Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0294, March 20, 2007 ....
 


Dear friends,

It's amazing how easily we can establish and build business and personal relationships around the globe today. Business globalization and the Internet has made this a way of life for many of us. Yet as US citizens, in general, we tend to be more insulated from the challenges of dealing with other cultures.

This was brought home to me when in two teleclasses I recently led for Asian participants employed by a large global corporation. English was a second language for most of these participants and it was a stretch for myself and all concerned. In this week's article, "We're All in This Together," I share some lessons learned in virtual training of a culturally diverse groups. As the world becomes a small, more interconnected place, this is a challenge we all must get a handle on. I hope you learn something from this article and I look forward to your feedback.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis
Publisher and Founder of FacilitatorU.com


 
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The Point


We're All in This Together
Facilitating inter-cultural groups requires alternate structures, methods, and processes.

Group Process Skill


It's amazing how easily we can establish and build business and personal relationships around the globe today. Business globalization and the Internet has made this a way of life for many of us. Yet as US citizens, in general, we tend to be more insulated from the challenges of dealing with other cultures. Though our country is often referred to as a "melting pot" of world cultures, we "Americans" are accustomed to having everyone within 3,000 miles of us pretty well understand our way of relating compared to differences that would show up if we were in another country.

This was brought home to me when in two teleclasses
I recently led. These classes, delivered to 45 people operating in the Pacific Rim for a large global corporation, focused on virtual meeting facilitation. Most of the participants on these calls were from Asian cultures for whom English was a second language. It was a stretch teaching this class and a challenge for my students as well. As a facilitative trainer, I rely on ample interaction with and among participants and I encourage disagreement and alternative perspectives on what I present. In cultures where students are taught to revere instructors, this approach doesn't float all that well. This issue, coupled with the language barrier taught me a few things about working with diverse cultures in the future. I've included some of my lessons learned below and I look forward to hearing your perspectives on this too.

Application


Enlist a superior. I observed that when the "boss" was present on the calls, participants were far more interactive. This almost seemed counterintuitive to me as an American where people usually feel more free to interact and share their ideas when the boss is isn't present. In the future, I thought, why not ask that a supervisor be present if it makes the course more valuable and interesting for all concerned?

Require an intermediary or translator. During these calls, I had to expend a lot more time and energy just trying to understand what people were saying. On some of the calls, my regional sponsor was there to support me with certain logistical functions such as: setting up partner breakout sessions, serving as a role-play partner, helping with name recognition, and at times even translating heavily accented English. I realized how helpful my sponsor was when she wasn't on the calls. In the future, I'll ask that an regional sponsor be present on all calls.

Speak slowly and clearly. This seems obvious but it's easy for habit to take over during a one-hour teleclass, and before long, you'll find yourself speaking and moving at your regular speed. For nonnative speakers, your normal talking speed, especially if your an American, will probably be too fast for your participants. Speak slowly, clearly, and leave more time than you might otherwise for understanding and processing. Use your sponsor to signal you to slow down or speak up when necessary.

Use more visual aids. For nonnative language speakers, it helps to offer alternative means of understanding that are rich in visual images, or written words that give participants another channel of information to help them stay with you.

Be more structured. As a learning facilitator, I pride myself on my ability to improvise. Consequently, I often follow a very loose structure that often isn't defined until a few minutes before my call. Going light on structure may be attractive when language and cultural comprehension are non-issues. When language and culture are issues, a well defined structure allows participants to relax around the context of your session to put their energy into content and process.

Seek out extroverts. Seek out or solicit a handful of extroverts or especially fluent participants to help you carry the interactive portion of your class. I found that in some sessions, I had good interaction from four or five people. This made all the difference in the world for me and I'm sure for the class. Personally, when I have people to interact with, my material comes to life in relationship to their inputs and their comments and questions allow me to deliver what they need versus what I think they need.

Break into sub groups. Participating in dyads or small groups is far less threatening than speaking out into the large group. When working with multicultural groups, pair up participants according to country for activities. They are more likely to get involved and language won't be an issue for them. Coming back to the larger group, they'll be more prepared to share. I've find this can even be done on teleclasses and discuss this strategy, among others, to enliven teleclasses and virtual meetings in my Leading from a Distance
teleclass and workbook.

Ask them to stretch. I let my participants know up front that I plan to stretch to the best of my ability to meet the needs of their culture. I also ask them to do the same--to stretch a bit out of their comfort zone to meet me halfway. I explained what this might mean for them:

In my culture, it's OK, in fact it's encouraged for students to question, even challenge the instructor. Good adult instructors in my world encourage their students to do most of the talking in the form of open discussion and cooperative discovery of new knowledge, insights, and applications. This class is not all about me teaching you things. It's also an opportunity for you to try out new behaviors. This is a great place for you to make mistakes. I give you full permission to make mistakes in this class, please give yourself that permission as well.

I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and speak up more than you might. I invite you to commit to speaking out in class without being called at least once or twice each session. Ask questions, speak openly about what's on your mind, even disagree with me. I will welcome it and enjoy it and this will get you in the habit of taking new actions that may not normally be comfortable, but within this safe environment. It will also help those of you who have shared your challenges in working with fast talking Americans in a foreign language.

These ideas will help streamline the cultural issues you encounter in your groups. Please email me any additional approaches that have helped you deal with multicultural groups and I'll send you everything I receive.

Action
 

How can you employ at least one idea above to improve interaction in your culturally diverse groups? Have you found any approaches that I haven't mentioned that help you deal with multicultural groups. If so, I'd love to hear them. Just reply to this email to submit them.

Reader Survey


How do I get collaboration going in a Multi-Shift Organization. My colleague, MFJ reader and facilitator, Jim Smtith ask that I pose this question to you. Within a large three-shift organization -- each shift does different work, but all are interdependent -- their workflows feed each other. They need to be working together, but can never BE together at the same time. Second shift can cross with third, third with first, first with second. But the troika can never meet same place/same time. How does a facilitator work with an organization like this to help these subgroups work together more effectively?

Please email your comments to me and I'll share the collection with Jim and all those who contribute. Thank you!

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5-Day Random Acts of Facilitation Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the 5-Day course...

Monday
Introduction to the Facilitation and Self Facilitation Skills.

1. Create the Ambience.
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3. Get Facilitation
4. Juggling.
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Tuesday
Relating with compassion and understanding.

6. Be Ignorant.
7. Make Smiles Happen.
8. Hold 'em High.
9. Acknowledge the Elephant.
10. Turn on Your Crap-Detector.

Wednesday
Group Dynamics and Facilitation

11. Build the Container.
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13. Mine the Unexpected.
14. Evolve Your Team.
15. Honor the Process.
16. Facilitate Full Participation

Thursday
Organizing and Presenting yourself confidently, professionally, and authentically. 

17. Prepare for Success.
18. Get Real.
19. Make Experiences, Not Speeches
20. Watch the Body Talk.
21. Be your message

Friday
Intervening to shift group energy

22. Tame the Tormentors.
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In addition to the 5-Day training described above, you also receive:
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The full cost of training/access is only $89, which includes a free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value). Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed guarantee. Class meets at 1:00-2:00pm EST daily, April 16-20, 2007.

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About the satisfaction guarantee
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