Episode 72 – Practicing Cultural Intelligence as a PM

Episode #72
Original Air Date: 12.27.2018

39 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Jane Canniff

What is your level of cultural competence? Have you ever faced a culture shock? Nationality is only one cultural difference that influences an organization’s environment. Gender, ethnicity, age, and professional and organizational culture can all impact your cultural identity. Jane Canniff shares her experiences in regard to cultural differences across various multicultural work settings.

After a successful IT consulting career in the corporate world, Jane invested a decade leading global development projects for World Vision International and CARE USA. Jane is currently the owner of Tango Consulting, LLC. In this Velociteach podcast episode, Jane recounts how she had to modify her cultural mindset when her job shifted from corporate to non-profit global development sectors.

Are you managing a cross-cultural team? Listen in for tips on how to be culturally appropriate when using online collaboration tools, for suggestions to effectively develop cultural competence, and for advice on practical skills needed when working in a multicultural setting.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

“the biggest thing is just being kind to yourself and understanding that it is a journey, and that you are going to make mistakes, and that you can learn from those and move forward.”

- Jane Canniff

: “I thought I needed to compete nose-to-nose with my peers, and didn’t always bring my full self to the table because my interpretation of what that looked like was I needed to be like them, versus necessarily bringing all aspects of Jane to the table.”

- Jane Canniff

“working through how you solicit bad news and then also how you communicate that was very, very critical to both my personal effectiveness, as well as the effectiveness of the team.”

- Jane Canniff

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Table of Contents

00:46 … Meet Jane
03:40 … Gender Gap in IT
09:11 … Transitioning to Non-Profit
18:07 … Dealing with Diverse Cultures
21:08 … Communicating Project Status
24:02 … From CARE USA to World Vision
27:02 … Collaboration Tools and Techniques
28:19 … The Not-For-Profit Work Environment
31:34 … Back to Corporate
33:37 … Increasing Cultural Diversity Advice
35:47 … Cultural Awareness Testing
37:39 … Closing

 

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  This is our time devoted to you, the professional project manager.  Our goal is to encourage you and perhaps to challenge you, to give you a peek into the way other PMs are doing the stuff and creating successes.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are the two guys who make this all happen, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  And Andy, we’re going to explore a subject that we really haven’t dealt with in depth before, something we call “cultural intelligence.”

ANDY CROWE:  This is a fascinating topic, Nick.  We’re going to start peeling back some of the elements that really matter to project managers and organizations in general.

Meet Jane

NICK WALKER:  Well, let’s meet our guest to talk about that.  After establishing a successful IT consulting career in the corporate world, Jane Canniff invested a decade leading global development projects and programs for World Vision International and CARE USA.  A leader in project and program management, Jane is currently the owner of Tango Consulting LLC.  Jane, thanks so much for joining us here on Manage This.

JANE CANNIFF:  Thank you very much for having me, Nick.

NICK WALKER:  One of the top challenges that many projects managers list as their greatest hurdle is this thing called “cross-cultural management.”  Now, nationality is one cultural difference that we talk about.  But there are many others:  gender, ethnicity, age group, even professional and organizational culture.  They’re all part of a person’s cultural identity.  Now, you’ve had the experience of working in various multicultural environments.  Can you describe what some of those were like?

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes, I can.  And I would want to start this conversation by saying I don’t see myself as an expert in cross-cultural environments and how to work successfully in them.  As someone who has journeyed through those environments, I have my own experiences – and of course those come through my own filters – and can offer those experiences and lessons learned to others.  As we discussed prior to the podcast, everyone’s journey is different, and everyone’s experience in that is different.  And so I would want our discussion simply to prompt questions and to encourage people to engage in dialogue.

So with that being said, the experiences that I’ve had, first as a woman entering the IT workforce; and then later as a project manager managing teams of people who were not like me and/or who could be older than me, as well; and then moving from the for-profit IT consulting environment into the global development environment posed even a massive set of cultural shifts and changes, everything from the fact that I used “development” to refer to software, and they used “development”…

ANDY CROWE:  Right, to raising funds, yeah.

