So Proud of Our Customer!

This is a great case study explaining how MS India is using the Cultural detective to build intercultural competence in engineers supporting enterprise customers. Melanie and I had the honor in participating in the first CD certification in Bangalore many years ago and are proud to be associated with CD ever since. CD has now become the foundation for all of C2C’s intercultural training program and intercultural coaching assignments. Thank you Dianne and well done Heather!

Cultural Detective Blog

MSFT_logo_rgb_C-Gray_DMicrosoft India has been a Cultural Detective customer for six years, and both Heather Robinson and I are so very proud of the abilities their staff members have developed to in turn coach and develop their support engineers’ customer service skills. The entire project has been amazing—truly a privilege to be a part of it! I’d like to take this opportunity to share a bit of their “Cultural Effective” story with you.

Microsoft uses Cultural Detective to coach their large enterprise customer support representatives. In the first six months using the tool, they told us they attributed a 30% increase in customer satisfaction to Cultural Detective! Now, five years later, they know Cultural Detective inside and out, and use the CD Method when interacting with both international and domestic customers.

In March of this year Heather again traveled to Bangalore to work with the trainers, to help improve their abilities to coach using Cultural…

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People are not mind readers: the most important conversation most people never have

mind readers

We’re all different, and that’s a good thing. The problem is that most of us negate this diversity when working with each other. We focus on what makes us similar so that we can build rapport but, conveniently, work around exploring what makes us different. In my opinion, this avoidance is the mother of most future misunderstandings and conflict.

If we are different, treating others like I would like to be treated doesn’t work (see my early blog post on the limitations of the Golden Rule), I need to understand how you think and behave in order to be able to create an environment where both of us can be comfortably with each other.

Even though most people are aware of this, they still think that with time, they will learn how to work with each other…and that’s true. But who’s got the luxury of time? More and more organizations are now matrixed which means that people work with each other in short term project teams. In these cases, how does time help?

There is another way. A better way. A more difficult way. It’s called setting expectations and the only way to do that is to sit down and talk. Ideally, this discussion needs to happen at the beginning of a working relationship, but it is never too late.

Asking each other what we expect from each other so that we can work together effectively. If people who work together share with each other explicitly what they expect from each other at a behavioral level, it will be a lot easier to meet each other’s expectations. The great thing is that once we’ve asked the other about his/her expectations we can then present our own.

This discussion needs to happen as early as possible in the relationship as it limits the chance for perceived bad faith in future conflicts. Whatever the reason I share with you about why I did not appreciate how you did something, often it be seen as an expectation shared to serve my interest in this given situation. On the opposite, if I share with you, at the beginning of our relationship, how I think information should flow between both if us, it is easier for you to meet that expectation and if conflict arises I can refer back to this original discussion without being perceived as acting out of bad faith.

Then why do people not engage in this conversation more often? It could be for multiple reasons: they don’t want to know what others expect from them as they expect others to adapt to them, they are afraid of hearing expectations that they don’t really want / cannot meet, they are not really aware of what they expect from others or they could just be lacking the language to articulate their own expectations. Whatever the reason(s), and some of them are absolutely legitimate, none of us are mind readers, and most of us don’t have the luxury of time. It’s a lot easier to meet someone else’s expectations once I know what they are and that will reduce the potential for unintentional disrespect and ensuing conflict.

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

Assertiveness continued – Saying NO

on-saying-no_1xImage courtesy of:

A lot of people apprehend saying no to other people’s request when they are already busy with their own important work, especially in highly relationship oriented cultures. The main reason quoted is that saying no is disrespectful to the other person or can show a lack of willingness to collaborate.

No can indeed sound rude if you actually have the time and expertise to help the person that comes to you for support. However, if you really cannot help the other, saying no is about setting boundaries, and it doesn’t have to be rude.

Here’s a simple approach too saying that I have been using for many years and that people in the different cultures I have worked with, all agreed can work without being offensive.

1. Listen

2. Appreciate them for thinking that you can help

3. Say no.

4. Explain why

5. Offer alternatives

Once again, it all starts with how well you listen, or not. If the other person feels – and remember that they are the best judge as to whether you have listened to them or not – you haven’t listened, the rest becomes futile

Here’s an example. One of my peers comes to my desk to ask me whether I could take the time to discuss with them some execution issue he/she is facing with project XYZ.

Me: ” If I understand properly, you would like me to spend some time with you to discuss this execution issue that you have with project XYZ, is that right?”

Peer: ” That’d be great.”

Me: Thanks for thinking that I could help you with that, I really appreciate it and I;d love to help out. However, I am tied up with a presentation I need to finish for client ABC before lunch, do you think we could sit down together sometime this afternoon?”

Now you tell me, reader, is this rude? Does this show an unwillingness to help?

