Tag Archive | business

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

By Peter Muijres – cultureclass.org

“Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things”

In 1989, Stephen published his #1 best-seller: ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’. The book sold over 15 million copies and is became a classic in management literature.

Covey presents his teachings in a series of habits. The habits build onto each other and are expected to become an integrated part of one’s character, manifested as a progression from dependence via independence to interdependence.

  1. Dependence: the paradigm under which we are born, relying upon others to take care of us.
  2. Independence: the paradigm under which we can make our own decisions and take care of ourselves.
  3. Interdependence: the paradigm under which we cooperate to achieve something that cannot be achieved independently.

The first three habits focus on self‐mastery, that is, achieving the private victories required to move from dependence to independence. The second three habits focus achieving public victory, aimed at realising effective interdependence. The seventh habit is one of renewal and continual improvement, that is, of building one’s personal ‘production capability’ or the ability to produce. 

Habit 1: Be Proactive Focus on the things you can actually do something about. Change starts from within, and highly effective people make the decision to improve their lives through the things that they can influence rather than by simply reacting to external forces.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind Begin everything you do with a clear picture of your ultimate goal. Develop a principle‐centered personal mission statement. Extend the mission statement into long‐term goals based on personal principles.

Habit 3: Put First Things First Manage your life according to your needs and priorities. Spend time doing what fits into your personal mission, observing the proper balance between production and building production capacity. Identify the key roles that you take on in life, and make time for each of them.

Habit 4: Think Win‐Win Integrity: Stick with your true feelings, values, and commitments Maturity: Be considerate of the feelings of others Abundance Mentality: Believe there is plenty for everyone. Seek agreements and relationships that are mutually beneficial. In cases where a “win/win” deal cannot be achieved, accept the fact that agreeing to make “no deal” may be the best alternative. In developing an organizational culture, be sure to reward win/win behaviour among employees and avoid inadvertantly rewarding win/lose behaviour.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood Learn how to communicate clearly and listen to others. Stephen Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relations. Effective listening is not simply echoing what the other person has said through the lens of one’s own experience. Rather, it is putting oneself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning.

Habit 6: Synergize “Two heads are better than one.” Through trustful communication, find ways to leverage individual differences to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Through mutual trust and understanding, one often can solve conflicts and find a better solution than would have been obtained through either person’s own solution.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw Allow yourself to grow by maintaining a balanced program in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions.

To be effective, one must find the proper balance between actually producing and improving one’s capability to produce. Covey illustrates this point with the fable of the goose and the golden egg. In the fable, a poor farmer’s goose began laying a solid gold egg every day. The farmer soon became rich and greedy. In order to obtain all of the eggs immediately, he killed the goose and cut her open. By attempting to maximise immediate production with no regard to the production capability, the capability will be lost.

Although very interesting, Covey’s paradigm also raises some questions. Are conditions for character development as universal and as timeless as he suggests, always and for everyone? The book has been written in 1989 and the world has seen a revolution in communication technology during the last 25+ years. It could be argued that personality (how you come across), has become more important, than character (who you are) in online communication. Also, being able to change the sails and adapt your working model to fit cultural terms and conditions is giving international business managers the competitive edge today.

Covey already notes himself that much of the success literature tends to overvalue independence, to ‘realise and be yourself’ at all costs. The independent model is not optimal for use in an interdependent environment that requires both leaders and team players. The meaning of and approaches to achieving effectiveness already varied greatly between people and organisations and time has added additional changes. Where, with whom and how information is shared, decisions are made, and identities are negotiated has also dramatically changed.  In fact, big changes have happened so rapidly that the majority of people haven’t had time to come to terms yet with what has actually been going on and what has been left behind – let alone what to prepare for.

Covey’s book ‘The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness’ (2004) addresses how some of the changes that have taken place may have outdated some of the ideas behind the seven habits. He claims that effectiveness does not suffice in what he calls “The Knowledge Worker Age”. He proclaims that “the challenges and complexity we face today are of a different order of magnitude.” So, according to Covey, becoming great has become dependent on finding your voice and inspiring others to do the same.

http://www.cultureclass.org | Training and personal development  


Determinants of expatriate adjustment – a 1985 vintage version

By Peter Muijres

What are the determinants of expatriate adjustment in a cross-cultural setting? The researchers Black, Mendenhall and Oddou suggested a ‘comprehensive’ model of international adjustment in 1991 based on a review of empirical studies on ‘overseas’ adjustment of expatriate managers by the latter two (Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985).