JANE CANNIFF:  To raising funds and/or to the programs that they execute on the ground to achieve their end goals.  So while we may all be using the same word, each one of us could be thinking something completely different.

Gender Gap in I.T.

NICK WALKER:  Let’s talk first about the gender gap sometimes that we see in the IT world.  You mentioned that.  Were you like the only one, or one of very few?

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.  I was one of very few.  And I also recognize that there were a number of people who paved the way for me because there were a lot of women who were in more what I would term “data processing” roles, who worked their way up in the technology industry years ahead of me and made it possible for me to even consider a career in IT.  That being said, I was often one of maybe two to three women in the room in meetings on software development and project management of those projects.

BILL YATES:  Jane, I recall, as you and I were talking beforehand, I was remembering some of my experiences at EDS.  And it turns out you and I were both at Electronic Data Systems during the same time in different locations, different products and all that, very large company.  But, yeah, that was big-time IT, and it was big-time male, and a lot of white males, U.S.‑based.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.

BILL YATES:  How did you survive?

JANE CANNIFF:  So I spent some time thinking through this as part of preparation for our discussion.  And I realized that there were a couple of responses that I had to this, and one was in my thought processes, and in my communication.  I thought I needed to compete nose-to-nose with my peers, and didn’t always bring my full self to the table because my interpretation of what that looked like was I needed to be like them, versus necessarily bringing all aspects of Jane to the table.  And it was a challenging time, both for men and women.

I recognized that, for my peers, it was very unusual for them to have a woman who had been trained the same way they had and who could work alongside and/or perhaps even lead them.  And a couple of examples that came to mind was the first time I was putting a desktop PC in the office of a General Motors executive; the first time I had to answer phone calls on a help desk for AutoCAD users; and just the, I think, intimidation or surprise that my peers probably felt, or even my clients, at having that person be a woman.

BILL YATES:  Right.

NICK WALKER:  So what would you say to women who are just getting into this?  Any words of advice?  Words of warning?  Any blanket words that you would say?  Do this?  Don’t do this?

JANE CANNIFF:  So it’s interesting.  I do have a dear friend whose daughter just started with IBM.  And I have thought about what I would say to her.  And as I was again preparing for this and thinking back through what advice I could give, I think probably the biggest thing is just being kind to yourself and understanding that it is a journey, and that you are going to make mistakes, and that you can learn from those and move forward.  How you present yourself will make a difference.  Be thoughtful and deliberate about the way you dress, the way you speak with people.  Someone is going to walk in the room and ask you to bring them a cup of coffee.

BILL YATES:  Right.

JANE CANNIFF:  Okay?  You can’t be offended by that.  When they then see you get up front and lead the meeting, they will know.  And you don’t need to point that out; right?  Just to extend that grace and understanding to others because it will come back to you.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.

JANE CANNIFF:  And then finally, I think, finding mentors of both genders and potentially even other cultural backgrounds early in your career.  And keeping people like that close to you during your journey, I think, is what will help keep you authentic and able to bring your full self to the table.

NICK WALKER:  That is so important.  That speaks to me, when you’re saying, you know, let your expertise speak.  You don’t have to point to it.  I love that.  In the weather business that I’m in, we talk about we don’t have to hype storms.  They hype themselves.  And so leadership hypes itself, I guess.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes, yes, it does.  And as a leader, you are also there to support and serve the whole.  And so that demeanor and presenting yourself in that way will speak volumes to the people you find yourself with.

Transitioning to Non-Profit

NICK WALKER:  Getting from the IT business into nonprofit, this has got to be – you mentioned it’s kind of a different mindset, different language.  Tell us a little bit about that transition.

JANE CANNIFF:  So it was the year 2003, and I had done a couple of consulting engagements with a company I was with at the time.  And I decided to take a leave of absence from the consulting world.  Three months later turned into a year as they had decided to shut the office down that was in Atlanta for that consulting firm.  And my options were to either take a layoff, transfer to one of their other offices, or go back on the road full-time, which is not what I wanted to do.

So I took my time in reaching out to my network.  And one of the opportunities that presented itself was with CARE USA, who I had done some consulting with on replacing their donor management system.  So I continued speaking with them and eventually went to work for them as an employee.  And so I knew somewhat about the environment.  As a consultant in a company you don’t often become engaged in the internal politics.  So your reach is limited to what it’s really like day to day.