I have asked the same question to groups in France, the USA, Germany, India, China, Singapore and Australia and they all told me that this was neither rude nor a sign of unwillingness to cooperate. So what is the problem? In my opinion, a lack of assertiveness because a lot of us think that if we put our needs at the same level as other people’s needs we will negatively impact our relationship with them.

Now, of course, this 5 step approach may not work when you need to refuse your boss as he/she usually knows what you are working on. The best way to deal with superiors that have unrealistic expectations concerning your capacity to deliver is to ask them to help you prioritize your different assignments.

Supervisor: ” Guillaume, could you please get me extract the performance data of project ABC and send it to me.”

Me: “Sure, would be glad to help. Before I attend to it, I’d just like to understand how much of a priority this task is compared to the other 3 tasks that you have asked me to work on. Could you help me prioritize them, please.”

In my experience, this works with a huge majority of people. Most managers, know that there is only so many hours in a day and that if they want you to work well – remember their performance appraisal depends not only on the quantity of work you do but on the quality of the work you do – there’s only so much you can do in a day. I stress the fact that MOST managers are aware of this. Indeed there will always be a minority of managers that think that slave driving works better. According to my observation, this is a dying breed and they are rarely the most successful managers.

To conclude, I am not advocating for people to say no to each other all the time. I am just saying that saying no does not have to be a traumatic event in my relationship to others, if we have a good reason to refuse them.


Post by Guillaume Gevrey – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

The WHY of Executive Coaching

Why is it that some people are more successful than others? Is it because of their connections, or is that they are at the right place at the right time? Well, research shows that it is not about who they are; it really is about what they do.

Coaching was once viewed as an intervention aimed to better the performance of under performers; however, now it is seen as a support to top performers to sharpen their skills in meeting the ever growing business needs.

The goal for all Executive Coaching is on what the coachee needs to do, and do consistently, to achieve success. Please note – it is Executive Coaching that makes you successful, and not the Executive Coach. It is the process of coaching that will lead the coachee to deliver their results, in which the following 5 points of what the Coach brings in, are worth noting:

1.The Coach will help crystalize your goals, by helping reframe your otherwise vague goals, and perhaps even help you go for that extra stretch.

2.The Coach will hold you accountable, ensuring that you do not procrastinate.

3.The Coach will help set up agreed milestones and ensure an objective measurement of your progress.

4.The Coach will challenge you, motivate you, inspire you, based on what you may need at the different times in your journey, and help you get over negative or self-limiting thinking.

5.The Coach is in a great position to provide unbiased feedback, as he/she is not directly connected to your success or failure.

Executive Coaching does not attempt to change who you are, it only attempts to change what you do and how you do it.

It is therefore not surprising that Executive Coaching is now a growing practice to help successful performers to fast track their career progression. Further, more and more organizations are seeing the huge benefit this offers to organizations in their growth plans, and succession planning. The belief is a one-on-one coaching from a third party can provide a focus that other interventions cannot provide.

Post by Sanjay Dugar – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

3 Skills to Better Handle Difficult Conversations

difficult conversations

Difficult conversations are usually made even more difficult because of a lack of specific information/data and because they often end in a blame game. At the end of the day, no one has the legitimacy, even at work, to judge me as a person. However, managers are legitimate in assessing my performance.

1. Inquire. Ask how they see the situation, using as open ended questions as possible. This will provide you with relevant contextual information about how the other person sees whatever situation you need to discuss. Moreover, it shows that you are care enough about them to be willing to include them in solving the issue.

2. Acknowledge. Remember that the only judge as to whether you listened to someone is that someone, not you.Acknowledging shows you care about the other person point of view, makes sure you have understood it properly AND reassures them that they were listened to. There is a perfect example about the importance of acknowledging. We have all attended important one on one discussions before where the other person is typing away as we speak. What impression did this make on you? Did you feel listened to? The thing is, the other person might have listened and understood you, but because of the lack of acknowledgment, you probably left the room unsure as to whether you message really went through.

3. Advocate. Now comes the time to actually say what you have to say. In my opinion, this is the one most people struggle. People are entitle to express their opinions but they must be careful not to pass these opinions as absolute fact. Saying that “we must do this” or “You have to do that” closes the door on any differing opinion from  yours, and literally shuts the conversation down. This is what makes these conversations even difficult. One person’s or manager’s  opinion is based on his/her observation and facts that they have access to. Nobody is omniscient so nobody has an absolute answer, especially when working in highly complex environments like today’s corporate world. A more successful way to advocate is actually to acknowledge this. “In my opinion, ….” or “Based on my observation/the facts I gathered…”

The timing of advocacy is crucial. the underlying principle behind these 3 skills is that others will, usually, be more willing to listen to you once you have listened to them first. However, and that’s where mindfulness is important, if you realize that people are not ready to accept your opinion yet, go back to Inquiry to open them up and to identify potential other issues that might be impacting your conversation.

