Why Aren’t We Mentoring Women?

Study after study shows that over 50% of the Millennial generation would like to have a mentor that spans both their private life and their public work realm. Yet, in the workplace, I find that most organizations do not have a mentoring program and if they do, it is not thriving. What is going on?

mind There are many reasons to make the case for mentoring, including:

  1. Gets employees engaged
  2. It helps to relieve stress and anxiety, especially for new employees or those in new roles
  3. Creates connections that help people thrive in their work life and at home

These are just the tip of the iceberg. In HR, the case for mentoring shows low employee turnover, increased motivation, increased employee satisfaction, lower conflict and even lower number of sick days taken. There are countless benefits to the morale and psyche of the employee.

Even in churches, the idea of discipline and helping someone grow spiritually has finally taken root. I believe that people are taking mentoring more seriously, especially with the increasing number of baby boomers who wish to impart some of their amazing knowledge to help others grow.

In the old days, apprenticeship used to be the way to pass on tricks of the trade and teach a young person how to take over the business. People used to groom the next generation for decades and bring them along in the ways of the world. Today, that idea has gone by the wayside for most occupations. It still exists in some areas, namely medicine, the arts, and technical jobs, but it is more of the exception than the rule. Men, for some reason seem to take mentoring in stride, allowing succession planning to take place. They also are open with networking and making business connections.

In my 20+ years of working in business, I have not found that to be the case for women. Women for some reason seem to have a harder time sharing their contacts and information. They find other women to be more of a challenge to their authority and thus will not take another under their wing. I don’t find many senior level women welcoming younger women to an open exchange of ideas. Not all women are averse to this, mind you, but again this has not been my own experience.

On the contrary, I find that men are more willing to share ideas, give you advice and support and help you make connections – even as a woman. 

I don’t think all the reasons for the failed woman to woman connection are sinister. I think they are a reflection of what is going on in the workforce and that they may not even be aware of the circumstances.  In my last blog, I mentioned that’s omen make up almost 50% of the workforce today, but that less than 10% are in the Executive level of organizations. That is one of the biggest reason s why I haven’t found many women mentoring. Many of them aren’t even in higher positions. Typically, you will find men there and thus, men are more readily accessible than women.

Another reason may be due to added duties in traditional women’s roles: workplace role, wife, mother, care provider, single bread-winner, etc. When there are home duties that are not shared with anyone else, it can become a massive burden for a woman to take on yet another role as mentor. This is supported by a study done by DDI in 2014 that found over 65% of women never had a mentor and a whopping 75% said they would not mentor due to lack of time due to family obligations.

So, what can YOU do?

 

If you are a woman reading this article, I encourage you to join our Community of Christian Women‘s Group in OKC. It is a group that is getting ready to launch a mentoring  program in the Fall of 2018. If you don’t want to join a group, think about the work relationships you have and see if there is someone who might be interested in a mentor. You could also take the first step and ask someone you admire to be your mentor – it’s a sweet compliment and a great way to establish a positive relationship – even if she doesn’t have time to be your mentor. 
Steps to take :

1. Meet monthly! It doesn’t have to be a weekly thing

2. Meet during the workday. If you have time to go have a cup of coffee… You have time to be mentored or be a mentor to someone

3. Start small – you don’t have to join a big formal program with a workbook. Just meet, talk & get to know one another first

4. Join a group that supports and recognizes the value of mentoring (like CCBW for women and CBMC for men). 

5. Ask me if you don’t know where to start in your organization! I’d love to help! 

The bottom line is to start somewhere – start in at your workplace, start in your neighborhood, start in your church group… GO and  reach out to someone. You will be blessed far greater than you think and you will find that all those reasons against being a mentor to someone else will melt away.



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Inspire or Expire

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Did you know that to INSPIRE means to BREATHE? My husband is trained as a respiratory therapist and when he was in school, he was always talking about inspiration. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that inspiration is to breathe in and expiration is to breathe out, or to die.

I was getting a presentation ready for the State of Oklahoma on Employee Engagement and what really gets people plugged into an organization’s vision, mission and culture. Being able to INSPIRE others was a theme that emerged from all the research. Inspiring means to motivate others to go out of their comfort zone. It means to stimulate or get people charged up – not just about coming to work day in and day out, but to truly get them to see how their daily work can have a lasting impact on the organization and their community.

Encouraging others is a constant theme for me as I mentor other women in business (see CCBWOKC on Facebook). To be able to breathe life can be daunting… especially on those days that I might be struggling to even get ready in the morning. So how do you do this? How do you inspire others to be something different?

