Cultural Competence

by Peter Bailey

How Conscious is Your Global Team?

THE MOST EFFECTIVE leaders fall into two camps: Unconscious Competents and Conscious Competents.

  • Unconscious Competents learn to adapt to ambiguous circumstances, read the invisible communication, and ask for or deliver information in a way that is non-threatening. Their style seems to elicit critical information that others could not uncover. They appear to be uniquely suited for global management. Their drawback? They often don’t know what they are doing that is working, or how to pass it on to others. Their Unconscious Competence, if not managed well, can prove to be a curse, negatively impacting colleagues, customers, and other constituents.
  • Conscious Competents are also good at maneuvering through the fog of cultural nuances, and as astute in cultural conflict, and they have a saving grace. Through their experience and education, they know what they are doing. They’re keenly aware of how to modify their behaviors so that other people are more comfortable. And, they can pass on to others clues to their success to enhance their performance across cultures.


Which Do You Have?

If you have Unconscious Competents, you need to increase their self-awareness so that they can know what they are doing that has made them so successful. Instinct is a gift but intuition can be developed. Your Unconscious Competent managers need to turn their instinctive gifts into teachable approaches, attitudes, and behaviors so that other co-workers can adopt similar styles.
If you have Conscious Competent managers, you need to replicate them. Ask them to codify what they do and how they think, and even how they begin to think before they plan any cross-cultural interactions. To be Consciously Competent means to apply cross-cultural tools at all times, knowing how and when to use what, with whom, and how to repair situations when things go wrong.
Top Ten Global Don’ts. Ten things to stop doing:

  1. Assume your way is the right way.
  2. Don’t modify anything about your behavior, words, or actions.
  3. Ignore subtle cues.
  4. Convince people of your perspective rather than listening to possible alternatives.
  5. Tell jokes and tease people.
  6. Expect everything to happen the way it does in the home office.
  7. If it didn’t work at first, do the same thing again, harder and louder.
  8. Single people out to find fault, place blame, or make an example.
  9. Be ostentatious in all you do.
  10. Assume you are global because you travel or were born in another country.

Top Ten Global Do’s! Ten things to start doing:

  1. Always pause and ask, How might my behavior, words or actions be perceived?
  2. Check Cross-Cultural Dimensions Charts for gaps and alignment.
  3. Preparation is better than reparation.
  4. Check emails with others before sending or responding.
  5. Hold people in unconditional positive regard.
  6. Assume that other peoples’ actions are done with positive intent.
  7. Ask: What information helps me see the real message being communicated to me?
  8. Ask: How might I get more information to gain a clear picture of what is going on?
  9. Ask: How might I communicate my message differently to get the results I intended?
  10. Practice the GLOBAL steps:
    Greet with a generous spirit: How can I show my positive intent and best connect with this person?
    Listen to understand all points of view: What parts of what they’re saying align (or conflict) with my values? How can I see their values from their viewpoint? How can I inform them of my values from my viewpoint?
    Open yourself to possibility: How can we gain mutual understanding? How can I be more open to possibility?
    Build a solution from multiple perspectives and values: What steps can we take together to bring us closer to our mutual benefit? Have we considered multiple perspectives? What is the highest good we can achieve together?
    Acceptance is key: Have I accepted the process and results as being exactly as they are supposed to be? What aspects are difficult for me to accept and why?
    Leverage actions for mutual benefit: What can we do so we both win? How can I ensure that my counterpart benefits by the results?



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