Unlocking Cultural Agility with Marco Blankenburgh

Intercultural Teams with Linda Berlot

November 01, 2021 KnowledgeWorkx Season 1 Episode 1
Unlocking Cultural Agility with Marco Blankenburgh
Intercultural Teams with Linda Berlot
Show Notes Transcript

Dive in with Linda Berlot— Entrepreneur, Executive, and Certified Team Coach. She is the owner of an International Team Coaching Practice and an ICF accredited coach training school that provides professional and personal development for multicultural executives in the field of team dynamics and change management. 

Listen as she shares her story as a uniquely wired cultural human being. They will not just talk about the “what” of differences, but will go deeper and explore the “why.”  

You will learn about--

  •  Creating a third cultural space.  
  •  Looking at culture from an individual perspective versus a national perspective.  
  •  Cultural and system dynamics on teams.  
  •  Self-Cultural Analysis 


Get in touch with Linda Berlot at berlotgroup.com

| Articles--

Culture Made Practical: Self Cultural Analysis (http://kwx.fyi/self-cultural-analysis)

Creating the Multiplier Effect On Your Team Using Systems Thinking (http://kwx.fyi/multiplier-effect) 

What Does it Mean to be a TCK (http://kwx.fyi/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-tck)

-- Brought to you by KnowledgeWorkx.com

When I go back to Italy they call me la straniera which is the stranger because I'm no longer so Italian I've been influenced by my time in Africa my time in Hong Kong I've been living here for 16 years so I have all of these experiences have shaped me as a unique individual so looking at culture from an individual perspective gives us a a broader understanding of the individual sitting in front of you rather than just a generalization around the nationality [Music] Welcome to the cultural agility podcast where we explore the stories of some of the most advanced intercultural practitioners from around the world to help you become culturally agile and succeed in today's culturally complex world i'm your host marco blankenberg international director of knowledgeworks where every day we help individuals and companies achieve relational success in that same complex world so Linda welcome to this podcast and I have actually wanted to do this for quite some time now we finally sit in the knowledgeworks podcast studio and we have a chance to uh to sit and talk about all things intercultural so thank you for agreeing to do this just for our listeners Linda and I have known each other for a very long time and ever since we connected more than 15 years ago we had the chance to work together on and off and thank you for joining me in this podcast and I don't want to say too much about Linda because you're here so I'd love to uh to hand it over to you and just introduce yourself to our listeners thank you Marco for inviting me here it's always delightful for me to spend time with you and for us to talk about what we love together so who is Linda it's a really good question I had to think about that Linda Bruno Laura Berlot for the people that don't believe I'm Italian because they're listening to my accent I have lived here in the in the middle east for the last 16 years but have lived in many different places before that I am original an original Italian should I say so that's the blood that runs through my veins and my background my professional background has been always in learning and development although I spent many years in the cosmetics industry and lived and worked in different countries now I live here in Dubai and I lead an organization that is a team coaching organization and we coach leadership teams across the region fascinating so it sounds like a lot of what you do is intercultural 100 all of my teams are multicultural teams wow yeah it's one of the things i love most about living in this part of the world and in dubai in particular where we've got over 200 nationalities for me that's such a gift i'm not sure i could live in a monocultural society anymore so it seems if intercultural is so quote-unquote normal for you could you recall a time where intercultural became real for you that having been raised lived in different countries worked in different countries but can you recall a moment that's where the intercultural piece became like staring you in the face or looking at you in the mirror well when i was 16 my parents um divorced and so i went to live with my mom and we moved to africa i lived in africa for many years different countries in africa and as a young person every time we went to a new country it was a new school and i was very very aware even at that time of differences between us you know at the time we went to zimbabwe that was the first country that we went to and we had they had just come out of their civil war and culturally i felt more affinity for the kids of color than the kids with my own skin color but i was white so the kids of color didn't relate to me i was continental so the white kids didn't relate to me either and so i was very very aware at that moment that there are differences between us right and i i had to get curious about those because i had to find ways to relate to the the kids in the school so it sounds like at an earlier age already you were thrown into that situation any stories that come to mind of how that was either easy or difficult it was challenging i went to a country which was uh there had been a colony and they were predominantly you know it was british and so being an italian and continental and probably more emotional than they had expressed or experienced i found that there was a lot of prejudice when i was behaving a certain way you know it's to be expected she's a continental or um or just that they didn't understand why i was feeling and expressing myself in a particular way i felt like i i had to fit in and conform which