And so moving into that environment, what I found was, as we discussed prior to the podcast beginning, even the word “development” can be taken multiple ways.  It’s fundraising.  It is the work we do on the ground with the people we serve in other countries.  It’s also a reference that I’ve used to software.  So being inquisitive and making the space to echo back what you’re hearing and to ensure that understanding to me initially seemed very tedious and inefficient.  However, it was critical to forming a common understanding and being able to move forward.

BILL YATES:  Jane, I remember EDS and what we were all about when we were there.  So just thinking for myself, if I were to shift and then go to work for CARE, you know, I looked at their website and the mission that they have.  They talk about saving lives, defeating poverty, and achieving social justice.  Again, no knock on EDS, but that was not what we were all about.

ANDY CROWE:  No.

BILL YATES:  How did you get your head there?  I mean, yeah, there’s a different language.  Even words like “development” mean different things.  But how did you make that adjustment?

ANDY CROWE:  And, you know, Bill, to your point, it comes down to values, too.  They have two completely different sets of values that are going to inform.  So I’m interested in your answer to that, too.

JANE CANNIFF:  Oh, goodness.  Okay.  So I guess there were multiple things that helped me on that journey.  One was immediately traveling overseas to learn more about the work that CARE does on the ground and using that as an opportunity to immerse myself in that environment, as much as someone can within a week, and traveling around to see these projects; and to also leave my ego at the door and assume that I didn’t know what I was looking at and that I needed to observe, ask questions, and learn as much as I could about what I was seeing.

Part of that, too, is staying open on just about every imaginable level – emotionally, spiritually, and cognitively – to what you’re learning.  It also meant meeting with and speaking with people that aren’t like me and forcing myself out of my comfort zone.  Sure, it would have been easy to go down to the IT department and just talk to people there; okay?  At the time I had to do a reporting relationship into the head of fundraising and the CIO.  And so it would have been comfortable to do that, instead of talking with the people who were the head of HIV AIDS, or they were the head of supply chain overseas, working with the different business people to really learn what it is they were doing and what kept them awake at night.

ANDY CROWE:  When you talk about leaving your ego at the door, something that I think has just come through a little bit of age and making mistakes is when I was younger in my career, and I came through a software development path, I felt like if I didn’t understand something, I needed to fake it.  I needed to nod.  I needed to just power on through, and I would get it eventually.  And that’s something I think that you learn at some point, that it’s okay to look, you know, you think you’re going to look foolish.  And probably all of us suffer from imposter syndrome to one degree or another.  But you feel like you’re going to make a fool out of yourself, and it’s just – it’s okay to do that.  It’s okay not to be the smartest person in the room in every meeting.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.

ANDY CROWE:  And a lot of people struggle with that, especially, you know, at certain points in their career.  They feel like they’ve got to show off and flex in every meeting.  You don’t have to.

JANE CANNIFF:  No, you don’t.  And as I found this past weekend doing a software deployment and is true of every major effort I’ve been a part of, it takes a village.

ANDY CROWE:  So you said something earlier that I want to pick up on, too.  You said bringing your whole self into engagements.  What do you tell people who feel like their whole self is too much?  Maybe you talk to some people who believe it’s not enough.  But what about people who are on the other extreme, and they feel like that this room cannot handle my full self?  It’s too much?

JANE CANNIFF:  I would say to them that exploring more about how they are wired and understanding intrinsically how they are driven.  And that can be everything from taking an ability battery test, which is something I did to understand how I am, not even genetically, but how I’m wired up from a capability standpoint – how I think, how dexterous am I, that sort of thing – to understand how other people probably view me.

ANDY CROWE:  Experience you, sure.

