Do you have a language strategy?

July 20th, 2014

Last week some on social media commented that several languages should be used for internal communication regarding my article about a multicultural group spread around the world. My experience however, is that you get far better result if you select one language to communicate in internally. Watch Tsedal Neeley, Harvard Business School assistant professor, explaining why every company needs a language strategy:

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It’s not for nothing the majority of multinational companies, regardless of origin, have selected English as their main language.​Presumably most of us agree that it’s important for a company to have one main language that it communicates in? Naturally employees in different countries don’t have to use it between themselves. But when communicating with other offices or in a project  with team members in different branches all over the world, strategic management is very much facilitated by using one language only. Communicating through interpreters is, in my opinion, a complicated way of working. Have thankfully only needed to do so in a handful of situations.

Do you have a language strategy? If so, which language do you use?

Do you have a language strategy to enable staff to communicate? If so, which language do you use?

Are languages human rights?

Don’t understand what companies communicating internally in one language has to do with human rights? In my opinion businesses should not have to take language endangerment and preservation into account. And certainly not be considered to violate human rights by using one language for internal communication. Language may have a role to play in human rights when it comes to asylum seekers and refugees. But to include businesses is really going to far. That’s not to say that businesses have a right to violate human rights in other ways. 

Native speakers of the company language however, need to use easy language, slow down and help co-workers improve their skills, in say, English. And managers have to make sure that happens. Provided that part is carried out very well, a language strategy will benefit non English speakers by enabling them to learn a new skill.

Should companies have a language strategy? Do you agree with Tsedal Neeley and myself that, at the moment, English is the logical choice but that Mandarin may be selected in the future? Or do you have another suggestion? Are you of the opinion that without a shared or common language efficiency in a company will suffer? Or do you agree with those who are of the opinion that it’s against human rights to make employees communicate in a language that’s not their native one? If so, should we use a multitude of languages and interpreters for internal communication?

(Video: HarvardBusiness – You Tube, Picture: World Economic Forum)

Can you lead multicultural groups spread around the world?

July 13th, 2014

Leadership can be challenging when you team consists of people of numerous nationalities and on top of it are in different locations all over the world. Devote 2 minutes to watching Anne Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor, outline her ideas on how to succeed:  

Geographically dispersed teams offer a lot of benefits – increased efficiency, cost savings, and enables you to choose team members with optimal skills, regardless of where in the world they are. Videoconferencing, intranet and email has already made that way of working an option that’s likely to become even more popular. Actually believe that’s how we will increasingly work in the future. 

To make a success of your global team, chose team players with the right characteristics and ensure that you have the best possible communication. 

Do you  understand what drives and motivates people from different cultures?

Do you understand what drives and motivates people from different cultures?

​What kind of team members should you chose?

They need to be self-motivated, have good communication skills, be result driven, open and honest.

It’s essential to unite all members around a common objective and communicate clearly and frequently.Set up goals and make sure bonding takes place between all of you. Giving assessment and reward performance is even more important when the members of your team are scattered around the world. 

People who need constant encouragement and attention to get the job done is a complication to be avoided. You simply cannot devote the time necessary to make such members perform that you would have been able to do if you were in the same office. For the same reason it’s also essential that all members of the team feel they can to come to you with problems and really unite around a common purpose. Everyone must have a desire to reach the team’s goals and clearly understand and be motivated by their roles and responsibilities.

Give frequent and fair feed-back to everyone and make yourself available to all members of your team. Can be a bit inconvenient sometimes due to time difference. Have many times had to get up extremely early, or stay up late, in order to talk to a team member on the other side of the world. But there is no avoiding it if you want your team to stay on track. 

Since you are not meeting on a daily basis it’s also important to visit them now and then to make sure they feel important. 

Don’t forget different cultures and values

Obviously it’s easier for those of us who have lived and worked all over the world. Provided of course that you integrated, understood the different cultures and what drives people from there. Am frequently surprised at how people, especially in the West, just presume that the way we think in say, the US or Sweden, applies to all of humanity. But you have to motivate all members of your team regardless of nationality so it’s essential to make sure you really understand what drives people from different cultures. 