was really challenging i found that first move to zimbabwe hard later it became easier right so it sounds like you you really were i wouldn't say forced but the context required from you to already developed intercultural skills quite early yes yeah yeah absolutely and then it became easier once i once i clocked it as a young person or it became part of the lens through which i looked every time i moved to a different country it became easier because i was you know i knew what to expect even though the culture might have been different i was ready to look through that lens and and look at how can i adapt and fit in sometimes it meant hiding in my apartment or in a hotel room for three days to deal with the culture shock i did that once my first time traveling to bangkok i was so different i was blonde and curly haired and and and stood out from the crowd and it i really was aware of the cultural difference and it was the one time where i really suffered that cultural shock i sat in the hotel for three days before i had the courage to then go out and explore and actually that raises a good point because even though you might have a lot of intercultural experience culture shock can still happen and that's that's something that people tend to forget that no matter how culturally agile you are you could still end up in that environment where everything just hits you yeah and like you said hiding your hotel room sure i i it was new it was a new experience for me because even as a young person after my studies i put on my backpack and traveled the world for a year and i always used to think to myself language is not a barrier to communication and i would find ways of communicating with the people i needed to in whichever language and it was a fun thing that i liked to do and however sometimes you are so different from from the group that you find yourself in it takes a moment to kind of be there yeah and to deal with what's going on inside you yeah yeah so we got to know each other in the uae in dubai many years ago so even when the framework of intercultural intelligence was first introduced to you you had a lot of intercultural experience already so it wasn't that you lacked experience what attracted you to the idea of intercultural intelligence well i think finally i found words for what i had experienced and everything started to make sense when i started to learn the program and learn the language and the views to look through you know what i was looking at and um i had always been super curious about different cultures and and languages and the way that people behave and why people behave in a certain way and so when i met you and we started to talk talk about this and you introduced the program and the learning to me the methodology for me it was just like coming home it felt like finally i had wow what my experience was real and what i what i was thinking and i had experienced i could not talk about so you say i can talk about it um explain that a little bit more because you were telling stories about your life to whoever wanted to listen that was normal anyway but what shifts using the the ici framework the language what what starts to change well i was telling stories on my experience and when i came to the to the program i started to learn that indeed we are different and we look at the world very differently you know the world views was so powerful for me um i could see that happening in my own family you know the power fear dynamic and the honor shame you know as an italian and having to behave in the right way and say the right things and and for the for the to not let the family down or not let shame you know come on to the family so i had all this language and i started to really learn how really different we are but also that to be curious about different cultures and rather than criticize and that's a trap i think we are judgment machines right so all of a sudden someone passes a piece of information to you that explains to you about being curious and being a cultural you know being a cultural critic versus somebody who's more curious and asks more questions that for me in itself was revolutionary even though i'd been practicing it to now start to understand why i was getting upset with prejudice and things like that yeah i think you raise a good point that very often we can talk about the what and we can maybe talk about you know how we got to where we are yeah but digging deeper into understanding the why and having a language to express the why yeah i think is is one of the things that the intercultural intelligence framework does really well absolutely yeah absolutely the other thing i really enjoyed was understanding that we are different we come from different places right even as individuals we're different however how can we come together and create a space that involves both me and you and doesn't marginalize either one of us so that for me was also enlightening now one of the things we've we've done with with intercultural intelligence is we we sort of said well nationality is is helpful or ethnicity is helpful but we said from the beginning that really we are all uniquely wired cultural human beings yeah and you've lived that i know that from experience that every person is truly unique we all bring our unique journey in life to the table but just for for the listeners um why should we not try to understand culture making nationality or ethnicity the starting point of the journey because that's what we do right as humanity if you had to explain that to our listeners what would you say why is the personal approach better than the nationality approach i think there's value to learning about the nationality approach however i think if that's the only lens that you look at you miss out on discovering who the person really is because take me for example i'm an italian my parents are italian my background is italian however