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Driving Success and Inclusion with Global Partnerships (Q & A with Bernardus Holtrop)

May 23, 2012

This blog post marks the conclusion of our interview with Linkage Principal Consultant Bernardus Holtrop. Below, Bernardus discusses how to best embrace and work with global employees and partnerships to drive success and inclusion.

What can leaders do to make an organization more welcoming to employees who are joining them from other cultures?

When people are going through any type of change, pay attention to what is ending for them and what they are loosing as a result of it. To help them let go of the past and accept the change that is coming, you, as a leader, have to honor their past (accomplishments, positions, offices, companies, cultures, etc). In doing that, you will help your people let go of the barriers that hurt their ability to fully adjust to this change.

Whenever someone is joining a new work culture, allow them to honor their previous (work) culture. Allow them to say goodbye to what they know without judgment. And allow them to keep little symbols or practices from their culture. As an example, my wife, who came to live with me in The Netherlands from Boston, takes great comfort in many little things, and habits, that she has taken from the US.

Then, take the opportunity to learn from people who come from other cultures and countries: what worked at their last company or in their native business culture—is there something there that could help make your organization more productive? Even if the answer turns out to be no, you have opened a line of communication and have shown respect to that person’s past.

In today’s global world, companies are partnering and working with individuals from other countries routinely. What can leaders do to make the most of these experiences?

Every opportunity to work with someone or be with someone who is different from you is an opportunity to learn. Many people, myself included, tend to have an initial reaction that is some form of judgment when we are faced with somebody who is different from us—they are different, therefore he or she doesn’t do that well and if we go one step further, we say he or she isn’t the right person or is not good. We judge all of the time. And that gets in the way of us learning and getting better.

To combat this, first we need to get to the mindset I mentioned above—every interaction is an opportunity for learning. And secondly, we need to get rid of the mindset of ‘I’m right’ because quite likely we are not. For instance, if you are used to eating with forks and knives and somebody comes to you and says I eat with chopsticks—you have two options. You might say that they are wrong or you might ask them to teach you about eating with chopsticks. In the business sense, that conversation could lead to the two of us working together to find something even better than forks and knives or chopsticks.

To me, it is about putting a stop to the thinking that the way you have always done things or believed things is the only right way—you get better when you try to learn.


Bernardus Holtrop is Principal Consultant with Linkage, where he coaches executives, senior managers and teams on their most complex challenges. As both a group facilitator and an Executive Coach, Bernardus designs leadership development programs and personalized strategies that foster bottom line results, improved work relationships and organizational transformation. He works with organizations large and small, including many Fortune 100 companies.

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