Do you have experience in leading teams of different nationalities spread around the world? Did you find Anne Edmondson’s advice useful? Were you able to build trust when you were not meeting the team on a daily basis? Are you able to ensure that everyone feels they’re treated fairly, even if you see some team members much more than others? How do you avoid members of your team feeling isolated? What can you do to make all players feel part of the team’s objectives and perform according to plan? Which aspects do you find most challenging when your team is spread around the world? Do you believe diverse groups spread around the world will increasingly be the way we will work in the future? 

(Video: HarvardBusiness – You Tube Picture: World Economic Forum)

Public relations – how to make your business well known

July 6th, 2014

Without a clear strategy you will lose an abundance of opportunities of doing PR that will not come back, you will react too slowly and lessen the impact of what you are doing.

How do you get your business in the papers?

How to succeed with PR

To be able to swiftly react to news you really have to know what you are aiming for with your PR activities. What’s your target group? What’s your message? Who’s your spokesperson? What issues do you want to be associated with?

Whenever headline news is associated with what you do, contact media and make a statement. Journalists are keen to hear from companies involved in the sector.

Contact news agencies

Whenever there is news you would like to comment on call news agencies immediately and make a statement. The earlier you call the higher the likelihood of you being quoted.

Focus on developments in your area

What’s being debated in parliament? What events are taking place? Inform journalists about news in your company that are related to what’s going on and issues being debated. Don’t forget to give them background, facts and comments.

Scoops give opportunities

Whenever a newspaper has a scoop you can give them additional information and your points of view. Journalists will be keen to publish what you say since you prove that their scoop really was remarkable.

Take advantage of lack of headline news

When there is lack of news it’s easy to get an interesting story published. And getting your company in the papers during the weekends is not as difficult as during the week. It’s not for nothing that Wikileaks always release their documents on Fridays. Always be prepared to take advantage of not much happening in the world by having press releases and articles ready to submit. And make sure that spokespersons are available to comment.

Anniversaries and jubilees are good occasions

An easy way to start a press release is by stating something like “with our national day coming up…” and then going on to whatever it is you would like to get published. Volvo for instance got a lot of coverage by taking advantage of International Women’s Day by launching a car developed by and for women in connection with it.

Timing is key

Save your news until you need publicity, for instance because of fundraising or an IPO. A good example of that is how some fundraising organisations try to get as much publicity as they can at the end of the year which is the time when they raise funds.

Lobbying

If you want to impact decisions being taken you need to start lobbying long before the matter will be decided upon. For instance, if you are keen on being voted entrepreneur of the year it’s a good idea to start submitting articles to the opinion section of major newspapers just before the jury will meet to decide who will be the lucky one.

Avoid days when much is happening

The day the budget is released, war breaks out somewhere or someone famous is taken to hospital it’s a waste of time to try to get your press release published. It will not work for the simple reason that other more important events are taking place.

Forget about sending emails

Call the journalists. This is by far the most effective way to connect with media because they receive hundreds of emails every day. While everyone else is scared of getting a big no in their ear, having a bit of courage will get you further in the PR game.

The press release is dead. At least, the old press release where you e-blast news desks, reporters, and news-wires. While online media releases do serve SEO purposes and have track-able metrics, in a world of spam the last thing an editor wants is another generic email about the launch of something.

How are you handling your PR? Still sending press releases by email? Do you usually get your press releases published? Have you developed good relations with journalists in key papers? What strategies have you tried and which ones work for you? What suggestions do you have for companies trying to get more impact from their PR activities?

Photo: PhotoXpress – Christopher Hall

Get back in the saddle again!

June 29th, 2014

You can have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down, Mary Pickford once said and it’s so true. And only you can do it. If you wait for others to lift you up, not only will you be disappointed – you will stay down.

Get back in the saddle again and look at your problem in ways that will allow a solution.

Get back in the saddle again and look at your problem in ways that will allow a solution.

Now it’s time to make an effort and make sure your life and/or business benefits.

Are you brave?

