“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
“Business is about persuasion and negotiation. It is also about identifying customers’ needs and satisfying them. All these objectives cannot be achieved without building trustworthy relationships with business partners and stakeholders, and there is no way to build this trust without being polite according to these people’s cultural expectations.”
Dr. Oksana Shkurska
All the cultures are traditionally divided into collectivistic and individualistic. As research shows, people in individualistic cultures prefer a low-context communication style and are more concerned with their own ‘face’. It means that they value direct and straightforward communication without being afraid to offend others. This low-context communication style is opposed to a high-context style in collectivistic cultures, where people are concerned with another people’s face more than with their own public self-image. As a result, they avoid direct confrontation and value indirectness in communication. In these societies, what is not said is more important than what is actually said, and nonverbal clues play a crucial role in communication, adding meaning to the conversation.
Are politeness strategies in contrasting cultures different?
The answer to this question is certainly yes. You may be surprised to know that a direct way of expressing your thoughts and feelings may be regarded as impoliteness by the representatives of high-context cultures who may think that you are rude and impatient. On the flip side, if you are from a low-context culture, you may feel uncomfortable while interacting with people from high-context cultures due to their extreme level of politeness. This type of politeness may be perceived as lack of honesty and sincerity, and as a result, instead of contributing to strengthening relationships, it may have the opposite effect.
How does understanding of politeness principles across cultures help us succeed in the business world?
Business is about persuasion and negotiation. It is also about identifying customers’ needs and satisfying them. All these objectives cannot be achieved without building trustworthy relationships with business partners and stakeholders, and there is no way to build this trust without being polite according to these people’s cultural expectations. You cannot get a better deal as a result of negotiations if you are perceived as arrogant, rude, or insincere. It is also impossible to gain new customers if your behaviour makes people think that you either do not care about their feelings (as you are too direct in communication), or they are afraid that you are hiding something because your extreme politeness makes them suspicious. Such misunderstandings due to the differences in perception are not rare, and they may cost companies millions of dollars.
You may wonder how people can reach mutual understanding if their cultural expectations regarding polite communication are different. Here are some tips for effective cross-cultural communication:
Effective communication across cultures is impossible without taking into consideration differences in politeness strategies that are closely related to high-context versus low-context communication styles. Regular reflection on your own communicative behaviour, your preferred communication style, and other individuals’ reaction to your politeness or impoliteness strategies helps to avoid miscommunication as well as promotes mutual understanding and empathy. It certainly contributes to creating trustworthy relationships and allows achieving mutual benefits without significant losses and sacrifices.
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
It is no secret there are stark differences between the health of Indigenous peoples in Canada and their non-Indigenous counterparts.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples fare more poorly than the average Canadian on virtually every measurable health indicator including infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases and the incidence of illness and injury.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action appeal to the health sector. They call for the federal government to publish annual progress reports on its attempts to measure and address this unacceptable gap.
They also argue for more cultural competency training for health and medical professionals, as well as greater efforts to attract and retain Indigenous students into the health professions. These suggestions are measurable, achievable and commendable. However, these efforts will do very little, in and of themselves, to close the health gap.
Well, you might say, if addressing issues within the health-care system won’t solve the health crises facing Indigenous communities, then what will?
But before we go there, let’s take a step back.
Let’s imagine for a moment that we all wake up tomorrow and somehow all of the recommendations from the TRC that directly pertain to health have been addressed.
More than one in 100 Nunavut infants have TB
The health and medical professionals in our health-care system have received cultural competency training. We have managed to attract and retain Indigenous health and medical staff within all of our health-care institutions. Students in all health professional programs are receiving mandatory curriculum that educates them specifically about Indigenous history and health. There is a robust progress report released each year that measures steps taken within the health-care system to reduce inequities.
These would be amazing leaps forward and I sincerely hope that we all wake up tomorrow and these changes have happened.
However, the question I keep coming back to is: what measurable improvements could that yearly progress report possibly offer if we continue to restrict our notion of Indigenous health to that which can be addressed and solved by the health-care system?
Now let’s return to the term Indigenous knowledge. I use this term in its broadest, most complete and utterly comprehensive sense. Indigenous knowledge includes, but is not limited to, knowledge about traditional medicines.
Within the boreal forests of Canada, for example, more than 546 diverse plant species have been used by Indigenous peoples to treat over 28 different diseases and disorders, including everything from gastrointestinal disorders to musculoskeletal issues. But Indigenous knowledge does not stop there.
Indigenous knowledge also includes practices that relate to overall health and well-being. One example of this would be the ceremony of smudging, which is performed by many First Nations across the country. Two separate studies have found that the act of using medicinal smoke may have particular health benefits and can act as an air purifier by reducing airborne bacteria that is harmful for human health.