For me, the answer comes through the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word for the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God is “RUACH.” Ruach means wind or breath. It’s an onomatopoeia which means that the word is the same as the sound it makes. This is the same Ruach God breathes into Adam in Genesis 2:7 (KJV)~ And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. The breath of life is the same as the inspiration we should pray for today. God is the same  yesterday, today and tomorrow. He doesn’t change. The same breath he breathed into Adam is the same inspiration you need today.

The way to help others is to share words that bring life to others. As Christians, our speech should always be full of grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). By the way, this is the verse I use for the header of my blog! For me, it means that if my words are not glorifying to God and wrapped in love, I should not be speaking them. This is not easy to do!  However, if you become mindful of what you are getting ready to say to someone and think about it for just a second or two, you can quickly evaluate to see if it is tearing down or building up.

Inspiration is to breathe into someone, to encourage, build up and motivate. Let’s focus on doing these things instead of discouraging, tearing down, and hurting. Inspire others so you can be a light in the darkness!

Ethics, Morals & Values

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I remember being in a Bible Study once and a woman who hadn’t done her homework asked me what I had down for some of the answers. I laughingly said “I think it might be double-wrong to cheat on Bible Study homework!” Of course I was just teasing her and that was not a serious statement levied towards her. She was simply asking about some of the questions that were confusing to her about our study.

When I teach Business Ethics, we always begin with clarification of terms. You cannot talk about ETHICS without considering a few other terms: Morals & Values. We don’t talk much about what we value today. There is discussion in the social circles about values, but the discussion tends to be vague. It is even more difficult to have this discussion in the workplace about Business.

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Mintz & Morris “Ethical Obligations & Decision Making in Accounting (2011).”

Ethics are simply defined as what is a Society’s standard of behavior of RIGHT and what is WRONG. MORALS comes from applying those ethics with principles and a framework of VALUES. VALUES are personal beliefs that are chosen or are cultural.

This is so very confusing and gets blurry very quickly! Here’s a way to think about this. We will start backwards. Values are personal. They can include hard work, integrity, honesty, love, servant attitude. It’s personalized and each individual has their own values. You can also have negative values – like valuing money above all else or greed, coveting, etc.

The word “morals” comes from Latin and has the root word “mores (pronounced “more rays”). Mores means societal customs and literally means manners of doing what is right and wrong. Morality becomes “conformity to the rules of right conduct.”

The word “ethics” comes from the Greek word “ethos” which means character. Many times people look at ethics as a moral code that governs the internal decisions of a person and morals as the external code for society. Whatever the case, both are intertwined.

This becomes even more convoluted when you look at ethics, morals and values from a Diversity viewpoint. For example, I did consulting work for a manufacturing company that was having issues with their employees stealing equipment. When I asked what was happening, they told me that they gave each employee a meat cutting knife to use. The employees were stealing these expensive knives ($50+ each) and they kept having to order more. What they didn’t realize is that most of their employees were from another culture where “giving” the knife meant it was theirs to keep. They were simply taking it home and using it in their kitchens. The management did not explain that when they gave the knife, it was to only be used at work. I asked if the employees could possibly take the nice knives home if they promised to bring them back for their shift? They reluctantly said yes, but if the employees did not, they would start fining them. Guess what happened? After a meeting with the employees to discuss the misunderstanding, the knives came back. The rest of the year, they did not have to order any more. This was not “stealing” it was “given.”

So, if ethics is defined as “right or wrong,” how do you make that as a general rule? What is right and what is wrong? If we use Morality, then we use society’s definition of what is right and wrong. Is it wrong to kill people? Most would say yes, it is wrong, yet we have the death sentence and abortion. When is it okay to kill? What about war? What about euthanasia (painless killing of a patient with a terminal disease)? What about suicide? These are very difficult questions that are made even more difficult when you take God out of the picture.

Scripture tells us in Amos 7:7-8 “Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. 8The LORD said to me, “What do you see,Amos?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,“Behold I am about to put a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel. I will spare them no longer…” There is a plumb line. For those not familiar with this concept, it’s used in building so that things are straight. You attach a heavy weight to the end of a string and suspend it. It gives you a way to measure and make your walls straight. For us, it is a Biblical Standard for being upright or righteous. It is a way to check yourself and make sure you are measuring up to what God has commanded you to do.

In a world that tells you boys are girls and girls are boys OR there is no “boy or girl” designation anymore, it is difficult to determine right and wrong without a standard. What ruler do you use to measure things? How do you even hang up a picture frame in your home without a standard guide? There has to be an external standard by which we measure.

