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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.

LetsConnectBigThe past couple of weeks I have been doing a considerable amount of thinking around the value of networking. Last week I was in meetings with clients and we spoke extensively about the value of networking to the Extreme Leader and how life in the global economy has changed us. This week I am preparing for board meetings in Vienna, and guess what? Still thinking about networking and how it has changed as we now commonly work across boundaries and borders.

Here are some fundamental insights and observations:
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Innovation.   Integration.   Motivation.

Three simple words… however, implementation is extremely complex and rarely executed.

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In today’s challenging environment, leadership has never been more complex.  As leaders, we are the Commanders of our troops and have a responsibility to ensure we are consistently pushing forward to ensure victory. While the obvious route is to cut costs, limit availability of resources, manage cash efficiently and hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive – this is merely defensive maneuvering.  It is absolutely essential that we, as leaders, recognize that we cannot win the war of sustainable competitive advantage without going on the offensive to courageously engage people as a competitive weapon to ensure we are victorious. Continue Reading…

Over the past several weeks, I have communicated to you what I believe are some of the most challenging aspects of leadership today.  These are the facets of business, that because we do not do them well, we repeatedly see decreased motivation and loyalty, less than competent leaders and, ultimately, poor business results.  I began to think seriously about these challenges long ago – perhaps fifteen years ago!  For twenty years, I was a leader in global business and now, two decades later, I am still hearing of the exact same challenges from my clients as an Executive Coach, International Speaker and Author. Do you think we have a problem?

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 Over the past several weeks, I have communicated to you what I believe are some of the most challenging aspects of leadership today.  These are the facets of business, that because we do not do them well, we repeatedly see decreased motivation and loyalty, less than competent leaders and, ultimately, poor business results.  I began to think seriously about these challenges long ago – perhaps fifteen years ago!  For twenty years, I was a leader in global business and now, two decades later, I am still hearing of the exact same challenges from my clients as an Executive Coach, International Speaker and Author. Do you think we have a problem?

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At The Root Of It All

October 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

Here is an under-recognized, under-utilized truth:

PEOPLE make the company, the company does not make the people. 

Often leaders are preoccupied with who they are going to hire.  Agreed – hiring is a critically important decision.  Who you hire, as a leader, will ultimately determine your level of success… or will it?  It seems logical enough. After all, if you hire great people you’re laying the foundation for building great teams, units, and organizations… as well as great overall business results, right?

At The Root Of It All

On the surface, you are absolutely right. However, if you dig down deep to the root of many organizational issues, you find a much darker problem: “A” Players are hired for their talent, innovation and potential to take the organization to new heights, and then they are treated no different than the “B” and “C” Players in the organization that make no real day to day impact. The reality is that without great people that make real impact, you cannot sustainably build great products or provide great services. Continue Reading…

Gifts: Taking Time To Reflect

December 20, 2012 — 1 Comment

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Knowledge and experience are gifts.

Have you ever stopped to think about what you have been given and how you can make the best use of it?  We acquire knowledge and experience on a daily basis as we go through life, but I have met very few people (and I have a very large network on a worldwide basis) that actually leverage what they know. Whether it’s a natural talent or acquired knowledge, very few of us actually take the time to stop and consider how we can best use the “Gifts” we have been given.

Organizations realize how important it is to “know what they know” and consistently try to maximize their collective intelligence – shouldn’t you? In a world where the only certainty is uncertainty, your only real source of sustainable competitive advantage is your own knowledge and experience – and how you leverage them. Your success in this increasingly competitive world depends wholly on how you qualitatively and effectively manage those gifts.

You probably don’t consistently think about all the knowledge you have gained through the years, but as the holidays are upon us, perhaps it is a good time to pause and reflect on what you do actually know…

You have knowledge and experience that is very specific and unique to you. Despite the vast amount of information you carry around in your head,  you most likely don’t stop to actually think back over what you have done in the past and consider how you can convert it into useful knowledge for today. Reflecting back over all you have accomplished over the years will prepare you for that which you are not even yet aware of.

This holiday season, I would like to challenge you to…

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