Organize your message


speechMany of us have heard about the power of three items or 3 key messages, but most people have not been shown how to use this in practice. While it is easy enough to make a list and restrict it to 3 items, picking 3 items that make sense from a logical perspective takes a little more thought. Our minds are highly responsive to patterns. Knowing that we will hear 3 key points and then having somebody deliver the 3 points in a logical fashion is something we are more likely to remember afterward. It comes across as more credible when we are able to recognize a pattern in the delivery of the key points.

Maybe you are coaching someone on how to deliver more impactful messages. Or perhaps you are preparing your own answers to questions in a group setting or you are planning a short speech on an important change initiative or project update? This resource can help you. It aids in formulating your thoughts in a logical way, which enables you to deliver a message that is easy for your audience to interpret and remember.

model org message

 

Click on this link to download the model and also some examples.

The three key ideas you wish to communicate or the three top reasons why you suggest a certain course of action cannot be random or they may still fail to be memorable. The 3 key concepts should be structured in a way that would make sense to others so that they can easily be recalled after people hear them.

Grouping the 3 points in a logical way:

  • Three linked ideas like quality, time, money/costs; good, bad and ugly (see the specific example in the downloaded document )
  • Forward or backward motion – tell the story sequentially either from the present into the past in 3 steps or from the past into the future in 3 steps. For example: in the past, we used one process which worked, but since then many things changed to where we are today (with challenges and in need for things to change) and in the future, we will have additional challenges which simply requires us to make changes now. (You can fill in the details of your own message to explain the situation when you choose a structure that moves forward or backward in time).
  • Perspective – the 3 concepts move from a big idea to a small idea or from small ideas to big ideas/reasons. For example (out of) from this small team which will be impacted by the change to the bigger team and then to an even bigger group of people who may be impacted. (see the specific example in the downloaded pages)

 

org message structures

Use the practice sheet or template to learn this approach. It helps you to become more familiar with using this way of organizing your message or your answer to a group of people. Once you get used to how it works you will no longer need the template and you should be able to organize your thoughts while you are in the meeting or in transit to the meeting.

organize your message template

Some ideas of where to use this approach:

  • You are in a meeting and they are going around the table collecting everyone’s thoughts on a proposal (You take a moment to quickly organize your own response using this method.)
  • You have been asked to provide an update at a meeting, which starts in a few minutes. (Remembering this approach you are able to jot down your initial thoughts, choose a structure and then revise your points to fit your chosen structure of 3 points to make.)
  • You are attending a conference and have to introduce yourself or someone else (Using the structured way of choosing 3 key aspects to mention, your answer is memorable to the conference attendees.)
  • During lunch, some colleagues ask you why you support a particular proposal. (You easily recall the structured options and formulate a response consisting of 3 key thoughts to share after you have swallowed the food.)

Listening to long unstructured answers in meetings or trying to make sense out of facts presented in a complicated way in a meeting can be a confusing experience. Using a simple structure with only (no more and no less than) 3 key points, makes it much easier for you to avoid the same mistake. Instead, you can use this approach to deliver a message that they will easily understand and remember.

Let me know how this approach works for you or the person that you are coaching!

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Office Safety Booklet


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I often come across HR Managers in smaller to mid-sized companies who have a few areas of responsibility outside of HR like for example Office Safety and Facilities. They are often expected to maintain a high level of compliance with constantly changing laws and this can become a daunting task for some. The free resource that I am sharing today is a general Office Safety booklet. It covers several topics relating to the office environment to create more awareness among employees of the do’s and don’ts around staying safe in the office environment.

You can either print it double-sided from the pdf document and make it available to employees as a booklet or you can send them the electronic document to review if they have just joined the company. It is quite easy to turn the booklet into an orientation and discussion session if you want to use it in that way.

Booklet in pdf format. When you click on this link it will provide you with the pdf file (.pdf).

Booklet in powerpoint format When you click on this link it will provide you with the powerpoint file (.ppt).

This booklet is not based on any certified course so it is not a replacement for anyone who needs to undergo a formal exam to be certified in some aspect of safety. It simply helps you, as the HR Manager who has to cover Office Safety, to communicate some basic safety aspects to employees and other visitors to your office who may be working there for a period of time.

