Businesses have gone multinational and there is a huge shift in the way of doing business across the globe with the advent of online and international business. The workplaces of today have rapidly grown and become vast. Expatriates and people doing business across borders should be proactive and well informed about the culture of the people they are interacting with. A clear understanding of the cultures and knowing some basic or frequently used words can help in communicating effectively.
Modern technology and internet have made international transactions simple and reduced international trade complications to a great extent. More people are promoting businesses regularly as new markets have opened up for business across all cultures and geographical locations. Technology has also made it possible to facilitate easy conversations between people through language translation software and language conversion dictionaries. Cross Cultural Communication Trainings available online gives clear insights to appropriate ways to behave and communicate among cross cultures. Electronic communication has made communication and networking as easy as working with someone in the neighbourhood or next town.
Why would someone limit himself by working with a location that has lesser demand and workforce rather than a location that has greater demand and can have easy access to most knowledgeable people in the entire world or the highest quality resources?
A multicultural workplace brings a lot of communication challenges. There are some cultural differences between employees located in various regions or organizations speak the same language. For example: English speakers in the US have differences in accent, spelling and pronunciation. Communication can be optimized between such cultures if these cultural differences are considered. People should have a mutual understanding of communicating with cultures to reap the benefits of a diverse workplace. An organizational work culture that is common to people of all cultures is being adopted by a majority of companies across the globe. Effective cross-cultural communication starts with a basic understanding of cultural diversity. This can start by knowing the basic differences between cultures that are totally from our culture.
Better communication with individuals and groups who totally differ from our culture should be analysed carefully by paying attention to every detail. Below mentioned are some of the aspects to be considered while communicating among cross cultures:
Greetings and physical contact: This can become critical if a basic study and understanding of cultures is not present. For example, kissing a business associate with one peck on each cheek is an acceptable greeting in Paris but the same will not be acceptable in gulf countries. A firm handshake that is widely accepted in the U.S which is not recognized in all other cultures.
Ambiguity: The ways of seeing, thinking and interpreting are different in different cultures. There is a possibility of misunderstanding where languages are different and similar words can have two different or sometimes opposite meanings in different languages and cultures.
Attitude of Acceptance and Flexibility: Some people tend to void exposure or experience of the host culture as this might not be favourable for their culture or due to an attitude of introversion. This results in developing a closed mindset and learn and ignorance to learn and adapt to the new culture which will give rise to cultural shock and spoiling of business relationships.
Ethnocentrism: Assuming that own groups culture is right and moral. Considering other cultures as inferior can spoil and bring an end to a business relationship even before it starts. It is often an unconscious behaviour which is realised after reacting. It is always necessary to consider respecting a totally opposite culture or establishing a path that builds a favourable climate among such cultures. Cross Cultural Awareness Training conducted by people who have a practical experience of dealing with different cultures can be very helpful with practical approaches.
Not everyone in the world is fortunate enough to be able to attend high quality leadership training programs. This is an absolutely interesting kind of leadership skills training and quite often in life, it is also the kind of leadership training program that anyone who has a keen interest in any kind of self-development ends up doing anyway. The first step of this self-development approach is to identify leaders who you can relate to and more importantly ensure that they are the kind of leaders you actually want to become. These could be people from you work place, your superiors, your clients, the CEO of some company that you admire, etc. The leader who you identify could either be a person you know in real life or even someone who you just know of.
The next step of this assessment is to be able to watch them lead. If you work for an organization and the leader you chose was your manager, you should ideally be able to watch him demonstrate some leadership qualities. Be aware at this point that leadership is made up of a number of smaller elements. So even if you were to work closely with a leader, what you might see him do on a daily basis are likely to be activities like plan, communicate, organize, have discussions, etc. So, going back to the example of your manager being your ideal leader, you will watch him while he is demonstrating some kind of leadership.
Let’s say his leadership skills are really showcased well when he conducts meetings. For this step, you should ideally be a part of his meetings or at least be able to watch him conduct meetings. If for example the leader you have identified is Bill Clinton and as we all know, one of the most talked about dimensions of his leadership is his incredible style of communication. For you to be able to do this step of the process, you should watch Bill Clinton communicate. This can even be done by watching a video of one of his talks. This is also a very useful method for corporate leadership training that can be used in organizations of any size.
The next step is to watch what this leader is doing differently, that you are not doing. For example, you might watch Bill Clinton speak and realize that he has a much better vocabulary than you do; he is much more aware of what’s happening in the world and he is also excellent when it comes to using his voice in front of an audience. The list can be endless and there are several leadership training programs that use this approach. The last step of the process is for you to start consciously practicing those skills or work towards gaining that knowledge or even start building those abilities that you see your ideal leader demonstrating but you lack. This is called modeling. It is a great way to build different dimensions of your own leadership and become a better leader.
Finally, it is important to use what you have and get what you need. We all have certain in born characteristics of good leadership that we carry with us. In our leadership development journey, none of us starts from zero. The default level of leadership that we carry with us is something that we need to capitalize on and in parallel, look at what are the real gaps in our persona as leaders and consciously work towards bridging those gaps. If you can do this through the dedicated practice of the exercises outlined in this chapter, superior leadership is a guaranteed result.