How To Create An Effective Cross-Cultural Training Program Article Questions Cross-Cultural Management Basic Tips

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Cross-Cultural Management Basic Tips

I am British and married to a Brazilian woman for 25 years. I remember how we both had culture shocks trying to understand each other in the early days of our relationship. For example I think he is not grateful for some things, like a dinner out, because he doesn’t say the words “thank you”. I know they have to. Instead he would surprise me with a thoughtful gift as a way of expressing gratitude. His way is more real and more thoughtful. Mine is automatic, but nonetheless important to my culture.

That is the danger of many cross-cultural exchanges. We see the world through our own cultural “lenses” and make assumptions and judgments based on our own experience and education.

These differences are usually thought of in terms of different national characteristics, but they can also apply where two or more people have different educations, experiences, values, attitudes to time or authority, or different way of using language or body language or physical proximity. So culture can, for example, also apply to different subcultures in an organization or to regional differences or organizations in the same country.

How can we manage these risks? How can we build bridges from one side of the cross-cultural divide to the other?

Entire books and studies, in real life, are dedicated to this goal, in the broadest sense and also among specific cultures. Leadership and management are widely studied across cultures.

Here we only have space to set out some of the most important basics that will help you improve your cross-cultural understanding and skills, before going into any specific management or leadership skills (e.g. planning, collaboration, delegation or control):

1) Understand how others perceive you and your own culture (as relevant, ie your department’s sub-culture, your corporate culture or your country’s culture). Start by taking an outside perspective on how you can be different. It opens your mind to learn from others and becomes more open and respectful of differences. Imagine, or better yet, film, the culture in action. Listen to your movie with and without sound. What did you hear and see? What adjectives come to mind to describe the culture?

2) Develop the best support resources you can. Who seems to cope best or has the most relevant experience? Observe and listen to how they deal with different situations. Who can teach you and help you with your own challenges or things you don’t understand? What will you study to help you understand better? Is there a related text or course? What are generally accepted behaviors and actions in terms of ethics?

3) Develop your ability to suspend judgment, actively listen and ask good open-ended questions. Stop judging what is right or wrong. Challenge your own thinking – what assumptions are you making? Take it easy, knowing that when you are learning a new culture rushing and making quick judgments can lead you to make unnecessary mistakes. In other words, do your best to remove your normal “lenses” and think about seeing things through neutral eyes.

4) Can you learn some, or master, the language of others (technical or national)? The code of language is the precious roots and interpretation of values ​​and ways of being and doing.

5) Cross check for understanding by asking polite questions, perhaps coming at the same thing from different perspectives.

6) How can you best facilitate your learning in lower risk social or other learning environments outside of work or business? Can you make friends who are interested in your culture and reciprocate sharing experiences and perspectives?

7) Be careful when using humor because it can vary across cultures. Even lower-risk self-humiliation may appear to indicate a lack of self-esteem or other negative behavior. Observe what kind of humor “works” positively.

8) Have a positive attitude. You can improve yourself even with cross-cultural experience. It will help you become a better listener, a better communicator, a better “reader” of what is not being said and above all it will help you understand yourself in a new way. Remember that cultures are dynamically changing things with endless variations possible. Even if something goes against your values ​​and needs to be changed, respect where it is. This usually happens through long periods of human interaction. Condemning it too quickly shuts down your compassion and learning and ultimately your ability to help it change for the better. Look for the positive.

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