Joerg Schmitz 0:08
Welcome to the Inclusive Leader Podcast. The practice of inclusive leadership enables us to tackle the complex challenges of our times. This is the space for conversations about inclusive leadership. I am your host Joerg Schmitz and I welcome you to this episode. It's a great pleasure of mine to introduce you to Vince Valarro. In this conversation, Vince is a good friend, business partner, but also a mentor of mine, who recognized earlier than most that in our organizations, especially in our more global or and internationalizing organizations, there is a hidden asset that gets overlooked in the way that we manage talent, or even structure our D and I focus. And that is the growing and significant population that we would call international professionals, people who communicate in non native English across cultural differences in positions of influence where they have to energize, motivate and inspire talent. And this is not an insignificant challenge. After all, there are 743 million non native speakers in the world. And when you compare that to the 378 million native speakers, it's pretty clear that non native speakers predominate. But there is a unique challenge that that population faces, especially in organizations, and that frequently gets overlooked. So please enjoy this conversation with Vince Morello. I hope you find it interesting and eye opening, and perhaps an inspiration to pay attention to the unique challenges that non native speakers have in our organizations, but also the unique skills that native speaking managers will need to have, in order to engage and communicate more effectively, please enjoy this conversation. So then, what, what does leading in English mean?
Vince Varallo 2:17
Hey, York, thanks so much for having me on. It's kind of a long evolution of what that term means. And when I first started, and back then we weren't using the term coaching, I was tutoring international students while I was going for my master's degree in English. And, you know, the first thing I noticed was that all of those folks kind of advanced in the language. And I was helping them to prepare for university life. But at the same time, I started to notice that it wasn't really all about English. There was a lot of things going on there. Certainly many, many cultural issues going on. Behind the scenes, there were also, you know, that whole sense of, you know, am I going to belong here, not a language issue whatsoever. It sent an impression on me. And yet the term ESL made a lot of sense, English as a second language, but I wasn't getting intermediate students, nor was I getting beginners to getting advanced folks. So and here's what I noticed a lack of confidence and a great number of them in communicating in English as a second or for some of them as a third language. And I also noticed a level of anxiety that was there for many of them. Not all of them, some of them were confident and comfortable. And yes, the grammar mad, yes, pronunciation matter. But from that opening perspective, it set the stage for the rest of my career. I had no idea it was doing that either, by the way.
Joerg Schmitz 4:07
Well, if. And I resonate with that focus, right, because when I came to the US to study, I mean, I know that I felt there was a aspect of English that I was confident with, which was interesting, because it was mostly in that academic writing listening mode that I felt very comfortable, I guess, the lack of confidence was actually in the relationship side. And certainly when I left campus where I sometimes just didn't understand what people were saying, and I and I was struggling with the culture quite a bit as well. And all of these things do I belong here to I like it here. Is this my place? Can I be comfortable? Not with the pure study elements, but actually with the relational elements?
Vince Varallo 4:55
You know, I'm gonna share a very quick story that happened just The other day, and coaching a woman from Brazil sea level executive. And she told me the exact same thing almost in the exact same words that you said. And she just recently relocated to Jersey City. And so we're doing this coaching, she explains that the hardest part is just, you know, the social part of it, and where do I belong, even from a linguistic standpoint, and I shared with her a quick story, that she lives in Jersey City, and in the NCAA basketball tournament of which she would know nothing about St. Peter's from Jersey City just had one of the biggest upsets. And she stopped and she said, I thought they were celebrating St. Patrick's Day, everybody went out on the streets and was celebrating and throwing. And she said, Now I know what it is. So we spent about a half hour talking about the language of the NCAA tournament, and she her smile was from ear to ear. And she said, I still really don't care about basketball, but that's
Joerg Schmitz 6:12
okay. But she understand that she understood that context all of a sudden, yeah, exactly. Correct. You know, it's interesting, but what is the leading aspect? Because I can I can resonate with that story of, of coming into a non native speaking environment, you know, obviously, English is, I mean, it's the global language, still, in many respects. But what was that leading piece? In this story?
