Welcome to the SIETAR USA Blog

SIETAR USA is your home for resources and networking in the intercultural field, but it’s not a one-way street!

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Please submit your blog contributions to the SIETAR USA Marketing and Communications team at communications@sietarusa.org. The team will review submissions and, if approved, manage the posting process for you.

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  • 15 Jul 2016 2:51 PM | Sandy Roos (Administrator)

    The following piece was written as an original post for the July 2016 edition of Blah, Blah Blog, an EngagedBetween.com series. It is shared with pleasure for publication in the July 2016 SIETAR USA newsletter. Though a critique of mainstream U.S. American work culture as reflected in pop music, “Work as Religion” explores opportunity for deepening our work with client-partners by encouraging a shift in how people practice work.

    Over a pitcher of Sangria this past Thursday evening—with my own glass full of water—one friend in the group that met at Café Iberico smiled knowingly as she told me that I have no concerns about job security as a global and local diversity professional. Nanye. Ninguna. Neniu. Though I wasn’t born an interculturalist, I converted long ago and I’ll die a devoted follower my religion: Work.

    I am not the only one in these so-called post-God, post-history, post-racist United States who has made a religion of my work. We’re generally a busy people who barter our health, time and true talent for a job. And perhaps, like other believers, I hold true to the promise that sacrifice now will be rewarded later. Though in the “hereafter” of my religion, the hearts of humankind are knit together (1).

    Work As Next-To- Holy and Hyper-Sexualized
    Even as it consumes us, we increasingly sacrifice ourselves for work. Like many other virtues to which people profess devotion and exploit, the so-called Puritanical work ethic of the 1800’s U.S. that influences our work culture has become simultaneously next-to- holy and hyper-sexualized in contemporary society. Witness this fascinating mix in the following “clean” versions [2] of today’s popular music that are an ode to work.

    • Work” by singing artists Rihanna and Drake climbed to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 list in Feb. 2016. It’s meaning—beyond the obvious—remains elusive despite the title of the song being repeated 79 times within its lyrics.
    • Work From Home” released in the same month by Fifth Harmony, fittingly features a music hook by a man with the stage name, Ty Dolla $ign. Suggestively, the lyrics read, “We can work from home…/’Cause baby, you’re the boss at home”.
    • Stressed Out” (2015) by twenty one pilots offers a commentary on work culture in the refrain, “Wake up, you need to make money”.
    • In Iggy Azelea’s “Work” (2014) she essentially tells her story of “rags to riches” which is reminiscent of the lifestyle portrayed in (the explicit version of) Brittney Spear’s “Work B****” (2013) music video. The video features Brittney using a whip on members of her crew as they “live fancy” with Lamborghinis, martinis and parties in France—all the while enslaved to the need to afford their lifestyle.
    In about the span of my lifetime, the ritual of work has gone from sacrilege to sacred. Some examples include the following pop-culture songs of the late 1970s and 1980s [3] .
    • Take This Job and Shove It” (1977) by Johnny Paycheck doesn’t require comment as the title is fairly self-explanatory.
    • 9 to 5” (1980) by Dolly Parton offered a socio-economic and feminist critique of work: “It’s a rich man’s game/ No matter what they call it/ And you spend your life/ Puttin’ money in his wallet”.
    • In “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” (1981), poor Sheena Easton lost time with her lover every workday. The lyrics read, “My baby takes the morning train/He works from nine to five and then/ He takes another home again/ To find me waitin’ for him”.
    • She Works Hard For the Money” (1983) by Donna Summers tells the story of a waitress named Onetta who will “…never sell out/ she never will/ not for a dollar bill.” So, you “better treat her right”!
    • Written by Prince and sung by The Bangles, “Manic Monday” (1986) protests the turn of the clock to the start of the workweek that interrupts lovemaking Sunday “fun days”. Here, work is a turn off—not fetishized as a turn-on.

    Just about an equal number of years after the 21st century began as before it ended, our interpretation of the value of work—as reflected in the select sample above—has changed. No longer are we simply the object and work the subject. Work has become the protagonist that drives the plot of our lives, the “hero” of our story.

    How to Make Religion of Work
    If we’re going to make a religion of work, let’s make the maximum profit. Our professional accountabilities are often to discover efficiencies, assure quality, check and balance toward the “holy grail” of the bottom line. However, we are not reaching our best benefit. How do we maximize our potential? First, our grounding assumption must be that if there’s such a thing as “doing religion right”, we do well by making a daily practice of our values in the public, professional spaces where we live life.

    What necessarily defines work as a value is the act of creating; the “exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something” [4] . Like other values, it’s aspirational, and generally offers benefit for all. Just as faith is “the evidence of things not seen,” the profit produced by creating through work is not always tangible, but no less real. When we make a religion of work, we recognize that the profit gained through work is in the act of craft—not in the product itself. In the classic work by Lebanese writer-poet Khalil Gibran, he preaches work as worship: “…[I]n keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life, And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret. And what is to work with love? It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth. Work is love made visible.” Work practiced without values is work that lacks value.

