A Culture of Trust - How Dynamic Communication Generates Business Success
Andrew Miziniak's journey from a childhood behind the Iron Curtain to founding the global training and development firms, HansaOne and AASK Global, is a testament to the power of curiosity, adaptability, and cultural understanding and the influence it has on communication. His insights into language and culture are a roadmap for organizations navigating the complexities of our interconnected world and serve as a guiding light for creating inclusive, effective, and harmonious workplaces.
Our Conversation with Andrew Miziniak
Tiffany Vine - Account Manager, CRI
Hello everyone and welcome to the People Part of Business podcast. My name is Tiffany Vine and I am an account manager here at Corporate Relocation International and I'm here with my co-host.
Carlos Huereca - CHRO/COO, CRI
Hello everyone. I'm Carlos Huereca, Corporate Relocation International CHRO and we are thrilled to be here today with Andrew Miziniak, CEO and President of HansaOne. Andrew, welcome and thank you for joining us.
Andrew Miziniak - President/CEO, HansaOne & AASK Global
Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure. Thank you so much.
Well, Andrew, why don't we start with you telling us more about yourself and tell us more about HansaOne.
OK, I guess it's a mid-to-long story. I was born behind the Iron Curtain and as a child we escaped from Poland. I was born in Poland and we went to Germany where I started school and started experiencing linguistic and cultural matters very early on in life when I was thrown into German school and forced to just learn German. But as soon as we received political exile to the US, we were thrown into the US culture. So I had to learn English and learn the morays and the values and the mechanisms and rituals of American culture. After a few years, this happened again when we moved to France, and I had to relearn my reality in French middle school and high school in France. So, I just continued the journey. I think it never stopped. I guess people who travel, continue to travel and love to travel for whatever that indistinct reason is…some people say it's the journey. Some say it's the destination. I personally feel it's companionship. Why we travel...right? We're either looking for it or maintaining it. Sometimes I like to say you really get to know a person if you travel with them. So, if you are thinking, “is this person really a match for me?”... go take a trip with them and see how much of a match they are.
But I continued, and I went to Italy and worked in Italy and I taught myself basic Italian and started working...through Japan, through China, and all around the world. And I just kept on learning and absorbing, and I really was trying to feed it three aspects of my curiosity - #1 is observations, #2 is knowledge, and #3 is experience. I felt that those three things are very separate and unique because sometimes there are people who we train who have a lot of observations. They've seen things, but they don't really have the knowledge to sort of lynchpin or to hook onto what they've seen. So they're sort of carrying all these observations. They're aware of things, obviously, but it doesn't really make sense. It's not orderly for them yet. It's chaotic at this point.
There are people who have had a lot of experiences but never extrapolated what those experiences are through the use of knowledge or observations. And there are people who have traveled 25 countries, I've met them, who think they’ve “known” it at all. They've had these experiences, but they never took a moment to really reflect on their own culture...who they are as a person. So, I was trying to just fill those three areas of my life and observe as much as I could, even if it didn't make sense to me at the time. I was very curious, always trying to learn as much as I can, but not too much that it overwhelms my other two (aspects of my curiosity) and then try to gain as many experiences. Chasing experiences was basically my life. Whatever it was - if I wanted a thrill I went fast and drove fast. I got a motorcycle. I did those things, that sort of satisfied me as a growing person, but also here, what is the thrill of this global world that's happening? What is the thrill of where we're going as a planet that is connecting to the Internet, where everyone has an access point now? This is so totally, radically different, and you see the splits between globalization and globalism. They're splits between cultures wanting to do it at all costs and cultures that are sort of resistant, a little hesitant. Not everyone is communicating at the same level.
For some people, a Porsche is literally transportation. For others, it's the love of their life. So when you connect this international world through relocation, there has to be a more sort of sustainable way to piece it all together for it to all to work and not just assume that everyone's experiences are equal to others because they're really not. To some people, what you find very valuable might be OK for me, interesting for me, but not really an experience, so I don't have the same level of appreciation for it. However, I can build a level of respect, and so I started working early on in languages and cultures by accident, actually. I got into the field when I was programming some computers during my studies and I thought...I'm going to do a language learning software but I don't know how to teach languages. So, I went to a very large language and cultural training company to learn how they teach a language, and I became an English, Polish and French teacher. I started working in the D.C. area - lots of government contracts, lots of professionals. Maybe I was lucky to have seen the critical aspect of language, meaning that this person, if they don't learn this language, could be either misinformed in the line of duty or hurt in the line of duty. There are critical elements to language, and today I see it the same in aviation, for example, I constantly hear pilots not understanding the ATC, the air traffic control. There are real critical components. There's an envelope of safety within the language and we sort of assume that, hey, as long as the person gets the message across, it’s OK. But fine tuning a language does matter. I think it creates a real precision effect.
