How to team build in a racially-culturally-and-personality-conflicted team – HR Pulse

Published on 15 Jan 2013 in HR PulseFor more articles relevant to the HR Community

Brian V Moore

In 2002, we were called in to Eskom by Bruce Moody, a high-level HR officer at Eskom. He said: “We have some heavy cultural clashes in a technical service centre in the Northern Province [now Limpopo].

Do you think that you can you do something to change the situation?”

“I am sure we can.” I responded. “What are the challenges?”

Bruce pondered for a while and said: “There are some heavy racial attitudes from all sides. In fact, I don’t really know why I am asking you! What are you, a white man and your Indian wife, going to do to make a difference? This is a bunch of tough hardliners. They have a long history of conflict and nothing that we have done has worked.

“Let’s get this clear: These are heavy workplace disputes!” said Bruce. “There is continuous backstabbing and gossiping. They complain that everything is wrong and nobody is to blame! They are totally unmotivated and their productivity is very low, which is resulting in poor customer service.”

Arthie, my wife and business partner, asked: “What do you think is causing this?”

Bruce gave Arthie a knowing look: “Well obviously there is very low morale among them because of the constant bickering. There is racism, prejudice, laziness, no ownership, no accountability and poor communication – and I mean REALLY poor!” He took a deep breath, shook his head, and continued: “This is a hugely conservative area where old attitudes die very hard. It could be the worst case that you could ever take on.”

I felt confident we could take on the challenge

We were almost overpowered by his statements, but I had no doubts. If I could work in areas, as a peacemaker, where bullets were flying, we could duck a few words.

“We can do this. When do you want us to start?” We were given two weeks to prepare.

We hit the ground running

We had to find ways to build relationships swiftly with groups of people who we had never before encountered in an area of the country where we had NO experience. We spent the time studying the history of the area, and the cultures and languages of the people in the team.

Arthie and I then put together the Celebrating Humanity Team Conflict Resolution programme for diverse teams. This fun, exciting, inclusive and enjoyable programme included celebrating diversity, diversity management, team building and a sustainable long-term team-managed code of conduct.

And so we set off to the town where the centre was located

As we drew closer to the centre, we passed a huge flock of vultures feeding on the carcass of a wild animal. I silently prayed that it was not an ominous sign!

When we arrived, Jan – the depot supervisor – greeted us. He then took us aside and pleaded: “You must just motivate them. They need it.” I looked at his stressed face and saw a man in pain. He was ready to explode. Another senior member of the team said: “If you guys mention racism, just once, we WILL walk out.”

We had to change the mood from the outset. We spent that night in the training room transforming the venue into one of celebration: Balloons, happy colours, hand-drawn posters and a very unique seating arrangement…

The next morning we found separated groups sitting together. They were grouped by colour, language and level. All in their own comfort zones. All spiritually, emotionally and physically apart. Some were obviously angry and others totally disinterested.

Then we began to help them to celebrate their humanity

Three days and 21 working hours later, the same people were sitting side by side at a family barbecue. Children played with children. Wives chatted to each other while the men cooked meat, spoke about cars, sport and laughed as they shared jokes.

They had experienced each other in a fun environment, shared wisdom, seen value in each other, worked as teams, cleared all of their past interpersonal baggage, committed to a code of positive behaviours and removing their negative actions from their lives.

15 months after the first intervention, Jan sent this feedback

“I had a group of 30 people from diverse cultures. They could not get on with each other:

There was continuous friction between the different race groups, and between people from the same race and cultural group. The people were negative and not satisfied with anything.

Complaints were the order of the day. This also placed our depot in a bad light with management.

We decided on Brian and Arthie’s training. The people were very negative about the programme initially.

As the course progressed, peoples’ attitudes changed from negative to positive.

Communication, respect and ownership improved from all sides by 100%. The respect between different race groups has been restored.

Some of the people who were negative have changed so much that they have been promoted to higher positions with greater responsibility.

