Ontos Global - Enabling business transformation across cultures through leadership effectiveness and integrated talent management

Call Us: +01/ 415.418.7326

How to Learn Trust-Building in our Global Environment

Posted on January 03, 2016 by: Lisa Koss

As a part of our ongoing research on building trust across cultures and boundaries, I’m re-reading a book by Stephen M.R. Covey (Stephen R. Covey’s son) called The Speed of Trust (2006).  Covey provides rich coverage of all the aspects and derivatives of trust, makes a clear case how trust impacts the bottom line and has done a great job including compelling quotes throughout, most of which come from various CEO’s and global business leaders.

My experience of the read, however, leaves me both overwhelmed and thus, also underwhelmed.

Overwhelmed because in the 322 page book, Covey lays out his “5 Waves of Trust”, “4 Cores of Credibility”, 13 behaviors, a 3-part “see-speak-behave” model, a series of trust tips, and layers upon layers of bulleted and enumerated sections and subsections to the extent one loses track of which hierarchy of ideas one is wading through. I find some humor in that my reading experience seems to be an antithesis of the book’s subtitle “The One Thing That Changes Everything”.

Underwhelmed because after working my way through half of this book, I have the ongoing experience of not being sure what I’m really learning, except for a few helpful framing mechanisms, such as the fact that trust is comprised of two main buckets:  character and competence.  Additionally, despite the numerous references to global business leaders, there is little mention of cross-cultural aspect of his recommendations.  For example, Americans are susceptible to creating distrust across cultures due to a direct communication style,  so it would be helpful to consider Covey’s chapter on “Straight Talk” in different contexts.  To propose to “tell it like it is”, Covey uses the example of a president of a large division of a public company who tells others “…if you do not do these things, you will be fired.” (pg. 137)  For indirect communicators, the message could easily be interpreted as “Please leave the company now. I’ve lost trust in you and your ability to be successful here.”

A book for a topic like trust can be perhaps be useful to heighten awareness, but as it relates to really meeting the needs of the clients around the globe we work with, a more effective way to explore the topic is in a context of real people with diverse perspectives who are mutually impacted by a lack of trust, and who are motivated to learn through real experiences.

This book makes a cognitive exercise out of a topic that’s better learned experientially.  In fact, the topic of trust is one of those multi-pronged topics like “diversity”, “emotional intelligence” or “leadership” whereby the method of learning must match as closely as possible to real life experience.  In well-designed, experiential group learning events (see “Global Learning Lab”)  people must be asked to make decisions, self-disclose, take slightly uncomfortable amounts of risk, share perceptions, receive feedback, and come to one’s own conclusions about what really matters.  Experiential events should also be complex enough such that each person finds ample ground from which to pull their individual learnings, which will always be somewhat unique from what any other person needed to learn.  To me, the mode of learning must make sense with the subject of the learning.  In fact, I’d say it’s the one thing that changes everything.

Posted in: Change / Change management, Diversity, Global teams, Leadership | Post A Comment

You’ve Probably Heard Me Speak About Your Breathing

Posted on October 19, 2015 by: Lisa Koss

If you’ve been in one of our workshops where you were practicing your coaching, your communication skills, or your executive presence, you’ve probably heard me comment about your (or someone else’s) breathing.  You’ve probably heard me mention some of what is in this tip, the 10/15/15 Harvard Business Review “Management Tip of the Day.”


Focus on Your Breath to Sound More Persuasive

Breathing plays a big role in how you sound. The ability to harness your breath is critical when you’re speaking up in a meeting or giving a speech or presentation. To speak with more confidence and power, focus on your breath. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your arms up over your head. Breathe in deeply. As you exhale, slowly lower your arms down to your sides. Make sure your shoulders are back, not hunched. This is the best posture for speaking: you are standing tall, owning your full height, and resonating confidence. Put one hand on your belly button and one hand on your chest. Breathe deeply and notice which hand moves. Keep your chest steady and breathe into your stomach. Then exhale slowly, and speak “on the breath.” Also, make sure to use your breath to support your words by letting it out steadily while you are speaking.

Adapted from “Breathing Is the Key to Persuasive Public Speaking,” by Allison Shapira.

Posted in: Leadership | Post A Comment

Visuals of Negotiation Communication Patterns from Different Cultural Viewpoints

Posted on August 24, 2015 by: Lisa Koss

Published in the August Business Insider, check out these visuals that depict the structure of a negotiation from different cultural viewpoints.  Does this track with your experience?




Posted in: Communicating across cultures, Global business strategy | Post A Comment

The Power of Schemas: As Easy as Riding a Bike? (Check out this video.)

Posted on May 24, 2015 by: Lisa Koss

Those of you who know our latest research, know that we are intensely interested in how cognitive schemas enable or hinder our ability to change – individually and collectively.  See this video for a perfect example of how we cognitively can understand something (say, the new corporate strategy) but cannot easily unlearn and change the way we work to enable it.


Posted in: Change / Change management, Organizational change, Organizational culture | Post A Comment

Rethinking Culture

Posted on January 21, 2015 by: ontos_admin

For change executives and change agents, read our new white paper entitled, ♦ Rethinking Culture ♦, by Ontos Principal, David White, PhD.

