Culture is everything.
From how we eat our boiled eggs to what side of the road you drive on, it influences the attitudes and energy of the people who engage in what are basically a set of arbitrary norms.
Over the years, H-Training has undergone enormous efforts to provide learning and development material that is suitable for an Irish audience. With the glut of the material originally being produced in the United States, it was notable how Irish managers were annoyed and at times down-right disgusted by the language used and the suggestions made. The right-on, fist pumping positivist machismo that can be standard in many walks of American business, was not welcomed, by the more downtrodden Irish.
Granted, many of us can understand why ‘powering up’ is simply not compatible with an Irish sensibility. However, there are a range of other cultural practices that also contribute to this. These include the age old practice of ‘slagging’ and our particularly unfortunate habit of begrudgery. One colleague recently posed the theory that our practice of talking out of our necks when the neighbors aren’t listening is actually a legacy of the War of Independence, when people regularly whispered and mumbled to avoid the ears of our imperialist visitors. Regardless however of where it came from, it remains a stubborn part of our culture. However, it is also worth noting here that it is not practiced by everyone and we need to be careful about resigning to stereo-types.
H-Training has definitely detected a shift in our less favourable cultural norms as millennials begin to assume the reign of leadership in more industries (see they are not the root of all evil!). Added to this, and much to the dismay of many there is a continuation, across the western world, of a sort of cultural homogenisation. Many would argue that their children have all turned into Americans, and this is definitely echoed in all of the Americanisms that have crept, almost unnoticed, into the Irish vernacular in the past twenty-years (‘step up to the plate’ anyone?). Furthermore, it is often our contention that not enough consideration (perhaps owing to Ireland’s already cluttered history) is paid to the enormous shift in professional life experienced in this state over that past forty-years.
Sigmund Freud, once asserted that the Irish were the ‘only race impervious to psychoanalysis‘ and fortunately for us, he was as wrong about that one as he was about many other things. But we must factor our preferences and tendencies into any robust practice of coaching. One of the things that can be seen as traditionally anathema to Irish culture is ‘making a show of [one’s]self’. We regularly field client’s concerns about coming across as arrogant or boastful in their interviews. And while obviously some of these concerns are valid, if you are too humble and tacit, you will fail to impress on the interview board your case for getting selected. So to put that simply, it is a bigger risk to some people being boastful than not getting promoted? Did I mention the word arbitrary already?
In one sense this mindset is something that we must adequately challenge if we are to succeed in the ways that we aspire to. Our approach is very much geared at addressing this. We want you to put across your strengths and it is also our job to ensure that you are doing this with impact. It still amazes many of our coaches to discover something significant in a candidate’s resume two or three sessions in. I have seen people omit actual awards from their CVs amongst other achievements, that not only do interview boards need to know, they also want to know.
We are not trying to breed a culture or fist pumping Jordan Belforts from the Wolf of Wall Street, but we have to take risks and put ourselves out there more if we are to achieve more. Saying, sorry I’m Irish and I don’t play that game simply won’t cut it anymore. If anything we need to reinvent how we think about ourselves. Just keep in mind that we are a long way now from a uniquely agrarian Ireland, but there are more roads to travel yet.