i've lived out of italy since i was 16 years old and when i go back to italy they call me la straniera which is the stranger because i'm no longer so italian i've been influenced by my time in africa my time in hong kong i've been living here for 16 years so i have all of these experiences have shaped me as a unique individual so looking at culture from an individual perspective gives us a broader understanding of the individual sitting in front of you rather than just a generalization around the nationality and you already mentioned you know being a cultural learner is totally linked to that yeah so personally wrapping your head around who you are you have a very culturally colorful history yourself journey using the intercultural intelligence language the three colors of world view the 12 dimensions of culture how does that personally impact you what does it do to you well first of all it's given me a lot of insight about how and why i behave in certain ways you know also why i rebel towards certain things it's given me an understanding of how i speak and communicate the tone in my voice you know and and also an awareness of what the impact that could be on other world views so if i'm very definitive for example and i come from a very powerful dynamic i come across as very telling rather than eliciting a conversation as an example yeah yeah now of course if if that's the type of impact it has on you it obviously then starts to show in the way you interact with other people right so uh maybe i'm putting you on the spot here but could you think of an example with how that that realization that starts to change the way you interact with others sure i have a well it's it's twofold so when it's being done to me versus when i do it so i i come from a family where you know my dad is the head of the family and it's quite a hierarchical it's power fear and when my dad bless him who am i i love very much but when he steps into his hierarchy i rebel 100 percent and yet i do it i do the same thing naturally i step into hierarchy partly because of my personality and the way i was raised partly because of my role and now i'm very aware if that's what it does to me i can only imagine what it must do to someone else who comes from a the same power fear dynamic or somebody who's not used to speaking up directly so i'm conscious that if i step into certain behaviors am i creating a space which p shuts people down or does it allow people to to flourish fascinating yeah now in your work you've chosen to predominantly work with people alongside people you mentioned earlier on that your work is 100 intercultural which is on the one hand uh you know foreign maybe to some of the listeners here they might have an intercultural connect the a few times a year yeah so tell me a little bit more about your work with burlap group what do you guys do and and how do you use the intercultural side of what you've learned in your work yeah sure just as an anecdote before when you were asking me the question i i remembered i was on a global leadership call and they were discussing a particular question and when they ask the question of course i go to the intercultural and working with multicultural teams and i gave my view from there and i said before i can even address that question these are the parameters that i have to face and consider when working with a multicultural group and i started to name them and there was silence on this there were probably 30 people on the call and i was i asked it was not the zoom times it was phone call conference times i said is anybody out there and the response was almost unanimous you know linda we don't even think about those kind of things when we are coaching our teams so working with the multicultural group really does bring a different flavor to how you work with them but who berlot group is we we coach leadership teams across the region and they are multicultural teams and my intercultural work although what we focus on is relationships and team dynamics so really working with the system as a whole and helping them be in right relationship with each other because we believe they are the experts in what they do but it's in the dynamics between them where it can go beautifully well or horribly wrong and that's what prevents them from being productive um so i've worked with the orsk model with the teams that i work with and orsk that's an acronym it is business speak it's an it's a mouthful organization and relationship systems coaching which is a coaching model created by crr global and the unique uniqueness about the model is that we coach the system as a whole or the team as as one entity okay can you explain that a little bit more coach decision as a whole absolutely so instead of coaching the individuals as individuals we coach it's almost like when they come together when two or more people come together there's a dynamic that's created there's a relationship that's created so there's me and there's you and then there's the we and so everything that we do when i'm working with the team is in service of the we in service of the team you can think about it so band think about a band i used to say the beatles and nowadays these some people say who are the beatles but imagine any band there are the players in the band the you know the players but there is there is a awareness and the band has a clear identity and every band's identity is different from each other and so we work with the band and everything that the players and the coach does is is in service of the band couples understand that very well then teams less so because very often there's a thinking that you know if i'm doing my work over here i'm not really impacting you and so we teach them to see that everything we do or don't do impacts the team yeah the culture of course comes into it because very often diversity is a gift because it brings so much to the table but