I have been reading and re-reading a host of intercultural books and articles over the last month. My favourite is a new book that I read a few weeks ago; Managing Across Cultures: The 7 Keys to Doing Business with a Global Mindset. It isn’t a book that provides specific insight into each culture/country as Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries does. It is an academic read which focuses on a self assessment across 7 elements and how they will affect you as you work with teammates from other cultures.

The 7 elements are quite straight forward and provide excellent insight through a questionnaire that creates your personal cultural profile. Or you can opt to join their website (which I am trialing) and automate the process.

Below is my personal cultural style compared to the ‘Canadian’ norm; suggesting that I am more ‘group’ orientated than the average Canadian who is highly individualistic, more interpersonal in relationships than the average Canadian, more fluid with time where the average Canadian really focuses on controlling time and a little less formal (I do have a very liberal ‘open door policy’ at work and when called “Mr. Weening” will respond “please call me Michael, “Mr.” is my father”).


The below is my profile versus the Canadian and the UK cultural profile. I wish I would have had this at my fingertips 5 years ago as I contemplated entering the UK culture. I would have thought deeply about how my personal cultural style of communication, hierarchy,  control (Whether you view your destiny as on your control or one that is controlled by external factors – call it a measure of self-determinism) and formality differed from the UK norms.


A fantastic book that I would suggest to anyone who is contemplating working abroad and a tool that I will leverage as I work with cross cultural teams. Their website is even more fascinating as it has in-depth analysis of each country/culture, country ‘pocket guides’ and provides the ability for you to profile out your team (and different country members) so that each person can understand how they differ from their teammates.

Highly recommended.


I just finished reading an article on micromanagement that was a true or false test. In each case you answer true or false to the questions with the results below:

  1. My employees excel at their jobs, because they have been doing the same work for years.
  2. I share my experience with employees, so they learn from what I have done.
  3. I help employees with assignments, offering my ideas and input.
  4. I standardize workplace procedures for optimum results.
  5. I know what everyone is working on, because my employees complete detailed status reports.
  6. I have a hand in everything my department does.
  7. I check in with the staff often when I am out of the office.
  8. I am the most knowledgeable and hardest working person on the team.
  9. I’m a control freak, but that’s why my department runs so smoothly.

I answered ‘True’ to 2, 3 and 4, the rest false. The articles interpretation of the results:

Results: Answering True to any of the above statements could indicate that you are micromanaging your staff. Don’t think that’s you? In surveys, four of five workers have said they have worked for a micromanager. To be sure that you truly aren’t guilty, take a closer look at your answers.

They then interpreted each result, an example being if you answered ‘True’ to number 8:

8. You should know more about some things than your staff, but they should be the experts in other areas. Hire people with complementary skills and your team will have much greater capability. And if you are working harder than anyone on your team, look at your to-do list and identify tasks you should be delegating.

On this question, I always remember a statement that a leader once made to me; “If you are the smartest person in the room all the time, you are in trouble. Always look to hire the smartest people you can, and never shy away from hiring those who are smarter than you”.

On the questions I answered ‘True’ to:

2. Of course you should share your expertise, but employees also need to learn for themselves. Instead of spouting advice before they ask, offer them guidance and support. (Agree – the best way to learn is by making mistakes and taking smart risks. But you also learn from managers who are willing to share their mistakes (not just their victories))

3. Nothing kills initiative on an assignment like having the boss do the work for you. Set the parameters and then listen to employees’ ideas first. Don’t offer your opinions unless they truly add substantial value to the project. (Agree – good managers are coaches)

4. Standardization is great, unless it kills initiative and innovation. Allow your staff to try new approaches. (Agree – I think of it this way. Take regional innovation (those new approaches) and apply it globally as often as possible to ensure everyone gets the benefit of the innovation)

A good test, especially for that new manager recently promoted from individual contributor.



I was listening to the Harvard Business Ideacast Know your Power Persona on the way to the office on Monday which centers on the impact that our family life has on who we are today (good and bad). The podcast featured Maggie Craddock who wrote the book Power Genes: Understanding Your Power Persona–and How to Wield It at Work. From their website:

We’ve all joked about it: the domineering father figure as top manager, the boisterous elder brother type as heir apparent, the caring mother hen on the executive team. But that leaves the rest of us in the workplace as a gaggle of siblings battling for recognition, resources, and rewards from our "parents". Next thing you know, we’re doing exactly what we did when we were kids to get what we need at work–trying too hard to please, acting out, brownnosing. Yet these responses aren’t productive in the workplace. In "Power Genes", executive coach Maggie Craddock reveals how to kick those old habits and use your power more effectively to advance your career. Craddock identifies four "power types"–Pleaser, Charmer, Commander, Inspirer–and explains how to diagnose your type. Next she walks you through a process for avoiding your type’s signature destructive reflexes and replacing them with new behaviours. She also shows how to interact productively with other people–peers, bosses, employees–of each type. "Power Genes" helps you jettison unproductive habits and take charge of your workplace relationships.