Vince Varallo 6:41
Yeah, you know, kind of following that, that train of thought very early in my career, I was a language school owner, which you know, and our assignments, and we decided to become very corporate oriented. And our assignments, in the very beginning stages were predominantly accent reduction. Because we work with the advanced people, it really wasn't ESL, even though they were termed the ESL population. And I will share with you that very rarely did it ever have anything to do with accent, but it had a lot to do with the underlying question of the participant. And that is, how am I going to get to the next level in this organization? How does that happen for me, and the guys behind it was the only way I can do that as sound more like I belong, where I am. This case, it's the United States, we also worked with folks working in the UK as well. And of course, that guys really wasn't at the heart of the issue. Even though the participants said I want to get rid of my accent, many of them would say that. And I'd hoists why? It's kind of your cultural calling card. No, I'm being evaluated on my accent. And this is what it means. So right, from a very early part, I think the leadership piece was something that was not necessarily available to somebody working in a US structure in a UK structure. Because they were outsiders. And big if I didn't master by communication skills, I was not getting to that next level. And notice, it wasn't even the English skills, it was communication. So So that's, that's where, for me, the light bulb kind of went on in that in that category.
Joerg Schmitz 8:39
Again, I mean, it's it's interesting to think about students, right, who struggle, as we said, maybe with relational aspects, and then but later on in the professional arena, it's kind of similar, right? It's the relational aspects of work and the relational aspects of advancing in an organization that, that becomes really daunting. And accent, I love what you just said around sounding like I belong, right? It's actually and I was thinking about accent, because, I mean, obviously, everybody has an accent, but when you have an accent that clearly places you as not being from here, whatever that might be, in my case, it's a German accent. You know, there is a self consciousness that gets easily triggered because your portrait, you essentially shout into the world that hey, I don't belong here. And that's a complicated message to send. And so So I think it makes sense. When people worry about their ability to progress or so that accent becomes almost an obsessive focus. You know, even like when you said that most people didn't even need to work on their accent but, but it's almost the thing you self diagnose, I, I don't feel I'm getting I'm connecting to my environment. I'm not getting the same opportunities, or I'm not advancing, it must be my x and because of everything else tells me that I don't belong. And that's all that comes down in my accent.
Vince Varallo 10:12
I'll share with you when it moved from something I do as a career to a passion. And I'll share that exact moment because I'll never forget it and working with a young woman, who was considered a very high potential from China, brought to our program as somebody who needed accent reduction, and touring the assessment period, you know, really wasn't an accent issue. And her boss's boss was one of considered one of her key stakeholders. She had two words for me, fix her and no coalition. I'm a career survivalist. So the boss's boss, I better be very, very careful here. And I probably didn't say exactly what was on my mind at that point in time. I did express that there was nothing broken. I know that I did that. But it was the next conversation with her boss, where and you and I have done some work around accent preference. In our book leading leading in English, and I mentioned that term to her boss, and the woman stopped cold. And there was a silence online. And she said, I have been doing that for years, and wasn't even aware that I'm doing it. I'm evaluating people on how they should sound rather than the ideas that they're contributing. And for me, those two phone conversations within one day, that's really when clarity, impact and narrative started to take shape. And as from that moment on, that I said, clarity is essential. Making sure your intended message is the received message is essential. But it has nothing to do with accent. Most of the time, it has nothing to do with accent. And then it dawned on me I know people who have what might be considered an incredibly strong accent was simple to understand. And people who might be considered having relatively no accent whatsoever who are impossible to understand. So it was clarity to that started to take that shape.
Joerg Schmitz 12:38
So you mentioned clarity, impact narrative, just for those that are listening that are not familiar with this. Do you mind just just sharing a little bit? Because I think it's the, it's the structure that your services are based on? Right, the way you help people is in those focusing on three elements.
Vince Varallo 12:59
Yeah, international professionals really gravitate to that three tier system. You know, the first is clarity. And I think the best way to look at it, it's yes, sound production is important. But it's not actually at the essence of the communication. It's the clarity of expression. It's, you know, that ability to get from point A to point B, and then that classic communication, where there's a bunch of things in the middle of it, the communicator has a responsibility to make sure that the receiver gets the intended message. The part nobody pays attention to is that the receiver has a responsibility as well. And, you know, we we call it takes two to tango. And often times in this structure, it is always the responsibility of the international professional. So part of what we're doing in clarity is making sure that both sides are leveling that playing field using an idiomatic expression. So I think that that's, that's a big part of it. Impact is the piece that a lot of folks gravitate towards. And maybe the best way I can explain this is that oftentimes, the feedback has been Hey, listen, if you want to make sure your intent your your your the message you send is the message that is received slow down, be understood. And that drives me crazy because I don't know a leader out there who is speaking so slowly so everybody just understands that you have completely taken the impact piece out of it. And you know hey listen impact in you know, I'm preaching to the choir impact means different things in different cultures. But it's that one piece of which has to do with, you know, conciseness, clarity of expression, intonation, pausing the technical skills of delivering a message that has eluded this population tremendously. That is that middle piece, the impact piece, and people gravitate towards that.
