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Another great article from Sukh. Very practical: 5 concrete tips:
1) Be good (not great) trainers
2) Be consultative about the organization
3) Interact with the organization’s leaders
4) Be aware of the public image of the organization
5) Read business related material.

Thinking About Learning

So you know how we hear lot’s in the profession about being more business minded to give ourselves value? Well, I’m onboard with that as a concept and as an ideal. It helps me to understand there are things I can and should be doing which will help me to be better at the job I do. If I choose to.

But what does it mean to be more business minded? How do you get more commercial acumen? How do you gain business acumen? As an L&Der, does this stuff actually make a difference to the job we do?

Well, it can make a big difference. It’s what sets ‘trainers’ apart from ‘L&D professionals’. To my mind, there’s a role for both in organisations.

We need trainers. That is people who are proficient (or even possible expert) in a particular skill set, and can help others learn that skill set…

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I got a request through LinkedIn for advice. A certain Joshua A. Agustí, an aspiring,  young recent college graduate in Chicago looking to begin his career in Training, Human Resources Development, and an Organizational Development practitioner. He told me he is interested in combining his knowledge and skills to increase human capital for businesses/organizations on a global scale.

I thought, fine. I’m probably one of many that Joshua has sent his email to. Nevertheless, I admire his ambition and the simple fact that he’s taking the trouble to ask. And, as you’ve read below, helping people is what life is all about, isn’t it? I thought to share my answer here.

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Hello Joshua,

Thank you for your message. I’m honored that you consider me a valuable resource and have taken the time to ask my opinion.

Having said that, I’m not sure how I can help you. What I mean is, 1) I don’t know you very well, and 2) objectively you seem to be doing many things right. Your LinkedIn profile is well-developed, you belong to all the right LinkedIn groups, and your intern experience at LCW and now at Aparecio I’m sure has been putting you in touch with the right people. Just off the top of my head, however, and without knowing more about you, I would recommend the following:

1) Be more personally active: Don’t be afraid to show yourself. State your opinion, give your perspective. Even though I see that you’ve got a great LinkedIn profile, I don’t see that you’re particularly active in the groups. Ask questions, make observations, comment on the posts of others. Be visible. And authentic. I’ve found Twitter to be a great tool for this (more on that later).

2) Be involved with clients’ networks: Even though you seem to be well-networked among OD professional groups, don’t forget: that’s where all the sellers are. In order to get work, you need to be where the buyers are. That means joining groups that are focused on potential client issues: HR, HRD, and line manager groups (project managers, supply chain managers, etc.).

3) Have a social media strategy: LinkedIn is but one part of the puzzle. In order to complete the picture, it’s good to have an overall social media strategy. What I do is I focus on my blog. My Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn posts are mostly designed to steer as many readers as possible to my blog. My blog is my personal home page. Anything you need to know about me professionally is in that one place.

4) Use social media tools to their fullest: Using the various tools to strengthen each other works wonders, but so does using a tool thoroughly. A good example is the weekly Twitter chat #lrnchat. It’s a great place to meet people and to learn more about the learning profession. Read more at: http://lrnchat.com/. There are more tweet chats, you can find a good list here: http://www.meryl.net/2009/05/06/list-of-twitter-chats/

5) Align yourself with high-profile people: How you do this is up to you, but consider sponsoring a speaker or hosting a high-profile corporate figure. Last year I worked with a colleague to bring Rev. Jesse Jackson to Europe. This gives you an anchor to make yourself known. Aside from the inspiring experience it was hanging out with “the Rev” for a whole week, it was great for my profiling – “Oh, you’re the guy who brought Rev. Jackson here!”

6) Develop your own “brand”: It sounds easier than it is, but make sure that when people think “Joshua Agusti” they think “focus area,” whatever that might be. It requires an enormous amount of focus, concentration and consistency. But if you want to be successful, make sure people remember you for what your value is. Continuously build that value by learning, growing and expanding your qualifications. Become licensed in psychometric tools, assessment methods and leadership evaluation tools. Not only does this build value in you, it also helps introduce you to people who can help you.

