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Coaching Leaders With An Eagle Eye!

 

 

Coaching Leaders requires that a coach have a multi focus lenses. There are two concerns in the world of business that coaches has to keep in mind: (1) Finding the right leaders who can deal with (2) organizational competitive edge at different levels.

The first concern is around the choice of leaders that align with organizational strategy, and the second is how they zoom in at different levels.  With the first,  a coach makes sure they have the strategic level competencies.  The leader has to understand the structure and work with it in terms of vision, mission and strategy. Coaching leaders has to consider at this level the long distant lenses of an eagle eye.

with the second, a coach supports their personal abilities at different levels of leadership.  That means a coach has to see it all in detail and be able to zoom in with the leader and zoom out accordingly.  These are skills at the implementation level and demand creativity.  Coaching leaders is not a one at a time task. There is no such thing as one issue on the table. Coaching leaders deals simultaneously with all levels in one session.  That includes personal, interpersonal, management and strategic leadership.  In doing so, they encourage agency which leads eventually to the competitive edge, our second business concerned.   While executive coaching, deals with strategic levels, Coaching Leaders deals with performance, culture and communication at all levels.

This creates a need to balance between structure and agency in leadership through coaching.  While a leader could be restricted in terms of structure and the resources available, coaching leadership creatively will balance this out.  Coaching here would mean uncloaking a leader’s mindset towards new and innovative ideas and solutions for implementation. In essence, a coach will support leaders’ awareness of the resources necessary to initiate and implement change (agency). They will also support them in keeping an eagle eye on the vision and performance goals (structure).

To conclude, coaching leadership encourages agency, adds value, and transmits coaching skills to leaders.  On the other hand,  a coach also encourages an eagle eye view over strategy, culture and performance to support structure and alignment. Coaching Leaders requires that a coach be that eagle all the time.

At Fanar Dr Ghada Angawi coach leadership to address these two concerns. For more information please speak to Ghadah

 

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CQ and building Intercultural Competence

Intercultural competence is the capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts (national, ethnic, organizational, generational, etc.) [1].

Its therefore not only the knowledge we gain from cross cultural encounters that happen when we travel or eat in a restaurant that offers another culture’s food. It’s not only the cultural values that the cross-cultural management literature indicates. It’s not only the ability of being able to talk with anyone from any culture. It’s the collection of all of this plus the motivation to grow your own awareness of your biases, communication and behavior during these encounters.

I attended the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Advanced Certification (CCA) with Dr. David Livermore from the Center of Cultural Intelligence (CQC) in Chicago in May after researching the material they have and the evidence behind it. CQ has been around for quite a while and has gained credibility over the years through its rigorous and reliable methods of assessment of over 60.000 plus individuals internationally. The assessment is tested over and over again and the findings reveal more data every year which contributes to a better understanding of how human behavior and attitudes change as they work on the specific CQ components.

CQ is widely used in higher education MBAs and study abroad programs. The students take the assessment and are coached, trained and coached again over a 4-6 months’ period with a focus on developing personal awareness, knowledge, cultural strategy and behaviors in the form of verbal and nonverbal communication. The universities that have been conducting the program through CQC are in the process of evaluating the findings but they reported higher CQ after the introduction of the program so far. This is very promising in bridging the gap in education between theory and practice where most of the graduating students lack good communication skills and the ability to read the culture even in the same organization domestically let alone internationally.

Business organizations looking to enhance team performance are high on the list of clients. The assessment and training brings an understanding of what cultural values individuals in a team hold and how they can be communicated with other team members so as to shorten the length of the communication cycle and reach business goals faster. This gets even better when we introduce CQ assessment and training to organizations that function in different geographical locations or have multicultural teams. Coaching is one other powerful tool that supports such a transformation.

A study showed that of 100 companies that adopted CQ assessment and training, 92% had increased revenues within 18 months. Executives at every one of them credited cultural intelligence as a significant contributor to those increased revenues, which in some cases were up by almost 100%. Also, companies that worked to enhance their leaders’ CQs expanded internationally faster and became more successful at attracting and retaining top talent[2].

