In today's rapidly changing world, working effectively with multicultural teams and clients presents both, challenges and invaluable opportunities. Mastering Cultural Intelligence is the key to prosper in our global economy. The way leaders, managers, and employees communicate in this new era can set the foundation for the development and success of their customer experience. Bill Swann, professor of psychology of the University of Texas found that diversity did indeed foster innovation and superior performance.
The challenge though, is that the world is so diverse that mastering high levels of competence with every single culture is nearly impossible. Thus, what can we do? Fortunately, we can learn how to increase "as much as possible" our own self-awareness. To do so, we must first have a genuine drive to learn about other cultures. We must then gain knowledge and finally establish a strategic road map towards becoming more actively Culturally Intelligent (CQ).
The goal is to be more sensitive, respectful, and understanding of others, despite agreeing or not with their values and beliefs. By doing so, are able to learn different ways of conducting business globally, as well as how to manage personal relationships (in different contexts in multicultural organizations without rattling cultural values.
1. Develop Cultural Self-Awareness
As a leader, you have the power to set the foundations of the organization. For that, you must first learn and accept personal biases that could interfere with the training and development of employees. Understand yourself and establish your road map towards cultural awareness, so you can understand and lead others.
2. Understand Cultural Differences Between Nations
David Livermore explained that "cultural values are measured in scales of time context, individualism versus collectivism, power distance, and uncertainty avoidance." All these values point out the different stereotypes that can be analyzed as a starting point in understanding a specific culture. Avoid generalizing and don't assume that you are well versed on a specific area or region, if you are not.
3. When in Doubt, Ask for Help
Consider asking others for insight into unique aspects of their individual cultures. Read available literature, join cultural organizations, or travel when possible. Do not be afraid of stepping outside your comfort zone. It is common to think that people from the same country or region share the same customs and behaviors, thus it is paramount to understand that it is not always the case.
4. Practice Having an Open Mind
Change is hard. But, practice being open and adapt your leadership style to the group or country. Learn the basics. Read about their customs and religion. Try new foods. Learn the language (at least to get by) and understand their political climate and business etiquette.
Learn and understand to win. Striving to create an inclusive business landscape equally benefit business, families, and communities. After all, most international relationships such as mergers and acquisitions fail not for lack of a promising, well capitalized business plan, but because leaders fail to allocate paramount resources to manage cultural diversity.