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Category Archive: Values/Ethics in Business

Why Transparency Supports Healthy Organizational Culture

transparency, organizational culture, small to mid-sized business, business owner, CEOSome of you may know that I host the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz every Friday (you can read about our more recent conversations here) and often there are interesting lessons or insights that come from the live chat. As someone who coaches business owners and executives to become better leaders, a healthy organizational culture is often a topic or very near the surface.

But what is organizational culture?

For the small to mid-sized companies I work with, culture is often the expression of the business leader. Since small to mid-sized companies are more compact and connected than larger corporations,  it is easier for the business owner/ CEO to express to everyone how he/she wants things to be and, in growth organizations, to become. That means values and behaviours are obvious and the meanings and purposes of these values and behaviours is idiosyncratic to that company. As an example, one of my clients makes it a point to be available for face to face conversations, ask questions  and share a lunch with everyone once a month. Another client in a bigger organization believes in hiring smart people  and he lets them know his expectations and then gets out of the way for the day-to-day execution of these expectations. He is doing what he is good at and, consequently, so are his employees.

Transparency and culture

You may have heard a lot of discussion about transparency in various places. According to the Business Dictionary, transparency is

“Lack of hidden agendas and conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation and collective decision-making. [Also as definition] Minimum degree of disclosure to which agreements, dealings, practices, and transactions are open to all for verificaton.”

One would think that smaller organizations would have less machinations and hidden agendas than their larger counterparts but politics are everywhere.

What could possibly go wrong?

Most small companies operate in a clear and legal manner. But there can be some pitfalls or unforeseen consequences when corporate culture stems from the leader as alleged actions by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his administration are being reported. Now the temptation is to say that politicians are corrupt anyway but I remember working for a doctor who would lose his temper in such a dramatic fashion and belittle others that people were literally afraid to speak up in meetings. Consequently, this small organization had high turnover, backbiting amongst colleagues and absolutely no faith that your immediate boss would ever back you if you needed it.

But there are other things to consider:

  • Lack of common definition of privacy and discretion: (thank you to Lois Martin for highlighting this) With multiple generations in the workplace, privacy and discretion have morphed over time and it is up to the leader(s) to clearly state what clients and the public can know about the company. This can be also seen as professionalism.
  • We live and work online: There are risks and responsibilities as this McKinsey report discusses. Cybersecurity is an issue for all businesses, regardless of size.
  • People may bring a negative perspective from their previous employer: As you grow, you hire new people and they bring all of their experiences, good and bad, with them. Their stories may color how they share information, show intiative or handle disappointment in your organization.
  • Euphemisms: Transparency depends on people saying what they mean. If you are “demising” jobs, let people know to expect their job may be eliminated.
  • Consistent ethical code: Transparency is really an encapsulation of certain values — respect, integrity, honesty — and if you are cutting corners, your employees will cut corners and this, ultimately,  affects attracting and retaining your customers

When you stop to think about it, it brings up all sorts of questions about organizational culture, individual behaviour choices and the validity of an ethical professional code.

What could go right?

Of course, there is always another side. Part of the most recent discussion about transparency are the advantages it gives to businesses. Small to mid-sized businesses may have been onto this for some time. Quite often you know your customers by name and understand how important that “know, trust and like” factor can be.

  •  Differentiation is clear: While you have much in common with your competitors regarding customer service or even type of product or service you offer, your words and actions, source of materials, vendors and clear wording on policies (without the super fine print) and procedures invites trust.
  • Happier employees: If you have ever worked for a boss who was tough and fair, you worked for a leader who was transparent in his/her expectations.  A 2013 TINYpulse employee satisfaction survey reported that transparent managers had a “correlation coefficient 0.94 with employee happiness.” Good management fosters better morale and productivity.
  • More accurate information about what customers like/dislike: Open, two-way communication with your customers enables better data gathering on what your customers buy from you and what sorts of improvements are most desired.
  • Clear internal communications: When the business owner/CEO takes the time to listen and interact, it becomes clear that the whole organization is supposed to listen and interact.
  • Supports accountability: When the decision-making process engages both the leaders and those assigned to executing the business goals, it is easier to know why a goal was chosen, who will do the work and when it is scheduled to be completed.