CQ in social enterprises and non-profit organizations works in the same way, facilitating the dialogue between faiths, immigrant cultures and underprivileged minorities. In essence the model works on the following four capabilities[3]. When you think about how it relates to leadership. It actually addresses the interpersonal leadership core where you examine your own vision and motivation. It also addresses your interpersonal leadership level of interaction with others around you. The more you work and get coached on CQ the more Emotional Intelligence (EQ) you develop in relation to yourself and others. EQ addresses your noble goal and motivation. It also addresses your ability navigate your own emotions and how it leads your life choices. Moreover, it helps you understand what people are feeling and makes you more empathetic. Being an EQ Assessor and a CQ CCA is very powerful indeed. I feel I have such an in depth understanding of how people feel and think and react, alongside an intercultural twist.

[1] Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne, 2008. Conceptualization of Cultural Intelligence, in Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), 3.

[2] David Livermore, 2016. CQ: The Test of Your Potential for Cross-Cultural Success. www.Forbes.com

[3] David Livermore, 2017. Level 2 intercultural training course. Chicago.




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Intercultural Competence

VS. cross-cultural Knowledge: where do we go from there?

attrib. to Gordon M. Robertson

 

Since I started using my own ‘interculturality coaching model’ in 2014, my interest in Intercultural Competency ‘IC’ became my passion. I continued my research to find what can coaching do to enhance IC in individuals who are in situations demanding them to behave out of their cultural comfort zone and expand their ability to communicate across-cultures effectively.

The bulk of research tells you a lot about how nations and cultures across the world perceive, process and make decisions based on their inherited cultural dimensions. The cross-cultural management literature focuses heavily on these dimensions. Among the famous and most recognized theories in the field of management and culture is Hofstede’s cultural dimensions’ models of work-related values (Hofstede 1994). The model consists of five dimensions; power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation.

There are several more dimensions added by other researchers in the field. Hall (1976) simply divides culture into high-context and low-context. He argues that the concepts relate to the way in which information is communicated and hence links to language. The assumption is that within the low-context, the listener would know very little about the context and meaning of the communication, while in high-context, the listener already knows a lot about the context (Hall 1976).

Rosinski (1999), came up with 18 dimensions grouped in seven categories corresponding to critical challenges faced by people everywhere, regardless of their role or position. The dimensions have emerged from a synthetic analysis of a range of theoretical frameworks developed by eminent anthropologists, communication experts, and cross-cultural researchers, including Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961), Hall (1983), Hofstede (1997, 2001), Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1998), among others. Other researchers also contributed to the field from different angels such as expatriate adjustment, expatriate selection and training, expatriate performance, global teams, cross cultural training and intercultural communication. Most of the research addressed in different ways the intercultural competence.

 

What I have to say here, is that the studies and research on intercultural coaching is scarce as Alexandra Barosa-Pereira (2014), in her latest literature review elaborates. Alexandra is a credential holder coach from the International Coaching Federation (ICF), who has reviewed the literature on the subject of cross-cultural coaching and was unable to locate any research or study comparing the ICF core competencies with the dimensions of IC. She also explained that there is a good amount of studies on coaching expats in different cultures and using coaching as a medium for coping and performance enhancement. In her words, Alexandra thinks that: “Every coach should develop cultural awareness, since this should be the starting point to respect clients in their uniqueness” (Barosa-Pereira 2014).

At this point it becomes important to discuss interculturality competence beyond “raising awareness” of an existing culture or the dimensions and orientations of that culture or any other culture for that matter. Raising awareness is one of the coaching core competencies at ICF. ICF argues that every coach should be able to listen deeply and communicate empathetically with their client. What ICF does not bring to the service: “is there any other ingredients missing in the coaching skills and training that contribute to their ability to communicate across-cultures?”. This raises the issue of coaching identity and the need to update the coaching competencies within a wider global context.

