Category Archives: Cross cultural training

Cultural Intelligence – Knowledge

Following from the Drive component of CQ I would like to reflect on the Knowledge (Cognitive) component.  CQ knowledge refers to your understanding of cultural similarities and differences; it includes knowledge of the values, norms and practices in different cultures settings.  This knowledge can be acquired through educational and personal experiences; and encompasses the economic, political, legal institutions and social customs to name just a few.

CQ

 

Why do we need CQ Knowledge?

  • To allow us to have greater appreciation of the systems that shape and cause specific patterns of social behaviours and interaction within a culture
  • Improve interpersonal interactions with people from culturally diverse backgrounds, i.e. communication, relationships and trust
  • Improve your leadership and management skills to ensure that they reflect the cultural setting that you are working, leading and managing in and across
  • To navigate effectively through ambiguity and conflict in culturally diverse settings
  • To have the awareness and skills to instantaneously adjust your behaviours while interacting with people from unfamiliar cultures.

While you cannot be an expert on every culture, you can understand the core cultural differences and their impact on everyday business.  CQ knowledge is not fixed, rather it is a mental habit that can be altered and expanded.  I often find that one of the best methods of seeking new knowledge is from gaining a basic understanding of key past events and basic country history.  This can provide a deeper insight into the general values, behaviours and attitudes that are displayed by individual mindsets and the wider community.

Strategies for Improving CQ Knowledge:

  • Choose a culture that interests you.  Read a novel, magazine or local newspaper from an overseas site; or an author native to that country
  • Listen to overseas radio programs
  • Visit culturally significant places to learn more about them i.e. a mosque, synagogue or sporting venue
  • Visit art galleries or museums that display stories and artworks from other countries. These help you to gain a deeper understanding of why and how they were created and their cultural significance
  • Continuously observe body language, facial expressions, gestures when you are interacting with people of different cultural backgrounds
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, people love to talk about their culture.  This can also be a great way to build relationships.

Reflections:

  • Consider some of your cultural assumptions and expectations
  • How do they impact your views and experiences when you are either traveling or interacting with people of other cultures?
  • How do you gain your CQ knowledge?
  • What are your preferred mediums to attain CQ knowledge? For example is it through reading, travelling, convsersations etc?

You may like to listen to my ‘CQ Knowledge’ Podcast in ‘CQ for Global Leaders’ by clicking here.

Smashing through the bamboo ceiling

Bamboo ceiling

Procurious, is a unique online business networking site specifically designed for procurement and supply chain professionals.

Dr Verghese was interviewed in ‘Smashing through the bamboo ceiling’ to discuss the processes and barriers that serve to exclude Asians or people of Asian descent from executive positions in Western-run organisations.

A provocative article that features some pragmatic strategies toward shattering the bamboo ceiling.

 

 

Unconscious bias training – What difference did it really make?

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I regularly deliver unconscious bias workshops and keynote addresses.  It’s an engaging subject that has relevance for all of us.  Unconscious and conscious biases are prevalent in our private, public and professional lives, revealed through our perceptions, beliefs, behaviours and decision-making processes.

Recently I created two podcasts to share with listeners some of the benefits that past clients have observed and experienced, both personally and organisationally.

Unconscious Bias for Property Fund Managers

The Benefits of Unconscious Bias Training

Following up with clients over staggered periods of time to discover the long-term effects and outcomes training has for participants is one of the aspects that I most enjoy about what I do.  I am a big believer in feedback, in using it constructively in ways that will enhance and improve our programs, and provide ongoing learning opportunities.

Bridging the cultural gap

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Watch Tom speaking at the Australian Human Resource Institute Conference 2015 ‘Bridging the cultural gap’.

Virtual Teleconferences for Global Project Teams

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A recent project has prompted me to focus this month on the efficiencies of teleconferences.  Lack of agendas, side conversations, audible background noises, late attendees, accent and language difficulties; alongside poorly facilitated calls that seem to go in circles are just some of the everyday teleconference challenges.

Although teleconferences are not a new phenomenon somehow we tolerate the inefficiencies and frustrations that they entail.  Why is this?  Over time we become unconscious and unmindful of the bad habits and irritations that ‘creep in’.  We often accept them as ‘normal’ and for the most part we ‘switch off’ and allow apathy and stagnation to set in, without us possibly even realising it.

For many global project teams teleconferences are the most common meeting format.  They are a critical mode of communication where key decisions are made and everyday production, innovative and creative ideas are thrashed out. Something worth reminding ourselves of is that the success of teleconferences directly impact overall project outcomes, timelines and ultimately budgets.

