Managing a Cross-Cultural Team

Managing a multicultural team can be tough.

Communication styles vary, and there may be differences in conventions around time, giving feedback, and disagreeing publicly. To overcome these differences, set clear norms and stick to them. Start by taking into account what will work best for your team as a whole.

Be aware that there may be team members who find it harder to meet certain expectations because of their cultural backgrounds. For example, if you have established that team members must arrive at meetings exactly on time (Western-style punctuality), you’ll need to reinforce that norm consistently across the group and remind non-Westerners why being on time matters. Of course, sometimes things change and adjustment is required, but keeping a consistent, clear structure for work styles and expectations is a critical way to create a common-ground team culture.

Adapted from “How to Build Trust on Your Cross-Cultural Team”

by Andy Molinsky and Ernest Gundling


Trevor Lee – EP International


We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.


Why Start-Ups Succeed.

Five metrics from Bill Gross of IdeaLab.

Bill is a Serial start-up entrepreneur.

#1 Timing (is the customer ready) 42%

#2 Team (A team always beats B team even if they have lesser product) 32%

#3 Idea (is it novel, innovative or disruptive of what already exists) 28%

#4 Model (is the business model sound with the right structure and skill set) 24%

#5 Funding (always easy once marketplace traction is achieved) 14%

Analysis based on over 100 start-ups.

TedTalk link:


Trevor Lee – EP International


We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.

On the Brink of Extinction

In his 1994 book Job Shift, William Bridges refers to the “job” as “an artifact of the industrial revolution”. The traditional organization is designed to function like a machine. It is a hierarchy with jobs as the building blocks. In this model people are essentially cogs in the wheel of production. This model, and the leadership style of command and control it refined and has historically rewarded, is no longer sufficient for today’s organizations to thrive. We know this intuitively.

Many of us have had to invent ways to work that are often unsupported or even thwarted by the confines of the structure we are in and the remnants of command and control leadership style and practices it encourages.

Yet for better or for worse, this model is not going away anytime soon.


The hierarchy continues to represent what organizations looks like. From an individual perspective the construct of a “job” also continues to be very important. It tells us how we fit and helps to clarify what is expected of us in exchange for a paycheck. As we move up the boxes on the hierarchy it represents power, authority, achievement, and the promise of increased financial reward.

There is a significant flaw in this model that provides a clue to what is needed from leaders now and into the future.

The traditional model of organizations, including the thinking and assumptions that underlie it, ignores the extent of our interdependence. Leaders now and into the future can no longer afford to ignore this reality in style or practice.

Most work in today’s world gets done through a multitude of transactions conducted between individuals and rarely follows the neat path of organizational lines. Even the notion of organizational lines is blurring as collaboration across businesses, becomes more prevalent and the rapidly growing ranks of the self-employed create a kind of free agency workforce.

The command and control style of leadership may have ensured the order and efficiency essential to success in the industrial age. Yet in today’s world it all too easily causes the hierarchical model to devolve into the kind of bureaucracy we can no longer afford and are less and less willing to tolerate.

The world of work is far too complex and rapidly changing to continue to relate to the definition of our jobs in the simplistic terms of what we do. And the construct of setting individual objectives that are expected to somehow “roll up” into organizational objectives is no longer sufficient to ensure we succeed together.

We must all begin to think about our jobs in terms of what we promise, not just in terms of the things we must do, but also in terms of the promises we must make to others to produce results.

It is that network of promises, both in terms of organizational goals as well as the everyday fabric of our promises to each other, which interconnect our actions and ensures our shared goals are ultimately achieved.

A job description will never be able to capture everything we need to do to get the job done. And an org chart is not designed to reflect our interdependence. We don’t need to ditch the org chart. But positional leaders do need to make an essential shift from focusing on the relationship between jobs to fortifying the relationships between people.


Because the foundational building block of organizations of the future is no longer the job. It is relationships.

The hierarchical model inherently keeps our focus on people as the boxes in an org chart and keeps our attention on what separates us. This undermines our relationships, unwittingly keeping the destructive dynamic of “us” vs. “them” intact. It is far too easy to retreat into our “box” when something isn’t working, justifying ourselves with “It’s not my job” or “I did my part, but someone else didn’t do theirs” so it’s not my responsibility.

To be effective now and in the future leaders must instead foster a culture of accountability, shifting everyone’s focus to clarifying and fortifying their inter-dependencies in terms of their commitments to each other.

The job may or may not become an artifact as Bridges predicted, but those organizations whose leaders fail to change the way they relate to them may find themselves on the brink of extinction.


Trevor Lee – EP International


We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.


A Check List for Entrepreneurs

A by-no-means exhaustive list but I hope useful for those in start-up mode.

• It’s usually better to have a co-founder than go it alone.

• Being an entrepreneur is not about being in love with an idea, it’s about being in love with running a company.

• Having a highly homogeneous (background, education, values, preferences, etc) very early team is better than not — cuts down on time-wasting arguments.

• If there is any doubt about hiring a candidate for your first 5-6 positions, there is no doubt — do not.

• You cannot hire a co-founder.