In my humble opinion as a researcher in the field, coming from a Middle Easter mixed culture, working in a western environment, moving constantly between other cultures, trained and credentialed by ICF, intercultural competence, definitely is an important addition to any coach training.

_____________________

References

Barosa-Pereira, Alexandra. 2014. “Building Cultural Competencies in coching: Essay for the first steps.” Journal of Psycological issues in organizational culture 5 (2).

Hall, E T. 1976. Beyond culture. Anchore press, Garden city, NY.

Hofstede, G. 1994. Cultures and Organizations: softwere of the mind. Mcgraw Hill, USA.

Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski. 2008. “Accessing cultural oreintations: online cultural oreintation assesstment as a tool for coaching.” An international Journal for theory, research and practice. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17521880701878018.

 

 

 

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The Intercultural knowledge Seeking Journey

I am writing this at my usual resting spot in JavaBaba Café in Vermont after a three-hour drive where I am, thanks to my husband, a passenger. Each time we drive to Okeme resort under construction there is new scenery to behold, and more to contemplate. I think of my longer journey away from home which started in 2006 and still has not come to an end (still trying to find home).

This time, I was reminded with the long journeys that my ancestors took on the back of camels and donkeys with the sole purpose of learning. They would navigate the Arabian desert using stars as a guide to their destination, leaving behind the comfort of home and family to the wilderness of unknown territories. The loneliness of the path was broken with singing and chanting to encourage the animals to move faster and inspire themselves to overcome illness or weakness. These long journeys often took days, even weeks. My grandmother had once told me that travelling from Makkah to Jeddah took three days on the backs of animals, which is between 60-80 miles. It would take three months from Makkah to Iraq or Sind (India), or to Egypt onboard ships that would row their way across the Red Sea when the sails failed to catch wind or were slowed down by the heat. It can even take longer if they are travelling to North Africa or Persia. Nowadays, we travel too briskly in a day or two, barely getting acquainted with the spirit of our journeys.

When Islam spread west and east, scholars[1] came from all these parts to Makkah during pilgrimage and remained for a year or two to study and exchange knowledge. It was a consortium of minds, a center for the sciences and a constant circulation of the newest research conducted around the world.  It was also a business hub for exchanging goods and entering new ventures. The stories and history of the world were told from the eldest to the youngest. Geography and detailed description of places, people, food and traditions were shared by the original people of those places. Languages and accents were discussed, learned and the literature accompanying it was transferred from one culture to another.

Most importantly the Hadith of the prophet Mohammad was told and collected along with the memorization of verses of the Quran in one of the 7 accents read and learned by mouth for certifications purposes. Hadith was to be told verbally and written only after one has taken it from several peoples’ mouth. A scholar will have to find the narrators geographical locations when they visited Makkah through a snowball effect. This means one narrator will lead to another and the knowledge seeker will have to search for them, meet them and hear it verbally from them before he can say in writing that he heard it. He has to hear it in the same phrases and words with little or no changes time and time again from different narrators. He then has to make sure every narrator he uses to verify the verbatim of the Hadith learned is highly credible in the sight of his social group, mosque, city and country. If there is one person who claims him uncreditable the Hadith narration is falsified and he has to look for another narrator. This process was done with every creditable Hadith reported in the two most credible books: “Sahih Muslim” and “Sahih Albukhary”. Sahih means correct or righteous. “Muslim” and “Bukhari” are two Imams or scholars of Islam who took upon themselves the writing of the Hadith collected from the third, fourth and fifth generation of narrators who heard from the companions of the prophet Mohammed, whom themselves told and verified to many of their own students. Narration stopped after the compilation of the books in writing and all that needed to be done was to verify the copies whenever they were transcribed to be used in main cities or libraries of Islamic towns and territories.

