Cultural diversity savvy is critical for business results in an increasingly global workforce. The author has developed groundbreaking new frameworks and a practical guide to increase effectiveness through multi-cultural competence. In his endorsement, Marshall Goldsmith, Thinkers50 Award Winner for Most Influential Leader Thinker in the World says:"Diversity - it's been a buzzword in corporate and political circles for about a decade. But most books on leadership and management simply don't address its importance to an organization's ability to survive and thrive. Enter Mukherjee-Biswas' Unleash the Power of Diversity. After reading her thought provoking book, few executives will be able to ignore the relevance of diversity to their company's growth and success."The Five Judgments analyze the very real cost of stereotyping in the workplace based upon:
- Reputational Currency
- Physical Impact
- Auditory Cues
- Distinguishing Markers
- Work Product
A Diversity Foray provides a practical global toolkit of Do’s: *Ask * Adapt * Accept * Appreciate; and Don’ts, with real life scenarios from multiple continents.
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UNLEASH THE POWER OF DIVERSITY
Multi Cultural Competence for Business Results
By DEBJANI MUKHERJEE BISWAS
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Debjani Mukherjee Biswas
All rights reserved.
The journey of a thousand miles ...
My fingers are trembling ever so slightly.
The date is October 17, 2012.
Today is the day I start the first book in this series: Unleash the Power of Diversity: Multi Cultural Competence for Business Results." Later on, we will examine practical features one routinely outlines in a book: the content of each section, new frameworks and conceptual challenges, business imperatives, and a call to action.
But for this moment, I want you to experience my heart beating a little bit faster.
To see the room around me, a Starbucks like so many others.
People typing, tutors with voices raised ever so slightly as they try to explain the difference between one type of differential equation or another.
The friendly man at the counter who says he doesn't remember my name or my order, but recognizes that "wonderful smile".
In a frenetic, stressful and deadline driven corporate environment, there is such a laser sharp focus on numbers and results that the human element is often forgotten.
Worse, we err on the side of compliance and conduct our annual diversity conference, appoint a diversity director or two, and feel competent at "diversity and inclusion."
The fact of the matter is that these measures, while positive, do not guarantee an engaged diverse workforce. And, on the premise that an engaged workforce is a more productive workforce, this book addresses the bottom line.
In order for true diversity learning to occur, however, the reader, regardless of whether she is the CEO of a multibillion-dollar multinational corporation or an individual contributor, must be willing to read with both the head and the heart. Therefore: read the stories first before going to the fact sheet that tells you how many Buddhists there are in the world or the map that highlights where the three billion Christians are located geographically. You will learn more that way. All adult learning and engagement theory validates that assumption.
So, shall we take a Diversity Foray together?
Author's note: I will define—and redefine—the word foray many times throughout this book. For now, it's a journey, an exploration, and also the framework that centers this book. The purpose of this framework is to offer a simple yet practical toolkit to make the complex, messy, often dangerous subject of diversity easier to explore.
Setting our life compass
Why do we exist?
If you don't know where you are going, you can read a thousand books with topics and techniques to help you improve your life, and it will not make much of a difference in the end.
I don't mean to talk you out of reading this book on diversity, but truthful I must be!
So before we start talking about diversity, culture, and all the other aspects that make us different, let's center ourselves.
What is your mission in life?
Do you have five or six words that serve as your "north star" and guide your life?
A wise man I met recently—a master in meditation and immensely learned—said that his is Peace on earth. An attendee at a recent global conference showed me his card; it said simply Clarity wins.
My north star is Learning, teaching, helping with graceful flawed authenticity.
Each of those words represents something very critical.
- If it moves others forward, sharing what I have learned matters to me; this mutual process also enables continuous learning from others—thus, learning, teaching, helping.
- Graceful is about dealing with life's challenges with equanimity.
- Flawed is because our human failings, along with our strengths, make us who we are. We must therefore accept the negative traits that inevitably accompany our strengths.
- Authenticity is because I have worn masks, relentlessly, for many years of my life, particularly after moving from an Asian to a North American work environment. Many of the norms I grew up with seemed unacceptable compared to the new norms. We all wear masks; I just want mine to be transparent and rarely used.
Setting the context
Having a mission statement ensures that one has an internal compass for one's actions. It is what gives us direction through life. Answering the question—Where does this diversity book fit in with your mission?—will create a frame of reference as you read. Having more than one reason to read the book would be a bonus. In order to answer this question, you must first have a mission.
If you feel that you already have a clear, compelling mission, please move to page 12 and skip the create a mission activity on the next page.
First examine your mission and then see if the exploration of diversity is part of your direction in life. For example, the person whose mission is Clarity first may add to this clarity by learning about different peoples. Peace on Earth as a mission is aided by understanding people from other cultures.