So, I learned that early on the importance of language. I started as a language teacher. I was promoted into management and spent ten years in that language and cultural field until I formed HansaOne 18 years ago. And the reason I went off on my own to form it was for a number of factors... #1 - I looked at myself and I realized there was no cultural training methodology to train a person such as myself because I was born in Poland, but I'm not actually Polish anymore. I thought about all my friends growing up...they were also from Korea, but they were living in Paris. Were they French? Were they Korean? What about my Indian friend who lived in London for 12 years? Do we put them back in the box and say, “OK, now this is an Indian moving to America.” But what if they were in London? None of this fit for me...this very biodynamic comparative approach that was happening where it's THE Chinese or THE Americans or THE French or THE British. All of that didn't sit right for me, so I wanted to create a methodology that would be as inclusive as possible, which is unicultural, that included diversity elements - this was back in 2003 that I was thinking about it already – and that was inclusive enough to not brand or label people because I would never read a book entitled “Working with Women” if I went to meet with a woman in a meeting. It would be absurd to think that a book could be written like that.
But then we do it for China. The industry does it for France – working with the French, the French think, the French do. Why? Individuals are individuals. And we are seeing more often than ever before that people want to present the way they see themselves. It's the platinum rule thing we've heard about, right? It's no longer how I want to be treated. It's actually how YOU want to be treated. So what if that person from China sees themselves as not collective, but individualistic, regardless if they're empirically collective compared to you. Why don't you work with them? Treat them and give them the respect to see them the way they see themselves. This is a powerful message because almost every culture, every culture in the world, would never let their child who sees themselves as an astronaut, who says, “Mommy, Daddy, I'm an astronaut!”, you would never empirically grade that child and say, “No, you're not. You're a kid under a mattress, playing with fake buttons.” You would say “Yes, you are.”
But as we become adults, we've taken away this courtesy. We've taken away this respect to others. When a person says I am direct, but they might be from Mexico, and they might be indirect, a little bit less direct than Americans, right? But why not give that person that courtesy, that respect? It completely changes the dynamic of communication. What really is happening at intercultural is that we've got to resize and sort of configure individuals through training to see themselves self-reflect, but also become compatible and match well with the other culture, who obviously isn't getting trained. When you go into a team in the US, they're not all getting trained to communicate with you. You're getting trained to communicate with them. So, there's a little extra effort on your part to adapt. I was fascinated with that for the cultural side, which is where I believe we have found really the most advanced and sustainable training methodologies for that.
What I'm really saying is that the skills needed to go global, which is what we were doing for 40 years, are completely and utterly different than the skills needed to stay global. That's the bottom line. When we were going global, it was like getting into a relationship. It was the big stuff. Do you like dogs? Do you like cats? Do you like apartments? Do you like houses? That's what it was for cultures - bowing profusely in Japan and seeding orders in China and all these ritualistic elements which are important, yes, but I don't think we're as fascinated with all that when we're just in day-to-day operations, especially in flat reporting structures and dotted lines and many stakeholders involved much more now than there used to be. So, the skills needed to stay global are sort of like the skills you have after you're in a relationship. It's the little things. Why do you leave the keys on the counter? Why is the temperature so cold? I'm always cold. That's why they have dual climate controls - because those are the skills needed to stay in a marriage because you're not gonna get along if you have only one temperature, right? So, we need that double climate control for cultures. We need to address cultures with, “what do we really have to do to stay global?”
You’ve got me really thinking about the platinum rule. I've been talking about the platinum rule for a few years now, and it's very present for me because I often hear people say, “the golden rule... treat others like the way you want to be treated.” And when you talked about the platinum rule - treating people like THEY want to be treated - I think there's just so much power in that phrase. So, tell us a little bit more. What do you think organizations could do to be able to fulfill that platinum rule?
That's a great question. I am a firm believer in training. I think training is an essential component of a company’s investment. We do it for regulated industries...where we have a minimum standard. But right now as far as communication skills are concerned, the minimum standards are, “do you speak English or do you know your job, and do you speak the language?” If they don't speak the language, usually language comes to us as a remedial type of service. “OK, we're having trouble with this person. Can you provide language service for them?” That's reality, but it's unfortunate that there's not as much proactive development.
For example, I developed something called the ORCA Method. The ORCA Method is the orchestration correction approach which I believe fixes an accent, an English accent, and it was developed around that concept that my parents spoke English (and they spoke several other languages.) Every one of the languages they did speak, they spoke with the wrong accent, which was a little unfortunate for them, because it was like French with a German accent, German with an Italian accent, Italian with an American accent. It was all a little bit of a mudjumble, but for English they really struggled. They are both well-traveled, very pleasant people, educated, and yet they never got their message across because of their struggle in English. And I think as English is truly, and this is not a statement of preference, but as English is truly becoming the de facto communicative currency, the language of choice in business, regardless of where you are, especially on the Internet. It is more important than ever to invest in something that didn't seem attainable, which is fluidity and confidence and accent and speech, and the person’s ability to communicate the ideas. Very simply put, “this is how it works.”