The research on the chain of men or narrators starts here. The generations that followed the compilers of the books of Sahih wrote six additional books, some of them were more rigorous than the others, having had to learn the knowledge and the men  and women’s biographies to be able to judge if they met and spoke verbally or just happened to live in the same era, which is not enough. This investigation continued to be the debate of all the scholars in the Islamic Studies field and Islamic Sharia. It controls the validity of the text or evidence used from the text to judge, infer, stipulate and arrive at conclusions in all matters related to actions permitted and prohibited, the acts of worship in its finest details and the benchmarking of new incidents against the eldest that occurred in history. This science opens up branches of knowledge in history, law, and jurisdiction and explains why we, as Muslims can differ debate and contradict each other sometimes.

This is very beautiful and gracious. It’s a blessing that we can continue to discuss and learn to the end of time. If Allah wanted us to be alike, he would have made all matters clear in the Quran. But, Allah, left the text interpretations open forever, so that it accommodates all lives, locations, times, contexts and nations. The cultures that can adopt Islam as a way of life, don’t have to give up this or that, it’s a matter of learning the basics and then measuring and stipulating. It keeps individuals occupied with knowledge and learning for their whole lives. Plus, it keeps the original identity of the region or culture untouched or changed, thus, resulting in all forms of architecture, traditions, social behaviors and colorful foods and music preserved in their original state. Only, when sameness is sought through strict and rigid thinking that we colors are lost to black and white and beauty is wiped of the planet. A lesson important for all religious leaders to keep in mind.

I hope my readers’ journey takes them to reading some of the Quran’s text translated (one way of understanding) and then trying to read some of the translations of Hadith, or to talk to Muslims from different cultures on how they see the text. This in itself is the Miracle of Quran which challenged the Arabs who were proud of their literary superiority in poetry and text. In This age the miracle still stands in another form, where it prompts translations with contemporary understanding.

I hope that I have added in this piece one more challenge to your Intercultural journey.

____________________________

[1] Men and women equally. In Arabic text a female is included in the male noun by default. This means, in writing you don’t have to write, he and she, it is already encompassed by such a definition.

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Defining Interculturality

Many times, when I present myself as an intercultural coach I am asked this question:

What is the difference between Intercultural work , diversity and inclusion? Aren’t they all trying to do the same thing?

The simple answer is yes, they are related but in when explained they are different. In this short article, I will first define the term “Intercultural” as a base for all the work I do and the writing I present in this blog.

In Oxford Dictionary, the word cultivate is a verb from Latin cultivare meaning to prepare the land for crops. In biology, it’s to grow or maintain. In plants, it’s to raise and grow. It’s also to try to acquire or develop (a quality or skill) or win the friendship or favor of (someone). The noun culture has several meanings:

  1. The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
  2. The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/culture

The word culture in itself is limited in how it explains the complexity of interculturalism.  K. Gilbert and P. Rosinski (2007) define culture as “the characteristics of one group that distinguish it from another” (Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski 2008). Culture therefore is an internal process that exhibits itself in the form of the obvious: artefacts, language, body gestures, social habits and literature (Hofstede 1994).The concept of a group regardless of their geographical location, nationality, religion, gender, generational, organizational or social stratification, indicates inclusion of different elements from the above, specific to this group. This means that previous research dependent on the taxonomies above is inadequate in explaining cultural differences on an individual level (Gibson 2014). The definition does not determine if individuals represent the culture they belong to or not on an individual behavioral basis. Hofstede defines it in the context of an organization as “the code, the core logic, the software of the mind that organizes the behavior of the people”. We learn to pass on survival behavior that determines the future of the group. Impeded are our beliefs, values, thoughts and feelings, determined by our perception of the world. We form assumptions and they in return affect our strategies, goals and philosophy, which is the second level of culture according to Schein (Schein, 2010). The third level would be the artifacts or the visible “yet hard to decipher organizational culture and processes”. These three levels of complexity in one culture tells you a lot about what happens when 2 or more cultures are combined.