• Figure out one thing each of your investors is genuinely really good at, and insist they help you with that. Among other things it will save you from their help in other areas.

• Leadership by example is the most effective type. It’s a little irrational, but it inspires people.

• Have a cardboard box at board meetings where attendees must deposit their smartphones at the start for the entire duration of the meeting.

• If you have a co-founder, give them a board seat. If you can, keep one more for yourself, and leave it empty.


Trevor Lee – EP International


We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.

Consumer Behaviour – from minor player to lead role in shaping the Enterprise

A guest post by Nick Rowley, who leads the Marketear Limited team in helping companies’ transition to a truly customer focused approach.

In the last decade two undeniable truths have emerged:

  • Consumer behaviour drives commerce – which the Enterprise depends on
  • The Enterprise has to adapt to the new order or perish

Social Media burst in to visibility thanks in large part to the explosion of the web and has galvanised consumer opinion across disparate individuals and communities who otherwise were unlikely to be known to each other. But Social Media itself is only a single dimension of Consumer Behaviour. Consumer Behaviour has always been in evidence, be it nurture, environment, responses to advertising, disposable income, peer pressure or need, to name but a few examples. These components and more, had been islands of influence, but are now inextricably linked and are creating a massive energy field that the Enterprise has to embrace. Likened to Pandora’s box, once opened, there is no turning back, the Consumer Behaviour ecosystem will only become more deeply integrated and influential.

Some, 250,000 people watched ‘United Breaks Guitars ‘ on YouTube, before United Airlines saw fit to do the right thing for Dave Carroll; but was that really any different to the Libyans gathering in Martyrs’ Square to demand Gadaffi be overthrown? A protest yes, but not a consumer decision influencing mechanism. The question is, would ‘United’ have done anything without the aggregated power consumers unknown to each other, committed to fair play?

With consumers having choice and significant voice, now backed up by influential muscle, no longer can companies adopt a dismissive or reactive culture. Choices for the consumer are becoming far more granular, across the full spectrum of products and services they consume, right down to the basic utilities flowing into one’s home, the consumer can now choose which supplier and the type of product/service being provided. So how do they decide? No longer the billboard, the clever TV advertising campaign, the most ‘liked’ supplier on Facebook, or other sensory receptor open to supplier manipulation – the consumer has taken control and sovereignty.

Consumer Behaviour is all about the consumer exercising independent choice, which multiplied out by us all (we are all consumers), awards business to enterprises. It can be transitorily fickle – such as when we all boycotted Starbucks for a millisecond when we discovered it was not paying taxes – but it can’t be tamed. Like water rushing downhill, there is not only the inevitable direction to it but significant energy, which provides the opportunity to be used constructively, but is all too often interpreted destructively or obstructively. It is the role of the enterprise to invest far more energy and resources than they have done previously, in understanding how to work with these new forces.

Taking a simple example. If an insurance business interacts with its customers through their preferred channels, using competent resources, it will almost certainly provide a better experience, for customer and company alike, leading to a reduction in costs. Reduced costs offers bigger profits. But wait. If you are communicating in a way the customer wants, they are likely to be happier. A happy customer is way more inclined to increase loyalty, reducing churn and more disposed to promote the company, encouraging others to your product/service. It gets better still, happy customers complain less, meaning your customer service operations can deal with real problems rather than noise. Fewer, more focused queries, will – with quality staff – deliver higher staff morale and that in turn reduces staff turnover, promoting lower costs (decreasing the need for recruiting and training) and driving a more experienced workforce.

It is easy to see how doing the right things for customers positively impacts so many functions in a business, with the potential for a virtuous circle of benefits, and all from a shared cultural disposition toward Consumer Behaviour; it is however more often a vicious circle where the initial disregard for the customer triggers almost the exact opposite of the positives just described.

So, if it is not the business’s actions, in a positive sense, influencing the consumer, what other than the negative or indifferent actions of the business is determining Consumer Behaviour?

The main drivers:

  • Activity levels: The sheer volume of mainstream personal administration, (number of transactions per capita per annum), for example credit cards, store cards, mobiles, utilities, insurance, e-commerce etc. etc., have increased 100 fold since 1975, eroding the consumers personal time and showcasing a growing spectrum of sub-optimal service styles.
  • Accessibility: All aspects of accessibility have or are moving in the Consumers favour:
    • Availability: Some form of 24 x 7 is becoming the standard
    • Channel: Alternatives emerging, though not necessarily by current provider(s).
    • Access Device: Choices available according to user preference and nature of interaction required.
    • Digital Communications: Enables mobility and time independent access.
  • Free Information repositories: Have promoted two key behaviour modifications:
    • A mindset geared to research
    • An expectation of immediate responses across all access points
  • Social connectivity: From casual interaction to more meaningful business related relationships, consumers are discovering a new source of trusted advisors, bypassing the traditional corporate advisor. Social connectivity is also competing for the consumers valuable time, given it is a generally a more pleasant experience.
  • Rate of Change: The requirements of the customer/consumer are already moving faster than the ability of the business to change, unduly pressurising the quality and timing of decisions.