Many young people tell me that right and wrong are relative. What’s right for you might be wrong for me and what’s wrong for me might be right for you. This is a scary statement for me. If it’s wrong for me to kill (thou shalt not murder – Commandment six), and you think that’s okay, then you threaten my life. These are not things that are arbitrary and left up to us (society = people) to decide. These are things that God Almighty gives us as rules. We need to use some sort of a plumb line in our lives. God is our Plumb Line and the true standard. In the verse above, His warning is to “his people.” In  Galatians 5:1,16-18 Paul says that  Jesus died in our place, thus fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law. Christ “took us out of Egypt,” he took us out of slavery and death. Today we, as God’s People,  have a responsibility to acknowledge what God has already done for us through redemption in Christ for our sins by making an effort to live a pure and upright life according to the standards He has set for us. We are not to look like the rest of the world, but to be set apart for His holy use.

Romans 12:2 ~ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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HR View on Mike Pence’s Stance on Women

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USA Today photo

Some of you may know that I teach Human Resources (HR) and do Corporate Training. I have taught many courses including  Business Etiquette, Business Ethics, Human Resources regulations and Cultural Diversity. When I do Executive Coaching for Businesses, we discuss not only business related topics but also personal conduct in the workplace.

I try not to watch the news or read the paper. The news bothers me and I find it depressing for the most part. Yet, I find that my friends always fill me in on what’s going on as it relates to my passions. A sweet friend told me on Friday about the media frenzy surrounding Mike Pence following the Billy Graham rule about not being alone with a woman (other than his wife). This was reported first by Laura Turner of the Washington Post article here about Karen Pence and her support of her husband. The description at the start of the article is surprisingly sweet, giving examples of how Mike Pence and his wife support one another and care deeply as a faithful, married couple. It’s towards the middle of the article that raises questions about the current times, stating “But colleagues and employees engage in a relationship between grown-ups who ought to be able to have an appropriate work-related conversation or a meal together” [bold & italics mine]. True, if we all could get along, then maybe people who are grown-ups wouldn’t sue one another or talk about each other behind their backs either. The very next line gets to the heart of the matter “Affairs start in secrecy, and to guard against them is good.” This is why Billy Graham started his rules – so that all he did was out in the open. As an Evangelical Pastor on the global stage, he had to protect himself and guard against things that could be misconstrued by others.

I am shocked at the media backlash this has garnered. Given the amount of lawsuits served up in the HR field, male and female relationships in the workplace are tenuous. For people in higher positions, this can mean being at further risk for workplace lawsuits and also personal lawsuits. For example, I generally advise managers to keep the door ajar when doing performance reviews (good or bad ones – doesn’t matter) so that employees will not charge them with duress or false imprisonment. Before you balk at that, there have been cases where someone of the opposite sex claimed both sexual harassment and also duress during a closed-door performance review. She stated that her male boss made inappropriate comments to her, said that he would raise her ratings for sexual favors and then wouldn’t let her leave because the door was closed (not locked, but simply closed). He denied all accusations, he was well-respected by his staff, but the company settled the case out of court because they did not want to go through the expense of fighting he said/she said in public.

The same holds true for lunch time conversation or long car trips. Why put yourself into that position with someone of the opposite sex? Why not invite someone else to go with you? My recommendation is always this: if you are a female in a position of authority and you want to invite a male to lunch to discuss something, have lunch in the company break room or cafeteria, where others can publicly see you and you are accessible. Do not go to another location outside of work by yourselves. Invite another person to go. This way, if there is an accusation of wrongdoing, at least you have another witness present.

I believe that both Billy Graham and Mike Pence are both correct on this issue, not just from a religious viewpoint that honors and protects their spouse and marriage but also from a secular, business viewpoint. Placing yourself into a situation that can cause doubts and show favoritism can cause tongues to wag in the workplace. This is a great way to invite lawsuits. I’m not the only one with this viewpoint. In a blog  titled “When Genders Matter” by Molly Donovan for The Muse, the same idea is supported. It’s not just a matter of male and female anymore either. The same principle holds true for transgender and LGBT orientation. The person across from you could be another female who may make sexual advances towards you as a female boss. It could be a male employee having lunch with a gay manager who might make inappropriate advances.

