At Brilliant Read Media, we always strive to bring meaningful and powerful stories from India and around the world to empower and motivate our growing community. This week we invited yet another passionate entrepreneur Rhonda L. Bowen for an exclusive interview with us. Rhonda is a Leader, Mentor, Coach, Change Enabler and Entrepreneur. She is the Founder of Bells: Communication Across Cultures. Let’s read more about her incredible journey so far and her advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Rhonda:
Please give us some idea of your background and your journey.
As an American from Pennsylvania who has lived and worked in Germany since 1983 and started my own business in 1988, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to experience communication in many ways.
After studying at Susquehanna University and the Pennsylvania State University in the US and the Institute of European Studies in Vienna, Austria, I have an academic background in a number of areas, including business administration, education, German, and English as a Second Language.
These studies gave me the foundation to do the work I’m passionate about in my business. I’ve been fortunate to have travelled the world during my career and have worked with people from more than 70 countries.”
In addition to working with major corporations and individuals, I also worked on national German television for four years and was the author of a series of 13 films describing the life and culture of eight US states and five Canadian provinces.
My current home in Germany, which I share with my partner Rudolf, is near Cologne and close to the Dutch border. We have a wonderful house which provides space for me to host events and for him to show his work as a stone sculptor. I’m also active in many global organizations to improve people’s lives, including World Speech Day and Soroptimist International.”
I serve as a lay speaker and facilitator for various congregations of my church. When I’m not travelling, I love to play the piano, attend cultural events, and read, since this supports me in my quest to be a perennial learner.
The title “Global Strategic Communication Guide” is quite unusual. What problems do you help people such as those in our audience solve?
Although I could apply any number of titles to what I do, I prefer the term global strategic communication guide. This includes activities your audience is familiar with such as coaching, facilitating, consulting, training, teaching, and many others. I believe in describing my activities in a way that allows me to listen to others and find out what they need before I offer them any one specific service.
Those I work with are usually involved in one of four areas that I refer to as BEST professionals: business, engineering, science, and technology. I’ve been able to help these people find various perspectives for any situation and support them in thinking outside the box, or outside the bowl, as I prefer to say since it’s harder to get out of a bowl than a box.
I associate with clients and peers who are experts in their fields. They have no problem expressing their ideas within their own network, but as soon as another culture is involved, communication may not be as successful.
Culture, as I define it, does not only refer to what nationality is written in your passport or where you are located but also encompasses organizational cultures as well. I’ve had many discussions with engineers, for example, who don’t know how to come to an agreement with the salespeople in their own company but may have wonderful conversations with engineers who live on the other side of the world.
Major global organizations often work in a matrix environment. For example, a software company that provides SaaS may have five different departments all interacting with one client. Although many speak of glass ceilings today, I believe the issue may be more with glass walls.
Being aligned with all the others in your own company who work with “your” client is key to making sure that communication works well, and everyone can agree on what is the best solution both for the client and the organization itself. Many experts are so deeply involved in their subject matter that it may be difficult to understand what others, both inside and outside of their company, find essential and try to achieve.
All of us are experts at various things. As I mentioned, communication is sometimes like a combination of many different ingredients. When we are inside the bowl of our own thoughts, it may be hard to climb the rounded walls and see another perspective.
All of my work is based on co-creating the solutions for my clients to get outside of themselves and understand those who are not in their bowl. Communication is a personal, subjective matter that demands insights and support to make communication across cultures more effective and efficient.
What are some of the strategies that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
Strategies may vary depending on our environment, our circumstances, and the season of life we are currently in. I have found that adapting to those around us is vital.
My motto is to be “F.I.T.” This is the abbreviation for flexible, insightful, and tolerant.
We may face situations that are new to us. We may try something that doesn’t work. We may be asked to do something that we don’t know how to do. If so, being flexible means that we can experiment with new ideas and continue working on projects until we achieve success.
Many people who are working to achieve something substantial need additional support to find out what is still missing. I believe that when we share insights with others, we are serving them in a way that is not only beneficial to them, but if we do so, we may discover new insights for ourselves during the process.
