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6 reasons why most leadership and communication courses don’t work, especially in multicultural context!

Successful companies train their people in communication and behavioural models to be better managers, but usually they just become better managers in their own culture. The most successful companies invest in cross-cultural trainings as well as they realise different cultural background requires different approach.

During my research I had to realise there were 6 main reasons why most courses did not work especially in an international environment.

  1. The first one is too much information…The problem is, cross-cultural models are country-specific and it is difficult to get them right in this globalised world…i.e.: i was born in Hungary, I am a British citizen with an Italian master’s degree and I am champion in oriental martial arts…so how would you get ready for a meeting with me?
  2. Dangers of average… Most of the cross-cultural models are based on average…the average score of hundreds and thousands of tests and their results. You get a country-specific briefing…and then you meet the average person…? This is the biggest danger in many models. There is no average person. Maybe not even one person has the same exact scores…If you are a mum and you are on holiday with your son by the river and the sign says ‘water depth 1 meter average’ do you feel confident to let him go to play in it on his own? Wouldn’t you feel more informed and prepared seeing a sign like this: ‘water depth up to 3 meters’? Statistically they are the same, but in practice it makes a huge difference!

If you really want to be prepared and efficient you need to design to the edges! If you go into that river you might find only a shallow part, but you must be ready for the 3 meter deep hole.

  1. Cognitive bias…When we are making judgements and decisions about the world around us, we like to think that we are objective, logical, and capable of taking in and evaluating all the information that is available to us. We assume what is obvious to us is obvious to others too. The reality is, however, that our judgements and decisions are often riddled with errors and influenced by a wide variety of biases. A cognitive bias is a type of error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them. Cognitive biases are often a result of our attempt to simplify information processing. They are rules of thumb that help us make sense of the world and reach decisions with relative speed. Unfortunately, these biases sometimes trip us up, leading to poor decisions and bad judgements. Cognitive bias is often subconscious and it affects our attitudes which becomes visible to others through our behaviour and we are not even aware of it.
  1. Lack of follow up: Usually people remember 5% of the training after 1 month. This is the best scenario if they took notes. If they didn’t do it then this percentage is closer to 2%.
  1. Generational issues:Most cross-cultural models were created by Baby Boomers based on their own and the results of Gen X. They describe properly how people live within their culture. The problem is that nearly half of the working people belong to Gen Y, the generation that grew up with internet way more connected than the previous generation. This generation learned from their parents however they have been shaped differently as they were exposed to a wide range of cultures. That is the reason why most individual assessment results do not reflect that national scores.
  1. Knowing is not doing!Pointing out differences and similarities are great, but they do not tell you how to read people and how to understand and adapt your behaviour to make them feel comfortable. There was a missing link which can take them from knowing to using cultural differences and similarities…pointing them out is not enough. My company shows them a simple and efficient framework which provides them with cultural adaptability they can implement immediately and they learn how to treat people the way they want to be treated which creates trust and co-operation.

I wanted to find a solution to these reasons which was the basis of my research. I have developed and published Intercultural DISC which is the global leadership and business communication version of the most popular behavioural model, DISC, combined with the most scientifically researched cross-cultural concepts.

Intercultural DISC is the missing link which explains how cultural dimensions appear in our behaviour and how they influence the way we see the world and how others see us. It is a framework which offers solution to all 6 main reasons for inefficient trainings.

  1. It is based on 4 main categories as opposed to 100s of countries. Easy to remember, easy to use. DISC has been used by most business people, they understand its language so we can build on their existing knowledge instead of scaring them with complicated, academic terms.
  2. It is not based on average, but it makes you understand how people think, what drives them and why they behave the way they do so you can connect with them.
  3. Designing to the edges makes you aware of both sides of different behavioural styles which helps you broaden your mind. By recognising and understanding what is behind somebody’s behaviour minimises cognitive bias as we don’t judge immediately based on our own values but we can see it from the other one’s perspective, too.
  4. The course does not stop after the training. Repetitive learning is the key to mastering a topic. All participants will get the same information using a different approach on a regular basis. This includes book, online exercises, case studies and the best part is that this is something they can actively use every day even at home.
  5. The framework is designed to discover how national cultural dimensions reflect in our behaviour and how they influence our behaviour. It is the only model that takes into consideration the generational issues in this field. Do we behave and do business like our parents? Not really. We do need to understand that as well, but we need to be aware of the new trends, too.
  6. There are 3 stages during training:
  1. Building awareness: this is where participants become aware of the power of perspective, perception is reality, it doesn’t matter if it is correct or not.
  2. Building competency: this is the part where we discover the different dimensions of culture, how we can compare them and how they affect our perception.
  3. Building skills:this is where we put it into practice through Intercultural DISC. This is part where we have the most fun…we realise that we are different, but not better or worse, we all have strengths and weaknesses and we learn how to maximise them.

It helps them achieve outstanding results in performance effortlessly through the capability of behavioural change. It provides a comprehensive, business-oriented analysis of world cultures based on decades of research. It explains why people act, think, organise, decide, and communicate the way they do. It addresses all the main issues by raising awareness while building competencies to turn them into skills people can use when they meet real people, not average statistics. This is what businesses need, isn’t it?

Csaba Toth
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Csaba Toth

Managing Partner at ICQ Consulting
International Culture expert and researcher. Developer of the Intercultural DISC (IDISC) assessment of human behavior and interaction.
Csaba Toth
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