Walking Through History: The City of London

PRS Team in Leadenhall Market

On Tuesday 30 October some members of the PRS Team were given a walking tour of the City of London by Sam Bailey from the City HR Association. Sam is a qualified Blue Badge Tour Guide. The tour concluded with drinks at the Brand Exchange in Birchin Lane.

The History of the City of London goes back over 2,000 years and our tour included tales of Charles Dickens, trading in coffee houses and the remains of a church which was taken brick by brick to the USA after being bombed in the Blitz.

Further events are planned for 2019.

The Final Frontier – a case study on coaching across cultures

executive coaching culture

Today we are featuring an article of interest by Ian Claffey about his coaching work in Mongolia. It is a fascinating look at the opportunities and challenges that working in a different culture presents, and the approaches required to meet them. Importantly, if you ever find yourself in this part of the world, Ian also provides a selection of top tips for doing business in Mongolia.

Coaching in Mongolia – The Final Frontier

Arriving at Chinggis Khaan International Airport on a cold winters day was always going to be a shock to the system, more so as I had left Thailand several hours earlier, which had been +38 degrees. I had known cold as a child in Glasgow, but this was different. Ulaanbaatar is one of the coldest capital cities in the world. It would be easy to think that an average 250 days of sun each year would bring warmth. However, temperatures range from -40°C in the winter to+40°C in the Gobi Desert in the summer.

My first contact with Mongolians was through their Embassy in London. I was invited to a function, and I was delighted to attend. It was there I was introduced to the leadership team from the Association for Development of Mongolian Women in Europe, (ADMWE) when they held a dinner to celebrate Mongolian Lunar New Year, ‘Tsagaan Sar’.

The (ADMWE) were planning their ‘Mongolian Woman of the Year’ awards to be held in Frankfurt. I thought I would show goodwill and offer to provide and pay for a leadership coaching programme for their fund-raising auction, not thinking they would ask me to attend the event in Germany.

coaching mongoliaMy coaching career has provided me with some interesting experiences over the years, including conflict mediation in Nigeria, team development on the Vaal River in South Africa, coaching Group Internal Audit Teams in Singapore, Tokyo, and Zurich, as well as supporting a Leadership Team, at Board level, in the mountains of Tuscany, none of which prepared me for being auctioned off to 150 Mongolians. At the auction the programme I provided was bid for by a CEO from a leading company in Ulaanbaatar, I was very happy the (ADMWE) made some money from the event. The proceeds from last year’s event provided a range of programmes for children in Mongolia. These included supporting girls to build confidence and leadership skills. Also, a strong boy’s initiative, helping to develop good interpersonal skills, along with providing 200 children with school bags and writing materials for the start of the new school year.

I have travelled extensively with my work in Asia, mostly in South East Asia, but arriving in Mongolia was like entering a new world. The more I got to know the people, the more I liked them. I read about their history, values, beliefs, and culture. I also noticed they are fiercely proud and have a unique presence – a quiet strength.

My professional career has been built, in part, trying to understand different cultures, to provide solutions for the clients, and organisations I work with, who are operating in new cultures, and who are often facing cross-cultural challenges or conflict.
In my experience, having empathic understanding is key to getting the best out of people when arriving in a new country. Depending on which part of the world a direct approach may also be needed. To be too inclusive may be seen as a weakness in some countries. I was interested to see what might work best in Ulaanbaatar.

One of the largest opportunities and cultural challenges facing Mongolia is the Oyu Tolgoi mine. The mine was given its name from the turquoise-coloured copper ore found in the Gobi Desert. Mongolia has an abundance of natural resources including coal, copper, gold, uranium, and rare earth minerals. This has made it a very attractive destination for international organisations. I suspect that doing business with international organisations, without losing their identity, will remain high on the agenda for Mongolians.

Mongolia joined the free market in 1990, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was followed by the introduction of a multi-party system and a market economy.

coaching UlaanbaatarOne of the few countries in the world not to have embraced executive coaching, I was keen to look at how coaching could work in Mongolia. I wanted to make sure it was set at international standard. When in Bangkok, I met with the Regional Director from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) for Asia to explore how we could ensure quality. We are now looking at getting an (ICF) Chapter set up in Ulaanbaatar.