Transparency helps you develop a healthier organizational culture

It does take some work and maybe even retraining on your part to become more transparent. On the  other hand, having the ability to know who works for and with you simply provides an excellent foundation for transparency. On that you can build out how the values of honesty, respect, integrity and professionalism will be expressed in your culture.

What reasons do  you believe that transparency is important in a small to mid-sized business?

When could transparency harm your small to mid-sized business?

How much transparency is needed to develop a healthy organizational culture?

 

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Great Leaders Develop Via Relationships with Self and Others

I saw an interesting tweet from Dan Rockwell (@LeadershipFreak on Twitter) yesterday.

“Find harmony within yourself before looking for alignment with others.”

It caught my attention and I thought, hmm…wouldn’t that mean you might spend not so much time with people? So I tweeted back, ” I saw your tip about finding harmony. Wouldn’t that be lifelong quest? Not sure can’t happen in tandem”

Most people spend a good portion or all of their lives seeking to understand themselves better. Leadership is a relational journey. It can be a journey to get to a position where you are in a one-up position over others. That may not be the most pro-social relationship but it does exist. For others, the key is being compassionate and competent in having the difficult conversations.

Great leadership comes from developing one’s maturity. Things like developing patience and knowing that one’s outlook and mood can encourage or limit the productivity and morale of the staff. But the more I think about it, the more it seems that time and experience season us as leaders. We see our foibles and warts when we bounce off other people. But it isn’t necessarily a negative. Sure, in the moment, it might be an unpleasant lesson about ourselves. But we wouldn’t see things so clearly without people stopping us in our tracks.

Managing conflict may be the greatest test of how leaders manage relationships. Click here to read more »

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Business, Design and Love

Eve Blossom and Lulan Artisans

 This post is by guest blogger, Eve Blossom who leads Lulan Artisans  and author of Material Change is our guest on this week’s Twitter chat, #kaizenblog. She is passionate about creating a collaborative business model that sets the stage for the artisans to have economic and social sustainability. Please join us to explore “Love, Design and Business” this Friday at 12pm ET/5pm GMT/9am PT on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog.

Business: What Moves You, Grabs You, Won’t Let You Go

I started my career in Architecture and in 1995 was fortunate enough to live and work in Hanoi, renovating old French villas. During my first few months in Hanoi, I witnessed first-hand a transaction where a young girl was sold by her father to a European man for sex.  She was 6 years old. I tried to intervene. I was threatened at knifepoint.  I was unsuccessful in changing the outcome for that little girl.

 That night, I had a striking realization.  I began to see Human Trafficking as a marketplace— where unfortunately the commodity is a person. I could see clearly that Human Trafficking is an economic market that needs to be addressed at an economic level. Click here to read more »

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Role Models: Relevant to Everyday Performance?

Role models: relevant to everyday performanceI’m coaching a client who is transitioning from senior technical expert to CEO of his small business. We’ve discussed his leadership style before. The catch here for him is that his understanding is evolving and he was at a loss for words to describe his current style. He has always been clear that he is a visionary but what about using high touch, collaboration, inviting truth telling and clear communication? So, we started to talk about the CEO’s and business people that he admires and wishes to emulate.

And that’s when I got to wondering…are roles models really useful on a daily basis?

Don’t get  me wrong. Role models serve an important purpose. They provide us with both inspiration and a roadmap. Basically everyone has a biography of some sort. You can read a published account of someone’s life, Google the person and/or ask questions directly. But how do they really do that thing you are aspiring to?

People aren’t perfect

It’s so easy to put someone on a pedestal. Think about the people you admire. We don’t really know that person. Take someone like Donald Trump. Sure, he’s on television and is well known for his real estate acumen. You might read about him, listen to what he says and take a class from Trump University. People tell me that they admire how he acts so confidently even when he is so close to bankruptcy. But what do you really know about him? Would it matter if he were rude or cruel?

What happens when you learn something unpleasant or ugly about your role model? There is that moment when one is faced with the idea of the person and the real life person. Can you overlook the fact he or she is human and not perfect? It may be possible to extract what is meaningful to you and suggest that your role model works very hard to behave in a certain way. Then again, the transgression may be too abhorrent to you.