The foundation of the entire course was so successful that the group is now going ahead with a leadership course.”

Now that was the change that we had been looking for!

via How to team build in a racially-culturally-and-personality-conflicted team – HR Pulse.

Diversity is a good thing – not something to be feared!

A story on the power that leaders, team members and their organisations gain, when they understand the true value of diversity in teams.

And we are ALL leaders!

Arthie and I had just kicked off the Celebrating Humanity programme, in 2001 – which covered Diversity training, Team conflict resolution and Transformational team building. We had been struggling with our basic team building aspects of diversity training. We simply had to move away from the chalk-and-talk, death-by-powerpoint methods of training.

A decision was taken to run our training, as a celebration of who we and our delegates were, and focused into team competitions – as a way to change the spirit of the people and the training environment.

But we were still struggling with the make-up of the teams. So many of our delegates, in the early days, were literally forced into the room. A great number were former combatants or had been isolated by propaganda – each one choosing to be “with their own people.” This limited the interaction and caused inter-team conflict.

As we worked at developing the team building methodologies – we had many realisations. A huge principal grew for us:- “In order to be true leaders, we have to accept that other people add to us.”

And we needed to ensure that our delegates experienced the fact that their unique skills, knowledge and wisdom must be shared and nurtured in order for them to be integral parts of of powerful and professional teams. In Zulu it is said “Inkosi yinkosi ngabantu” – a leader is only a leader by virtue of her/ or his people – the meaning was becoming clearer by the minute. People in their diversities make us who we are.

I have always understood that my sons and my wife bring unbelievable value and add to me. Now I knew that people who disagree with me, also add to me. People who are different, or who have different views and opinions, bring great value to me.

And perhaps they add to me far more than those who always concur with me. And 19th Century Poet Laureate, Lord Alfred Tennyson knew it, when he said, “I am a part of all that I have met.”

As our thoughts expanded, we realized that we also add to other people. That we too have value.

If only I had learned this as a child, as a teenager, or even 10 years ago. It would have stopped my “rightness” and my need to defend my opinions. I would no longer have had to “win arguments.” And as a consequence lose my friends and break relationships.

It was so simple. All people in their varied histories, religions, education, cultures, skills, experiences, pains and joys make us more human. And can, if we are open to their uniqueness, help us to build our lives, families, teams and organisations.

So diversity is a good thing. Not something to be feared but something to be sought out. Not something to be judged but something to learn from. Not something to be contradicted but something to be built upon!

We then realized that the more inclusive and diverse our teams are, the more we win! And, conversely, the more we follow the old proverb of “birds of a feather flock together”, the more we separate and stagnate. And the more we confirm our stereotypes and prejudices.

The birth of Celebrating Humanity Diversity Training Methodologies-

During our Celebrating Humanity©, our international transformational team-building and diversity sensitivity training programme, we needed to find a way to get people into diverse teams, without marginalising them.

Obviously to send people to their teams, as we perceived their skills, talents, genders and cultures to be, was manipulative. When people come to the programme they are often angry, in pain and very divided. And we have been told, on numerous occasions… “Mention race, or racism, just once and we will leave the room, and never come back.”

In our first 2 sessions, we tried placing the delegates’ manuals at the various tables, and asked the delegates to sit wherever they found their manuals.

We would guess by their names and surnames, where they “should” be. It was a time-wasting exercise and one that only partly had the effect that we wanted. People still felt as if they had been pre-judged. And it was true.

Once we had defined the teams, in this way, we would then get each person to introduce another, on a human level. Many of them knew little or nothing about their fellow team members. This was a good part of the exercise and there was good benefit. But the pre-selected teams did not truly gel.

Arthie and I took a step back and looked at the opening of the programme and we realized that the delegates had to select their own teams.

We know that people normally choose the people they are most like, or with whom they are most comfortable. If this were to be the case, they would not fully experience each other as human beings. Nor would they understand the value of diversity and the value of “different” people.

