Harvard sticker on back window

Service plaza. We stand in the parking lot to stretch our feet. Four passengers and I on our way from Frankfurt to Kassel for our pitch for a project on the topic of sustainability.

Then I am approached: “Bernd, you have a Harvard sticker on your back window? Wow!”

That’s right, I think and I’m lost in thought for a moment This is a tradition and is attached to every of my vehicles now and in the past. I’m a little proud of my time at Harvard University, but I’m even more excited about the great learning experiences I had during my post-doc research stay at the Chemistry Department.

Immediately after finishing my PhD work as a chemist in Germany, I moved to Boston for doing academic research at Harvard University for two years. My research environment was truly global. The members of the research group came from all over the world and I met and worked together with people with twelve different nationalities during that time, ranging from India to China and Taiwan, from Australia to Canada and Europe including France, Italy and happily another German member. And some Americans as well.

This was from 1988 to 1990 and gave me a pre-sense, what it means to deal with different cultures in a common team. It was a time of continuous learning. I was not aware then, but today I know, that this early stay abroad prepared me well for an intercultural leadership role. Cultural observations and intuitions date back to this time and a foundation was built to enhance my cultural wisdom.

I look up and notice that I am still being looked at questioningly by my fellow passengers.

“Oh yes,” I say, “there’s a tradition behind it and a whole lot of experience in the field of intercultural understanding.”

I rather like the quiet tones. That’s why the sticker is small and a little hidden. In this situation, I really enjoyed being asked for it. Sometimes you have to hide your little gems. Then it’s all the nicer when they are discovered.

I’ve learned that if you have something to tell, you should make sure that the question is asked for it. Because that’s when people really listen.

➡ And how do you do that when you have something to tell? How do you get the attention that people really listen to you with interest?

If you are interested, follow me at LinkedIn, #Prepare4Landing. I’m 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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