Looking for a role model

So what makes us identify certain people as inspiring to us? Certainly, their story can be one possible starting point. We’ve heard so many rags to riches stories and each person who has accomplished this has qualities worth of emulation. Could it be that we see role models to get us through certain stages of development? If you founded a business and emphasized innovation, you might want to learn about Bill Gore, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Maybe you are a woman in business and aspire to rise to the top of the business world or politics so you might read lists like Forbes Power Women. Perhaps there is a boss who is so adept at his/her profession that you felt as if you are apprenticing to him/her.

Throughout our lives, we find people who are extraordinary and study them so we can be like them. This is part of how we form our identities. Over the years, we have different experiences and different choices and seek to navigate them successfully. It makes sense to add and subtract to our list of role models. They may be fictional characters, celebrities, known industry experts or people within our sphere who embody greatness.

But I’m back to my original question…how are they relevant to our everyday performance?

We know the big stuff they have accomplished. What did they do on Tuesday morning at 9:08am? When we are working on an audacious goal, there are moments when we are discouraged. We may lose faith (even for a moment). We may even encounter obstacles we didn’t anticipate and this throws us off track. And it could be that we just don’t know how to act or execute a particular skill and this slows us down. Do our role models give us the big picture or a how-to manual?

So, I’m opening up these questions to you. We’ll be discussing this topic on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, September 16th at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT so I hope you can join us. If not, please add your thoughts below.

1. How do you identify someone as a role model? What qualities do you look for?

2. What is the difference between idolizing someone and using them as a model?

3. What role does gender play in your choices of role models?

4. Are we more likely to seek role models in good times or bad? Why?

5. How do you use a role model when for everyday performance?

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Culture’s Effect on Gender and Leadership

*This coming Monday, September 12th, I will guest moderating the Twitter chat, #UsGuysChat during which we will discuss culture, gender and leadership. The #UsGuysChat will start at 3pm ET/12pm PT/8pm BST. I hope you can join us and add your perspective to this conversation. This is part 2 of a discussion started in “Does Gender Matter In Business Leadership?”


If culture had nothing to do with gender and leadership, Lois Frankel wouldn’t have a job. Ms. Frankel is the author of the Nice Girls Don’t Get…” series.  Whether you agree or not with her recommendations about how women should act in the workplace, she highlights the cultural/gender tension embedded in the workplace. Let’s be very clear…there are expectations about men and women that are set in social norms exhibited in the workplace. In a recent meta-analysis from Northwestern University, it was noted that leadership is less tied to masculine qualities now but still women face two perceptual obstacles.Women and Leadership

  1. There is a prejudice that they are less able than their male leader counterparts.
  2. The personality characteristics of leadership are masculine and therefore inappropriate for women to exhibit.

Alice Eagly is quoted in this article about the study as saying, “Cultural stereotypes can make it seem that women do not have what it takes for important leadership roles, thereby adding to the barriers that women encounter in attaining roles that yield substantial power and authority.” Given all this, it can be challenging to find an authentic  leadership style and make gender as unimportant as the color of our hair.

You may be harboring stereotypes learned in childhood

Take a moment to consider your childhood years. Where did you grow up? What did you do during your playtime? What were you “allowed” to do? How were you parented? While the messages are less delineated now than say 30 years ago, girls and boys are acculturated to accept stereotypes as facts. If you aren’t sure about this observation, try arguing with a 4 year old about how girls can have short hair and still be girls. Have you ever noticed which toys are designed for boys or girls? Notice which ones are active versus passive. What colors are used to decorate the toys? How are movies marketed to boys or girls? It’s even possible that your national educational system may be more geared to favor one gender over another.

This stuff seeps into our belief system and stays there until we flush it out.

As  C.S. King has noted in her research, “…sex roles and gendered roles are institutionalized as a part of a culture and reflect important aspects of the culture itself.” If you come from a society with clearly defined roles for men and women, you may have to accept or reject which behaviors fit your leadership style. Indeed, not paying attention to where you come from could be a blind spot.