    By practicing work as religion—day in and day out—we will bring a character to work that tends to be uncommon, and that does not lose value with increased supply. I’m not usually one to proselytize, though I offer “work as religion” as a conceptual framing through which workers may endeavor toward professional development, organizational learning and organizational change. As a reflective practitioner of whatever your profession, how might making a fundamental belief of work in its true essence change how you relate with yourself and others?

    Virtually yours,
    Malii Brown

    Training & Management Consulting | Local & Global Diversity
    EngageBetween…people. place. purpose.
    www.EngageBetween.com
    Brown@EngageBetween.com


    Malii Brown is a Trainer and Management Consultant working globally and stateside to equip people with skills to manage the complexities and opportunities inherent to work and life in culturally diverse environments. She has 12 years experience training leadership, executives and high potentials—both face-to- face and virtually—to cooperate effectively in the U.S. and/or across national cultures. Her client list includes Fortune 500 companies, institutions of higher learning, state government and nonprofit organizations. Malii offers a unique perspective to the work as a Millennial woman of color who has worked and travelled throughout the U.S. and 19 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. She has varying proficiency in Spanish, Japanese and American Sign Language (ASL). Living at times beyond of her “comfort zone”—both outside of, and within, her native U.S. borders—has presented Malii with professional and personal experiences that enable her to relate to, and resonate with, client-partners through cultural self-reflection and discovery. Malii Brown currently lives in Chicago and travels nationally, internationally and virtually for work and pleasure. Connect with Malii at Brown@EngageBetween.com or via LinkedIn.

    1 Reference to Baha’i scripture, which reads: “…Strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”
    2 Explicit versions of each song—with the exception of Stressed Out—more graphically demonstrate the point being made in this paragraph.
    3 No “clean” and “explicit” versions of these songs are available online.
    4 Source: Dictionary.com.
  • 04 Jun 2016 2:40 PM | Brett Parry (Administrator)

    June is Gay Pride month – a time when Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people and their families, friends and colleagues celebrate the diversity that is LGBT culture! Almost a year ago, on June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage for same-sex couples is a constitutional right doing away with the unruly patchwork of  “gay marriage states” interspersed with those that prohibited it.

    Participants in last year’s Pride celebrations were joyful and exuberant sharing a feeling of relief and hope that equal rights for LGBT people would finally become reality in ALL areas of life including in the workplace (unbeknownst to many, it is still legal in in 29 U.S. states to discriminate against LGBT employees simply because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity).

    However, what we have seen instead is a huge backlash with regards to LGBT rights:

    The Human Rights Campaign, one of the foremost LGBT rights organizations in the US (www.hrc.org) reports a total of 195 anti-LGBT bills passed in 34 states in the first 2 and ½ months of this year.  This backlash recently entered yet another level of intensity with 11 states suing the Federal Government over its rejection of so-called “bathroom laws” that force transgender people to use bathrooms in accordance with the gender assigned to them at birth rather than their true gender identity.

    All of us - LGBT people and our straight and cisgender allies - need to stand up and speak out against inequality, hatred and bigotry in favor of equal rights and equal treatment for all.  

    “Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding..."

    As U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said so eloquently on May 9, 2016 when she announced the Department of Justice’s filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina over its discriminatory restroom restrictions (HB2): “Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding, but out of the values of inclusion, diversity and regard for all that make our country great.”

    Show your support and seek out LGBT-related workshops at the upcoming  SIETAR USA annual conference Nov. 9-12 in Tulsa OK with the perfectly fitting theme of

    Intercultural Stories of Disconnection – Insights into the Polarization of People and Places.


  • 30 May 2016 12:06 PM | Brett Parry (Administrator)

    Many of you will be able to imagine a scenario similar to this: You are working overseas, on foreign assignment. You have been making steady progress in speaking, reading, and understanding the language of your host country. You are an expert in your field and you know how to lead. Your success rate at home and your subject matter expertise are two of the key reasons why you are here today - working for your company abroad.

    But now you are in another culture and sometimes you feel like a fish out of water. Sometimes, during meetings, you ask yourself if all of the “A players“ on your team really hear what you tell them. You sense that you are not getting through to some of them. And then there is this moment when you are completely honest with yourself and you remember that back home your results were better. So now what? 

    Welcome to the dilemma of global leaders. It is probably safe to suppose that most of you deal with clients who work outside of their native culture. And being in this field, you most likely experienced for yourself that being efficient when working across cultures has its challenges, right?

    Well, I can come only from my own experience and I know that’s how it has been for me. 