When you speak your native language, any native language, you have an idea and an image in your mind. That image gets converted into words and the other person translates those words back into an image. And we usually confirm this by saying, “hey, do you see what I mean? Does this look good? You see those visual words?” We also have an idea – logic. We convert that logic into words and then the other person retranslates it back into logic. And we say, “do you understand?” We confirm with the person with an understanding. We also have emotions. We take emotions and we convert them into words - obviously, body language-toned words. And then we ask, “do you know what I mean?” to confirm if the person gets it.
So, we've got this wonderful system built on context within the culture that allows us to take images, logic, and emotion and beautifully translate them to the other person and confirm. When you're a non-native English speaker, your imagery and your emotions get consolidated into logic because you're always checking to see if you're saying something correctly, which means everything you say comes off too mechanically, too sterile, too logically, and the other person's not retranslating back your imagery and your emotions, which leaves people frustrated.
What I learned growing up with individuals who struggled with accents was that we need to address how English is spoken in business. That's an investment. As far as employee retention, relationships are the key. If a person knows how to build relationships locally with a team, or even during a relocation, they will stay, usually in a company, if they have good relationships. But what is a relationship? We have some data that shows obviously people will work with you if they trust you, and if you have good performance. People will not work with you, usually, if they don't trust you and you have poor performance. But we also see that people will continue to work with someone even if their performance is lower if they're trusted. But the unfortunate part of this data is that even if your skill set is high, even if your performance is high...if people don't trust you, they're less likely to want to work with you.
So, what is the ultimate essence of a joining a team or relocating? It’s not to transfer your skill from one country to another, not your abilities, but literally how to rebuild trust very quickly in the new environment you're in. How to build trust in a team, right? Here's a good example of what your company could ask…what is the one little thing that people could do at work that would make your life so much easier? The one little thing - that question alone - is a team building question that opens up the next conversation and really highlights how little things actually make life turbulent. It's not the big things. Big things people leave anyway, right? But for little things...imagine if a trucker told you, “I wish people wouldn't cut me off.” If a human told you that, I bet you that you'd never cut a trucker off again because you heard a human saying that this is the only thing in my life that would make my life actually easier. You would do it, right? You'd be kind, and that's what we need to do. We need to find that sort of respect and kindness within teams to help people on those small things that really add up to larger things.
They're not necessarily visible, they're not easily explainable, but they are there and that's that turbulence where we build trust we're trying to resolve. Building teams is important. Training and development is important. We do focus on 3 areas in our training: human resources is one where we train teams. We develop leadership skills - very important.
Sometimes the leadership skills in one country do not translate to another country. I'm sure if some of the listeners are hearing this, they'll know that if they promote someone who is very successful in one country, they go into the international space and all of a sudden the person is not performing as well as they did in that country. Why? What's going on? How's the ecosystem been affected? Well, the person no longer has those same mechanisms of control as they did back in their country. That's a cultural thing. Almost everything is tied to cultures at the end of the day, but we tend to not want to see it that way sometimes. It's a cultural thing.
Training and development team-building leadership - that's for HR. For talent and development, we are looking at executive level leadership. We do find that a lot of the corporate culture is established at very high levels...the tone, the attitude from leadership and management…so we want to work with leadership on the training development side to really maximize their ability to be high dynamic range and work with all types of individuals.
Coming back to the platinum rule...we no longer can empirically grade or judge people as they are compared to us. To give you an example...imagine if you are funnier than me. In my house, I'm the funniest person in the world, so hopefully I don't lose that title. I'm like a UNESCO World Heritage site when it comes to comedy in my house. But let's imagine you're funnier than me. You have this positive charge compared to me. You're funnier than me. But in a slightly funnier group, you are by default the less funny person. You see how that works? So, if you come and meet with a new person, you're automatically put in as the less funny person. That will irritate you. That will agitate you only if you're not willing to give up being that funny guy, that funny person. You see?
So, we're training people to adapt well, because if they're fixated on always being the direct person, let's say, or, the more the communicative person, they will have conflict. We have this relativism in us where we're funny to some people, not funny to others, and we have to become comfortable with that dynamic range. And I think that's where leadership needs dynamic range to understand the variances. between cultures. What might be direct for you is totally indirect for others. I'll give you an example.
Americans might come off as very direct to many cultures, but as soon as an American meets a German... ohh they blush and oh my goodness, that was very direct, that was a little too strong for me. So, there's variances there.
I think to improve on employee retention, relationships are the key, and training is a fundamental part of building relationships among teams. It's an investment to maximize growth and we do have to consider in relocation, specifically, that there are “get outs” and “brownouts” and “blackouts” where people go. They might leave immediately. They might stay a couple of years, sort of brown out and not perform as well, or they might actually leave the company ultimately after the relocation. That (is something) we do have to consider as a true liability that we have to work on in a cultural program.
