GEM Meeting

“Building Trust by Being Human” –

I do have Minette Norman’s brilliant book, The Boldly Inclusive Leader in front of me. Her way of storytelling is so inspiring and opens the door for my own reflections. I start immediately thinking about me in my former role as a leader within a big corporation. And I immediately remember my own stories that were so instructive.

Check out on page 104, the power of storytelling and on page 157, the need to run inclusive meetings. Let me share here just one personal example.

On the way from plant manager to global manufacturing leader, I can still remember that I was just overwhelmed with the cultural complexity of my team. My direct reports, the respective site leaders were spread over different nations across the globe.

Learning was the order of the day. On-the-job. I was prompting an Internet search on “Intercultural Leadership Excellence”, as this is what I was looking for. What I found was an excellent external support: mentoring, guidance and tools.

And with this support, I planned our yearly meeting. I had asked each of my site leaders reporting to me to bring a typical item from their country and say a few words about it on the eve before the 2-day meeting. What came out of it is still unforgotten to this day. Not only did we get to know typical local customs, but also how they were linked to the personal stories of my Direct Reports.

✳ From the Netherlands came the skates and the story about the Elfstedentocht. This is a 200 kilometer long-distance tour skating event on natural ice. The event is only when the natural ice along the entire course is at least 15 centimeters thick. This does not happen very often, though.

✳ From Sweden I learned about the outstanding significance of Midsummer’s Night. It is a time when Swedes celebrate the longest day of the year and the arrival of summer. The festival is steeped in tradition and is celebrated with family and friends, who gather to dance and enjoy traditional Swedish food and drink. You can just guess, what was the object, that the Swedish site leader, had in her luggage. The food and the drinks!

✳ And what do you learn as a sister among brothers in the Carolinas? The kicking and catching of an American football. That’s this elongated rotational ellipsoid with pointed ends, the object of desire at the Super Bowl, that super event.

✳ And there were great samples. Maple syrup from Canada, Turron from Catalonia and sweets from China. The latter should symbolize a sweet life and are an integral part of the Chinese New Year celebrations that had just ended.

✳ I myself made every effort to explain the “Aufklärung” in Germany as an intellectual movement (ratio, science, freedom) on the basis of Goethe and Schiller. But to be on the safe side, I also had pretzels and beer in my luggage.

The meeting ended, but the stories stayed on the team and a few more were added year after year. Powerful and for everyone in my team to tell and to listen. Our Global Emulsions Manufacturing (in short GEM) meeting had developed into a true gem. “Building trust by being human”, as Minette describes in chapter 4.

➡ Have you read Minette’s book yet? There is so much of experience and wisdom in it. My advice: don’t miss it.

If you are interested, feel free to follow me at LinkedIn and the hashtag #Prepare4Landing or visit my blog. My name is Bernd Scharbert and my task as a mentor and facilitator for leaders is to ensure that virtual intercultural teams will be successful.

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