Bennis, Galaxy Quest and Improving Your IQ

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The difference between leaders and managers are “the differences between those who master the context and those who surrender to it.”
– Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader


I recently conducted Red Angle’s new Cultural IQ workshop with a client who employs a large percentage of Hispanics. They also happen to sell construction products to an even larger percentage.


The goal of the workshop is this: improve understanding of Hispanic cultures in order to improve your leadership and sales capabilities.


It’s tough to persuade, influence, and lead Hispanic workers and customers when you don’t understand why they do what they do.


We discussed the growing Hispanic demographic in broad strokes (roughly 55M, 17% of the U.S. population) and some telling statistics about the future (Median age of Hispanics = 27 vs. 41 for the White population; 25% all U.S. births are Hispanic).


So,” I asked, “do you think you’ll be hiring more Hispanic workers in the future . . . or less?”


A chorus in unison: More.


And from a sales standpoint,” I said, “do you think you’ll be selling to more Hispanic customers in the future . . . or less?”




So we collectively believe we’ll hire more Hispanics and sell to more Hispanics in the coming years. And we know these Hispanic construction workers overwhelming prefer Spanish as their language of choice.


Wait for it . . .


How many of us think it’s not right that we’re investing in training our teams to speak Sales Spanish and learning about Hispanic cultures?”

The arm of one of the longest tenured men in the room shot up like he was snagging a foul ball down the third base line.


I sure as hell don’t think it’s right,” he said.


Thanks for being candid,” I said sincerely “Would you mind elaborating on that? From a purely self-enlightened point of view, your work life is better—more money & less BS—when you lead Hispanics effectively and you sell more stuff to them, right?”


“I guess so. But they should learn about us. I don’t want to waste my time learning about them.


To clarify, I ask, “Just to be certain, when you say ‘them,’ you mean your customers and your co-workers, right?”


I know many agree with this individual’s philosophy.
Some feel it’s anti—American to cater to immigrants.


In ‘Merica, we speak ‘Merican!” and all that.
I get it.


I believe this way of thinking is anti-Capitalist (and what’s more American than Capitalism?)—it will hurt your business and you’ll lose money.


Improving your Cultural IQ is a strategic investment en el futuro—Hispanic workers will find someplace else to work (to wit, the current labor shortage) and they’ll find someplace else to shop if companies don’t care about them.


Some will call your BK, or acquisition by a competitor, creative destruction.
It’s not. It will be your failure to adapt to change.


The tagline of Red Angle’s “Upgrading Your Cultural IQ” workshop is “Performance Over Politics.”

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It’s a choice.


You can choose divisive politics: bias, prejudice and the occasional dash of racism . . .
Or you can choose performance: persuasion, influence, and profitability.


It’s a binary proposition.
It’s one or the other.


To quote Warren Bennis:
You can either master the context or surrender to it.


To quote Galaxy Quest:
Never give up. Never surrender.



Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish language gap in the construction industry.    

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Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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