So you are getting ready for your summer vacation.
You have chosen your destination – maybe a long standing target from your bucket list -, and now you are all set to get on that plane, on the train or in the car and start your adventure.
Did you think about buying a travel guide? Or did you research information about the country you travel to, its population, history, culture and traditions, on the Internet? You did? Great! Lots of people find it worthwhile to learn a little about their holiday destination before embarking on their journey. Information is key to spark more curiosity, more questions, better understanding and tolerance. It can make or break your holiday experience and give it more depth, more intensity and more enjoyment.
How about in your company or organisation when it comes to understanding your international employees, colleagues and business partners better? Are you applying the same strategy here – learning about their country of origin, their culture, their preferred communication style (whilst taking into consideration that there are different personality types within each culture)? Because let’s be honest: in work situations, the success of addressing colleagues, business partners, international contacts in an appropriate manner is absolutely essential and can determine your success and the bottom line of your business interactions.
During your vacation, knowing about a culture’s values in terms of hierarchy, respect, leadership and power is useful and important. It will help you in countless situations – at the airport, at your hotel, during your interaction with locals, be it in shops, at the beach or in museums.
In a business context, being aware of your counterpart’s perception of respect, the way how they contribute their opinion in meetings, their manner of planning and decision making is vital for the quality of cooperation and the business results. Cultural Intelligence, intercultural knowledge and skills, can simply be crucial, not only something ‘nice to have’.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anaïs Nin
To gain intercultural skills, we first have to have awareness about our own ways, opinions and perception of concepts like time, personal space or how explicitly we communicate. Our counterpart might simply have a different approach, understanding or preference. It can be tricky to communicate interculturally when we stay in our own cultural mode – the one (and only) we have been taught, our way of making sense of the world.
When the going gets tough in a holiday setting, you can just turn around and walk away – even though it would be a shame. In a business situation, you can’t. And honestly, you shouldn’t have to.
So, think about what you could do when you are back from your summer vacation.
How could you – if you are an expat – transform your intercultural experience? How could you – if you are leader of a multicultural team – help your staff to work more efficiently together whilst enjoying the contributions of their colleagues more? How could you – if you are an executive facing an international appointment – prepare for your future role in a new culture? How could you ensure – as an organisation – that not only diversity is a fact yet also inclusion?