five common cultural characteristics and how they impact business


The beauty of business is that it connects all four corners of the earth.

Throughout our careers, we will come across several cultures, some of whom can feel miles apart from our own.

My favourite definition of ‘culture’ is, “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively“. It follows that culture is not confined to wider society and communities but is equally prevalent in organisations.

The comforting thing to acknowledge is that typically cultures share at least five mutual characteristics. So before you’ve even started to embrace a new culture for business or personal purposes you are already familiar with at least five of their practices.

So, whether you are trying to penetrate a new market, build global contacts or you simply want to understand your playing field a bit better. here are the five common cultural characteristics that you will find in every society and organisational culture.

1. The Initiation

Cultures all tend to have a ritual for becoming a new member. A newcomer starts out as a stranger and then embarks on a rite of initiation, created by a particular culture, which marks the passage of that individual into the community. Some of these rituals may be so informal as to be hardly noticed (e.g., the first time you are invited to a coworker lunch), while others may be highly formalised (e.g., the call to the bar ceremony for Barristers). In every business, there are groups, power struggles, and unspoken ways that members earn their way from the role of a “newbie” to that of a full member.  All these challenges are to be expected in any culture.

2. Common History

Think for a moment about the history of a business like Coca Cola. Do you have an emotional response to the mental images of the red and white Coca Cola logo? Traditions form as the organization grows and expands. The history of every culture, of every corporation, influences its present state. Its history also influences where it might want to be in the future and further what is may struggle to compete with. You just have to reflect on the history of a business to understand it more.

3. Common Values and Principles

Cultures all hold values and principles that are communicated from older members to younger or newer ones. For example, time (fast customer service) and cleanliness are the two pillar values of the McDonald’s corporation. A new employee may take these for granted, while a seasoned professional who inspects restaurants and its franchises, may see the continued need to continually reinforce these core values. Without reinforcement, norms may dissolve, and if this were the case it could fundamentally change the success of a business which has been founded on its core values. This reinforcement of values is seen across every successful organisation. These businesses owe their success to certain values and they respect those values.

4. Shared Purpose

Why are we here? What is our mission? Throughout every culture, this fundamental question is asked. In business, the answer to this question can be found in the mission and vision statements of most organisations. Employees or members will be expected to acknowledge and share the company vision. The most successful organisations make sure each member is working towards the same goal in unity.

5. Common habits (Symbols, uniforms, language, and rituals)

Cultures have common symbols that mark them as a group; the knowledge of what a symbol stands for helps to reinforce who is part of the group and who is not. Cultural symbols can be seen in organisations in the form of logos however they can also include dress, such as the Western business suit and tie, the Scottish kilt, or the Islamic headscarf. Symbols also include slogans or sayings, such as “Just do it” or “because you’re worth it.” The slogan may serve a marketing purpose but may also embrace a mission or purpose within the culture.

Cultures have their own vocabulary and unique ways in which they communicate. Consider the lawyer or the accountant both have and use specialised jargon when communicating within their field. This language is learned over time and “on the job”. While a textbook can help, it can’t give you the first-hand experience of how it’s used within a particular culture. The use of this language is a defining feature of whether you are part of that culture or not.

Rituals are another core component of cultures. They can most simply be seen in company practices, for example, whether they have embraced the digital landscape or whether they exist largely on paper. Or, in how they recruit staff and so on. Rituals mean that organisations can have formalised processes which then stifle their future ability to innovate or adapt to new circumstances. This can be a real sticking point for organisations as the business world is far from stagnant and is in fact constantly shifting. However, once organisations get around any disadvantages of pre-existing rituals they can start to build practices allowing them to remain competitive.

The first step for any organisation, wishing to compete at the forefront of innovation, is to understand their deep seeded company culture. Without acknowledging it’s cultural advantages and restrictions companies cannot hope to grow.

For more information on this topic read here.

Don’t let these bad habits damage your happiness


We all strive for happiness. Happiness, however, has no universal definition. Instead, it depends on you and whatever it takes to get you to the bliss, content, utter euphoric state of happiness.