Eight years later, Shaffer et al. (1999) adapted the model by adding some new factors, including language fluency, and making a bunch of other changes. However, the 1985 review and the original 1991 model, displayed in the featuring image, included some useful handles that may help expats out there in their adjustment process. These individual and the ‘non-work factors’ in specific will be given full attention at the expense of all the rest.

The authors differentiated three sorts of ‘international adjustment’: (1) adjustment to work, (2) adjustment to interacting with host nationals, and (3) adjustment to the general environment. Good adjustment in one area spills over into another, as you might expect from anything having to do with people, motives and mental health.

The individual factors have been divided into a self-efficacy (self-oriented), relational skills (other-oriented) and perception skills. The self-oriented individual skill includes at least three subsets of skills:

(1) Reinforcement substitution: the ability to find replacing interests and joys.

This entails finding an alternative to fill the gap left by the loss of a cherished passtime that you cannot continue after relocation. If skiing is no longer an option, but photograpyhy is, perhaps that might develop into your new passion with a similar effect.

(2) Stress reduction: the ability to recuperate from stress.

Being exposed to an environment that is sometimes difficult to understand or predict is stressful. Some expats reduce that stress by regularly taking a time out for themselves to limit their exposure to external stressors and recuperate from stress, for example by engaging in a comforting activity like writing, yoga, or a cigarette break outside.

(3) Technical competence: on the job functionioning with good results.

Expats who are tuned into their sociocultural environment, perform better. Good performance promotes a positive attitude and successful adaptation and vice versa. However, HR people often wrongly assume that performance abroad will be as it has been at home and base the selection of future expats on their track record only.

The other-oriented individual skills has been relabelled ‘relation skills’. It involves the ability to develop new relationships and a willingness to communicate. Having host national friends (or indeed: lovers) may greatly benefit your intercultural adjustment in various ways.

Having local friends may not only enhance your opportunities to interact with host nationals, they may also introduce you to their way of life and help you to recognise, understand and appreciate the cultural differences. You might be introduced to their families or be taken to non-touristic places where you witness how things are done and people treated when undisturbed by office formalities and social expectations.

Even showing an interest in the non-expat population often earns you credits, as is learning the local language. However, beware of quick solutions and culturally insensitive approaches. Yelling local jokes out loud, reciting the tong twister of the local language (and pronunciating it wrongly), intruding into people’s breathing space and laughing hysterically at whatever one may say or do, doesn’t necessarily attract friends.

The perception based individual skills purport having a non-evaluative attitude and the ability to make correct intercultural attributions. Learned cultural differences in perceptions and evaluations of social behaviour often lead people from different cultures to misinterpret each other. Understanding the motives of host nationals also helps the foreigner to predict how their opinions and behaviour will be received.

The non-work factors affect the degree or extent of international adjustment, not how it happens. ‘Cultural novelty’, still called ‘cultural toughness’ in 1985, reflects the country specific variables that facilitate acculturation to a particular setting. Hofstede (1980) has made this dimension better known as ‘cultural distance’. Being in host countries with similar features as your home culture makes the whole process of settling in much easier.

Another non-work factor is ‘Adjustment of Family-Spouse’. Less exposure to and needs to come to terms with cultural differences make it less urgent adapt your mindset and personal life. Cultural restrictions in a male dominated society make adapting for western wives even extra challenging. Unsatisfied social and emotional needs of poorly adapted family members, and perhaps the associated consequences, may lead partners or dads to cut their assignment short and return back home.