The content for this post is adapted from Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen’s books Handling Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most


Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant C2C

Business Effectiveness: Time is On My Side


How have often you tried to accomplish many things (often at once) and, in fact, accomplished very little? There seemed to be nothing but obstructions in your path. The tic-toc of the clock was like a constant companion.

Just another day, right?

You could claim that this stems from having a lot on your plate. In fact, you could claim a lot of things. Busyness, in itself, is absolutely great. That is, busyness is great as long as you achieve your aims by the end of the week.

“I’ll have time.” We say to ourselves. We all do. But, it is how we manage that time that makes the difference.

So, is it a matter of setting time, organization or proper planning? Or could it be focus, prioritizing or follow through?

It is, simply, all of the above. It is important to realize that they all affect each other. Sometimes, admittedly, you have to hit the reset button. Reboot.

So, first thing is to accept that you are more than likely the source of your problem. Yes. You.

You then have to decide what is most important to you. Which file? Which project? Which manager? What time do I set my alarm? If you’re not sure, you need to find out because at the end of the day, you are the only one responsible for your outcomes, how people perceive you and your career.

The question then becomes – “How?”

Firstly, you’ll need to do a forensic analysis of your time. Estimate how much time you usually spend doing your usual tasks? What is the current effective outcome of that time spent? The more detailed, the better.

Secondly, you have to assess the tasks before you. You need to ask yourself a series of questions”

  1. Of these tasks, which are of great importance and need to be done quickly?
  2. Of these tasks, which are of great importance, but I have some time to accomplish them?
  3. Of these tasks, which are not of significant importance, but need to be accomplished quickly?
  4. Of these tasks, which are not so important and have vague timelines?

Keep in mind, the 80/20 Rule which states that 20 percent of your effective effort tends to speak for 80 percent of your effective output.

There are times when we all get caught like a deer in the headlights. We’ll continue to have drag time. We’ll continue to need the occasional “Reboot.” So what? Just keep reexamining your priorities and reasserting your ownership of your time.


Post by Rick Zimmerman – C2C Senior Facilitator

Leadership Development: The Rise Of The Leadership Incubators

Most organizations have accepted that when it comes to developing a leadership pipeline conventional classroom trainings might not be enough. As a result, they are now looking at creating leadership incubators to impart the required leadership and management skills to their HiPos and to help them assess their ability in applying learning and leading others. Leadership incubators, also popularly known as greenhouse programs, are based on action learning. They are organized with the idea of identifying HiPos, training them for future leadership roles, assessing the time frame in which different HiPos will be ready to take leadership responsibilities.

Different organizations have different ways of conducting these programs but there are some commonalities: Incubators are usually conducted over a few months and are a structured mix of learning modules, on-the-job coaching and action learning through group working on real life business problem statements. Usually,these modules are prepared in respect with the 70-20-10 guideline.

Incubators are designed on the basis of a company’s requirements. For example, a Fortune 100 IT company identifies project management, creative problem solving, decision-making and effective communication as critical behaviors for their future technical leads. The incubator starts off with a kick-off program led by senior technical leaders to set the context for participants. Different activities are designed to understand the expectations of all 160 participants in the incubator and integrate these into the design of the intervention.

Participants are then divided in eight batches, with each batch divided in four Action Learning Groups (ALGs). Each ALG is assigned a real life problem statement to work on during the incubator. Based on inputs from the business, HR and the participants, three learning modules are designed. Each batch goes through these modules with a month between each learning event. After four months, ALGs pitch their solutions to their senior technical leaders.

The objective of the final pitch is to assess the participant’s ability to apply essentials of project management, creative problem solving and decision-making and their ability to “sell” their solutions to others. The company then decides whether the solutions presented are implementable or not.

The advantage for organizations is clear: The selections to these programs help them identify highest potential candidates in their organization, get senior leaders to act as mentors to these high-potentials and get a clear idea about where the leadership strength of the organization lies and who is ready to take on leadership responsibility. Another not-so-direct benefit is getting cross-functional group of managers to work towards different business problems and providing solutions to them.

I believe that the introduction of action learning is probably the most important change to have happened in the leadership development training space in the last few years.

One important trend that is being seen in this regard is that some organizations are engaging their senior leaders to impart these trainings. In such cases, service providers design the learning content and process for them and engage senior leaders in the role of coach or mentors. Many organizations have also started investing in training senior management in coaching skills so that they can effectively support participants of leadership incubator programs.

Leadership incubators have a clear advantage over classic classroom trainings, which do not allow organizations to assess leadership preparedness of their HiPos. These are an effective way to assess how participants apply organizational learning to provide solutions to real business problems and to lead others. For participants, it is a more engaging way to develop critical skills that they will need as they grow in the organization but also a sign that their leadership trusts them to solve mission-critical problems.


Post by Guillaume Gevrey – C2C Director & Principal Consultant