Unhappiness, on the other hand, is easy to identify; you can see it, feel it and you definitely know when it’s wrapped its arms around you.

Happiness, rather satisfyingly, has little to do with financial circumstances. A University of Illinois study found that people who earn the most (more than $10 million annually) are only a tiny bit happier than their employees.

Psychologists from the University of California found that happiness makes up of only 50% your life circumstances and genetics `9i.e things outside of your control). So, the remaining 50% is up to you.

Unhappiness can catch up with you. It grows, following a long period of time, not being self-aware. During this time your thoughts and actions have been unhealthy for you. You have failed to look after your needs, properly and you are left feeling unhappy.

The good news is that this state of unhappiness is not permanent and resolvable. So much of your happiness is determined by your habits (in thought and actions) and once you are aware of the unhappiness traps – they are easily avoided to ensure you a future, filled with happiness.

1. Not being true to yourself

If you’re anxious, say it. Don’t pretend you’re not feeling something when you are. Suppressing feelings is unhealthy. It doesn’t let you deal with anything. Instead, by pushing your feelings down, and not dealing with or accepting them, you are vulnerable to them coming back and attacking you, when you least expect it.  The height of emotional intelligence is, respecting your feelings and allowing yourself to experience the consequences that come from embracing them, for what they are. Only then, can you express and use your feelings, in a manner that helps (rather than undermines) your ability to reach your goals.

2. Too much tech, too little nature

Everyone enjoys binge-watching a TV show and checking up on social media. The real question issue is how much of your time do you give to that TV show or social media pages, avoiding the real world? Does it make you feel good or numb? Most times, it doesn’t make you happy but just passes your time. Is that what you want your life to be? Did you know that taking a walk in nature is a natural anti-depressant? It can boost your flat mood far higher than any tech, ever could. Monitor your tech time and make sure you’re spending more time with nature, than tech, for a happier life, it’s that simple.

3. Waiting for the future

Telling yourself, “I’ll be happy when …” is one of the easiest unhappy habits to fall into. Future imagined circumstances don’t lead to happiness. Happiness happens, right now. Even if you get everything you want for your future, happiness comes from within. You can’t be happy, even if you have the husband/wife, car, job of your dreams if you haven’t worked on your internal happiness. Don’t spend your time waiting for something to change how you feel. Instead, be in control and focus on improving your happiness, right now.

4. Fighting change

Change is an inevitable part of life, and if you fight it it’s because you are struggling to remain in control. The problem with this is that you remain on edge, constantly fearing change and actually put up a barrier between yourself and the actions you need to take to improve your situation. You must remain adaptable for change. Be flexible. Your brain needs challenges to survive. Your brain craves adversity. By avoiding adversity you become mentally weak, which leads to unhappiness. Embrace change, live an interesting life and reap the happiness rewards.




How to make every day mentally healthy


Sleep, wake up, work. Repeat. If this is your daily routine, you may be setting yourself up for a miserable existence.

We have to take action and create healthy habits today, otherwise, our lives can pass us by before we know it.

Creating healthy habits allows you to reign more control over your life and enjoy each and every day.

Being conscious and enjoying every day encourages a mentally, healthy existence.

1. Wake up with mental space

Don’t start checking your emails as soon as you hear your alarm. Allow yourself space to wake up. Even if it’s only 30 – 45 minutes – this non-tech, non-work related space, makes the world of difference to your day.

2. Work out

People tend to feel more depressed when they neglect their bodies. Make sure that you schedule time for yourself to work out, even if you don’t feel like it. It significantly boosts your health, self-image, and mind.

3. Get lost in fiction

Whether you prefer to read or watch, getting lost in another reality can help to reset your mind and flareup your creative juices. That stimulation makes your day smoother by thinking differently, solving problems in abstract ways and, most importantly, makes you happy.

4. Write poetry or a diary entry

However you prefer to mark a day, just make sure you do it. Some people like to write poems as they find it easier to recreate atmospheres than write objectively about their day. Other people write diary entries as they find it therapeutic – they can also compare entries to other days – to mark progress. Both writing styles can increase your self awareness and appreciate for each and every day. It keeps your mind open to the small details in life and is an incredibly healthy habit to have.