Now let’s imagine for a moment that hospitals and pharmacies decided to start prescribing these different types of plants medicines to their patients beginning tomorrow. Would that address the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples? Probably not.
One of the reasons for this is that Indigenous knowledge is (w)holistic — spelled with a “w” to indicate the whole-ness and completeness of the knowledge.
It is intended to exist within a particular context, for a specific purpose and tailored to the intended users and/or listeners of that knowledge.
This is why, in virtually any Indigenous culture, Elders will share their knowledge via stories. Those stories hold infinite lessons — about life, about living, about what are the important things to learn from and focus on.
You may hear the same story more than once. And that is OK because each time you hear it, you may take a little more meaning away it. Until one day that story becomes a part of you, and you can pass it along to others.
Often the stories that get shared might teach you something specific — like, for example, how to use a certain tree root to cure a headache. But the real meaning behind the stories isn’t simply the intellectual knowledge that you have gained about the medicinal use of a plant.
The story itself will tell you much more than that — it will teach about our relationships to one another as human beings, and about the relationship between us and our four-legged, winged, finned, rooted and non-rooted relations that live alongside us on this shared space we call home, or Mother Earth.
And as we learn these important stories, we learn to understand that it is in our best interest, as human beings, to protect and preserve the air, water and soil around us so that the plants and animals upon which we rely for our own well-being will continue to be there for us when we need them.
It is the richness of language, culture and rootedness in place that gives rise to this particular knowledge. It is this knowledge that we all require, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to heal ourselves.
So what is required for us to lessen the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples? It requires relationships — listening and learning about how to respect one another and the world around us.
So yes, the TRC is right — we do need more Indigenous health professionals, more culturally competent health-care providers, and we do need to measure our progress.
But we need to do so within the context of the TRC Calls to Action, addressing not just those that pertain to health.
In his last Facebook post before his death, acclaimed Indigenous writer Richard Wagamese captured this sentiment very well. He stated:
“I’ve been considering the phrase ‘all my relations’ for some time now. It’s hugely important. It’s our saving grace in the end. It points to the truth that we are related, we are all connected, we all belong to each other. The most important word is all. Not just those who look like me, sing like me, dance like me, speak like me, pray like me or behave like me. ALL my relations. It means every person just as it means every blade of grass, rock, mineral and creature. We live because everything else does. If we were to collectively choose to live that teaching the energy of that change of consciousness would heal all of us — and heal the planet. We do it one person, one heart at a time… we are connected, we are the answer.” Richard Wagamese, Facebook, Feb. 23, 2015.
All my relations. Inogiamit nunattinit ikKasugiaKavugut (Inutittut). Msit No’kmaq (Mi’kmaq). Nii’kinaaganaa (Ojibwe). Mitakuye-Oyasin (Lakota). Kakina ni Dodem (Algonquin). Niw_hk_m_kanak (Cree).
“The mind is powerful, and I would argue that everybody can benefit from truly disconnecting (i.e. do yourself a favour and toss the technology aside once in awhile). The world appears to be getting more complex and stressful, with people dealing with increased pressures.”
Stephen J. Boyd, MBA(FS) Class of 2018
Recently, I was loading my winter surfing gear into the car, with the intention of catching waves at one of my favorite local spots. Someone walking by asked me why I was loading a surfboard into my car this time of year; she truly seemed confused. I went on to explain that proper equipment allows those with a sense of adventure to access the ocean all year, and that winter surfing is completely normal (at least in my mind). The passerby insisted that there must be something compelling about surfing, to justify voluntarily entering water that hovers around zero degrees Celsius. Without putting too much thought into it, I stated the typical reasons as to why surfing is fascinating; the adrenaline rush of riding a wave, being out in the sea, the salt air, the smell of fresh surfboard wax (the brand I use is coconut scented), interpreting surf reports etc. With the car packed, I set off to the ocean.
When I finally entered the water, I put more thought into the passerby’s earlier question; namely, the reason(s) as to why I am so passionate about surfing. Despite the fact that I have surfed for a number of years, I never really considered why I was so drawn to it. However, I do know that while living out-of-province, surfing is one of things I missed the most about Nova Scotia. About an hour into my surf session, with a clear mind and a relaxed disposition, the answer to the passerby’s question finally came to me. For me personally, surfing is more than a sport; it is one of the few ways that I truly disconnect from the real world. It is me, my surfboard, the sea (and occasionally a friend), with my smart phone turned off and buried in the dash of my car.
