The executive made a beeline towards me following my presentation. Striding up to the podium, he skipped the traditional niceties.
No greeting. No introduction.
“Look, we’ve got hundreds of leadership classes for the managers in our organization,” he said, cutting to the chase. “And not one has to do with preparing them to lead Hispanic workers—even though they make up the overwhelming majority of our workforce.”
I told him his company was certainly not alone.
“So, here’s my question to you,” his index finger shot out like a switch blade, inches from my chest. “If leaders in my company can’t communicate with the workforce and they don’t understand how to change their behavior . . . what do they need to know and how quickly can we train them up?”
The question was simple, but I struggled to answer it succinctly. After rambling a bit about my company, Red Angle, and our niche in the industry, I took a deep breath and repeated the question back to the exec.
“What do they need to know . . . and how quickly can we train them up?”
The executive nodded and peered at me expectantly.
“What do they need to know?”
A couple years too late for this particular executive, what you hold in your hands now is the answer to that question. GOOD TO EXCELENTE distills the fundamental lessons from Red Angle’s collaboration with over one hundred companies, training thousands of employees across the country. The two broad answers to this question comprise the two parts of GOOD TO EXCELENTE: Culture and Language.
Culture has been called the software of the mind by Geert Hofstede, the Dutch social psychologist and founding father of cultural intelligence inside the organization. In Chapter 3, we’ll dissect the most relevant segments of his research to improve your ability to persuade, influence, and establish trust with the Hispanic workforce.
Language is fairly straightforward. The American education system has a woefully poor record of teaching foreign languages.
"I took three years of high school Spanish and other than swear words, cerveza and baño, I can’t speak a lick," said Millions of foreign language learners, everywhere.
I hear variations of this statement so often I now begin my Construction Spanish workshops by asking for a show of hands to whom it applies.
The second part of GOOD TO EXCELENTE is focused on language. Having majored in Spanish, lived in Mexico, and connected with Spanish-speakers on the job for the last 25 years, learning relevant Spanish skills you can apply immediately isn’t nearly as difficult as it’s made out to be. I’ll show you the fastest path to speaking relevant Spanish on the job.
“How quickly can we train them up?”
At the heart of GOOD TO EXCELENTE is the M.E.D.: the Minimum Effective Dose. I first learned of the M.E.D. from Tim Ferriss, the author and self-described human guinea pig. Through his books, podcast, and television show, Ferriss is in constant pursuit of achieving results with the smallest amount of effort possible.
In speaking with high achievers about the M.E.D., I have learned many initially recoil at its definition. “What?” they exclaim. “The smallest amount of effort possible? That sounds more like laziness! Not to mention it contradicts the lectures I give to my nine-year-old learning long division!”
Frame it this way: the M.E.D. is the smallest dose that will produce a desired result. Anything beyond the M.E.D. is wasteful.
The analogy Ferriss uses is boiling water. At 211℉, water does not boil. At 212℉ it does. Adding more heat or extending the time after boil is unnecessary. You have achieved the desired result: boiling water. Congrats, now go do something else with your time, energy, and focus.
The same idea applies here. The goal of GOOD TO EXCELENTE is to get you trained up as soon as possible with the least amount of information and insights required to deliver the desired results—helping you become a better leader to everyone on your job, regardless of cultural background or language of preference.
The following diagram illustrates the G2E Leadership framework. Your ability to lead is shaped by two things: what you say and what you do. That’s it.
Your awareness of culture will drive your leadership behavior (what you do). Your awareness of language will drive what you say. However, culture will inform what you say while language will inform what you do.
When combined, you’ll be able to more effectively establish trust—the foundation of leadership and meaningful relationships. When you’ve established trust, achieving your goals of Productivity, Retention, Safety, or Sales—or any combination of these—becomes more realistic.
Only after you've established trust can you begin to think about going from good to great . . . to excelente.
Good to Great to Excelente.
Level 5 Leaders.
And lots of metaphors involving people, buses, and seats.
Good to Great by Jim Collins is one of the best-selling business books of all-time. Listing just a few of the catch phrases from the book instantly teleports me back to 2002. During meetings from that period, one co-worker would tally the number of references made to the Collins instant classic. The ratio typically hovered near 1:5—one G2G reference every five minutes of meeting time.
And why not?
Every company wanted to learn the secrets of making the leap from good to great. The book delivered memorable stories and a common language for framing leadership and managerial challenges.
Good to Great is a book about the past.
Jim Collins already knew the answers to the test. His team initiated their research working backwards from the question, “Which companies have been most profitable over the past 30 years?”
With the answers in hand, Collins and his team read a bunch of articles, press releases, and 10-Q reports. They interviewed executives and added anecdotes, analogies, and advice. It was neatly packaged together to say, “Here you go, dear reader. Here’s how you too can go from good to great.”
Good to Excelente is a book about the future.
Organizations across the country are struggling to adapt to an increasingly Hispanic workforce—and what that means for the allocation of the Holy Trinity of corporate resources: capital, talent, and time.
The future will increasingly be described as el futuro. Spanish will increasingly be the language of preference on the job. Behaviors will be increasingly rooted in cultural dimensions different than our own “American” culture.
The excellent companies of tomorrow will be organizations that understand the Hispanic workforce and how to consistently attract, hire, train, and retain them.
Different cultures see the world differently. Hispanic cultures are no exception.
Hispanic cultures raise their children differently, form ideas differently, teach differently in schools and interact with authority differently. All these differences impact behaviors on the job and your ability to lead.
Highlighting the quote from Edward T. Hall that preceded this prologue, many companies have recognized the large and growing Hispanic workforce. To become excelente, your organization will need to accept this truth as well—and then act upon it.