5. Check in with your family and friends

Surround yourself with your biggest fans. Create circles of support around you. Validate your friends and family and also make yourself feel stronger as they support you. These people are exactly who you need at the end of a stressful or upsetting day and visa versa. Make sure you schedule in time for these important people.

6. Don’t forget to play

Going back to your childhood can rejuvenate your soul. Take a walk in the woods and just wonder at the nature around you. If you are blessed by young people around you then play and laugh with them. Or listen to music from your childhood.


The best ways to fake it till you make it

fake it

You’re told time and time again to fake it till you make it, and what initially sounds quite absurd actually makes sense. Some 70% of people report feeling like a fraud at work. If you’re not careful you can give opportunities away to the more confident 30% simply down to your lack of confidence.

Therefore, the “fake it till you make it” advice, is a safety protocol, saving you from yourself, until you realise your own worth.

So, here are eight ways to fake it till you make it.

1. Remember your past success.

If you’re deliberating about whether you are good enough to take up a new opportunity then you need to think of your wins. Think of everything you’ve done to get where you are. Write it down if that helps, just make sure it’s fresh in your mind and ready to remember when you need it most.

2. Surround yourself with people who reinforce you.

We can’t do everything ourselves. Make sure in your life you are surrounded by people who believe in you. Limit your interactions with toxic people, in so far as is possible. Make sure that you have enough genuine love and support towards your goals. Without this, it’s very hard to get by on a very low day. This can be anyone, family, friends even coworkers.

3. Exercise 

Exercise is a confidence-boosting natural drug. Before a high-stress situation such as an interview or presentation sweat it out. Put your power music on and don’t stop till you hurt. Not only does it help you to build your confidence by flushing happy endorphins through your brain but it helps you to mentally focus and not get so sidetracked by worries or fears.

4. Don’t forget your bigger picture 

Have faith that you are on the right path. Nobody is perfect and you are here to learn. So, if you feel out of your depths, think about everything you have done before and how capable you are. Think about your journey, where you want to be and how close every new challenge will take to your goals. Instead of feeling fear, feel gratefulness.

5. Give what you want to receive.

Validate other people and in turn, validate yourself. When Derek Doepker, the author of Why You’re Stuck, began his journey, he felt like a fraud. His answer was to identify a role model He researched authors, podcasters and bloggers who resonated with him. Go and tell them how much they mean to you – he advises, and it helps you find your own worth in the process.

6. Never let ’em see you feel like a fraud.

Typically, when we exhibit equanimity and confidence, it makes the situation much better. Think about how awkward it is to watch a nervous speaker? Think about how strange it feels to have an unsure leader? No matter what, do what it takes to fake it till you make it. Remember feeling like a fraud is normal and every scary moment will pass. Just give your best performance regardless of how you feel inside. Make people think you can handle it.


Are you ready for Generation Z?

generation z

Generation Z is about to take over the “millennial” hype. They consist of the generation born between 1996 and 2010 – and are set to make up one-fifth of the workforce by 2021.

Unsurprisingly Generation Z differs quite significantly, to their millennial predecessors and bring a whole new set of ideas to the working world. Unlike Millennials, who are driven by purpose, Generation Z has grown up through a recession and the fear of it happening again means they are motivated by money and security.

Their new set of ideals mean they will make waves in the workplace and if employers wish to retain them, they should respond accordingly. So, if you want to be well-prepared for the new wave, consider three core Gen Z traits and how they can benefit your business.

1. Make tech your priority 

Generation Z lives and breathes tech. They don’t know a life without it. To reckon with this new wave you need to make your workspace a truly digital environment. This not only pleases Gen Z but it also makes your workspace the most efficient space possible.

Forward-thinking organizations like PwC are making digital fitness (as they call it) a business imperative (read more here)

As a rule of thumb, anything that can reduce the friction of getting work done or smooth workflow is fair game for an upgrade.

2. Feed the Generation Z hunger for competition 

Generation Z is fiercely independent and competitive, They’re not afraid and even like some healthy competition with their teammates.