This is not a sales pitch on surfing; besides, we don’t want the beaches to get too crowded, after all. However, I am advocating the importance of regularly or occasionally disconnecting from our regular lives/routines and the world that surrounds us. The mind is powerful, and I would argue that everybody can benefit from truly disconnecting (i.e. do yourself a favour and toss the technology aside once in awhile). The world appears to be getting more complex and stressful, with people dealing with increased pressures. These may include (but not limited to): constant negative news (e.g., stock markets, global political issues, etc.), professional vs. personal commitments, health problems and social media. Those who take the time to disconnect benefit in so many ways; time away is truly worth it in the long run. Consider it an investment in yourself.
Stephen J. Boyd, MBA(FS) Class of 2018, was the recipient of the prestigious Rowe School of Business Award for Highest Academic Achievement. Stephen is a repeat contributor on CEGE Connection. We invite you to read Stephen’s first post, Beyond Limits.
“We live in this world in order always to learn industriously and to enlighten each other by means of discussion and to strive vigorously to promote the progress of science and the fine arts.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
As a teenager, I remember well that my Mother, a career professional, was actively involved in the celebration of International Women’s Day. Each year, I would attend as her guest with my younger sister. It was an event I looked forward to each year. There, we sat in a room mostly filled with women. Dinner, speeches, awards, a full celebration of diversity. As part of my upbringing I thought it would be hard to imagine a work environment where employees were not all equally respected and represented. So, it certainly came as a surprise to me that, in my first leadership role, I was sitting in a meeting with twelve men and two women. Looking back, that ratio for the 90’s was impressive!
Twenty years later, I entered a different meeting room, filled with senior banking leaders with the same diversity ratio, if you include the facilitator, to attend an ‘Unconscious Bias’ presentation. The training was held on the corporate banking floor. It felt like a throw-back to the 90’s. At the break, I jokingly asked if they actually had a lady’s room on this floor of the building. I was greeted with quizzical looks as if I just asked a very perplexing question!
Recently, during a panel event, I was asked: what changes would we need to see in the work place to make a true difference for women in leadership? The one area that seems to be overlooked in the Diversity and Inclusion planning process is recognizing the extraordinary impact of contributions made by women. Men are active in ‘He for She’ and advocate for Me Too, yet our biggest obstacle may be ourselves.
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, commit to honouring each other and ourselves through 10 commitments for 2019;
Happy International Women’s Day!
Alana Riley MBA(FS) 2017, Senior Vice President, Financial Services at IG Wealth Management, is committed to employee engagement and client centric outcomes. As a success-driven professional with a consistent track record of generating exceptional results while motivating top performing teams, Alana excels within an agile setting, where innovation and strategic thinking are highly valued assets. Passionate about leadership, she fosters a collaborative work environment that enhances individual and team-based participation. Alana is a repeat contributor on CEGE Connection. We invite you to read Alana’s first post, Investing in You.
CEGE Connection is pleased to announce that Dr. Carolan McLarney will be the keynote speaker at the 7thTeaching & Education Conference organized by the International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences to be held May 21 – 24, 2019 at the University of London, United Kingdom. Dr. McLarney received her PhD at York University, Ontario, Canada, and MBA in International Business at University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She is a Full Professor at Dalhousie University and specializes in International and Strategic Management.
Dr. McLarney keynote speech is titled: “Home and Away: The Effective Use of Simulations in Graduate Blended Learning Programs.”
Students enrolled in the MBA(Financial Services) and MBA(Leadership) Programs have benefited from Dr. McLarney’s expertise in using simulations to create deeper learning. As a graduate of the MBA(FS), I have personally benefited from this methodology:
International Business 1999 – At my first intensive, Dr. McLarney orchestrated an international trade negotiation. I was the representative from Guatemala.
Strategic Leadership Capstone 2003 – Dr. McLarney introduced a simulation during the intensive. Our class was engaged with a computer-based simulation where we ran an international shoe manufacturing company. Four-member teams competed in a complex, highly competitive environment.
Fast forward to 2018:
International Business 2018 Denise Hinds and Patrick Law were grand champions of a prestigious competition between several universities, an outcome of Dr. McLarney’s GLO-BUS simulation that was conducted virtually over the four-month period.
The Centre for Executive and Graduate Education (CEGE) provides opportunities for deeper learning by delivering robust course content in ways that engage students to study, integrate and apply what they have learned. Deeper learning fosters competencies required to participate within our social milieu: critical thinking, collaborative and communication skills. CEGE’s commitment to their students was dramatically evidenced in the GLO-BUS Simulation introduced by Dr. Carolan McLarney in the 2018 winter semester of International Business.
The Centre for Executive and Graduate Education (CEGE) is renowned for creating a dynamic environment where learning can be fully integrated and shared beyond the walls of academia. Kudos to all CEGE professors who share their knowledge and experience within a virtual environment.
