Facilitator Journal | Issue #0294, March 20, 2007 ....
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!
Publisher and Founder of FacilitatorU.com
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All in This Together
inter-cultural groups requires alternate structures, methods, and processes.
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.
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.
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
from a Distance teleclass
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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Random Acts of Facilitation Training Agenda...
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Introduction to the
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Relating with compassion
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Dynamics and Facilitation
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Organizing and Presenting
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