I work with leaders all over the world. From ministers to students, from top management to trainees.
My focus is how to develop Personal Leadership, and to do so in a way that is profitable for the organization. I do this by linking stuff the Leader is passionate about to the stuff the Organization is passionate about. Finally I link this to what the Customers are passionate about (thus interested in paying for).
The result is a true WOW-project, the kind of personal leadership development that you are actually interested in getting done. In order to lead others you must first learn how to lead yourself. Most leaders tend to forget that, and just give in to the first agenda they see on the horizon.
Now – since I literally work all over the world (on an average year I spin maybe 6-7-8 times around the globe) I always get the ”culture”-question when I tell people what I do for a living.
Wait – first I actually always get the ”well – MY boss sucks and could REALLY use some leadership development”, but AFTER that I get the ”but how does that stuff work with so different cultures?”.
The thing is – it works very well. Every culture has its keys and levers. I have made a fool of myself so many times I can hardly remember half of them. But I listen to people, and I try to be super attentive and observant when I meet new cultures – just to get under its skin and figure out what the trigger points are. I actually compare myself with people giving back massages. First they just feel around, to see where the knots and stress points are. Then they put a tiny little finger on a certain point, apply a little pressure – and all hell breaks lose in your muscles.
And then it gets better.
Culture is like that. A leader from China or Vietnam is not different from a leader in Denmark or Sweden. Or from Jerusalem, or Dar es Salaam, or Düsseldorf.
We may have different gestures and different ways of reacting. Sometimes we bow our heads in an invisible nod, other times we fold like pocket knives from our hips up. Sometimes we greet others with a handshake, other times with one two or three kisses on the cheeks. In some countries we think Jim Collins’s latest book is ”THE shit”, in others just plain ”shit”. In some cultures coaching is the only way to go, in others we should coach but call it anything but coaching.
Compare Goldman Sachs with Google, or IKEA with Millicom/MTG. Those cultures are more miles apart than if you compare a Tanzanian leader with a Swedish one. But for some reason people think the ”cultural” issue is my great challenge if I do a workshop in Russia for a few days.
It is actually not that tricky. You see – the thing I always find great comfort in is the human behind the mask.
Take away all the postures and coatings, ignore the powerful suit-tie combination or the impressive desk, or the minimalistic office or the maximalistic office or the way-to-cool clothing or the overly-relaxed-ambiance….
…strip away all the ”stuff” and connect for real with whomever is in front of you, and you know what?
Suddenly you see a man/woman who thinks about balancing work and family life. You see someone who lights up when he or she thinks about when the son/daughter took their first steps. Someone who can lie awake at night worrying about how to bring up the kids right, or how the world is a more dangerous place today, how the markets are more fiercely competitive now than they were 10-20-30-40-50 years ago.
Suddenly you see someone who wants to be happy and make a difference.
More or less. Not always exactly the same, but the universal themes are not more than one or two handfuls. And after 14 years in the business I know them by heart when I see the signs.
Once you connect – the rest is just implementation. If you have a strong enough Why – the What and the How will take care of itself. It is all about energy, and where to direct it most efficiently.
I find that comforting. Especially when I meet some leaders – the ones that huff and puff and want to blow away any bloody leadership consultant who dares enter their lair. I know that they are just human. Like all of us.
And if we can only connect, then we can start changing stuff. Really fast, and really fun.
Connection before Content is an old cliché, but amigo – it is so true.