This free resource also gives you a basis for an annual office safety check. Depending on expectations from management or compliance requirements you may need to perform an office safety check once per year. Using this booklet you can easily create a list of items to check based on the various categories of topics covered. For example, you can check how many times an accident or incident happened or almost happened per year based on history. Or you can check how people are working or storing items in the working area – are you seeing tripping or falling hazards?

Let me know if you are getting stuck with the creation of a safety checklist from the booklet!

The powerpoint version can be edited and as you read through it some items may not apply to your office environment.  You can simply delete that section or that page. And it is also easy to copy the wording from this version and create training or presentation slides if that is a management expectation you need to meet.

If your company has an office environment next to a manufacturing or production facility this booklet would not cover several topics that a facility like that would require. There are many more rules around production or manufacturing environments, which are not necessarily covered in this booklet. Examples include how to handle dangerous materials and wearing safety equipment for certain activities. I recommend that you contact an expert in safety for your industry to help you create the right training and awareness materials for an industrial application.

I believe this booklet offers a good start in getting safety principles communicated to office employees and I also recommend that you look for more ways to strengthen your office safety program.

Other considerations:

  • Make sure you can tell employees where to assemble outside during a fire drill and how they would recognize the alarm to trigger an evacuation. Also, make sure they know which routes to follow for an evacuation.
  • Ensure you have a First Aid box that is well-stocked to take care of small incidents and cuts. Check it on a regular basis to make sure you are not running out of anything and also that nothing in there is over the use-by date.
  • Is there someone in your office building where your office is located who offers safety assistance – for example, if an employee had a heart attack or a bad fall? If there is not, should someone from your office get that training?
  • Apart from reading a booklet on safety, how can you make sure that employees think safety first in every activity they consider? This would be even more important if your company has safety or employee well-being as a value or a priority.

Small and mid-sized companies often do not have large budgets for creating office safety awareness and it is my hope that this free resource helps you cover ground that would otherwise have been a tough additional action on your HR Manager to-do-list!

Note: Powerpoint has a feature that allows you to print a booklet from the ppt file. Each page in the booklet would then be half the size of a normal A4 page (or Letter if you change the file to American settings) and it would be foldable in the center.

Creating an Annual Communication Plan


Unless you are in a senior role in the communications group or department you comm plan graphicprobably never had to make an annual communication plan before. Recently I  was asked to help two people (working in mid-sized or small companies) who never had to make an annual communication plan before but were expected to create one now. Perhaps you are also tasked with making one? Or maybe you are asked to comment on one?

The basic idea behind an annual communication plan is to ensure that someone is planning to address targeted communications activities to various groups of people across all the available platforms that are used by the group or organization. The plan should typically include specific mention of dates, details of the intended contents of messages or specific focus areas, and be specific about who is responsible for each of the actions. That way everyone involved in executing activities from the communication plan is aware of his or her role and when deliverables would be due. Planning to communicate is not the hard part of the assignment as most people are quite creative during brainstorming sessions related to what we can do and how to do it. The hard part is to write it all down so that we all know what will actually happen after we leave the meeting or brainstorming session.  And the next hard part is to apply self-discipline to execute according to the plan and update and review the plan on a regular basis.

The Annual Communication Plan template that I am sharing (click on the blue link to open the template), shows various aspects to consider when you look ahead to a year of planned communications. Of course, we know that plans are subject to changes happening around us on the project or changes in the company or in client needs. This means the plan is not static and you should review the plan on a regular basis to add or change items as needed. Remember to share updates you made with other team members who have activities assigned to them.

comms plan first columnThe first column in the template contains a few communication channels to consider as you look at the messages you want to share and the intended target groups that your messages should reach. Ensure that you are using the right communication channels that you know to be in broad use by your intended target group of readers. And each of the headings could have multiple options for example meetings could be global meetings, regional meetings and local meetings where you would like the same message or a different version of the main message to be shared.

coms plan headers left side

The columns across the top of the template are mainly there to document who is doing what by when and when you are ready to publish and have published or delivered the message. This helps you measure progress on planned activities and shows where you may need to apply special focus to avoid delays.

