October 2017, Volume 1, Issue 6

Building Culturally Intelligent Organizations

In China, companies are often asked to make sacrifices for the interest of the nation. That idea is strange for foreigners to grasp; however, you must be fully aware that if your organization decides to open operations in China, you must fully convince the government why your proposal is good for the nation, the economy and the Chinese people. You and your team will need cultural intelligence to manage entry into China as well as entry to any other foreign country, when it comes to conducting business effectively.

How Do You Go About Building a Culturally Intelligent Organization?

Below I give you a few best practices on building a Culturally Intelligent Organization that will not only educate your company, but that will also give you a return on your investment:

1. Leadership commitment: Leaders need to demonstrate their commitment to cultural intelligence by demonstrating through their actions the global strategic vision that they follow and live by.

Questions to explore this commitment include the following points:

  • How does culture influence your business challenges? Look at your operations and ask yourself how culturally diverse are your customers, as well as the markets in which you operate in? How culturally diverse are your teams? Do you have global leaders in different parts of the world or traveling to different countries to conduct business? If so, look at your expats on long-term and short-term assignments. Lastly, look at your home based employee pool and get metrics on how engaged your employees are. Are they attached and aware of how diversity and culture affects your business? These insights will allow you to look at innovative opportunities, which will allow you to expand into new global markets.

Do not isolate cultural intelligence to a few global leaders, engage the entire organization. A truly global organization will integrate cultural intelligence across all functions as part of the strategic plan.

2. Perform an Organizational Cultural Intelligence Audit. Conduct a cultural audit. The audit should focus on the organization as a whole, including divisions and teams, both in and out of your home country. Your audit should look to answer the following:

To what extent do the internal and external practices and marketing messages of the organization reflect a culturally intelligent approach?

What cultures represent the organization? Which ones stand out, and which ones fade into the background?

Do you have diverse cultural teams? How have you equipped them to represent themselves and their unique talents?

To what extent do your senior leaders demonstrate and promote culturally intelligent behavior?

Have you conducted studies as to how your organization hires and promotes diverse culturally intelligent individuals?

An audit can and should also be looking at your HR policies and practices, as well as input from customers and suppliers on how they view the cultural intelligence of the organization. Use these studies to organize and develop your organization into a culturally competent company.

3. Formulate a Cultural Intelligence Strategy. After the audit, it’s time to formulate the strategy for becoming a culturally intelligent organization. As in any strategic plan, this plan should include milestones, action steps and target dates. Look deeply at the following areas to see where cultural intelligence should become a required skill:

Those who market, sell products and services to different cultural groups, both domestically and internationally.

International leaders, managers, teams and project managers should all have developed cultural intelligence.

Leaders on global assignments, both short and long-term, living abroad or right here at home, but operate globally should know how culture impacts the organization.

Employees who travel internationally or take on global projects should all be savvy when it comes to handling diversity in the workplace.

Members of virtual teams need to understand themselves and other company teams before picking up the phone to discuss any business issue.

Specialists, who you may hire help internally, including external consultants must be globally savvy and internationally competent.

Your home office staff and support service employees that interact with branches and subsidiaries in other parts of the world must be able to communicate and work effectively alongside people of different backgrounds and cultural influences.

Don’t overlook support staff – they too are part of your organization, they may answer emails, return calls, teach, interact with newcomers, greet guests, etc., if they are not culturally educated, you may find big mistakes will consume their time and the company’s budgets.

Ask job candidates to describe their cultural intelligence and explain how they would resolve specific intercultural and cross-cultural situations that may arise in the daily operations of their work that could affect your organization.

Reward culturally intelligent behavior and knowledge. When your hire or promote someone who has experience working effectively across cultures, be sure to highlight that part of their talent when you announce the hire or promotion and include culturally intelligent behavior on performance reviews.

Organizations with employees who have high cultural intelligence can expect the following outcomes:

  • An organization that effectively expands into diverse markets.
  • High-quality service for customers and clients.
  • Effective operations that work with speed and efficiency.
  • Productive assignments that get completed on time and within budget.
  • To win the war for talent, by becoming the employer of choice. Believe it not, today’s talent is looking for companies who embrace diversity and understand cultural differences. Good talent wants to expand in the global arena and be part of the global stage.
  • To have diverse team effectiveness and synergy within and outside of the organization.
  • To become profitable while cutting back on expenses caused by serious cultural mishaps.

“Remember - you are a foreigner everywhere except in your own culture.” © 2017, Global Arrival, LLC

Thriving in Foreign Cultures

When things do not go well at work, it is easy to blame others, your coworkers, your boss, even the organization. It may feel good in the short term, but that sort of mindset is not going to get you promoted and certainly is not going to make things better for you at work.

