Providing a leadership training program for first generation, non-English fluent Hispanic employees can be challenging, especially when your approach doesn’t take their specific learning preferences and cultural differences into consideration. Here are what I’ve discovered to be the five most important points to know when delivering a leadership training program to the Spanish speaking supervisors and team leaders.
1. Staying Silent.
First generation Hispanics will will generally not raise their own workplace issues and concerns with their bosses and they will not ask questions. Even when they don’t fully understand the instructions they’ve been given, they’ll often remain silent. Hispanic males in particular will generally not attempt to ask their bosses for clarification. Why? Because they fear they might appear “unintelligent” in front of their bosses or “weak” or “inexperienced” in front of their peers. See more on this “Macho Thing” in the section below.
2. Constant Guidance.
It’s important for the trainer to be aware of the relevancy of the instruction methods used to teach first generation Hispanic employees. Conventional teaching principles such as those employed by the major training and development organizations often fall short of their expected learning objectives. In a typical American training session, the trainer often presents the workshop by introducing a concept in a lecture format followed by a set of “key principles.” The instructor then divides the class into teams and turns them loose to practice the skills with each other and later present to the larger group.
The groups usually prefer to be independent and rely on the facilitator only when they get stuck. This method does not work well when training first generation Hispanic employees. In a learning environment, Hispanic employees prefer constant guidance not sudden independence. With this group, experiential training works best. The Hispanic participants want to live the training.
3. Patience Pays.
During a training session, always be aware of your own effectiveness and impact you’re having as a trainer. The new employee orientation meeting is a classic example where the Hispanic employees are bombarded with a huge amount of information in an unrealistic timeframe. It’s astounding how often front-line Hispanic employees are thrown into their new workplaces before receiving the adequate, introductory training.
Be aware of how you’re communicating your messages, your delivery style and body language. Different cultures interpret certain physical actions differently and sometimes not so favorably. Above all, be patient and let the learning process sink in through the use of real life examples and much needed repetitions during the skills practice sessions.
4. Realistic Expectations.
Always assume that your instructions or suggestions will not be carried out as perfectly as you would like the first time the skills or concepts are introduced. Remember that repetition and patience are your two most powerful tools in your training arsenal especially when teaching a new skill. Be prepared for mistakes, nervous reactions and learning bumps. Training sessions are excellent opportunities to demonstrate your patience and outstanding leadership abilities.
5. Comingling Required.
The training still continues outside the classroom. Much too often there’s a communication and cultural gap between the English and Spanish speakers. Just walk into the company dining area and see and hear the cultural divide. It’s a good idea to involve the English speaking supervisors in the growth and development of the Hispanic employees. The English speaking supervisors should take the initiative and start a simple, casual dialogue because the Hispanic employees will usually not make the first move. They may lack the confidence and fear that by walking into your space they may be stepping into unwelcome territory. By mingling you can help to promote a culture of appreciation and trust.
The challenges and pressures involved in learning a new skill as well as their inability to adequately communicate in English makes Hispanics in the workplace feel doubly vulnerable. By following these steps to ensure you’re communicating clearly, first generation Hispanic employees will appreciate your sensitivity to their special communication issues and learning needs.
The Macho Thing
What is this Hispanic macho thing? The dictionary defines macho as ‘male.’ In simple terms, macho or “machismo” is an expression of masculinity. In some Latin cultures, it’s the belief that men have a dominant role in the workplace, and the way men are expected to behave.
Machos are supposed to be physically and mentally strong and they’re expected to be the prime providers and protectors of the family. In a macho culture, men do not show emotion for fear of being labeled as “flojo” or weak. This attitude is definitely more prevalent among males who are first generation Hispanics.
When macho behavior is observed in the American culture, it’s called sexism or male chauvinism. As women continue to gain prominence in both the workplace and society, the macho behavior becomes increasingly offensive.
Macho behavior is widely noticeable with Hispanics in the workplace. A Hispanic female supervisor will have a much greater challenge gaining the trust, respect and loyalty from her male Hispanic team members. In the macho culture, men view women as being weaker, both physically and emotionally. As a result, first generation Hispanic men find it difficult to accept the fact that they must take “orders” from a woman.
Being macho has to do with wielding power. It’s not uncommon for Hispanic female supervisors to counter the machos by exercising their own power and adopting an aggressive and domineering role. After all, strong behavior lets everyone know “who’s boss.”
Unless Hispanic supervisors have been trained in leading their teams by process and not by personalities, the macho culture tends to prevail.
‘De-macho-ing’ Hispanics in the workplace is possible by providing relevant leadership training. Managers should attempt to instill a culture of equality and respect for all employees, regardless of gender. It’s not easy to suddenly remove a brand of thinking that has been implanted for many generations. However, by teaching that macho behavior is self-defeating and demeaning, you the leader, provide a tremendous benefit in helping first generation Hispanics in the workplace achieve success, personal growth and overall development.