The published date is important, not only to ensure that your intended actions were completed but also to measure the success of your communication activities after the activity has been completed. comms plan measures.JPG

In this simple template, the only measure shown is based on the number of people reached. There are many more ways to measure the outcomes and success of your communication actions including:

  • How many people took a further action after reading or watching (if video) or listening to (if podcast) your message (i.e. liked it, clicked on the button for “more information etc),
  • How many people used it as a reference or highlighted it by linking to it, sharing it or tagging it,
  • How many people visited your website right after you have published or shared a new message?

Add additional columns to your plan (as needed) in order to capture any other important measures that you wish to track per message, date and communication channel.

General tips which may help you as you use this template to create your annual communication plan:

  1. Plan to share the same message in many different ways to optimize the number of times and ways that your intended audiences receive the message during a relatively short timespan.
  2. Not every communication message can be forecasted and planned over a 12-month period but without at least a guideline of topics that you would like to share over a 12-month period, the chances of missing opportunities to impact your intended audiences are bigger. Remember, you can always update and make changes when unplanned events occur while you progress through your plan.
  3. Experiment with a mix of ways to communicate – create messages to be shared face-to-face with credible speakers and follow up with something online and perhaps also a film on your website.
  4. Do use metrics to track results against your goals. It is the best way to know what works and what needs to be improved. Having proven successes also adds credibility to your communication plan and activities.

 

When tasked with creating an Annual Communication Plan, you may never need to become an expert at creating this kind of plan, yet it is still in your best interests to capture your thoughts about planned communication activities, responsibilities, deadlines, and metrics in a concise way. This template is only one way to achieve this. Once you have created the plan in a structured way people can review it, comment on it and manage to it and it ensures alignment within the team as you make progress with your communication objectives.

 

Checklists for Stretch Assignments


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Stretch assignments are useful for learning and personal growth and development, because they purposefully contain elements that are challenging in areas where the assignee needs to develop. Designed correctly, a stretch assignment confronts one with the necessity  to get out of your comfort zone in order to succeed.

The starting point for designing such an assignment can be multiple data sources:

  • the person’s own development needs compared to established leadership competencies,
  • key proven areas of mastery that a company requires from their leaders to advance to the next level,
  • a mindset or  mindset shift that is required to move the company and its leaders into a new way of operating; or
  • to build competency in specific important areas that are or will be important to the future of the company.

A stretch is not defined in a general way, but rather it is very specific to a person. While a stretch could mean that one requirement is for the person (plus family, if appropriate) to move to an international location, it inevitably would also include other job-related challenges. Examples include supervising more people, having financial performance targets (for someone who has only had functional roles in the past) or having more complexity such as multiple geographical areas to manage. The key balance to maintain when designing stretch assignments is to ensure that the assignee is put under a certain amount of pressure to learn and grow, but not so much pressure that he or she fails.

Mitigating failure risks, there are a few things you can implement to help monitor how things are going with each assignee and to provide a “safety net” for an assignee to get support from.

  1. Assign subject-matter experts as coaches – depending on the scope of the assignment
  2. Assign a leadership development coach to help the assignee reflect on experiences, frame up challenges and cognitively choose best solutions and explore new ways of operating to be more successful in the assigned areas of responsibility.
  3. Set up intra-company networking events for the assignees to meet, have opportunities to mingle and share experiences and also include a pre-determined learning event tied to overall leadership development objectives within the company.
  4. Set up a structure of communication moments with the “home” organization supervisor and colleagues – this is especially important if you plan to return the assignee to the same organization at the end of the assignment. Maintaining ties would greatly improve a successful return and reintegration after an assignment. Communication moments like these can also greatly help colleagues NOT on assignment to learn from the experiences and best-in-class solutions their colleague on assignment is mastering.

New and challenging assignments often cause assignees to experience some stress. Supporting assignees to successfully navigate through the new challenges means you should pay attention to a change in behavior or performance which could indicate that he or she is stuck on the learning curve. Signs that things are going wrong are important to notice early-on to maximize chances of turning things around and avoiding an assignment disappointment and/or incurring an assignee retention risk. Pre-departure training should be provided to both assignees and their coaches to understand and recognize signs that things may not be going well and to understand ways to become unstuck in every situation.

