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Calling out the culture of personality

Posted by on 7 Aug 2014 in Become Asia Capable, The Capable Leader | 0 comments

Calling out the culture of personality The case for global companies to rethink what to assess when determining promotability & assessing potential in Asia Written by Meena Thuraisingham, Business Psychologist, Consultant and Author, Aug 2014 In today’s business environment where one’s leadership brand or career brand is identified as important for success, personality driven traits such as style, poise, self-confidence and self-assurance are highly prized. In such a business culture, strong personalities thrive and the character-based strengths of humility, wisdom, discernment, patience, tolerance, fortitude, and courage are less valued.  Personality strengths are not culturally neutral, whereas character strengths are.  Herein lies the issue for global companies that want to strengthen and diversify their leadership pipelines and build an Asia capable workforce. Personality vs Character  A quick review of most global companies’ leadership assessment methodologies will reveal the bias towards personality strengths. These methodologies are often normed on Anglo Saxon norm groups. Even when character strengths are listed as desirable traits, few of the current methodologies make a serious go at assessing for these. In a culturally diverse environment, relying heavily on personality and style related assessments/tests is not helpful because personality is not a culturally neutral construct. Despite this, promotability and talent identification is often  decided on issues of personality: how outspoken one was, or how much one self promoted etc. Nowhere is this distinction more prominent than when providing leadership coaching to young emerging Asian leaders who are told by their multinational employers that they have to be more outspoken, more out there, more extrovert, if they wish to be promoted and progress in the company. This approach does not hold satisfactory answers for those who may have  questions such as “what if I like to play with that idea in my head for a little longer” or “enjoy the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge sake” or “what if I like to reflect on the bigger questions of life” or “how can we be 100% sure of anything” and so on. How and where does this fit into current day assessment and development methodologies? How do these different thinking orientations find a place around our decision-making tables in Asia? Focus needs to shift to a more culturally neutral way of assessing strengths. The notion of considering universal strengths may be a good start in thinking about leadership effectiveness in a globally dispersed operation. However while assessing leadership assessment practices may be important, it is equally important to consider how day-to-day effectiveness is also judged by line managers who manage in a global context.  This is where language bias and business interaction norms play a part. Leading linguistically diverse teams Language Bias is subtle and favours those who can...

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The Holy Trinity: Strategy, Culture and Diversity

Posted by on 4 Aug 2014 in The Capable Leader | 0 comments

The role Diversity & Inclusion plays in Strategic Innovation  Written by Meena Thuraisingham, July 2014   Groups that are too much alike and/or whose members have worked together for some time find it harder to keep learning, because each member is bringing less and less new information, new insight to the table. Homogenous teams are great at doing what they do well, but they become progressively less able to investigate alternatives. They spend more time exploiting current opportunities rather than exploring new opportunities. This is a challenge that is especially critical for organisations that find themselves in an industry or sector undergoing transition or when faced with significant market disruption.  In such circumstances, the ability to disturb or disrupt thinking internally becomes paramount to its strategic survival. The propensity for such organisations to challenge their tendencies to rationalise and post-rationalise their strategies and actions as well as their tendencies to confirm and reinforce the thinking of like-minded executives is all too evident in many recent failures of strategic governance. These failures play out in two ways – in the context of how such groups have limited their options to what they know as well as gravitating to preferred strategic options perceived to be ‘safer’ but that potentially blindside them to the risks and dangers inherent in those options. Trying to stop these all too human tendencies is futile. Instead organisations need to start recognising the role that diversity can play in exploration of their strategic options. Microsoft and BP are examples of companies that learnt these lessons the hard way. Microsoft’s young developers developed the first e-reader 10 years before the first e-reader was commercialised. However the internal gravity pull caused senior management to not support an e-reader prototype that did not conform to an electronic Windows format. The working group, arguing that such a move would undermine the consumer experience, was drowned out. Internal divisional squabbling continued and the working group was finally folded into the Major Products Group dedicated to software for Office – the cash cow. The rest is history, opening the way for Apple and Amazon. In the case of BP, by John Browne’s own admission (Ex Chairman and CEO of BP), it prioritised personal safety (making sure everyone had their hard hats, safety checklists and safety accreditation/training) but not process safety. This collective bias captured the organisation’s attention and efforts for many years materially contributing to the major safety disasters that followed, all of which were breaches of process safety.  He said “I wish someone has challenged me and been brave enough to say ‘we need to ask more disagreeable questions”. Aligned to these tendencies organisations must guard against, in many strong, cohesive and...

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