Intercultural on the other hand is defined as “pertaining to or taking place between two or more cultures”. Oxford dictionary adds: “derived from different cultures”. Martine Abdallah-Pretceille (2006), prefers culturality as a term indicating a flexible and adaptable business environment that encompasses all the emerging patterns of thinking, expressions and behaviors (Abdullah-Pretceille 2006). I like to adopt this term “interculturality” as indicative of the fluid nature of culture and its ability to merge and assimilate or expand with other cultures. Thus, it’s a constant motion where the landscape is continuously changing by the addition, subtraction or interaction of its variable elements. Coaching for Interculturality, therefore when used in this context would mean “Coaching taking place between two or more cultures in motion. Coaching is defined according to the International Coach Federating (ICF) as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”.

When we combine the definition of coaching to Interculturality, the resulting outcome implies a spiral of growth.  In my view the definition of “Interculturality coaching” would be: “partnering with the client in a spiral of personal growth, interpersonal understanding, social engagement and global mindset”.  Included in this definition is all four levels of leadership. The personal level is where our identity recognition and most of the growth of our own cultural competency happens. The second is where we are able to understand and comprehend cultural differences in others and therefore make sense of the obvious. The third level is where our adaptability in behavior patterns transcending beyond our own cultural convictions towards enabling us to engage with the different culture. The fourth is where we become global leaders facilitating intercultural growth in others. In the definition, the outcomes are clear on all four levels of leadership. While in other kind of coaching, the outcome is defined by the client, this kind of coaching is predefined in the relationship of the contracting phase before even taking the coach on board.

References

  1. Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski. 2008. “Accessing cultural oreintations: online cultural oreintation assesstment as a tool for coaching.” An international Journal for theory, research and practice. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17521880701878018.
  2.  Hofstede, G. 1994. Cultures and Organizations: softwere of the mind. Mcgraw Hill, USA.
  3.  Gibson, Barbara. 2014. Intercultural competencies needed by CEOs. London: PhD Theses, Birkbeck, Univeristy of London. http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/64/.
  4. Hofstede Geert (2005), Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, McGraw-Hill, New York.
  5. Schein Edger (2010), Organizational Culture and Leadership, San Francisco: Jossy-Bass/Wiley.
  6. www.Dictionary.com
  7. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/interculture
  8. Abdullah-Pretceille, Martine. 2006. Intercultural Education 17: 475-483. http://www.annalindhfoundation.org/publications/interculturalism-paradigm-thinking-about-diversity#sthash.9eveiEkp.dpuf.
  9. The International Coach Federation (ICF), http://coachfederation.org/credential/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=2206.
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On Organisational Culture

January 20th 2017 inauguration day brought a flat if not negative feeling among all the people who find the new president an interculturally incompetent individual. Acquiring an intercultural competency can never be stressed enough in our daily lives in every human profession, unless you work on an island in total seclusion. Since election day, I have set myself the task of writing blogs on the subject. This is the last and third part of ‘why intercultural competency is important’ in this series.

American culture has many embedded cultures in it. The external perspective is often based on products of television and film. From an insider’s point of view and coming from an intercultural background, having lived here for a year now, it strikes me as an intercultural melting pot, even when I traveled to the south. Regardless of what the media conveys, and ignoring its presence, I see all shades of colors, food, costumes and accents. What is the truth about who we are as ‘Americans’? who does the name represent? The media focused culture? Or the corporate culture? Or the high-street culture? Or all of the above?

In retrospect, the assumption around a dominant culture in one organization fades in the face of these questions, making an intercultural competency that enables interaction and communication between individuals from different cultures, a must. When a coach speaks about an organizational culture as being dominant and rests in the knowledge that he can deal with what s/he knows, is not that being too idealistic? My argument is that assumptions that simplify and generalize will certainly blind an individual from seeing the full picture. The question is, is there a dominant culture? Which culture, the country or the collective organization? Is there really a specific country culture? My invitation is to consider the multi-layers of cultures that exist and their relation to all these variables. My invitation is to be prepared.

