Saying what we do
Sunday 10 February 2013
Hi I’m Steve Flinders and I’m following on from my colleague Bob Dignen who kicked off our series of posts on issues covered in our titles in the International Management English series last week.
Last week I was doing a TIP debrief by phone with a man who is about to set out on a high profile international career. TIP is The International Profiler, a tool designed by Worldwork in London to help people reflect on the competences and behaviours we need to exercise when we work internationally and which I find very useful both for myself and for the people I coach and train.
This man – let’s call him Lars – has quite a lot of international experience already: he can speak three languages fluently and can get by in a couple more; he’s studied abroad in two different countries; and has done an internship in a third. On paper he looks like an excellent candidate for the kind of work he’s going to do in a mainly expatriate setting in the future.
And yet what really interested me about him – apart from his multilingualism, which made me rather envious – was that he found it quite difficult to say what he had learnt from each of these rich experiences in his life so far. He did say that he thought he was quite flexible but found it difficult to give me any examples of when and how, in an international environment, he had behaved flexibly. Indeed, he sometimes found it quite difficult to step back from and describe his behaviour and the impact it might have on foreign partners at all. So I was left with an impression of intuitive competence rather than an articulated expression of that competence, and this led me to reflect on the importance in international settings of what my colleague Jeremy Comfort has identified as ‘mindfulness’ [i], an ability to step back from oneself and observe what one is doing and to reflect on one’s behaviour and the impact it is having on others.
I think, from what Lars told me, that he quite often does the right thing when working internationally. But not only is he not able to say what he does (either in English or in his own language – I checked) but he doesn’t really know what he does: in other words he’s not mindful, or not aware of the situation and his role in it.
Why should Lars make the transition from acting reflexively and intuitively to acting reflectively? Some people might regard this as an intrusive challenge to their sense of self, of their sense of their own personal identity, of their authenticity. But I think one strong reason for saying that Lars should make the transition is that he will almost certainly be a manager one day and one of the very important roles that managers have to play is to develop their people – which means in the environment in which Lars is going to work, to develop them for international roles as well. Putting it simply, if you don’t know what you do and you can’t say what you do, then you can’t tell others what to do.
Describing soft skills is an unfamiliar challenge for many of us – can you describe your communication style, for example, and how you adapt it to fit different contexts? – but being able to do so is an important management skill. So my advice to leaders and would-be leaders working internationally is:
1 Know what you do. Observe yourself. Be mindful.
2 Say what you do. Describe the skills you exercise to others. Get their feedback on what you describe.
3 Tell your people what you do so that they can learn from you and develop the skills for themselves.
I think good leaders do this and so I think reflecting, articulating and communicating what you do is an important part of becoming a better leader. One of the main aims of Leading People [ii] is to help people do precisely this, in English.
Delta Development Blog
This blog will be updated at least once a week, so add it to your bookmarks. You can also subscribe to the feed to be notified when it's updated.
Meet the Bloggers
- Bob Dignen & Steve Flinders (February to April 2013)
- Hania Kryszewska & Paul Davis (April to June 2012)
- Louis Rogers (January to March 2012)
- Ken Paterson (December 2011 to February 2012)
- Richard Brown & Lewis Richards (September to November 2011)
- Liz Walter & Kate Woodford (September to October 2011)
- Kyle Mawer & Graham Stanley (April to August 2011)
- Nik Peachey (from November 2010)
- Nicky Hockly (September & October 2010)
- Julie Pratten (July & August 2010)
- Gill Johnson (April 2010)
- Chaz Pugliese (March 2010)
- Luke Meddings (August 2009)
- Lindsay Clandfield (July 2009)
- Duncan Foord (June 2009)
- Scott Thornbury (May 2009)
Teaching Unplugged was awarded the British Council 2010 ELTons UK Award for Innovation. Teaching Unplugged is the first book to deal comprehensively with the approach in English Language Teaching known as Dogme ELT.
The Book of Pronunciation
Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Book of Pronunciation is a definitive account of the key role pronunciation plays in teaching and learning, providing a highly authoritative but hugely accessible overview of the essential elements of English pronunciation as well as a wide range of classroom practice.
Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Being Creative takes you on a journey that reveals how all teachers have the potential to become creative. Whether you are experienced or new to the classroom, Being Creative allows your teaching to take flight.
The Developing Teacher
The Developing Teacher has been awarded the 2009 Duke of Edinburgh/ESU Award for Best Entry for Teachers. The Developing Teacher suggests that teachers themselves are the most powerful agents of change and development in their own professional career.
The Business English Teacher
From the multi-award-winning DELTA TEACHER DEVELOPMENT SERIES. The Business English Teacher is a book not only for teachers who are thinking of making a career move into the field of business English teaching but also for those who would like to increase their skills and develop their potential.
Culture in our Classrooms
Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Culture in our Classrooms acknowledges the role of culture in the English Language Teaching classroom and provides lesson content which is relevant, useful and engaging for students.
DIGITAL PLAY - 2012 ELTONS WINNER IN INNOVATION IN TEACHER RESOURCES! Digital Play is a pioneering book on the use of computer games in language teaching. Authors Kyle and Graham are experts in teaching with technology and training teachers in innovative classroom practice.
Teaching Online is essential reading for any teacher interested in online teaching and course delivery. It deals comprehensively with both the tools and the techniques necessary for online language instruction.
The Company Words Keep
Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Company Words Keep is a practical and thought-provoking guide for language teachers, showing how the latest insights into “language chunks” can lead to learners acquiring natural and fluent English.
Helen Beesley on Film in Action:
Hi Mary, thanks for your message to Kieran, which we’ll...
May 18, 2015 10:07 am
Mary on Film in Action:
Hi kieran I advocate your site everywhere. I currently work in China and...
May 18, 2015 12:56 am
Helen Beesley on Going Mobile :
Going Mobile is not only shortlisted for the 2015 ELTons but is...
April 1, 2015 3:43 pm
Sophie Rome on Financial Fridays with Julie Pratten – Stress Testing for Banks :
March 21, 2015 9:46 am
Arlington Ebune-Nakeli on Absolute Banking English :
We’re piloting a course in Banking...
March 10, 2015 5:24 pm
13 Feb 15
30 Jan 15
16 Jan 15
11 Dec 14
27 Nov 14
25 Nov 14
13 Nov 14
30 Oct 14
30 Oct 14
15 Oct 14
6 Oct 14
1 Oct 14
6 Aug 14
2 Jul 14
28 Apr 14