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Emma Birchall is Head of Research - Future of Work at the Hot Spots Movement. Here she has the opportunity to convert leading research into practical insights for clients who are looking to find new ways of using technology to drive human capital performance. She will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 8 October 2015.   IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be?

EB: Bring back the trust. They’re human.

IMI: What does this mean? EB: From collaboration to performance to employee engagement, everything we know about work is changing – but our businesses are seemingly slow to respond. People are more attuned to sharing posts, writing blogs, and providing instant feedback through ‘likes’ and ‘favourites’ than they are to completing surveys, so why does our approach to employee engagement still centre on a set of fixed statements and a rating scale? In their personal lives people collaborate naturally with those around them and have an amazing propensity to share even when there is no immediate benefit to them, hence the success of crowdsourcing sites like Wikipedia. So, why do we spend so much time and energy in organisations on encouraging people to practice these seemingly natural behaviours at work? The challenge for businesses is to disrupt every process and practice in the organisation by asking: Why does it exist? What are we trying to achieve? If we were to start the organisation from scratch, would we choose to create this? And perhaps most tellingly of all, would this practice exist if we trusted our employees? IMI: Where should we look for further information? EB: For further information, take a look at the Future of Work website or follow us on Twitter @HspotM: engagement Source: Emma Birchall is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 8 October. This event has now reached maximum capacity however if you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email your contact details and company name to [post_title] => "Bring back the trust. They’re human" Six Word Wisdom from Emma Birchall [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bring-back-trust-theyre-human-six-word-wisdom-emma-birchall [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:45:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:45:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8010 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2014-09-04 14:33:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-09-04 14:33:32 [post_content] => Due to a number of factors such as technology and globalisation our day to day lives - whether business or personal increasingly involve broader international networks.  And while in the IMI blog we often consider our "effectiveness" in how we interact with and manage others but all too often we do not discuss the critical factors of nationality and culture. How do cultural differences impact on your ability to do business? And how can we make sure we are maximising our relationships with those in our network who may be operating with cultural differences to our own.   Erin Meyer is a professor at INSEAD, one of the world's leading international business schools. Her work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Singapore Business Times and In 2013 the Thinkers 50 named her as one of 30 up-and-coming thinkers and in October 2013 British Airways Business Life magazine on their list of 'Ten Dons to Watch'. Her work focuses on how the world's most successful global leaders navigate the complexities of cultural differences in an international environment.   Erin-Meyer IMI: Based on your current work - if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be? EM: Succeed Globally with a Culture Map IMI: What does this mean? EM: Today, whether we work with colleagues in Dusseldorf or Dubai, Brasilia or Beijing, New York or New Delhi, we are all part of a global network (real or virtual, physical or electronic) where success requires navigating through wildly different cultural realities. Unless we know how to decode other cultures and avoid easy-to-fall-into cultural traps, we are easy prey to misunderstanding, needless conflict, and ultimate failure. Yet most managers have little understanding of how local culture impacts global interaction. Even those who are culturally informed, travel extensively, and have lived abroad often have few strategies for dealing with the cross-cultural complexity that affects their team's day-to-day effectiveness. To help people improve their ability to decode the cultural differences impacting their work and to enhance their effectiveness in dealing with these differences, I have built on the work of many in my field to develop a tool called the Culture Map. It is made up of eight scales representing the management behaviours where cultural gaps are most common. The eight scales are based on decades of academic research into culture from multiple perspectives. To this foundation I have added my own work, which has been validated by extensive interviews with thousands of executives who have confirmed or corrected my findings.   The scales are:
  • Communicating: explicit vs. implicit
  • Evaluating: direct criticism vs. indirect criticism
  • Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
  • Deciding: consensual vs. top down
  • Trusting: task vs. relationship
  • Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoidance
  • Scheduling: linear-time vs. flexible-time
  • Persuading: applications-first vs. principles-first
By analyzing the relative positioning of one nationality to another on each scale, managers learn to decode how culture influences day-to-day international collaboration and therefor avoid the common pitfalls. Managers have always needed to understand human nature and personality differences – that’s nothing new. What is new is that twenty-first century managers must understand a wider, richer array of work styles than ever before. They have to be able to determine which aspects of their interactions are simply a result of personality and which are a result of differences in cultural perspective. IMI: Where should we look for further information? EM: Read The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business.  Or my HBR article:  Navigating the Cultural Minefield Erin Meyer will be holding a Masterclass at IMI on September 30th.  If you are interested in attending click here to register. [post_title] => "Decode cultural differences to suceed globally" Six Word Wisdom from Erin Meyer [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => six-word-wisdom-erin-mayer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 21:04:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 21:04:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 9858 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2015-04-29 14:52:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-04-29 14:52:19 [post_content] =>  

Collaboration is at the foundation of modern business, but is not as easy as it looks.

