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New LOCAL managers or GLOBAL leaders? The two types of intercultural trainings…

This week I had the pleasure of delivering a training to senior managers of a big oil and gas company in the UK. That is already great, but the most impressive part was meeting the CEO who  was a real global leader. If you have ever seen multicultural adaptability in real life, he was a perfect example. 

Usually companies underestimate the need for cultural training and overestimate their own skills. This gentleman was Brazilian who specifically asked for the workshop as he wanted to understand how to motivate his managers, how to help his family to settle down in the UK and how to create the most productive and inspiring environment to 100s of people he manages.

During the day we went through the first 2 stages of the program, Building Awareness and Building Competence, where he already excelled. The next part,Building Skills was the point where it all made sense!

Based on the preliminary assessment he stated he never lived abroad. His Intercultural DISC result suggested something different. Although he was close to what I would expect of a Brazilian person, his score revealed a mediator profile, a person who can naturally see things from different perspectives and he can adapt easily. Later on it turned out that he had been working for an American company for the last 20 years where the corporate culture was mostly reflecting the culture of the main company in most countries and he had travelled all over the world.

Borderless working is not a theory…it is the reality. It does not mean we can ignore national cultures, oh no…they are all part of us. It seems the intercultural field is splitting into 2 main directions...none of which is better or worse than the other one, they complement each other.

  1. The Classic one focusing on the culture of a group of people (nation or organisation) which is  fairly stable, familiar and accepted. It compares values and beliefs of cultures to describe how they shape the unwritten rules which most members follow to fit in.

  2. The ‘Franchise’ one which is about individual cultural adaptability in a fast-paced, globalised world focusing on behaviour.  Why franchise? Borderless working does not mean there will be only one global village…but it is visible that the people of the new generation are much closer to each other than 2 generations within the same culture. McDonald’s is the biggest restaurant franchise, they have high standards (we talk about skills and processes, not culinary aspirations) across all restaurants however they are sensitive and intelligent enough torecognise local differences and they adapt their offerings, marketing, pricing and management.

If you are a busy business man whose performance depends on your ability to manage or serve people from different cultural backgrounds, then you need to be able to understand them without having to look at their complete CV before a long interview…

A lot of sales and communication techniques are based on NLP. They teach you how to mirror somebody’s behaviour so they feel you are similar to them and they can trust you. That is very true, we seem to like and trust people who are similar to us as the visible behaviour implies similar values and beliefs. The major difference between those techniques and cross-cultural trainings is that we do not want to manipulate people by pretending we care about them, but we teach them how to read behaviour, how that relates to personality types so we can understand how cultural dimensions (their values and beliefs) influence their decision and thinking.

In the Classic cross-cultural training the aim is to prepare someone for the target culture. In the Franchise one the goal is to move the person to the middle of part each dimensions so they can understand and adapt to both opposites.

During the training this week the first 2 stages were about the classic approach as it is important when you go to a new country. The third stage was about the Franchise one using Intercultural DISC. Why? The reason is that even if they live and work in the UK, they are going to work with a lot of different nationalities in the company in a very multicultural country! 

Without the last part we would have done only half a job. Without that we would give the participants false confidence and expectation. These trainings should go hand in hand instead of separating them.

Our mission is to develop multicultural adaptability to LEAD, MANAGE and SERVE people through understanding and it requires us to open up and collaborate instead of criticising new ideas.

If we are rigid, we  refuse to explore and connect new concepts instead of a holistic approach we do not have the right to teach people about being open to new cultures, new ways of thinking and working with others. That would be hypocritical and short-sighted like Communism where the rich leaders with astonishing privileges  were preaching about being equal and sharing assets while millions of people were suffering in poverty.  

There are so many professional networks, yet, they are segmented even within their own organisation. We can start small…let’s make it work within first, share best practices and knowledge…the solution is like a big puzzle…we all have different pieces and we claim we have the only solution. The reality is that we need each other, we need to collaborate and put the puzzles together. 

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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