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Blending And Standing Out In A Multi-Cultural Workplace

by Elaine Cercado

In his book “The World is Flat”, Thomas Friedman described the further flattening of the world in this way:

The dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 – the force that gives it its unique character – is the new found power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally.  And the phenomenon that is enabling, empowering and enjoining individuals and small groups to go global so easily and so seamlessly is what I call the flat-world platform.

As a result, every person now must, and can ask: Where do I as an individual fit into the global competition and opportunities of the day, and how can I, on my own, collaborate with others globally?

These words of Friedman spoke to me loudly as I thought about the two key challenges faced by many professionals today, specifically, in a multi-cultural workplace like Singapore.  These two key challenges, as described by Friedman, were the challenge of collaborating and of competing globally.  Using my own terms, I define collaborating as the challenge of blending, and competing as the challenge of standing out.

How do you BLEND?

One of the core competencies successful professionals should have nowadays is flexibility or adaptability – which I define as the “ability to blend efficiently and effectively, without losing your uniqueness.”  What are some ways to blend?

Blend efficiently.  Have a goal-oriented action plan to know your job role and responsibilities, organization and teammates, corporate / departmental culture and values, challenges and opportunities, products / solutions, competitors / industry, and other relevant information. Being goal-oriented, your action plan should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound (in short, SMART).  Think and act the way presidents of the world do after they get elected – they create and implement a 100-day plan!

Blend effectively. You don’t have to wait for 100 days to know if you are blending effectively or not.  By the end of a couple of weeks, you should have a good feel of your company, team, and job. You should have a sense of whether your personal values, talents and competencies are aligned or blending well with your new environment and culture (if you are new in the company), or position and expectations (if you are re-assigned / promoted), or boss / team/ location (if you are relocated).  You should be able to see the “perfect fit” and feel the desire and excitement to move forward despite the challenges, if any.

Show your uniqueness. Blending does not mean losing your unique identity.  On the contrary, you should perform and contribute your talents, knowledge, skills, experiences and personal qualities – as these are essential for you to collaborate with others effectively – especially in a multi-cultural workplace.  All these make up the unique and distinctive “You” – and are critical to your personal, as well as, your team or organization’s success, especially in today’s matrix and network structures.

How do you STAND OUT?

Nelson Mandela has said, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” This perfectly sums up the answer to the question on how do you stand out.  It comes down to unleashing that passion and power within you.  What are some ways to unleash the power?

Know your passion. You cannot unleash your power unless you know what you are passionate about.  Two things I always ask my mentees to reflect on are: What is that one thing that excites you most? Teach others three things about it.  To those whose passion is very clear to them, the answers come almost instantaneously.  Stephen Covey, in his book “The 8th Habit”, said, “Passion comes from the heart and is manifest as optimism, excitement, emotional connection, determination.  It fires unrelenting drive.  Enthusiasm is deeply rooted in the power of choice rather than circumstance…. It is that which energizes your life and gives you your drive. It is the fuel at the heart of vision and discipline.  It keeps you at it when everything else may say quit.”

Empower your mission with your passion. Passion is your power.  Passion means enthusiasm, which comes from the Greek words “en” and “theos”, which means “in God”.  Your mission in life (or at work) should be fueled by your passion.  If your mission has no passion, then it is not your path.

Our consultancy, de’POWERinU, has the mission “to provide relevant training and consulting solutions that will maximize the powers of individuals and teams. We believe that everybody has powers – to be discovered, learned, developed, maximized and shared.”  This mission is empowered by our passions for people development, mentoring and life-long learning. We constantly find ways to express these passions, which often lead to the fulfillment of de’POWERinU’s mission.  Such passion and mission energize our team to compete and stand out in this world – when everything else may say quit. Such passion and mission help us unleash the power within us – so we can play big and not settle for lives that are less than the ones we are capable of living.

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