whenever something is different also has the ch it can be challenging and very often there are challenges that team members face between them like you know cultural misunderstanding or communication misunderstandings and so if they are culturally intelligent they know how to work with it but more often it creates conflicts and misalignment so it reminds me a little bit it sounds like orsk as a method coaching the system it sounds like systems thinking like there is interconnectedness between people there is synergy there is uh convergence there is um you're not silos on your own right does that do you see that connect yes absolutely yes so coaching the the whole dynamic every facet of the dynamic of the team uh in that sense you already alluded to it just now but but how does the intercultural intelligence way of thinking how does that fit in we chose from the beginning already back in 2003 that we would see culture as something that's first and foremost personal a reflection of your personal journey in life how does that connect with how orsk tries to facilitate teams i think very very well which is one of the reasons why i was so in love with your model and your material because i could marry the two so easily we teach that you know when two or more people come together we consciously and intentionally create the relationship that we want so we create a third entity um the ici teaches that there's my culture there's your culture but we want to be conscious about the third cultural space that we want to create so that we don't marginalize anybody so that every every voice is included and becomes part of the system or the team so the thinking is very similar we want to create we say using our language we want to be in right relationship with each other and be conscious and intentional about how we design that which means looking at the individuals hearing each voice and then creating a team space where everybody's included and maybe creating a culture and a set of behavioral norms that we can all align to given that we're all different yeah yeah now i love hearing you talk about it but it sounds awfully complex and challenging can can people actually you know how long does it take to to really be good at this stuff what does it take is it complex perhaps it is i i find it fascinating and so and i think anybody who's worked and lived in a multicultural environment it quickly identifies to it and i think like anything that's new it needs to be brought so awareness has to be created but if you're working with a team over a period of time because that's when you can start to change behavior you help the team really clarify what are the behavioral agreements that will take us to the to creating the culture that we want and then you know when every time i meet with the team and i check in on their behavioral agreements that's when we kind of course correct and make small shifts and eventually over time they can look back and see the change that they've made as a team to becoming who they want to be so it's complex sure but also not you know if we are conscious and intentional and you know being in right relationship doesn't mean being perfect it means how do we stay open stay curious not judge you know those kind of things now we've we've talked about teams like organizational teams but it also strikes me that what what you're involved with is could be applied to any relationship in life could you talk to that absolutely absolutely i talk about teams because that's my niche 100 what you're saying is i can align to totally the first relationship is with myself right so i am the first system and so whether it's the ici material or the auris material we can integrate it within ourselves we can create more understanding about who we are and and who we want to be given that that's who we are then we look at how do i be in relationship with the people around me my family members my friends on the sports field because we're always in relationship and we're very often in a multicultural environment so it it gets played in in all places where we are connected or in relationship whether it's the work environment or the sports field or our social environment you know or our personal families yeah so it brings up a thought in me that culture is almost always created then even if it's between two people how do you see that that we're always we're in a relationship but we're always creating something in that relationship so could you say that cultures created even between just two people that's that's correct we believe that systems or relationships are generative so we're constantly growing and evolving this is true for personal relationships as well as in the in the business environment and because we as individuals are constantly evolving and growing the culture and the relationship keeps changing which is why it's so important to stay in conversation and and continue to talk about how do we want to be together in in the relationship or in the team given that we are growing and changes are happening right now if you look at the year that's behind us a very destructive year for many of us how do you see this in the world that we live in today why would you say your work is maybe especially significant in the world that we live in we've just entered into 2021 the situation hasn't miraculously changed if anything relationships have been more become more challenging how is your work making a difference that's a great question thank you michael for that question because for me it really is important to be making a difference i think last year we partnered with our teams very often at no cost to them because teams and systems needed a space where they were held they needed to be able to vent to talk about their fears and also then to start to look at how do i instead of reacting to the change how do i create from it but when we're stuck in that fear dynamic it's