Tag Archives: cross-cultural

You Are Strong! What Your Hands, Head and Heart Already Know

soy fuerte workshop-1 How do you help someone else recognize their own strengths? Their own potential? To believe in themselves and their future when the odds are against them?

This was the challenge when our team of Global Volunteers was asked to design and deliver a motivational workshop for the teenage boys aging out of their orphanage in Lima, Peru. They had lived there for years and now they would be on their own in just a few short months.

Would they recognize their unique strengths and be able to use those assets to achieve the future they wanted for themselves? How could we help set them up for success, and do it in a second language, with limited training supplies and in just 45 minutes?

It was actually the boys talking about their passion for soccer that sparked the idea of using a simple picture of a hand, a head and a heart to capture their individual strengths. Our goal was to have each young man recognize and appreciate his own foundation of unique strength.

soy fuerte workshop-2Here’s how we did it in five simple steps – so simple but so powerful – and you can do the same with any young person in any life circumstance.

  1. Start with a large piece of white paper for each teen and several colored pencils. In the left bottom corner, ask them to outline their hand with outstretched fingers. On each finger, ask them to write a skill or strength that they have with their hands. (For example: soccer, art/drawing, cooking, electrical repair, wood working, etc.)
  2. Next, ask them to draw a picture of their face or head in the upper middle page. Ask them to write down their “head” strengths, usually from their schooling (math, writing, music, etc.)
  3. Finally, ask them to draw a picture of their heart in the lower right corner of the page. Here they write their “heart” strengths like courage, persistence, faith, etc.
  4. Connect the three pictures (hand, head & heart) with a triangle and ask them to write “Soy Fuerte” or “I Am Strong” in the center.
  5. From here, you can flip the paper over and help them identify their future or dream jobs and finally, what resources they will need to use to achieve those goals.

Did it work? Yes! Very Well.

It was amazing to see how quickly the teenage boys grasped these concepts of interpersonal strengths and were able to apply them directly to their future. We were amazed and so inspired by their courage and spirit. Thank you boys for allowing us to be part of your journey!

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Supporting Families & Businesses in Greece

It was interesting to see that the majority of businesses in Crete, both in the main city of Heraklion and the outlaying communities, are all being operated by families. Aside for the occasional super market, the stores,restaurants and hotels appeared to be owned by individuals with their extended family members providing the extra hands to keep the doors open.  Other people may also be working there but often there was a “family friend” connection. And if you asked, you learned about the wonderful Greek family culture.

Compared to the USA Business Model

That’s a real difference from how business is done here in the USA.  The small business owner just can’t compete on any significant scale with the box stores and the chain restaurants here in the United States.  Just look around you.  Every mall in every community seems to have basically the same stores often built right next door to each other.  A Best Buy is next door to PetCo which is next door to Barnes & Noble.  It doesn’t change much whether you are traveling in Seattle, passing through Phoenix or stopping in Washington D.C.

And restaurant chains are the same way . . . you can find an Olive Garden, Claim Jumper, TGIF anywhere.  Starbucks and McDonald’s have become incredibility successful offering the same products with the same brand of service anyplace you go.  Same with hotels who offer creative rewards programs to encourage you to stay in their same hotels (even the floor plan is the same) no matter which city you are traveling too.

Customer Loyalty – It’s Different in Greece

But do we really feel loyal to those big box stores, restaurants and hotel chains?  Only to the extent that we always know what to expect – what we’re buying – no surprises.  It’s a given.  That’s very different in Greece. When a business is owned by an individual there is a very different feel as soon as you, as the customer, walk in the door.  It looks different, it’s unique and the people helping you seem to be more interested.

What makes the difference?  When we as customers get the chance to meet the business owner and chat to them a bit about their business there is real observable shift in energy.  Now you’re helping an individual, a family, a business stay afloat by doing business with them.  You know where your money is going – not just off to corporate headquarters.

The result?  People do business with people they know and like.  The Greeks patronize their favorite cafe houses, taverna and shopping spots stores because they know who owns them and they want to support those businesses.  And if you are invited for a coffee and conversation in the back of the store that’s even better.  That’s where I’ll spend my money each and every time.


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Working in Greece & Opening Doors

I’m back!  It was a fabulous 3 week adventure in Greece working for Global Volunteers on the island of Crete.  My twin sister, Diane, and three other wonderful women from Canada, Kathleen Close; Sandra Close and Sheila Davis made up our volunteer team under the wise leadership of Sam Pinakoulaki, our country host.  We called ourselves “Sam’s Chippy Chicks” and what fun we had!  The wine was flowing; the food was terrific; the sun was hot; the  buses were crowded and the laughs were endless.


Greek Hospitality is the Best! 

One of the best parts of the trip was living in the family hotel, Hotel Hankadas, and becoming part of the Greek extended family that gathers there every morning, afternoon and evening to talk, watch the political news, eat, work in the vineyards around the hotel and share a glass of wine with us at the end of the night.

We loved Paul who runs the hotel with his two sisters, Irene & Suzanne and his wife, Catherine.  There are also lots of other community people in and out including several traveling salesmen who sell linens out of their trucks up in the villages.


