The Invisible Culture of Situations

The Invisible Culture of Situations

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What if national culture isn’t the culprit for a misunderstanding? What if it isn’t gender or role or sexual preference or even age? What if you go to work one day and someone behaves oddly and in an attempt to be a global leader you give that person the benefit of the doubt, but his or her conduct just can’t be explained by culture?

What if someone is just having a bad day, or month, or year?

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy addresses the taboo subject of grief, crisis, tragedy and how to react to it in the workplace. It emerged after the sudden passing of her beloved husband, which led her down an unfamiliar road.  It’s “a primer for those who are bereaved, to help them recover and find happiness,” according to the recent Time Magazine cover story.

According to the article, the book gives advice to co-workers and friends on how to support someone facing such adversity. In one example, she proposes not avoiding them and replacing “How are you?” with “How are you today?” Such advice provides tools for another side of invisible culture – crisis, situations and the individual personal way that people chose to deal with adversity.

So the global leadership skills of building context and learning about multiple aspects of a particular situation are relevant. Much like global leadership, understanding the invisible aspects of a particular moment in time may require people to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, familiar with the unfamiliar, and anchored in ambiguity – highly desirable cross-cultural competencies as well.

While culture is traditionally deep and enduring, life is dynamic. The questions to ask may not be about what a culture or person is (personality being the culture of the individual), but more so where people find themselves at a particular moment in time. We are all evolving into our best selves and sometimes the invisible side of things is not just culture, but also situations.

While Option B just hit bookshelves, it is a reminder that truly global leaders are capable of using culture as a tool for decoding diverse behavior, but that culture isn’t a panacea. Developing tools for working with varied people and their varied moments in life, may be the next leadership tool that will allow teams to really thrive through all stages of life.

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