Besides Individual and nonwork factors, also job factors, organisation culture and organisation socialization factors affect mode and/or degree of adjustment. The job dimension contain factors related to job clarity, job discretion, job novelty and job conflict. The ‘organisation culture’ dimension addresses the novelty of the organisation culture, social support and logistical help experienced by the expat. ‘Organisation socialisation’ entails tactics and content that only affects the mode, not the degree of expatriate adjustment. All these dimensions affecting in-country adjustment, are precipitated by Anticipatory adjustment factors. Intercultural training and previous experience affect ‘accurate expectations’ on an individual dimension. Selection mechanisms and criteria on an organisational level predict the mode and degree of in-country adjustment.

Although expatriate adjustment wasn’t much of a concern until the late 1970s and the research still in a very early phase in 1985, the research tradition has never changed much. Many different models of intercultural adjustment have been offered during the last four decades. Just like people or eras in time, each has its own pros, cons and particularities. Mostly, attention is paid to how individuals move around as actively processing centers of awareness, but less to the parts played in multiple systems. The transcultural dynamics involving the locally available social groups, the home front and virtual communities for example, as well as the adaptation process as an often emotion based process that takes time do not always receive the attention they deserve.

http://www.cultureclass.org | Training and Development

Culture Class provides training in personal effectiveness, culture and communication skills

The importance of intercultural training for expats

 By Peter Muijres – Culture Class

Increased global activity has led companies around the world to seek new markets for their products, new sources of raw materials, as well as new, more cost-effective locations for manufacturing. According to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2006, transnational collaboration will be of decisive importance in an increasingly global competition. Expatriates are employed for reasons such as transfer of expertise, facilitating entry into new markets, or development of international management competencies.

Some of these foreign ventures succeed, but many do not. A high percentage of expats fails to meet expected standards of performance abroad. Studies have found that as much as 40 to 55% of expats ‘fail’ to adjust to living and working abroad and many cut their assignment short. Out of the American expats who stay at their international assignments, approximately 30 to 50% are considered ineffective or marginally effective by their firms and do more harm than good.

The costs of expatriate ineffectiveness and turnover are intimidating. Studies on American companies have shown that every early return of a manager costs companies as much as $250,000 to $1 million per individual, depending on the level of the manager and the urgency of their replacement. The direct costs of failed expatriate assignments to U.S. firms are estimated at over $2 billion a year, the costs of psychological suffering, damaged corporate reputations and lost business opportunities not taken into account.

The multiple and sudden losses and challenges that expats are faced with make them a particularly vulnerable group. Challenges may include a loss of language, social support network, possessions, knowledge of laws and rules, and of geographical orientation. Expats who feel out of touch with local customs and conduct, and who are unaware of culturally accepted styles of communication and problem solving may feel unable to prevent embarrassing or frustrating incidents with host nationals whilst living and working abroad. The inability of expats to adjust to the demands of an international business environment has been identified as a primary cause of international business failures.

Intercultural training addresses the demand for an interculturally competent workforce. It makes sure that expats set off and return with realistic expectations and it provides them with the knowledge, skills and attitude they need to develop rewarding collaborative relationships and to meet standards of functioning abroad.

Various independent studies have confirmed the effectiveness of intercultural training. Empirical evidence has shown that intercultural training helps expats to develop important intercultural skills, to facilitate intercultural adjustment, and it improves their professional performance and their well-being. Intercultural training is an indispensable prerequisite for the return on investment that organisations increasingly seek in international ventures and an expatration of their staff and provides a bedrock they can rely on in times of global opportunities and change.

Culture Class develops and provides intercultural training and coaching for expats


The compassionate mind

By: Peter Muijres – Culture Class 

During a speech at an international business seminar in South Africa, the following text was projected on the screen behind the keynote speaker:

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle, … when the sun comes up, you better be running.”

This quote might make a competitive and thrill-seeking lifestyle sound exciting, but according to the compassionate mind theory this attitude may actually lower both your performance and the satisfaction you get from your achievements.

In Western and other societies marked by competitiveness, a sliding scale indicating ‘who has more’ differentiates the winners from the losers. The elegance of this relative scale is that everyone can feel either a loser or winner at any time. You are always better, faster, richer, or prettier than someone else and so is someone else in comparison to you. So, would you expect people to be more inclined to feeling better or worse off in comparison to other people?

Indeed, people have a tendency to compare themselves with those higher in the hierarchy, because in societies based on competitiveness, only being the best is considered “good enough”. Obviously, not everyone can always be the best at everything.