Embedded behaviours, social rules and a number of psychological phenomena make collaborating a delicate balance between task and relationships. Below are a few we need to be mindful of: The herd  

1) The herd effect

As humans we naturally strive to fit in and in order to do that we tend to go along with what everyone seems to agree with. Effective collaboration must challenge the norm to foster innovative thinking. Group think results in us missing critical opportunities and paves the way for competition to gain ground in our market.  

2) The principle of diluted responsibility

Collaboration requires everyone's involvement, yet the more people are involved the less likely it is for anyone to take responsibility. To make sure progress occurs it is important to form small sub teams, define clear roles, and develop mutual accountability. Ultimately everyone must know what their job is and the implications when they do not deliver.  

3) Turf wars and political dances

It is a natural instinct to defend and support the group we feel we belong to at all costs. 'Us and them' philosophy spurs secrecy and uncertainty and in the long run causes commitment to break down. High performing teams focus on consistently sharing relevant information to allow for clarity and commitment.   Building high performing teams requires courage, focus and vulnerability, do you have what it takes?   Fabio Grassi is programme director for the High Performance Teams programme, which enables managers to take a deep dive into the behavioural aspects of managing people to excel and to achieve high performance. He is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation.  [post_title] => Can we work together or are we all crazy? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => can-work-together-crazy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:51:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:51:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Kevin Mulcahy

Kevin Mulcahy

20th Feb 2017

Kevin Mulcahy is an IMI associate who recently spoke at the IMI Talent Forum.

Related Articles

"Bring back the trust. They’re human" Six Word Wisdom from Emma Birchall
"Decode cultural differences to suceed globally" Six Word Wisdom from Erin Meyer
Can we work together or are we all crazy?

Five Principles to Make the Workplace an Experience

As the philosopher Thomas Hobbes points out, life can be solitary, brutish, nasty, and short. If we spend so much of our life at work, doesn’t it make sense to provide a better workplace experience for our talent? Designing a more compelling workplace experience requires a multifunctional perspective. This is not simply an initiative to tweak some HR practices. Rather it is one that is woven into the overall approach to the business of the employment of others.   The essence is to integrate five key elements of work—the emotional, intellectual, physical, technological, and cultural—into one seamless experience for our employees.  When this happens, a more compelling workplace experience can positively impact employee engagement and business outcomes.

Happy workplace (Photo source)

1-Build More Emotional Connection:

At the heart of the increased interest in designing compelling employee experiences is the recognition that creating an emotional connection is what will ultimately drive the greatest levels of engagement. Communicating a sense of purpose is at the forefront of the minds of business leaders today.  What are we doing as an employer to promote pride in our craft and celebrate the outputs of the craft?  As business leaders, to help our employees connect more emotionally, consider taking more time to admire the work itself, and not just the margins from work.

2-Improve the Intellectual Experience:

If we care about increasing employee engagement levels, then consider how to re-imagine and rethink our employee’s learning and development in our field. Yes, there are courses that employees can take, but how do we motivate employees to take the time to share with each other? How do we create more time to invite practitioners or subject matter experts from adjacent disciplines to share their pride and technique for their work with our employees?

3-Enhance the Physical Experience:

Today, top talent with in-demand skills have more choices in where they chose to work.  Overall, workspaces becoming healthier and designed to enhance the quality of working life.   Employees seek more choice in how, when and where to work. Consider asking employees where they go to do their best work? Where do they go just to get the job done? Where do they avoid meeting? Where do they recharge? Rethink your use of space accordingly.

4-Upgrade the Technological Experience:

As consumer technologies move inside the workplace, they significantly impact the employees’ overall workplace experience.  Employees expect technologies to work.  Evaluate what technology is not working at your workplace?  What can we do to eliminate that source of aggravation with technology?

5– Promote the Culture Experience:

How does our company culture play into improving our employment practices? Culture often gets described as the tribal behaviours of a group, the shared values, the “way that we do things around here.” Larger organisations tend to have a well-documented and visible set of values. Our research indicates that winning organisations are consistently less tolerant of behaviours that do not reflect the stated company culture. Company culture is often shaped more by the worst behaviour that the business leader is willing to tolerate. As a management team, consider reflecting on what behaviours are we trying to promote? What poor behaviours are we tolerating?  The difference is our culture gap.  What will we do in 2017 to close that gap?

Taken together, addressing these five key elements of work—the emotional, the intellectual, the physical, the technological, and the cultural will help you make your workplace a better experience. Better experiences at work tap the engagement potential of any company’s workforce, whether you are a global corporation or a small growth oriented business!


Kevin Mulcahy is an IMI associate who recently spoke at the IMI Talent Forum. He coaches on leadership effectiveness at the Harvard Business School and is an adjunct faculty member at Babson College. He is a partner at Future Workplace and a co-host of The Future Workplace Network.

Find out more about  2017 Corporate membership here