Diversity is the name of the game in today’s workforce. Your management style must match your employees’ multicultural differences if you want to excel.
It isn’t easy to be a politically correct, multicultural leader who is respected by all of her employees — despite employees’ unique individual perspectives. Fortunately, Juana Bordas, author of Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age, has some helpful advice:
- Learn about the underlying history. You know what they say — knowledge is power. Before you can truly guide employees with various backgrounds, you should take time to learn about their history. It’s also important to acknowledge how today’s mainstream leadership can be Eurocentric, and what circumstances have lead to the repression of minority communities, emphasizes Bordas.
- Gain a community perspective. Many corporations are individually competitive, and in many ways this may be counterproductive because it reduces teamwork and collaboration. Also, minority employees who come from cultures that foster unity and collectivity may not understand the often cutthroat, Machiavellian atmosphere. Taking a more team-oriented approach to management can make minority employees feel more comfortable — and reduce some of the drawbacks of workplace competition.
- Nix the hierarchy. Executives today are normally associated with large bonuses, perks and incentives. But a culturally sensitive manager should take a different approach, says Bordas. Instead, eliminate the elitism that tends to come from corporate hierarchy. Put away the “you’re the boss” mentality and view yourself as just another part of the team. Recognize that your success is partly due to the talent and initiative of your employees, she recommends.
Your expectations as a manager won’t change just because your employees don’t work in the same building, so you should know how to communicate and manage effectively regardless of location.
Make sure you’re prepared for managing employees you don’t see face-to-face with a little help from Kelly Pate Dwyer’s Ten Tools For Remote Teams.
Instant messenger. It might seem unprofessional to encourage “chatting,” but when it comes to immediate feedback and a more conversational feel, instant messenging might be a good option. Find a program that supports multiple IM clients — and make sure you have separate screen names for personal and business use, suggests Dwyer.
Web conference. If you want the ultimate meeting experience with remote employees, you might want to consider a website or software program that supports real-time online meetings. Many of these programs, such as NetMeeting, allow you to share documents and presentations as well.
Wiki or ftp site. One of the biggest challenges when it comes to employees who work remotely is how to read, exchange and update shared files. A Wiki, or a website on which all users with access can update and edit the shared content, is one possible solution. You should also consider an ftp site, to which employees can upload large files that others with access can then download. The ftp site is a good way to eliminate emails with large attachments that clog up your email server, says Dwyer.
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). This tool is especially useful if you travel constantly in your own work on top of managing employees remotely. A PDA keeps you connected all the time and often includes phone, email, Internet, and calendars all in one device.
Collaborative software. If you need to give employees access to the same software applications and documents, you might need a program that allows workspace exchange, such as Microsoft SharePoint. This also eliminates problems that occur due to different software versions.
There are two ways to deal with problems: solve them as soon as they arise or put measures in place to prevent them before they ever happen. Every manager needs to deal with problems at some point, and there are times when you’ll need to come up with a quick, efficient solution to an issue that you couldn’t foresee.
However, you can look like a management superstar if it appears that problems rarely spring up to begin with. That’s where predictive management comes in — you anticipate possible problems before they happen and execute solutions to prevent them before they can actually blossom into full-blown catastrophes.
There are a few traits you must exhibit to be a successful predictive manager, according to coaching-for-new-women-managers.com:
Thoughtful and analytical
Awareness of issues that are important, not necessarily just urgent
Ability to pick out trends in data, including failures
Effective analysis of why a problem occurred, instead of simply how to resolve it
Ability to see the “big picture”
The best way to hone your predictive management skills is to take time out of your schedule after a problem arises and analyze it thoroughly. Coaching-for-new-women-managers.com suggests asking yourself the following questions about a management problem you recently had to deal with:
When did it happen?
What caused the problem?
What kinds of warnings or indicators were apparent prior to the problem happening?
What (if anything) was done to address the problem before it happened?
What could have been done to prevent the problem?
What can I do to stop it from happening again?
After you answer these questions, you can develop a solid plan for dealing with the same problem when the warning signs appear — as opposed to scrambling to solve the problem after it’s become a full-scale emergency. Once your predictive management skills progress, you’ll stand out from the pack. Coworkers will wonder why it seems that your team deals with fewer problems. And of course, they’ll attribute the smooth sailing to your excellent leadership abilities.