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March 29, 2012

Employee Potential & Self-Awareness

The right tools to use in an Inter-Cultural Environment

When we are faced with challenges concerning leadership, 'followership' and people interaction, the common solution methodology focuses on the external interface. For example, if customers tell you that you are not friendly enough, you would come up with a point by point plan to improve that.

The reason these action plans do not always work is because they do not allow for the people interface, an employees ability to analyze individual situations. You need to consider that your staff might not be aware of who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are or what they’re passionate about. In short they are not self-aware, and as they cannot read themselves it is safe to assume the are also not equipped to read the customer in front of them.

Staff training on how to be more customer-centric therefore only works if we include the three core elements self-awareness and awareness of others:

1. The personality side of self-awareness helps us to read and understand behavioral styles

2. The Emotional Intelligence side helps you to learn what motivates and regulates your emotions

3. The Intercultural side helps you to understand the unspoken, deep-rooted cultural drivers that influence behavior.

Self-discovery is not part of the cultural fabric of the majority of emerging economies of the world

The biggest challenge for implementing self-awareness and awareness of others is that it has been predominantly advocated by the western world. In the western world the idea of self-awareness was born in a directive destiny society where individuals tend to believe they are in control of their own future and therefore pursue individual accountability and more often have achieved status. The latter of the world however, have grown up in a directed destiny society where your path is directed. As all the tools and developmental journeys have been developed in a directed destiny context, it creates resistance when you try and bring these tools into cultures that are not structured in the same way.

Another challenge of introducing self-awareness lies in the word itself. The word “self” is typically either neutral or negative in community accountability, directed destiny cultures, whereas it has more positive connotations in the more western directive destiny cultures.

Tools therefore need to be introduced in an Inter-Cultural way without relying on overly westernized psychometric testing. A more foundational construct tool such as DiSC lends itself better to use in Inter-Cultural Environments. DiSC’s simplistic structure has been validated and re-normalized to allow for regional differences. It is less complicated than other tools and is therefore quicker to understand and implement. It is also the most widely used and available tool: over 50 million people have now used it and it is available in more than 30 languages including an Arabic version for the Middle East region.

Example: self-awareness development in an Afghanistan telecom operator

It wasn’t easy to convince one of the leading Afghani telcom operators that DISC would work as a self-awareness development tool in Afghanistan. Even the key director, a DiSC expert, found it hard to see how DiSC could work in this cultural setting. He believed that the employees involved would “not embrace this tool”.

It wasn’t easy, but using our Inter-Cultural knowledge we were able to construct a unique program, and after much persuasion they agreed to give us one chance to use it. We introduced DiSC in a culturally sensitive manner, and the people loved DiSC and embraced it. It was a transformational experience for them. We started with the discovery of one self, then learned about your strengths and weaknesses and how to explain this to others. Once the participants were able to do that, we were able to extend beyond the work boundaries and started touching on their lives outside of work. They result was they began to see benefits in their family, social and business life. The ability to explain to others why you are not good at something or why you shouldn’t be taking that particular activity on your plate was crucial. It had a profound impact on team life, the way they interacted with their families and friends.

Since this experience we have applied DiSC in Afghanistan, the Sudan, the central Middle East and Africa, and have found these tools to be extremely powerful when used with Inter-Cultural Intelligence.

At KnowledgeWorkx we believe that self-discovery is an essential part of employee development and is crucial to multiplying the investment made in the recruiting process. Self-awareness helps the recruiter to understand the candidate therefore enabling them to help the candidate become more self aware through the induction process. The candidate can then in turn start sharpening their skills and is able to set realistic targets through the personal development planning that is immediately put in place.

To find out more about the self-discovery tools that would work best in your environment, please contact us.

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