Here are some simple reminders of things to be aware of when facilitating and participating in culturally dispersed teleconferences:

  • Ensure that the agenda has been circulated at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. It is particularly useful for those in other locations whose native language is not the language that the meeting is being conducted in.  This provides all participants an opportunity to plan what they will say or questions that they want to propose.
  • Be mindful. When most of the participants are in the same room it can be difficult for the remote participants to engage in the conversation.  They are not privy to the same group/room dynamic.
  • Remember that in some cultures people wait to be invited to speak rather than speak up whenever they have something to contribute. Be specific and invite people to speak at various intervals.
  • Ensure everyone identifies who they are before they begin speaking. Don’t assume that everyone knows each other.  It is not uncommon for offshore project teams to have new staff joining the team at different times. Maintain the practice of introductions at all meetings.
  • Use diagrams and visual aids where possible.  They can be of great benefit as an alternative mode of demonstration and explanation, especially for offshore teams.
  • If you are having difficulty understanding language, accents, dialects or tone, speak up. Let people know.  Chances are that they are having difficulty understanding you also.
  • Don’t confuse silence with agreement.  Take the time to ask each person one by one to give their opinion or share their concerns before making a consensus decision.

Cultural Chameleons

chameleon

We all know people who are what I term ‘cultural chameleons’, they adjust to pretty much any new cultural environment quickly and with ease. Whether they’re traveling in a work or leisure capacity, or even if they’re in their home environment mixing with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, they know how to communicate at a level that is appropriate to their cultural situation. They possess a genuine interest in learning the cultural nuances and protocols and it all seems to be achieved with a degree of effortlessness.

Where does the CQ drive come from?

Why do some of have it and others find it arduous?

I recently did some work with the CEO of a global corporation. His organisation runs operations in 14 countries located in Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia. One of his challenges was distinguishing between what are the necessary and unnecessary cultural skills that he needs to apply in order to successfully do his job. The intensity and demands of someone in his position meant that he needed to achieve this balance almost intuitively.

He shared with me the crucial moment when he realised that he needed to improve his cultural intelligence. He was at a train station in Bangkok during what was his first visit to Thailand. As he was rushing to catch a train at peak hour he was shocked and confused to see all movement at the station cease the moment music began to play over the loud speaker. Although he had no comprehension of why this was happening, his reaction was to also stop as he observed his fellow commuters stopping in their tracks. Once the music was finished activity at the station instantly resumed to its previous chaotic level. After observing this situation it instantly became apparent how little he understood the Thai people and their culture, and this event triggered a desire in him to increase his knowledge. He realised that if he wanted to get things done in this country he needed to understand the Thai psyche. He correctly surmised the music was the national anthem but at that point he had no idea of the level of respect that the typical Thai has for his country and king.

Cultural intelligence can be learned. For some people it will be moments like these that trigger the drive to improve cultural knowledge and understanding. A key driver can be purely appreciating that if we want to get things done in the most effective and efficient manner an appropriate level of cultural intelligence is essential. For people who are time poor one of the fastest ways of achieving this is via Cultural Coaching and Mentoring.

Global Work Attitudes

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‘Decoding Talent’ is a recent study conducted by The Boston Consulting Group on the global workforce of today. It is an interesting study in terms of decoding and understanding the emerging global attitudes toward work and a global overview of what makes for a contented employee. Over 200,000 people from 189 countries participated in the survey.

One of the findings that I found most interesting was that on a global scale there is greater emphasis on intrinsic rewards rather than compensation.

The top 4 rankings for happiness on the job were:

  1. Appreciation for your work
  2. Good relationships with colleagues
  3. Good work-life balance
  4. Good relationships with superiors

One of the key most basic and crucial factors in these top 4 findings is the requirement for high levels of trust, sophisticated communication skills and strong relationships. For any global organisation this indicates that there is a very real demand for cultural intelligence across all aspects of the organisation, particularly in terms of leadership.

Understanding these preferences is key to talent retention and maximising the current workforce. Some questions that this research should pose for leaders are:

  • How do you provide culturally appropriate feedback and appreciation of work to individuals or teams that you may manage remotely?
  • How do you as a leader foster the establishment of good relationships with your cross-border teams?
  • How do you monitor these relationships, enhance them and aid them when there is conflict and misunderstandings?
  • How do you manage the expectations of a good work/life balance for your globally dispersed teams? For example if a team consists of people based in New Zealand, China and the U.S the perceptions of work/life balance will be diverse.
  • How are relationships established and maintained with superiors in your organisation? How do your leaders manage their cultural preferences for communicating with subordinates when they are leading across cultures?

Studies such as this are a great source of useful data to begin reflecting on current strategies, particularly in terms of talent development, retention, recruitment and key motivators. Some of the insights that are generated extend to what are the future challenges, are current operating models and resources adequate to cope with current and future demands.