“”Is there a better way? Can you avoid printing that page?”
Photograph by Annie Sprat, Unsplash
Many project teams use tablets and television screens to project information during meetings for meeting participants to consider and discuss. And while we have cloud storage and the ability to access and edit or markup files from multiple devices, it appears that printing has not yet lost its appeal for some. If you are not yet ready to consider a working day without a printer, here are some ways to be more sustainable with the way you work on a day-to-day basis.
Removing Waste: Recycling
Have you considered what the end-of-life would be for that page you just printed and may be ready to throw into the trash bin soon? Why not set up a special bin for just collecting paper to be recycled? In some locations, secure bins are available which ensures that sensitive papers are securely stored until they are collected by the supplier and recycled.
Are you making use of a printer cartridge refill scheme? Instead of throwing used cartridges away, there may be suppliers in your area where you can get refills for your used cartridges.
And talking about printing cartridges – can you use only one colour – black? Having multiple colours may generate additional waste and perhaps you can save the colourful displays for virtual online documents?
The paper you use for printing, is it made from environmentally-friendly recycled processes? Why not ask your local suppliers to advise you about recycled paper options available to you?
If you print on both sides of a page, you could be saving on paper usage and you could be lowering the weight of printed documents being shipped to recipients of your printed materials!
Do you really need so many printers in your office? Or could you lower the ongoing electric power needs of printers and also encourage more physical movement of people during the day. Asking them to walk a little further in order to retrieve printed pages may be a great way to ensure they move out of a sedentary posture and increase blood circulation. Regular breaks and physical movement are great ways to improve physical and mental well–being at work.
Lower energy usage
Ensure that printers are turned off completely at the end of the working day and over weekends and periods of office closures. This ensures that no power is used in standby mode.
Consider digital solutions
Looking at the processes you use in your office – are you printing notifications or informational posters and is there a way to instead share it with colleagues, suppliers or customers digitally? For example – could suppliers download an electronic file from your website showing how you would like invoices prepared?
Understand your data and set improvement targets
Do you know who prints the most pages in the office? Is there an opportunity to engage with someone on printing more sustainably? Not everyone has been exposed to ways they could lower energy usage or how to avoid creating waste.. It could be great to have a discussion with someone about this.. Improving awareness is often the first step towards more sustainable practices at the office.
Getting together to set targets in your office like “We track our number of printed pages, and we strive to lower it by 10% this month compared to the previous month!” can be great ways to keep everyone focused on lowering your environmental footprint as an office..
In most cases, becoming more aware and conscious of ways that we can become less wasteful and generate less waste can be the first step toward being more innovative and finding new ways to positively impact the world and those around us. What will you do today to lower the waste you generate?
Single-use packaging is intended to be used only once before being thrown away or recycled. Included in this kind of trash would be food packaging, bottles for laundry detergent and other household goods, straws and boxes for tea bags, etc From a global perspective, over 90% of trash is estimated to come from single-use materials. The good news in some countries is that over 50% of packaging is recycled.
The upside-down pyramid for waste shows the more preferred ways to deal with it.
When it comes to waste, the best option is preventing the waste from coming into our homes or office buildings, the 2nd best option is to reuse items somehow, and then comes recycling. Increasing awareness in your team is important – of being more responsible with their purchasing choices and choices regarding trash that passes through their homes or at the office. This workshop can improve awareness of how to reuse items instead of discarding them.
Participating in this workshop will show participants how to look at packaging trash from the perspective of reusing it, and creating a new purpose for single-use packaging. You can open the workshop by reflecting on trash and recycling in your city/location and how they could all help to improve those statistics by being more mindful of the items they bring into their homes (avoiding single-use packaging as much as possible) and also to not be so fast to throw away items that had only been used once at the office.
If you are passionate about having a positive impact on the sustainability habits and thinking of others in your organization, in your family, or among friends, why not get 4-6 people to join you in being creative with packaging that would have otherwise been discarded.
Items you can use in the workshop:
Most households would be easily able to collect some items like small carton boxes and items, printed pages that are no longer needed like advertising leaflets thrown in through mailbox slots, and paper-based packaging used for supporting fruits purchased in supermarkets. In the office, there could be boxes that contained pens and pencils or paperclips.