So, we mitigate that by understanding that it's not all culture shock. There's actually latent culture shock that occurs about a year to two years later. What's happening is the person's coping skills are very good to them. Everything is fine because they're in a coping state. They're in a traveler state and in that mindset. But they wake up one day, two years later and say, where am I? What am I doing in France? I'm not happy here. I don't like how they drive. I don't like how they chew. I don't like how they do things. Something happens to a person and this does happen. This is a very serious issue because if you look at any person who's been through trauma, they don't necessarily exhibit the symptoms of that trauma in the moment of the trauma. They might literally come home after a conflict and experience, in the comfort of their home, the difficulties that they've had two years ago.
That's what relocation also has - sometimes the people who are most reluctant to take a cultural program during a relocation are the ones that will exhibit latent culture shock later on. In addition to that, what happens in their marriage, what happens in their family? You know what happens? One partner is adapting in real time and has been having an actual culture shock. Ohh, this is different. Ohh. I can't find tortillas like this. Ohh, the bread is different than in France. Ohh, I can't find sausages like in Poland. So, they're actually adapting in real time - sort of rebuilding their reality.
The other partner is in this coping state. This latent culture shock coping state. They say, “what are you talking about? Why are you negative? Why are you always complaining? It's not a big deal. Get over it.” They're selling this big idea, this big dream. Two years later when they wake up and say, “what am I doing here?” They've never got a chance to build in that culture. They have too much pride and ego to admit that they are struggling, because they spent two years telling the other person, “get over it. It's all fine. It's great. We're having a good time. We're gonna travel everywhere.” And now they're struggling Now they're checking... it's like a midlife crisis almost...they're checking “what's wrong with me? Why do I not have motivation? Why am I not as happy with this position as I was? Why do I feel unjust?” Those are important things that we deal with up front with the cultural program, which brings the question, do you take a cultural program before you move or after you move? That's a kind of a universal question. Or do you take a cultural program before you create a team or after you create a team?
The answer is - you take it anytime you can. Before we will set those observations in motion, we will set that knowledge in motion. But we wait for the experiences. If we do it after they've moved, it's already after the fact, then we work on the experiences they've had and we pinpoint what they're supposed to observe and give them the knowledge to support it. So really, it's any time that you can, and I think it tempers all the other services. A good intercultural program will make a person react differently to a moving truck coming late, to Social Security Office saying “no, we don't have your paperwork.” Every one of those little hard points that occur during a relocation, which is many, many services. I don't think companies sometimes realize how much a relocation company does, how incredible its logistics are, how amazing the service it provides of which we are a small, tiny piece of the chain. I think we want to complement that chain, make it stronger by showing that all the other services will benefit with the use of an intercultural and language program because they learn to temper their reactions. They learn to have more realistic expectations and they don't react as quickly or as aggressively as they might getting thrown into it without some support.
Back to the Podcast...
Hey Andrew, I know you obviously work with relocating employees. Are these the only types of folks you work with? I would be interested to know...do you think the methods that you've developed work as effectively on people that are learning languages out of curiosity instead of just out of necessity for, like, a work transfer?
That's a great question. So as far as the cultural, we will support relocation. Our primary business is in relocation. We also do, like I said, training and development, team-building, as well as HR support for business units. So, all the HR support is usually reactive, meaning that there is an issue and then they call us and say “what can we do to help with this issue?” To support business units - as far as the methods - if someone is interested in learning a language for curiosity, which I think is a wonderful, wonderful idea to do and please consider, knowing just a few words in a language, is so complementary. Just knowing how to say “hello” if you're going to a country. You don't have to be fluent. Nobody actually needs anyone to be fluent. In fact, when I try to speak many of the languages I don't speak well, they switch to English like, oh, you're butchering it again, don't do it! But at least they saw the complement that I'm trying, that I'm actually making that effort. So, it's a wonderful journey. And you know what really happens when you learn a language? What happens is you're learning the context of the culture, so even if you don't become fluent, you're actually thinking and being sensible like the culture is.
Let's take a culture that's very sensible and very high context like Japan. In Japan, if you're very noisy and you're playing heavy metal next door to someone, they're not gonna come out and say, “excuse me, can you turn it down?” Not like in New Jersey, where the individual might say, “excuse me, your music is too loud. Turn it down.” They might come to the elevator and say “ohh, I like heavy metal.” And that's an indicator that they can hear your music. And if you don't pick up on that, you'll say “ohh, I like heavy metal, too. Oh my goodness, what a coincidence. This is great!” So, you just missed it. You didn't pick up what they were putting down. The next time they'll do it a little bit stronger, “I like heavy metal.” And you say, “Oh my gosh, I got concert tickets. You wanna join me for a concert?” This is a total miscommunication. One person is very high context, communicating in layers.
Essentially, think of it as compression of a file - like you’ve got this huge file and you zip it into a very small message. And the other person, based on the culture, on the context, has to unzip the file. That's what they're doing. It's a system of reduction to exaggeration.But the other person's not picking up on it, so they're just, bluntly, “yeah, I love heavy metal too.” Eventually, that person will become direct, but direct out of frustration. “Your music is too loud!” and then, “Whoa, I didn't know. Why didn't you tell me?” And there's this complete misunderstanding.