JANE CANNIFF:  And experience me.  To understand how to best leverage those abilities and what environment I would thrive in.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, you don’t necessarily – you might bring your full self into a work environment, but you don’t necessarily expose your full self at every opportunity.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes, exactly.  And it’s the same as in other relationships that you have.  When you meet someone for the first time, you may only share so much.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

JANE CANNIFF:  Because it’s not an environment that feels comfortable to share more.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

JANE CANNIFF:  And there’s an amount of trust that you’re building with that other person.  I think it’s the same in the work environment, as well.  And you can still bring your full self to the table.  It’s how you choose to express it and what is important to you to be able to express may determine whether or not that is the right environment for you.  So if being able to express yourself a certain way is of utmost importance to you, and the environment you’re in doesn’t respond well to it, you may need to find a different environment.

ANDY CROWE:  But there can also be this disconnect that we believe I’m not enough, or I’m too much.  And, you know, there’s a school of thought that the dialogue you have inside with yourself is at least as important as the dialogue we’re having with each other.  And people don’t pay a lot of attention to that.  But you can send yourself some really wonky messages that get you out of tune with other people just by your own self talk.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.  I would agree with that.  I would agree with that.

Dealing with Diverse Cultures

NICK WALKER:  In this environment, where you’re dealing with people internationally, I’m curious as to what that was like.  Were you dealing with people over the phone?  Online?  Totally around the world?  I mean, not just the culture within your office, but you’ve got cultures that you’re dealing with that are so diverse, you know, halfway around the world.

JANE CANNIFF:  So in my first position in the nonprofit sector, which was with CARE USA, their headquarters is in downtown Atlanta.  And just by the population in that building, there are over 40 countries represented.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, my.

JANE CANNIFF:  So it was also a culture shock for me to walk into that office in the middle of downtown Atlanta and realize that the way that I was used to working probably wasn’t going to work because I had actually stepped into a melting pot.  And so I immediately learned that even my body language, some of my euphemisms – “between a rock and a hard place” doesn’t fly.

ANDY CROWE:  Right, idioms, yeah.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.  And so there was a tremendous amount of scrubbing to what I would call “simple English” because all of these people spoke multiple languages.  English was not their first language.  And even the way they dressed was different.  And so what I took from that was, when I would go overseas to work face to face with some of our coworkers in-country or even with some of the program participants, I would dress in the local dress because I knew that just my skin color, my hair color, my eye color was different enough to be an inhibitor to be able to communicate with them; that if I also dressed very Western in what I was used to, that that would be an additional barrier between me and them.

I would also try all of the local food.  I’m an adventurer at heart, and so that wasn’t difficult for me.  It might be difficult for someone else.  The good news is there’s always Coca-Cola.  Every place I visited there was always Coca-Cola.

NICK WALKER:  I was in Southeast Asia a few months ago, and we had a local guide.  And gradually we learned what he meant by certain things.  We would say things like, “Can we go take a look at this?”  And he would say, “Well, maybe you’d rather do this.”  Well, that was his way of saying there is no way that you’re going to be able to go and do this.  But he couldn’t say that.  He couldn’t bring himself to say “You can’t” or “No.”  And we had to sort of learn the code a little bit.

Communicating Project Status

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.  Yes.  And same in the workplace.  And sometimes it would take – where I was used to probably having one meeting to discuss a project’s status, it would then require potentially one-on-one meetings with people, and then bringing the group together to really get the real outcome or what the issues really were.  So issue resolution could be handled very differently, primarily for the reason that you’re describing is that people don’t want to deliver bad news.  Whereas I’m the first one to go into my manager’s office and say, “Hey, look, you know, here’s what’s going down.”  And “I’ve got to flag my project red.”  And to me, that’s the most help I can provide both my manager…

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  And it builds trust with me.

JANE CANNIFF:  It does.

ANDY CROWE:  When somebody comes in and says “I’ve got bad news,” I at least know that they’re not hiding bad news from me.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.  And I would much rather want them to hear it from me than from someone else.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

JANE CANNIFF:  And so working through how you solicit bad news and then also how you communicate that was very, very critical to both my personal effectiveness, as well as the effectiveness of the team.

BILL YATES:  For project managers, many times that’s something that we struggle with, which is asking a sponsor, even if it’s from the same culture, asking a sponsor, “How should I communicate bad news with you throughout the life of the project?”  How could you make sure that you were getting to the bottom line, you know, the final 10 percent was being communicated with those that you are now working with who had a different cultural background?

JANE CANNIFF:  Oftentimes I would go back to the data.