Resource-rich in copper, gold and coal, Mongolia is in a very strong position to make the most from its natural wealth, in particular, Oyu Tolgoi mine and other mining projects. Strong leadership and direction from the MPP, The Mongolians Peoples Party, along with investment by the IMF, the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and input from China, Japan and South Korea will make it possible for Mongolians to reap the rewards.

Taking a corporate approach, with a long-term view of creating robust senior leaders, is where coaching can help. Developing local ‘talent’ will, in my opinion, facilitate better relationships when dealing with multiple stakeholders from a range of different countries, levels and disciplines. Building a goal-setting and solution-focused mindset, based on the ability to both give and receive constructive feedback, is critical when developing strong leaders.

I have put together a list of tips for doing business in Mongolia:

• Mongolians are very hospitable people. Try to accept any food or drink you are offered, even if you only take a little. They can be offended if you refuse. Having said that horse milk is an acquired taste!
• Accepting with two hands is the way things are done, the right hand supports the other at the wrist or elbow.
• Respect for elders is shown by greeting them first, try not to walk in front of an older person, this is seen as sign of rudeness.
• As you enter the meeting room, it is normal that your host will indicate when you are to sit.
• Your host may be late, this is part cultural and part Ulaanbaatar traffic. It is not meant to be disrespectful.
• Legal and business documents may be viewed as work in progress, rather than the finished item. A flexible mindset may be required from time to time.
• Giving or exchanging small gifts is often seen as part of the relationship building stage and a nice experience.
• The exchange of inexpensive gifts may also take place on the signing of contracts or agreements.
• It is sometimes customary to toast with a shot of vodka, be careful if you are offered Chinggis Khaan ‘Gold Label’ vodka, it is 39% Alc. Vol.
• My final tip and one that works in most countries is to behave as you would if you were a guest in someone’s home. This one has never let me down.

Ian Claffey MA – Executive Coach, APECS Acc, NCP Acc, MAC

Time’s Up in 2018 – Making work place changes to deal with harassment and intimidation

The start of every New Year is an occasion to make changes – 2018 has some particular opportunities.

The wave of change for those who fear oppression or harassment in the work environment continues to gather pace. Hollywood made a major stand at the Golden Globe awards. As we wait to see whether fine words and matching black outfits can be translated into positive action and a genuine cultural shift, the world is hopeful that real change will follow – in the film industry and beyond.

Recognising there is a problem is a vital first step in solving that problem. It can be a very difficult step, but that doesn’t mean the steps that follow will feel easier. Having acknowledged that culture needs to change across all industries and sectors, we need to enable that change and ready ourselves for the new challenges this will bring.

It is expected that both women and men who experience harassment will be more emboldened to make complaints. So organisations need to be prepared to investigate these situations and deal with them head on. This passive approach of waiting for complaints alone will no longer suffice and organisations need to encourage their staff to step forward if they are treated badly.

Some of our political parties have shown us how not to do it. A lack of investigation and untested allegations have led to suicides by those accused. By mismanaging the situation, it is not just the victims who can suffer. With peoples’ lives and livelihoods at stake, it is not appropriate to wait until a situation arises and ‘learn as you go’ how to manage it.

We have seen the abuse of power in various guises revealed across society – not just in the headline grabbing spheres of showbusiness and politics. It is no longer realistic to think ‘it couldn’t happen where I am’ – all businesses need to be prepared.
2018 may present difficult challenges, we may have to deal with damaged trust and to help damaged people; but our response is the key to unlocking the positive. Each claim and case thoroughly investigated and satisfactorily resolved is a foundation stone for building a new, open and honest work environment. This New Year, real change is possible.