When we work with people who come from different backgrounds than ours, we may be confronted with values, beliefs and ideas that are not aligned with our own. The world has room for so many variations, all of which have the right to be expressed and respected. Being tolerant of those who see life in a way that we are not familiar with can expand our horizons and make us better equipped to deal with new experiences in our own lives.
How do you contribute to the success of others?
(a) Being committed to helping them achieve their goals
(b) Sharing wisdom and inspiration (wispiration)
(c) Co-creating with them and their partners to have better communication across cultures
(d) Providing practical insights to increase effectiveness and efficiency
(e) Remaining open to all aspects of support needed and making recommendations as necessary
What about your journey makes it satisfying/exciting?
There is an old saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” Having the inclination to try many different things, overcome the challenges that occur, and celebrate my wins have served me well.
When you try something new, there are various phases that normally happen. There’s excitement at the beginning. Then the difficulties arise, and we are forced to step up, ask others for support, and search until we find the path on our journey that benefits us and others.
Many people hesitate to ask for anything. My motto is “Say what you want to say to get what you want to get”. Supporting so many BEST professionals on their journey to improve themselves and overcome their issues has given me so much satisfaction.
What we often forget to do is celebrate our wins. I learned a system from a colleague to help with this. I’ve created a celebration box. Inside there are pieces of paper with ideas I’ve written about things I’d like to buy for myself or do to celebrate my wins.
The rule is, when you choose an idea from the box, you have seven days to either do it, if that’s possible or at least get it planned on your calendar if it’s something longer term. I’ve noticed that people who celebrate don’t mindlessly move from one task to the next but take time to enjoy the positive emotions that come with achieving our goals.
This helps me continue to work on my commitments and find new ways to make progress and improve the lives of others. I’m looking forward to many more years on my journey and would love to share my insights with your readers. I would be pleased to answer any questions or just have a discussion about topics that are important to them.
What advice would you give young, independent professionals who want to communicate successfully and grow in their professional and private lives?
Each of us has talents, gifts, and strengths that we bring to the situations that we find ourselves in. When we only use these in isolation, we miss one of the most vital opportunities life provides us: collaboration.
Having had my own business for more than 30 years, I’ve realized how essential it is to interact with those who have other strengths and use the synergetic effects to create success. Swarm Intelligence, found among animals in nature, shows us the power of many vs. the individual. I work with people in “success swarms”, groups in which everyone brings their wisdom and then uses what they’ve learned to have the inspiration to put the new ideas into practice. I call these sessions wispiration sessions.
Most professionals find it difficult to work on certain aspects of their professional lives alone. These four aspects are what we concentrate on in our sessions.
We refer to these as CARD:
C – Stands for ‘CREATIVITY’ – Being alone with no outside input often hinders discovering new ideas. Co-creation is an ideal way to look beyond ourselves and find new impulses.
A – Stands for ‘ACCOUNTABILITY’ – So many distractions in our lives can get us off track when doing those things we know we should do but may lack the inspiration and motivation to do so. Having others we trust and can be vulnerable with helps us overcome our own inner blocks and assures that we make progress.
R – Stands for ‘REFFERALS’ -We all have a wide network of people we can turn to if we have questions about something. Sharing the expertise we have access to with others can benefit so many and make our activities more effective and efficient.
D – Stands for ‘DEVELOPMENT’ – If we are not moving forward, then we are standing still. If we knew how to do everything ourselves, we would only be able to move in one direction. Having others to give insights into our projects and recognize factors we hadn’t thought of makes it easy to develop our work and ourselves.
BrilliantRead is committed to bringing stories from the startup ecosystem, stories that reshape our perspective, add value to our community and be a constant source of motivation not just for our community but also for the whole ecosystem of entrepreneurs and aspiring individuals.
Note: If you have a similar story to share with our audience and would like to be featured on our online magazine, then please write to us at [email protected], we will review your story and extend an invitation to feature if it is worth publishing.