7) Profile your uniqueness: Especially if your brand is truly unique, you should make the most of it. And I don’t mean “unique” in the sense that it never existed before. Quite the contrary: it could be as common as dirt. But unique in the sense that your target group has never heard of it before. That means making new combinations, a new twist on something old, for example.

8 ) Promote your passion: It’s a lot easier if you feel good about it. And your passion will sell itself.

9) Don’t invest in your “career,” invest in YOU: Your “career” will happen the way you want it to. Don’t be concerned about fitting to a prescribed (or “pre-ascribed,” they’re both applicable) pattern. You can make it what you want. We’ll all be better off for it.

10) It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it: Speaks for itself.

That’s it for now. I hope this helps. If I think of anything else I’ll send it along.

Yours,

Leo

I was approached last week by a student from one of the professional universities in the Hague looking for information. She and her fellow students were preparing a fictitious case regarding a merger between KLM, Air France and JAL. Her task was to examine training possibilities to insure that the merger addressed cultural differences.

Coincidentally, I had a meeting planned for the next day, and one of the people planning to be there was formerly one of the directors of KLM during the actual merger with Air France a few years ago. One of his responsibilities during this time was defining training for cabin personnel in dealing with the cultural changes during the merger. A perfect match, in other words. I invited her to join the meeting.

The meeting went very well. The student, Marieke Harderwijk, was very professional and adhered perfectly to our agreed-upon protocol. Later in the day I received the following email from her:

Dear Mr. Salazar,

To begin with, I would like to thank you from my heart that I was able to be a part of the meeting today.

Secondly, I marvel over the fact that you, whom by all appearances seem to me to be a very modest and self-effacing man, have an enormous amount of knowledge and experience. You gave me, a simple student, just like that the chance to attend a very important meeting, sight unseen. There are few people on this earth who would have done that for someone.

I find it especially inspiring how you use your knowledge and experience also in daily life to make the world a better place, such as your project you mentioned between the church and mosque.

Thank you so much!

With warm regards,

Marieke Harderwijk

Even though one doesn’t necessarily help others for extrinsic rewards, this email was certainly a reward for me. I was surprised, and humbled, to have received it. The following Monday was Martin Luther King Day in the US, and his quote sums up my feelings,

“An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Every person must decide, at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ’What are you doing for others?’”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 11, 1957

I thank YOU, Marieke. From my heart.

While not exactly a New Year’s resolution, which usually wind up in the trash anyway before the first month of the new year is out, this is a realization of sorts. If I’m doing anything other than focussing on the business, I’m not only wasting my time, but also that of my contact.

Okay, this seems like a patently obvious statement, but there’s a situation in particular that I’d like to relate. Earlier on this blog I’d spoken of my plans to start an Interfaith Dialogue here in Almelo. My goal is to do in my private life what I do for business, namely: facilitating those from different cultures to work together for greater understanding and benefit. I related in my post from 15 September, 2010 (“The Imam says . . . “) my first visit to the mosque to discuss the possibility of a cooperation with my own church. Why the “business-like” approach should even be a question says a lot about my approach until now.

It suddenly dawned on me, as I was sitting with the Imam and the Board Secretary for a follow up visit on the last day of 2010 that I hadn’t stated my case clearly enough: what’s in it for them? Worse yet, I was waiting for them to offer me something. Why? For some reason I had the idea that they would welcome an enthusiastic non-Muslim in their midst. As if they were sitting and waiting for me all this time. Somehow I was expected a hearty handshake, a brotherly slap on the shoulder and shouts of, “Welcome!” Instead, their attitude was somewhat suspicious, as if my motive was to try to sell them something. Or, worse, to convert them. After some time of circling around the main issue, the Secretary confided in me , “Listen, we’ve got plenty of volunteers. That’s not the problem. What we need, however, are volunteers with vision, experience and education.” Ha! Bingo! The light suddenly switched on – of course: if the added value is not crystal clear, why invest in it? Just because it’s my so-called “free time” doesn’t give me the right to waste their time. Time is valuable, whether it’s for business, pleasure, personal or private. 

So that means back to the drawing board. Or, rather, to the drawing board for the first time. Project proposal, official position from the church (something like “Intercultural Dialogue Coordinator”), and presentation to both church boards. Let’s get to work!