A great way to create cohesion amongst Generation Z and your team is to run some in-house competitions among your staff. Technology again provides a creative solution but equally, anything that proves their worth, within the context of your organization will quench their competitive thirst.

Investing in their competitive side could provide value for your organisations future. think about innovation projects or think tanks which, if liked, could see some incredibly beneficial ideas being implemented.

3. Design your space to encourage “togetherness”

Interesting statistics to take into account, if you really want to understand Generation Z, are as follows;

  • They have startlingly high levels of loneliness within Generation Z, which topped the UCLA Loneliness Scale with a score of 48.3in a recent Cigna study.
  • Other research shows high levels of anxiety and distrust among Generation Z, pointing to their social media childhoods and being raised during the recession.

Designing a space that encourages collaboration, openness and a feeling of togetherness will help this new generation to do their best work which may provide instrumental value to their growth.

Over the past two decades, organizations have paid attention to the unprecedented mindset of Millennials. Now it’s time to do that again for Generation Z. Getting the most out of employees does take investment, but in the long run, it reaps rewards for organizations who have created the perfect space for success.


Read more on this from William Arruda 

How to keep your attitude in check during a bad work day


A toxic attitude can spread faster than distasteful gossip.

A bad mood is infectious and if you don’t nip it in the bud it can be impossible to work. Before you know it, the rest of your colleagues will be feeling your negative energy. Even worse, you risk giving a bad impression to your superiors who will be less than impressed by your bad attitude. Something that, (especially if it happens more than once) can really tarnish your reputation.

So, you need to get your attitude in check—and fast.

Here’s how:

1. Avoid Venting

It’s human nature—when you’re having a terrible day to want to vent to those around you. Unfortunately, this creates a domino effect in the workplace and only achieves to spread negativity. Even worse, imagine if it gets back to those in charge that you’ve been bad-mouthing their business? There are little benefits to venting at work, about work. The key to keeping your unpleasant mood in check during the workday is to say, as little as possible. By staying quiet, you avoid the risk of opening your mouth and saying the first snarky thing that comes to mind.

If you absolutely need to get something off your chest speak to someone that doesn’t work with you.

2. Take a Break

The downward spiral of negativity moves quickly. A bad exchange with your co-worker turns into a bad morning, which turns into a bad day. Nip the bad experience in the bud and don’t let it take over your day.

One of the best ways to do just that is to get up and take a break. Go outside and take a walk, run an errand, or head out for a quick cup of coffee. Do anything that will get you away from your workplace and change your environment.

Research shows that attempting to continue to stay focused on the task at hand will only lead to an even worse mood. So, the absolute best thing to do is to stand up and take a break. In the end, that’s much better than trying to power through.

3. Perform a Random Act of Kindness

One of the very best ways to get yourself out of your funk is to perform a random act of kindness. In fact, research shows that these small kind acts actually raise your dopamine levels—making you feel a lot happier.

Your random act of kindness can be to anyone – at work – on the streets – it’s your choice.

Doing something nice and unexpected, can stop your bad mood, and help you to feel empathy, over anger, allowing you to cool down.

4. Fake it ’Til You Make it

Don’t let your bad mood rule your entire day. Instead, put on your most convincing happy face and push through.

This might not be easy but it’s far better than potentially ruining your reputation with a sour attitude.

Even better? Science says that smiling (even when you don’t feel like it) can actually help to improve your mood. So, it might be just what you need to turn that awful day of yours around.

Bad days happen to everyone. For a long and successful career, you really have to manage your mood to make sure your reputation does not suffer.

The four work personality types

four work personality types

A workplace is a dynamic environment with a diverse range of people. Not everyone, in the world, works, reacts, or communicates in the same way. Typically, you can find four work personality types. Each of these personality types exhibits common characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses that benefit from being managed and communicated with in different ways.

Understanding these four work personality types will help you to successfully lead a diverse team to increase your team’s job satisfaction, performance, and reach organisational goals.

The four work personality types

1. Analytical

The analytical personality type is very introspective. They’re serious individuals that act with utmost deliberation. They have high standards which are reflected in their working styles. They are process driven and highly organised. They also often tend to have a dry and witty sense of humor.

