Tag Archives: Global Leadership

Cultural Intelligence – Drive

I would like to delve further into the four components of  Cultural Intelligence (CQ) over the next few blog posts.  This post will focus on Drive.

Drive is one of the key components to CQ.  It is your interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. It consists of intrinsic and extrinsic interests and the drive to learn and understand different cultures, their norms and behaviours.

The intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are culturally determined.  Extrinsic rewards are usually financial, such as salaries, bonuses and benefits.  Intrinsic rewards are psychological rewards that individuals reap from engaging in meaningful work with a healthy balance of choice, competency, challenge and success.


As an individual you need to establish and maintain your own CQ drive and as a leader you also need to instill and support the motivation of your employees.  Remember that your intrinsic and extrinsic motivators may be vastly different to those of your peers and employees so it is important to have a range of strategies in place.

Strategies for Improving CQ Drive for self:

  • Take some unconscious bias tests, seek feedback
  • Be prepared to make mistakes, learn from them and then move on
  • Identify your passions, what they are and why do you care about them?
  • Reflect on what guides and influences your behaviours and attitudes toward culturally diverse groups
  • Welcome opportunities to mentor others as a ‘cultural broker.’

Strategies for Improving CQ Drive for others:

  • Understand your own motivations, it will assist you when you are influencing and motivating others
  • Provide an exciting and clear vision of what can be accomplished i.e. share success stories and celebrate milestones
  • Ensure that the relevance between task and purpose is transparent.  Help people to make clear connections between the vision and the work
  • Reinforce confidence in the self-management of individuals.  Intrinsic motivation improves when people feel trusted and their expertise and skills are recognised and appreciated
  • Share customer feedback and interactions with individuals and the wider team.  Not only does this promote purpose and goals, it also reinforces the successes and highlights areas for improvement.


  • Take a moment to consider what you find most challenging when you are in culturally diverse settings
  • Consider some of your CQ drivers and those that you have observed in others
  • How do you think improving your CQ drive could assist both yours and your teams overall level of CQ?
You may like to listen to my ‘CQ Drive’ Podcast in ‘CQ for Global Leaders‘ by clicking here.

Smashing through the bamboo ceiling

Bamboo ceiling

Procurious, is a unique online business networking site specifically designed for procurement and supply chain professionals.

Dr Verghese was interviewed in ‘Smashing through the bamboo ceiling’ to discuss the processes and barriers that serve to exclude Asians or people of Asian descent from executive positions in Western-run organisations.

A provocative article that features some pragmatic strategies toward shattering the bamboo ceiling.



Bridging the cultural gap

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Watch Tom speaking at the Australian Human Resource Institute Conference 2015 ‘Bridging the cultural gap’.

Virtual Teleconferences for Global Project Teams


A recent project has prompted me to focus this month on the efficiencies of teleconferences.  Lack of agendas, side conversations, audible background noises, late attendees, accent and language difficulties; alongside poorly facilitated calls that seem to go in circles are just some of the everyday teleconference challenges.

Although teleconferences are not a new phenomenon somehow we tolerate the inefficiencies and frustrations that they entail.  Why is this?  Over time we become unconscious and unmindful of the bad habits and irritations that ‘creep in’.  We often accept them as ‘normal’ and for the most part we ‘switch off’ and allow apathy and stagnation to set in, without us possibly even realising it.

For many global project teams teleconferences are the most common meeting format.  They are a critical mode of communication where key decisions are made and everyday production, innovative and creative ideas are thrashed out. Something worth reminding ourselves of is that the success of teleconferences directly impact overall project outcomes, timelines and ultimately budgets.

Here are some simple reminders of things to be aware of when facilitating and participating in culturally dispersed teleconferences:

  • Ensure that the agenda has been circulated at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. It is particularly useful for those in other locations whose native language is not the language that the meeting is being conducted in.  This provides all participants an opportunity to plan what they will say or questions that they want to propose.
  • Be mindful. When most of the participants are in the same room it can be difficult for the remote participants to engage in the conversation.  They are not privy to the same group/room dynamic.
  • Remember that in some cultures people wait to be invited to speak rather than speak up whenever they have something to contribute. Be specific and invite people to speak at various intervals.
  • Ensure everyone identifies who they are before they begin speaking. Don’t assume that everyone knows each other.  It is not uncommon for offshore project teams to have new staff joining the team at different times. Maintain the practice of introductions at all meetings.
  • Use diagrams and visual aids where possible.  They can be of great benefit as an alternative mode of demonstration and explanation, especially for offshore teams.
  • If you are having difficulty understanding language, accents, dialects or tone, speak up. Let people know.  Chances are that they are having difficulty understanding you also.
  • Don’t confuse silence with agreement.  Take the time to ask each person one by one to give their opinion or share their concerns before making a consensus decision.

Bridging the Cultural Gap

This month I invite you to view a short video interview of me with AHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute) where I discuss what individuals can do to become more culturally aware and communicate more effectively.

