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Articles, tips, guides and blogs around business skills, training, professional courses and development in addition to South West relevant news.

8 Essential Lessons the German Mannschaft Can Teach Every Business

8 Essential Lessons the German Mannschaft Can Teach Every Business

Last month we witnessed a breathtaking World Cup final which saw the Mannschaft (‘team’) win after a 24 year drought. As well as appearing in the World Cup finals eight times and having won the tournament four times, Germany is now the first European team to have won the cup on Latin American soil.  

Clearly, the German Mannschaft is a fantastic team. After all, we can’t neglect the fact that they played against Argentina, a country which is - unlike Germany - not known for its team but for its star player, Messi, a.k.a “the best player in the world”.

However, do you wonder what their secret was? Was it German efficiency? The quality promise of ‘made in Germany’? Or is there more to it than being German? Coincidence and luck were definitely not part of the equation; for me anyway.

I believe we can learn 8 vital lessons from the team’s performance, attitude and the way they conducted themselves that every business can, and should, learn from.

•    A strong vision: the German team knew what they were about. Combined with a set common goal, hard work, discipline and a positive mindset this creates a powerful entity. If businesses know who they are, what they want and how they want to get there, there is little that can stand in their way.


•    A strategic leader: in a radio interview, Germany’s coach Joachim Löw expressed the team’s confidence in their strength and the ability to stick to their well-established strategy. This comes from good leadership.  It is the leader who gives the team this sense of purpose, direction and commitment to get the job done.


•    Ability to adapt:  as we all know, life doesn’t always go to plan and football is no different. Prior to the final the team lost two key men, Kedhira and Kramer, however the team adapted. Just as with business, it is vital that teams remain flexible and open to situational adaptation, e.g. change of deadline, project amendments, etc.


•    Generational mix: the German team was a perfect balance between old-heads and new blood. One could argue that it was the oldies that kept the team in the final but the new guys such as Götze who won it. In business it’s vital to always have that solid experience as well as new, fresh ideas and impetus.


•    Cultural diversity: the German team had many second-generation Germans such as Mustafi, Özil, Boateng and Podolski. Having people in your business with different backgrounds, experience, ideas and values only strengthens the overall offering and should never be underestimated.


•    Staying focussed: as we saw with the team, when under pressure, and in a critical situations, they never panicked. Panicking is of no help to anyone. For want of a better phrase, it’s so important to always keep your eyes on the goal.


•    Reliance on structure: perhaps better demonstrated by the passion and somewhat disorganisation of the Brazilians, having a structure in place is vital. The German team knew their places, how they had to work for each other and what to do in certain situations. Having a structure in place, along with rules is necessary if any business wants to see success.


•    Stay humble, passionate and genuine: as perhaps personified most by Schweinsteiger, the Germans were the epitomy of class. There is no place for egos in a team and we witnessed this throughout the competition even when they managed to put 7 goals past the hosts. Just as in business, you need to temper any sense of superiority and just put your head down and do the best job you can.


Author: Désirée Gergen is about to graduate in an MA in Intercultural Communication for Business and Professions at Birkbeck College, University of London.

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Managing Multicultural Teams: A Participant's Feedback

Managing Multicultural Teams: A Participant's Feedback

We ran a Managing Multicultural Teams open course on January 30th. We asked one of the participants to tell us about her experience of the open course – what was covered, what her key take-aways were, and how this experience will be applicable back into her role at an international NGO.

 
What did the training cover?


The training was nicely structured but also informal at the same time allowing us (attendees) to ask as many questions and share our own experiences as we went along throughout the day. The training started with looking at how culture affects business and leadership.  We looked at how cultural self-awareness ties in with managing multicultural teams and we assessed our own cultural awareness, management and working/communications styles.


Afterwards we looked at the different levels of culture: the impact of corporate culture, national culture and individual culture. The session also examined team development and group processes - the influence of culture on the length of development stages of team development. Motivation, conflict resolution practices across cultures was also looked at as well as on how to give and receive feedback. Finally, we looked at the strategies for success – how to develop trust and build relationships with the team and create synergy within the team.


We had the opportunity to discuss and share our own values with the team. There were fun practical team building exercises throughout the day, which enabled us to better understand how to manage and work well within a team - and most importantly, to experience what is written in the slides rather than just listening throughout the whole day.


What was your ‘aha’ moment (ie. your key take-away)?


By looking at culture in depth and understanding it throughout the training, I began to think in terms of 'the platinum rule'. Essentially, this means to treat others how THEY would like to be treated – opposing to the famous saying 'treat others how you would want to be treated'. The emphasis throughout the training was on how THEY would want to be treated.


What will you apply back in your job?  


I will take on board with me that it is critical to be open-minded to all various situations. Even though you are not necessarily accustomed to a cultural practice, it is essential to do the best possible to comprehend situations in a cultural context (especially during  conflicts). With this, I think it is also important for me to take my learning in order to educate others through what I have learnt throughout the training. Culture is something that is instilled in each of us from a young age, however it can also be learned. It is therefore important to ask questions and dig deep.


Who would you recommend this course to?


I would recommend this training to anyone - as we live in a globalised world - which means understanding culture is essential and an individual will also be working within a diverse team - therefore I would say this training would benefit anyone. However, I think that it would especially benefit those working specifically in an international context, particularly those responsible for managing multicultural teams. This training could also be insightful for anyone who has not yet had experience working in an international background, however is looking to work within an international organisation.

If you would like to join our next course, please visit the Managing Multicultural Teams course page for more information.

Want this course in London? We are running this training course in London on 3rd April 2014 in London. Please refer to Findcourses for more information.