Some warning signals:

stretch-assignments-signs-of-failure

Expectations for goal achievement by assignees must be specifically captured in a plan and communicated to an assignee along with available rewards for over-achievement of goals. The specific strategic importance of the assignment should also be highlighted as well as the developmental needs to be addressed during the assignment.

Tips for stretch-assignment coordinators:

  1. Ensure that there is a structure that enables assignees to succeed and always follow-through with the check-in points and feedback activities to ensure all is well.
  2. Ensure that all those involved in assignments are clear on the role of management, role and responsibilities of supporting coaches, the role and responsibilities of assignees and the role and responsibilities of assignment supervisors and “home office” supervisors.
  3. Adequately prepare assignees for their assignments: cultural awareness training (for international assignments), language skills (where needed) and if accompanied by family members – consider a session to discuss the practicalities of moving to a new location with those family members present.
  4. Ensure that the assignees get interim feedback on how their assignments are going -at least 3 times per year, but more often if this can be managed. This provides opportunities to refocus and apply new approaches as needed to ensure the assignment is successful.
  5. Provide assignees and stakeholders in assignments ample notification about the end date of an assignment. This assures minimum surprises and helps everyone to plan actions leading to a well-organized return upon assignment completion.

When assignments are successful in achieving or exceeding on all the objectives, assignees should return from their experiences with increased confidence, leadership skills, and maturity. The personal growth and development they experienced should enhance their ability to make better decisions and build stronger interpersonal relationships with those they lead and follow. Being mindful of how to setup and manage stretch assignments can make all of that a reality.

 

Structured Knowledge Sharing


people-finalVery few companies are planning ahead when it comes to knowledgeable people leaving the company and retiring. The knowledge that is lost to the company when Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) leave can have direct impacts to the top and bottom-line and yet, there appears to be room for improvement in this process.

The need for implementing a structured process for knowledge transfer or sharing can naturally come from any of the following process and review discussions involving HR representatives and Managers:

  • Succession Planning
  • Workforce planning
  • Recognition and Reward reviews
  • Training needs assessment
  • Organizational capability discussions (now and future)

The question is: how are you ensuring that those with recognized expertise in a specific area contribute to the learning of others?

In many cases such a recognized SME is assigned to mentor a more junior employee delivering promising results early in his/her career with the company. However, the time commitment associated with mentoring a one to three people individually plus ensuring that the interactions are meeting content coverage expectations can soon become a concern.  So how do you optimize the knowledge transfer or sharing process, while not taking up too much of the SMEs time doing so?

The solution is to structure the knowledge transfer or knowledge sharing process and to include multiple participants. Ideally participants with an SME should range between 3 and a maximum of 8 people. Structuring sessions where people interact improves learning as it facilitates discussions leading to deeper understanding and the ability to get into more detail on some topics.

knowledge-transfer-graphic

You may choose to add elements such as a pre- and post-test to measure the increase in knowledge gained during a session or series of sessions. Preparing managers of session participants to ensure that newly gained knowledge can be applied on-the-job, would further help participants internalize what they are learning and have learned. This greatly improves the amount of newly acquired knowledge integrated in decision-making and execution of daily work activities at the company.

Structuring the discussions that will take place between an SME and assigned participants can be a daunting task for an SME, who often does not realize how much he or she knows about various topics. The questions below may be useful. Combine those that make sense to combine and do not get too hung up if the group takes longer to discuss a particular question/topic than anticipated. The questions or topics are merely a guide to help the SME consider the various aspects relating to a topic that he or she may be an expert at. The topics/questions below pertain to a process, but can easily be modified to facilitate knowledge sharing related to tools, applications and other areas of expert knowledge.

discussion-topics-for-smes

Capturing knowledge in a database would be one approach to knowledge sharing, but helping adults learn and know how to apply new knowledge requires that you build in room for questions and discussions in the process. This can be accomplished using face-to-face sessions and could also be webinars and video-conferences.

The best way to ensure that knowledge is retained and expanding within the company is to apply discipline and structure to knowledge sharing and transfer. This is especially important to do when you consider those who plan to retire in the next two to three years. Involving recognized experts (SMEs) within your company to share their knowledge with others is another important area where this approach could be useful. Using the process and approach shared above will help you plan ahead and improve organizational capability over time .

