next year. I cannot express what this has done for my soul and my work. I am having the time of my life playing music; the word “playing” is surely appropriate here. Dust off your hobbies and interests. Take one small step to rediscover them again. Let your mind expand through using its different pieces and parts. Your work will benefit, but it’s okay if it doesn’t!
Recommended End of Year Activity:
At Highroad several colleagues and I do this every year, and then get together to share the results.
- Make a list of all of your accomplishments for 2011. Don’t leave out anything. These can be work-related or personal. They can be tangible or intangible. There are no rules.
- Get together with friends and colleagues and take turns reading your lists.
- On a separate sheet of paper or document online, set your intentions for 2012. Intentions differ from goals; they focus on the things you intend to bring about. For example, “I will work out of the country at least twice” or “I will take one day off per month for family time.”
- Hang the intentions in a visible place and look at them often. Small efforts and attention will help them materialize.
Last but never least we want to thank everyone who has contributed to Highroad’s growth and success this year. We value our clients, vendors, blog readers, and colleagues more than words can say. We look forward to our partnership in 2012. Have a restful holiday season, a happy New Year, and an authentic life!
Vicki Hudson and the Highroad Team