BILL YATES:  Okay.  Give a hard example and, you know…

JANE CANNIFF:  Exactly.

BILL YATES:  …how would we discuss this?  How would we walk through this together?

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes, yes.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that’s good.

JANE CANNIFF:  And you always discuss things as though they are a separate object on the table.  I’m pointing to a box of Kleenex; right?  So here’s the problem that we have.  Let’s talk about what might be some ways of resolving this.

BILL YATES:  That’s good.

JANE CANNIFF:  And depersonalize everything.

BILL YATES:  Jane, I heard someone say – I was reading this just this week, that someone really liked, if they had a problem to talk through with an individual, they liked walking together as they talked about it.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.

BILL YATES:  Because it got them to focus.  They put the problem on, you know, it was as if the problem was in front of them, and they were pursuing it together.  So it wasn’t me and you looking across the table from each other.

JANE CANNIFF:  Great.  Yes.

BILL YATES:  Going, “This is your fault.”

JANE CANNIFF:  Exactly.

BILL YATES:  “You need to deal with this.”  It was, “Let’s address this together.”  That’s interesting.

From CARE USA to World Vision

NICK WALKER:  You stayed in the nonprofit world.  You moved from CARE into World Vision.  Was this a big move culturally?  Or is kind of same old, same old?

JANE CANNIFF:  Well, definitely not the same old, same old.  And there were a couple of reasons for that.  One was CARE USA was in downtown Atlanta.  I was commuting every day, worked in the office environment.  World Vision I worked from home; and I had one person I reported to that lived in Melbourne, Australia, and the other one lived in Seattle, Washington.  I had numerous project managers that I was working with and supporting across the globe.  And so learning how to structure my day so it didn’t feel like I was working 24 hours a day was a challenge.  What was a relief to me in that shift was World Vision was a little more advanced in their federation model than CARE USA was.  And I was working for World Vision International.

ANDY CROWE:  What does that mean, “in their federation model,” just briefly?

JANE CANNIFF:  So CARE USA is a member of a federation under CARE International umbrella.  And there are 14 members that are part of that federation.  At the time that I was working with CARE USA they had a few functions at the CARE International level, and then the rest of the support was mainly out of three or four large CARE organizations – the U.S., Canada, Australia, and I think a handful of others in Europe.

And so at World Vision International they have members who are part of what they call the “partnership,” and World Vision International conducts a number of functions on behalf of that partnership.  There is the child protection, which is huge with World Vision, there is security, there are financial processes and so forth.  And so each of those members contribute funding to World Vision International, and then WVI is mandated to conduct certain processes on behalf of that partnership.  And that was already pretty well matured, even though I’m sure some of the folks working there would question that statement.

But compared to where I had been, they had evolved those processes a fair amount, and they had very strong leadership in place who owned their function.  And so from that perspective, for me to come into that was a pretty smooth transition because it was clear, or it could be made pretty clear, who owned what.  And it’s much easier, at least for me, to function in that environment.

Cultural Intelligence Collaboration Tools and Techniques

BILL YATES:  Jane, you’re working, in this scenario, you’re working for an organization from your home.  You have counterparts in very different time zones.  What kind of tools or techniques did you use to stay connected with people, and how did you manage your time so you weren’t on the calls at 2:00 a.m.?

JANE CANNIFF:  So I was on some of the calls at 2:00 a.m.

BILL YATES:  Okay.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, I’ve been there and done that.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.  And there were some great tools that we used.  I mean, Skype, obviously; and then also using Smartsheet from a project management perspective.  And there were a couple of real nascent examples I could use.  We had to do some data cleanup in some of our systems.  And so I worked with a team that was over in the Philippines.  And we would meet at 12:00 noon and 12:00 midnight to make sure that we could cover all of our support offices, all of our fundraising offices across all time zones, and meet with them to understand status of where their particular cleanup was and so forth.  We had a very detailed process for that cleanup and very specific handoffs across team members.  And we managed that all through Smartsheet.

