Imagine someone from another country was brought in to manage your office.
This manager, instead of adapting to your culture, tries to impose his own.
He enforces rules in the office that make no sense to you; rules which go against your values and norms.
How would you respond to this management style? Would you conform or rebel against it?
Last week, we talked about how social control is exercised through relationships in relationship-based cultures and how rule-based cultures believe in individual autonomy.
This week, we’ll discuss how a little understanding about these cultural intricacies goes a long way in business management.
Rules of Engagement
Successful cross-cultural managers know the do’s and don’ts of cross-cultural environments. Below are the basics.
- Exercise understanding
- Educate yourself on cultural behaviors/views
- Put yourself in the shoes of the other culture
- Acknowledge cultural differences diplomatically
- Avoid cultural issues that won’t change without significant social progress
- Try to alter cultural values/norms
- Be inconsiderate about cultural differences
- Confront colleagues about these differences
- Press upon touchy subjects
As with the scenario mentioned in the intro, when you are the monkey, you’re entering a culture as an outsider. Your focus shouldn’t be on magnifying your differences, but rather, trying to understand them.
Uniting, not dividing.
Just as in the intro scenario, place yourself in the shoes of the worker being managed.
When confronted with a culturally insensitive manager, you wouldn’t appreciate some outsider coming in to change things that have been done a certain way for many years.
Maybe even hundreds or thousands of years.
Step 1 of Uniting: Win Over the Leaders
In a relationship-based society, you manage groups, not individuals.
But that does not mean there aren’t important individuals amongst these groups.
To win over the group, you must win over the leader.
So, the first step is to identify the leader(s).
Next, you must build up your relationships with that leader.
By zeroing in on the important person(s), establishing a relationship with him/her, and cultivating that relationship, you’re essentially doing the same with the entire group in a relationship-based culture. The person(s) at the top of the hierarchy is the most respected and influential.
It’s pretty simple: win over the leaders, and you win the followers.
You can do this by:
- Winning their trust
- Winning their respect
- Motivating them
- Inspiring them
We’ll talk more about dealing cross-culturally in relationship-based cultures next week.