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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Another outcome of “big is better” that can cause cross-cultural differences

Earlier this week I blogged about the “big is better” mindset that tends to pervade businesses in the United States and Canada, and which can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunications between cultures. This same “big is better” mindset also leads to another cross-cultural difference – the perception that compared to other world cultures, there is less of an active process in our part of the world to conserve and recycle. Before my environmentally conscious readers jump all over me, think about this very common example – the use of small kitchen appliances such as toasters, microwaves and hand blenders.

ToasterIn the vast majority of countries, when such appliances break, they are repaired, in some cases, over and over again. However, in the U.S. and Canada it’s far cheaper to buy new ones than to try and fix the old ones. One reason is simply that people have more disposable income in this part of the world. But the second relates to our geographical size. In Canada and the U.S. there is, relatively speaking, an abundance of natural resources and thus a general perception that there’s plenty to go around. Ergo, there is no need to repair, just buy a new one.

But this is very puzzling to new entrants to Canada and the United States. Continue reading

The “big is better” mindset can lead to cross-cultural differences

OpenHighwayAbout a month ago I wrote a couple of blog posts about how cross-cultural differences in the workplace can create communication difficulties. My comments back then were about variations in workplace formality and contradictory attitudes about competition. Given that there was a flurry of interest in this subject, I thought that this week I’d raise the topic again by covering two aspects of another factor that can also cause cross-cultural miscommunication. I call this the “big is better” mindset. It is particularly applicable in Canada and the United States, where our large land mass sets us apart from most other countries in the world. One thing that first-time visitors from countries in Europe and Asia often notice right away about Canada and the U.S. is the general belief that “big is better”. Lots of space, long open highways, big cars, huge box stores, large parking lots, giant companies. One colleague visiting from France commented to me recently – “My hotel room is three times the size of the ones that I see in cities in Europe. Even the food portion sizes at restaurants are larger than I have seen anywhere else!” Continue reading

An archaic practice that destroys trust in the workplace

A yellow folder with the label PoliciesIn May last year, I wrote a couple of blog posts about trust in the workplace – Is it earned or lost? and How can you build it? Today’s blog post is about how you can lose trust … quickly! I refer to what I believe may be a fairly common workplace practice, particularly in large organizations, of requiring that employees provide a death certificate or a funeral notice in order to take a few days of (paid) bereavement leave.

I recently received an upset phone call from a long-time reader whose mother passed away in a city on the other side of the country. Not surprisingly, he found himself in a situation where he needed to take several days of leave to attend to funeral and other details. He was offended and quite frankly, hurt, that his long-term employer required him to submit a death certificate or funeral home notice in order for him to take a few days off. Continue reading

Celebrate your administrative professionals this week!

Celebration2Today kicks off Administrative Professionals Week, a week when leaders in offices around the world thank and celebrate those who keep the engines of organizations running efficiently and effectively. Whether you do it as an individual or corporate activity, or at a social gathering, or at a community event, deliberately and thoughtfully make it a point to applaud your administrative professionals sometime (or several times) in the next five days. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be doing it all year (whenever the opportunity arises to offer positive feedback or praise), but this week is a reminder to do something that often, in the rush of day-to-day responsibilities, slips past many leaders. Ironically, it isn’t until the secretary, administrative assistant or receptionist is absent that most leaders realize exactly how important they are to the successful operation of an enterprise. So don’t wait, do it now.

And how exactly should you celebrate and thank your administrative professionals? Continue reading

When you shift your perspective, you acknowledge other viewpoints (which is a good thing)

A couple of weeks ago, this interesting photo popped up on my news feed with the intriguing question – Is this cat walking up or down the stairs? Before I give you the definitive answer at the end of this post, why don’t you hazard a guess?

CatStairs[Source: http://imgur.com/gallery/I56Uepu]

Whatever your answer, right or wrong, know that people answer roughly 50-50 in both camps – half say up and half say down. The difference of course has to do with your perspective, and when you shift your perspective, the answer changes. In fact, I blogged about just this topic a few weeks ago in When you shift your perspective, you can change your reality in which I recounted the parable of six blind men and an elephant. Continue reading

Leadership lessons from a penguin

In the past, I’ve been inspired to blog about Leadership lessons from a mountain and Leadership lessons from a sea turtle, and many of you were motivated enough to add to these lists. Today (stirred by a recent weekend visit to the Calgary Zoo), I thought I’d begin a list of what leadership lessons a penguin can offer.

PenguinsThe penguin is a bird that does not fly. With feathers and a beak, it looks like a bird. And in most behavioural aspects, it acts like a bird. Except of course in this one very significant characteristic … that it cannot fly. But what the penguin lacks in flight power it makes up in aquatic grace. In the study of bird evolution, paleontologists have determined that many eons ago, the ancient predecessor to today’s modern penguin could fly. But over millions of years, penguins’ wings evolved into fins as they adapted to marine life in the Antarctic Ocean. And if you’ve ever watched penguins swim, you know that they perform with as much elegance underwater as their avian relatives do in the sky.

The successful existence of the penguin offers at least two apt metaphors for leaders. Continue reading

Does your employee health and wellness policy include fun at work?

I’ve always said “If it’s fun, people will do it”. In fact, I’ve blogged in the past about a series of experiments sponsored by Volkswagen that proved this very hypothesis of the importance of fun at work:

Today though, I’m excited to have Robert Manolson, my professional colleague who is the creator of Powerful Play Experiences guesting on the blog. Not only does Robert have some practical advice on how to have fun at work, but in true fun playfulness, he also sent us a cool comic! Continue reading

Merge interviewed by Succession Planning magazine

SuccessionPlanningThe cover story in the current issue of Succession Planning magazine is titled “Managing Expectations” and focuses on the very important issue of how to establish and maintain employee confidence when an organization’s ownership changes. The reality is that ownership or management changes in an organization can lead to anxiety and uncertainty among employees says writer Christopher Guly, who interviewed yours truly and two other experts for this article. To find out more about how to manage employee expectations during such a transition, read the article here:

Managing Expectations

[This article originally appeared in the Vol. 5, No. 1, 2015 issue of Succession Planning]

And then come on back to the blog and share your thoughts. Do you agree with the suggestions that I and the other experts have made? What have been your experiences? Do tell.

Contradictory attitudes about competition lead to cross-cultural differences

Competition In BusinessEarlier this week I kicked off a discussion about how cross-cultural differences such as variations in expected levels of formality in the workplace can create communication difficulties. Today I want to offer another example of a cross-cultural difference that can create misunderstandings in the world of work – whether or not competition is a good thing.

In Canada, the United States, and many northern European countries, there is a generally accepted understanding that competition is a good thing. In fact, in Canada and the U.S., business is often referred to as a game, and sport analogies are often used. Continue reading