And yet, are things changing?

Just this week was the news about Carol Bartz and how she was fired by Yahoo. This is a woman who doesn’t mince words at all. Although there are some people writing about how she is a powerful female leader, there is far more commentary on her job title, her performance at Yahoo and how she revealed the process of being fired. In reading the comments on various posts, there are themes about how she is admired and bitterness that resulted from some of her decisions at Yahoo. There are very few comments about her gender.

It’s interesting to note that there is far more explicit research on women, culture and leadership than there is about men. There are some that would say that this is because men are considered the default for most of what we know about culture and leadership. Given the changes exhibited by both genders across the globe, this may be in flux.

To encourage more thought and discussion, consider these questions:

  1. How can we support each person to become an authentic leader and fit in an organization?
  2. What are real examples of women hitting obstacles because of patterns they adopted or organizational expectations?
  3. If women perceive “male” behaviors reflect poorly on them, how should they respond?
  4. Are there times to openly recognize gender style differences?
  5. Conversely, are there times to ignore gender style differences?
  6. Does Carol Bartz’s famous strident style exemplify ideal leadership? Is it different because of gender?

Please consider yourself invited to join in this conversation on the Twitter chat, #UsGuysChat on Monday, September 12th at 3pm ET/12pm PT/8pm BST. We’d love  to have you share your thoughts on this topic.


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Redefining Capitalism & Does It Matter To Your Business?

Capitalism-Doomed or Adapting?Have you ever really stopped to think about capitalism? How do you define it? Some definitions are more loaded than others if you look at the various links in this Google search However, if you own or lead a business, you are definitely participating in this system.

Describing the system to ourselves

There are so many words to describe the way we think about capitalism. There are variations on how capitalism is expressed if you start looking at how some corporate entities are state-owned to the mixed economy type.There are advocates for free markets, laissez-faire or free enterprise as if they are infallible. Other people raise questions about how money is distributed, how workers are treated by their employers or the potential for creating instability. No matter where you fall philosophically, the flaws in the system brought a great deal of havoc in 2008 and we’re still dealing with the consequences.

The flaws are the issue.

There are fierce debates in many countries about how to regulate this system. Certainly one of the most famous critique of capitalism is Das Kapital by Karl Marx. When we are faced with troubled companies that are “too big to fail” and they can harm a national or even global economy, something is amiss. It’s easy to blame the elite rich or labor unions or whomever is your target but at the end of the day, we’re still participating in this system.  There are ethical questions about what happens to the widening gap between each economic class, unemployment and consumerism. How do we talk about the flaws of capitalism?

The process of redefining capitalism

Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say it’s a process of redesigning capitalism. One movement has been sustainability. While it is often associated with green technology and environmentalism, sustainability also includes developing business models that can respond well to stressors and successes. Even in Nouriel Roubini’s post, “Is Capitalism Doomed?” the question lies in how we think about people and what makes them productive more than exploiting markets. There is also more expressed desires for a flexible work-life balance and work that has meaning and purpose. Where does this fit in?

Join the conversation.

It behooves us to not ask ourselves what we believe about capitalism and how we want to create businesses that are sustainable. This is the business climate we’re in and the turbulence isn’t going away in a hurry. We can choose to continue supporting current practices, foster a revitalized system or eliminate capitalism as we know it altogether. It may not be a clear answer but your answer is part of conversation.

In the next #kaizenblog (Twitter chat) on Friday, September 9th at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT we’re discussing this topic. Please join us and add your thoughts and expertise. If you can’t join in on Twitter, please add your comments below.

Which aspects of capitalism are still relevant to the current economic climate?

What trends are you noticing in discussions about capitalism?

What is changing on a micro-level (within your business community) that is sustainable?

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Ethics, Blinders and Business

Everyday challenges to business ethicsThis is our topic for this week’s #kaizenblog, a weekly Twitter chat that uses the concept of kaizen to critically think about various aspects of business, enhance our skills and deepen our self-understanding. You can join this conversation every Friday at 12pm Eastern.