Fear is hard to overcome. And so is taking huge risks. But frequently the choice is between a risky and adventurous life or a safe and boring life. Not sure about you, but I personally thrive on the former. If you would like to get out of a dull life you have to get the courage to move on. And it has to come from within you.

Opportunities disguised as problems

Being positive is crucial and to look at your problem in ways that will allow a solution. Maybe you have to look at possibilities you never considered before? But no matter what, it will be a question of persevering until you succeed, and not allow yourself to feel down. And don’t forget that we are often faced with great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems

Are you “problem friendly”?

How creative are you? Ever thought about the fact that creative people are “problem friendly”? Don’t get me wrong, nobody is delighted to deal with problems but now is the time for you to roll up your creative sleeves and find opportunities to improve your life. How? The solutions will be different for each of you. We all have problems that need to be solved every day. Even if it’s just that we got dirty and have to wash. There’s no running away from problems since everybody has them. If someone says they don’t, they are simply not telling the truth. So the important thing is to try to find solutions that will enrich your life.

Don’t discard your ideas

Don’t discard the ideas you have, value them instead and take the challenge of developing them. If you are creative you will be persistent and optimistic until you succeed. If you, or others around you, dismiss your ideas too early you will never get anywhere. Many of the ideas that I have had would in the beginning have appeared crazy to others, but nobody called them crazy after I succeeded. What would have happened if I had talked about them to early? Maybe criticism would have killed off my ideas? Be flexible as well. The fact that you are developing one idea doesn’t prevent you from working on other ones as well. In fact, I think you should work on several possibilities at the moment because so much is changing in our world. Covering your back is always a good idea. Have noticed that when I don’t, things go wrong. Still stuck in the rut? How about re-framing your situation by looking at it from different angles? It has the power to change your entire perception of the problem and finding new solutions.

And always, always remember that the only thing that’s certain in life is that everything is uncertain. That’s a fundamental fact of life and you have to get the strength from within to handle it, because whatever happens to you in life, it’s up to you how you perceive it. Positive or negative? Your choice. Or as Lincoln once put it “You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves”. Remember that failure happens on the road to success, which may be just a step away.

(Photo: Photo Xpress)

Entrepreneurship – do genes play a part?

June 22nd, 2014

Why are some of us entrepreneurs and others not? Is it only the environment we grow up in that matters or do our genes have a part to play as well?

Professor Scott Shane of Case Western Reserve University, is one scientist who claims that people with parents with certain genetic components are more likely to become entrepreneurs.

To what extent do genes matter?

In his genetic research on identical twins, who share 100 percent of their genes, and fraternal twins, who share 50 percent of their genes, professor Shane concluded that identical twins were more likely to share the genetic factors that enable entrepreneurship. His conclusion is that 30-40% of entrepreneurship is inherited.

“But even when a person has the entrepreneurial innate makeup that makes him/her more likely to be an entrepreneur, genes interact with environmental stimuli”, professor Shane says.

Combination of nature & environment

In other words having proved that genes play a part it is still difficult to determine to what extent they shape an individual to become an entrepreneur. Without the right environment the same person may not have become an entrepreneur? Growing up in an atmosphere adverse to risk taking, creativity and innovation the same person would probably never have become an entrepreneur.

Childhood influences

My father was an entrepreneur and I don’t know how many times my mother told me I’m just like him. But if they had raised me to believe new opportunities and developing projects was wrong would I still have had the mind of an entrepreneur? Or even worse if they had discouraged curiosity, vision and persistence.

According to Professor Shane genetic factors raise the odds of a person becoming an entrepreneur but environmental factors are more crucial, and I tend to agree with him. Not least since we are able to impact what and who we surround ourselves with. It is up to us to determine our future, regardless of what genes we have inherited. Entrepreneurial genes facilitate, but unless we really make an effort and are persistent we will never succeed no matter how excellent our genes are.

The difference between having an entrepreneurial mind and carrying out entrepreneurial activity

Anyone can learn how to carry out entrepreneurial activity.  But how do you learn to have an entrepreneurial mind? Is it really possible to learn to risk everything you have in order to achieve something you passionately believe in? Because that’s what having an entrepreneurial mind entails. One headhunter I know once said to me that when someone tells them he is an entrepreneur he asks him if he is prepared to risk losing his house and everything he ownes in order to succeed? If the answer is no, which it is in most cases, he hasn’t got an entrepreneurial mind but is carrying out entrepreneurial activity which is different.

