As we begin to explore and understand how cultural orientations affect our assumptions and perspectives, it is important to understand what a cultural orientation is and how it affects worldviews. Everyone has specific orientations, or ways of perceiving the world around them, primarily derived from our cultural background and the way we were raised.  These orientations, or world-views, combine to determine who we are and how we see the world around us. From that basis, we will begin to look at several layers of cultural orientation that specifically affect the way people view the world and the assumptions that are placed on interpretations in communication.

If we can leverage orientations to better understand our own perceptions, as well as help us to understand the complex network of cultures surrounding us in our work and in our lives, we can then begin to leverage cultural orientations as a communication tool for discovering creative solutions to problems – increasing the human potential of everyone involved, from every culture, and achieving success on a journey toward high performance and fulfillment that will far exceed everyone’s expectations. Let’s get started with the first set of cultural orientations…Power/Responsibility.

There are three critical elements to establishing how an individual or group may view where they, themselves, as well as others, belong on the Power/Responsibility continuum:

1) Humility: People should accept inevitable natural limitations and are not in control

2) Harmony: People should strive for balance with nature, having a clear understanding of what one can control and what one can not control… or

3) Control: People have determinant power and responsibility to forge the life they want, and are in complete control of every aspect of life

Humility recognizes that most things are out of our control. Success is viewed as a combination of effort and good fortune, but is never of one’s own doing. Humility teaches us to gracefully accept our limitations, however humility becomes ineffective when it leads to passive acceptance of fate and prevents individuals from taking proactive steps toward positive change. It can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies perpetuating the status quo and causing missed opportunities. On the other hand, humility can teach wisdom: we can learn to accept what life has for us (gratefully or with a grain of salt), relieving us of the burdens of feeling responsible for what happens –  everything is beyond our control.

Harmony is the center-point of the continuum between Humility and Control, and is all about balance – knowing when to act and when to let go; maintaining balance between opposite forces. Those who strive for harmony tend to create an atmosphere of consideration and mutual respect.  There is a clear sense of when to take control and when to fall back and accepts that there are limitations. This approach fosters an atmosphere of unity and collaborative processes that lead to global success. The leader who knows when to listen, when to act, and when to withdraw can achieve anything.

Control-oriented individuals feel they are in charge of their own destiny – a belief in man’s will over nature, relationships, and happiness, as well as academic or business success. The positive side of control is that it often leads to productivity and strong self-fulfilling prophecies – one can achieve anything one puts his/her mind to.  It exudes a sense of optimism and an ability to attain extraordinary goals. The ugly side of control is arrogance and the potential for guilt and frustration when things do not happen as planned. After all, if you believe you are in complete control, it is also your fault when success is eluded. In addition, it is a high-risk proposition to try and control your environment and relationships – you may find in others an unwillingness to comply that ultimately impedes your goals, and thus your success.

Now, imagine the difference if you could begin to leverage the richness in each orientation, while being aware of, and watching for their downsides amongst your diverse global counterparts. If you understand that your own sense of Power/Responsibility may lie toward the control orientation on the continuum (for example), but you need to successfully establish annual goals with your staff in Asia, which are likely to lean more toward a humility driven orientation, how might you shift your approach to communicate in a way that may result in better cultural understanding and buy-in? If you need to change a process, how might you leverage your knowledge of Power/Responsibility and the associated orientations to alter your communications between geographies to facilitate excitement and buy-in to change across various regions? Your understanding and use of cultural orientations communicates a sensitivity that will facilitate faster, more effective results in a fraction of the time that a “one size fits all” communication approach can ever hope to achieve.

If leveraged correctly, this concept will allow you to discover new options, shift perspectives, and quite possibly, to leverage differing orientations as you move between and amongst different geographical locations and cultural orientations. My theory…Acting Local is Acting Global.

As a global leader, how will you balance differing cultural orientations across your diverse organization?

For the next several weeks, I will be discussing specific cultural orientations that will facilitate successful communications and business results across cultures.  You can contact me at sherilmackey@gmail.com. Check back next week for the second in a multi-tiered discussion on understanding cultural orientations for successful communication Across Boundaries & Borders, Time Management Orientations.

Shifting Paradigms

October 5, 2021 — 2 Comments

A great leader must be a great communicator… and more. Communication in a global context may mean communicating differently across boundaries and borders. Cross-cultural communications are complex – often difficult and easily misinterpreted or misunderstood if not skillfully navigated. The ability to successfully connect across cultures can be facilitated, not by trying to understand the many nuances of every culture, but by understanding that there are basic orientations (or perspectives) that, if understood on a continuum basis, can foster the potential for leaders everywhere to leverage cross-cultural communications for a new energy boost to high performance in an increasingly complex global environment.

It is well known that in order to accomplish career and organizational goals, a global leader must be able to influence in ways that are not only clearly understood, but resonate across many channels and geographies… in multiple ways.  This equates to not only having the capacity to communicate effectively, but also encompasses less obvious capabilities such as: 1) seeing and understanding alternative perspectives 2) comprehending culturally diverse values, beliefs and assumptions 3) integrating different cultural perspectives to create new solutions and 4) resolving conflicts in culturally appropriate, productive ways. In it’s entirety, this equates to cross-cultural competency.