In this day and age, it’s good to error on the safe side. Yes, you may offend people when you leave the door slightly open. Yes, you may offend people when you ask for someone else to join you on the one hour drive to the client meeting. However, at the end of the day, you may find that it’s a bit easier to sleep at night knowing that you are not crossing the lines or sending out messages that could be misinterpreted by others.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and profound insight, 10 so that you can discern what best, that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.… Philippians 1:9-11

As Christians, we are held to a higher standard by God. We are to look towards Christ and not allow ourselves to be placed in situations that may mar our witness. May we choose to err on the side of caution and use the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment to conduct ourselves in a way that’s stated in Philippians 4:8 ~ “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. ”

Think about how the world will perceive you when you go out for lunch or go for drinks with that ONE female employee after work. Think about what that does to your reputation (man or woman) in the workplace. Think most of all about what message that is sending out about you as a child of God. Mike Pence is suffering from media backlash, but from the examples given about his daily choice to not be alone with women, his witness as a Christian man is to be blameless in his interactions with others. May we all strive to focus on what God wants and not what the world wants. Amen.

Let’s Talk

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My husband & I are Marriage Mentors. We developed the Marriage Mentoring Ministry at our last church and by the grace of God, are helping to create a new Marriage Ministry at our new church. It is an amazing blessing to work with couples who are either seriously dating, are engaged to be married or are newly married. We are NOT counselors, nor do we give advice. This is how mentoring differs from other things. More on that later in another post.

I have taught Business Communication for Undergraduate Business schools since 1997 – coming up on 20 years! Much of what works well for the workplace can and does work well for the home. It’s just that we tend to be more polite to those we work with than those with whom we live. It’s a fact. Familiarity adds to the casualness with which we approach relationships that are close to us. While we take care to watch our words at work, it doesn’t always happen to me at home. I am mostly talking about myself here… I don’t want to point a finger at you because when I do that, I know that four other fingers are pointing back at me (in my case, that is literally true, as I have one husband and three kids! Ha! Ha!).

I taught a Conflict Resolution course earlier this week to College Interns. They were absolutely NOT interested in the session or me, until I asked them how many of them were in a relationship. Most raised their hands and that’s when they got connected into the topic. Sometimes, we think that this stuff we are learning at work does not apply to anything other than work. When you can link things at work to home, that’s where learning becomes valuable and memorable to others.

Talking to others about personal matters is not easy. In the study of Conflict Resolution, I usually start off the session by asking them to think about how conflicts were handled in their home when they were growing up. Did their parent(s) yell? Were they passive aggressive or always trying to keep the peace? These behaviors can definitely influence how you react to conflict.

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There are several ways you can approach conflict resolution – I also wrote about conflict & perspectives in my blog titled “Bridges, Balconies, & Burquas“. The first is to know your behavioral style. Most inventories (DiSC, Myers Briggs, Jungian, etc) are based on two dimensions: Task & People (horizontal axis) and Direct & Indirect (or in the figure, Outgoing/Reserved). There are free online tests you can take (& I encourage you to take them!) to find out how you fall into these quadrants. No matter what you take, the main questions are:

  1. Do you tell people directly how you feel about certain things or do you beat around the bush in order to spare feelings?
  2. Does interaction with others (maybe 20 min or more of talking) energize you or leave you making a mental laundry list of all the things you needed to get done in that time you just spent?

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Answers to those questions will allow you to figure out which side you land on – if you are energized with interactions with others, you will fall near to the “I” and the “S” side. If you are not, then “D” & “C” are more your style. If you are direct, you will go towards the top half of the circle and if indirect, then “C” & “S” may be more like you. Nothing is etched in stone, but knowing how you like to be approached is a good start to communicating with others.

Lack of Communication is one of the top reasons for divorce in a marriage. It is also one of the main reasons why employees leave (1. My boss & I didn’t get along OR 2. My co-workers & I didn’t see eye to eye). That’s it. It’s really that simple. When we start to see where someone might fall into the style spectrum, it’s easier to understand that them being quiet doesn’t mean they don’t like you – it simply means they are processing information & are being Contemplative! In other words, they are actually taking the time to think about what you just said! How many times do we misunderstand what we just saw in another person and shake our heads? The answer: I just did it today! 🙂

So, before you decide to say “Let’s Talk” to someone, you may want to consider how they like to be approached, how they view the world (=differently than you) and also what you may need to do in order to come to a good resolution. If we thought things through on a daily basis, maybe we wouldn’t waste so much energy in assuming a negative situation. The Bible says “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.(NASB – Philippians 4:8). That is a great place to start. In addition, Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” When you watch your words and think for just a second before you speak, it can make a complete difference in the way you approach others and in return, how others approach you.

If you would like to learn more about the DiSC assessment or any of the things I wrote about, I would love to hear from you!

Being Transparent

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There’s a trend in business today to be TRANSPARENT. An organization I have done consulting for goes as far as to have glass walls for their Executive offices so that nothing is hidden from employees. There is a sense of vulnerability there – being exposed for all to see. They can tell when you are on the phone or goofing off on the computer or simply zoning out.

