This is an interesting time to be a multicultural person in the global workplace. The explosion of commerce in the global marketplace, fueled by technology, has increased the recognition of the critically important and competitively differentiating value, of the multicultural (non-white) consumer and employee. There is clearly a valid argument that white people, can in fact, be multicultural. However, the focus of this article is not to debate the anthropological basis of the term multicultural, or coin the next label. This article does focus on the necessity of the multicultural person orchestrating their P.I.E. (Performance, Image and Exposure), to enhance their career.
P.I.E. is also one of the most critical areas a supervisor, human resources or diversity practitioner can provide assistance, to enhance the career success of a multicultural person. Yet, over the last 20 years, ALS has found that the P.I.E. model is often counter-intuitive for multicultural employees and difficult for their supervisors and HR practitioners to coach. Before exploring the counter-intuitive challenge, let’s level set the definitions.
Performance (P) is “Table Stakes” – the price of entry. Yet, performance alone is rarely sufficient, as the single driver for career success. “P” is more than a numbers game. It is the “what”, “how” and “feel” of sustainable contributions, delivered over time. A person can be a technical genius, the best sales person, project manager or master in supply chain. However, if they leave “dead bodies” in the wake of their outstanding contributions, then its impact and their value, is severely marginalized. ALS often asks our multicultural clients, “How did you make people feel about your contribution?” Many report not considering the impact on others, either its importance or relevancy.
Image (I) is an individual’s “Personal Brand.” It is about one’s reputation; the value others associate with them and about how they make others feel about them. It precedes and follows you throughout your career. We often advise, that one can best know what their image is by asking the question: “What do others say about me, when I am not in the room?” When we’ve asked this question of multicultural employees, sadly, their response is often, “I really don’t know.” They admit this is a conversation they have never considered having with their supervisor, peers, or clients.
Exposure (E) is about “Inclusion and Visibility.” It speaks to the person’s participation in the informal and formal channels in an organization. It’s about the type, level of support and advocacy a person receives. In the current vernacular, it asks the question, “Who’s got your back?” ALS’ P.I.E. Model sums up exposure as, “Who Knows You?” and more importantly, “Who Cares?” We have found that multicultural employees can create long lists of people that know them, but rarely can identify more than three or five important, influential people, who care about them. Feels scary?
You might be asking, “Where’s the beef?” Exhibit B is a chart of multicultural responses ALS received to our P.I.E. Quiz from the same company and similar peer group, which has been replicated many times. On a 1 (least favorable) to 5 (most favorable) scale, note that the “P” “I” and “E” are lower for multicultural respondents, with the “I” markedly lower.
Similar results have been replicated numerous times, with even greater gaps, across industries and companies, over the past 20 years. ALS’ has developed the following insights on the P.I.E. challenges:
1. Performance is more than table stakes; it’s survival.
Many multicultural employees’ “culturally driven belief set” and real-life experience, is that they have to be better than the “average” Caucasian employee, to stay in the game. So it takes more work and focus to just maintain their “P”. Hence, an over-focus on “P”, to the exclusion of all else.
2. Image is not part of “the work.”
Image is often put in the category of “nice to think about” after delivering “P”, when there’s little leftover time and energy. When there is an intentional focus on “I”, it tends to be more on the external factors, such as appearance [hair, clothes and speech]. Albeit this is important, it is only the price of entry and rarely sustaining. The sustaining and differentiating “I” elements, such as reputation, trust, risk-taker, transparency, visionary leadership, etc., are often lost in our cultural do’s & don’ts. These are the “masks” we wear and our “covering” behaviors [see “Uncovering Your Authentic Self”. Dr. Vanessa Weaver. May 2015- http://www.diversitybestpractices.com/news-articles/uncovering-your-authentic-self].
3. Exposure takes two.
Exposure is often not within the total control of the multicultural person “to make it happen.” There is a “Push vs. Pull” dynamic, to insure that exposure becomes the engine for advancing the multicultural person’s “P” and “I”. The multicultural person has to “push” by either expressing their desire, create and/or take advantage of existing “E” opportunities. Conversely, the organization has the “Pull” responsibility, to embolden its culture. The organization is tasked with requiring and holding accountable its managers and leadership, to provide “disruptive” visibility and inclusion practices that result in sponsorship and advocacy.
4. Image and Exposure: Challenging To Coach
The personal and culturally driven nature of “I” can make it a sensitive topic to coach or provide feedback. When tasked with the role of providing feedback or coaching for “I” and “E”, supervisors are often uncomfortable and don’t want to risk being labeled as being inappropriate, culturally insensitive or biased. So, they often say nothing.
P.I.E. Tips: What should a multicultural person, or their supervisor do? Here are our tips:
Create a broader context for understanding of your “P”
- At what level of importance do your contributions add value, to your supervisor’s deliverables?
- Engage in a conversation with your supervisor, using question #1 as basis.
- How do you feel your performance builds your Image? Do you feel your “P” increase your “E’, i.e. the number of people who “care about you”?
- Seek broader feedback, on how your performance and/or contributions made people “feel” about you? Any surprises?
Obtain a broader perspective by:
- listing 5 adjectives that describe your Image
- asking your immediate supervisor, mentor/sponsor /coach and a trusted peer to do the same
- comparing and contrasting the lists:
- What did you learn?Were the lists similar, different, mixed?
- Were the adjectives descriptive of the type of Image you envisioned for yourself?
- Were there adjectives missing, that would be important?
Create a list of people that know you in your workplace. Place an X next to each name if that person is powerful or influential enough to:
- enhance your credibility by linking you to theirs
- provide/strongly influence you getting a competitive next assignment
- create broad visibility for you, with key leaders in your organization
- connect you to their power network
P.I.E. Action Plan
Based on this composite feedback, create a six-month P.I.E. Action Plan.
- State actions in behavioral terms
- Include actions/examples of how others can support you in achieving your P.I.E. goal.
- Obtain feedback on your Action Plan from your immediate supervisor, mentor, coach.
- Commit to a date to “act” on your P.I.E. plan.
- Get an “accountability partner” to keep you honest and focused
SUPERVISOR OF MULTICULTURAL PERSON
Introspect and Seek your own truth
- What is the feedback, in behavioral terms, which could enhance or derail the MCP’s career aspirations? Have you provided it?
- Have you provided your MCP the “nuanced” or subtle feedback, which could be getting in their way?
- Are you having any feelings of discomfort sharing the feedback? Describe your greatest fear/concern.
- How would you handle if this concern(s) became true? Write it out and practice handling the concerns.
- Determine how impactful it would be NOT to provide this feedback. Put yourself in this person’s place and ask would you want the feedback?
- The reality is that this is your responsibility and is not optional to support their development.
- Role model transparency and vulnerability:
- Schedule a conversation with your MCP and share with them your responses to items 1 to 6.
- Share the importance of both of you being transparent and clear. Model risk-taking.
- Recognize it’s uncomfortable, but “Just Do It.”