Globalisation : Self Development - A Life's Journey

Over his career Dr. Horton has functioned as both an internal and external OD consultant to a broad spectrum of businesses, in both domestic US as well as international contexts. Currently he is a member of BPs global OD function with specific accountability to support global exploration and production projects. Though not currently involved in any consulting efforts outside of his BP position, he maintains The Metanoia Group, Inc., as a repository for his writings and on-going research.

Dr. Horton has undertaken a systematic study of what ‘leadership skills, behaviors and attitudes’ would be critical for success on the part of incumbents in such positions, as well as identifying targeted development experiences that would lead those assuming leadership positions to increase their success levels. Much of that work was based on Dr. Horton’s experience in the identification, design, and delivery of non-traditional cross-cultural leadership development programs for organizations placing individuals in overseas assignments.

Dr. Horton has applied those learning’s and experiences in an academic environment as well as having taught for 5 years in a small college in Taichung, Taiwan, and 10 years as an adjunct professor in several US universities. 

Currently Dr. Horton is developing extensive models for the development of leaders regardless of their cultural, social, linguistic or regional background. He believes that when individuals from multi-cultural backgrounds are brought together in systematic, targeted learning experiences related to effective leadership skills, behaviors and attitudes significantly more effective relationships can be built across global organizations.

Dr. Horton can be contacted at: hortonphd@aol.com


Thoughts – Development – “How Should I Involve Myself!”

How should I involve myself in the development of others, of systems, of organizations, within society ? Questions that face us whether we are involved in domestic or international, individual, group or organizational development efforts. The thoughts that follow, based on my personal experience and lots of reading/observation/conversations are offered as catalysts for your own development and ultimate effectiveness.      

Sustainable Development Efforts

For the sake of simplicity let me begin my sharing some thoughts based on my personal experience and tons of reading/research.

The most critical element to any success in enabling others to develop is building, nurturing and sustaining meaningful relationships.

Credibility will make or break your involvement in the lives of others. One cannot assume that credibility is built in a different situation using the same methods one might use in their native context.

It has been my experience, when I was involved in an Asian context, that meaningful relationships were the key to having any opportunities to influence a development situation. Relationship characteristics are quite different in fact. One cannot assume that the way a relationship is built in one context will be just as effective in another. Contrast Asian relationships with European relationships – expected behaviors etc. – and one can easily see how mis-understandings, ineffective relationships might result if certain assumptions are made and acted upon.

One cannot assume that development methods and strategies ( social, economic, educational, business et. al. ) make sense in all situations, are transferable to any situation.

In reality development methods and strategies for any given situation must be built on a blank sheet of paper. That does not mean that one ignores valuable learnings, tools, processes that may have be used elsewhere. It only means that the final determiner of whether or not to apply something from a different situation to a new situation is to pass it through a very specific set of filters to determine if it will in fact prove meaningful.

If pressed to identify what might be included in such a filter I would identify the following ( understanding that the following is not a complete list ) :-

  • Cultural understanding, sensitivity
  • Social sensitivity ( dynamics of social institutions, society )
  • Linguistic transferability ( definitions are close enough to be understood – do we mean same thing by what we say ? )
  • Ethnic sensitivity ( population dynamics )
  • Historical understanding ( internal and to rest of world )
  • Political awareness ( system )
  • Economic awareness ( dynamics, relationships etc. )
  • Religious, Spiritual awareness
  • Development history ( track record of historical development
    issues. )

Language and linguistic ability sends powerful messages to a situation. It has been my experience that a lack of willingness to immerse oneself linguistically in a situation lessens the potential for success. Learning language, and using it in all aspects of one’s involvement in any situation, has the potential to create a level of credibility and relationship that is not possible without making this effort.

I found in my time in Asia, by learning the language, to the extent that I could, using it in my daily relationships with people, using it in the classroom, the people of my location opened their arms to me. It is not so much an issue of what level of capability one gains, it is the effort itself, the willingness to invest time, sweat and tears, in some cases, that conveys a powerful message to people. The effort opens doors of opportunity and understanding that are impossible without some facility in the language, and an awareness on the part of others that you are committed to them, their country and the effort through your linguistic commitment.

One’s behaviors send the loudest message heard by others when you are involved in any kind of development work. You may say one thing, but if the message you convey through your behaviors is not in sync with those words, your message will be confusing at a minimum, and more than likely lost to those you are hoping hear that message.

A western mindset includes action, getting after things, producing results in a short time frame. Much of the rest of the world has a very different perspective on that, on time, on what is important, on methodologies to achieve something worthwhile. Several things are critical to one’s success in any developmental undertaking. 

  • Take time to function purely in an observational mode. In other words, watch, listen, learn, from what you see others doing. Don’t assume that your behaviors, the way you are comfortable with being in a situation will be understood, and will be accepted by others.
  • Listen to what others say and do. Become a sponge, reflect on what you see and hear. In a practical sense sit down every evening and identify what you observed.
  • Identify one or more individuals who become your filters, your coaches, to help you understand what happened, what was said, the underlying assumptions, practices, rationale for the reality that you are experiencing.
  • Be willing to change your behaviors, not in a manipulative sense, but realistically adopting behaviors that will support you, your work, your message.
  • Don’t compromise your values in the process. If you are perceived to be willing to do anything, without any foundational beliefs, values, integrity, that message will come across loud and strong and you will short-circuit any hearing that you might desire on the part of others.

