Management skills don't travel across cultures. Success in G-localization industry requires curiosity, flexibility, adaptability.
Estimated reading time 12 minutes
Idea in a nutshell: Sometimes knowing the rules of behaviour and soft-skills that I must apply in certain environments is not enough to succeed. Being effective in a high-performance team in a multicultural environment requires something more.
Sometimes having the info and the answer only solves part of the problem of how to be effective across cultures. How do we solve the other part of the problem? How can we be effective in such a global and diverse world as is the localization industry?
This week I went back to the issue of cultural intelligence again because of some results I read in a survey.
This survey assesses different factors that make a work team effectiveness. Different factors that have an impact on creating a good working environment.
Take a classic example of a category that many teams tend to suffer in getting a good mark in a survey.
- Conflict and honest feedback -
The majority of people will agree with us that conflict in teams is good, that from a healthy conflict there are better processes, better products; better outcome. Then, at the moment of truth, conflict, criticise ( even constructively!) the ideas of other colleagues/give feedback, we enter in goosebumps mode ON!
Even the word conflict already in itself usually has negative connotations for many of us.
We tend to think that by learning a few techniques we will be able to improve our conflict/feedback skills ... and although it is true that these techniques will help us... It's not all a matter of knowledge. What it might happen is that we even have panic to execute them!
Learning a technique to handle a conflict (or any soft-skill) is one thing, executing it is something totally different; for the simple reason that some of the behaviors that we have as a human being might clash with our values, with our principles.
If I have grown up in a culture where conflict is avoided, it will be very difficult for me to come into conflict (even if it is a healthy conflict) with my colleagues, or with my boss.
In many cultures, there is an almost reverential respect for the figure of the boss, the figure of the leader of the group is very much respected; we can disagree with him, but culturally we could suffer a mental block if we try to verbally articulate our disagreement with his ideas.
To enter into conflict if we come from a culture that avoids conflict, it is not only a problem of knowledge, the execution of knowledge and how we feel by executing it is the problem.
What to do then?
Time to get hold of our superpower CQ that I talked about in previous posts.
And time to find inspiration and ideas in books.
Andy Molinsky in his book Global Dexterity brilliantly explained the challenge when learning new intercultural skills.
I agree pretty much with that statement because it's true that Cultural knowledge rules are only half of the solution, putting them into action is the other half.
I might know that if I'm working in a specific culture, a certain degree of conflict is expected, I might know that, but I might feel so embarrassed, so unauthentic, so uncomfortable ... then, in the end…..I do nothing and I'm unable to enter in conflict (healthy) mode.
For this reason, knowing cultural rules is not the solution to work effectively across countries or in multicultural teams.
What is the solution then?
Keep reading and have a look to this picture.
Let's see this with the example I've been talking about so far, the soft-skill I want to develop is:
"Feeling comfortable when I enter a healthy conflict with my colleagues or even my MANAGER 😳"
Step 1 – Know the rules
What David Livermore in his CQ model call CQ Knowledge
CQ Knowledge refers to our levels of understanding about culture and how culture differs
Which culture/countries/people are more open to healthy conflict?
Which culture/countries/people focus more on respect for hierarchy?
Which culture/countries/people/colleagues/peers are more expected to give feedback on ideas?
Which culture/countries/people the manager of the group is just another team member? Or even a facilitator?
Step 2 – Rehearsal
For example, if I want to learn about how to have a healthy conflict I can practice on my own; or with friends or other colleagues. This is obviously different from a real-world situation but it helps us to unblock us and face our fears. As Amy Cuddy would say Fake it Until you Make it!
So let’s fake it in private until we can make it in public 🙂
Step 3 – Practise in real situations
First time I practice the soft-skills in a real environment we won’t feel completely comfortable, and that’s ok, that’s normal progression over time and improvement over time is what it’s important. That’s why step 4 is so important in this model
Step 4 – Measure your progress over time. Get feedback; internally and externally
This step 4 is the holy grail of this model.
This step is quite important and usually, overlook when learning soft-skills that we want to transfer across cultures.
Charting your progress internally means how comfortable and natural we feel inside, and this is important because if we are trying to acquire a new soft skill and we feel internally and deeply uncomfortable every time we execute it, we will not be effective until we internally overcome the discomfort
Charting your progress externally means getting feedback from your manager or peers judging your performance. It answers the question - How well have we behave when we engage in healthy conflict according to their perspective -
Let’s imagine all this again with another example, with a hypothetical example.
We have Lucas in our team, Lucas is smart guy, but for different reasons he’s shy in front of a big group.
He struggles to talk and give his opinion. Lucas is a little bit shy in meetings. He has problems to interrupt people, this might lead to a wrong impression that Lucas doesn’t have anything to share, that he doesn’t have an opinion, that his knowledge in the topics being discussed is inexistent. This might even affect Lucas career as he might earn a reputation of a quiet person with nothing really relevant to say, but maybe that’s not the case, maybe Lucas is just shy, maybe he just grew up in a culture where listening is as important if not more than talking in a meeting. That’s the soft-skill that Lucas needs to develop. Let’s help Lucas!
Soft-skill/Behaviour to acquire:
I want to “Get my voice heard during a meeting” that’s the soft-skill Lucas wants to work, and in order to do that, Lucas will work on developing his CQ.
Lucas will have to get a piece of paper and ask himself
• Do I feel authentic performing this behavior?
• Can I perform the behavior successfully?
The goal of these questions is to assess if I have a knowledge gap or an authenticity gap; and this is very important because if I don’t feel authentic performing a behavior in a different culture, if I have a sense of being fake, unnatural, we won’t be able to execute the soft-skill we are trying to implement in our repertoire of soft-skills.
That’s why is so important to work on both quadrant and at the same time
We start with an analysis to see in which quadrant Lucas is
If we are in a situation that I struggle with competence but not authenticity then I need to put my focus on building that skill (build knowledge, this can be done through study, workshops, reading books about the skills I’m building, we need to go back to Step 1 - know the rules)
When the main challenge is authenticity rather than competence we can use customization techniques to reduce our level of discomfort and our level of feeling unauthentic in a particular culture.
This will help us to move to the quadrant of the Comfort Zone which is the place we want to be.
What’s a customisation technique? Andy gave us in his book some hints
“It’s one explanation we give ourselves to being able to execute the skill we are working”.
This is absolutely necessary when we found ourselves in the “Authenticy challenge quadrant”. If we feel that we know how to execute that skill but we feel that behavior is a burden an imposition of the culture we are immersed, then, we need to create a customization technique so we can not be full of frustration, resentment or even anger! (but why do I have to be the one to adapt! Check out my post about that feeling HERE)
To work on those customization techniques is important to craft a personalized explanation that it can make us feel less anxious, less unauthentic. If it’s tough for me to enter in conflict mode, if it’s it tricky for me to speak up in meetings, if it’s tricky for me to pitch my idea … if for whatever reason I struggle to do this culturally and I feel unauthentic, a craft personalized explanation can help us.
For some people they learn to link the discomfort to a necessary step to progress in their careers, for others seeing their behaviors from the perspective of the other culture instead of our own culture is the way to overcome the authenticity challenge; as Andy Molisky explained in his book
“The key is to find a rationale that feels truly genuine and legitimate”
Hope you guys find this useful, it’s not only about learning the differences what it matters to succeed across cultures, it’s not only learn how to behave, it’s also about learning how to change what we think about the new behavious/soft skills we are learning. Once we do this, internal conflict disappears and progress appears… and once again we are back on the right track of getting betters professionals - thanks one more time to the superpower of CQ
Have a great week!