Do you think you know right from wrong? Are you consistent every time? We’d all like to think so. However, recent research on self-discipline and decision fatigue makes one wonder if there may be a slippery slope we didn’t take into account. It’s easy to identify corporate scandals that involve blatant greed and social pressure. But are there smaller moments when ethics are placed aside?

Everyday temptations

  • Conflicts of interest are probably the most common situations any of us encounter. Competing loyalties and desires can make us squirm. Sometimes we want to please someone. Sometimes we are in an uneven power dynamic and feel we must comply. Maybe we’re in a culture that is foreign or opposed to what we believe.
  • The weight of our values change. Over time, how we value things changes. It isn’t so much that you throw out your “old” values as change the level of importance. Our values can clash with one another as well causing cognitive dissonance. If you haven’t reviewed your values recently, here is a ValuesInventory that I often give to my clients.
  • Who or what in our environment entices us? Many times we are confronted with situations where we want to be in with the “cool kids”. The desire to compete, show off or be part of the glamour tempts us to put our integrity aside. Other situations include using an excessive amount of company time for personal calls, shopping, social media (unrelated to your job) or chatting with co-workers.
  • Expediency can undermine our integrity. How many projects have you been a part of that included giving a customer a product with defects. Maybe it really doesn’t affect the  product is a major way and maybe the customer won’t notice? It’s also fairly common to tell someone what they want to hear so they stop bothering you. The old “the check is in the mail” is a great example of this.

But what makes us put blinders on?

It would be nice to say only “bad” people make unethical choices. It’s not that simple though. Fatigue and stress undermine our ability to make good judgements. Since self-discipline is a finite resource, we might compromise ourselves (on a small scale, I hope) because we just don’t have the juice to see through the more challenging choices.

Maybe it’s the system of capitalism? It’s so easy to say “let the market sort things out”. Although sustainability and social responsibility has become a bigger piece of the business landscape, old habits die hard. The idea that it must be “winner takes all” creates an environment where cutting corners or simply avoiding certain choices makes money. It’s hard to beat that kind of reinforcement. Not that it can’t be done. It merely is a challenge. And as long as there are bubbles in the market (think the dot.com, housing and maybe gold right now?), people will ride those waves and build businesses to answer perceived needs or wants for these markets.

So, how do we encourage ourselves and others to act with integrity?

We could leave all this ethics stuff to academics, ethicists or philosophers. However, the most effective way to get this stuff out in the open is to talk about it. Frankly, a code of ethics written in the employee handbook is not worth much if it is never actually tested with conversations and critical thinking. There are some great suggestions on how to create these conversations on the HBR Blog Network by Francesca Gino. It’s been noted by Dan Ariely and other researchers that we are adept at rationalizing our choices. By stopping to examine our behavior, even if the conversation isn’t about us directly, we are given the chance to build up our ability to act with integrity and courage.

What other everyday temptations occur in business settings?

What do we  risk by making ethical choices?

How would a common code of business ethics work in real life?

What would help each of us to act with more consistent integrity?

 

Join us for the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, this Friday, August 26th as we take a look at this topic, “Ethics, Blinders and Business.”  We meet every Friday at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT .

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Does Gender Matter In Business Leadership?

This coming Monday, August 22nd, I will guest moderating the Twitter chat, #UsGuysChat during which we will discuss gender and leadership styles. The #UsGuysChat will start at 3pm ET/12pm PT/8pm BST. I hope you can join us and add your perspective.  It should be a very interesting conversation…

It is so easy to polarize this topic. We could go there.

Women are better leaders because they (fill in the blank).

Men are better leaders because they (fill in the blank).

But what are we really talking about? Humans do seem to have a penchant for creating dichotomies where there have to be winners and losers. But what if they are really false dichotomies? What if what we need most, particularly in turbulent times, is a leader who is willing to access his/her whole self? Since the 1990′s, it has been noted in research that there really isn’t a marked differenceMen, Women, Leadership and Business between how men and women lead. And yet, the question persists of whether or not men and women lead organizations differently.

Let’s take a look at the general qualities each gender brings to leadership.