Analytical strengths are that they are perfectionists. They produce a high standard of work. They’re organised, economical, and self-disciplined. They are risk-averse (which can arguably also be a weakness).

Analytical weaknesses are that they can be moody, negative and critical of those with different working styles. Their disposition towards analysing everything can make them indecisive. Their desire to be perfect can produce negative results as it can overshadow the point of their task.

The best ways to interact with an analytical:

  • Ask rather than tell
  • Don’t make demands or rush
  • Give them time and space to think about things
  • They like encouragement and feedback for good work

2. Driver

Drivers have strong and energetic personalities. They exude confidence and naturally gravitate toward leadership positions. They shoot into action, but they can overlook details. Drivers are blue sky visionaries. They see where they want to take a team but they can lack the preparation of the interim steps.

Driver strengths can be found in their tenacious determination. They are independent and highly productive. They are visionaries and they’re decisive. A driver would rather make a bad decision than no decision. They just want actions toward their goals.

On the weak side, the driver can be insensitive, unempathetic and sarcastic. Drivers are stubborn and typically do not like to admit when they are wrong. They can also rush into decision making without thoroughly thinking through the consequences of their decision.

The best ways to interact with a driver;

  • Get straight to the point
  • Give them responsibility
  • Give them independence when they execute their tasks
  • Show appreciation

3. Amiable

The amiable personality type is a well-balanced individual, calm and patient. They’re typically quiet. They’re empathetic, kind, and inoffensive—amiables are people pleasers.

Amiable strengths are that they are very easy going. They fit well into teams, do not cause disruption and get on with their work. They’re diplomatic and calm and can be very supportive of those around them.

On the weak side, an amiable’s need to people please can be self-defeating and consequent in them feeling resentment. It can also cause complications if they do not really say what they feel for fear of upsetting those around them. They can be stubborn, selfish and easily overwhelmed.

The best way to interact with an amiable;

  • Be gentle
  • Do not overwhelm
  • Show support and empathy
  • Encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone

4. Expressive

The expressive is also known as a social specialist. They are exciting, popular and naturally draw people to them. They want to be included and are excellent team players. Expressives want to be involved in everything from projects to social teams.

On the strong side, the expressive is very good at communicating and managing those around them. They are charismatic and persuasive. On the weak side, they can be disorganised, undisciplined, loud, and incredibly talkative.

The best way to interact with an expressive;

  • Have a sense of humor
  • Make sure they check their facts
  • Show excitement and participate in their conversations

Of course, these are generalisations and many people will exhibit some amount, of any number, of these four work personality types. However, everyone will possess more characteristics of one type over the others.

The two types of self awareness and why leaders need both


Self-awareness is the not so new leadership buzzword. Science suggests that when we are more self-aware we are more confident, innovative and empathetic, it even enhances our communication and decision-making abilities. All of these aforementioned qualities are the hallmarks of a good leader. Those with enhanced self-awareness are more effective leaders, fact. Bold statement but it’s reflective of decades of leadership research. So, how can you enhance your self-awareness? The first step is to understand the concept of self-awareness.


There are two types of self-awareness. Whilst the definition of self-awareness is not set in stone, all schools of thought identify its internal and external characteristics. Self-awareness is the clarity in which we see ourselves “internal” and also our ability to perceive how others view us “external”.

It’s easy to assume that being high on one type of self-awareness would mean you are high on the other but, this is not the case. Research suggests that leaders tend to focus on internal self-awareness and this could be their biggest downfall. Leaders who practice external self-awareness and see themselves as their employees do have a better relationship with them, feel more satisfied with them, and typically execute more effective leadership over them.

Leaders must therefore actively work on both elements of self-awareness – seeing themselves clearly and getting feedback to understand how others see them.

The self-awareness traps

To ensure you don’t inhibit your self-awareness development here are some common traps, leaders have been shown to fall into;

1. Over-confidence

An interesting statistic shows that more-experienced managers are worse at assessing their self-awareness abilities in comparison to less experienced managers. This is the over-confidence trap that many leaders fall into. Believing you know everything closes your mind to new knowledge and increases your chance of mistakes. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap, regardless of your level of experience you can always learn more and be better.