* If you already have a strong mission, skip page 11 and directly fill out your mission on page 12 (Mission Statement). If not, complete your mission on page 11 first (or at least develop a draft mission) and continue.
Quotes to inspire your thinking (these are not mission statements, just catalytic ideas):
* "We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion."—Max de Pree
* "Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary."—Cecil Beaton
* "We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don't."—Frank Clark
* "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."—Leonardo Da Vinci
* "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."—Dr. Seuss
* "I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet."—Mahatma Gandhi
* "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."—Eleanor Roosevelt
* "If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity."—John F Kennedy
* "We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity."—Desmond Tutu
* "To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven."—Johannes A. Gaertner
* "We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color."—Maya Angelou
Developing a Mission Statement:
If you don't already have a mission and would like to develop one, follow the steps listed below.
a. What is my mission? Write important words and phrases here.
Select less than ten words that will guide you in the future.
Sample Mission Statements:
Learning, teaching, helping with graceful flawed authenticity.
Peace on earth.
b. Your mission (it may be necessary to revisit this over time).
Does this mission statement serve as your compass?
Can you test future actions based on it?
Is learning about diversity congruent with your mission? (The word diversity doesn't have to be in your mission statement, just aligned with your direction.)
If you answered yes, you are ready to start the journey/Diversity Foray with us.
Author's note: There are several great techniques and ways to complete one's Mission Statement. Some of them involve two-day retreats in Sonoma or the Loire Valley with yoga and massages and spiritual music. All of these techniques for arriving at a mission can be highly effective; I have personally used some of these options to refine my mission. In the absence of a formal visioning experience, drafting a mission statement is a valuable first step in this journey.
My reasons for reading this book are:
Select as many of the choices below that apply, and add your own reasons.
I want to increase the morale of my diverse workforce.
Diversity and inclusion are very important to me professionally and personally.
I live in a country where I look and feel different. It would help me to understand how to integrate into the mainstream without losing my identity.
I want to know more about cultures of the world in order to increase my interpersonal effectiveness.
I manage a cross cultural team in this country.
I conduct business regularly with people from other geographic locations.
I will soon be working in/with _____________ country.
My son-in-law/best friend/boss (insert word here) is from another culture and I really want to improve my understanding of—and relationship with—him or her.
Culture is the way you behave when you think no one's looking ...
What is 'Culture'?
Culture definitions differ in the context of business and anthropological literature. Both disciplines, however, reference culture as being the norms, values, and beliefs of a group of people, typically tied together by a common ethnicity, race, or religion. My definition of culture, based on observations and experience, is that culture is the way you behave when you think no one's looking.
We could speak about a culture based on country, general region, or religion such as the "Muslim culture" (the context of which would be religion: as in the role of Islamic women in society), the "Middle East" (here referring to a region), or "Saudi Arabia" (a country within the Middle East), which happens to be predominantly Muslim (following the religion of Islam).
It is critical to understand which culture we are referencing, because not all countries within the Middle Eastern Islamic culture have the same norms with respect to women's rights, in the example referenced. A woman from Iran may have both Islamic as well as Persian beliefs, which result in a different set of role expectations.
Stereotypes are defined as a set of beliefs, both positive and negative, about a group.
For example, a popularly held belief is that a male from China will be good at math, and—by extension—also book smart and intelligent. That is a positive stereotype.
Stereotyping often occurs in clusters; therefore, this same man may also be associated with negative stereotypes such as "introverted, no sense of humor, etc."
I want to make sure that I am very clear here. This is not my opinion of people from China or Iran; am just defining culture and stereotypes. Without belaboring the point, please understand that these examples are used merely to illustrate the concepts.
There is a tendency toward defensiveness that takes away from learning when we approach the subject of stereotyping.
Imagine you have an ugly little baby. You may personally be a bit disappointed at its little red face with a huge nose; as parents may even joke with your spouse about it. How would you feel, however, if someone else calls your baby ugly? Cultural diversity work often feels (in the gut and heart) like someone is calling your baby ugly.
Recognize it. This is all part of the journey of self-discovery.
Beliefs are "unconscious DVDs" (or tapes, depending on one's age!) that keep playing in the mind, like soft music.
Our norms and beliefs lie at the core of our culture. These beliefs can be positive or negative, limiting or liberating.
In addition to culture, there are other factors. Life experiences, socioeconomic background, and gender messaging also have a strong impact on belief systems. We act out our beliefs on a daily basis.
For example, when a mother tells her third grade son: "Wait till your dad gets home for help with your math homework," she is exhibiting her belief that third grade math is too difficult for her. Over time, her son will probably also develop this belief. His belief will be that women are unlikely to succeed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers, but he may be unable to pinpoint the source of this unconscious typecasting. Limiting belief systems leads to stereotyping, which translates from the home to the workplace. Now let's bring it back to the business implications.