Two ideas to consider for the activity:
Paper Mache (papier-mâché)
You can make the paste using flour and water (see https://kinderart.com/kitchen/papier-mache-recipes/) tear the collected sheets of paper into strips about 1 inch wide and dip them thoroughly into the paste mixture. Strip off the excess mixture from each strip before applying it. It works well if you pull the strip of paper through to the other side between two fingers. Build up the desired new object by applying only one layer at a time and waiting for that to dry before going to a new layer. Dried objects can be sanded to improve the smoothness of the finished project before you apply an environmentally friendly paint design on top. Ideas of items that might be useful include containers for jewelry, organizing loose containers into a neatly contained area, or creating a container for paperclips and other office items that could be cluttering up desk drawers.
Make sure the used stirring sticks are free of coffee remains that could interfere with the gluing process. Design ideas could include coasters for cups, glasses, or mugs at the office or at home. You could also build containers for pens or other office supplies. Remember to wait until the glue had dried before putting items on your built items to avoid breakage! And again you might use environmentally friendly paints to finish your coffee stirrer design items.
To limit the space and supplies needed for your workshop team activity, it may be wise to pick one type of project to work on vs trying to cover several types of projects in one space.
Welcome, and introductions – if not all participants know each other, allow time for everyone to introduce themselves.
Overview – talk about the reason for the workshop and focus participant attention on sustainability and how sustainability principles relate to the way we think about and how we deal with the packaging associated with purchases. Give them some trash generation and recycling statistics for your local area to help them understand the scale of the issues faced environmentally with how things are going in your area. Introduce the workshop as a way to become more aware and get creative with packaging waste that comes from homes and offices. Creative activities in groups are also great ways to improve the mental health of individuals and feelings of belonging in a team or group.
Activity – introduce the chosen activity and explain the materials available to participants. Make sure people know how much time you have planned for the activity and if there will be follow-up opportunities to complete projects or whether they could take any half-finished projects home to finish them there. Walk around while participants work on their projects and support them with advice where needed. Always make sure that safety is a priority and be sure to explain any dangers such as using cutting devices or opening and closing drawers and cupboard doors in the workshop area.
Closing – when the workshop time is at the end. Thank everyone for participating and being willing to learn new ways of looking at single-use packaging as small steps to help improve the generation of trash in your area. Remind participants of how they could finish up their projects and encourage them to share pictures of completed items with the team/group.
The first step to improving any situation is awareness. This kind of team or group activity is a great way to increase awareness of the issues at hand with local trash generation and how each person can make a difference in small ways. Using creative endeavors to address this issue is also enjoyable and can be a great way to improve feelings of mental well-being, which is something we all can use in today’s world.
Your dream job – will it be all that you are hoping for?
When you consider a job change or a pivot, you may need to go and talk to people who are doing that job or role right now to answer some of your questions. Before you make a change you probably would need to understand the qualifications or certifications that are important and maybe understand what a typical day is like in that role? If you don’t have the certifications that would be a great way to make sure you prioritize getting the most essential certifications first. If you don’t like the way the typical day goes in that other role you are thinking about, perhaps it is not for you? Perhaps it is good to know more before you jump?
Desktop research first
A lot of this information is available online if you, for example, search for those job vacancies online – you can find out which qualifications or certifications are most required for the role you are considering changing towards. The job vacancies can also show what kinds of competencies and skills recruiters are looking for. Just bear in mind, sometimes they just ask for the moon and the stars in job vacancies to try and ensure they get a really good person who can satisfy a long wishlist (hard to do in most cases!) So, desktop research only goes so far…
Who can you talk to?
Knowing how the typical day goes in a role like the one you want, is not usually so easy to find out by doing online internet searches. This is where you would need to look to your own network of contacts – family members, friends, colleagues or ex-colleagues, and others in sports teams or clubs with you. When you have gone through all the people you know, and perhaps you did not find any or enough people who can help you, you may have to start looking online. Use social media platforms to find people who are in the role you would like to have. If you use LinkedIn, you might be able to see if you know someone or through your network may be able to contact someone who does what you would like to do in the future. If you have no direct links to a person you can often still reach out to them via a message. Your objective would be: Find someone who now has or someone who did have your dream role in the past so you can ask him/her some questions about it. That way you can have more clarity regarding how much might you love this role you are dreaming about?
Plan your next steps
Before you approach anyone for a meeting or a discussion around the questions you have, what targets and specific objectives do you want to set for yourself?