The Not-For-Profit Work Environment

ANDY CROWE:  You know what’s interesting as I hear you talk about this, I’ve done a lot of work in the not-for-profit world, but it’s been volunteer work.  It’s not been as an employee.  I’m a very process-oriented person – really, really process-oriented.  And that works fine in my day-to-day job.  But when I go into the not-for-profit world, you know, that’s the stereotype.  And I think it’s there for a reason in this case is that there’s oftentimes a lot of passion and maybe not as much process.  And I’ve found in some cases that my not-for-profit work’s been very resistant to process.  They like the passion.  They like, you know, everybody come together at the 11th hour, and we’ll have a crisis, but we’ll all get through it, and then we’ll all celebrate and, you know.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, push through.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Have you seen that, as well?

BILL YATES:  Absolutely.

ANDY CROWE:  And so it’s interesting.  Have you experienced – because you sound like a process-oriented person.  You’re saying I like it when I know whose job this is, and people need to own their function and some of this stuff.  Does that resonate with you?

JANE CANNIFF:  Absolutely.  Yes.  I would admit to being very much a process person, as well.  And in the nonprofit sector, and also in some for-profit environments that I’ve worked in, when there hasn’t been as much process in place, oftentimes I’ve found that it’s because of either a change in leadership, companies being bought and sold, and/or it’s not the way we do things.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

JANE CANNIFF:  So there is an underlying process.  It’s just not documented.  And interpretation as to what really needs to be followed is the norm.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, you can find, too, you get into the other extreme on the other end of the curve.  So if the not-for-profits are on the left, all the way to the right you can get some of these utilities that have been around forever, financial institutions that have been around forever.  And then you can’t get anything done because there’s so much process, and the processes overlap and conflict.  And so it can – there’s a sweet spot.  There’s definitely a sweet spot.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes, yes.  And to your point about in the nonprofit sector, there is a lot of passion.  There’s the mission.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

JANE CANNIFF:  And that provides a tremendous amount of gratification in your day-to-day work.  However, oftentimes that is held at a higher value than necessarily getting a specific task done.

ANDY CROWE:  I’ve never seen it where it was not that way.  That’s a good double-negative there.  But I’ve only seen it that way in the not-for-profit world.  So that’s my complete – that fits my picture.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.  Yes.  An organization that was started by, I think it’s Jean and Steve Case.  And they delve into these kinds of issues and/or questions about how do you work more effectively in the nonprofit environment and what to expect.

ANDY CROWE:  Is that the Steve Case from AOL?

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes, it is.

ANDY CROWE:  Interesting, interesting.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.

Back to Corporate with Cultural Intelligence

NICK WALKER:  Now, you have come sort of full circle.  You’re back in the corporate world once again.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes, yes.

NICK WALKER:  Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now, and maybe how things have changed in some of these aspects of culture since you were there last.

JANE CANNIFF:  So, yes, I am at Southern Company Gas as a contractor.  And I am a project manager for gas field technologies.  So the field service representatives who go out in their trucks every day to turn on, turn off, investigate leaks, that sort of things, they have a mobile desktop in their truck.  It’s pushing work to them, and those are the systems that I support.

The environment that I’m working in is different than when I left.  And it is much more culturally diverse.  We have offshore teams, which I was used to in the nonprofit sector, but not necessary in the for-profit.  And we are working sometimes around the clock.  And that’s because of the offshore model.  So in some aspects it’s changed from the for-profit, but coming from nonprofit it’s definitely more similar to that.

NICK WALKER:  And what kind of trends do you see in the corporate world?  You mentioned that it’s already more diverse.

JANE CANNIFF:  Yes.

NICK WALKER:  Do you think it’s going to be even more so in the future?

JANE CANNIFF:  Definitely.  And I do think that having teams located across the globe that need to be coordinated is going to continue; and understanding how to structure a workday to accommodate that is going to be important.  Even helping people understand better work-life balance based on that type of model is going to be just as important.

Increasing Cultural Diversity Advice

NICK WALKER:  And I’m wondering if you have some advice for managers of how to deal with this increasing cultural diversity.

JANE CANNIFF:  Read up on what’s important.  Even if the specific country you are visiting or the culture that you find yourself in doesn’t have specific information available, you can at least read up on the region.  I remember being in a class at AMA and walking into their bookstore and pulling a book off the shelf called “Kiss, Bow, and Shake Hands.”