There are many secondary drivers contributing to the changes in consumer behaviour, but most can be tracked back to the five main drivers identified, thus consolidating the shift in the balance of power to the consumer.

It follows that the corporate world is increasingly being shaped from the outside in, even though business continues to focus its changes from the inside out. So how long can the business world ignore this imperative, continuing with ‘more of the same’?

The reality is somewhat obvious, not long at all, dependent on their industry and position in that industry; however, the operational and cultural changes required to move to the new paradigm are significant and require experienced practitioners with the correct balance of tools and techniques to work with an organisation’s specific issues.

Marketear Limited provides the necessary thought leadership, through to programme ownership, delivery, support and on-going mentorship.

How prepared is your organisation for this most significant change?

Nick Rowley is MD of Marketear

07768 715 715 or


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Trevor Lee – EP International


We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.


10 Ways to Build Employee Engagement


You have the right people on the bus, but how do you keep them engaged?  Here are ten simple but powerful steps:


Step 1.  Make engagement your mantra. Employee engagement, engagement of colleagues and peers, engagement of constituents and stakeholders, engagement of clients and communities, social/digital engagement will make or break your bottom line. You may be able to make a quick buck without engagement, but turning that buck into many bucks, developing an organization that will survive and thrive means building a me to we culture.

Step 2. Get Social. Develop one to one, one to group, virtual and social/digital relationships that stick. The greatest business idea, product or service will not grow, evolve and produce results without human intervention, interaction and collaboration.  Innovation and engagement are collaborative.  Your people, your employees, colleagues, vendors, stakeholders and the community and large will pave the way for your success or failure.

Step 3. Listen, and listen more.  Listen for words, actions, pauses, cues that will tell you what is going on beneath the surface.  Develop higher emotional intelligence; improve your self-awareness and awareness of others.  Learn to pick up social, cultural, personal, verbal cues that tell you what is important to your audience and use and model these cues to create engagement and build rapport.


Step 4.  Go for the gold.  Remember the golden rule.  Strong relationships are built on shared values, integrity and transparent communication.   There is no room for error in a digital world, no room for verbal or written duplicity.  Transforming potential into results, challenges into innovative solutions demands a higher degree of engagement, integrity and transparency of communication than ever before.


Step 5.  Care first; Communicate second because you cannot make a fire with wet wood.  USE care-frontation, not confrontation.   Develop new ways, a better style of communication that will build a bridge between what is and what can be.  Build a clear fence around expected and acceptable, make sure that goals, objectives and expectation are crystal clear, but do it with care-frontation.


Step 6.  Fail forward faster and better. When errors occur, fail forward.  Admit there has been a failure in and learn to use this failure to drive collaboration and engagement by focusing on the shared objective and how you will work together with mutual respect to attain it. Start training yourself and others to become solution focused, by using errors and challenges that have come to innovate and create better and stronger solutions.   Fail forward, faster and better.

Step 7.  Take every opportunity to reinforce the foundation of your house.  Walk your talk, talk your walk.  Take every opportunity to use shared values, objectives and integrity of communication and action to build a ME to WE culture.  Embrace and applaud great work, develop new ways to help others fail forward, and get rid of the few bad apples whose values, objectives and integrity are out of sync.


Step 8.  Learn and play forward.  Make time for learning, embrace and applaud learning opportunities while also taking time to engage in activities that create down time, humor time, fun time; activities that not only drive greater rapport but will also enhance creativity and ideation.  Put a healthy dose of learning and fun into all your communication.  Set the tone, and tone it up. Negativity will bread more negativity.  Fear puts human beings into fight or flight, neither of which drive engagement, empowerment or results. 

Step 9. Generate Enthusiasm. You cannot make a fire from wet wood.  Engagement means empowering the others to feel that they can do their best, that they have a valuable contribution to make, and that if they have failed they will use the experience to learn and fail forward. Recognize accomplishments; redirect failure so that people feel free to fail forward.  Empower, engage and repeat.

Step 10.  Feed hearts. Make learning, growing and giving REAL. Find new ways to reach out and serve the community at large.  Motivate and inspire not only those you employ but all constituents to be part of a greater goal that speaks to contribution and purpose.  Show those you lead and serve that you care, and help them care back.




Trevor Lee – EP International


We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.

Give Women the Space to Contribute in Meetings

In the ideal meeting, all attendees participate, contributing diverse points of view and ideas. But few meetings live up to that.

Multiple studies have shown that women are interrupted in meetings far more often, and their ideas are taken less seriously. To make sure you’re getting the most from all participants, take unconscious bias seriously. Foster a culture in which both men and women are encouraged to “call it out” when they see someone being inadvertently silenced in a discussion.

Enlist progressive men to lead by example, and hold them accountable for allowing their female counterparts to contribute. You can balance the playing field with ground rules such as “no talking over each other,” or by going around the table when you’re seeking input on a critical decision.

Most important, take the worst offenders aside and point out their behavior — they may be unaware of it.

Adapted from “Run Meetings That Are Fair to Introverts, Women, and Remote Workers,”

by Renee Cullinan


Trevor Lee – EP International


We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.