I think when you learn a language, you start learning context. You start learning sensibilities. You start learning body language and tone. And especially with a live trainer, I think this is where we miss the mark sometimes in the efficiency game of putting everything online. That's great. I think online learning is wonderful, but it doesn't produce fluency. If it did, then literally everyone would be yelling at me. “Andrew, this software made me fluent in Chinese!” No one's walking around saying that. It's not happening. You have exposure. You're good. You enjoy it. But what you really need to communicate as we know from research is that almost 7 to 8 percent of our speech is only words. The rest is tone and body language. How do you get tone and body language out of an online program? It's not the same. So having live teachers that are entertaining, that are fun, that are interesting.
I always call a 50 hour language program “25 programs of two hours.” That's what I tell my staff. I said this is not one program of 50 hours. Every single time that teacher shows up, they better be interesting. They better be in a good mood. They better be in the right attitude because this is 25 programs. If you take a break, the next time you meet, it's a program. It's another program. And so then they see this language emerging with tone and sensibilities, and perhaps even Polish culture, where I was born, is a little bit introverted. We're very expressive emotionally. We enjoy letting it out. But we are a little bit reserved and introverted and private. We're not secretive, but we're private. And that you would see with a teacher, you would feel that. So even if you just learned some Polish words, if you only learned something as simple as that, you've also learned from me those nuances, those contexts, those little things
If someone's doing it even for curiosity...perfect example...will the methods work? Yeah. We use an industry standard method called “direct method.” We have our own applied English methodology on top of that called ORCA, which is very effective. I highly recommend anybody who has given up hope of fixing their accent or being confident and fluid in English to give ORCA a try. It is wonderful. The basic premise of that was I saw everybody going to their English classes regularly for years and not improving their skills. And I was wondering, what are we doing? How do we learn? And I have this music background - I do music on the side - and I have a fairly good ear and I heard that there are patterns that exist in a language that are kind of universal.
So, we started studying English and we found that English consisted of 52 sounds. Then we broke that down to find out where are these sounds actually spoken. We found that 17 sounds exist in 85% of the English language - the spoken English language. I said, whoa, this is a Eureka moment. If we can fix 17 sounds, you can improve 85% of your spoken language. We took a stop there. This is incredible. And then we realized what I think is the biggest “aha moment” for us in language...you cannot correct accents and speech verbally. This was the biggest thing I learned. If I asked you to just say something in Polish and just try to repeat that real quick, that would probably be very close. Here's the thing...you never said that before, right? And you just repeated it. If you went five more times, you'd have it perfectly down. So that's a phonetic issue. That's an issue of speech pathology. Whether or not a person can actually pronounce a sound, that's a little bit of a different problem if you had an issue. But now let's imagine that most people can repeat something generally. You're going to come back tomorrow and talk to me and you will not remember what you just said, you will not know what it means, and yet you did say it, didn't you? So here's what happens in an English class -the student comes in and says “yesterday I went home” - home with a very flat o - the teacher verbally corrects, “Oh, no, no, I went ‘hooome’.”
So, the student does exactly what you just did, Carlos? “Ohh. I went ‘hooome’.” And the teacher is so proud, “Ohh, you're doing great progress” and writes in the notes that you're making such good progress. Student feels elated, “I'm making progress, too! Listen to how I sound!” It sounded so good they came back the next day and go, “yesterday I went ‘hooome’.” See what happened? It was completely not connected to something. So, what we did was that we figured out an interface of correction that could be done nonverbally. We associated the sound with a trigger word or a trigger signal or symbol.
So, basically now the teacher will say, “First, of course, we have to learn how to say the sound.” So that's - like I said – a separate issue to teach you the sound. But once you got the sound, the teacher will say “OK, from now on, I will never say the sound, “Ohh” to you, but can you do it?” And they say “Ohh, ohh, ohh, home, home, home.” You say, “From now on, I'm going to make my hand in a gesture like a “o” and I'm going to say to you, ‘make it rounder’.” So, three weeks from now, you come into class and you're saying “oh, so yesterday I went home. No, I'll make it rounder. Ohh, I went ‘hooome’.” Done. You're corrected. So, we use a trigger interface to trigger the correction for those 17 sounds, and that's why it's called orchestration correction approach. It actually helps the person self-correct when they're at home reading on their own when they see the little triggers above and below the text, they can actually practice their pronunciation without a teacher - on their own.
But this is the way to actually correct spoken English. Not to give them the correction, the repetition, because they will never remember it. Also think about this - if I make one symbol or trigger for the “eh” sound in English, do you know how many words that “eh” sound appears in that's not spelled with the letter “I”? For example, my wife's name is Susan. Sus - “in” - Pol-”in” d – Poland - the country I was born in. “EHD”. But it's spelled “And” But it's, “ehd”.
I'm taking this back to my kids...I feel like they're correcting me all the time. “Dad, take chairs, take charge.” And I always say it wrong. So now I'm going to have to think about this the way you're describing it here. It's just a lot easier, for sure.
