With the assistance of Miller, executive coaches Hyun (Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians, 2005) and Lee examine how “infusing cultural proficiency initiatives into company-wide values, policies and programs achieves a demonstrable effect.”
The authors report that the workforce is changing, growing more multicultural, younger and more female. These changes call for a much more nuanced response from corporate leaders to avoid pitfalls and achieve success. Hyun and Lee emphasize the importance of two requirements. The first, which they term “fluency,” is the ability to work across cultures; it is comparable to speaking multiple foreign languages. The second, “flex,” includes the skills required to work across “the power gap”—the distance that separates leaders from others in an organizational structure. However, the authors stress that sentiments like “let us respect each other” are insufficient. People in leadership positions need to face the problem of understanding how subtle cultural differences between people of different gender, ethnic and generational backgrounds can be critical for effective leadership—e.g., between more outgoing cultures, like Americans, and more reserved ones, like Asians. Problems also may arise from a failure to recognize more subtle differences between different age groups—baby boomers, Generation Xers and Yers and millenials—regarding how they communicate, as well as their goals and approaches to the dynamics of the workplace. The authors seek to show readers how to reduce losses of time and resources incurred when the potential contributions of well-qualified recruits or hires are lost because management doesn't fully understand how to bring them on board. They discuss many ways of overcoming the business consequences of such failures to flex across the gap. “[O]ur experience has taught us that interpersonal dynamics can change when people with a drive for making a difference take the initiative and then influence others to multiply the effect,” they write.
Hyun and Lee offer convincing evidence to illustrate how to enhance communication skills across various workplace divides.