Given that these are generalities, we all know individuals who don’t fit into what is “expected” of their gender. However, without a basic profile, how do we determine if gender really matters? Take a look and see what you share…

Commonly accepted qualities of Male Leadership

  • Competitive
  • Aggressive
  • Confident
  • Dominant/One-up-one-down relationship
  • Controlling
  • Objective
  • Action-oriented
  • Hierarchical
  • Directive

Commonly accepted qualities of Female Leadership

  • Nurturing
  • Emotionally intelligent
  • Empathetic
  • Flexible
  • Assertive
  • Confident
  • Team oriented
  • Communicative
  • Collaborative

So much change, not so much clarity

There have been so many changes in society in the last four decades.  I suppose you could say it was due to the the change in sexual mores, the women’s movement or what have you. Emotions are talked about more openly. All of these changes have created liberation and tension as we try to determine what is the norm now. Add the on-going struggles with the global economy and more questions arise as to what is needed most now. In the mix, concepts like sustainability, work-life balance and that work should have meaning and purpose are also affecting how leaders act and react.  Do we need leaders who use more traditional styles of leadership that borrow from the military or the industrial mindset that people are akin to machinery to get us through the uncertainty? Would it make more sense to be more nurturing and empathetic during this turbulent time?

Get rid of dichotomies…consider a holistic perspective

Dichotomies set us up for black and white thinking. This is far more limiting when we try to respond to new opportunities and crises. There is no flexibility. It either is or it isn’t. So it could be time to lay this to rest. Maybe we’re making too much of this gender thing. What do you think?

    1. Does either gender style have an advantage?
    2. What traits are best in a crisis?
    3. What traits are best in times of opportunity?
    4. What relationship is there between leadership styles and specific industries?
    5. What role does culture play in how an individual forms his/her leadership style?
    6. How would your leadership style benefit from developing qualities from either gender style?

      Please consider yourself invited to join in this conversation on the Twitter chat, #UsGuysChat on Monday, August 22nd at 3pm ET/12pm PT/8pm BST. We’d love  to have you share your thoughts on this topic.

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      Preferences, Biases and Global Business

      Preferences, Biases and Global BusinessOne of the things I noticed most during my recent visit to Dublin, Ireland was how many new nationalities that could be seen on the streets. Since I’ve been to Ireland over the course of many years, it’s interesting to watch it change over time. There seem to be different groups each time I visit and it’s something to hear the multitude of languages.

      In Boston, I experience this on a daily basis. It’s one of the things that makes me love living in such a cosmopolitan area! I get my suppositions and hypotheses about people challenged on a regular basis. But…what preferences or biases am I following without being aware?

      Look like us = One of us?

      Pankaj Ghemewat wrote an interesting post on the HBR Blog Network, Stretching Your Global Mindset. His previous post opened with an observation about how the Arab Spring and the tsunami in Japan made it very apparent how interconnected and even interdependent the world is. When supply chains are disrupted, there is a network of businesses that reaches beyond borders right into our own backyards. Maybe it’s your business and you had to figure out how to respond to a global event.

      In Stretching Your Global Mindset, Ghemewat discusses a study that reveals that the further away people affected by a disaster live, the less sympathetic people feel. In a nutshell, if a disaster occurs on the other side of the world versus one in your own country, you will care a great deal more about the people in your country.

      Curiously, travel seems to mitigate this.  Well, maybe it’s not so curious. When you meet people from somewhere else, that place becomes real and the people become less strange. They become “one of us”. And when you live there for a length of time, could you (or part of you) become one of  them?

      A past client of mine who has a strong affinity for Japan presented an interesting request. She explained that she lived there so it feels like home to her. Speaking Japanese is effortless for her. Her request was to modify how we approached writing her business plan to include imagery rather than creating a linear document.  The result? Her business plan is formatted as a mindmap and is mostly in Japanese. (She provided a translation for me so we could measure her progress).

      You’re not from around here, are you?

      Maybe it is something wired into our primitive survival instincts. If you’re different, you’re a potential enemy. It underpins the argument for isolationism in political debates.  If you hear someone saying, “I’m not racist but…”, are they really expressing hatred or are they trying to understand how their neighborhood is changing? The thing is, the world has become so connected with social media, ease of travel and  immigration that we can meet someone different very easily. We don’t even have to physically leave our own country to do business with someone who speaks a different language and looks different.