The Weinstein Scandal – protecting against the abuse of power

photo from hollywoodsign.org

The Harvey Weinstein story raises the issue of senior manager bullying and psychopathic type behaviour. The allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment made against him are terrible but, sadly, not shocking. Described as an ‘open secret’, it is behaviour widely assumed to occur in casting couch scenarios but which has been allowed to pass due to a cultural tendency to disbelieve the victim. Only now are the reports, allegations and accusations being treated seriously.

What is shocking is that some reporting on this story would lead you to believe that this behavioural problem is confined to Hollywood. It is very visible in all businesses as well as the film industry. It is all about abusing power. The abuse may take different forms, but it is always bullying. Bullying occurs all through life from school onwards. Bullies need to be rooted out, named and shamed.

It is well documented that there are many sociopaths and psychopaths in business. Key features of these conditions – a lack of empathy, no guilt, no conscience, lack of emotional intelligence, and the manipulation of people – have traditionally aided bullies’ rise to positions of power, from where they are able to hurt more individuals and enjoy a greater degree of protection.

A strong HR function should aim to protect organisations from these types of people. Although successful in the short term, they cause a great deal of direct and collateral damage in the long-term. Firms harbouring them will eventually suffer expensive legal cases, loss of talent, and loss of clients. The greatest damage is that done to the individuals who have suffered at the hands of the bully. Personal damage can be irreparable and irreversible.

Hollywood’s ‘open secret’ – a culture in which people are prepared to look the other way in exchange for continued success – is not confined to Hollywood. Individuals exhibiting the characteristics of a bully are often excused if they are temporarily useful. Euphemistic epithets can sometimes hide serious behavioural issues – he’s ‘a character’, she’s ‘larger than life’. In Hollywood films, the villains arrive onscreen to ominous music. In real life there’s no tell-tale music but there are signs and HR must be vigilant.

High Performing Cultures – Five lessons from the All Blacks

leadership culture

This week we have a guest blog on leadership culture by PRS associate Richard Watts. As the pundits consider what we have learned on the pitch from the Lions tour, Richard explores five business lessons we can learn from the Lions’ hosts – a team with a winning mentality and high expectations.

In rugby, we have just witnessed the British and Irish Lions draw a series with the All Blacks. What struck me was that the All Blacks captain after the final drawn match said, ‘we lost’. From a population of under 5 million they ‘lost’ to the Lions nations with a combined population of 69 million. However, over the last decade, the All Blacks rugby team have epitomised high performance, their win rate is around 95%, they are without a doubt the iconic market leader.

Much has been written about the All Blacks culture and how it might be applied to business. Sport teams only have to perform for short match periods, they have time to train and rehearse before they execute. In the commercial world, you are always on the pitch and there is not a bench of substitutes. So, what can we in business learn from the high performing culture that the All Blacks have built? Below are some key tenets of the All Blacks culture.

1.High Performance is the combination of Capability and Behaviours. You need to focus on creating and maintaining, under pressure, the right culture to allow winning behaviours. People can have the right skills but need to apply them in the right way.

2. People will rise to the challenge if they own the challenge. Everyone needs to take ownership. Pass the ball, as a leader pass responsibility on. Ask the right inclusive questions of your team and they will feel empowered to respond more positively.

3. No egos. No one is bigger than the organisation. Select, promote and retain people for their values not just experience. Disruptive influencers need to change or be changed.

4. Better people make better All Blacks. Yet again select carefully, you can develop specialist skills to meet your business needs, you can develop and train your people but you can’t fundamentally change a person’s character. Your values need to be more than words, you must bring them to life with genuine behaviours.

5. Leave the All Blacks jersey in a better place. Talking about leaving a legacy in your business is much easier if you are a shareholder, so it is crucial to effectively engage your employees with your brand through: a clear purpose, authentic values, a shared vision and a transparent strategy.

There are many more great examples of high performance, team and leadership behaviours to be learnt from the All Blacks. If you want to find out more about how we can help you create a high performing culture please contact us at People Risk Solutions.

Richard Watts is a leadership and strategy consultant. He has spent over a decade helping global businesses build high performing cultures with a focus on operational effectiveness. He honed his leadership skills as a senior operational leader in the Royal Marines, a high performing organisation which was based on liveable enduring values.