What your opinion? Do our genes have a part to play or can we learn to develop an entrepreneurial mind anyway? Learn to have the strength and courage to take risks which is crucial for an entrepreneur. What role do our genes play in this? Does a person need to be programed genetically to have the strength and courage to risk everything they have?

Photo: Flickr – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Does the world need more Angelina Jolies?

June 15th, 2014

Using your fame to draw attention to those who suffer is commendable. Angelina Jolie has for a long time done a fantastic job of increasing awareness of the plight of victims of conflict. Her latest venture, with British foreign minister William Hague, is focusing on women in war zones and conflict areas. In this short video they highlight their initiative:

The video speaks for itself.  Don’t believe anyone can disagree with their conviction that sexual violence in conflict areas should always  be punished and that the victims should not be disgraced because of what happened to them. Or as Angelina Jolie put it: “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence”.

Giving a voice to refugees and victims

Angelina has for fourteen years made countless efforts to show-case the plight of victims of conflict. Her determination to help the displaced and lobbying for international assistance has been constant. She has made numerous visits to conflict zones to highlight what happens to millions of uprooted people and their need for protection. Needless to say, people all over the world who normally don’t pay attention  to victims of conflict have been reached by the Hollywood actress’ plea for assistance to their plight.

She has also donated millions of dollars since 2001 to build schools in for instance Afghanistan and improving the lives of the forcibly displaced. It’s fitting that she this week was made made an honorary dame for services to UK foreign policy and campaigning to end sexual violence in war zones.

William Hague and Angelina Jolie at the G8 meeting last year.

Angelina Jolie and William Hague  at the G8 Summit last year. She was at the time undergoing treatment.

Went public about having double mastectomy

When Angelina Jolie went public about having preventative surgery to avoid breast cancer she gave a face to what many women fear and are ashamed of.  It clearly shows how brave she is when highlighting that if you, as she, has the  BRCA gene mutation your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer is incredibly high. She now plans to have her ovaries removed as well. She made the statement wearing a daring dress showing that her reconstructive breast surgery has been a success.  How many celebrities have ever gone public with something like this? If it’s become known to the public it’s usually by default.

Does the world need more brave and caring celebrities like Angelina Jolie? Is what she is doing having an impact on how refugees are perceived? Will women feel better about having to remove their breasts after she went public about her double mastectomy? Do you believe we need more initiatives highlighting what victims of conflict have to go through? Would the world be a better place if more famous people were devoted to humanitarian causes and made efforts to show the world the plight of the vulnerable? Will sexual victims of war move up the diplomatic agenda as a result of the conference in London? Has it contributet to removing the taboo surrounding sexual violence in conflict?

Video: The Telegraph

How to get your news in the media

June 8th, 2014

Media coverage can make wonders for your business. So solid news media strategies should be part of well-rounded publicity campaigns. As opposed to advertising, articles have high credibility, are read and for free – if you manage to get the editors’ interest.

Media is constantly looking for news and are happy to write about companies and business people, provided they consider the story to be of interest to their readers.

So how do you get journalists to publish your news? What can you do to improve your chances of getting published in newspaper, radio, television or online?

Develop contacts in the media

Learn how journalists and editors work and decide what to publish. It’s easier than you believe. Media is constantly looking for news and are happy to write about companies and business people, provided they consider the story to be of interest to their readers. Do you have a story to tell, positive news or wish to comment on something in the news related to your business? Pick up the phone and call the journalist. This can be particularly fruitful if your organization has an ongoing need to be in the newspaper or on TV.

Create news

Editorializing your news is crucial. What subjects are media interested in and why? What would make them interested in what you have to tell? Read, watch and study as many news outlets as possible and try to understand what makes news. Then present it in ways that make the journalist feel it is newsworthy.

