Sharon Dehmel Shows Us How Cultural Awareness Can Change the Face of Business

Resilience, fulfilment, and success in the workplace is possible with a the right strategy.

Start by writing your first and last name with your dominant hand five times. Describe how you felt doing that using three adjectives or so. Now switch hands and do it again. How does that make you feel? Awkward? Out of your element? Slow?

These last three words can be used to describe how you behave when you are dealing with different cultures. It’s how leading unauthentically can be for you versus the dominant freedom and feeling of being in your element. What does that say about your leadership? Does it give you insights into your own barriers? How can you break them to be a more effective leader across the board? 

IPBN member Sharon Dehmel has been helping companies and individuals answer these questions to the avail of solid team leading, decision-making, delegating responsibilities, and creating a work environment where different sensibilities and methods of working can be celebrated leading to the ultimate success of the company in question. 

Originally from Ireland, Dehmel moved to Italy with her German husband where she spent 18 years raising a family, getting a Master's degree in Learning Styles on Multicultural Environments, learning both Italian and German, and working as an English teacher at a school that she founded with a friend. Through her work in the school, Dehmel was asked by several local businesses to help them with presentations and the like, effectively giving her a taste of what her true calling would come to be: a coach and trainer. She attended the Coaching Academy in London focusing on Cultural Awareness and began imparting to her clients what business and teamwork could be like looking through an international lens. Now she offers bespoke coaching services and workshops in transforming talent and leadership and in intercultural coaching and has been doing so for the last number of years.

“In my own experience as a manager at 28 years old, knowing I was technically good, I knew even then that I had no idea how to manage people. I felt intimidated. That’s when it occurred to me that training future CEOs who are at an early entrance stage on that path, you can catch them before they begin to shine and build up best practices in dealing with people to become second nature. For those who don’t know what coaching is, it’s about empowering people and helping them understand their value. It’s in these sessions that you can discover if you are a results-based leader or a people leader for starters, and use that methodology to your advantage.”  

While our economy has yet to recover from the pandemic, businesses are caught in their own roads to recovery now that employees are not centralized as they once were and their employees aren’t bringing home problems to work, they’re bringing work problems to the home, and are left isolated with them. “COVID has shown us that in order to move a company forward, you need managers who know their teams, not just the business’ objectives, and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty on the emotional side. If someone’s not alright, they can’t do their job well. I teach what doesn’t get taught at university: empathy and understanding.”

Dehmel went on to say that on multicultural teams especially, behaviors are different between employees and cultural differences play a huge role in that fact. What might be an acceptable request to one nationality might be seen as a mere suggestion and not a directive to another, or worse, it could be seen as a threat. In general, accountability and feedback are different between cultures, so communication and understanding are key. Simple words like might and would are used in English to be polite but could cause delays down the line depending on how they are used, and to whom. 

“Every business faces challenges,” Dehmel says, “but with people, most of their issues stem from poor performance and lack of engagement, and businesses can lose key players if they don’t find the root of the problem. Not all issues are performance-based. The virtual world has removed barriers between us, and we now have different cultures coming together to work. There is amazing potential for businesses to excel when these differences are celebrated and incorporated into the organization itself."

If you want to know more about how intercultural awareness can change your business practices for the better, Dehmel is hosting a workshop entitled Resilience in the Workplace: Learn how to deal with adversity and become more productive and fulfilled on Wednesday, June 30 from 18h30 to 20h30. Advance registration (here) is mandatory and closes on June 29 at 20h.

Can't make it? You can also follow Dehmel on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram for more updates, articles, and even some daily challenges.