By Annie Blissit, 5/30/17
The readings this week were focused on the leadership component of the course: giving and understanding feedback across cultures and mentorship. I thought the feedback readings were quite interesting. I have seen various styles of feedback and have always learned to cushion negative feedback between positives, but I had not thought of the cultural influence in this strategy. In fact, this approach is quite American.
Cultures generally fall somewhere between direct and indirect when it comes to giving negative feedback and this may be confusing or insulting to the recipient depending on their own cultural background. It was particularly helpful to read how the Dutch use a very direct approach to feedback. All Dutch people I have met have been exceptionally nice; however, I have never been in a setting where I would’ve been receiving negative feedback. It’s helpful to know and keep in mind in case someone is more direct than I am accustomed to when providing feedback on our projects while abroad. Understanding how different cultures give and receive feedback is key to working on a multi-cultural team particularly in a position of leadership. One piece of warning from the readings was that if you are accustomed to a more indirect approach, beware of trying to give direct feedback as it is easy to overcompensate and come across as too aggressive.
The other component to this reading is for mentorship. The Guide for Students from the University of Washington provides guidelines for establishing and maintaining a good mentor relationship. The process begins with really understanding your own mentoring needs and identifying the appropriate level of mentorship needed. While mentors are commonly associated with managers and professors, mentors can also be another student or colleague. Some challenges to mentorship include finding the appropriate person, one solution to which is to expand your network and gain a better understanding of people’s areas of expertise. Another need may be to clarify all of your interests. Seeking a mentor in a field may not mean that field is the only topic you plan to focus on in your work. It is good to set those expectations with both parties.
During the trip I look forward to learning from all parties and mentors, from the students in this course to students from other Universities to professors and practitioners. Being a water engineer, I fall into the category of non-exclusivity to the subject of sustainable transportation but look forward to learning the many perspectives and establishing relationships and perspectives that will influence me in my own work and life.