Joerg Schmitz 15:25
And what's the narrative in that
Vince Varallo 15:29
call that the leadership piece, that's the piece that if we could use the term helps with authentic branding, really to say, I have a style, and yeah, maybe I want to flex that style. But I want to keep my style. And there's no one way that's better than another. And so now, it is not a singular story about one story that describes who I am. It's really multiple stories that are very reflective around the values that people bring to work every single day, it's a sense of visualization, so that I can create pictures, so the audience can see it, understand it for themselves, without me having to just tell it to them. And that, you know, and I've learned a lot of this together in our work together, that part of the major learning is that these stories are that the teller of the story is not the hero of the story, kind of the Joseph Campbell work that I know you have done and both both of us have done, but really more of the sage part of the story. That's the role that the storyteller plays. So it's, it's a deep level piece, it has to do with self branding. But it also has to do with understanding who I am as a communicator. And my apologies for for being long winded here. But, you know, one kind of quick example, if people have a quiet passion, what they should do is maintain a quiet passion. But understand that, what the challenges are for the listener, and then adjust it so that the range of expression gets bumped up just a little bit, or the other way around, like me, I'm the other way, I You got to calm me down a little bit, and go in that direction. So it's who I am. And getting masterful at it.
Joerg Schmitz 17:37
I love that, that way of looking at it actually, because it's very liberating to front vent, when we when you think about it, from the sense of what we talked about earlier around accents, people worry about their accents, and they want to reduce acts and so that they don't project the message that I'm not from here, or that I don't really belong, or I don't really fit, or, you know, I need to be fixed, because that's apparently what some people actually really understand. And that it's much more around finding that sense of confidence, finding the voice, making that authentic, but understanding that I need to projected to a different audience and across a different audience, which is also where the cultural differences come in, I assume. But it's interesting that you're focusing on the body and I love this term, actually international professional, and we probably should talk about that a little bit. But you also mentioned the the person inside of an organization, the manager who all of a sudden recognizes, oh my god, I'm evaluating people not based on their strengths or, or their performance, but I'm actually focused so much on what they sound like. And it strikes me that you need to work on both ends, right, I mean, in order to help people with, with this dilemma that we talked about, namely, progressing in their career progressing in their organization, being recognized for for their skills, that and this is how to me it ties into this whole notion of inclusiveness and leadership that as leaders, we need to become aware that we may over emphasize or be hijacked actually by accent, right, in our evaluation of others, and that we need to create environments where that bias does not exist does where people are encouraged to bring their authentic self out and that might yes, many org many companies say this right. Many leaders say that but but that in the international in the intercultural context, that might even means something very different.
Vince Varallo 19:50
Yeah, you know, the whole idea that it takes two to tango really focuses on on Understanding that there are underlying challenges of working across language, and culture, and that and I think their response, we have to be careful here, because some people like overcompensate. And there's nothing worse than second grade English. I mean, you're you're dealing with professionals, right. And there's that tendency, oh, I have to really slow down and adjust, you know. So I think we're in a in a moment in time now, where things are getting better in this area. And I think that native speakers of English are starting to make adjustments. It's a good sign that that is happening now. And I think it's right now for this type of understanding of what it means to be operating in a second language, second culture, third language, Third Culture, now's a beautiful time where I think that's starting to happen. So I'm very
Joerg Schmitz 21:02
hopeful in the context of inclusive leadership, which, which oftentimes derives, I mean, a lot of it is related to the diversity conversations, equity conversations, in inclusion efforts in companies, it seems to me that there isn't, or there hasn't been enough emphasis in those discussions on things like accent or foreign accents even I mean, they're their domestic accents, of course, as well. And what you term international professionals as a, I mean, I've rarely seen organizations actually address that. And if I have, then there were organizations that weren't headquartered in, in an English speaking country, right. Usually, it's I've seen emphasis on language quite heavily by companies that haven't, you know, that are not headquartered in an English speaking country. But they're not necessarily even looking at this as a diversity dimension. And I find there should be fertile ground in actually, especially in global companies, raising awareness for the limitations and the challenges that international professionals face. But maybe you should talk about what an international professional is,
Vince Varallo 22:17