Another assumption is the claim of a wrong or a right culture. Using which cultural standards can we judge a culture to be wrong or right? Is there a universal culture? Universal standards in several cultures? If we don’t think intercultural competency is a necessity, how can we find that standard? An example in the work place would be of a Muslim taking a prayer break and asking that the meeting time be adjusted so they won’t miss their prayer. What’s wrong and what’s right here? What if that individual was the manager of a branch and their presence is important in the meeting? What if the individual was a woman and she wanted to keep wearing her Hijab, would the organizational culture accommodate her presence in the media publicly? What is right or wrong? What is the role of intercultural competency here?

That leads to a third assumption around culture. The assumption that if someone is from a certain nationality, educational background or belongs to an interest group in a certain culture, that they represent that culture. The scholarly work on culture was mostly formed to inform cross cultural management, expatriate assignments, and the management of diversity in the workplace. Little or no research emerged concerning intercultural coaching because coaching focused on individuals rather than organizations dealing with intercultural issues  (Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski 2008). Not only that culture is a collective identity and we deal with individuals that exist in this collective identity, but these clients may not be representative of it and they certainly may not agree with it. The challenge is to know the culture and be curious about the individual. This applies to every professional. Similarly, to assume that persons who identify or show a trace of a different culture are from that culture or representative of it. This assumption leads to judging people by looks or clothing or social and religious rituals which prevents us from interacting and communicating with them. The intercultural competency allows you to examine these issues with care, and to avoid generalizations.

Finally, I would like to mention the role of communities of practice in enforcing a culture. Individuals who belong to certain groups in the work or social places tend to develop specific cultures in these communities. This is true even though individuals who belong to them come from across the globe. Knowing and dealing with these cultures is also part of the intercultural competency a coach or a professional needs to develop. I hope I have addressed all kind of assumptions and arguments for and against intercultural competency for professionals and for coaches specifically which will invite my reader to consider training and accessing knowledge to build their own competencies.

Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski. 2008. “Accessing cultural oreintations: online cultural oreintation assesstment as a tool for coaching.” An international Journal for theory, research and practice. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17521880701878018.

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Intercultural Coaching

The 11 coaching competencies published in March 1999 by the ICF were formed through the work of the Portfolio Exam Committee and based on the common successful practices of experienced coaches in western cultures (Barosa-Pereira 2014). The challenge arises when moving to a different culture, where there is an additional competency that require awareness of the cultural values of the new culture.

The cultural values of the new culture could be a combination of several merging cultures. Thus, its not enough to learn the main culture pertaining to the geographical location where the coach is operating now.  The global transitions and movement or relocation is at its highest now and new mergers of multi cultures are arising with new generation that is not third or even fourth kid culture but more. The new generation is already out there working and leading, what are we going to do about this rapid change and demand?

I through this because I believe we need a new approach to intercultural training or intercultural coaching , this is called Cultural Intelligence! 

The new approach gives you the ability to work and perform effectively in any culture, its not to do with a specific cultural values for a specific cultural cluster, its to do with you as a coach, leader or professional.  It gives you the set of skills that equip you with a strategy in any cultural situation.

References

Barosa-Pereira, Alexandra. 2014. “Building Cultural Competencies in coaching: Essay for the first steps.” Journal of Psychological issues in organizational culture 5 (2).

For more information on leadership coaching, please speak to Ghadah

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The SOAR way!

north-greece-rezised-image-for-the-blog

Two weeks ago I had a  call with Margaret Greenberg along with Dina Markind from our ICF-CT chapter president. It was around explaining how SOAR worked. I have been using different frameworks to assess organizational performance and strategic planning review over the years. The conversation was a comparison between SWOT and SOAR. SOAR meant that we would be discussing Strength, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results. The first question that challenges the previous paradigm is: where is weaknesses (W) and threats (T) here in the conversation? The second is what is the difference between Aspirations and Results? The third would follow: how do you bring them together?

After she explained a bit to me, I grasped the concept but had no idea what the application would bring. Next, I am facilitating a 30 min marketing strategy board meeting. I explained to our team the exercise and what we are going to do. I divided them to two groups alternating to work on the SO on one hand, and the AR on the other. I nevertheless gave them a focus which was:

“What were the marketing strengths that the chapter possesses?