Team Exercise – This Picture Shows…


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This exercise is very popular with those who prefer working with images and pictures to express and represent their thoughts and feelings. While others may at first seem dubious about the exercise, my experience is that images and imagery often open up new ways of communicating, which could bring a creative element to your event and in the end everyone typically enjoys participating in this exercise.

The set-up is simple and the exercise does not take up a lot of time. It is also very versatile in the sense that you can use it in quite a number of different ways to get feedback and input from those you are working with in your event (training, meeting, workshop etc.)  I am sharing some specific options for you as facilitator to consider, but once you start getting creative with it, I am sure you will find many more applications for this exercise.

Tip: when it comes to selecting pictures read through my suggestions at the bottom of the instructions, but also get creative or brainstorm with a creative coworker or friend to create or find pictures that may “speak” to your participants given the context of the event or session(s) where this exercise is to be used. If you often facilitate sessions you will probably build up a good set of images to use for an exercise such as this one. More  “out of the box” (unusual) images could potentially lead to richer feedback from individuals to start group/team discussions. This could lead to vastly increased understanding of issues by participants.

The information you need for this group or team activity/exercise is shown below:

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Change Management – Setting the scene with senior leaders


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Before any organizational change is launched there has to be meetings with executives and senior leaders to ensure alignment around the reason(s) and main principles of the change initiative. Meeting objectives would also typically include getting their support for executing change activities and to help them understand expectations of them as executives and senior leaders during the change period and beyond.

Resource shared – slides in pdf format

The resource I am sharing is a deck of slides in pdf format. These can be used as a basis for creating your messages to senior leaders and executives. There are slides that help explain how change will likely impact the organization and the people plus slides explaining how leaders can help by being role models and also by actively addressing resistance and other signs of low engagement in those around them. I would suggest using this resource as optional examples to help communicate the specific messages that makes sense for the change management initiative that you may be leading and the meeting participants/audience that you will be facing.

Here are the steps I would suggest you follow:

  1. Be clear on the reasons that your change initiative need to be implemented and how the changes will improve on status quo. (Business case or burning platform)
  2. Did you get executive buy-in from one or more sponsors before your presentation? (Highly recommended – in fact, do not proceed until you have it!)
  3. Consider the presentation you will be doing – who will be there? What do they know and what do you need them to know, understand and do once they leave the presentation?
  4. What impact will the planned changes likely have on the employees at your company and how do you think your targeted audience can help and should act/behave given the change process and desired outcomes?
  5. Review the slides in the resource I am sharing and determine if any of them could help you and support the messages that you would like to communicate to the audience that you will be facing.

Of course these slides are not going to substitute the preparation work you need to do before starting a change initiative, but they may be helpful to use as background or to explain some of the specific change management aspects that may be of particular importance to your audience.

 

How to Motivate employees and Retain them



motivating-and-retaining-employeesWhat motivates your employees?

Every employee has different reasons for showing up at work and there are different ways to motivate each of the people working with you. Since one size does not fit all, it is best to stop guessing and to find out for sure what it is that makes those reporting to you love their jobs. Knowing what motivates your direct reports is also a great way to ensure you retain your direct reports. Of course having a good professional relationship with each of your direct reports goes a long way to ensuring that issues which may demotivate them are brought up early and resolved in open dialogue and discussion.

The exercise below can be used by you to first establish what you believe would be motivational before you ask your direct reports to complete the exercise below. Understanding that, as their supervisor, you are most likely not going to get it right without their input may further instill the practice in you to always check your assumptions before you engage when it comes to understanding what would motivate others.

The list below contain outcomes that could be motivational to your direct reports in their jobs. This means that these outcomes would keep them interested in continuing to work in this role, for you and in this company.

Instructions: Rank the list below in terms of 1 to 14 where 1 means “motivates me the most” to 14 which means “this does not motivate me much.” The ranking is not to say that this is how it is RIGHT NOW, but in the perfect environment, what would be the most vs least motivational to the person doing the ranking.