yeah, short, you know, it's at that moment in time to where it's remarkable that very rarely do people communicate about communication. And literally, nobody stops and says, you know, literally nobody stops and says, All right, we have different accents here. You know, here are some of my challenges. I have a problem pronouncing the number 33. Why can't that be announced? You know, ahead of time, or, you know, I have to share with you there are times when I struggle, listening, and understanding. So I'm not actually being rude if I say to you, could you say that again for me, please? And then on the other side of the coin, there's nothing wrong with really saying I'd be happy to do that. But it's so learning,
Joerg Schmitz 23:09
but if we know that about each other, we can learn together. Yeah, I always, I mean, one thing for me that was hilarious, actually, it's so great fun to learn about idiomatic expressions, right? I always say, you know, like this expression, they threw us a curveball, you know, I come from a place where all balls are curved. And, and baseball is not a thing. And I have never been on the receiving end of this. Suppose a curveball. And so I said, it's a it's an to me, it's an interesting phenomenon. Because first of all, it's fun to learn about idiomatic expressions. Yes, they're used all the time, especially in business, but they're used frequently by leaders to evoke an emotion. And it's interesting that these expressions, when you don't know what the expression means, or you just don't participate in whatever that expression comes from, you don't share the emotion even so even the understanding the EDM or the expression, does not translate the create that emotional connection to the leader or to the message, which I found always really interesting. But to learn about it is also great fun, because I need to be able to say in a meeting, hey, I don't understand that expression. Yes. And somebody needs to say, oh my god, yes. Thank you for telling me I just use an expression. That's right it on the on the flip chart. And actually, I'll tell you what it means so we can all learn. I'm sure we'd
Vince Varallo 24:35
love it. Yeah, that's communicating about communication. And also then answers your question, what's an international professional, it's really anybody working across language, culture and leadership, and that means native speakers, non native speakers. Talk about idiomatic expressions. I'll go to the other side of the coin. A recent project I was on On with a global team, and part of the purpose of the project was to get this global team to communicate about communication. And one native speaker of English and American gentleman was in that group, everybody else was from different parts of the world all meeting virtually. And this US chemist stopped and told me flat out, I am at an extreme disadvantage. Everybody's using a Global English, I have my local English, and they struggle to understand me. And I struggled to be understood. And I'm having a hard time listening and understanding. And I'm the only one, you know, fascinating stuff. So it really does take two to tango. And that US Canvas is a true international professional working in this environment. So and certainly a lot of the focus is on people working in English. As you had mentioned, right now, the number of people working in English as a non native language is a far greater number than people who are working it as a native language. So from that standpoint, you know, I think international professional is also designed for the courageous people who are working every day in a non native language.
Joerg Schmitz 26:31
So what I what I love about this, I loved about that this, this idea that there is this this intersection of language, of culture and of leadership, right, which is different, because when people hear leading in English, they, they sometimes assume, Oh, this is all about English, right? This is another language focus thing. They miss the leading piece, and sometimes people don't hear the leading, but then they're kind of baffled. What does that mean, in English? Don't we all use English. So it's to encounter that as a difficulty to communicate what the focus actually is here, because when people hear it, you know, they may not necessarily get immediately what that really important intersection is that that's what this is all about.
Vince Varallo 27:21
Sure, you know, and languages is a part of it, and a lot of the participants who come in care about that language part of it. But yes, I think once the understanding of the learning system of clarity, impact and narrative is put into place, I think leading in English falls in line very, very quickly. You know, as far as the title itself leading in English, for the most part, I think people understand we're not just a language institute. I think there's an immediate recognition of that. But once they start hearing that clarity, is nothing to do with accent. And impact is different across multiple cultures. And the narrative is your personal piece. I think that's really what gets it to fall into place. So there is that secondary moment in time where MCI n, I think carries the lead role
Joerg Schmitz 28:23
there. Yeah, that's interesting. I think at first people may be confused when they hear you speak. And when they understand what's meant by this, it makes intuitive sense, right. And that's not a split space that language schools traditionally serve. I think it's also things that in leadership development is underserved people not paying enough attention around the intricacy of leading, especially in a global organization, across language, across culture, and so forth. And that's a great,
Vince Varallo 28:53
great place for the language schools out there. I mean, we're working with people who work every day in English already. So there's, you know, those folks that are on the advanced levels of business, English, and the you know, intermediates, folks who are just building their language structures in a wonderful place for languages that they will recommend them. And we will be in a position to recommend like, Go, you probably should do this before you come to us. That's part of the process.