What opportunities exist to utilize these strengths?

What aspirations does the board have for the chapter?

What results would they like to see? “

I also asked them to identify in the discussion some issues that need resolving and why (covering the WT part of the SWOT as instructed by Margaret).

The next 15 min was energy and positivity. I then asked for the results to be presented to wrap up the discussion. I then promised to collect this and send it to every one. If I had time we would have probably worked together to refine the lists and come up with the goals. That would have take another 90 minutes.

At my office I re-wrote the four elements of SOAR in a much organized manner. I then identified 24 marketing goals. Only 9 of them fell in the marketing territory while the others overlapped with other board members roles requiring that we collaborate.

I think the whole experience of SOAR in the way we did it is that it brought cohesion. There was clarity and identification of my own boundaries. The other board members were interested and the goals they brought to the discussion were considered as food for thought for everyone and their own roles. I developed more clarity and team focus. We are a new board and we have a year full of work. I love the energy and the team building that has resulted and will continue to result from SOAR. I like to pay a special thanks to Margaret and her work with us as a member coach. I also thank our president who is doing a marvelous job in supporting us in our new roles.

Nothing prepares you for the hands on experiences in life until you take on the adventure and work on your skills, that is how I feel about my role. I thank the board for being tolerant of me pushing my emails and goals around. I am sure we will come to a point when they actualize. We are a team working with spirit and that is what counts.

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MY INTERCULTURAL JOURNEY TO OKLAHOMA: SIETAR-USA CONFERENCE IN TULSA, 2016

I am writing this blog from Tulsa, Oklahom
a on the last hour of SIETAR-USA conference. I am writing because I was moved by the presentations, workshops and TED talks. I always thought about the USA before arriving here 10 months ago as a symbol for liberty, equality and justice. That’s how the media demonstrated it to the world. During my 10 months short stay, I learned how the people here struggled and are still struggling to find their American identity in the presence of the “White Supremacy” as described by Eddie Moore in his presentation this morning. When I say people, I mean all the people who carry the different colorful and magnificent backgrounds, who were born in or immigrated to the USA.

People make this earth colorful and fascinating. As a Muslim, I memorized a verse in the Quran which  I pondered on for a long time and I am still pondering the meanings and underlying indications that it beholds. This verse explains the reason why we exist in such diversity. It presents the ultimate test for human interaction and communication across continents, nations and cultures. The verse is in Surat Al-Hujurat No. 13 and it translates to English as: “O people we created you from the same male and female and rendered you distinct nations and tribes that you may recognize each other. The most honorable of you in the sight of God are those who are righteous (in other translation pious, which means in Arabic those who avoid wrong doing even if the line between right and wrong is thin)”.

And as usual we Muslims like to parallel the interpretation of any Quranic verse to the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad’s “Hadith” to triangulate and verify the meanings of the verses so that we can speak of them with certainty (there is a branch of research methods unique to the documentation of Hadith, where the ultimate goal is to exclude false reporting). The Hadith I like to accompany to this verse is well-known but still ignored by many Muslims in terms of application as the Muslim world is filled with dichotomies, segregation and racism just like with all human beings around the globe. Our beloved Mohammad Peace be upon him said: ” There is no difference between an Arab and a non-Arab except in righteousness”. Both the verse and the Hadith indicates we are all equal, we come from the same parents, who are also equal to each other in rights, and our mission is to learn about each other, interact and appreciate these differences. It indicates we have equal rights to resources, and we have to share them. Those who are to be selected by the majority to rule must have the ethics and self-righteousness in the sight of God. This also indicates no one who does wrong escapes justice. If the system can’t identify them, God will and they will be judged, suffering the consequences now and in the day of judgment.