With the Millennial group, the desire to be transparent shows up in church connecting groups, at work and also in friendships. They want to go deep and fast. This can be really off-putting to others who have been told that you should have a line between business and personal, between how much you share and how often. Social media has also impacted this desire to have everything be shared. When I log on to my social media accounts, there are pictures of everything – from what their cat coughed up to the latest pair of shoes they purchased. Do I need to know all that? No. Do I care about all that? Not really (especially not the cat bit). So why share all of it – what’s really behind this?

In Psychology, there is a model used for self-awareness called the Johari Window. This has degrees of what you hide and what you share. Trusting others with information you normally hide will allow you to learn more about yourself that you didn’t know or even understand.

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I did some work with a woman who was completely put together. She had a habit of fixing her make up, hair, etc before each meeting even though not a hair was out of place. Her dress and mannerisms were impeccable. To me, she looked like she stepped out of a magazine with her crisp clothes, polished manners and manicured nails. It was a bit intimidating at first to be around her. I felt like the dumpy friend that some girls take on as a benevolence project to help them become more socialized.

As we worked together more and more, on projects that took us long into the night, she began to disclose more about her hidden self. Not many people know much about her. She was sweet and kind, but had a sharp edge to her that came out now and then. One day, I mentioned to her about how immaculate she always appears and how it can be intimidating so someone who doesn’t know her. It seems like she is absolutely perfect.  She looked at me and said “I was homeless. I lived in a car with my mother until I was 8 years old.”

It blew me away!

What a confession. Still, it didn’t explain why and how she behaves and also how she got to this high paying job with an advanced college degree. She said that a woman who lived nearby noticed that there was a little girl who was always in a car when she went to work in the morning (her mom simply drove her to her work and she waited patiently in the car all day long for her to return). The woman stopped one day and asked my friend why she was not in school. She told the woman that she was waiting for her mom and gave her mom’s name. The woman went and found her mother and got them help from others, helped to place my friend in school and have some type of a home. She worked extra hard to put herself through high school and then college. The way she looked was done on purpose. It was a huge facade that she constructed so that no one else would see what she had to deal with and her past would not come up due to her credentials today.

These are the walls that we set up before us so that we don’t have to share certain things that are painful reminders of the past. Not everyone wants to be transparent. Also, being transparent doesn’t mean that you take pictures of your meal and post it online for your 500+ closest friends to see.

Real transparency comes from being AUTHENTIC. Are you who you say you are? Or are you moody, changing your behavior from one meeting to the next? Are you unpredictable to your staff or to family? Do you say you are a nice person and then chew out the cashier who puts your canned tomatoes on top of your bread? These are the things that allow someone to develop trust in others. Trust is the key to building relationships. Without consistency in who you say you are (=Open Self) and then acting in a way that’s contrary without even realizing what you are doing (= Blind Self), you may not be trusted.

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photo from Kingspeech

In business, if being transparent means not having a hidden agenda, not back-stabbing others to get what you want or throwing them under the bus for a poor decision you made, then that’s not only good but also ethical behavior. In life, sharing difficulties you might have and not just the highlights of trips, awards or other accolades to make others feel inferior might be a great way to real – to be transparent. I know that at church, we sometimes don’t share the hard things of life. We don’t share about our children dropping out of school or doing things they shouldn’t do for fear of being cast out. When we begin to let go of a little bit of the Hidden Self, you increase the window of the Open Self. That’s where you can invite others to share what might be a difficult time in their life and help them to heal from hurts.

This is something we can apply daily in our walk. Just like my friend, even though outwards we may look alright, inside we are not perfect people. Stepping away from being transparent via facebook or instagram to being authentic is a good start to building trust and enhancing all relationships. This becomes an exercise in telling the truth, in doing what is beneficial and also in helping one another see their true self – not just the mask they want to hide behind.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ~Phil 4:8-9

No Thanks

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Good Day Turned Bad

I was in such a good mood, humming a tune to myself when a truck wanted to be let in on the side of the road. I waited patiently, smiled and signaled with my hand to go ahead. The dude didn’t say anything, jammed out and then slammed his brakes in front of me, almost causing a wreck.

I don’t know what upset me more – his crazy driving or the fact that he did not follow proper driving etiquette. When someone motions you to go ahead, you should always give a little wave or even a smile or something to acknowledge the good deed you just did… right? I thought everyone knew that! Apparently, Mr. Driver of Chevy Silverado did not know anything about this nor did he care.As we drove along to the next traffic light, it occurred to me that good manners might be a thing of the past and that the word “THANK YOU” is also a relic that I am desperately hanging on to.