BILL YATES:  Yes, I’ve got that.

JANE CANNIFF:  And I looked on the back to see what countries were covered. The three countries I was about to visit weren’t even in the book; okay?  So…

BILL YATES:  And it’s a thick book.

JANE CANNIFF:  It is a thick book, yes.  But make it a point to reach out to either one of the local staff members or one of the team members you’ll be working with to understand, you know, is there anything you can bring that would be appreciated by the local staff?  Sometimes it’s as innocuous as, you know what, the chewing gum in the U.S. is so much better than what we can get here.  So know also that we’re not that different; that we all want to provide for our families, care for those close to us, and enjoy life outside of work.  We’re just not that different.

Dressing local, as I mentioned before, really went a long way to allow me to engage with the staff.  And I guess in particular for women, what I would recommend is that in almost every other culture, the way women dress is much more modest than how we dress here in the U.S.  And to be sensitive to that, and to also encourage the women around you to be sensitive to that, that you may be traveling with.  I have had to send people back to their room to change because shorts and tank top are not appropriate in a Muslim country.  Out of respect for that local culture, I would really encourage people to take that seriously.

NICK WALKER:  Great advice.  Good stuff.  It’s probable that we have some listeners who are going to want more.  So how could people get in touch with you?

JANE CANNIFF:  Please, just encourage them to find me on LinkedIn.

NICK WALKER:  All right.  It’s Jane Canniff, and you can see that spelling there in the notes.  Thanks again.  And we have a gift for you, this Manage This coffee mug.  I think it works well in any cultural environment.

JANE CANNIFF:  Wow.  I love it.  Thank you so much.

NICK WALKER:  Thank you.

Cultural Awareness Testing

BILL YATES:  Nick, it occurs to me that for many of us we have no clue if we have cultural awareness or not.

NICK WALKER:  Yes, I have no clue.

BILL YATES:  And I recently, maybe just a few months ago, I went through some training.  And there was a link  provided to us, that we could go take an assessment for our cultural awareness.

NICK WALKER:  Okay.

BILL YATES:  And it was like a cultural emotional, kind of like emotional intelligence.  There’s a culture intelligence or CQ score that you would get based on how you filled out the assessment.  Now, I’m going to go ahead and confess I filled it out, and I did not do well.

NICK WALKER:  Well, but that’s a good thing; you know?  You’re able to…

BILL YATES:  Yeah, I’m aware now; right.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, you’re aware now.

BILL YATES:  It raised my awareness.  Nick, my takeaway from that was I need to learn more languages, and I need to work abroad.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, wow.

BILL YATES:  That’s the way to raise my score.  But it was good self-awareness.  And I just thought we should point out to the listeners, they can either do a Google search on “cultural awareness assessment,” or the specific one that I used was an organization called Cultural Intelligence Center. https://culturalq.com/   So you could google that and go to it.  Take the assessment.  We’ll put these in the show notes, as well.  But again, it just raises our awareness in terms of maybe some gaps we have in terms of cultural awareness.

NICK WALKER:  I’m going to go take that assessment.  I’m not going to tell you my results, though.  Unless they’re good, of course.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

Closing

NICK WALKER:  A word to our listeners.  We hope you find these podcasts valuable, no matter where you are in your project management journey.  And to help you along that journey, we like to provide a double benefit to you:  free PDUs, Professional Development Units, for listening to this podcast.  To claim your PDUs toward your recertifications, go to Velociteach.com.  Choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through the steps.

Well, that’s it for us here on Manage This.  In the meantime you can visit us at https://www.velociteach.com/category/podcast/ to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications.  We’re always here for you.

That’s all for this episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

2 responses to “Episode 72 – Practicing Cultural Intelligence as a PM”

  1. Kimberly Boyd says:

    Nice podcast and timely information.

    I attempted to sign up for email alerts on future podcasts but received an “Oops – error” message, both signing up via desktop and mobile.

    • Wendy Grounds says:

      Thank you for your comment Kimberly. We have fixed the sign up error. You should be able to sign up now. I apologize for the glitch, and I thank you for bringing it to our attention.

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