October 2005: United cultures of Europe

Networking Power Lunch Series

In October 2004, I started a Leadership Power Lunches series to provide participants with a forum to share experiences and knowledge concerning effective leadership across cultural contexts. Each lunch was be devoted to a specific leadership topic to allow participants to examine and analyze the leadership situations they encounter, while receiving feedback from the facilitator and one another.

On October 18, I will start a new series: Creative Self-Marketing and Promoting Yourself through Networking Power Lunch.

In this series of lunches, you’ll discover how to successfully present and market yourself in any situation. You will learn how to identify your communication style and leverage it to connect and communicate with others. By understanding how to network and the benefits you can achieve by improving your networking skills, you will gain the confidence and competence to maximize the impact of your self-marketing activities.

In the first workshop of the Networking Power Lunch series – Presenting Yourself Successfully – you will learn the what, why, where, and how of preparing a 2-minute-long “advertisement” for yourself. Understanding this 2-minute drill and knowing how to use it will give you both the confidence and competence to truly maximize your networking efforts.


Do you want to improve your communication skills? Would you like to lose your fears of public speaking and learn skills that will help you be more successful? Then Toastmasters is for you.

Toastmasters International, established in 1924, helps people learn the arts of speaking, listening and thinking – vital skills that promote understanding, enhance leadership, and help people be more successful in whatever path they’ve chosen.

The Prague Speakers Toastmasters club was founded a year ago. In that year, we’ve become an official club chartered with Toastmasters International, run a successful Area Contest, and doubled our membership. We increased our focus on the needs of members and established training meetings in addition to regular meetings.

In the next year, we will support our members in achieving their individual goals as well as our club goals, improve our training and communication, and strive to attract new members to continually enhance the diversity of our membership. Through Toastmasters, members can use their different skills and points of view to learn from each other and to help each other progress and grow. And that, after all, is the goal of Toastmasters.

Come to a meeting to see what it’s all about. Everyone is welcome!

For more information, see http://www.toastmasters.cz/tm/invitation_speakers.htm or contact praguespeakersclub@seznam.cz.

October 5 Toastmasters in Prague (www.toastmasters.cz)
October 8 Toastmasters Table Topics and Humorous Speech Area Contest in Pardubice (www.toastmasters.cz)
October 10 WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
October 18 Networking Power lunch: Presenting Yourself Successfully
October 19 Toastmasters in Prague (www.toastmasters.cz)
November 2 Toastmasters in Prague (www.toastmasters.cz)
November 7 WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
November 16 Toastmasters in Prague (www.toastmasters.cz)
November 22 Networking Power Lunch
November 30 Toastmasters in Prague (www.toastmasters.cz)

Communication Tip of the Month: United Cultures of Europe

“The excessive openness of the West to immigrants from other cultural environments facilitates attacks by radical Islamists in western countries” Reading the comment made by the Czech president Vaclav Klaus in the Czech daily newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) after the July 7th terrorists attack in London took me aback as I couldn’t believe that a European president would dare make such a public statement. Far from being the root of terrorism, I strongly believe that multiculturalism is the antidote to terrorism.

The Europe that emerged at the turn of the new millennium is stronger and more unified than ever before in its history. The weak and divided Europe of sixty years ago has transformed itself into a supranational entity composed of a multitude of nations, languages and identities and boasts as its greatest resource an unparalleled level of diversity. Europe has showed the rest of the world that the key to economic and social development is the ability to integrate its diversity and harness its power.

And yet, while diversity is Europe’s greatest advantages, it is also the continent’s greatest challenge. As Europe continues to grow and prosper, managing the diversity of its citizens will continue to be a top priority. When Europe is facing one of its biggest challenges, the last thing it needs is a prominent Czech politician using the same methods used by the old Soviet regime to create fear among his fellow citizens. Klaus is very aware that our minds are better at processing information from the emotional side to the logical side. Unlike Jean Monnet who used the fear of a potential WW III conflict to motivate the construction of Europe, Vaclav Klaus is catering to the xenophobes.