In a recent training workshop, I asked the group for non-monetary ways to motivate employees. Recognition came up towards the top, but many didn’t know how to recognize people without making a big production. My suggestion of a thank you note caused a reaction. My questions to the group were “When is the last time you got a thank you from someone?,” “When was the last time you got a hand written note from someone?,” “When was the last time you received a thank you note in the mailbox with a stamp on it?” The last question is the one that caused many to put their hands down.

Saying “THX” on a text might be a start, but it doesn’t do anything for someone. Spelling out “Thank you” on an e-mail is better, but it’s still informal. There is something about paper. There is something about seeing handwriting on a sheet of paper and being able to receive it the old fashioned way. I received a folded up sheet of paper with a hand written note from an employee at Campbell Soup once. He worked in the Tomato Operations plant and there was a small smudge on the top of the note with a piece of tomato on it. It wasn’t disgusting, but so very sweet! To take out the time to find a sheet of paper (hard to do out on the manufacturing floor), take a pen, jot down something thoughtful (one line of what he was thanking me for) and then to fold it up & leave it on your desk. Such an effort, that years later, I still appreciate it. Also, just so you know. I KEEP all my hand-written thank you’s. I am a romantic and love to recall affirmations. It’s sweet to go through and see how you may have impacted someone’s life or just made their day a bit brighter.

A couple things on creating a thankful culture: write a note immediately! I jot down a few things on the back of a receipt for the server, along with a nice tip for service. Keep a small notepad and pen handy in your car. I even have blank thank you cards with envelopes in my car for people.thank-you-note

If you are at work, try dropping off a hand-written card on a person’s desk but don’t discount the heartfelt thank you that is written on a paper napkin or a grocery sack. These are the things that help to make the day a bit better and seem more civil. Someone told me that the thank you notes and personal hand written notes have restored their sense of connection to coworkers.  We are all in this together… so why not do something unexpected and out of the ordinary for someone?

By the way, if someone forgets to thank you, don’t worry too much about that also. It’s helpful to me to remember that we get our thanks in Heaven and should not expect it from mankind (Luke 6:35). It’s not easy to do, especially when you feel like you went out of your way to do something nice for someone, but unless we take the first step in acknowledging, appreciating and serving others – the culture will not change. In fact, it will get worse. This is why I  really did I forgive that man who jumped in and then added insult to injury (that’s why I cropped out his license plate out of the picture! Ha ha!) and then I was prompted to think about what can I do to change some of these things that I see in business and in daily life. I hope that you will also take the time to pass on a small kindness to someone today.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:32

Unbelievable

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“Why can’t we all get along?” This is the cry I hear from people who want to talk about cultural diversity, religion, management or anything else I happen to be speaking. Many times it’s exactly these individuals who are the ones who don’t really want to get along with another. If there was an issue – maybe it’s them who was causing it? A better question to ask then is “What’s stopping you from getting along with someone else?” or “Why aren’t you getting along with others?” Of course, those are harder questions to ask and to have answered, so we end up speaking in generalities about groups instead of individuals.

This is the situation I found myself in last weekend. The issue proposed to me by someone close to me was “Why do you talk about sensitive matters? Why do you have to present a direct contrast between Islam and Christianity? Why do you have to blog about it and why do you have to address audiences about this?”

In my professional background in the realm of Human Resources, that’s all I deal with: sensitive matters. Human Resources professionals deal mainly with issues of employment, hiring, firing. With Diversity, matters of age, race, gender, ethnicity and religion are constantly being brought up by organizations. It’s what I am paid to talk about. I understand very clearly that it makes many people nervous and downright angry to talk about some of these things.

The media and our society today has done a great job defining what is okay to talk about and what is not okay. In my line of work, I deal with the fact that people cannot leave their religion behind while they work 9 to 5, nor can they ignore their age and any discrimination that may come with that or sex, or ethnicity. That’s the reason why I make it my life’s passion and work to talk about it, write about it and live it out.

I love talking about God. I don’t like or want to leave him in the car while I go to a meeting or discuss a subject matter at a corporate meeting or even at a public university. He is a large part of my story, my background, my calling to speak and also He influences every decision I make. I am not able to separate out my religion from my career or family. The person in question found this to be UNBELIEVABLE. I am not sure if she found it to be unbelievable that I place my trust in God for all these matters or that I will not stop talking about Him.

Political Correctness has done more harm than good. Dale Carnegie said “seek first to understand and then be understood.” Why then do we say we will just not talk about all the things that are protected by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), such as race, age gender, ethnicity & religion? We take the things of the workplace and apply them to our everyday life, missing opportunities to see how other people believe, how they live, what is their background and what makes up the content of their character.