How many people you should approach with your questions? (Is 3 enough, or is a minimum of 5 your target? How many experts in this role do you need to talk to?) In some cases, it may be hard to answer the question because you don’t know if the first two people will give you quality answers or not? Set yourself a guideline target if you are not sure. (Tip: 15 may be too many! If you have not identified the right people to talk to, you may end up with too many discussions. If you find the right 3 and they are willing to spend 20 minutes with you on your key questions, it may be enough!)
Make a list of the people you know who may be able to answer the questions- we will talk about them in a moment. And think specifically about how they may be able to help. If you just ask just anyone you know or post it on your social media page, you may not get quality answers so think carefully about how each of the names you write down can help you. Is he/she currently in the role you are thinking of changing to? Is he/she a mentor or guide who can help me work out the steps to take? Is he/she working for a company or department that hires people for the role I am interested in? Was he/she in such a role in the past?
Start listing the specific questions which you would like to have answered. Here are some question options to consider:
The questions are about:
Find out what knowledge you might need. Once you know that, you can look for courses or certificates or volunteer options to help you gain the knowledge you need.
Which experiences would be important to have demonstrated in the past to get a role/job like this one? If you do not yet have that, how can you get those experiences? (ask for special assignments in your current role or consider a volunteer role)
Which key competencies or skills does it take to succeed in this role? How do your competencies and skills compare to that? If you have to fill in some learning gaps, how can you do that?
Are you possibly idealizing this role? Are there downsides you have not considered like a lot of travel and being away from your family and friends? Maybe there are some standby or nightshift requirements? Are you aware of that and does that fit in with your decision-making criteria?
In the greater scheme of things – how does this role or job contribute to success in a company? Is there something great about this role that you have not yet realized or understood? Does that motivate you to make time to fill in the knowledge and skills gaps that you discovered?
Keep your momentum
Set yourself small tasks to achieve every week to move forward in understanding more about the role/job you are interested to have in the future:.
What will you do and complete this week?
What will you do the week after?
Which day and at what time of the day each week will you check to see how you are doing against your planning (Did you complete the tasks you set yourself to achieve in the last week?)
To succeed at moving forward you need forward planning, checking back at least once per week to see how far you have come on your plan once you have started. And you need to set yourself targets to achieve in the next few days (be specific) to keep your momentum. That is how you keep your plan alive for moving towards your career move or change!
In interviews, you are sometimes asked to give an example of how you have demonstrated that you are good at a specific competency. Other times you may be asked to explain how your skills have been useful to teams or organizations in the past. The principle is that the experience you have in specific competencies would have been demonstrated by situations you faced in the past.
It is these examples that the interviewer would be looking for when they ask you to provide your answer in the STARR methodology. Using this approach is your best way to give an example that clearly outlines for the interviewer how you faced a situation, recognized what you needed to do, took action, and achieved good results or outcomes.
The acronym represents 5 specific topics you need to cover in your answer and if you imagine that 5-star picture in your mind, you may be able to more easily formulate your answers and examples during an interview. It is always a good idea to prepare some examples you can think of before the interview, but you may sometimes need to come up with an answer you did not prepare. Hopefully, this picture and explanation help you succeed with that!
The STARR method works on these headings (in sequence) [it is an acronym for these words]
Situation (when, where, what setting)
Task (what you needed to do, which responsibility you took on)
Action (what you did, which way you used a personal strength or competency)
Result (what was the outcome of your action?)
Reflection (looking back at how it went, what did you learn from it – what went well and what would you do differently if you faced the same situation again?)
Starting at the top of the star with the letter S, which represents the Situation you were in. This relates to the time when you were able to demonstrate through your actions that you have good proficiency in a specific competency. Once you have completed describing the Situation, you move clockwise to the next letter T. Once you have covered the questions under the letter T, you move clockwise to the next letter, A for action. And so you continue until you finish by including answers to the questions shown under Reflection.
Each of the topics under the STARR letters in the graphic above shows some bulleted questions which will help you ensure you cover the key aspects of that particular term when it comes to your example. from the past.
Here is an example showing how using the questions under each of the topics in the STARR model can be useful in preparing your answers for interviews.