It is a good 12 minute listen, and made me reflect on a realization that I had a few years ago – my childhood still impacts who I am in ways that I have just come to understand. I came to that understanding through the book Overcoming Your Strengths’. I referred to it here in a different context. Lois Frankel made a very interesting point on tough childhoods midway through the book (pg. 132):

Ironically, those who are unable to be humble are often raised as children in households so withholding of praise and affirmation that the child must call attention to himself or herself or otherwise fade into oblivion. The behaviours that we learned to survive difficult childhoods later become the cause of derailment.

I was pretty fortunate, I lived in a good home, was never concerned about whether or not I was loved, was imbued with a strong Dutch work ethic and ‘never give up’ attitude and surrounded by a very rigid – black and white view of the world (which I railed against). But they made me who I am – good and bad.

Once again, I was reminded just how important the parent’s role is. The impact is profound.


When I was younger with a new family, we tried out something new … a boat. We didn’t go for a small boat, we went for medium sized 28’ boat that you could sleep on. A nice Sea Ray with a significant price tag. In the end, we did it for a couple years and then made a family decision that we enjoyed golf and a nice pool more. But it was a great experience.

What has that got to do with drive and motivation? I was on the phone with my sales manager on the Monday after picking up the boat and he was very excited for me. I found it odd, as he was never the ‘interested in your personal life’ kind of manager. I voiced my question:

Me: “Why are you so excited about our buying a boat?”

Him: “I love to see you with a big new boat, hopefully you will upsize the house too. The bigger your mortgage, the harder you will work and the more you will sell”

Motivation, drive, that thing that pushes us to the next level is impossible to teach, very different for each person and often very personal. Good managers understand that and help it flourish. They also understand how to avoid hiring those without it.



I have been cataloguing a few old folders over the past month and came across the photo below. It is the photo of a whiteboard from one of the largest deal negotiations that I have been involved in over the last decade (9 figures). The negotiation team that we were working ‘with’ on the other side consisted of some of the most professional negotiators I have ever had the pleasure to deal with. During the 6 week negotiation, I learned a lot from them thanks to a very observant teammate.

Negotiation Board Whited Out

That board was a 3 hour internal dialogue to prepare me for a 30 minute phone conversation. We role played out the conversation, areas where the conversation would go, objections that would come up, rat holes to be avoided and where to stand firm.

In the end, both parties were happy with the outcome, but it was tough and the experience reaffirmed my motto of practice, practice, practice. Whether doing a presentation, meeting a client for the first time, running a negotiation, practice and preparation pay.

I need to Photoshop this photo and clean it up a bit, it deserves a good frame.



As mentioned in a previous post, I have been uncharacteristically slow to adopt eBooks. Uncharacteristic in that I love to be on the bleeding edge of technology, always on the new OS beta’s, running different devices, trying out a new piece of technology. But for some reason I did not jump on the eBook bandwagon.

This holiday that changed. After reading a friend’s post on reading, I realized that I have a few additional options that I had not considered. Therefore, under the balmy Belizean sun, cold Coke in hand and hammock swaying in the gentle breeze, I embarked on the journey of learning how to read electronically.

As previously mentioned, one of my biggest hurdles for transitioning to an eBook is that when I read business literature, I like to read it like I did in University (or perhaps better than I did in University), making notes, highlighting quotes. I often find myself going back to old business books and re-reading parts, or grabbing quotes to share in presentations. What I found surprised me. Below are my highlights and how I have implemented eReading.

Document choice

The amount of choice is truly dizzying. All of the different document and book formats (PDF, .LIT, ePub …) can be overwhelming. After reading widely, I settled on two formats for all documents:

  • PDF:  Inevitable. Analyst reports, Harvard Business Review articles, reports that I read daily, are all published in PDF.
  • ePUB:  It would seem that ePub is the most universally supported. There are several other proprietary options out there, but I am going to do everything I can to avoid them.

Hardware choice

On the reader front, the decision is really between a dedicated reader and a tablet. I am running on an Android Tablet (Galaxy) as it has a wide range of software choices. I was worried that it would not perform as well in the daylight as a Kindle, but the ability to shift viewing modes makes it almost as effective. As a Kindle aside, it was amazing to see how many people had a Kindle at the pool. At one point, I counted 4 Kindles, my tablet, an iPad, 1 person reading a paper book and a guy with a bright pink 17” laptop resting on his stomach (smile).


All about the software

Rooting through which software to use is the real chore. In the end I settled on the following:

  • Adobe Reader X:  Reading and highlighting PDFs remains an issue. I cannot find a good PDF reader for Android but there is hope. Adobe just released their ‘X’ version which includes commenting and highlighting for the desktop. A huge step forward. I will be forced to read PDFs on the laptop for a while longer. Hopefully the Android version with highlighting and comments is not far behind. I left a note on their forum!
  • Moon Reader:   Tried a host of readers and liked this one the best. Great annotation, highlight and bookmarking software. The best feature is the ability to export through a range of vehicles, email, Evernote and others. Very flexible choice.
  • Kindle and Kobo:   I have accounts with both, although I like the Kindle Android application better. The only downside is that it isn’t as flexible with sharing highlights and notes as Moon Reader. As an aside, Kobo has 1.8 million books available for free.
  • Calibre:  And last but not least, I installed Calibre on my media server to manage the eBook library that is simply bound to grow.
  • Evernote:  I have always been a big Microsoft OneNote fan. But as my OS and device patterns fragment, I have found the Microsoft only – desktop centric product less and less usable. I have started the migration to Evernote (again thanks to the previously mentioned note) and could not be happier. All of my notes sync’d across each of my devices. The only feature missing is the ability to skip specific notebooks on a desktop instance (i.e. Leave personal notebooks off of my work computer).
  • Dropbox:  Makes it simple to share PDFs and other documents across all platforms – Windows, Apple, Android. You name it, they support it.

