Lucy’s Kitbag – Episode Two – Travels in Romania

Survival kitbag

First of all let me explain why these blogs are called ‘Lucy’s Kitbag’. I have served a full career in the British Army. The first thing I learnt at Sandhurst was the importance of taking care of myself and my kit. The Army love to call everything you use a ‘piece of kit’. You will often hear soldiers saying ‘it’s a great bit of kit’. Your kitbag goes with you everywhere and you should never get separated from your kit (rule number 1). As you carry things everywhere, weight was important so you were always on the hunt for new, lightweight, useful, adaptable pieces of kit to help make your life more comfortable and safe. When I left the Army, I found that the concept had stuck with me, only now I have an electronic version. I have a folder called ‘My Kitbag’ on my laptop and in it I have models, tools, tips, methodologies – all tried and tested and all useful to my profession. In my blogs I will be sharing these with you and all the new ones I am learning about as I go. This will include news about the kit that ‘wows’ me today.

I spent the first 18 years of my life growing up in Northern Ireland. I lived through the ‘troubles’ and saw the result of violence on a daily basis.   I used to walk home from school taking a wide berth around parked, unoccupied cars – a sign that, that car may contain a bomb. Some blew up and some did not, I knew people affected deeply by the daily violence. When I look back this was a unique way to grow up, but I didn’t know any different at the time – this was the culture I grew up in.

I then travelled the world as an Army Officer experiencing many new cultures and broadening my limited view of life. As a result of this, I am now a keen diversity supporter and believe in the power of a culturally diverse workforce to truly create success in the business world. Cultural diversity stimulates thinking and creativity, it generates new ideas and experiences, and it gets people to think ‘outside the box’.

Lucy_Romania_2I was reminded of the value of meeting a different culture last week when I travelled to Bucharest in Romania to deliver the start of a leadership programme we are running for Thales Romania. My role was to provide 3600 feedback to 10 delegates via a series of 1:1 interviews to start each person on their personal development journey. This is just one of the many leadership activities I get involved in as an L&D Consultant. As I flew over I thought about how I would approach this activity. I knew that I had to be very ‘Culturally Aware‘ when I delivered the feedback. Feedback can be stressful for people and it is even more difficult if English is not your first language.   The English Dictionary states:

‘Someone’s cultural awareness is their understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries or other backgrounds, especially differences in attitudes and values.’

But cultural awareness is not enough, to be truly effective when working with different cultures you need to be ‘culturally competent‘. Robert et al describe Cultural Competence as ‘a program’s ability to honour and respect those beliefs, interpersonal styles, attitudes and behaviours both of families who are clients and the multicultural staff who are providing services.’

Lucy_Romania_4In Romania I worked hard to be culturally aware and hence culturally competent. This was my first visit to Bucharest; I spent time studying the country before my visit, when there I spent my nights walking around all the historic and beautiful buildings to see the environment, I spent time talking to Romanians about their culture – how they are taught in school, their history – the impact of war, earthquakes, communism and much more. What did I learn? I learnt that 25 years after the fall of Communism, Romania is slowly growing in prosperity. The people and the culture are fascinating; they are friendly, open, trusting, creative and curious.

I approached my coaching sessions by applying the three ‘R’s – Respect ( I respected their culture), Recognition (I recognised that they all have value and are resourceful and my role was to help them find this within) and Reassurance (I reassured them that the feedback was confidential and set up an environment where they felt safe to explore their feedback).   The result was that a truly constructive conversation took place with each delegate and real engagement and enthusiasm to grow as leaders was ignited. This will now be carried forward into the full leadership programme where delegates will learn about a range of leadership styles, influencing styles and a variety of tools and techniques to add to their personal leadership kitbag. In essence I’m sharing my kitbag to help them fill theirs and if the comments below are anything to go by, it seems to be working:

“Starting  with the request for an  Advanced Leadership program dedicated to experienced Team Leaders in the R&D Center in Thales Romania, you succeeded in providing us with a very-well- designed programme based on Leadership competencies within Thales.

We particularly found the collaborative, supportive and flexible approach to be very effective.  This approach led to a customized program adapted appropriately to the delegates’ needs and behaviors.”

Andreea Iordache, Professional Development Manager, Thales Systems Romania

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In the next blog I will be moving on to ‘Innovation and creativity’ and ‘Facilitative Leadership’ in Thales UK. I look forward to writing a blog on these two topics, of course the challenge will be – can I be innovative and creative?  

The photos included in this post are some that I took whilst in Romania, I wanted to share with you all some of the beauty I experienced when I was there.  If you have any comments or questions about this blog or want to add any more valuable tips please feel free to share the blog, introduce yourself and/or contact me using the links below.