We then developed the team selection principle of “who adds to me.” In order for this to work, we honed the interview questions to be more in line with the programme outcomes, the competitions and the team points system.

Before the introductions, we advised the teams that they would be selecting their teams based upon competitions and we told them of the bases of the competitions.

In South Africa, this included eating habits of various groups, proverbs, cultural knowledge, language, traditions, religion, drawing skills, dance skills and hula-hooping skills. We also advise teams to get their gender split right, as there is much wisdom to be found in all people.

Internationally, we work with the artistic/ dance, hula-hoop, talents, experiences, local knowledge and the qualifications of the teams. For example, with the Bank of Zambia, one aspect of the team competitions, drew upon individuals’ knowledge of international financial markets.

In South Africa, once conflicted groups selected teams that went across, level, position,  ability, culture, age, gender, race, language and religion. And the team knowledge was incredible – thus their opportunities to learn were equally massive!

In Zambia the selections went across level, position, gender, age and experience.

Some feedback

Senior management delegates at Lake Kariba, said:- “Very well received, a unique delivery technique.”, ” Delivery standard – World Class.”, “The course has broken interpersonal barriers.”

One of our Ethekwini Municipality (Durban and surrounds) delegates had this to say… “Change goes deeper than a cross on an election ballot, or learning a “black” language, or being able to live wherever you choose, or even affirmative action… From President to petty thief, and city manager to general worker, we are all unique and yet all the same. We are all humankind – the South African way.”

Another delegate closes off his feedback, on his personal transformation, with… “We have a country rich in people who are unique in their variety. Our uniqueness is special. If we open our hearts to it we will all grow and become more special. Let us all embrace the uniqueness and utilize it to shine brighter for us all.”

Our change in Celebrating Humanity© team selection methodologies had multiple effects. Here are four…

Firstly, delegates now listen very carefully to the introductions. They begin to know each other better, from the earliest possible moment. A delegate from SA Container Depots… “Now I know my team members. For past 10 years I have walked right past them without greeting. Now I have friends who I know. I will greet them all in the future.”

Secondly, they chose their own team members, in a totally new and aware way. Because they add to each other, they almost always get the diversity right. When they do not, it shows up in their team’s lack of points. Delegate Luanne Schmidt, says.. “The experience has left me with a sense of joy that if each one of us in our wonderful “Rainbow nation” takes the time to really get to know and understand the traditions and cultures that make this such an exciting country to live in, we truly will become a nation to be envied.”

Thirdly, they began to experience the power of sharing wisdom and working together in diverse teams. This is extending outside of the training room. Another Ethekwini delegate had this to say… “I have accommodated all these people and other cultures in my heart, in a similar way. All of them are so important in my life. There is a lot that I can learn from them about my personality, their personalities as well as my country.”

And point number four, they begin to understand their own multi-faceted value and their marvellous uniquenesses! A once fearful, and now newly-trained, Celebrating Humanity facilitator in the Ethekwini Municipality Diversity Training programme… “Truly we are catalysts of change. We have the power, the ability, the training, the desire and the courage!”

They had taken the first step towards realizing that diversity and uniqueness in team members creates greater opportunities for learning, growth and success.

They also took the first steps towards becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Leading with each other, for each other – together.

And through them, we begin to lead and leave our legacy for the future!

Brian V Moore© 13/4/2005
“At the level of respect all people are equal”

There are many such simple yet innovating aspects to the numerous Celebrating Humanity© programmes. “The Celebrating Humanity© programme is not simply a “programme”, it is not just a “course”. It is a “cause.” – Celebrating Humanity Facilitator – Ethekwini Municipality.

And now something valuable at no cost to you!

Articles and Stories, PLUS information on the Celebrating Humanity© programmes, can be found on:- http://www.africa-dreams.com/

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.