I think it works easier partly because we actually got rid of the 17 sounds and we consolidated them into 9 fundamental ones that can transform your English for about 70% of the spoken English. It's not 85%, but I think 9 is a little bit easier. I wrote a book about it called the ORCA method, and so obviously this is something that someone who is native fluent will never understand - the struggle of fluidity, confidence, and accent. And if you've been around people who have, of course, no one's gonna admit it at work, right? Because no one wants to diminish their role, diminish their posture in a company. No one's going to tell you outwardly, “hey, I need help.”
But do understand that people who are non-native English speakers struggle on a day-to-day basis with the very kind of garbled fluidity that we have, especially in American English. We speak very quickly and we typically as people do not tailor our English level to the listener. We do not. This is a perfect example - an engineer from Mexico went to his boss and said, “I need to disagree with you about something in the meeting” and the boss put his hand out and said...like that sort of like a little a pistol thing and said “far away, far away,” like that and the Mexican engineer kind of got frazzled, ran to the other side of the room, completely got in the corner of the opposite side of the room and then start speaking, “I really need to disagree with you about something in the meeting.” And the manager is feeling awkward now. Something's going on. So, for a month he's wondering, “What did I do with this relationship? What did “get far away from me” mean? You know what it was? It was...this was in Alabama...the manager said. “Fire away, fire away” and he sees this employee going to the other opposite corner of the room.
This is what I mean by fluidity and lingo. We don't match our English or grade our English to the listener. We're always just speaking the way we expect to be heard. So, it's very important in this training and development process to help people when they communicate. It's not language classes, but when they communicate, remind them to grade their English abilities or their speaking abilities to the listener that they're speaking with.
Since you mentioned that you work with relocation primarily, what are some of the challenges that you normally see with organizations, especially in the context of conducting international business or international relocations?
I think time is a big issue. I think what you mentioned about your children…I also have teenage children. The distractions are endless these days. It's a little bit like...I like to think of it as food in the US - every single place will tell you they're the authentic, the original, but they all taste different. So, which one of them is the authentic one? That’s every distraction - telling us this is the way to spend your time. This is it. If you do this, you'll be happy. If you do this, you'll be informed, and we're really struggling with it as an industry, making sure that we can, in the most efficient way, provide a service that is high quality within the timeframe that's given to us…changing scope of relocations, for example, business travel and the short terms versus long terms. So, things are changing there, but I think time is the thing that we work up against the most.
Finding time to take an intercultural program, seeing the benefit of it, taking time to take a language program instead of just saying, “You know what? I'll get through this. I don't have the time. My job is more important,” not realizing that those trainings, those services that the relocation company is adamantly recommending WILL benefit your career. It's just a small investment, but time is, I think, the critical one.
Also simplifying services, compiling services together into units. If you look at destination, I opened up a destination service side about 8 years ago called AASK Global, and we see that the consolidation of services is also happening. Before it used to be each individual service in its own self and its own way, delivered. And now perhaps we're doing two or three services at once which is perfectly fine for this, just an adaptation of expectations between the vendors and between the relocation companies.
I do see a trend that I really enjoy and this call is an example of that. I see really advancing relocation companies engaging more with their supply chain. What I see, especially like CRI, it's just wonderful, wonderful to work with a company that finds the talent, the best talent in the world. But then doesn't just relegate that talent to a supply chain, sort of like in the back room - “we need a warm body in Texas! We need a warm body in Denver!” It brings them out to the front and says, “You know, we have something to say. We have something to offer that is dynamic, that is going to help you kind of work through the next 10 years of evolution when it comes to how people communicate, how people grow.”
We are in a time when things are more sensitive, too. We are in a polarized time. And so, it's important to understand what are the best type of vendors to use that will have great results but sustainable communication skills. If you send moving people, if you send real estate agents, if you send destination providers...are they trained to communicate internationally, or are they just somebody who's never had exposure to someone from abroad? These are important things. I think CRI - when we work with your teams - I feel like we're put in the forefront. We are special. We are important. We want to make you happy. We want to impress you with what we do because we don't feel like we're relegated to a supply chain, like an assembly line, as it might have been in the past. I do like that trend happening...there's much more investment internally, into the quality and relationships that you maintain. And I think that will show itself externally to your clients when you have a great relationship with your vendors, the clients can see how much you tend to the internal customer and how much you'll tend to them.
Well, and for us it's definitely a sense of pride - our ecosystem and our partnerships with our vendors – it's one of our value propositions and something we're really proud of. You're definitely an extension of us.
We appreciate the shout out and to just pick it back up on what Tiffany just said, for us, it's important that we find the experts within the industry that are able to provide these services that we know our clients and the employees of our clients need. This podcast is about people and finding the right people that truly have the expertise and understand the context of relocation, especially an international relocation, and HansaOne is an organization that truly has that expertise. It's just a tremendous value-added proposition not only for CRI, but for the clients that we service and the employees of our clients.