Get to the point and keep it short

When sending press releases to media covering your field keep it short to the point. If it’s long and complicated the editor may not even read it. Don’t make it appear like advertising, boast or complicate it because that can work against you. Focus on what’s new, trendy, unusual, interesting, and of significance to the broadest numbers of readers. News organizations also love stories that arouse deep emotions – love, sympathy, hate, fear, anger – feelings that people can identify with.

Call the media swiftly

Journalists are flooded by emails so the best way of succeeding is to call him/her. Once you have got them interested in your story you can proceed with sending an email with information. And be swift. Nobody is interested in yesterday’s news. If you spend too much time contemplating how to best get results you will miss the boat. Arrange a news conference if you believe, or know, you news will generate significant media attention.

Need help?

If necessary use a PR & Communications consultant. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune but is well worth it. Media coverage can be make or break for your business so until you master the art of handling the press it is money well spent.

Don’t hesitate to be interviewed and profiled in the media because it increases your chances of getting your news published. Look at Richard Branson. He masters the art of using himself as a living “advertisement” for Virgin Group. And I don’t need to tell you how successful he is. Where would Virgin be today if Richard hadn’t manged to get an abundance of media coverage? Don’t be afraid to ask for coverage and propose specific ideas. Your story could become the centerpiece on the front page. Don’t be discouraged or argumentative if your idea falls on deaf ears. You will learn from the experience. And don’ forget that the editor may turn you down today simply because the staff ’s time is taken up by other assignments. Be persistent. Be positive. Develop more and better ways to pitch your organisation into the news media. And whatever you do, don’t forget that if they don’t like you they will not publish your news. So make sure you come across in ways that make both you and the company look good.

(photo: aidasonne – PhotoXpress)

Is the economy complex and evolving?

June 1st, 2014

The economic meltdown in 2008 has made it essential to change the way we look at economics. In this short video Brian Arthur explains the inner workings of the complex system:

When we study economics we are taught that the markets are perfect and correct themselves. But that approach proved to be wrong when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Economists hence had to start looking at how we approach economics in a world that is not orderly.

Brian Arthur doesn't believe the markets are perfect

Brian Arthur doesn’t believe the markets are perfect

Events can multiply swiftly

Brian Arthur, as opposed to many economists, don’t believe the world is orderly. According to him, standard economics leave out a lot of issues . Complexity economics consequently looks at the same world from a much broader context that include what’s not perfect and allows the kind of domino effect that happened when Lehman Brothers collapsed.

The Eurozone didn’t balance out

The current crisis in the Eurozone shows that the belief in economics that everything balances out is wrong. The fact that Germans are well off didn’t spread to the rest of the member states. Brian Arthur believes that it’s time to stop looking at the economy as a perfect machine and accept that it’s complex, alive and vital. That will enable us to adjust and re-architect economics which will be beneficial.

Do you agree with Brian Arthur that complexity economics will enable us to make the economy perform better? Would such an approach have enabled us to foresee what would happen when Lehman Brothers collapsed? Would the Eurozone be in better shape today if it had not been presumed that German affluence would spread to the rest of the member states? Is it time for economists to stop presuming that the markets are perfect and will correct themselves? Would you like economics to be re-architectured to take imperfection into account? Or maybe you believe that the markets are perfect and the economic crash in 2008 was just a one-off?

Video: World Economic Forum

Will future leaders have to expand their thinking?

May 25th, 2014

Ever thought about what management will be like in the future? Former McKinsey director Stefan Heck and director Matt Rogers have. In this short video they discuss what leaders need to know in order to think in new ways about products, services, and technologies.

In the future leaders will need to be aware of things coming from completely new directions. They will have to notice neighbouring industries moving into their industry. Trends will increase to 20 percent per annum change as opposed to 2 – 3 percent at the moment.

Tomorrows managers will need to master everything from technology to human resources.

Tomorrows managers will need to master everything from technology to human resources.

Current management model out of date

Many experts are of the opinion that large companies today are run in ways that are seriously out-of-date. Their leadership style is still based on models from the late 19th century that were invented to manage semi-skilled labour doing the same thing over and over again. To do so is still important today. But it’s definitely not the main challenge facing today’s organisations, as outlined in the video.