Brian V Moore Website

Diversity Training in South Africa

Africa Dreams Website – Celebrating Humanity International

Celebrating Humanity Projects

Team Building in South Africa

Celebrating Humanity Blog

Celebrating Humanity on Facebook

Contact

Mobile: +27 (0)79 643 4457

Fax: +27 866 746 310

7 Steps to Resolving Team Conflict

The 7 Steps to Resolving Team Conflict – in the Celebrating Humanity© Way

From the book “Team Conflict Resolution Strategies – Fast and Effective ways to Remove and Reduce Stress in Teams”, by Brian V Moore.



Brian and Arthie Moore, of Celebrating Humanity International, have over 15 years experience in diversity management, transformational team building and team conflict resolution. 1000s of people have benefited and transformed through the Celebrating Humanity programme©, in South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and the USA.

1.   Step 1 – Know what you want to achieve, AND know where you and your team are, before you begin. “Begin with the end in mind” – Steven Covey. It is critical to know and record, what your challenges are at the outset of this amazing journey with your team/s. The team needs a joint vision of what they can achieve through unity, teamwork and harmony.

2.   Step 2 – Follow the 8 Principles of Team Conflict Resolution through the internationally proven Celebrating Humanity© methodology. Celebrating Humanity’s unique, transformational team building and conflict resolution techniques are founded in these 8 amazingly simple and stunningly effective principles.

         1. “At the level of respect, all people are equal.” – Brian V Moore – 2001.
         2. “No man is an island” (English Proverb.) “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (Nguni Proverb)
         3. We are perfect as we are.
         4. Life rewards action. Positive and negative.  
         5. It is simply impossible for any person to manage the behaviour of other people.
         6. People will manage their own behaviour, if they set the ground rules themselves.
         7. “People know and help those who speak up – not those who remain silent.” Oshiwambo proverb – Namibia.

3.   Step 3 – Build unified Teamwork across the entire team, company/ organisation. Apply a transformational team building process that will bring harmony, understanding, emotional and social maturity, communication skills, respect, ownership and accountability to your conflicted teams.

4.   Step 4 – Set the Peer-created, Peer-accepted and Peer-managed Team Code of Conduct. When your team makes these decisions, and all team members commit to follow an agreed and constituted process – you are well on your way to a conflict-free team, company/ organisation. This reduces stress on management and clients.

5.   Step 5 – Clear past interpersonal challenges – and open the way forward. Your team will no longer be dogged by its own conflicted history, the path will be clear for powerful and exciting results and successes.

6.   Step 6 – Place your team firmly in charge of their own behaviour. It is at this point that your team members commit to themselves, the company/ organization and immediately begin to operate in a new and safe working environment.

7.   Step 7 – Maintain – the new conflict-free status quo.
Properly constituted and maintained team agreements which will last for as long as you desire, and your and the team maintain the status quo.

8.   What we do NOT do.

         1. We never focus on the “problems”, or the “problem people”. If there is conflict in your team, there is far more going on than you will ever realise. And any direct focus on the particular individuals will empower them and ruin the process.
         2. We do not have mediation sessions with the “problem people” to clear the problems. This will isolate all of your team members, and the challenges will emerge again, in another form altogether.
         3. We do not judge, or work out of our own judgments.
         4. We do not send the “problem people” off for emotional, or diversity training, and ignore the rest of the team.
 

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.

Brian V Moore Website

Diversity Training in South Africa

Africa Dreams Website – Celebrating Humanity International

Celebrating Humanity Projects

Team Building in South Africa

Celebrating Humanity Blog

Celebrating Humanity on Facebook

Contact

Mobile: +27 (0)79 643 4457

Fax: +27 866 746 310

 

 

Video – Diversity Training and Conflict Resolution

Here is an a short video of a 3 day – plus 1 day follow-up team building/ diversity training/ team conflict resolution – facilitated by Mthimkhulu International (Now Celebrating Humanity International – the Team Building in South Africa specialists.

Enjoy,

Brian V Moore

Request a Team Building quotation, Diversity Training quotation
or Team Conflict Resolution proposal

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.