Stop Telling Yourself Stories!

Self-talk gets in the way of accomplishing great work. Below I demonstrate a few common themes I often hear from clients who feel stuck or frustrated with themselves at work. I also give you some tips for changing your conversation.

  1. I’m just … (blah, blah, blah you fill in the blank) really? Did I hear you correctly? Do you actually believe what your mind is telling you, or what someone from your past defined you as being? I often help my clients manage perceptions other have placed on them from their past. Stop looking back and take a real assessment of your accomplishments, I bet you will surprise yourself as how accomplished you really are. Understanding who you are will help avoid this type of negative self-talk.

  2. No one appreciates my work. Americans take appreciation very seriously, that is because we are an individualized culture; this mindset rarely exists in a collective culture, but with that said, are you known for producing high quality work on time and under budget? Or, are you known to be a whiner, who makes mistakes and blames others? If you answered yes to these points, then you must learn to manage perceptions others have of you.

  3. No one listens to me. Are you sure about that? Have you taken a look at why others may ignore you? Do you speak up and offer ideas, if you don’t, why should anyone else even care? Try the following:

    Write down your ideas; then practice presenting them to a trusted friend or colleague. Pay attention to your standing position, are you exuding confidence or are you shrunken inward? Speak up at work and watch others reach out to you and seek your input to important projects.

  4. I don’t have time to lead. If you believe this story, than you have given yourself an excuse to avoid discomfort. You must create a new narrative and prioritize your leadership responsibilities. Make delegation and leadership the “first” piece of work you do each day and notice that you will have the time to effectively lead.

    Leadership requires a 60/40 split of your responsibilities. 60% of the time you are leading, and focusing on the external needs of your department or team or company, the other 40% you are guiding and delegating to your teams and staff members. No one works in isolation. Try the 60/40 split and watch your team increase their capabilities. This tactic will allow you to ask your boss for more responsibility and increase your brand in the workplace.

Remember: Leadership is not about a title, but about the ability to tell powerful positive stories that empower and enable others to unite and work together for the greater good of the company’s strategic plan.

I end this short tip sheet with the following: Pay attention to the voice inside your head, when you hear yourself say something negative, reframe those thoughts to something positive and watch yourself grow.

The Road to Mobility... Often Starts with Awareness

Ways to reduce costs, accidents, and stress when driving overseas.

If you are working on a global assignment, you may find it not practical or even safe to utilize public transportation. It’s not uncommon to need a vehicle when employed overseas.

Regardless of where you are assigned, a little knowledge and preparation can go a long way in reducing fines, insurance catastrophes and serious stress. Learning by the seat of your pants is not the way to go.

Isn’t driving pretty much the same everywhere? You need a car, you need fuel right? Well, the answer depends on where you are and your tolerance for risk. Many countries require drivers to carry a first aid kit, a warning triangle and a reflective vest; these are just a small sampling of some interesting global rules of the road. Read on to learn more.

  • Cyprus: You had better pull over if you are hungry or thirsty, eating and even drinking water while driving is illegal.
  • Japan: Many countries use different colors and symbols on their road signs, in Japan, for example, a stop sign is an upside down red triangle.
  • Italy, France and Spain: If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you must carry a spare pair while driving.
  • Germany: It is illegal to run out of fuel on the autobahn; they view it as an unnecessary stop because you should have avoided running out of gas.
  • France: You must carry a breathalyzer.
  • Saudi Arabia: Licenses are not issued to women, because women are not allowed to drive. In addition, you must use a locally issued driver’s license.
  • Norway and Sweden: Headlights must always be on, even during the daylight hours.
  • Finland: You can be fined if you beep your horn in an urban area. And, you must report an accident involving deer, elk, or moose otherwise; it is treated as a hit-and-run accident.
  • Russia: If your car is dirty on the outside, don’t drive it until you wash it. It is illegal to drive dirty cars in Russia, in addition, you must carry a fire extinguisher, and know that the police can stop you for any reason and conduct random checks.
  • Spain: Wear your shoes while driving, or face a high fine for operating a vehicle barefoot or while wearing flip flops. Shoes only!
  • China: You cannot drive with a foreign license and know that the largest vehicle has the right of way while driving on any Chinese road.
  • Brazil and the Philippines: Some cities in these countries restrict some cars from being on the road on specific days, depending on the license plate number you may not be able to drive on that day.

Rule of thumb: while touring or living in a foreign nation, be sure you know the rules of the road as well as the local driving laws. Please know before you hit the road if you will be required to take a local driver’s license test before operating a motor vehicle.

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