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I will be speaking about developing culturally intelligent leaders at AHRI’s National Convention on 26 August. Registration is now open. Click here for more information.

The Art of Mindful Leadership

mindfulnessA couple of workshops and a few great articles lately have reinforced the art of mindfulness and its role in changing mind-sets.

Mindfulness makes us less judgemental, more creative, more engaged and open, more productive and allows us to be ‘in the moment’. Mindfulness sets us in good stead for creating an awareness of our mind-sets. The ability to recognise, adapt and flex our mindsets when we are communicating with people across cultures is critical. They affect our behaviours and directly influence the perceptions and credibility that others place on us. An awareness that the other person might be not be receiving our messages and behaviours as per our intentions, can be a great trigger to stop and remember that our reality is just that – our reality. My friend Doreen Teo in Singapore is fond of saying “my intention is my reality, my behaviour is your reality.”

Adjusting mindsets begins with a consciousness of how mindless we can often be. We tend to operate in the same mode that we have always operated in, which is to notice what is visible: By this, I mean actions, results and behaviours, rather than the values, beliefs and attitudes that produce these. Barsh and Lavoie in their article ‘Lead at your best’ point out that by the admission of many leaders, there are often difficulties recognising, accepting and appreciating other viewpoints, and that the consequence is limited potential.

Some great ‘takeaways’ from Barsh and Lavoie are:

  • Practice pausing. Pause and reflect on what you believe is occurring, how you are experiencing the moment and how you feel. Listen for things that aren’t being said. The pause offers a moment for reflection and to make adjustments.
  • A healthy level of trust is critical in any business relationship. Understanding that firstly there are different perceptions of trust therefore it is important to learn what others value and to remember that it is behaviours that instil trust, not just intentions. A mindset of trust feeds a culture of collaboration, inspiration and engagement.
  • Choose your questions wisely. Move from a problem-focused conversation that usually attracts a defensive reaction, to a solution based conversation where people feel more empowered and engaged. If you look for a problem you will find one, just as if you look for a solution people will offer one. Adapt the style of questions depending on who and where you are working. For example when working with people from high context cultures taking a direct and personal blame focus perspective will at best be ineffective. Even in low context cultures this often leads to defensive reactions where people feel targeted, criticised and as a result disengage. By framing questions differently from – “who is to blame?” And “why haven’t you fixed the problem yet?” To, “what would you like to see happen?” And “do you recall a time when the solution was present – at least in part?” These are great strategies for shifting to a solution-based mindset.
  • When problems arise ask people in a group to describe something that they believe is happening ‘under the waterline’ that is potentially causing difficulties. This can be done before meetings or teleconference calls. It offers opportunities to be heard and to hear other perspectives, especially important when working virtually across cultures.

I think that it takes great personal strength to change mind-sets because it requires a certain level of self-effacement, an acknowledgment that we don’t always have ‘it right’ and that we all have blind spots and shortcomings.


Connectivity and Cultural Intelligence

connectingA recent IBM study ‘Leading Through Connections’ identified that the conventional way of working isn’t enough to compete in todays globally competitive environment; and that we need to respond to this new connected era. Organisations need to be more connected with their partners, customers and employees. In addition to this, I posit that culture, time zones and distance further add to the complexities of achieving greater connectivity.

“To innovate, we need to take in insights accumulated across various industries and knowledge generated by many different people.” Kenichiro Yamanishi, President and CEO, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation

“To increase innovation, we will need to transform our organizational culture to be more open and dynamic.”  Jing Xirui, CEO, Beijing-Fanuc Mechatronics

“Fundamentally, the only competitive advantage one has is client knowledge.”  Thomas Kalaris, CEO, Barclays, Wealth and Investment Management.

“You can copy products, but you cannot copy customer relationships!”  Hartmut Jenner, CEO, Alfred Karcher

These are some of the comments that CEO’s contributed to this study. While it is reassuring to hear that these CEO’s recognize and acknowledge that they need to establish relationships with their customers, understand what their markets truly want, create open cultures within their organisations and leverage on the skills and knowledge of all employees, cultural training is an essential ingredient to achieving these objectives across multiple geographic locations. The cultural complexities and challenges that can impede the success of these objectives are often subtle and command leaders and their organisations to realize that overall values, appropriate levels of openness, the importance and processes of establishing relationships, what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior etc are not universal. They are cultural specific and as such require learning and unlearning.

The leaders in this study strive for improved connectivity to provide improved innovation, collaboration, openness, communication, flexibility, engagement, talent development and creativity. Yet organisations can only achieve this to their full potential with a keen sense cultural intelligence. A key challenge that organisations face is identifying their current level of cultural competency which include the cultural knowledge, skills, motivators and strategies required to work effectively across cultures.

As we know culture by its very nature is subjective and laden with different perceptions, meanings and interpretations. Managing, leading and selling across cultures demands adjustment, alignment and fine-tuning of strategies to fit the distinct, unique characteristics that are appropriate to each culture and market.