If the challenge of my parents’ generation was to build a unified Europe to prevent another world conflict, this generation challenge is to integrate even more people and nations into our rich European cultural tapestry, while at the same time maintaining and supporting the unique cultural identities of all Europeans. As people from all levels of society, business and government interact with one another with increasing regularity, the need for understanding and openness among Europe’s many cultures is more important that it has ever been.

In spite of their overwhelming diversity, many Europeans often don’t pay enough heed to the importance that differences have in cross-cultural interaction. In business and in government, this is particularly true. Though Europe gained increased cohesion through the European Economic Community and the European Union, it is still far from being the united cultures of Europe. And while the process, rules and language of business and government are becoming increasingly standardized across Europe, the fact that the players are finding themselves interacting with people from the other side of an ever-widening stage means that the need to be conscious of the role cultural differences can play is more important than ever.

When global economies are converging and cultures diverging, Europe is in need of politicians who’s vision can match Jean Monnet’s dream of a unified Europe and not opportunistic politicians who publicize fear and mistrust to push their own agenda. Instead of focusing on what is separating European cultures, why don’t we look at what is uniting them. After the ambitious effort to create a continent so integrated, so connected, that war will be impossible what steps away from xenophobia must we take today toward better understanding of each other culture? What relevant lessons from the past can we apply today?

The reasons for today’s European integration are many and varied. The founding fathers of Europe used the economical collaboration to bridge the European cultural gap. In the earliest days of the post-World War II European movement emerged the idea of a European currency to help build financial and political connections across a united Europe. The boldest act of economic union – the change that made the European Union a concrete daily reality for more than 300 million people from the Artic circle to the Azores – took place on January 1, 2002. Although no one ever believed the Europeans would jettison their national currency for a European currency, that New Year’s Day saw twelve countries (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) adopt the euro as their common currency. The nations of Europe who were able to surrender some elements of national sovereignty to build their continental union now need to surrender their fear and insecurity and reach out to the world to embrace its rainbow of cultures and religions.

Luckily, despite the French and Dutch Euro skeptics, European’s growing sense of allegiance and connection to their own continent is overcoming their multicultural and religious concerns. Through an endless web of Europeans cooperation, the corporate world is weaving economical and intercultural networks. With the tidal wave of investments sweeping across Europe many industries have turned to the well-educated and skilled workforce of the East and Central Europeans countries to meet their growing production demand. Many of the old Iron Curtain countries are turning into an investment paradise for manufacturing industries with the automotive industry leading the pack. In its July 25th issue, Business Week front-page title was: Detroit East: How Eastern Europe is becoming the world’s newest capital. From the French Japanese Peugeot-Toyota in the Czech Republic, the French Renault plant in Slovakia to the German Opel factory in Poland the European car industry labor force is daily exposed to a cross-cultural working style as well as a transfonctional management style.

With unlimited opportunities to work together, Europeans are offered a unique chance to learn how to understand and communicate with each other. Communicating efficiently across cultures, even those having a shared cultural and historical legacy, is about far more than just mastery of a language’s grammar and syntax. In business, bridging the communication gap with colleagues of different cultural backgrounds requires both a rational and emotional understanding of who we are dealing with and where the other is coming from. To understand someone from a different culture, we first have to put their behaviors and attitudes into in the context of their cultural and value system. Working and living in a different culture is a challenge for anyone. However, by taking the time to understand the values and motivations that drive a group of people, newcomers to a culture will see their efforts to communicate pay off many fold. The more effort we make to learn about and understand a foreign culture and its internal dynamics, the easier it is establish a comfortable relationship with those we work and interacts with.

Developing our multicultural understanding is simple and quite easy to achieve when we immerse ourselves regularly in new and culturally diverse situations and environments. By accepting, adapting and integrating to various cultural differences, our identity becomes a dynamic synthesis of the cultures around us. In years to come, Europeans will see the importance of multicultural understanding and effective communication across cultures. To facilitate cooperation and understanding in an enlarged Europe and increasingly integrated world, being able to look at Europe as the United Cultures of Europe will be key to the success of people at all levels of society, business and government.

This article was written for the Prague Club Magazine: http://www.clubmagazine.cz and published in the September 2005 issue.

Yours truly,