The truth is that there are very few leaders or companies on this planet that truly embrace cultural differences and leverage them for global success on a personal and organizational level – yet cross-cultural communications are an invaluable lever to global success. Those of you who are managing across countries and regions and who are willing to get the best out of the rich melting pot of cultures that you navigate, have the ability to build virtual bridges between cultures and geographic locations, creating thriving teams and organizations, that will enable you to become a Game Changer vs. a Game Player through effective global and interpersonal communications.

Integrating cultural orientations into your communications will allow you to unleash exponentially more human potential to achieve meaningful objectives – you will be better equipped to extend personal and organizational worldviews, bridge cultural gaps, and make communications relevant to a geographically dispersed workforce that will enable impossible futures across boundaries and borders.

There is no viable way around it – your cultural orientations impact the way you communicate. As you begin to have the ability to understand your own cultural orientations and communicate effectively across alternative orientations, you will begin to have the ability to leverage cultural differences constructively and for the benefit of all, communicating efficiently and effectively across your global organization. This capacity is of the highest importance for success in an interconnected and increasingly global marketplace.

In the highly competitive global markets in which we all reside, the aim is to achieve concrete impact and tangible results that are enabled through maximum performance across all regions. Challenging cultural assumptions and looking at yourself and your entire extended network (including customers) through a different cultural lens, and communicating back through that lens, will propel you beyond your previous limitations to discover creative solutions that are outside of your proverbial box – leveraging cross-cultural differences to achieve business results well beyond anyone’s expectations.

Are you prepared to shift your paradigm for global success?

For the next several weeks, I will be discussing specific cultural orientations that will facilitate successful communications and business results.

Please contribute to the conversation and feel free to contact me at sherilmackey@gmail.com. Check back soon for the next installation on Global Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.

This past week, I found myself in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. I went with the idea that I would relax and enjoy the long holiday weekend… and I did. However, as I observed a forest with both old and new growth, I also could not help notice the trees ravaged by sickness and fire. I found myself thinking about what the forest has to teach us about business…

The forest is a global entity made up of individual components with very different characteristics, yet at the same time each component is dependent upon the other.  In business, the term “Think Global/Act Local” was originally based on the idea of customizing standardized products and services for regional consumption in accordance with the local language, currency, culture and regulatory climate. The challenge arose as we lost sight of our interdependence as a global entity. Not surprisingly, localization encourages each country of operation to develop its own customized solutions and operational procedures. This results in data silos around the world and companies operating with huge information blind spots across the spectrum – the forest can not thrive as it should. It can take weeks, even months, to collect, reconcile, translate and analyze regional performance – much less consolidate a global view of the corporate picture. As I looked around and considered this, it occurred to me that if global is seeing the forest, then local is tending the trees. With only a view of the forest as a whole, it is possible to overlook the trees that need attention. Up close, it is easy to focus on the detailed care of each tree, but lose sight of its contribution to the overall forest. Balancing both viewpoints is critical to keeping the trees in the forest healthy. Global corporations are like a forest – a sum of its parts – consistent, meaningful and effective local practices must contribute to the success of the whole.

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Going Global

August 25, 2021 — Leave a comment

I was recently speaking at a conference and I was asked about a term that is near and dear to who I am – Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders. You will see (or hear) it in almost everything I do – you will hear me refer to it when I speak publicly… in general conversations… and when I write. Although I refer to “Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders” frequently, this was the first time I can remember that an audience member stood up and asked about LABB in a public forum. I found this so interesting – it is so much a core part of my being… yet I realized I had never stopped to actually define it for others outside of myself and those closest to me.  I have been unfair. I will try to remedy my faux pas through not only explaining my terminology as a core component of myself, but also by defining each piece of it from my view of the world over the next few weeks.

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So, I will begin by talking a little about history and about the definition, my definition, of Global…

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As you look forward, it is always helpful to look back and gain perspective. Today’s supply chain is more global, aligned and proactive than it was even just five years ago. Post COVID, we see even more supply chain challenges – yet from challenge comes opportunity. As developing strategies for mitigating the risk of supply chain interruption overtakes economizing, organizations will increasingly need to leverage strong supply chains while stringently considering the bottom line. That balance will drive the success (or failure) of SCM companies moving forward. Although technology and the digital supply chain is on the rise, without the comprehensive knowledge and collaboration of people across the supply chain, we will continue to struggle to find that critical balance.

Typically, even though organizations may be consolidating for cost management and scalability purposes, the walls of the individual functions, channels and regions have become even thicker. As a direct result, it is harder for you, as a leader, to build end-to-end supply chain functionality in an ever-changing global marketplace. It has become increasingly difficult to gain agreement on specific, customer focused initiatives or broader organizational change.

This is not a technology, process or policy problem – it is a people problem:

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I wrote recently of how it had occurred to me that it was absolutely critical for academia and business to come together for the greater good of global business and inter-culturism. Oddly enough, as I spoke recently on a global stage, my views were reinforced ten-fold.  As, on this particular occasion, I addressed a global audience of primarily academic and administrative attendees, it rapidly became apparent that they were not too accustomed to hearing from the business sector.  As I made my points and finished by commenting on the need for global business and academia to partner for the betterment of us all, I was greeted with applause and standing ovations. I thought to myself, “How remarkable – we all know we need to work together, yet the mention of actually doing so is a revelation.”

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