    In a typical corporate context our clients will have offered their team members cultural training around the beginning of their expatriate assignment, or shortly after arrival. Often they will have asked us to tell their employees about the Dos & Don’ts and business etiquette rules of their destination. Even better, really great clients appreciate us for going beyond the tip of the iceberg of cross-cultural dynamics (apologies for the reference to this overused metaphor) and dig deep into the values-based beliefs and WHYs of foreign behavior. We can probably agree that cultural training programs will have a hard time being taken serious, if they fail to address these nuances and don’t offer strategies which will help expats adjust to otherness efficiently.

    Today, most organizations fully understand the value of preparing employees for the behavioral standards in foreign work environments. After all, successful overseas business often depends on how well team members are able to cross cultures.

    And chances are, your training participants remember many of those “101 rules for XZY Country“ you taught them - after all, they may be helpful in avoiding some major faux pas. And yet your former students will at some point realize that their success rate isn’t what they expected it to be.

    "The challenges of global leadership and change can’t be solved with only knowledge and hard skills"

    Senior executives, C-suite leaders, and high potentials are typically well qualified and talented high performers. However, the challenges of global leadership and change can’t be solved with only knowledge and hard skills. What got you here to your current position, will most likely not be the same skill set that will get you to where you want to be in your career as a global leader. What worked at home may not work overseas.

    Yes, cultural training in connection with leadership coaching and mentoring are effective tools to build and grow cultural savvy. However, in many years of cross-cultural practice I have found that the most sustainable and dramatic solution for expanding the skills and acumen of global leaders is being a part of a Mastermind group.

    Masterminds have become quite the rage in recent years and ever since I joined my first group I realized how powerful they are as a people development strategy. In fact, they completely changed the way I work on my business. In his 1937 world bestseller “Think and Grow Rich“ Napoleon Hill describes the nature of a Mastermind as “the coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.“ Hill didn’t invent this concept. It may be as old as mankind and Western cultures have been using the power of the mastermind since Plato and Socrates. In today’s corporate context Masterminds morphed into Boards of Directors and executive teams. Unfortunately, the structure of modern business has robbed the idea of many of its original benefits. That’s why smart global leaders are reviving the pure Mastermind concept.

    Most of you may be familiar with the phrase "If you are always the smartest person in the room, it is time to change the room." Ideally, a Mastermind group is what I call the "higher room," the environment that supports growth - personally and professionally.

    There are three types of purposes for a Mastermind group:

    1.   A group of people come together for the purpose of one outcome or one business.

    2.   A group of people that are all in the same industry trying to overcome or solve a common problem in that industry.

    3.   Or, a group of people from different industries helping individuals with different or similar issues.

    In order to utilize the power of the Mastermind for global leaders, I found that a hybrid of types 1 and 3 is most productive. The one outcome, the similar issue for the group is the development of cultural competence and global business success. Ideally, this will be achieved if the members come from different industries and diverse backgrounds. Some qualities to look for in a participant include similar drive and commitment, diverse skill sets, problem solvers.

    Now, let’s look at what a Mastermind is not:

       It’s not a training class. While groups may decide to bring in guest speakers and experts, the main focus of a Mastermind is the brainstorming and accountability support among the group members.

       It’s not group coaching. Mastermind groups are about the members sharing with each other, not about the facilitator coaching individuals in a group setting. There should be feedback, advice, and support from everyone.

       It’s not a networking group. While you may share leads and resources with each other, that should not be main focus of the meetings. However, through your connections with other members, you will find plenty of joint venture opportunities, lead sharing, and professional networking. 

    Make no mistake, effective Masterminds aren’t simply social clubs. It takes an experienced facilitator and a strong context or group code of honor to make the group work. There needs to be mandatory participation by every member. The group will have a clear meeting structure which offers a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a confidential group setting to sharpen the members’ business and personal skills. Participants challenge each other to set powerful goals, and more importantly, to accomplish them. Members act as catalysts for growth, devil’s advocates and supportive colleagues.

    This is the essence and the value of a Mastermind. Are you ready to find yours now? 

    About 


    Christian Höferle is a cross-cultural business consultant who has extensive experience in working with multinational companies.

    German by birth, U.S.-American by choice, and Bavarian at heart, Christian is a fan of building bridges and not enthusiastic about walls. With his company, The Culture Mastery LLC, he helps people in closing the gaps between their home culture and the target culture they are working with.

    Coming from a bilingual and bicultural background, Christian has been working on various levels of cultural consulting, coaching, mentoring, and training. He has helped in relocating and training hundreds of individuals, families, and teams from Europe, South America, Asia, and the United States.

    He is also the host of The Culture Guy Podcast, which is available through iTunes and Stitcher. Christian stays committed to improving his Spanish and Italian skills (with slow progress). When he gives speeches or keynotes, Christian sticks to English or German.

    Social links:

    Blog         http://theculturemastery.com/blog/

    Podcast    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/podcast-the-culture-mastery/id1014036988

    LinkedIn   https://www.linkedin.com/in/interculturaltrainerconsultant

    Twitter     https://twitter.com/Hoeferle

    Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/TheCultureMastery/

    Google+   https://plus.google.com/+ChristianHoeferle


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