And the passion...we really look for that and that's certainly something that you obviously exhibit around cultural training and learning and language training and we look for that in all of our vendors, essentially the same passion we have for the end goal.
I appreciate that. And having that voice, having this platform, I do very much appreciate it to share how things are different. Like I said, people are very complex amalgams of all of their experiences. Right now, you can spend a year on Google Earth and on the Internet, fascinated with France. You might have more of a French experience than someone sitting in a cafe in Paris because you ‘feel it’. People are very complex amalgams. It doesn't always go back to their ethnic root or their national root or their cultural root and we do have an issue in the industry that we see clients making a terrible mistake with and that is that they appropriate or associate rituals to culture. They say the culture that is visibly more cultural, “I need cultural training.” So, if you're going to China, we absolutely need to train cultures. Yes, yes, yes, it's China. But if you're going to Britain, no, you don't need to. If you're going to Germany, they speak some English. It's kind of more approximate to, let's say, American western-centric culture, right? So, this is a mistake because every culture has a culture. If we treat rituals as the culture, then all we're saying is that the volume of the song is what makes the song good, not the actual melody of the song.
Every culture has a culture - Australia, Great Britain - people sometimes overlook cultural training when they're going to those countries back and forth from the US. And they say,”Hey, they speak my language. I'll be OK.” How does this relate to cultures? You're sending someone to England or to a western country from a western country, the Europeans have this problem I think the most because they are a united Europe, and they assume that because of this union that they are simply one continent, but there's still so many cultures. I think those of your clients listening will know that in their divisions regionally they still have exactly the same intercultural issues that they were dealing with even 20 years ago that are because of different rituals, because of different values. And of course, like I said, the behaviors might be the same, but what is hidden below the surface might be totally different. So sometimes the same exact behavior is driven by three different values, which is that the key is to always train cultural, regardless of the ritualistic aspect of the culture. Whether it looks more cultural, “quote unquote” or not.
Andrew, we briefly mentioned our kids and one of the areas that we're constantly evaluating is the impact that we have on families. Are there any specific services that you offer for the family as a whole and not just an individual moving from one country to another?
That's a great question. We do offer the full ecosystem - HansaOne is the language and cultural part of it. Within the larger scope, AASK Global provides all the destination services, including school finding, including language instruction for children. It's all tailored to child learning, as well as spousal support. I think sometimes we tend to forget how important the first language program for spouses is. It's actually their first friend in the country. They might be sitting alone. They might literally have quit a job to make that accommodation for their spouse who's working. And now they're on their own, sitting in the house and the doorbell rings and a teacher comes over or they have this web call, if they prefer. That is an important aspect to support the family. In addition to that, we do train the entire family given the expectation in intercultural programs, so it's not just for the working spouse. We ask both partners to be present in the program and then, if there are children that are either at the age or in the right context to learn from it, we will allocate the remainder part of the program toward just working with the children, setting the expectations and goals for them.
Like I said at the beginning, I'm very lucky. I'm very blessed to have been a child who moved and then again, an adolescent who moved, and again a teenager who moved, and to understand what this family is going through. You did say CRI picks the best vendors. There are companies that don't have vendors for the service. They do it inhouse. They've not been around the world. I feel that you have to pick someone who really knows what they're doing and has been there, who understands that process instead of just picking from a list of trainers who tell you they're trainers.
I hand select every single trainer. When we started, we had perhaps 10 or 20 trainers in our network. Today, in intercultural, we have about 145 intercultural trainers worldwide in 45 countries ready to deliver anywhere - in person or online. We've accumulated a network of about 800 language trainers around the world. Not everyone's being used all the time, but this is our large network that we've interviewed. We have talked and built relationships with every single trainer we work with, and as an extension of how you trust us, we have to trust our trainer at the end of the day to deliver the service for us the same way. We want to follow your attitude of inspiration, of choosing the best, picking from the best, and we're sort of complementing that, but we don't want a trainer to tell us how it's done in reverse. We can tell you how intercultural is done. That's our field. But when it comes to our field internally, because that industry is evolving, terms are evolving, how we talk about cultures is evolving and the way you spoke about cultures 20 years ago, we do not speak about them today.
We don't lump people together like we used to, not we, but how the industry used to. We tell the trainers what we want, what kind of tone we want, what kind of expectation we want. It's a little bit like a plumber telling you what needs to be done in the house - “never do that!” The companies that are just picking trainers off a list are not doing the proper due diligence. The companies that are picking the experts who are choosing the trainers ARE doing their due diligence. CRI choosing us to pick those trainers is really the key.
At the end of the day, we're really just very glorified matchmakers in the field of culture. We're really good at finding the best trainers in the world and matching them correctly with the client who has a certain need and that does bring me to a point - every single training is unique and different. People come from different industries. We have medical industries we support, aviation we support manufacturing we support. The trainer has to be associated to that industry. We have trainers from all walks of life, trainers that are either retired from an industry, past CEOs, past VPs. We've had VPs of United Airlines that just go into the intercultural training field and they share their knowledge. They share their wealth of experience and their observations with the person moving. It's not like we're sending a person who just simply talks about France, for example, to someone - we're sending someone who's possibly associated and aligned with an industry they're in - manufacturing - and they've had that exposure and experience.