When you are giving examples, you have to be specific instead of staying with general examples, which is often not convincing to those listening to your answers. . Make a story out of your example and base it on some real event that happened in your past to highlight how you were able to demonstrate a specific skill. Using the STARR methodology makes your story more credible and easier for those listening to you to get a full understanding of the capabilities that you have successfully demonstrated in the past.
Want to get to know your colleagues or teammates on a project? These may give you ideas for topics to ask about and discuss. Perhaps you are looking for a novel way to get to know your friends or family members better?
Some people have trouble with knowing what to talk about or which topics to ask others about to go beyond the first level of getting to know someone – if we assume the first level would be obvious topics like where are you from, what did you study, what kind of role you are in now, etc.
Pick just a handful of topics at most to avoid the other person feeling interviewed. You could also pick perhaps one to two to ask someone you work with or talk to mostly about work on a regular basis – perhaps just before or after a meeting. It could also be useful during a coffee break. Who knows what surprises you may have in learning to understand someone better?
Be sure to pick the right options for people you barely know – some of the topics are better suited for discussions when you already know someone – like friends or family members. I am sure you will apply common sense and wisdom in selecting fun topics that would match the situation and the person you plan to talk to.
Some of these questions can also be used in group ice breaker exercises or as a fun leg-stretching exercise in the middle of a long day of training or meetings.
Some recruiters like to use a question like these to see how candidates might respond. So, read through these, who knows when you may need to come up with an answer to one of them? 😊
Mentoring usually takes place between someone with experience and someone who needs advice and training in specific areas. Starting the process of mentoring duos sometimes skip the step where they talk about how we agree to go through this process together. What is important to you? What is important to me? What can each of us commit to in order for this to work well for both of us?
This free template below helps you to structure a conversation around what the mentor and mentee specifically agree to commit to. How many hours per month/quarter would we like to spend talking through specific topics?
Feel free to add additional items which would be important to discuss during the first meeting when you (mentor and mentee) agree on how to proceed. This kind of discussion may seem unnecessary, but covering these items upfront can save a lot of disappointment and misunderstandings later when items you might have imagined would be obviously included in your mentoring agreement vary from what the other person may have thought. It is not a contractual agreement as much as it is a summary of what you do or don’t want to commit to for the duration of the mentoring relationship.
When it comes to time commitments, it is also advisable to agree for the mentoring process to have a set time period – 12 months or 18 months. And when that time comes, review what has been achieved and learned and whether it makes sense to continue the mentoring relationship or to agree to end it at that time.
The full template can be downloaded below – it is a *.pdf file and it can be imported into MSWord for edits.
This post assumes a few starting points. For one, it assumes that you have a few leaders whom you would like to develop using a few specific developmental areas. When you review this example, you will notice that the areas shown here are typically associated with development of first-time or mid-level leaders. This example can help you take your own leadership development ideas a step further by defining specific steps, and processes which would make it easier to communicate your vision to stakeholders at your company – offering a well-considered program that includes all the elements that are important to developing leaders, their managers, executives considering succession planning, and also new recruits with dreams of building a great career at your company.
Which observable outcomes – behaviors – are important for successful leaders to display at your company? Can you define this per competency? Understanding what exact outcomes that your program strives to achieve makes it easier to select the right people for the program (those with development needs in these areas), evaluate the progress of developing leaders in your program (learning to lead with desirable behaviors), and also to understand where specific leaders may need more support with their own personal development plans.
Here is an example of defined outcomes and you will notice the columns to the right have spaces to insert names of possible program candidates. This would be a way to consider nominations when they are discussed by the program committee to decide on the next intake of leaders for the rotational assignment program.
Governance & Structure
Before you start to implement your ideas, take a moment to consider who are the key participants and stakeholders in this program? And have you thought of how you need to support each stakeholder’s needs and prepare them for their expected participation?
Basic processes would include:
Selection (nominations could be an additional process if you would not pre-select possible candidates using seniority or other criteria) – on what basis will multiple raters who know candidates propose and support nominated candidates?
Performance evaluation process – before the program starts and also at key stages during and at the end of each assignment.
Promotions and salary increase eview processes for program participants – checking thatyou are at least paying them at or above local market rates to ensure you are not endangering their retention.
Mentoring process for the benefit of participants – supporting developmental goals.
Performance feedback process to participants and the oversight committee in general.
Orientation process for managers whom program participants would report to during their rotational assignments.
