Case study (continued)
Despite being made up of various nationalities and comprising other demographic differences, the team was rather homogeneous with respect to the hierarchy-equality cultural dimension. The COF assessment showed that the dominant culture was glaringly equalitarian (73% favouring equality – 46% clearly and 27% mildly – and 27% neutral, with no one favouring hierarchy). The ability for hierarchy was also low, with over 60% of responses unfavourable (versus just 9% for equality).
The team leader was no exception. During the interviews, his leadership style was consistently described as ‘laissez-faire’, even if those specific words were not used. This worked well for the most senior members in the team, who felt fully empowered and unencumbered by unnecessary interventionism. Others appreciated the freedom to take the initiative. However, some complained about the leader’s lack of guidance, his aversion to decisively settle conflicts and his insufficient confrontation with those who were not doing what they were supposed to.
I shared this feedback during the individual coaching with the team leader prior to the team retreat. He became aware of the necessity to flexibly adjust his leadership style in various situations: to venture outside his ‘equalitarian’ cultural preference to embrace a more ‘hierarchical’ directive approach at times.
During the team retreat, team members confronted their views on a particular topic. As a team coach, I often try to reconcile the various viewpoints. However, in this case, I realised that I was not going to be able to do so. It would have to be either one option or the other. I turned to the team leader and asked for his decision. He firmly announced his decision, and this was the end of the discussion. These behaviours were very unusual for the team, where endless debates had been the norm. Thanks to their new awareness of their individual and collective cultural profiles, and because they had come to realise the pitfalls of overlooking the hierarchical orientation, the team was able to move outside its comfort zone and to tap into its hidden hierarchical orientation. The team leader did so by being decisive, and the team members by accepting his decision without rebellion.
More generally, team members decided to alternate leadership and follower roles, learning to both take charge in the team and accept that others would do the same at other times. They started to hold themselves and each other more accountable for their actions. In sum, the team became more effective by leveraging equality (democratic) and hierarchy (directive).
D&I 3.0 refers to situations where the team appears to be homogeneous in how its members tend to handle certain situations. Diversity is hidden, thus still potentially available, rather than non-existent. One of the intercultural coach’s key roles is precisely to unfold this implicit diversity.
Many people still view their cultural identity as a static concept and see their current cultural views as inevitable manifestations of their identity – declaring, for example, ‘I speak directly because I am American’, or conversely, ‘I speak indirectly because I am Japanese’. Taken to an extreme, this inflexible view is at the heart of various forms of fanaticism, with deleterious impact.
In his acerbic essay on religion, originally published in Parerga and Paralipomena in 1851 (Schopenhauer, 2004), Arthur Schopenhauer offers this striking dialogue:
Philalethes How can genuine philosophical effort, sincere search after truth, the noblest calling of the noblest men, be let and hindered more completely than by a conventional system of metaphysics enjoying a State monopoly, the principles of which are impressed into every head in earliest youth, so earnestly, so deeply, and so firmly, that, unless the mind is miraculously elastic, they remain indelible. In this way the groundwork of all healthy reason is once for all deranged; that is to say, the capacity for original thought and unbiased judgment, which is weak enough in itself, is, in regard to those subjects to which it might be applied, forever paralyzed and ruined.Download Article 1K Club
Demopheles Which means, I suppose, that people have arrived at a conviction which they won’t give up in order to embrace yours instead.