Organisations need to become human

How about that? That’s definitely a change. Leadership in the future will need to be re-invented to make large companies much more adaptable, innovative and become places where people love to work. In other words, human, just like the people working there.

Do you agree that future leaders have to expand their thinking? That they will need to handle new trends and development that is at least ten times faster than today? Will leaders have to master everything from technology to human resources? Is today’s management model out of date? Will organisations have to become human in order to attract and keep skilled staff? How would you like management in the future to be? Maybe you have other ideas?

Video: McKinsey & Co.

Tough times never last – But tough people do

May 18th, 2014

A multitude of people are going through a tough time at the moment. Even millions of Europeans who have been spared for decades. When feeling hopeless, it’s important to remember that what’s not possible today may be possible tomorrow. Winston Churchill understood that nothing is impossible – the impossible only takes longer. He rallied the British people behind him, they went through hardship together but eventually succeeded:

The spirit of Churchill is described in a book  by Robert H. Schuller with the title “Tough times never last – But tough people do”.  Came across it  years ago in a bookstore in the United Arab Emirates. Loved the title so much I bought it. Unfortunately the book didn’t live up to its wonderful title. But “Tough times never last, but tough people do” – that ‘s how life works, isn’t it? No matter what happens you must never give up but keep on trying until you succeed. If not, you are doomed. You must build new bridges and move on. And that’s simply not possible if you start feeling sorry for yourself. Be strong, positive, innovative and courageous and it’s just a question of how long it takes before you achieve what you are aiming for.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

But Rome wasn’t built in a days, so don’t expect results overnight. An Indian woman I knew in Dubai had a note by her desk saying “God’s delays are not God’s denials”, and that’s so true. Sometimes it is as if life is testing you to see if you really have what it takes to succeed. If you give up whenever there’s a set-back, you will never succeed. And set-backs there will be, no matter what you try to achieve. It’s just a question of constantly finding solutions.

Yes, it’s boring I know. But what’s the alternative? Everybody would like plain sailing but things are never as easy as they seem, unfortunately. So you must have faith in yourself and your ability to succeed. If you don’t have, why should anybody else?

Nothing is impossible – the impossible only takes longer

Nothing is impossible, the impossible only takes longer, as Churchill said. Now is the time for you to aim for the impossible. Because what’s worthwhile many times seem impossible until you have succeeded. What’s the point in aiming for something you are not passionate about? If you are not really determined to get what you aim for you will never succeed but give up at the smallest adversity.

This picture would never have been taken if Churchill had given up.

This picture would never have been taken if Churchill had given up.

Be flexible and open to new possibilities

So set your goals, make a plan and start taking action to get there step by step. And be flexible, because once you know what you want you will find new ways that will be milestones on your road to success.

Whenever I really want something I always succeed. It’s just a question of how long it takes. Sometimes I even succeed way beyond expectations. The first time I was in Saudi Arabia on a short assignment for a business magazine I found it so interesting I wanted to spend more time there. So I made up my mind I was going to do that. Little did I think that once I was there again working for another publication I would be headhunted and become the only Western woman ever to have held a senior management position in a one hundred percent Saudi owned company in Riyadh. And not just a small company but a diversified conglomerate with 10,000 employees. Didn’t even think that was possible.

Think big

Think big, aim for the stars! Whatever you are aiming for, set your goals high. What’s the point in using up the energy it takes to just achieve something mediocre? Dare, try, take a risk, learn and be determined. And don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Keep your goals to yourself and just do it. Broadcasting what you are going to do to all and sundry isn’t always a good idea. Not least since some will try to talk you out of it.

You will be hit in the head a few times until you get reach your goals. But remember, the person who experiences most wins. All serious daring starts from within so make sure you are physically and mentally fit since not only does it make you happier, think more clearly but it also gives you the energy to succeed, even when you have set-backs. Don’t forget that people who have really achieved something big in this world have, on average, lost everything they had 3,1 times. Life isn’t easy, but it’s up to you to make the most out of it.

(Video: BritishUnion1707 – You Tube )