Executive Sponsor for the program
It is important to understand who would be the sponsor at the executive level – involved in ensuring that the program meets strategic objectives and delivers on the agreed benefits. These would be the reasons why the program would be approved for funding and resource allocation like for example a program coordinator etc. Build a relationship with this stakeholder and ensure that he/she has all the information needed to feel comfortable with the progress you are making with the implementation or maintenance of the program on an ongoing basis.
This may be a group of operational leaders, some group support (functional) leaders, and perhaps a mentor or two. The oversight committee may also be involved in the nomination and/or selection of participants and may also be a part of the audience when program participants are asked to conduct presentations about their projects as part of the program, The oversight committee might also at least annually evaluate possible risks to success and may suggest mitigating actions or improvements to avoid or manage risks to successful outcomes of the program.
If you have dedicated internal and/or external mentors meeting with program participants on a regular basis it would be important to involve them by giving them an understanding of the strategic and operational expectations of the program. They would also need to be familiar with the measures of success and how they are defined and evaluated. The success of developing leaders would be very reliant on this group of people offering key support to them. For this reason, mentors should also be asked for (at least) annual feedback on their experiences as mentors and be able to share improvement suggestions and possible risks that need further consideration and action. Mentors should also be able to informally meet with the program manager to monitor program outcomes – understanding how the program is progressing in terms of outcomes achieved, number of development goals closed, number of participants being mentored, number of successful placements in higher roles for those coming out of the program, etc.
Managers of participants
There are aspects of a rotational program that differ from someone having a new team member to support departmental or divisional performance objectives. While the expectation is that these managers would invest their time and resources to accelerate the learning of participating leaders, these program participants will be expected to leave the managers’ groups at the end of the assignment. This concept may be challenged on a regular basis and common arguments include program particianpts being instrumental to maintaining successful client relationships (the client asked for him/her to be on the next project) and how their departures may pose risks to current projects (without his/her key knowledge on this project we cannot guarantee successful outcomes). Such issues would need to be resolved and escalated as needed to avoid participants getting stuck on one rotation.
Not everyone considered to have the ability to function at higher leadership levels aspires to those outcomes. It is important to understand the drivers, ambition, and engagement of each participant being considered for participation in the rotational development assignment program. This, on top of his/her performance and development needs being identified and documented in a development plan. . Once a program participant has been confirmed the communication process starts including the next steps, the program contents and objectives, the processes, and what would be required from him/her while on the rotational assignment program. Being introduced to those who are involved in the process would also be important – the new manager for the duration of an assignment and the assigned mentor would be two important links to make. Ensure a feedback loop to understand the success and risks of the program seen from the eyes and experience of program participants.
In this example, the annual processes are relatively simple and include an annual intake of new participants, formal communications, obtaining feedback from key stakeholders, presentation by participants about projects they worked on, and talent review discussions on the development of each leader in relation to succession planning objectives and strategies.
In general, rotational roles fall into these four categories (see graphic below).
Commercial roles could include sales support, marketing, external communications and sometimes includes roles that have direct interfacing with key customers – account roles. A key objective of commercial roles would be to ensure participants understand how money is made, reported, and the levers which could improve profitability, and the processes that are involved in converting operational success to money in the bank. This rotational assignment also provides an understanding of the level of customer satisfaction and where clients would like to see improvements or innovations. For more senior roles in a commercial function, the development objective could include understanding risks and opportunities and establishing a high-level plan to address both with internal initiatives and even external solutions like a merger or acquisition to address challenges and risks to customer satisfaction and the ability to deliver on customer expectations – given observed and expected changes in the marketplace, competitor offerings, etc.
Operational roles usually offer the ability to understand the daily activities and decisions which could lead to meeting or missing operational outcomes. This usually relates to impacts to the Profit and Loss Statements of a company. In these kinds of rotational assignment roles, participants learn to understand the challenges that project teams experience in delivering products or services that are attractive in the marketplace. They also learn how operational delivery can lead to optimal profitability. Concepts like LEAN, Circular economy, and agile are often concepts that are learned during assignments in operational roles.