Not quite perfect, but almost. Only one piece left, magazines.



One other pointer to strategy+business, where I came across one of the best articles I have read in the last year. The article How Aha! Really Happens discusses the notion of innovation:

How do companies innovate? Look at Google Inc., widely admired as a great innovator. The company offers toys in the lobby, beanbag chairs, game rooms, and time for employees to work on ideas of their own. Isn’t that what other companies should do too?

The answer is no. These Google methods are derived from an inaccurate theory of creativity: that people need to turn off their analytical left brain and turn on their creative right brain to produce new ideas. In fact, the Google founders did not come up with the original idea for Google itself by using these methods. Instead, they applied a very different method, one that follows a more plausible theory of how the brain produces creative ideas. Unfortunately, Google is just one of countless companies whose methods for innovation are woefully out of date.

The author, William Duggan, challenges the conventional notion that brainstorming (as described in most books on strategy) is an effective path to innovation. In the brainstorming model, there is a clearly accepted premise that you must turn of your logical/analytical/rational left brain and turn on creative/artistic/intuitive right brain to break out, to come up with that Eureka! idea (Right/Left brain via Roger Sperry). In my own personal experience, this premise also provides an excuse for participants in the process. For example, a participant states,‘I am more left brain .. it is best left to the creative in the group and I can re-engage once we have decided on a path by adding depth and structure”. The left/right brain segmentation becomes an excuse.

Instead of accepting this practice, Duggan draws upon the studies of Barry Gordon to describe how innovation happens:

Neuroscientist Barry Gordon gives an overview of this newer model of the brain in his book Intelligent Memory: Improve the Memory That Makes You Smarter (Viking, 2003), with coauthor Lisa Berger. He portrays the everyday intelligent memory of human beings as the greatest inventory system on earth. From the moment you’re born, your brain takes things in, breaks them down, and puts them on shelves. As new information comes in, your brain does a search to see how it might fit with other information already stored in your memory. When it finds a match, the previous memories come off the shelf and combine with the new, and the result is a thought. The breaking down and storing process is analysis. The searching and combining is intuition. Both are necessary for all kinds of thought. Even a mathematical calculation requires the intuition part, to recall the symbols and formula previously learned in order to apply them to the problem.

When the pieces come off the shelf smoothly, in familiar patterns — such as simple addition you’ve done many times — you don’t even realize it has happened. When lots of different pieces combine into a new pattern, you feel it as a flash of insight, the famous “aha!” moment. But the mental mechanism works the same way in both cases. Whether it’s working on a familiar formula or a new idea, intelligent memory combines analysis and intuition as learning and recall.

Just as the intelligent memory concept has replaced the old two-sided brain theory in neuroscience, companies need to replace brainstorming with methods that reflect more accurately how creative ideas actually form in the mind. And they don’t need to start from scratch. Once we understand how intelligent memory works, we find several existing techniques that fit. After all, human beings have innovated for eons. If we study how innovation actually happens, we can learn how to do it more reliably.

For me, the Aha! in the article was this paragraph:

The presence of mind Clausewitz describes is akin to the calm state that precedes a flash of insight, which neuroscientists can now measure. Their subjects include Buddhist monks and other masters of meditation. That explains why you get your best ideas not in formal brainstorming meetings but in the shower, or driving, or falling asleep at night — when your brain is relaxed and wandering, instead of focused on a particular problem. Incidentally, brain scans of these masters also show this presence of mind and reveal it as a mental discipline you can learn.

If I reflect on personal innovation, it is absolutely those times where the mind is open, wandering, free to explore when the best idea’s come out. Just this week I was working through a BODMAS challenge and became frustrated at my inability to find an answer. I flipped on the latest episode of V and half way through .. the answer just popped out. I can remember many instances where I was walking down the golf course or doing something leisurely when I have had an idea, yanked out my phone and sent myself a GTD like email with something I need to action when I am back in the office.

With the theory articulated, Duggan goes on to deconstruct how Google was formed. It was not through ‘brainstorming’ but through strategic intuition and a series of building block steps that lead to the breakthrough. The conclusion of the article highlights the different approach that GE uses to harness strategic intuition, a process which matches how the brain works, allows ‘the mind to wander from piece to piece’ as a team building exercise. A process that I am keen to learn more about (and contrast to the 6 Thinking Hats and others).

As an aside, you gain access to this article simply by registering with their site. Very thought provoking read.