Sunday, August 11, 2013

Recognizing collective self-esteem

We are poor Bulgarians!” I’ve been learning about self-esteem since coming to Eastern Europe ten years ago. And precisely because of this ongoing learning, I accepted the challenge of a consultant-friend to share my Bulgarian experience with the culture-management community of Europe in September in Tallinn, Estonia. I want to highlight the struggle they’ve gone through, that despite their many successes, newcomers to the company – those that had worked with Western MNCs – would say that it is remarkable that the organization is yet to fully shed that self-judgment.

And very recently, during a business review, dominated mostly by good news accounted for by the top ten brands, there was great interest to look at the next set of brands – especially given our ever increasing new markets. And when two brands stood out for their less than stellar performance, the country manager revealed that he was not surprised: “Even among the employees, these brands are not preferred. We must be proud of our brands.” And I remembered we asked the brand managers, some time ago, “to go out to the real world” and figure out how they could create a vision for their brands. “Take a week off from the daily grind, go visit a couple of first class lounges at the airport, the Porsche showroom, a few 5-Star hotels, the French revolving restaurant, the American University, even your favorite bars and restaurants. Look far and wide until you find your ‘aha moment’.” Yet the mental block – the image of a poor Bulgarian brand – refuses to go away in these two cases. And a lesson in another country, from another company, should have been heeded? But – surprise, surprise – it was with a similar poor Bulgarian brand that we beat the competition, the world’s biggest consumer products company, and which is why we have a few of their people today now working with us.

Jennifer Crocker and Riia Luhtanen were the first to study collective self-esteem . . . The idea of collective self-esteem rose out of social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner). Social identity theory focused on an individual’s personal beliefs about themselves and beliefs that stemmed from the groups they were part of. Collective self-esteem described a more group-oriented idea of self-esteem.” [Wikipedia] “Self-esteem is a term used in psychology to reflect a person's overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs (for example, "I am competent," "I am worthy") and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame.” [Ibid.]

In the case of PHL, we’ve been an independent nation for many years yet we’re still talking about it? It reminds me of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the latter being the consigliore to a young president only to lose his influence later on. While we Pinoys have remained ambivalent: do we look back or forward, but how? Instead of creating a vision for what and who we are and moving forward, we would constantly seek and put blame on others? Why can’t we have a modern airport? Is Spain or the US to blame?

I was talking to two young managers, one assigned to Asia and the other who is examining our options for the US market; and I was delighted that both were gearing up to “educate” our global marketing teams on how the latter must reframe their view of the world. The two have been working on the ground in these unfamiliar markets and it is their role to bring the rest of the organization up to speed – to their worldview. For example, our successes in the developing markets of Eastern Europe couldn’t be the model for the developed parts of the world.

In the Philippines, the church and oligarchy have been our models – they have ruled and dominated our psyche, our way of life and everything else besides? But the 21st century world has a new set of role models? For instance, Pope Francis has declared the demise of the “Renaissance Prince”. And even Steve Jobs had predicted his own obsolescence.  The key is for Juan de la Cruz to identify with contemporary role models. But then again, we’re ambivalent because we wouldn’t truly acknowledge that our neighbors – which the rest of the world had called “tigers” – are role models? We would rather cling to the past while viewing ourselves in isolation? Beyond K-12 is there something else that we need, like recognizing and dealing with our collective self-esteem?

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