Joerg Schmitz 29:23
Yeah, question. The and this is the other piece and that, to me, that's actually very important that we don't just focus on the international well on the non native speaking international professional, but the native speaking professional is just as much part of this tangle dance right. And I'm wondering whether, you know, there are some practical tips you can share for both the non native speaking international professionals and the native speaking professionals that can actually you know, just just Just that any of the listeners can can take away or do something with
Vince Varallo 30:04
the Yeah, shortly, let's start with the non native speakers. So just one toxic two things. One is what we have seen is because sometimes there's a lack of confidence in making sure my message is understood. People create a bad habit of repeating themselves. And so they say it once. I'm not in the thought process, I'm not sure that that went through. So let me rephrase that and say it again. And then if it becomes a really bad habit, it happens a third time. So the confidence that you got it right the first time, and your audience is very bright, they got it. So conciseness, I think, is important. And this has nothing to do with whether you have a lot of things to say, if you have a lot of things to say I recommend you say a lot, but do so in concise structures. I think that's probably a good advice. The second for that population is that confidence is only a word. And it's a nice word. But when people say we just have more confidence. Well, great, thanks. How do I do that? Exactly? How am I going to do that? So I think confidence is strategic. And there are several, you know, examples inside the program that we give there. But confidence is strategic. One of them we talked about somebody says, could you say that again? First of all, the assumptions shouldn't be that I wasn't because I wasn't clear. Maybe the person wasn't listening. Maybe there was loud noises. Maybe they wanted clarification. But here's the strategy. I'd be happy to do that, again, for you to strategy. And it demonstrates confidence and at the end, and without being arrogant. And you know, continuing with humility. Did that help? Yeah,
Joerg Schmitz 32:03
just closing the loop, take that help. It's a big yes. And it also not just helps you stay confident. But it also gives you a sense of control in the conversation, right? That is exactly what you need to be confident. So great, great tips, but about the native, speaking international professional.
Vince Varallo 32:25
For the native speakers, I think awareness, knowledge and skills becomes important. First step is to be aware of the fact that somebody is working across language and culture. And you know, here's where the awareness slips away your you must experience this. And I'll share this with you that a lot of people who are highly advanced in the language and have been working in the language a long time, there's an assumption there, that everything is equal. And so for the native speaker, don't assume that everything is equal, this individual is still working across language, and culture and leadership. So there's that there's that recognition, the knowledge of that becomes very, very powerful. But to become skillful at communicating in a global environment. Now you talked about it, maybe I'll explain my idiom, maybe I need to recognize there are different ways of building bridges with individuals, then there are when I'm with my native speaking colleagues, or my native speaking colleagues, we can talk about the NCAA basketball tournament Jersey City one, how great is that, and then the skill behind that would be, and perhaps Maria might not be aware of what's going on in the basketball tournament. And then a brief explanation of what that is to include that individual into that conversation. Bring that individual in, cuz she has no idea what you're talking about. So there's, you know, awareness, knowledge and skills to become skillful at it is really a wonderful organizational skill, not just a personal skill.
Joerg Schmitz 34:16
And obviously, it takes practice and I resonate so much with with what you were saying, especially around this if you feel that a non native speaker is fluent or feels fluent or is comfortable. Don't assume that you're you can therefore relate in the way that you would with somebody, you know that that is a native speaker, right? And it's not the same. That's true. I work very hard every day when I went out of work in English so that's, and it's very much it's very much in the forefront of my my own awareness. So so this is a great tip. Vince I could not be more I mean happier actually use for you and and what you do to be part of the inclusive leadership institute. And I know that it's it's certainly a facet of diversity and a frontier of diversity that is yet to be explored and fully realized, recognized and owned by many organizations. And I, that's what excites me about, you know, bringing you into our, our community of subject matter experts and, and solutions and services and continuing the dialogue and the skill building with our members. You know, I mean, this is only the introduction. So I'm really looking forward to all the other things that our members will be able to benefit from, but very
Vince Varallo 35:43
exciting York fact. Thanks for having me be part of it.
Joerg Schmitz 35:53
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