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Contagious Leadership – Emotional Intelligence and its impact on Team Performance

Contagious Leadership – Emotional Intelligence and its impact on Team Performance

In today’s business world, hard skills are no longer seen as the sole key to success. While in the past there was no room for emotions in the workplace and the importance of soft skills was largely underestimated, they have come to be considered as indispensable and well worth striving for – and rightly so, I believe.


Just think about your own experiences. Wouldn’t you agree that your emotional state greatly influences your thoughts, attitude and behaviour and consequently, your personal wellbeing, your relationships and your performance both at work and in your private life?


This is why Emotional Intelligence (EI), the ability to identify, assess, and manage emotions in a positive way, is extremely valuable for every individual. EI not only includes being able to “read” others’ emotions, and react accordingly. It is equally, if not more important, to understand and control one’s own emotions. And self-awareness doesn’t stop there. It is also essential to understand in what way and to which extent your own emotions impact others, especially if you find yourself in the role of a leader.


Neuroscientific research has proven that emotions, positive and negative likewise, can “rub off“ on others. This phenomenon is called emotional contagion. The psychotherapist Elaine Hatfield, PhD, and her colleagues discovered that “all of us imitate facial expressions, postures, and voices of the people around us. Those expressions trigger certain emotions - the same ones experienced by the person we mimic. But the process happens so fast, we're completely unaware of it”.

Hence, the emotions conveyed by one person can spread like a virus and infect others. Think about your own experience as an employee: Doesn’t it lift your mood and don’t you feel much more appreciated and motivated if your boss has a positive attitude and encourages you, rather than constantly focusing on what you did wrong? Did you ever notice that your colleague’s anxiety started to make you shift from one foot to the other, because you were starting to grow nervous yourself? – Now, judging from your answers, what implications should these findings have on your behavior as a leader?


As a leader you need to be even more aware of the contagious effect of emotions, because your team will look towards you, and your emotions are likely to spread quicker and more persistently than others’. Making derogatory or negative comments and having an unwelcoming attitude can get down the whole team, leaving each team member feeling drained, unmotivated, or even reluctant.


However, when talking about emotions, their viral nature can actually be something very positive and useful. If you learn to harness and emit positive energy as a leader, you can foster enthusiasm, put your team members at ease and make them feel appreciated and encouraged. By doing so, one person can positively influence each individual team member and improve the dynamics and the performance of the team as a whole.
Mastering EI and harnessing the forces of positivity will lead to enhanced results and greater business success and it will make you a highly valued leader in any business sector.

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Developing Soft Skills as a Manager Today

Developing Soft Skills as a Manager Today

Management and leadership as we know it have undergone a significant shift in recent years due to globalisation and the increasing need to work virtually and across time zone and cultures. Previously, a manager was seen as someone with largely specific technical/hard skills, today that perception of the role has largely developed.


In last decade, and as the world is becoming an increasing ‘global marketplace’ (Lane 1997), human resource development has also taken on a more international outlook which means that the global talent search has focused increasingly on finding, developing and retaining those individuals with a specific skillset: self-efficacy, interpersonal skills and perceptual skills (Harris and Brewster 1999) amongst others.  


In addition, it has been found that good management/leadership skills at home, does not necessarily mean success abroad (Jokinen 2005). Although there has been very little research done in this area,  it is now a rapidly growing field which with an increased hunger to decipher and gain a better understanding of the competencies required to manage/lead effectively and successfully on a global level.


So what are the characteristics that make managers and leaders successful in the global marketplace? Interestingly, the research points to broadly soft skills:


•    ‘Social, creativity/resourcefulness, positive outlook, responsiveness, self-knowledge, cultural sensitivity’ (Brownwell 2006)
•    ‘Knowledge of how to use their personal influence, strong character, knowledge of how to motivate others, act like entrepreneurs (…) (Connon 2000)
•    ‘Relationship, cognition, organising expertise, visioning (…) (Mendenhall and Osland 2002).

Even Learning & Development professionals in companies tend to focus less on producing programmes for hard/technical skills because these often need specialised knowledge and some can be via blended learning programmes, reading or other methods. The challenge for today’s Learning & Development professionals is developing people skills or ‘soft skills’ especially at the global level in order to get things done.


So you may be asking yourself, what’s next? How can I start improving my soft skills? Here are a few practical suggestions:


1)    Build positive relationships with your employees
a.    Spend time with your employees, give them your full attention and develop trust
b.    Understand who they are and what motivates them
c.    Be fair and resolve conflicts in a respectful and sensitive manner


2)    Develop self-awareness of your preferred working, communication and management style
a.    Try and read between the lines and gauge the effect you have on other people
b.    Listen actively and show real interest
c.    Practice speaking and writing clearly. Do not be afraid to ask for constructive feedback and in return practice giving feedback too.
d.    Be flexible in your management style – different people respond differently to different styles – find what works


3)    Inspire
a.    Practice what you preach to demonstrate that goals are achievable
b.    Celebrate success
c.    Learn from mistakes


Effective management and leadership today requires an addition ‘touch’ as expectations of what it means to be a good leader has changed. Generally speaking, employees today expect their leaders to have the necessary soft skills to build positive relationships, be self-aware and inspire others to get things done.


As Steve Denning summarises in a recent Forbes article, managers today are capacity building instigators: “Management is not simply a menial set of technical directives. At its best, it clarifies and magnifies human capacity. By opening those pathways by which human beings become productive, it brings an increase in existence for those doing work and those for whom the work is done. Through creating the space where we can live mindfully and wholeheartedly, it enlarges what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”

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