It’s beautiful to be able to live in a country that allows for freedom of speech, of expression and of religion. We are able to have a mosque, a church, a Hindu temple and a Jewish temple in the same town – even on the same block! You do not find this type of diversity in many places. It’s a rich way to learn about others’ beliefs and to help them understand your own. The key is to approach one another with respect and not tell them to stop talking. Extinguishing dialogue will lead to darkness and misunderstanding – death of relationships. It does not allow people to freely share views and present a fresh, new way to approach century-old grudges.

Since we live in a free society, why should we not utilize these hard-won freedoms that someone else died for? Why should we stop the dialogue, pretend that culture, ethnicity and religion – differing opinions don’t exist? Why not take an opportunity to open your mind, open your heart, open your ears, and open your eyes to see the beauty of diversity that exists all around you?

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May we be people who live in God’s light, sharing openly about His love, His light and the freedoms only He can bring in our life. May we share the good news of the Gospel to a hurting world that thinks this is the only reality there is.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” ~Ephesians 5: 8-11

Bridges, Balconies and Burqas

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There are always two sides to any story. What we don’t often see is that there is a third side to the story – the community and the observers to the two parties’ argument or conversation. Conflict at its most basic is merely a differing perspective. There isn’t anything wrong with seeing things differently. That is Diversity and it enriches our perspectives. Conflict is something that comes up where one or more parties cannot understand or recognize the other person’s perspective.

This is true for religion, the global situation and negotiations between nations, at our workplace and also in our families. When we feel personally threatened, there is a friction that can come up. The story behind the situation can get lost, while we focus only on our own gains, our own viewpoint and our own needs, the perspective begins to become lopsided.

Building a bridge involves a balanced approach. There are careful measurements and an overall vision that sets the stage for the process. In order to build, both sides need to be worked on at the same time so that they can meet delicately in the middle.

While I’ve never built a bridge (physical one, not metaphorically speaking), I have crocheted socks. How in the world can crocheting of a pair of socks look like building a bridge? They both need to be worked on at the same time, by someone from the outside. This is another way to look at conflicts and negotiation. Action of one entity upon two other entities = third side (or the third party) is not a new idea.

In psychology, the third side or perspective is called the “Mediating Variable.” It helps two things that seem to be linked together to be explained in a better way. In conflict negotiation or mediation, unless you have a third party involved that can help to explain the situation clearly and ask the right questions, it is very difficult to get to a suitable resolution. Authors Heifetz and Linsky have called this to be a “Balcony Perspective.” If you are one of the actors on the stage, it will be very difficult for you to see the whole picture because you only know your part and maybe the part of the person before you and after you so you can be cued in. However, if you choose instead to see the drama unfold from the balcony view, you will be able to not only understand what is going on in front of you but also what the others are doing in the background. The entire scene becomes crystal clear all of a sudden. The same is also true for conflict and negotiation.

So before you jump into a blame game or rush into judgment of a situation, STOP. Take a ladder and climb up to the balcony. Take a fresh perspective of the scene unfolding in front of you. You might just be able to see things you have never seen before or things you were taking for granted in your everyday rush to be heard and to be placed in the #1 seat.

In my walk with Christ, I have found that building bridges between my past and helping people to understand what it was like to grow up in an entirely different culture (Middle East & Asia), with a different religion (Islam), and different family values, there is a lot of ground to cover. There is great fear driven from the media that causes people to become angry towards a certain group. I have met several women who was moderately Christian at the time  (not really attending church regularly and couldn’t really say much about having a relationship with Christ), who told me that she was angered by  Muslims here in the United States and elsewhere.

As all of my family is Muslim, I could have immediately taken great offense at what she said – they have as much of a right to be here as he does, even if they were not born here, but are U.S. Citizens. After taking a deep breath (= going to the balcony), I asked her a few questions: How many Muslim people have you talked to here (answer: none), how many Muslim people have you tried to reach or build a relationship with so you could understand them better (answer: none), how do you know what they believe other than the media (answer: I am well-educated), and finally – why do you feel this way? The last question made her pause. I told him that my family would not feel the same about her, so what was going on? She answered in one word “FEAR.”

This is no different than what happens at work. We take a stand on something and get mad about it, without taking into account someone else’s underlying concerns or addressing the issues below the iceberg. Ninety percent of the time, you will find that the issue at the face of the situation is not the real issue. The real stuff is lying below what the person is saying to you.