I do want to point out one of our best trainers in China was not Chinese. And I think there's this misnomer that somehow - because I'm Polish, but I train on the US culture - I'm fascinated with the US culture. I'm the expert on the US side. But I'm not American by birthright, and so we had a trainer that spent 17 years in China and he was just so spectacular, but we would get pushback because he wasn't Chinese. I think we need to change the way we see culture as still rooted in this sort of ethnicity and see it more as a person who understands the mechanism of communication across boundaries and borders. We need to step away from this identity politics of culture and move into expertise and abilities. I did want to bring that up because I myself am not from the US, but I feel comfortable enough to speak on the US culture at the end of the day.
The culture part is so interesting, I just wanted to tell you. Having learned languages in a university setting, I definitely never took as much from that classroom. I studied Mandarin for three years and didn't learn as much in those three years as I did in the 3 1/2 weeks I spent in China. Obviously, you know the immersion is so different.
Right, right. Can you believe it? That's right.
But there was such a disconnect of learning the culture and how to interact with people, and such a focus just on the language. So, it's very interesting to hear that.
That's right. That's right.
And how to approach someone in the way that they want to be approached instead of with your preconceptions of how you should.
The one thing that you said around that people actually want to work with someone that has the experience, the expertise, and not some organizations that decide to do things inhouse, but not having the actual knowledge or even the experience. For some of us who came from another country, when you even say that to someone, people actually value that because they're like, “Oh, you get it.” Because you know you've gone through something very similar. I think there's just so much power in having a partner that truly understands the value behind supporting someone that's making a huge commitment of moving their family from one place to another.
I will say our destination service - we actually train our associates interculturally and also in international language skills, so all across the board, all of these services are complementing each other. So, when they go to meet, when it's an associate just meeting someone at a DMV, they're using the appropriate jargon and the appropriate level of English. They are culturally-trained and sensitive to that culture before they even go. But how are our destination services typically done? It's a warm body here, a warm body there, no pre qualifying aspects? No, it's all based on who's good at relationships, who's done it before, but it's very hard to scale that kind of experience. So, scaling wise, I'm very blessed, but we're trying to create an entire ecosystem of training and development that will help all communication - from relocation to HR.
It's pretty obvious you're very passionate about culture and languages and as cliché it sounds, we have this theme here internally that we call “service obsessed” – it’s really our culture. It's just fascinating that we have the ability to find partners and build this ecosystem that shares that passion and that matches our service obsessed culture. Because I think when you partner and then you deliver on that promise, it's powerful, and clients and the employees of the clients will be able to not only see that, but feel that. Maybe it's that HR aspect of me, of the ‘feeling’ part that is so critical, especially in this line of business. So anyway, I just wanted to mention that.
Yes, right. You want others to feel your enthusiasm. I want people to feel mine. What I really want is at the end of the day, I don't want people to consume language and cultural and this relocation process for what it is, meaning moving boxes from here to there, getting paperwork, etc. I want them to be totally and utterly consumed by it - as a life change. Let's take it for what it is. We're asking someone to say goodbye to everyone they know, every food they eat, every friend, every road they've taken for the past 20 years. We're saying to them, “say goodbye and then start work on Monday.” This is a big deal. This is not a transaction. This is a person who requires a certain level of intimacy and trust to do this process. Otherwise, if we treat it as a transaction, we lose that passion. So, I totally agree with the passion part.
A great way to create self-reflection in teams, in groups of people and individuals, is to ask them to answer four questions - one is how do you perceive yourself or your own culture? That's the first question. You get 5 or 6 words and they have to be only words. They can't be sentences. The second question is how do you perceive the other culture or how does your culture perceive the other culture? This is now the 2nd way to look at the interaction. The third one is how do you think the other culture perceives your culture? And things start changing now. They’re like, oh, I wonder how they do perceive me? And then the 4th one is, how do you think the culture sees itself?
Those 4 dimensions can help start the conversation to understanding another culture, because everyone has impressions. I call them impressions because after they arrive, another thing happens - which are called compressions. If you had just general impressions, they don't really mean much until you arrive. You say, “excuse me, do you work here?” And the other person says, “does that look like I work here?” Oh, boy. You just got a compression. If you had a bad impression originally, it just got compressed into a reality. So, we want to understand these impressions before we even get going - with these four questions - to help the person understand what their reaction will be when they get there because we can't guarantee how the weather will be, how the day will be, who they will meet on the first day they arrive. It could be hit or miss. So, we want to create the right expectations before they arrive with that type of self-reflective analysis.
Yeah, that was great. Thanks again, Andrew Miziniak, President and CEO of HansaOne and AASK Global, we appreciate your time.
Thank you. Pleasure to be here. Thank you so much.