2. Introspection is not the path to self-awareness

Contrary to popular belief, people who practice introspection – the examination of our own thoughts and feelings – are actually less self-aware than others and even report worse overall job satisfaction and well-being. Why? Research shows that we don’t have access to many of the unconscious thoughts, feelings and internal influencers we seek to find through introspection. So, much of the information surrounding self-awareness is trapped outside of our conscious and if we can’t find the answers we may invent answers that feel true but are often wrong – leading to false conclusions.

How to increase self-awareness

In her new book, Insight, organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich reveals her analysis of people that have drastically increased their self-awareness.

In a series of surveys, Eurich found that 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% truly are.

Eurich, thankfully for us, states to become more self-aware there only two points to address, each focusing on internal and external awareness;

1. Building internal self-awareness 

Eurich cautions against writing lengthy journal entries, these can force you to go deeper than required and attach meaning where you don’t have the answers. Instead, Eurich suggests a more practical approach of looking for themes and patterns in your work. Try to replace the “Why?” of introspection with the “What” of practicality. For example, at the end of every day, Eurich recommends asking yourself, “What went well today? What did I learn that I might do differently? Whose perspective can I get if I’m having a particular challenge?”

2. Building external self-awareness 

Eurich suggests finding a “loving critic” at work. Asking all your colleagues for feedback is overwhelming. Instead, find one person who wants you to succeed and is also unafraid to tell you the naked truth. Take them out to lunch, letting him or her know in advance what you’re looking for. To lead the conversation, Eurich suggests asking things like, “What do I do that adds the most value to our team? What’s the thing I do that’s detracting from our success?”

The self-awareness path isn’t easy but with your focus on the right things, you can be on your way incredibly effective leadership and higher overall work/life satisfaction.


If you are interested in finding out where you are on the self-awareness scale an incredibly useful test by Harvard Business Review can be found here.

Are these communication pitfalls holding you back?


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that is has taken place.”  George Bernard Shaw


Communication is the most powerful leadership discipline in existance. Great leaders influence, motivate and inspire. These activities could simply not be executed on behalf of the leader without excellent communication.

Too often, leaders and professional communicators get trapped in self-deafeating tactics, and fail to influence people in line with their desired goals.

Here is a list of common communication pitfalls that typically work against us. They’re not necessarily wrong and at times, difficult to entirely eliminate but the idea is to be conscious of when you and others use them and to not let them get in the way of great communication.

1.Needing to be right

This common trap can come from an innate need to be respected. The desire to be right, at all costs, can be very destructive. You begin to close your mind to other ideas. Innovation occurs at the cross road between two contrasting ideas but if you are not willing to see any other inputs you stagnate creativity. Instead of responding with “No, I think this..” Respond with “Why do you think that?…” You can always learn from everyone around you, you just need to tweak your mindset. Further, when those around you feel included in the decision making it boosts morale and increases productivity in the workplace.

2.Being competitive

Our basic human instinct of wanting to come across as the most knowledgable can often get in the way of good communication. This tendency often interjects into conversations in the following way “I know”, or “I’ve done that too”. This can ruin communication because quite simply it’s deflating to be around someone who is impossible to impress. Remember this Zen proverb next time you feel compelled to compete, or rise to someone competing with you in a conversation, “Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day.”

3. Repetition instead of direction

It’s common for people to repeat and reframe when they feel they didn’t accurately get their message across. This is a redundant solution. In fact it makes your message less credible. What you should do, is be direct to the person your are communicating with, “I see that you’re not responding to this point, is there a reason?” This takes the conversation to a deeper, more connected level and equally ensures more efficient communication.

4. People pleasing

When we see another person “people pleasing”, i.e deviating from their beliefs in order to adhere to another, we immediately lose respect for them. Leaders cannot afford to loose this kind of influence. Honesty and authenticity are the key foundations for strong communication. While we all have this innate desire to have other people like us, it’s a question of degree. Ultimately, this is not a communication issue but a self-awareness issue. Leaders must be aware of how they are perceived and of what innate human drivers can hinder their influence to others.



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