Imagine a scenario similar to this: At work, you sit next to someone whom you went to college with and one cubicle over you find a co-worker who spent their youth traveling around the globe. The global nature of the world economy is a fact that no-one can ignore anymore. Gone are the days of working only with people who grew up where and how you did. And in this interconnected and often international context, smart business decisions depend on the ability to bridge cultural differences.
You know how to manage, inspire, lead, and communicate — with people who are like or similar to you. However, now you also need to be just as efficient with co-workers, clients, customers, and vendors who are sometimes quite different from you. What made you successful with “your people” could easily derail you when working in a diverse context. So how are you going to master yourself in an unfamiliar environment?
Culture has been one of the buzzwords in the corporate field for years and too often it appears the term isn’t fully understood in its many facets. In fact, culture influences everything we do: the way we talk, the way we listen, the way we act or react, the way we feel and the way we see the world. And when people from different cultures aren’t aligned miscommunication and mismanagement easily turn into a costly result — whether it be in business or relationships.
When dealing with another culture most of us feel like a fish out of water at first. Welcome to the conundrum of global business leaders. How many of you work in diverse environments or even outside of your native culture? Ever notice that being efficient when working across cultures has its challenges? Smart businesses will offer their employees cultural coaching and training and perhaps their team members will do some of their own research on the DOs & DON’Ts and the business etiquette rules which apply to their specific situations. Yet the questions remain: Do they really understand the WHYs?
Most successful organizations and business leaders fully comprehend the value of preparing and continuously developing their employees for the various behavioral standards in the intercultural workplace. After all, the success of any global business depends on how well team members are able to cross cultures. And on how well and how swiftly leaders develop a deep understanding of their own culture and those cultures they interact with.
In my experience this isn’t only the most effective way to work at one’s peak and in peace with each other — it is the only way that respects and harnesses human differences. The clients who work with us trust my team and rely on us that we will lead their organization to more success across cultural borders. They also experience how the label “normal” suddenly becomes irrelevant, as there are thousands of “normals” around the world and all of these systems of values and norms are equally valid. Only when we master the transition between cultures will we be successful in global business. And those of us who are not ashamed of their mistakes, faux pas, and gaffes when interacting with other cultures will go much further in international business.
If you are interested in learning more about cultural competence and foreign language skills, I invite you to sign up for my company’s newsletter, The Culture Reflections. As a token of my appreciation, you will receive a series of complimentary white papers on cultural competence from our team!
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Christian Höferle is a cultural coach, trainer, and mentor for multinational organizations – or rather: for people who work globally. Based in Atlanta, he is German by passport, American by choice, Bavarian at heart, and people call him The Culture Guy.
His passion is to help people discover commonality when they are overwhelmed by difference. His mission is to create peace by facilitating understanding, relating, and connecting.
At the core of this purpose is…click to read more