Strategic roles are often assigned at one of the larger offices or to shadow a senior or executive leader involved in strategic projects and initiatives. During this assignment participants usually learn more about risk management, organizational strategies, and projects. Sometimes they could be involved in supporting due diligence activities for a possible merger or acquisition and may be exposed to considerations regarding organizational structure changes or changes to the legal structure of a company. During these assignments, participants understand how the company evaluates its internal and external strengths and opportunities along with possible organizational weaknesses and risks. In that landscape, the company will set strategies in motion to improve its competitiveness, its financial outcomes (P&L, Cashflow and/or balance sheet), and its ability to outmaneuver the competition in key areas. This could be as a result of acquiring and/or launching new innovative solutions or getting closer to the customers and how customers’ wishes are being met.
GroupSupport roles are often either in Human Resources or possibly in Procurement or any other group support (functional leadership) role where that specific participant can learn to more fully understand the challenges of balancing the needs of its shareholders, customers, employees, and supply chain partners.
How to start
Putting together a Rotational Assignment Program can take some time during the early stages and it would be very important to understand the strategic needs and objectives of the company when it comes to succession planning and key skills needed by the leaders of tomorrow. Talk to as many possible stakeholders as you can to build a successful business case and change plan addressing all concerns and needs of key stakeholders in the success of the rotational assignment plan. Talk to experts who have developed a program like this to garner any tips regarding pitfalls that they needed to navigate. Finally, commit to continue learning as you go. Get feedback and act on it and use the data gathered to drive continuous improvement activities. Use the feedback to ensure the program continues to deliver outstanding benefits in a fast-changing world which impacts your ability to attract and retain key talent on a continuous basis.
Useful posts to help with the preparation and communication of stretch/developmental assignments:
One of the key reasons that companies lose new hires with some experience is that they fail to support these new hires adequately during their first few months. In some companies, it can be quite hard to understand how things work there, how to fit in and be successful, feel valued and included. Having a written onboarding plan from the start is a great way to bring more clarity to the person and also help them understand expectations during the crucial early months in their new roles in the new company.
The onboarding plan can be written as early as during the recruitment process. In one best-case scenario, it was shared with a senior executive right after his interview with the CEO. It was such an unexpected and appreciated action that the executive commented how refreshing he found the transparency and it made him see the hiring company as head-and-shoulders above the competition which led to him accepting the offer and joining the company a few months later.
While the plan can help clarify the set-up and structure for a new hire, it is important to set up review meetings with the newly hired managers or key hires. In some cases, reviews with an HRBP could be useful to understand for example how performance management is organized and how the process works. Such review moments could also clarify talent development programs and processes, which is useful to know for the new hire regarding his/her own career but also for helping the new hire manage the development actions for those who report to him/her.
Review meetings with the manager that the new hire reports to could help identify priorities and understand where to connect with more people or build additional internal or external relationships. The manager can also answer questions about activities planned to ensure desired outcomes are achieved after 30-days, 60-days, and 90-days as captured in the onboarding plan.
The people side of success
The template captures not only the tasks and activities needed to succeed in a new role but also identifies people with whom to build relationships. These are important relationships and contacts that the new hire would need to establish and maintain to ensure his/her success in the long run. They could be key client contact personnel or contacts from key suppliers or subcontractors. They could also be internal – people who know how things work and who can advise on the best course of action to get something done at that company.
And it is also important to identify people who can be trusted to keep things to themselves and who could advise on who to talk to before moving in specific directions for changes the new hire would like to implement. Either the HR Director/HRBP or the new hire’s manager may be helpful to identify who those contacts may be.
Note that confidants or advisors may also be external people such as professional coaches or consultants.
While it is important from a company’s perspective to ensure key new hires are provided with onboarding plans, completing the details and setting priorities to accomplish the outcomes defined in the plan lie with the new hire. The success of the new hire is only partially dependent on helping him/her get up to speed faster by having review meetings and an onboarding plan and giving him or her access to professional helpers and advisors. The new hire remains accountable for his or her own performance and following through on the items recorded in the onboarding plan.
When both the process of onboarding works well and the new hire holds himself/herself accountable for the outcomes produced, the risks of failure due to onboarding gaps are lowered and retention success is more likely in the medium to long term!
Useful posts for new employee/ new manager onboarding and orientations :
Staged Promotions – Accelerate role-readiness using focused development with check-ins
Leaders are not always ready the moment you need them to step into a new role. An inexperienced leader can increase risks in continued customer satisfaction, operational / execution risks, and employee satisfaction and retention. Using a a staged promotion could be a way to mitigate risks, while ensuring that leadership development is accelerated and monitored with defined targets on knowledge gained and skills and competencies gained during each period within a specified timeline.