A. Rank these from 1 to 14

  • Receiving market-aligned compensation for the job I am doing
  • Recognition for my efforts by my supervisor
  • My work is interesting and challenges me in a positive way
  • The company/job comes with excellent benefits (separate from my annual salary)
  • Pleasant working environment (ambiance, set-up)
  • My supervisor is fair in making decisions and communicating them i.e. promotion, recognition, expectations.
  • The knowledge of my colleagues which is shared with me
  • I have all the information I need to have in order to understand what my priorities are and why I am performing the tasks that I am assigned
  • I understand exactly what my supervisor expects from me
  • I have a great feeling of accomplishment in this role/job
  • This role/job provides me with a lot of learning options, which can lead to promotions in the future
  • I have a chance to contribute to discussions and decisions that impact me
  • The people I work with are great people who make me feel included and valued
  • My opinion is often asked for and is valued by my supervisor

B. Level of current motivation

The next step would be to ask the same employees to rate how much they are currently motivated by the same items from above.  Comparing these answers with the answers in A. can help you identify possible ways in which you can improve the motivation of each employee reporting to you. For example, if someone had a high ranking motivator in A. and that same item gets a low score in B. that means you should look for ways to impact that area to motivate and retain that particular employee.

motivation-ranking

Once you have captured the feedback from those who report to you, have individual discussions with each one of them to determine how you can better impact the areas that they scored the highest:

  • How can I, as your supervisor, help you to have a better experience of this item (high ranking items from A. the list above – especially if that same item has a low score in B.)? _____________________________________________________
  • Are there ways in which you feel that I can remove obstacles or improve your experience in this regard? (see highest ranking items with low scores in exercise B.) ______________________
  • Is there anything that you and I need to discuss or resolve to remove any bad feelings or negativity from the past to move forward on a positive note? _________________________
  • Is there anything that I, as your supervisor, can do better to improve your enjoyment of your job/role at the company?

Be sure to mention (as appropriate – be truthful and honest):

  • I want you to know that I value your contribution and you are an important team member to this project/department.
  • I believe we can achieve great accomplishments in this department/team if we work together and communicate openly about what needs to be done and how to support each other in order to have a better overall outcome for the team/department.
  • I hope you will take the time to let me know of any obstacle that you see which may hinder us in achieving our goals. And I hope you will see any feedback from me in the same light – I want you as an individual to enjoy what you are doing (realizing that not all of our jobs are highly enjoyable – some parts are typically repetitive and maybe mainly administrative) and I want your contribution to the team/department to be clear to you in terms of expectations and how things are going.
  • Is there anything else you would like to bring my attention or which you think we should discuss before we end our meeting?

After the meeting you may want to consider reviewing your notes. Some items may be easy to action, simply by you emailing or calling someone in order to set something up. Other items may not be so straight-forward. For example, someone with a performance that does not meet expectations may ask for an increase. Set up a meeting with your HR Business Partner or representative to talk through the items and set priorities. Always make sure you are able to provide direct individual feedback to each employee on the items you discussed in your individual meetings with them.

Employees are motivated by different aspects of their roles/jobs at the company and there are many ways in which you are able to influence these aspects. The professional relationship you have with your direct employees also greatly impacts whether someone chooses to stay or leave the company/their role.

In the end some employees will leave and you will need to fill those roles by promoting existing employees or hiring new employees. Ultimately, the sign of a good leader is the number of great leaders he or she creates. When they feel the need to leave to move up, applaud them, keep contact with them and congratulate yourself when you see them succeed regardless of where they end up as a result of your great coaching and support.

Cross Cultural Communication Exercise


colors-cultureCross cultural awareness and skills in the workplace are vital to companies striving to enter new geographical areas or aiming to build successful operations at international locations. Ineffective cross-cultural collaboration and communication in international teams have caused many global projects to under-perform and fail to reach desired outcomes. Luckily there are quite a number of tools and team interventions available by now to improve results in these areas. Today I am sharing an exercise with materials, which you can use to conduct a cross-cultural exercise with teams or groups of people.

This particular team exercise was developed in such a way that it could be used in many different ways and configurations. For example: you can use a simplified version of this as an ice-breaker during a team-building program or you can use it as a 2 hour-exercise in a full day training program on related topics.

