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Are You a Balanced Leader? Developing Cultural Agility | Part One in our 4 Part Series by Jaime Ehrh

Leaders today need to master a number of skills to be effective. 4 Themes stand out:

  • Cultural Agility

  • Political Savvy

  • Leadership Presence

  • Technical Abilities

People who are strong in Cultural Agility have the ability to influence change while exhibiting the desired values and philosophy of the company. They do so by building trust, by maintaining a strong customer-focus, employing integrity and ethics, and ultimately managing vision and purpose.

How much does trust really matter?

Without trust, it doesn’t matter how smart you are or how capable you are, getting things done becomes nearly impossible. Thinking through both intent and impact are vitally important to personal and corporate leadership. Seemingly innocent behaviors can lead to a lack of trust – disorganization, inconsistencies, speaking out of school, inability to say “no,” embellishing the truth, not separating facts from interpretations… Lack of trust can be the biggest career-stopper and should be addressed head-on.

Who do you define as the “customer?”

In a free-market system, the customer is king. Those who forget or arrogantly ignore that fact will experience career-stall. The bottom line is that those who please the customer best win every time – regardless of whether their customer is internal (another department, for example) or external (the end customer). Being humble enough to listen and respond accordingly is one of the most important success factors to leadership.

What guides your decisions?

People who model ethics and integrity are able to see clearer, especially in otherwise murky circumstances, because they let values dictate their decisions. People are quick to follow them because they can rely on them to be consistent and fair. Good leadership is nearly impossible without integrity and ethics. When the head, heart, and hands are coordinated, decisions become easier to make and leadership becomes natural.

Can you inspire vision?

Managing vision and purpose is not simply a competency for managers of people. Leadership isn’t just about having people report to you – it is about inspiring others and creating action. Bringing people together for a common cause is a key to success. The most inspiring leaders aren’t always leaders because they were dictators or because they held a title. They were leaders because they were able to inspire movement in others.

Four ways to increase your Cultural Ability

Self-reflection is key. Understanding what is most important to you, what your personal priorities are and how those play out in your actions is critical. Approaching this topic with honesty is the only way to impact cultural agility.

what is most important to you? Values and ethics are instilled as a part of the nurture process. Understanding where you have come from and what orthodoxies, biases, and beliefs you possess about yourself and others is a first step in understanding how you fit inside the culture.

  • Get clear on where you have come from, where you are, and where you are going: You are a character in a big story within the company. Not only do you have to understand your individual past, present, and future, but you also have to understand the company’s past present and future and identify where you fit in. Ever individual needs to understand how they connect to that story and how they are going to shape the plot! It’s up to you – are you a major character or minor character?

  • Get walking: words are great; actions are better. “If you are going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk!” People pay attention to what you DO more than what you SAY. Ask for feedback from a trusted partner to tell you when your words don’t line up with your actions. Use 360 degree feedback (feedback from all directions) to help you gauge the perception of others. Make sure you aren’t making promises you can’t keep.

  • Get focused on the right things: Customer first. Period. Practice the art of listening to your customer. If another department is your internal customer, send out or ask to send out internal customer surveys or sit down to make sure your customer is happy and that you are meeting service level expectations. Have open two-way dialog to ensure both parties are understand reasonable expectations. Re-contract when appropriate. Balance all decisions by asking the following 3 questions: 1) What is right for my customer? 2) What is right for the company? 3) What is right for my department | my employees | me?

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