Resolve cultural conflict? Smooth things over? Why? This is a waste of potential creative power. By using the energy inherent in cultural conflict, it is possible to leverage the differences for added value.

The model, based on the research of Prof. Joseph DiStefano and Prof. Martha Maznevski, both of IMD. A summary of this research can be found here  https://srleosalazar.wordpress.com/resources-and-links/ as well as on the IMD site: http://www.ft.com/businesseducation/imd

This posted on the LinkedIn group site, “Creating Results From Cultural Diversity”. The question, from Leah Smiley, was: “What are the differences between diversity practices in the US and Europe?”

Hello Leah,

I’m curious to see what responses you get here. I can give my perspective, but there are two caveats: 1) it is difficult to generalize about “Europe” in terms of societal trends and business practices, and 2) it is difficult to make a direct comparison between countries in Europe and the US. Dramatic differences in historical population and societal development make it clearly a case of apples and oranges.

Having said that, however, I can make a few statements about the Netherlands, the country in Europe that I am most familiar with. As in the US (or because of the US, depending on who you talk to), all economies in Europe are suffering in varying degrees because of the economic crisis. Because diversity policy is not firmly anchored and reinforced in government or business policy, many companies have simply ignored their diversity practices the past couple of years, arguing that their “priorities are elsewhere” and “it’s a question of survival”. The fact that the companies even have this choice says a lot about the state of diversity policy in this country.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Netherlands is comparable to the US in the late 1950’s in terms of awareness of the importance of a culture that encourages diversity. The Dutch constitution is clear when it comes to equal rights, but there are very few laws in place that enable diversity policy to the individual level. Most companies that do have a constructive diversity policy are the same ones that are busy with sustainability and CSR: it’s the morally right thing to do and it bolsters their image. Not because there is a legal imperative that compels them to do so.

The media reflects a society that is overwhelmingly white, and there are no charismatic leaders amongst minority communities. In fact, most minority communities are strangely silent when it comes to fighting for their equal rights.There is not a strong private litigation culture in the Netherlands and there are very few who take action if they feel they’ve been discriminated against. In fact, there is an active public service campaign that is currently running on Dutch TV that explains to people what discrimination is and what to do if you feel you’ve been discriminated against (even though it’s in Dutch, the pictures say a lot: http://www.discriminatie.nl). This campaign seems to me to be clearly targeted towards those being discriminated against, rather than those doing the discriminating.

It will be interesting to watch developments in the coming months. The right wing politician Geert Wilders of the PVV party has gained significant ground by blaming minorities for the current problems in the Netherlands. Only now, after months of negotiating to form a new government, have any of the potential coalition partners said that the policies that the PVV espouses are anathematic. And then not necessarily because of the rights of minorities themselves, but more how it would look to trading partners of the Netherlands, most obviously Germany. In other words: there was an economic rationale rather than a moral or societal rationale.

And this is the key to promoting positive approaches to diversity in the Netherlands, in my opinion (and that’s why I do what I do): prove diversity as the wise economic choice. Increases in innovation, creativity, added value and increased access to diverse labor and consumer markets; decreases in personnel turnover and employee health issues. These are the drivers the Dutch understand. Don’t tell them it’s the right thing to do; tell them how it effects their bottom line.

In another outstanding editorial column in the NY Times, on “Özil the German,” Roger Cohen uses the metaphor of the absence of “the Big Man” in the 2010 World Cup in promoting not only teamwork, but intercultural teamwork.

Mesut Özil - Germany National team WC2010

First, the intercultural part: “My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part,” Özil is quoted as saying. And isn’t this what it’s all about? Searching for the added value in the marrying of different cultures. Of course it can be different – it often is different. But by looking for positive examples and potential role models such as Mesut Özil, especially for the youth, we open the possibility for more to follow in his path.

Secondly, on the second theme of Cohen’s article: how the Germany of Özil and Aogo is such a victory over the Big Man who destroyed Europe, and how we hope that the rest of Africa, not just South Africa, as well can see this as a model. I find the reader’s comments instructive, and there is one in particular that is very appropriate:

“I would disagree that South Africa doesn’t have a ‘Big Man’ His name is Nelson Mandela.”

Is it too much to hope that this year’s World Cup can provide an impetus for global change and universal acceptance?

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