Brian V Moore Website

Diversity Training in South Africa

Africa Dreams Website – Celebrating Humanity International

Celebrating Humanity Projects

Team Building in South Africa

Celebrating Humanity Blog

Celebrating Humanity on Facebook

Contact

Mobile: +27 (0)79 643 4457

Fax: +27 866 746 310

Talk straight, talk clearly and talk with respect.

Building teams and reducing social and workplace conflict.

In our International and South African teambuilding, we create an environment of respect. The following stories show just how important it is to be clear and open when communicating.

As the lift descended the two Zulu ladies made their observations of my well-rounded figure…

“Hawu! We sisi! Uwubonile umkhaba? (Gee Sister have you noticed the stomach.)

“Yebo, ngiwubonile. Yinkinsela yempela – sengathi inemali eningi!” (Yes, I have noticed it. Clearly a wealthy person – I’d imagine he has plenty of money)

All this gossip happened in front of me, as they innocently watched the floor indicator panel. I bided my time and as the two ladies prepared to leave the lift, I spoke to them in Zulu. “Sobuye sibonane bomama.” (I will see you ladies around some time.)

“Hawu! Hawu!” They squealed in shock. “We didn’t know that you could speak Zulu!”
The event reminded me of similar events where people use their “superior” use of language to make negative observations of people.

Many years ago I used the services of a UK born dentist. I had an afternoon session with him. I had earlier washed my mouth out at a supermarket rest-room after eating a sandwich for lunch. It was not enough. He peered into my mouth and pronounced to his assistant, “It is a foggy day in Liverpool.”

In his English way he had said that I had not brushed my teeth. I was very embarrassed and he lost me as a client and a number of others who I spoke to about the event.

In a recent training course my beautiful Hindu wife and I were subjected to abuse from a small group of England born delegates. In loud and profane tones they proceeded to malign the “Indians” and their “ability to speak the truth”. This in the round about and sarcastic manner of certain English people. Very little is said directly. We are however well travelled and understood perfectly. As facilitators we have to be fair, pleasant and respectful to all of our delegates. Any mention of their meanness would reduce the programme to a series of personal attacks. It took us both a lot of internal and interpersonal talk to get close to our normal warm level of communication.

At an earlier course three of the many Afrikaners, on a Celebrating Humanity© course, walked into the conference venue and made similar attacks on Arthie and the programme itself. This time it was in Afrikaans. They too never believed that we could understand and speak their language. Their embarrassment was very visible as the programme unfolded with both of us speaking English, Zulu and Afrikaans.

Numerous African people from our many language groups speak of the way certain English speaking South Africans “Shaya ‘ma angles.” (To speak indirectly and in a round about way.)

It is an old English habit to lighten the criticism and talk around a challenge, so as not to hurt feelings. Often the hurt is greater because no-one besides the speaker understands the true message until much later.

Some people find it necessary to joke in sexual manner. Their jokes are often below the belt and cause great embarrassment to their colleagues and friends who do not discuss these matters outside of their bedrooms. Most African and Eastern groups do not appreciate such jokes. Others try to get their laughs by bringing down “groups” of people. By race, by colour, by language, by religion and even by hair colour.

The message here is all about respect.

When we isolate ourselves into our common groups and use our cleverness to “secretly” or “publicly” attack others, we damage our ability to develop good working relationships. When we try not “to hurt others feelings”, we often cause more pain than we would have by straight talk and without rancour. When we use our own “language” to communicate our jealousy or meanness towards those who communicate in other languages, we often isolate ourselves. When we joke in a manner that is sexual or which brings down other people, we bring ourselves, the listeners and our country down.

We live in a wonderful multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-spiritual land. All of our people have a right to respect and dignity. All of us have a duty to be respectful and dignified. One huge step of our journey, to a united land, will take place when begin to tell funny jokes that do not demean, or disrespect other people. And another gigantic step will take place when we talk straight, talk clearly and talk with respect.

And in this way we will ensure the success of organisations, International or South African and that teambuilding lasts. And workplace conflict is dramatically reduced.