      It’s not always comfortable.

      It’s easy to get out of your comfort zone while interacting with someone from another country. There can be language barriers. (Yes, even with other English speakers. I’ve managed to create a lot of confusion just telling bar staff that I didn’t want another drink.) There are phrases and slang that we use without thinking. In a business setting, this can create unnecessary tension. There are countries where “yes” isn’t actually yes. Speaking a foreign language is challenging if you’re building up your proficiency. In some places, you have to develop a relationship before you discuss business. These are some of the things that can highlight your preferences in a hurry.

      What is going on in your head anyway?

      • Do you want everyone to communicate in your language?
      • Do you have certain beliefs that all (other nationality) are (generalization)?
      • Does the business relationship have to follow a particular pattern?
      • Are you willing to learn the language of your customer/business collaborator?
      • How would adapting your behavior change your thinking?
      • What else are you thinking or feeling?

      Not every business is going to do business globally.

      But if your business is one of them, becoming aware of your cultural filter is essential. We hear stories, we meet people and we have the choice to broaden or narrow our mindset. There are some days when landing on an alien planet will make more sense. The tension felt is an opportunity to see what biases or preferences you have. Your greater self-awareness may be the difference between going forward or staying home.

      *Please join us on Friday, August 5th at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog as we explore this topic in conversation.

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      How Do You Pursue Happiness?

      pursuit of happiness and businessUsually I avoid writing a post that refers to a holiday here in the US. Lots of readers of this blog come from all over the world so keeping themes focused on business is about inclusivity. But for this holiday, I’m making an exception.

      It’s Independence Day in the US. It began with an amazing document, the Declaration of Independence, which has inspired parts of the French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizens of 1789 as well as parts of  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. If you’re into history, the ways this document has shaped America and how we think about equality is also pretty fascinating but that’s a post for someone else.

      Pursuing happiness is an inalienable right.

      It may be a right but why are we pursuing it?  What does that really mean? If you follow some of the recent research about entrepreneurship, it appears that 80% of startups are being founded by people over 35. After the Great Recession, there are lots of people who are in position to follow their dreams. And maybe that is what pursuing happiness is about. Take a look at your business…what is it that draws you back again and again?

      Maybe I should back up a little. How do you define happiness anyway? Like a lot of emotions, it really is on a spectrum and ranges from pleasure, enjoyment, contentment, joy to ecstasy. But what fuels our happiness often is something brings meaning or an aesthetic. For example, many people find a massage makes them happy. The meaning here is one of self-care and human touch. Others feel happy when they hit a sales goal. The thrill of seeing one’s skills in action and getting the win feels good! I have a friend who celebrated a successful moment in her business by buying herself a cocktail ring. This combined her pleasure in her good performance as well as wearing a beautiful piece of jewelry.

      If we parse apart the pursuit  of happiness, it seems that engaging in the process is a basic human right.

      It certainly is a hunger that we all experience. Think back to your Intro to Psychology class and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  In his Safety Needs, Maslow noted that people need health and well-being. While we can argue whether it is truly a hierarchy or not, the point is that we need to feel positively. Within the human experience, we seek a positive way of being. Notice all of the gurus, religious/spiritual authorities and other people who are encouraging us to think  positively. (Okay, I’m in there too since healthy thinking is one of my passions.)

      More and more, work has to be more than just a place you show up and complete tasks that earn us money. Having the opportunity to gain our happiness is something all people not only hunger for but are endowed with automatically. Leading your business is how you’ve created an avenue to fulfill your own desire for happiness.

      Leading a business feels good.

      Yeah…sure, there are days when you would really like to be doing something else. There is a problem with meeting a deadline, a customer is unhappy or there are economic pressures that are difficult to manage. On the other hand, we have the joy of making the decisions, creating the vision of where the business goes next and even encouraging what new products or services are created and sold. But underlying all of this is that sense of creating meaning and purpose. If your business is big enough, you are in a position to invite your employees to experience meaning and purpose. The combination of our aspirations and skills is a potent mix!  

      How are you exercising your right to pursue happiness?

      What does it mean to you?

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