You will fail if you attempt to impose anything on a situation. In reality your most successful efforts will be those in which you are perceived as functioning as a partner.

Given our western mindset, hard charging, taking the mountain, being in charge will require that you put yourself in a position of being accountable to those that you are attempting to work with. There is no room for being the ‘boss’ in a successful developmental effort. To use a time worn phrase, “…you are there to serve the needs of others….” The others are the only ones who understand their needs, the things that exist in their hearts and minds. You will never understand those the way they do. They have lived and are living that reality. Listen to what they say that reality is. Submit yourself to that reality and to them.

In many cases this is extremely difficult for those of us who come from the West. Yet if successful in the opportunities related to everything contained in this document a higher potential to enable you to achieve something worthwhile may exist.

Absolute transparency has to be the watchword of anything that you do. Hidden agendas will be fatal to any possible influence you might have. Don’t think that you can hide those agendas. You will be found out, quickly rather than slowly. And once those you are working with believe you might have an agenda that is not theirs, you will lose any possible chance for meaningful impact. 

Gain as clear an understanding as possible, as quickly as possible, of any constraints, challenges and corresponding opportunities that exist in the situation you find yourself in. An unrealistic perspective on reality, will be difficult to overcome. It will hinder your ability to actually practice the suggestions that are contained in this document.

Opportunities exist. Start small. Don’t attempt to help in solving everything today. Work step by step – systematically – forget about immediate results. Plant ideas and processes that over time will have a significant impact.

Work within the system. To attempt to create alternatives systems, shadow organizations will only lead to frustration, misunderstandings, short circuited efforts, and possibly removal of yourself from the situation. Understand that the system may frustrate you, but remember as well, that it is the system that those who are being developed must exist in, their system, their reality, their environment long after you are gone. They own the system, the reality, you don’t. This does not mean that the system is the best, or the correct one for any situation, but it is reality, it is what exists. This perspective ties directly to the constraints, challenges and opportunities that you discover exist.

Perception of your willingness and ability to adapt to those realities will provide you with a hearing. In developmental efforts your first task is to gain a hearing. Creating a listening to what you are saying, doing, comes first. Actions follow. Not your actions, but the actions of those who have listened to you.

The system will eat you alive if you ignore it. Individuals in the system will ignore you if you stand outside the system. But again, this does not mean you compromise the values, integrity that underpin what you do.

You face a dilemma related to this. Attempting to change and adapt a system, while working within the system. This can be very frustrating. But be a realist. What are you attempting to do ? Accept the fact that you are not going to change anything completely, you will not bring about even partial change quickly. Development is a long-term, focused, systematic undertaking. Any other perspective will lead you to question why you are doing what you are doing.

Possess a realistic passion about what you are about in these efforts. Believe that you want to make a difference, believe that you can make a difference. But at the same time have a pragmatic perspective on what is actually possible.

Developmental efforts exist to enable others to “…name and create their own world…” ( P. Freire ) Involvement in development is not an effort in creating or recreating your world. It is providing others with what they need to create a new reality for themselves. Any other perspective on developmental efforts, undertakings, leads to ultimate failure. Only when those involved in development create their new reality will it have sustainability. You are only one tool in the effort. When you walk away from your involvement you should be able to say that you were able to contribute to something that has staying power. Development for developments sake will not work. It must impact a situation in a way that does bring about sustainable change. Change for change sake will not work. Development must be internalized, first in the lives of individuals, then in society, organizations, groups of individuals. That is a life times work.

Two types of development have the potential for becoming reality.

First, that which is obvious. By involving yourself effectively you have the opportunity to influence the development of individuals, groups, organizations, entire systems/realities.

And second, one that we often do not think about, is our own personal development. Reflect for a moment on how you will be different as a result of being involved in any situation. If you do not change, you have missed something. Involvement in any developmental effort, using the hints and suggestions contained in this document, cannot help but change you. You will be a different person for having been involved.

If you enter into any developmental situation, experience, closed to changing yourself, refuse to be involved. You are not above changing yourself. You have potential to become even more than you currently are. Be willing to leave nothing outside the sphere of change, development, in your own life. Openness to looking at yourself, working on yourself, even as you are involved in the lives and reality of others, cannot help but make you a more complete individual.

Thus endeth these musings. Experience has taught me that the suggestions do work. Failures have taught me that when I ignore the thoughts contained in this document, that it was no one else’s fault but my own. That is one of the more important lessons I have learned over time. Removal of self comes first. Finding self is a result.

Enjoy your life’s journey. It is well worth the effort.


© Copyright, April 2004, The Metanoia Group, Inc.

blog comments powered by Disqus