Summary:  Most leaders and many consultants believe organizational cultures can be “shaped” for competitive advantage. This immensely popular notion is so embedded in conventional thinking that to suggest otherwise is almost heretical. Yet this idea is, at best, unproven beyond espoused values and at worst, deeply wishful thinking. The problem is not the concept but the way it is defined and operationalized in practice. The good news is cognitive science over the last 30 years offers strong evidence on which to base a fresh approach to culture and change, one that promises to be far more impactful and sustainable in practice. This article explains why current approaches are problematic and outlines this compelling alternative.


04 heave culture

Posted in: Change / Change management, Organizational culture | Post A Comment

How Do You Show “Politeness”?

Posted on November 12, 2014 by: Lisa Koss

Here in northern Germany today, we asked our client group what constituted “good service” at a restaurant.  (The idea was to begin exploring the idea of how to conceive of a competency.)  Among the answers one person responded “Being polite.”  “What does that mean?”, I ask, knowing that politeness is culturally specific.  The answer I received?  “Being serious.”  Of course, from another culture’s perspective “serious” can mean unattached, disinterested, lacking humor, lacking personality, feeling upset, and so on.

On the second occasion, we were speaking about what constitutes a leader who is an exceptional collaborator.  Among the answers is again….Politeness.

I love these anecdotes that provide windows into culture.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Post A Comment

Tips for New Team Leaders

Posted on November 03, 2014 by: Lisa Koss

01 Org XToday we received these business tips in our inbox from Harvard Business School Management.  We like them, but have added some caveats at the bottom of this post.

“New team leaders often skip over the basics of team building in a rush to start achieving goals. But your actions in the first few weeks and months have a major impact on whether your team delivers results. Here’s how to set things up for success:

  • Get to know one another. Resist the urge to jump right into the work and focus instead on fostering camaraderie with team-building exercises.
  • Showcase your values. Explain what’s behind each of your decisions, what your priorities are, and how you will evaluate the team’s performance.
  • Explain how you want the team to work. Not everyone knows the best ways to ask for help or go about tasks. Set expectations and explain processes.
  • Set or clarify goals. Make clear what the team is working toward and how you expect to get there. Setting goals early on lays the framework for holding team members accountable. “

Our Comment:  We like these as 4 good ideas to get started with a new team and the emphasis it puts on clarifying expectations.  But don’t forget that understanding your team’s values and preferences should be part of the discussion that follows.  Imagine that your values actually conflict with theirs!  Especially in cross-cultural teams, what a “good team member” looks like, or what constitutes “good leadership” will change.  In some cultures, for example, team members keep quiet until asked to speak.

I hear some leaders who like to start by saying they are direct, open and honest.  These behaviors may take time to learn for those who have learned indirectness and who have learned the art of communicating difficult messages while allowing the other to “save face”.  In sum, simply stating what you value makes your preference clear but may be difficult for others to understand, appreciate, or integrate.

Our Tip:  We recommend you facilitate a conversation where  the team also defines their own views about values, asking for help, teamwork, leadership.  In a conversation about the team’s values, for example, make a list of examples of what that word means to each.  If they say “trust” is important, make a list of what that looks like in practice for each person.  Record what they say for use in checking in as time goes on to see if the team is adhering to what they say matters.  In doing this you learn a lot about the people you’re leading …and – when done well – build the trust you seek at the same time.

Posted in: Diversity, Global teams, Leadership | Post A Comment

Humans are Unreliable! Test your Own Biases about People (Harvard Online Tool)

Posted on October 23, 2014 by: Lisa Koss

We all know we have our biases about other people, but often not to what extent.  We talk about this most often when discussing who is hired, who is promoted, who is most listened to, and how we make our daily decisions.  Harvard University has a set of quick tests online that are open for anyone to take that allow you to gauge your own biases toward a number of areas of difference, such as:

– race
– age
– sexuality
– skin tone
– weight
– gender-career
– more

This is fascinating and may dispel any notion you have about your own lack of bias.  Very compelling and highly recommended as a self-awareness tool.  CLICK HERE:  https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html


Posted in: Diversity, Global teams | Post A Comment

SF Giants Baseball and Bruce Bochy: Strategies for Managers of Any Team

Posted on October 19, 2014 by: Lisa Koss

bruce bochy2

From ESPN, what a fascinating article by Tim Keown on how San Francisco Giants Manager, Bruce Bochy, tracks each individual, does not stick with formulas about who plays when, and prioritizes the team’s longer term success.  There are lessons here for all managers of any kind of team.

Excerpt:  “For a slow game, baseball can move fast — fast enough to run away and hide from managers who sit and wait for it to conform to an ideal. The managers who foresee the moments of acceleration, it seems, are the ones best suited to succeed.”

Read the article.


Posted in: Leadership | Post A Comment

Schultz and Starbucks: The Importance of Not Waiting to Invest

Posted on August 25, 2014 by: Lisa Koss

starbucks“Schultz understood that you can’t lift your foot off the gas pedal when you’re attempting to transform a company,” Koehn says. “Severe as its financial needs may be, you also have to figure out what you will invest in. Schultz knew that if he waited until the company was out of the woods to invest in new products, communication channels, and ways of doing business it would be too late—Starbucks would no longer be relevant.”

This quote from Harvard Business Review Aug 2104, by Julia Hanna, based on research by HBS Professor and historian Nancy Koehn.

Read the article.

Posted in: Global business strategy, Leadership | Post A Comment

© 2018 ONTOS global LLC | site by Origin Web Design