By Lars Aelfers
The world of leadership: what a wonderful world. But shit, it can be so challenging.
When I opened my eyes to the world of the housekeeping department, I found out how beautiful this world can be. On the other hand, I found out how challenging and diverse this world can be. At the moment I’m a housekeeping supervisor. I lead a team of approximately twenty-five housekeeping employees. Twenty-five completely different housekeeping employees, because almost everyone has a different nationality, religion, culture, norms and values, and background. Within this team, there are seventeen different nationalities. No, you haven’t misread this: seventeen nationalities!
These housekeeping employees speak little or no Dutch, which makes communication difficult, in some situations. Besides, cultural differences can cause miscommunication. In my last blog, which you may have read, I wrote down that Respect is the most important thing to use. Within the housekeeping department, respect is the first step towards success and a good relationship with your colleagues.
You could now conclude that respect is ‘the key to success’. And I experienced, in a lot of different cultures respect is the basis for good relations and communication with each other. But I also found out you need more to be successful as a supervisor. People really like it when you ask them about their culture and background, or when you say some words in their mother language. People get the feeling you are really interested in them and you want to get to know them better. When you show empathy, your relation only can get better.
Let me give you an example. One day I was checking f the rooms were cleaned in a proper way. In the bathroom, there was made a mistake, so I showed the person who made the mistake and asked politely if the employee wanted to fix this and I gave her a compliment about the other bathrooms. The employee reacted that she found it very kind I showed respect and fixed the mistake immediately.
Showing empathy is also good for your own, personal development. First of all the advance, you have in communication with the people you showed empathy with. They like you and want to work (harder) for you, than they want for other people. They are really willing to help you end to listen to you.
Next to this advance, showing empathy will broaden your cultural awareness which you can use on a daily basis and in your future life. For example during your working life. Maybe you will work abroad in the future or maybe you will have colleagues with different cultures and nationalities. In my opinion, it’s cultural wealth.
So, is respect the key to success? The answer is yes and no. You will definitely have to use respect to get in touch with people from different cultures and nationalities. Respect will help you definitely, but it is just one of the many numbers that need to be used to crack the code of the ‘culturally safe’.