Author's note: I find it very distracting to read his/her and he/she in books. Therefore, for easier readability, I reference her personal brand and his hidden self in the book to vary pronoun gender. Upon first editing the manuscript, it was surprising to note that I had cited significantly more he examples than she. Though I took care of the anomaly, it was eye-opening to uncover this personal hidden bias.
Why do we care about cultural stereotyping in the workplace?
The most critical reason is that we make poor selection, recruitment, promotion, and layoff decisions, which, over time, result in significant productivity losses and opportunity costs.
When negative stereotyping occurs, a lot of energy is wasted in defusing and handling the situation.
The person being stereotyped typically shuts down, either literally in terms of work output, or verbally.
The person doing the stereotyping often feels poorly treated as well and defensively forms a clique. This then quickly turns into an us versus them situation.
To summarize: stereotyping leads to ineffective, subjective, and costly decisions; additionally, productive energy has to be diverted from the business task at hand in order to defuse destructive interpersonal conflicts.
What is my brand? What are my biases, stereotypes and limiting beliefs?
On the following two pages, fill out an honest self-assessment of your personal brand, presence, and cultural biases. Please note this will be very difficult to fill out, particularly the part about your hidden biases.
Author's note: For legal reasons it is inadvisable to leave self-assessments (particularly stereotypes, etc.) lying around, especially in a work environment as there are obvious legal repercussions related to this topic area. Please exercise common sense and good judgment in all aspects of reading and using this book.
The purpose of this exercise is to increase your self-awareness. This in turn, can translate to better business results through greater cross cultural effectiveness. Please be honest; only you will determine who views your responses.
Part One: Personality and Brand
What is my personal brand and presence?
I am more like a * Hammer * Brush (circle one choice only).
* I know this because ____________________________.
* Most people from my culture are * Hammers * Brushes
* Hammers are hard-hitting, blunt, honest, results-oriented and deadline-driven people
- Under stress, hammers hit the nail so hard the wall cracks.
* Brushes are pleasant, likeable, hate to hurt people's feelings
- Under stress, brushes smooth so much paint on the damaged wall that it cracks.
Excerpted from UNLEASH THE POWER OF DIVERSITY by DEBJANI MUKHERJEE BISWAS. Copyright © 2013 Debjani Mukherjee Biswas. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Section One Laying the Foundation....................
1. Introduction.................... 3
2. Mission.................... 7
3. Culture Defined.................... 15
4. Self-Assessment.................... 19
5. Emotional Intelligence.................... 23
6. Johari Window.................... 29
Section Two Introducing Original Frameworks....................
7. The Five Judgments: the cost of stereotyping in the workplace........... 43
8. Diversity Foray: a new model for cross cultural effectiveness........... 69
9. The Four A's: do Ask, Accept, Adapt, Appreciate.................... 73
10. Don't SPACE (Shun, Patronize, Assume, Crumble, Escalate) out........... 89
Section Three Examining the Five Judgments....................
11. Reputational Currency.................... 107
12. Physical Impact.................... 111
13. Auditory Cues.................... 117
14. Distinguishing Markers.................... 121
15. Work Product.................... 127
16. Synthesis of the Five Judgments: the Orchid Effect.................... 131
Section Four Cultural Norms: a Practical Global Toolkit....................
17. Unwritten Rules of Engagement.................... 143
18. Dress Code.................... 155
19. Communication Guidelines.................... 161
20. Feedback Skills.................... 171
21. Building Trust.................... 179
Section Five Conclusion....................
22. Call to Action.................... 187
Table A: World Religions by Percentage.................... 195
Table B: Religious Groupings of the World.................... 197
Table C: Spoken World Languages.................... 199
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Debjani’s views and experiences regarding cultural diversity are very insightful and perceptive. She uses The Five Judgments and the Diversity Foray Toolkit to show how one’s relation to others in the work place can have an influence on business outcome and growth. Her book is easy to read and understand, giving real life examples and alternative actions for various situations. Go a step further and her book is also a good foundational read for your personal life, no matter what your position in life is. Diversity is all around us before we are even old enough to work. Stereotyping doesn’t just happen in the workplace. There are many influences that make our behaviors and attitudes see each other as different, even among family members, friends, neighbors, clubs, schools, etc. The tools and life experiences mentioned in her book can help us understand our reactions to others, as she states: “… so that unconscious snap judgments evolve into more conscious and balanced decisions.” Her book ends with a Call to Action and an Action Planning Worksheet to help you start a journey, armed with new skills, for yourself and others. It’s a positive guide for understanding, appreciating and living in our world of multi-cultural diversity.