Going back to another woman who was fearful, God had a very funny way of taking care of that situation. I hosted a baby shower for a Saudi woman who was new to the country. I didn’t even know who she was, but that a group of Christian women wanted to have a shower but the location fell through. I offered up our home and we had over 30 women attend. The guest of honor came to my front door with her entourage of 8 women- all dressed from head to toe in their black burqa (or hijab). My friend came out from the kitchen and I heard a sharp intake and gasp of a breath. I have to admit – it was kind of a scary sight to have people you don’t know who show up to your door and you cannot see their faces (kind of like Halloween, but not on Halloween…).

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As the women were ensured that no men would be in attendance, they started to take off their veils and covers. Underneath were these sweet-faced 18-20 year old girls dressed in cute trendy dresses, short hair, full make-up. So adorable! I could see a huge wide grin spread across my friend’s face. After the fun party, she and I got to talk. She had tears in her eyes because she felt like the Lord had taken her to a balcony to see a new perspective she would never have considered. What a JOY to have that perception and fear lifted off in one night. That is the way bridges are built…

May we seek ways to bring peace to our homes, families, workplaces, and nation in this way, for blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). 

 

 

Managing Across Cultures

cultureYesterday, I taught a course on Cultural Intelligence for the State of Oklahoma Office of Management & Enterprise (OMES). Just as your own Intelligence Quotient (IQ) can be measured, so can your Cultural Quotient (CQ). Harvard Business Review defines it as “Cultural intelligence: an outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures the way that person’s compatriots would.”

The biggest thing I noticed when was an immigrant to the United States is that this is such an amazing country with many cultures living side by side. Oklahoma City has a Vietnamese district of restaurants and a large grocery market. There is also a large Southeast Indian, Persian, Hispanic and of course, a rich Native American culture. The universities in the area have flourishing International Studies programs. All of these are reasons why in 2016,  Oklahoma City was named one of the nine metropolitan areas for creating an inclusive culture! Surprised? Don’t be! There aren’t many areas in the US that don’t have a cultural impact (inclusion and race). I usually tell my students that you don’t have to go further than your local Wal Mart to find the varied diversity in any US city. If you are even more curious, go to the Ethnic Food aisle at Wal Mart and see how many languages are being spoken there.

Americans don’t give ourselves credit for taking inventory of how much we already know about a particular culture. Growing up with friends from different areas, educational level, socioeconomic status and even generational differences all account for cultural diversity. However when the term “Diversity” is mentioned, we focus on black and white – we are the ones who make it about race only, missing out on the rest of the things that make diversity exciting.

One can easily measure their level of cultural knowledge by taking a Cultural Intelligence quiz online (there are several free ones available – just do a search!). It’s a quick test that takes a look at the four quadrants of Cultural Intelligence (Drive, Cognition, Meta-Cognition and Action). A high score is NOT what you are after on this test. It’s more to show you where you can improve in each area. This is the first step in developing and increasing your cultural knowledge. Application and adaptation are the next two steps.

CQ is quickly becoming a need for managers and leaders. Knowing how to work across cultures to increase productivity is KEY in any workplace or organization. It’s important to note here that the term “culture” also include generational differences. This is one of the main areas I have had to address over the last few years, as the Baby Boomer population decreases and the Millennials increase in the workplace.

The main question that arose from the Cultural Intelligence session yesterday was how far do you go to accommodate another culture before you blur the lines between who you are and the values you hold?

This is a good question to consider. It is truly based upon your own values, beliefs and also your organizational culture and beliefs. If those are in alignment, then the decision making comes easily. If they are not congruent, then there can be dissonance. As a manager, it’s very important to allow for “reasonable accommodation” for an employee’s ethnicity, religion, or other consideration. Flexible time and PTO help to give tremendous creativity on how that time is used. The issue becomes more blurry when ethics come into play. I believe it’s important to stress that when a leader focuses in on one person’s needs or issue (due to inclusion or diversity needs), that that they don’t alienate the other 99 in the office. So taking the big picture into account is a good way to start. Solving issues in a team is also another approach. This will actually allow others to learn more about the culture and do creative problem solving together. The only caveat to this is if the employee wants the issue to remain confidential, so before taking a team approach, ask employee permission.

The bottom line in any diversity or inclusion initiative is to address each employee with dignity and respect. That is a common ingredient that crosses global, ethnic, and cultural boundaries. If we stop for a minute to think about what is getting ready to come out of our mouth and take time to analyze the situation, then CQ is already at work. The knee-jerk reaction rarely works when all these factors are involved. Take a moment, think, analyze and give benefit of the doubt to the other party. That is something that will help a manager not just handle cross-cultural issues but most communication issues.