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3 ways to add cultural sensitivity to your holiday greetings

As the world gets smaller, there are still ways to be business sharp and culture savvy during the holiday season.

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greeting cards

Approaching holiday season

It’s that time of year again – it’s holiday season, that time of year when, here in America, our department stores and TV commercials blast cool deals and gift ideas for everyone on our lists. October through December can be rough waters to navigate when dealing with diverse teams, international business associates, or clients from other nations.

Even in America, we know that not everyone celebrates Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah. Couple that with Thanksgiving, Halloween, and All Saints Day, this holiday season can leave us all very susceptible to making cultural blunders in our home country. So how do you mitigate making the same such blunders abroad? These three tips will add culturally sensitivity to your holiday list.

Tip 1: Scrap Holiday Cards Altogether

It may sound crazy, but opting to skip sending holiday cards could save you time and face. Instead of send country- or culture-specific (moon harvest festival, cold fish pudding day, etc.) greetings, opt to send a general “thank you,” “we appreciate your business,” or “hope you’re well” card. So many people complain that business is missing a personal touch. Create your own value-add by showing that you genuinely care.

Tip 2: Send a New Year’s Greeting

Every culture has some sort of way to commemorate the new year, albeit it may fall on a day other than January 1st. A sure-fire, safe bet would be to send a (Gregorian Calendar) new year’s greeting. Besides being a less-likely way to offend someone, offering a well-timed new year’s greeting can be an added element of surprise as many companies only send religious holiday greetings.

Tip 3: Invest in Target-Language Appropriate Cards

If you decide to send holiday cards to international recipients, I suggest investing in a translator or specific target-language cards. I tend to steer clear of translated religious greetings and send target-language appropriate new year’s greetings or seasonal greetings. Things like “Wishing you a prosperous New Year,” “May this season bring you much success.” or “May our partnership flourish in the New Year” have gone over well with my Chinese-language clients. I say invest, because to find out what wording, color and imagery will be well-received culturally takes work, but in the end it is worth it.

Simple protocol to follow:

Above all, use your judgement. Follow the same protocol you use domestically when sending a business holiday card:
*Only sign your name (not title, department, etc.)
*Do not include a business card
*Do not sign “Love,” or include hearts
*Do hand sign the card

Monica Moffitt, founder and Principal Cultural Consultant at Tianfen Consulting, Inc., has traveled the world and enjoys linguistics and all things culture. Having split her career between project management and business analytics, Monica merges logic, fluency in Chinese and creativity in her new role as cultural consultant. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies/Chinese from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration (International Management and Marketing) from University of Texas at Dallas.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. MatthewC

    October 23, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Great post. Make sure your CRM for Realtors has a field for religion so you can send relevant holiday greetings at the right times 🙂

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping

(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.

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There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.

However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!

In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.

The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.

Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.

The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.

There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.

“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”

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Business News

Today’s sexual harassment issues require more modern training

(BUSINESS NEWS) It’s unfortunate that sexual harassment still exists in the modern-day, but we have easier access to resources to curb this behavior.

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What do you think about the #MeToo movement? Some people erroneously believe that #MeToo is about getting men fired or bringing down powerful men. #MeToo is more about raising awareness of the long-standing problem of sexual violence and harassment, not only in the workplace but in everyday situations.

Thanks to #MeToo, state and federal laws are changing to address the systemic problems. Keeping up with regulations around sexual harassment in the workplace doesn’t have to be an issue. EasyLLama makes it easy for your business to stay compliant with modern training for your team.

What is EasyLlama?

EasyLlama is a company based in San Francisco. It has a goal “to give companies the tools to reinforce their values, and to empower them to create a safe and comfortable work environment for everyone.” The company bills itself as the “smart way to train your team on sexual harassment.”

The training was created by HR experts that go beyond state and federal requirements to make your workplace safe from sexual misconduct and harassment. It’s been designed to speak to every generation on your team, from Baby Boomers to millennials.

It features 5 to 10-minute micro-sessions with real-life relatable videos that can be watched individually or in a team session. Tracking individual progress is easy through the platform. Employees get email/text reminders to take the next steps in their training. Training is available in both English and Spanish. It’s designed for the modern and mobile workforce. The system can also integrate with HR tools that reduces time spent on data entry and follow up.

Empower your team with resources to prevent sexual harassment

#MeToo isn’t going to go away. The movement is reframing the discussion about sexual misconduct, gender and power. EasyLlama is one tool that can help your team be more aware of behavior that puts your business at risk.

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