Our Work in Greece – Opening Doors for Future Volunteers

We were the 87th Global Volunteer team (and the first for 2012) to work in this small community, Amoudara, just outside of Heraklion in Crete. Our work assignment changed upon our arrival – from working each day in a local school teaching English to more community outreach and liaison work.  As one door closed another opened!

We were honored to be invited to work in a battered women’s safe house planting a garden and cleaning the house for the residents.  There are only two battered women’s shelters in the entire country!  In addition, we represented Global Volunteers at their monthly Board Meeting meeting networking with many of Heraklion’s most influential women activists – from age 80 to 20.  Our hope is that future teams will be allowed to work with the shelter especially in supporting the organization’s future children’s orphanage “House of Angels”.

We also learned that “volunteerism” is a very new concept in Greece.  We had a chance to meet with a newly formed group of women volunteers through a special invitation by the Vice-Mayor of Gazi.  In the local government chambers we participated in a joint meeting sharing our visions and commitment to volunteerism in all communities.  It didn’t matter that we spoke different languages – smiles & laughs communicated all that we need.

Over the next few days, we were invited to participate in a larger women’s meeting at the local Chamber of Commerce and then to visit a local kindergarten for young children of working parents.  The weeks ended with a phenomenal trip up to the mountains to visit Saint Spiro’s center for mentally delayed adults (more on that later!).

I have many funny stories and wonderful lessons learned.  I’ll share many of those over the next few weeks.  And if you see me packing my backpack again you know where I’m going . . . to Hotel Hankadas!

Posted in And a Bit More, Communication Tips, Global Training & Coaching, Navigating Change, Networking, Personal Development, Your Time & Energy | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Art of Conversation in Norway

It’s truly an art . . . the art of making conversation with others.  And it takes skill and practice.  I got the chance to practice this skill over and over while living in Norway for 6 1/2 years with my husband (US Marine) who was assigned to NATO. Nine countries were part of this NATO command and we attended many formal and informal gatherings over the years.  I also had my own training and consulting business which necessitated me collaborating closely with the Norwegians and the ex-patriate international community.

But it was the formal dinner parties hosted by the NATO command that I remember best.  They were beautifully planned events held at the headquarters with a mix of military representatives and their spouses attending. These dinner events always started later in the evening and didn’t conclude until well past midnight. So it was a long evening filled with real conversation – no cell phones or texting at this dinner table.

The dinner meal was quite formal and I would find myself seated next to someone new each time.  I would usually have a military officer and their spouse on each side of me and another couple across from me. Although, the “official” language was English one had to respect that the other person was speaking in a 2nd or 3rd language.  This is truly the art of making conversation.  So this is what I became quite good at . . .

Creating a Conversation Bridge:  Be Interested & Interesting

What I really learned was to be genuinely “interested” in the other person.  I listened closely for who they were, what  they had experienced and what I could learn from them.  This created a bridge between us.  People love to talk about their own lives if they feel someone is really interested – and I am.  I engaged my curiosity and just listened to learn. And then I asked questions to learn more.  It’s a discovery process.

And then I would be “interesting” as well.  The conversation couldn’t be just one way – then everyone is bored.  Before each dinner, I would consciously think of several topics that made me interesting – a recent trip, a new work project, an interest in something happening internationally, funny experiences etc.  Something that I could contribute to the conversation – after all, we had at least 3 hours to converse.  And don’t forget that the three taboo topics politics, sex and religion are still to be avoided in any kind of gathering where you want to make a good impression.

Now it’s been a few years since the whirlwind of living and working in Norway.  But one of the many things I learned was that I can make conversation with anyone.  I can always find a bridge and spark a conversation about something we have in common.  So lesson learned . . . be “interested” and “interesting” and you’ll always have a fascinating dinner companion!


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5 Generations at Work is Challenging!

It’s a challenge – working with people of all ages both in my regular training and coaching roles but also in my community volunteer work.  Each age group is really quite different – disconnects and miscommunication happen all the time.  We often don’t even realize that it’s a “generational thing”.  But it actually all makes sense if we take the time to understand & appreciate the differences (and gifts) that each generation brings to the workplace.

All Ages Volunteering at the Red Cross

I’ve had the great opportunity to design and deliver a leadership training course to the American Red Cross, Northern Nevada Chapter both in 2010 and again this year.  Tomorrow night’s materials will be fun – it’s all about how to work with volunteers of all five generations – common for the Red Cross.  Each generation has its own motivations for wanting to work with the Red Cross and each generation brings its own talents, strengths and gifts to their volunteer work.  But for new leaders it can be a stretch to know how to engage and motivate individuals who often are younger or older than themselves. 

A Great Book & Resource

Here is where I would start . . . pick up this brand new book written by a father-daughter team in a lively conversational style.  Generations, INC: From Boomers to Linksters – Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work, 2010, is packed with facts, historical research and practical, concrete suggestions for how to manage and work with each of the five generations.  It’s current and relevant to today’s work world and our families as well.  And it goes beyond just describing the generational differences (although I found that fasinating) to really teaching us as leaders how to bring out the best in this amazing diverse workforce.

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