Process and Timeline
The graphic below outlines the process and shows an example of running the process over a 9-month period. The duration of such a process can vary but watch out for making the period too long – longer than 12 months. It can lead to process fatigue and demotivation of the leader. It is important that the process starts with an orientation to ensure the leader understands how the process will work and what is on the other side of the development period. The leader should be clear on what he/she is signing up for.
Defined learning path
During the development period, there needs to be a few concrete check-in points whereby the leader is demonstrating knowledge, skills and insights gathered and learned over the period. Instead of making the check-in points being general discussions, it is useful to select a few key focus areas for a presentation to be delivered at the end of each of the development periods.
Each check-in event needs to result in specific feedback being captured and shared with the developing leader. The feedback helps him/her to further focus and improve on their learning approach for the remaining learning periods.
The final check-in is usually the final decision-point where the executives present are willing to confirm the promotion of the leader – ending the interim nature of the assignment.
The example below shows how a project or facility leader can be assigned specific areas to learn about over the 9-month period. Each of the areas are important for the normal day-to-day activities of the developing leader and the focus simply means nothing is missed in helping the leader perform well in the role in future. It helps to include the strategic and the “why” part of a role since a new role is often mostly or mainly about the “what” to get done.
The orientation step which helps the leader understand the design of the development path, the role he or she has and also how to ensure his/her own success making use of available internal and external development resources. Before the orientation session, a leader has typically already understood from his/her manager that they are offered the development opportunity on an interim basis and the leader has agreed to proceed. The leader also needs to know what happens if he/she does not succeed at the end? Will they get a different assignment and what might that be?
Preparing the executives before the check-in events (when check-in events are set up to be a presentation followed by questions and answers). Executives need to understand the design of the development path, the purpose of the focus areas, the development needs of the leader and how they are to capture their feedback to be presented back to the leader after the event.
Feedback to the leader should be specific and be a balance of activities that are good to maintain, which ones to develop further and which ones to start or stop going forward. Specific examples of desirable behaviors or results should be highlighted. A discussion on risk identification and management may also be useful to help the developing leader understand how to adjust own focus to best mitigate and manage risks associated with own development as a leader as well as risks associated with the role..
This process is very useful to help a leader understand what the new role would include when they are meeting all expectations of stakeholders. A leader who feels uncomfortable meeting all those expectations will typically ask to be taken off the development path before the end having realize it is not for him or her. And this allows for re-assignment and solving the leadership vacancy in a different way.
Listening to a presentation by the leader on the assigned topics goes a long way towards providing executives with a sense of comfort (or alarm!) in terms of what can be expected from this leader in this role going forward. While these check-in points should not be the only determinant of how the leader is performing in the new role or estimating future behavior, it is a great way to understand the reasoning a leader applies in making business determinations and decisions and how the leader approach problem-solving when faced with adverse situations.
Working on multicultural teams you may have had moments of wondering what he or she just meant by that comment? Or why will he or she not make a key decision so an activity can move forward? Cultural perspectives and ways of life may be one of the reasons that could explain those incidents.
It is fun to meet people from other cultures and learn about their lives and experiences. And at first it may be interesting to learn how their cultures vary from your own, but once you work on a project together and it is remote working, including long hours and tight deadlines those differences can start to cause friction on the team. This can slow down progress and impact team morale. Being aware of the most common inter-cultural disconnects can prevent team members from blaming it on a person and instead enter into a discussion to unpack the root cause of a lack of action, lack of decision-making or the exact opposite – too many fast actions without thinking or making decisions without considering consequences.
4 Areas of misunderstanding that can impact inter-cultural teams
Some things are smart to do in order to ensure the team understands required project outcomes and approaches to use. Aspects would include clarifying the definition of done, outlining project phases and deadlines, assigning roles and responsibilities and having regular meetings to monitor and understand progress and resolve issues that are hindering progress or pose a risk.
Some aspects may need additional attention if your team consists of a few members from very different cultures.
1. Managing to deadlines
This relates to how important team members believe deadlines are. Some may see them as a guideline while others will suffer anxiety and will work longer hours to make sure the are met. In some cultures, there is a strong emphasis on being for example exactly on time for an appointment while in other cultures it may be okay to be a few minutes late for business meetings and perhaps even a few hours late for a social engagement.
