Are multicultural communication skills necessary?

July 29th, 2009

Absolutely! I was recently quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s addressing this topic from an employer’s perspective re: job candidates. There is no doubt that communication skills are not only #1 in the job search process but also in career success in general – I’ve seen countless examples where superior communication (unfortunately with or without solid content backing it up) leads to success. You could have 2 PhD’s but if you cannot communicate effectively re: your ideas, you will likely end up in a dead end career.

The article discusses outsourcing in relation to multicultural awareness and communication skills. Re: this topic, my perspective is that the recession will have a reversing trend on outsourcing (which was one of the points in the article in Not everyone believes that companies’ global aspirations will spur demand for employees with multicultural skills. Some point to the growth in U.S. firms outsourcing business overseas. Others, including some prominent U.S. economists, see “reverse globalization” taking place. “In my experience, during times of economic turmoil and high unemployment, countries become more protectionist,” says business consultant Lisa Anderson, LMA Consulting Group, Claremont, Calif. “There has already been a reversal trend of globalization since the recession started.”

Even so, businesses will eventually consider returning part or all of their operations overseas, Anderson says, and it will be important to have employees in place “who understand the multicultural implications to ensure a comprehensive strategy and successful transition.”

In summary, communication is #1 – and multicultural awareness is one of the key components for overall success. To read the entire article, click here.

Do we need to multitask?

July 24th, 2009

Yes and no.

Websters defines multitasking as “the concurrent operation by one central processing unit of two or more processes”. So, if you interpret it as literally doing two things at once, I say “no”. I find that it is impossible to put the appropriate focus on 2 tasks at the same moment in time. On the other hand, if you interpret it as working on multiple projects/ tasks in the same general timeframe but working on 1 task at the same moment in time, I say “yes”. Although I am extremely poor at being able to focus on 2 items simultaneously, I am expert at working successfully on multiple projects during the same timeframe.

In today’s business environment, it is critical to be able to make progress on multiple fronts simultaneously; therefore, multitasking in this perspective is a key foundation block. This is a learned skill, so don’t give up. It is quite achievable to organize and prioritize such that you can successfully work on multiple projects.

Should you manage project risk?

July 20th, 2009

Amazingly, doing nothing is an acceptable response in some cases….

Recently, I was quoted in Projects@Work in an article titled, “A Guy Named Murphy” about whether you should manage risk in a project: “I’ve led project teams, it is common to have unexpected events and challenges arise. But once you have established an effective project team and defined a critical path, stop risk mitigation activity, as it will be a waste of time and resources.”

Of course, we do not leave the reader hanging on “what to do”. In my experience in working with many project teams across different industries, sized companies, etc, it all boils down to the following: “First, it starts with the people. Immediately bring the project team together to understand the situation in order to brainstorm and develop plans. Then, I advise reviewing the project schedule. “Will the unexpected circumstances affect the critical path?” If not, rework a solution and remain steadfastly focused on the critical path. If yes, utilize the team to brainstorm and develop alternative critical path options.” Finally I believe it is critical to ensure that the communication channels are in place so that everyone knows what’s going on, “Ensure the critical changes to the project plans are communicated with clear next steps, project milestones and with accountabilities assigned. The only time it is too soon to communicate to the organization or relevant sponsors is before the project team is in the loop.”

Read the entire article here

Does customer service matter?

July 19th, 2009

Consider my recent story…..

I borrowed my friend’s car because my car was being serviced while I was on an out-of-town trip, and, although it was ready when I landed at Ontario, my flights were delayed such that I arrived 15 minutes after the Shell station (where my car was being serviced) closed. They Shell station night person stayed to wait for me; however, since it would take me awhile to get off the plane and get there, I told him I’d get it the next morning. Since I didn’t have a ride but was able to borrow a car the next morning, I was running a few errands when the engine light went off on my borrowed car and an annoying beep started (and would NOT stop, even after I pulled over). So, called my Shell station contact, George, and asked him about it. George asked, “How is the hot or cold needle?” I realized, “It is all the way at the top of HOT”. George said, “You cannot drive the car here. Where are you? I’m on my way.” 5 or 10 minutes later, George and a mechanic arrived to check the car over. Not only did they bring water to get the car drivable but they brought my car and George’s car (in case my friend’s car wasn’t drivable and they had to get it towed). So, I drove home with my car, and they took my friend’s car to find out why it ran out of water. Now, that is customer service……who do you think I’ll call with my next car issue?

Is there a good time for advice?

July 11th, 2009

“You weren’t ready to absorb it at the time”……

Many years ago, I sat in MBA classes and listened to a plethora of topics. I did well in my classes. Then, 10 years later, I discovered some old textbooks in the garage and was amazed that I had a book on how to save taxes (I assume from my financial planning class). I remember nothing about that topic (let alone the book) from that class. At the time, I realized it would be beneficial to purchase a house – and so I did that.

Fast forward 10 years, and I was concerned about how to keep more of my income as opposed to working everyday with no progress, and so I started studying several topics related to financial planning including saving taxes. I ended up buying the newer version of the book I had stashed in my garage at Borders and thought it was amazing, new information, which I started implementing immediately. And I thought I had a good memory! (at the time)

About that time, I talked with a friend, and she had a profound statement, “you weren’t ready to absorb it at the time”. After thinking about it, I realized that I had a focus (buy a house), and so I was saturated with immediately useful information.

Why bring this up today? I just returned from my HR mentor’s wedding, and while I was in town, I talked with my great friend Sandi, and she gave me some advice that I’d heard before (several times actually) but it was profound since I was currently ready to think about that particular topic. And, interestingly, she is the same person who had the profound statement, “you weren’t ready to absorb it at the time”.

So, what is your focus? It might worth noting.