In essence the objectives of using this exercise with teams or groups of people are:

  • To increase cross cultural understanding and awareness by providing experiences and discussions for team exercise participants
  • To prepare someone to enter or engage with another culture – such as those who will start to work with another culture, whereas the person/team previously worked mainly with homogeneous teams (you could make up a small group of people who are selected to receive cross cultural awareness training).
  • To help multi-cultural teams pay more attention to cultural differences which could make it hard to communicate and collaborate effectively.
  • To help team members understand where and how cross cultural communications could possibly end up with unintended outcomes.

Once you have reviewed how the exercise works, I am sure you will be able to come up with additional ways to use it with the teams/groups that you work with.

The exercise can be run with groups as small as 12 and you can also do this with groups of 30 people – should you have enough additional facilitators to support the coordination, support and debriefing portions of the exercise.

The materials needed include:

  • Culture-preparation sheets for different cultures – named after random colors (see below). These sheets are used by “foreigners” to this culture to prepare for interaction. This mimics information that one can typically find online or in books about another culture and which can be studied to prepare oneself before engaging with another culture for the first time.

manifest-culture-for-exercise

  • More comprehensive cultural sheets to help group members of a particular culture (as set up in this exercise) to understand their own culture. This means they are better able to act according to their own culture when they encounter another culture in this exercise. This material goes a bit deeper than surface-level behaviors to explain to some degree WHY this culture would do certain things and how their past beliefs and experiences have shaped them into the culture they present today.

GREEN CULTURE:

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RED CULTURE:

red-group-culture-exercise

BLUE CULTURE:

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YELLOW CULTURE:

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  • Assignment to indicate to each cultural group what they are hoping to accomplish in the upcoming interaction/negotiation meeting with some members of another culture.

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culture-exercise-instructions-2

 

How to set this up:

With groups of less than 20 people I tend to just pick two cultures and not all 4. You may of course go with more than cultures – just remember to add more time to debriefing and discussion sessions after the exercise. Make sure that each cultural group has at least 6 members so that it is easy to divide into 2 cultural delegations of no less than 3 members. For example: If you have a group of 20. Split them into two cultural groups of 10 members each. Make sure each cultural group can meet uninterrupted in a dedicated space to discuss and prepare for their assignments. Imagine you pick the Red and the Blue cultures. Out of the 10 members of the Red culture, 5 will (after preparation) meet with 5 members (which is half of the members of the Blue culture) to work on their assignment. And the other 5 members of the Red culture will meet with the remaining 5 members of the Blue culture. You will have two intercultural meetings taking place between Red and Blue delegations with two different assignments. The Color name called out in the assignment information above refer to the traveling delegation. So in the case of Red and Blue – the delegation from the Red Culture traveling to meet at the Blue culture location will work on the assignment called “Red” and the delegation from the Blue culture that will travel to meet with the Red culture will prepare for the “Blue” assignment. Those remaining at the location to host the traveling delegation will prepare for the discussion that the other cultural team will want to have. (see graphic below for further illustration).

assignment-culture-exercise-example

Before starting the exercise I typically share some slides and have an overview discussion on the topic of how cultural differences can be viewed. There are quite a few models and slides posted online to help you with this part. (see two links below)

Cultural Differences links:

Trompenaar

Cultural Model

Use a basic framework of looking at cultures to set up the exercise portion, which comes next.

Share with the group: We will divide you into different cultures and we will provide materials to help you understand your own culture as well as other cultures that you may need to interact with. Each culture will gather in a different place to prepare for the assignments. When the preparation is done, each cultural group will divide into two parties. One party will “travel to” meet with a delegation from the other culture at their location while a delegation from their culture will “travel to” meet with the remainder of your cultural group at your own location. You will decide in your group who will go to the other location and who will host the visiting delegation at your own location.

