Copyright © Dr. Stephen H. Dawson, DSL 2021

April 1, 2021

Foreigners: Sculpture by Claudia Fontes.

"I want to know what love is." Foreigner

I have what is called the tea-tip theory. This theory was established by me in 1985. It helps determine food server gratuity. The theory works as follows:

Keep my tea glass filled, and there will be a tip. Otherwise, the tip remains a theory and no reality.

This theory was formed based on my realization I must not have held the same belief system as the food servers of my past who were unable to understand my consuming a beverage during my meal is what I meant when I asked them to keep my tea glass filled during my meal. I did not want further misunderstandings to occur between seller and buyer by way of a foreign concept. So, I take action since then to assure there is no doubt present in how I ask to be served.

This theory helped lead me over the years to learning there is only one of me. Furthermore, there is only one of each person. We are each one-of-a-kind. Now, I am a big fan of uniformity. There are times when it is both fitting and necessary in life. Over the years, I have come to realize there does not have to be uniformity among all things with people to get what I want in life. So, living with my being a foreigner who lives with foreigners is fine with me. This acceptance is nice, since this is the way it is for all of us one-of-a-kind creatures.

We have talked at length about your strategic planning work not being accomplished as you prefer. We know it is not a skills problem, nor is it a workspace problem. We know we have a people problem. We have looked at diversity along with inclusion in researching who you need to consider joining your organization to do your strategic planning work. We are not sold yet either some or all of the people doing the work now need to either stop doing the work or leave your organization. All we know for certain now is you need more people to join your organization as full members, not on loan by way of matrix-supplied labor.

Uniformity seems to be multiplying in the cultures of the world. I see it is driven by the Internet interconnecting us to each other through smartphones. We are forming into groups of binary viewpoints of right and wrong on almost every topic imaginable. It is a combination of groups with clear formations in ideologies and structures. These groups have those who consider themselves right by their members, while those who do not hold the same view are considered wrong. I addressed some of this topic last week and also recently. I am talking much more than global workers, immigration, and refugees. I am talking about our neighbor next door and our towns, regardless of their citizenship and work permit. I wonder if we can have a culture anywhere that does not harm one another based on the justification attempts for right and wrong. I am not sure this is possible much longer, as I am watching many in this world become quite angry and hedge on the edge of great violence.


Claudia Fontes's work caught my eye with how she views the concept of foreigners. I have never met her, but her viewpoint resonates with me to encapsulate how this people problem you are facing can be resolved effectively by consideration of diversity and inclusion. The term foreigners seems to be used more and more as a pejorative. Meaning, it is bad to be a foreigner. You are looking for new people to join your organization so you can pay them to do work for you. Do you want them to feel any form of discrimination as they are a part of your organization? If not, then they must either be a good foreigner or not a foreigner at all. Allowing them to be harmed by either discrimination or as a pejorative target are examples of the evil I spoke of last week.


I doubt anyone today will have a job until they die. I hold this belief because of how fast technology is changing the world. You, as a leader, will also most likely need to change jobs at some point in your career. What if your culture's political system changes to the point where you either decide you need to leave or are asked to leave? Dr. Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago went through this exact scenario. I encourage you to learn about his story if you have not already. It is a story of a nation about a century ago that decided they would discard many things about their nation to form a new culture based on force. This learning should also help prepare you for the discussion we need to have soon on the topic of love. Besides, a local person who feels like they have to obtain either a literal or metaphorical work permit to be a part of your organization is already feeling like a foreigner. Leave the difficulties of encouraging people to join your organization aside, but focus on the skills the candidates hold and how those skills match your organization's needs.

Work Visa (Permit)

David Daniels wrote an article about bias occurring during the hiring process. Dave shared recently with me, "Most companies today are using some form of an assessment in the selection process. How most are using this tool is often illegal but more importantly, fraught with potential bias." Dave and I agree about requisite skills being present among organization members based on their role in the organization. Dave went on to say to me during our recent conversation about diversity and inclusion, "No D & I expert worth their salt would ever suggest hiring and/or promoting a person who is not the most qualified person for the position." It is reasonable to say there are no viable means to know skill levels without conducting an objective measurement process.


Rebecca Knight shared all candidates are imperfect. I add all candidates are also foreigners. Getting comfortable with the fact there is no applicant having all you need for any role is a good move at this point. The best next move I recommend to you is understanding differentiation. The new member or members of your organization most likely will want to fit into the organization, but they are coming to help change the organization for the better. They may want to look the same as others, but they will not. They will stand out and be in the limelight for a good while. They will either be liked or disliked by your organization's members. Positioning them for success means helping your existing organization members understand why the new members are needed. Then, you are able to begin the work of differentiating your strategic planning work to accomplish both new and more significant outcomes. It is at this point you are giving to your people what they are craving to receive from you: love.

Same vs. Differentiation

Remember, our initial meeting started with you asking why your strategic planning work is not going as you prefer. The work of leading an organization successfully requires a servant's mindset to be held by the leader. Leadership is not about achieving fame or fortune. Those outcomes may arrive after success in a leadership role, but doing the work of a leader day after day is what you are faced with now. This work never ends until the day arrives when you stop leading. Perhaps you should stop leading this organization where you cannot plan your strategy. I brought up this point for you to consider a few weeks back. Rest assured, the larger the role, the larger the work required to accomplish the role. The opportunity you have now to move people around in your organization is a key component of leading. Needing to move some people around is not a direct sign of failure. Not doing whatever it is you need to do both is and always will be a clear sign of leadership failure.

I encourage you to spend time this week working on more of your research to determine who you need to remove from your strategic planning work, what you need in terms of skills to do the remaining work, and see who you have for qualified candidates. Next week, we will begin the work to look at those candidates. Next week starts the part where most leaders quit on the servant part of leading. I will wait until next week to show you why this is the case.

So, I ask you: where do you want to go? I hope your answer is to develop the plans necessary to accomplish the strategy you know you need to achieve to arrive at your desired destination. If this is the case, then let's get to work. If not, then I wish you the best of everything.

I hope we will see each other here next week. Email me if you need to talk before then.

Dr. Stephen H. Dawson, DSL
Executive Strategy Consultant

Stephen Dawson is an executive consultant of technology and business strategy, serving significant international organizations by providing leadership consulting, strategic planning, and executive communications. He has more than thirty years of service and consulting experience in delivering successful international business development and program management outcomes in the US and SE Asia. His weekly column, "Where Do You Want To Go?," appears on Thursdays.

Dr. Dawson has served in the technology, banking, and hospitality industries. He is a noted strategic planning visionary. His pursuit of music has been matched with his efforts to lead by service to followers. He holds the clear understanding a leader without followers is a person taking a long walk alone.

Stephen has lived his life in the eastern United States, visiting most of the United States and several countries. He is a graduate of the Regent University School of Business & Leadership. Contact him at