In my perception of equality, derived from the above understanding, I embraced all colors and races and dealt with everyone as having the right to say and articulate within righteousness. Righteousness must abide with universal ethics of dealings and being fair to others regardless of their social status, income, color, race, sex or age. It’s to do with honesty and trustworthiness. It’s the equal opportunity that we all deserve. The only boundary I see, is harm to others when I behave in an inconsiderate way. Then my freedom of word and action ends here. My first book to read from the Islamic library was Mohammad Qutb’s book on “The Ethics of a Muslim”. My first encounter to Interculturality was as I grew up witnessing my grandparents serve proudly the Pilgrimage in their long stay (Hajj to Makkah) year after year. I saw people remain in our home between three to Six months around the Hajj season. That was an intercultural conference where people exchanged thoughts, perceptions and traditions. In that conference people learn languages, ethics and fair trade. I ate different foods from all over the world and smelled all worldly scents. I witnessed the laughter of Makkah people who hosted that amazing conference six months every year and the tears they shed when their pilgrims departed and they knew they may not see them again, for the journey was long and expensive.

During The conference, I chose to communicate with the Islamic society of Tulsa. I wanted to attend the Jumma prayer which is done on every Friday of every week. The Jumma prayer gathered all the individuals and families to remind them about many issues on the social and political and sometimes spiritual discourse. The Imam (or Sheikh) will breach and speak to the hearts and minds. I wanted to know the Muslims of Tulsa, what does it feel like to be in their community.  I contacted the Imam and he spoke to me. He wished I spoke a week earlier, he could have arranged some opportunity to speak in public to the Muslims. I told him about SIETAR and what we do here.  I promised I will send him some information. I also learned from him that CAIR Oklahoma have a banquet dinner and I wanted to go but due to some misunderstanding of the location I could not. The essence of this is, I am communicating and connecting. I was able in my short stay at the mosque to enter the circle of teaching of the pronunciation of Quran. The women at that circle had no one to speak Arabic  and they thought I landed from Heaven.  I taught them half of the Arabic Alphabet pronunciation in 30 min, before the call for prayer was announced. They don’t know who I am, but they were happy I landed there.

Just like that journey my journey was to SIETAR-USA conference in Tulsa.  I see SIETAR as a hope that revives the human need to come together, meet and learn. SIETAR’s mission is in alignment with my faith. It’s in alignment with universal ethics. Dr. Alan Richter’s session on Ethics encompassed this need to get under the umbrella of ethics. The prophet Mohammad also said: “I was only sent to complement the best of ethics”. Ethics existed since mankind existed. Muslims have no need to convert others, neither Christians, Jews, Hindus or Buddhists. It’s a personal choice, but we need all and everyone to adhere to ethics.

I have to thank all those amazing souls I lived with for the last three days. I like to thank  Heather Robinson and Dianne Hofner Saphiere for the eye opening presentation on cultural competency. I like to thank Julia Gaspar-Bates and Lubna Ismael for the amazing session on the Muslim struggle in USA.  others who I had not had a chance to attend their sessions but heard the resonating effect, keynote speakers Brenda who moved me into tears through the story she told about American Indians tribes and what they are facing right now. I thank Sonia Khalil for her informative “Anti-Arabism” presentation. I thank Shelley Morrison, Charissa Kosova, Holly Emert, Rahimeh Ramezany, Emanuel Ngomsi, Jennifer Wiley, Keiko Ozeki, Monika de Waal, Julie Habelmann, Peter Stark, Nancy Urwin-Camara, and Genienne Navarro and lots of others for the exchange of idea and conversations we had around my path in Intercultural work. I most of all thank the ICF communities of practice who is led by Jeff Cone for leading me to SIETAR and my writing coach Muna Alyosuf who is a SIETAR EU member for encouraging me to attend this conference. Finally I thank all the team in SIETAR-USA and particularly Patricia Coleman the president for personally leaving their impression on each  one of us.

I want to conclude this blog by saying that I have just discovered I carry a great responsibility towards my nations and people across the world. I write this in plural because I feel I belong to a lot of nations across the globe; I am a global citizen. I feel enlightened and connected. I am energized to part of the good cause and mission of SIETAR. Let’s build a sustainable future together!