Make sure all team members understand the consequences, knock-on effects and penalties which may be triggered if the team missed deadlines. Monitor progress and have follow-up conversations if team members are falling behind to ensure they understand the importance of their activities being completed on-time.
Ensure team members understand the priorities they should place on various aspects of the work that needs to be done by the deadline. Ensure it is also clear exactly what “done” means. Do you expect quality checks to be done too or just a first draft of the outcome to be available? Should it be print-ready or just ready for an internal review or further discussions?
2. Clear Role Expectations
There are differences in cultures around the meaning of “in charge” or the Subject Matter Expert (SME). In some cultures, it is customary to take the word of such a person as a mandate to perform a specific task or action exactly according to what he/she said. In other cultures, SMEs and leaders are considered more “accessible”, and dialogue is welcomed when one does not agree with a requirement or task assigned by the one “in charge.” This difference can cause confusion on teams including many different cultures. To what degree can and should instructions be discussed and challenged vs accepted? Are those in expert roles or roles with authority prepared to deal with challenging discussions and comments – if the project team will operate in a culture of open discussions?
Have a role discussion at the start of the project and include what would be great questions to ask each role and how interaction is expected to take place on the project to maximize positive team outcomes.
Be sure to have further discussions highlighting best-practices during the project and as new team members join, who may have missed the original discussions around the different project roles and how to best interact with them.
3. Conflict resolution
Conflict shows up differently in each person – some people speak up and go to the “max ” to be heard and understood while others take their thoughts, feelings and especially resentment underground and do not speak out. This means that conflict can be hard to resolve and to feel comfortable that all thoughts and concerns are on the table and discussed before decisions are made. Some cultures are more likely to speak up and make sure their opinions are voiced while others might patiently and politely wait to be asked for an opinion and speaking out of turn (from their perspective) may be seen as impolite or disrespectful. In some cultures open disagreements are best avoided to maintain a cordial/good relationship with others on the project.
Use more than one channel to check in with team members and get feedback – ask in meetings, but also check in with individual team members between meetings to understand if there is any part of the path forward chosen which concerns them.
If any team members are especially aggressive in voicing opinions, perhaps a quiet word might help that person to still voice opinions, but possibly in a less forceful way to avoid antagonizing anyone from a culture where a forceful (overly enthusiastic ) communication style might cause discomfort.
Provide training in non-violent communication and voicing messages with a healthy balance between listening and advocating. Help team members to constantly improve in understanding each other’s styles to help communication and collaboration efforts on the project.
When a conflict does occur, address it in a culturally-sensitive way if the disconnect could be related to a cultural difference in perspective. The objective should be to solve and address project issues in a helpful way without causing negative impacts to collaboration on the project.
4. Navigating with many languages
We all know of situations where people from the same country with the same language find it hard to communicate successfully with understanding and openness. When a team consists of many different cultures, this can be so much more confusing and frustrating.
Agree from the start of the project to follow a few guidelines such as: For the chosen project language, native speakers are to slow down and use simple ways to bring their points across. And native speakers of the main project language will be patient with non-native speakers trying to get their thoughts across. If there is a large language ability gap between the native-speakers and other team members consider some language classes to bridge the gap.
Consider asking presenters/speakers at planned meetings to send out specific agenda items and a summary paragraph of the issues to be raised and discussed at least a day before the meeting. That would help non-native speakers to prepare ensuring they understand the issues and are able to fully participate in the conversation at the meeting.
When there are significant differences in levels of language abilities on the team, meetings may take longer, and collaboration may also be a little harder especially in a virtual/remote environment. Be sure to take this into account when planning project timelines and deadlines.
Plan ahead to succeed
Knowing you may be starting up a project with a multi-cultural team, schedule team-building activities for team members early on. This will help them get to know each other as humans/people. Establishing trust early on, can avoid frustration turning into conflict and delays in reaching project team deadlines.
Create team opportunities to get to know more about each other’s cultures. This could bridge the gap in understanding each other’s perspectives and avoid labeling, misunderstandings, and internal team misalignments..
Set continuous learning as one of the core values of the team and live it, encourage it and keep bringing the team back to what can be learned from successes and failure as the project progresses. Having a curious and learning mindset is a great way to avoid major disconnects between team members as they will engage in inquiry and advocacy vs judgment and labelling as a default behavior.