  1. Divide the large group into an equal number of smaller cultural groups. (choose to work with two cultures or four cultures in each case pairing two specific cultures) Each culture group should have at least 6 members as they will need to select two small delegations to meet with one other culture. A delegation should have no less than 3 members.
  2. Having separated the different cultural groups (from the exercise) into different areas/corners in the large room or into separate breakout rooms, you hand out the comprehensive cultural sheets to each individual in a particular culture. Do not share this with other cultures. Only members of the group that represent for example the “Red” culture get to read the comprehensive sheet for the Red culture. Allow about 5 minutes for them to read through it.
  3. Now hand out the Culture sheet showing all of the cultures in summary form. Each member of each cultural group gets this handout. At the same time you verbally share with each culture what their assignments are in meeting with a delegation from the other culture. (see assignments above). They know which culture will interact with them. Give each cultural group about 15 minutes to study their assignments and what is shown on the Culture preparation sheets for all cultures vs their own culture in order to prepare how to approach interactions with them.
  4. Half of the first cultural group will “travel” to have a meeting with half of the second culture. Half of the second cultural group will travel to meet with the remainder of the first culture to engage in the assignment. Allow 15 minutes for delegations to engage and execute their assignments with the other culture.
  5. After 15 minutes ask everyone to come back to the large meeting room for a discussion and debriefing session on the exercise.
  6. Cultural group members sit together (both delegations) and discuss the following questions before reporting to the big group:
    1. In what ways did we encounter unexpected behaviors?
    2. How did their way of interacting make it harder for us to succeed?
    3. What would we do differently on this same assignment now that we have experienced the two interactions with the other culture?
  7. Each of the culture groups reports back on those questions to the larger group.
  8. In large group debrief further on learnings from the exercise and how team members may approach some team aspects differently when they are interacting with someone from a different culture then their own? Do they have tips and advice for others who have to regularly communicate or collaborate with those from other cultures?
  9. Bonus debrief points – if you have the time. How did the way women were perceived make a difference in the exercise? Do you think that it mattered whether the delegates were from a different generation? How would you advise others on how to take additional aspects into consideration when it comes to cross cultural communication and collaboration?
  10. Consider an add-on exercise where each participant is asked to jot down the areas where he/she may have had the most difficulty, questions or had the most insights during this exercise. Is there an area that he/she would like to explore further to improve own understanding or skills? This should be captured in the Personal Development Plan of each participant.

Tips

  • Do remember to mention stereotyping and how that can cause hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Avoid doing this trap while facilitating the exercise.
  • Be aware of showing any “funny” videos or clips that depict how cultures misunderstand each other. They are often based on stereotypes and can easily cause upsets. Humor is not universally interpreted in the same way by those from different cultures.
  • Define that in this case (Exercise) culture refers to national cultures, but clarify that there are several subcultures, which can also make collaboration and communication tough. i.e. operations and sales.
  • I recommend that you share the iceberg model, which helps teams appreciate the vast amount of cultural data which is not visible, but which can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations with others.

Some explanations:

Workshare – means that more than one office is working on the project. There is typically one office which is in the lead while other offices collaborate on the project. They all have to follow the same project protocols in order to avoid confusion and differences in end results produced.

Existing Team Renewal Exercise – the journey


journey

Existing teams often go through phases of renewal, which requires that new team members and existing members come together to create a new or changed vision and way forward. Elements that can hold the new team back include existing members holding on to the past too strongly and new members not understanding why some things are done in a certain way within the team. Lacking the background and context of the past and a shared vision for the future the team could easily remain divided between the “new comers” and the “old timers” who know everything.

Shared Resource Exercise for renewal of Existing Teams

This exercise has two parts and helps to make the past easier to understand especially in terms of how it may have shaped the current belief system of existing team members – i.e. what they believe works and what does not work. The second part of the exercise helps new teams map out the new way forward together, which helps all team members be a part of what they plan to achieve and do going forward.

Tips/Comments:

  • This exercise does not replace any classic team chartering activities i.e. crafting a new or changed purpose statement, or reviewing/creating new roles and responsibilities going forward or agreeing on key team performance indicators. This exercise forms more of a bridge towards renewing the team and its activities and path forward. This exercise can best be followed by some more classic team chartering activities and exercises.
  • Monitor the communication process closely during the first part of the exercise: the sharing that happens has to remain constructive vs existing team members slipping into defensive behavior and/or new team members being overly critical of the lessons learned from the past.
  • This exercise has also sometimes been used as an ice-breaker to start off a one- or two-day team-building activity. It would be good to schedule this just before a natural break to allow team members to spend unstructured social time together as an aftermath of this exercise.