Based on Mahayana Buddhism, the compassionate mind theory (Gilbert, 2009) provides a powerful tool that helps people to feel satisfied and valued by others in a competitive society without having to be “the best” all the time. This theory explains how animals and humans share three ancient emotion regulation systems:

  • the threat/ protection system,
  • the incentive/ resource seeking drive system, and
  • the soothing/contentment system.

Only in humans, these systems interfere and clash with the young, resourceful, and self-aware human intellect. Gilbert (2009) calls this unique human capacity for self-awareness and creative imagery ‘the new brain/mind’. A consequence of intelligent self-awareness is that only humans may feel like losers.

Of the three systems, the threat/ protection system is responsible for the preservation of yourself and the group you belong to. It is able to override the other two systems and feelings of joy and safety at once in the face of a sudden threat. The ‘safety first’ system is associated with the release of the stress hormone cortisol. A detected threat calls the body for action by switching into a fight or flight (or freeze) mode associated with feelings of anxiety, anger, or disgust, as well as acting on impulse.

Because of its ability to temporarily push away undesirable feelings of fear and frustration, the incentive/ resource seeking drive system is constantly used in today’s society where glamour and power are idealised by many. With every new victory, success, or orgasm, an endorphin fuelled hormone injection produces the ‘yeah baby!’ feeling that helps you to forget illness , grief or other inevitable flipsides of life. However, in a quick fix approach, the lion and the gazelle have to keep outrunning each other without having a chance to enjoy your life or work and  your achievements. This is not only exhausting in the long-term, it is also bound to lead to a looser: either on the side of the gazelle or the lion someone will die eventually. Not being able to always be on the side of the winners activates the threat / protection system and makes people angry, anxious, and sad.

The soothing/contentment system can help you tackle negative feelings associated with the threat/protection system, as well as with frustrations based on not always being “the best”. This system makes you feel connected with and care for yourself, others, and the world you are a part of. New parents experience the activation of this system, when they hold their baby for the first time. Associated with the love hormone oxytocin, a sense of peacefulness, safety, self-appreciation, and feeling valued by others are the result. Being able to sooth yourself allows you to tolerate high levels of group pressure, to remain collected and resourceful during stressful situations, and to tackle destructive self-blame or self-pity.

Some people find it more difficult than others to sooth themselves. Fortunately self-soothing can be trained, for example, by compassionate self-talk, compassionate imagery (an image of a compassionate other or self) or meditative exercises. Activation of the soothing/contentment system allows us to look objectively at our weaknesses and failures without being carried away by negative emotions around it. By looking at the bigger picture, the soothing / contentment system acknowledges that strengths and weaknesses, failures and successes are all sides belonging to  the same coin.

Five ways in which a compassionate mind may improve your performance are:

  1. Anxiety, anger, or depression may be rightful gut reactions to truly problematic situations you ought to solve, but keep avoiding or suppressing. A compassionate mind allows you to deal with these issues without being carried away by the feelings entailed.
  2. An increased ability to tolerate social pressure helps you to keep your head clear, and improves your courage, resourcefulness, and negotiation skills even under extremely stressful conditions.
  3. A sense of balance, openness, and inner peace is a human resource tool helping you to see opportunities and talents in others. A positive and inviting attitude tends to be easily picked up and reciprocated by others, working wonders for individual and team performance.
  4. Human attitudes and decision-making are highly subject to group influences and our need for social approval. A compassionate mind helps you to identify and assert your opinion in spite of what others may prefer you to do or say.
  5. A compassionate mind also allows you to set aside your personal views and expectations in order to make it easier to tune into the motives, values and feelings of others. This mindset facilitates effective communication, and enhances sensitivity and adaptation skills across cultural borders.

Self-compassion makes people feel better, accepting and in harmony with themselves. If stress and feelings of anger, anxiety and disgust are still alarming you, a compassionate mind helps you come off complicating feelings of self-pity or self-blame and take on the issues at stake for what they are.

Culture Class provides compassionate mind training suited to the needs and conditions of for parents,  business people, mental health care and other professionals. http://www.cultureclass.org