Rebecca Budd MBA(FS) 2003
CEGE Connection, Editor & Blog Coordinator
“The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”
Business measures performance and overall success based on benchmarks that have a financial outcome. Embedded within a corporation’s financial statements, are the results of customer satisfaction, employment engagement, risk management, R&D investments, and corporate responsibility. Compensation and bonuses are calculated using the profitability and sustainability of a business entity. Recently, Allison Rockwell MBA(FS) Class of 2015 and I conversed on how we may inadvertently find ourselves measuring personal success using business metrics.
In the second installment of striving for success in 2019, Dr. Rick Nason discusses the question: What benchmarks, besides financial, should be used to measure a successful career?
Dr. Rick Nason:
Two knee jerk reactions to this question. First is that a financial benchmark for a successful career (implied in the question) is a horrifically awful benchmark. The second knee-jerk reaction is that whatever I, or anyone else provides as an answer for this question will be both misleading and sad for anyone who mindlessly takes our answer(s) as the truth.
To the first point: I believe the goal of life, and of a career, is to maximize utility. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines utility as “fitness for some purpose or worth to some end”. Happiness is an end of worth to me. In fact, I generally equate utility with happiness, but I see the linguists starting to compose angry tweets against me, so I will move forward quickly. Love and friendship are also ends of worth to me. Laughter is an end of great worth to me. Having good food (which may or may not be fancy and expensive) with friends is an end of great worth to me. Having shelter, clothing, food and financial flexibility is also of worth to me, but not great worth. Being able to provide shelter, clothing, food and financial flexibility for my family is of much greater worth and utility to me than those things are to me personally.
To continue with this thought you need to realize one fact: economists (and by extension finance profs) are extremely lazy intellectually. We build our theories on maximization of “utility”, but immediately take an intellectual shortcut to state the aim is to maximize “utility of wealth”. We then go to second order laziness and shorten “maximize utility of wealth” and think we are becoming efficient by simply eliminating two words: “of wealth”. To those students, lay people, media, and political pundits who are lazy and do not bother to actually read and understand the concept of utility it is all the same. (Sadly, to most economists and finance profs it is also all the same.)
The important point is that “utility” is not fungible with “utility of wealth”. If you give me $20MM dollars but take away my ability to see and hear my children laugh, then I will have “utility of wealth”, but I will be bankrupt of “utility”. Trading $20MM for never seeing and hearing my girls laugh again is a trade I will never make (and neither should anyone else although I am afraid that a lot of people implicitly and unconsciously do make that sad trade).
Success, like utility, is a function of the individual. You should celebrate the fact that what gives you utility (happiness) is as unique to you as your thumbprint or your DNA. This unnerves economists as the uniqueness of everyone’s utility function means that economists cannot create a general theory of economic maximization (and thus formulaically answer your question). This uniqueness, and inability to mathematically deal with this uniqueness, is one of the excuses that economists give for focusing on “utility of wealth” rather than the more appropriate “utility”.
Unfortunately, we spend a lot of time focusing on some arbitrary (and sometimes downright silly) relative measures of success as we have been trained to think in terms of objective scorecards. If only the world was so simply complicated, instead of having all of this wonderful complexity that we humans bring to it, then we would have a giant formula we could operate by, and soon, some company would be offering us a personal robot and algorithm and there would be no need for us to individually exist at all.
The benchmarks for success are what you as an individual determine them to be. They should not be my benchmarks, nor should they be anyone else’s. They should not be adapted from a tweeted blog titled something like “9 Factors of Success”, nor should they be based on subliminal elements from advertising. They should be developed by you though careful and thoughtful consideration. By the way, it is quite likely that your benchmarks for success will change dramatically through time and through your experience.
I believe that success is a journey. Sadly (or fortunately) we can never consider ourselves a success and then call it a day. If we do, then entropy will quickly kick in. We will be unable to recognize the many opportunities that are available to those who continue to strive in a complex environment.
Whatever measure(s) of success you come up with you, comparison should not be part of the process. Regardless of the measure (unless it is laughably low), you may fall short compared to someone else. However, success is not a zero-sum game; or a game at all for that matter. Success is relative, and you need to make the difficult calculations of the most useful level of relativeness to you.
As for me, every day when I set off into the world, I say a little prayer that the world will be a “little better place because I existed”. Some days I clearly fail in that goal. I may say something politically incorrect, my hair gets in someone’s face, my exam questions are too long or too difficult etc. etc. etc. However, success for me is in the trying. Failure is still success if you are trying to increase your utility (and for me, the utility of others).
Are you still actually reading this!? Get out there and be successful!