hard to be creative so there was a space for that this year the work and the conversations that we're having with our clients are more around teams being burnt out being really at the end of their tether and yet nobody can give up because we have to keep going so to help leaders being conversation to continue to create environments where there's empathy and heart and compassion so moving away from very much the doing to the being i think in the last two years leaders have really had to look at stretching themselves in different ways of leadership to include more yeah empathy and heart in their leadership so it's it's easy to say that but especially when the job has to get done yeah and where you know the goals have to be met the financial targets have to be achieved it's almost it almost sounds counterintuitive if you compassion heart empathy what would you say to leaders who say well that that sounds very uh wooly or fluffy yeah what would you say to them well there's lots of data that can relate to the fact that positivity equals productivity so positivity is really how safe i feel how much trust i feel is in the relationship or in the team how able am i to speak openly and not be criticized for speaking up how can you know all of these things how free am i to to share how vulnerable i'm feeling or how afraid i'm feeling and if a leader can create an environment like that the team will pull together and be more productive so there's a direct business case to staying in the woolly or soft stuff that you mentioned because we're human after all and that it will produce results now you've had the opportunity to use intercultural intelligence just from the conversation we had it's great to hear you explain how horsk and ici just are almost handing love they fit well together what would you say to other people who are in who are working with teams who might be coaches or maybe even asked other horse practitioners what would you say to them if they if they're saying hmm interesting conversation uh why should i consider this what what's in it for me or what what could i expect in the road ahead if i if i start to explore ici well in the globalized world that we live in where there are so many you know placements outside countries of origin people are traveling more uh even during covert when we're not traveling we are more connected than ever on zoom and virtually it's we're virtually traveling so i think monocultural environments are becoming rarer and rarer i truly believe that becoming interculturally smart and savvy is a 21st century leadership skill and you don't have to be a leader in order to to exercise this it's it's vital i look at the gift of young people growing up in a in a world such as this where they learned very quickly to interact with different cultures and learn about change and i think that they have an advantage out in the world because they were able to fluidly navigate in different cultures and be successful in those different worlds so for me if as leaders or coaches we want to be successful in a multicultural environment these in the intercultural skills are vital now 2021 is still ahead of us we're one month in and you mentioned earlier on positivity equals productivity um how do you see this year what are you what are your hopes dreams what do you see in the year ahead of us i want to stay positive i think um i think the thing to manage is is exhaustion and burnout that's the for me the challenge we all crossed an edge last year it was frightening and i think so we're a little bit smarter than we were last year and i i truly believe with every change with every change comes opportunity and there it's opened the door to so many different opportunities for learning you know the virtual world now puts us in different countries in different in different people's lounges and kitchens and it's for me beautiful because all of a sudden we can start to relate to each other as people not just as workers so for me there's lots of opportunity i feel optimistic even though i'm not blind to the challenges i feel optimistic that we can reach each other in different ways and connect together in different ways with a lot more compassion a lot more understanding of the diversity that lives between us fascinating thank you so much for this conversation i've really enjoyed it i i love your perspective on teams on relationships in general and the way you've you've taken the the environments that you would thrust into as a young person and taken all that learning into turning it into a career and a company that you've had the privilege of founding so thank you for making the time and we will also make sure that information on how to connect with you will be posted at the end of this podcast and thank you for joining thank you marco for inviting me to the conversation it's a topic that i'm passionate about i always thoroughly enjoy you know having this conversation with you so thank you it's been fun thank you so much for joining us for this episode of the cultural agility podcast if you enjoyed today's episode share it with someone the best way to help us out is by leaving a review on your favorite podcast app or channel or forward and recommend this podcast to people around you as always if any of the topics we discussed today intrigue you you will find links to articles discussing them in greater depth in the podcast notes if you would like to learn more about intercultural intelligence and how you can become more culturally agile you can find more information and hundreds of articles at knowledgeworks.com a special thanks to jason carter for composing the music on this podcast and to the whole knowledgeworks team for making this podcast a success thank you nita rodriquez ara aziz bakiyon rajitha raj and thanks to vip and george for audio production rosalind raj for scheduling and caleb strauss for marketing and helping produce this podcast