From my many years of experience in the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) field, I can tell you that more education about diversity in the workplace and self-education about our own biases is desperately needed. This book is an excellent educational resource to help fill this gap. It is also a very enjoyable and meaningful read! I highly recommend this book. ~ Lisa Krishnan MEd, LPC, Professional Coach
I find myself captivated by this lady's knowledge of cultures. This is a must read book for everyone but especially for Human Resource directors, managers and CEOs. The information Debjani Biswas provides us is invaluable. You can see her experiences in her writings. I plan to give this book to many of my personal friends. Thank you for opening my eyes.
Interesting book and work tool from a great lady. Thank you for sharing your experience.
A thought-provoking guide to handling the practical dynamics around dealing with organizational and interpersonal challenges that arise in a globally diverse workforce, from a cultural/ethnic/religious standpoint. My favorite of the author's constructs is the concept of the 'Orchid Effect.' Characteristics of people that are less familiar can be viewed as either 'orchid-like' - unique, valuable; or the opposite - strange, hard to understand and negative, with the individual dismissed or diminished in value. The orchid analogy is likely to gain attention - an apt symbol for the subject.
Unleash the Power of Diveristy: Multi Cultural Competence for Business Results is a wonderful resource that extends far beyond the daily grind of the corporate world, providing poignant insight on how to become a more culturally competent individual in all areas of life. I appreciate Ms. Biswas’s call to begin leveraging the power of diversity in lieu of merely recognizing that diversity exists.
Diversity is not only the “right thing to do”…..it helps individuals and businesses succeed and thrive. Unleash The Power of Diversity provides insight and useful models to help any professional, leader or company tap into the tremendous potential of differences. A great read for individual growth and organizational effectiveness.
Effective leveraging of diversity to improve outcomes: Debjani Mukherjee Biswas helps us move from simply valuing diversity in the workplace to leveraging diversity to improve business outcomes. Her Five Judgments Framework help us develop our multi-cultural competence so that diversity is no longer a checked box, but rather a significant value-add allowing for enriched collaboration, innovation, and success. A practical book for those in business, education, or anyone seeking to improve skills as a multiculturally aware change agent in this diverse world.
I very much enjoyed reading Unleash the Power of Diversity. Debjani has an engaging writing style and this brings her expertise on cultural diversity clearly and strongly across to readers. Valuable reading for managers and subordinates alike to help bring out the best from cultural diversity in the workforce.
I am so glad I took time to read Unleash the Power of Diversity by Debjani Biswas. I am definitely left with a deeper awareness of the challenges to all of us to improve our multi-cultural competence. The author does a superb job of simplifying this complicated subject. Throughout the book, there is an overall theme that reminds the reader that being different can work for or against anyone and that there is a cost to organizations when employees use cultural stereotyping in decision making. What makes this book more effective in delivering this message is that the author provides a practical tool kit to help the reader self-discover biases and destructive behaviors. This book is an easy read with clearly stated practical ideas for helping the reader unleash the power of diversity in his/her personal and professional life.
human resource students and anyone currently working in that profession. I intend to purchase more copies to give as gifts to my HR associates.
Everyone seems to pay lip service to Diversity nowadays but do precious little to deal with it in a meaningful way. Whether one is a business leader, part of the majority, or a member of the minority, when faced with a Diversity Dilemma, one finds oneself woefully unprepared to deal with the situation. Along has come Debjani's little nugget that greatly helps us to deal with a myriad of Diversity situations thoughtfully and deftly. Apart from Business results, which I am certain one would achieve by following the teachings of this Handbook, one would certainly emerge as a more complete and caring human being. It is arguable which has greater priority in one's life! An amazingly easy read, Debjani has couched years of learning and erudition in a remarkably simple style. I finished the book in a sitting! The Five Judgements and the Four As (or forays as she calls them) are great mnemonics to remember the distilled wisdom long after the read.
The author divides the book into 4 main parts. The first one deals with basic terminology (culture, beliefs, stereotyping, emotional intelligence) and also addresses the reader’s self-awareness with several fill-in-the-blank passages questioning one's own mindset regarding the topic of diversity. In the second section the author elaborates on 'the five judgments', one of the two frameworks presented in this book, which helps understand cultural stereotyping in the workplace. The second framework described in this section ('the diversity foray') deals with several practical guiding principles which should be applied in order to increase effectiveness in diversity situations. The third section covers the examination of 'the five judgments', the discussion of real life examples and qualitative and quantitative costs associated with stereotyping behavior in the workplace. In the fourth and final section, the author provides hands-on advice (with reference to dress code, communication guidelines and feedback skills) on how to reduce the afore-mentioned costs based on unwritten norms in different business environments. Owing to her extended work experience in multicultural contexts, Debjani Biswas manages to deliver a highly authentic, practical and hands-on piece of business read stressing the importance of one's own awareness of diversity issues and providing useful tools to properly act in diverse work environments. Logically and methodically well-structured frameworks combined with several self-tests and a variety of real life examples merge into an easy-to-read yet thought-provoking, and self-challenging, diversity guidebook.