Global Leadership Blog

10 Tips for Working Successfully Across Cultures

1. Cross-Cultural Knowledge: Know how colleagues, business partners, and team members from different countries expect to be communicated with. Your best bet is to schedule an Intercultural /Cross Cultural Training. Choose a trainer/training company that understands how Culture impacts Diversity.

2. Adapt Your Language: Avoid using slang, speak slowly and annunciate your words. As English is the global business language, native-speakers have an advantage, but its sometimes difficult for those doing business in a language not their own so please be sensitive to this fact.

3. Active Listening: Listen to what is being said, summarize back what you heard, and then ask for confirmation of understanding. This will help eliminate confusion across cultures and give the person a chance to clarify any misunderstandings.

4. Ask Open Questions: If you ask closed questions (i.e. yes or no questions), you’ll get closed answers. Instead of ‘Can you get that report to me by Monday?’ ask, ‘When do you think that report could be ready?’ People will feel as if they are participating in decision-making and feel less awkward about sharing any obstacles with you.

5. Socialize: Take time to get to know people personally. This is especially important for those from relationship-oriented cultures. Some companies hold an event and just let everyone eat and drink together. While this may be fun, it doesn’t create a structure for those who don’t know each other to make contact. Do something creative to stimulate discussion or socialize in smaller groups.

6. Use Different Forms of Technology: Not everyone likes email, the phone, or web-meetings. Mix it up. Use different media for diverse cultural perspectives especially once you know what’s preferred in their cultural context.

7. Adapt Leadership Styles: Some prefer a manager to make all decisions and get into the details. Other cultures prefer a more ‘hands-off’ manager, letting the others make decisions, unless there’s a critical situation. It is important to know the cross cultural expectations to avoid frustration or disengagement.

8. Know Which Incentives Work Across Cultures: In some places in the world, a new title will mean more than a raise. Others prefer a raise to a title. Some feel recognition is the best reward. A promotion can mean more responsibility, different work content, money, benefits, etc. Find out what works in which cultures.

9. Be Patient: Things move slower in many parts of the world. Take your time to find out how it works and what cross cultural strategies will secure the deal. If you take time upfront you’ll save time in the end.

10. Practice Style-Switching: Once you know what makes your cross cultural team members and employees tick, perfect the art of style-switching to meet all the diverse needs and cultural expectations simultaneously.

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication. More About Melissa Lamson


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