The core pursuit of our team is an ever-present desire to create multipliers in everything we do. To create multipliers, one needs to practice the key principles behind "The Multiplier Effect". In essence: 'What I inject into a situation or task from the beginning is going to determine how much I unleash the multiplier effect.” Creating multipliers is intentional, and the way we accomplish this on our team is through having a ‘systems thinking mindset’!
Systems thinking is inherently part of developing Cultural Agility using our Inter-Cultural Intelligence framework! For the last 20 years we have developed practical and deeply transformational solutions that look at the system of relationships, processes, policies, and organizational components from a systems thinking perspective. The diagrams on this page beautifully explain the mindset change that happens when you shift into systems thinking (thank you Helen Blankenburgh for creating them). They illustrate the way in which systems thinking is positioned in developing Cultural Agility, and the way we run our team at KnowledgeWorkx.
Systems thinking always keeps the big picture in mind and follows the impact of changes/decisions throughout the system. Learning to think like a systems thinker is essential if you want to be successful in developing your own cultural agility and the cultural agility of the people around you! This is reflected in our definition of organizational or team culture: “Organizational Culture is the sum total of the expression of the thinking, speaking and acting of its contributors.” This means that every relationship impacts the complexity of the relational web and the way that things are done within it!
As a result, we asked ourselves the question: “How do we build a team culture in KnowledgeWorkx where team members feel that their thinking, speaking and acting contributes to the culture that is being created?”
Over time we realized that the centrifugal force of our team culture is summarized in this: “Create the multiplier effect”.
What do we mean by that?
To give a simple example: we could all name files the way we want, or we could create a file naming system that all of us follow. Obviously the second option creates the multiplier effect.
Another example: I could send you an email asking for a certain document, or I could explain where this document fits in the bigger picture, why it is important and what the impact will be if I get it from you. The second option creates a stronger multiplier effect because you are more likely to see the value and feel part of the impact we have created together.
In a more complex example, we could think of the following scenario:
A client wants to develop their leaders but initially seems convinced that their leaders only need more technical skills. We could have taken their request at face value and said: “You ask, we deliver…”. But instead, we asked the client some more questions to better understand their context and see if there was a better way to assist them. In the end we discovered that while some technical skills would be helpful, the core challenge the leaders were facing was a lack of empathy and connectedness with their peers and staff. This was resulting in miscommunication, lower innovation, and a lack of collaboration among staff members. We were given the opportunity to start a pilot project that focused on developing skills that allowed leaders to foster peer collaboration and create healthy cultures on their teams. As a result, the initially identified need for technical development was resolved. By seeing the client’s dilemma from a systems thinking perspective, we were able to make the leaders ‘the heroes in their own story’! Equipping them with more fundamental skills created a much greater multiplier effect than if we had chosen to zoom in on the initial request for technical training.
In our business relationships, we try to scaffold our communication with these three elements:
Do we communicate in such a way that we trigger the desired response through our message (can we envision the response we are likely going to trigger)?
How can we integrate genuine appreciation/affirmation into the message?
How can we include knowledge or insight that might be beneficial for our ongoing relationship? (sometimes this includes gently educating on intercultural intricacies)
Working virtually required our team to focus even more on the discipline of "Creating the Multiplier Effect". As a fast-moving team, one of the things that bugged us most was the inability to have quick 1-minute conversations with a colleague in the office to align on small matters. At the end of last year, we had an exciting time working on the mindsets and attitudes that would lead to enhanced multipliers on our team. Here is the list of ‘multipliers of the multiplier effect’:
Be humble; place myself in your shoes
Be Conscious of and intentional about the intended impact
Value & Celebrate Diversity
Practice the “Three Colors of Worldview Litmus Test”: honor, empower and do right by people!
Let me try and flesh this out a bit.
The above components are more than just a list, they are interdependent! They are more like the six segments of a fruit, if one of the segments is missing the fruit is not complete!
Esteeming others involves the intentional act of looking for value. The original meaning of the Latin word is ‘looking for or assessing the value of something or somebody’.
Being able to articulate what value somebody brings to the team, and recognizing and celebrating it, is an intentional act and fun at the same time! You start to see beauty, potential and synergy. You start to see how ‘we’ fit together and how ‘we’ need each other!
On intercultural teams it is crucial to esteem through direct communication (show appreciation and give credit when the person is present) as well as in an indirect way (talk about somebody’s great ideas and the value they bring when they are not present so that they will later hear about how their colleague esteemed them in their absence). I have come to believe that indirect esteeming seems to be even more powerful than direct esteeming; it seems that indirect esteeming builds trust more quickly.
Generosity is another key ingredient in creating the multiplier effect. One of my friends who travels the world teaching about generosity, once said to me: “I have never met a grumpy, generous person!” I believe him! Generosity begets generosity! In only very few situations do people abuse generosity, in most cases it creates a multiplier effect!
We are generous in assisting one another (“Can you have a quick look at my email to this client, am I hitting the right tone, and have I provided enough scaffolding for smooth action to follow?”).
We are generous in how we engage with our clients (when we are working on a High Performing Intercultural Team Journey, the team leader always has direct access to the facilitator to raise any issues, brainstorm about alignment, and craft communication pieces).
We can only absorb two interns every year, but when we do, they become a fully integrated part of our team. We are generous in passing on as much knowledge as possible during the time they are with us and this includes a full certification on Inter-Cultural Intelligence. This has resulted in our small company providing a highly sought-after internship program. Those who join typically have a great experience that results in future multipliers of both skills and credentials as they move on in life! Two of the last five interns became full time KnowledgeWorkx employees after they completed their internship.
The last point I wanted to make has become even more important during the global pandemic. We are generous in giving the team time to talk about their challenges and circumstances so that their stories are respected and heard. We need to connect as humans and since we work from home most of the time, we need to allow time for home-life, contextual issues, concerns, challenges and worries to be voiced. It creates empathy on the team and allows us to adjust our pace, expectations and workflow when circumstances are pressing in.
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