As you might have noticed, a lot of so-called "cross-cultural" trainings tend to centre around the various traditions and customs of the other culture, without really delving into how one could style-switch to adapt and manage well in another culture.
In fact, it's worse than that. Most of the so-called customs and traditions shared in such "cross-cultural" training are either outdated, or totally based on assumptions rather than realities.
And then there's this notion of "National Cultures", whereby how one country's culture differs from the next. The fact is there are different cultures within a country, corporation and even teams. Making sweeping assumptions about any kind of culture could land you in trouble, as we shall see in this month's article.
Hence, this month's topics:
This issue's main article is on "Negotiating Across Cultures", and we explore how making the wrong assumptions about the other party's culture may make or break your negotiations.
Negotiating Across Cultures
by Greg Whitehorn
Entering the Soho Grand Hotel lobby in his most conservative suit, Stan brimmed
with confidence as he approached an important potential customer, Vice President
Sugimoto of MTV-Japan. Spotting the stylishly attired Sugimoto chatting
with some musicians, Stan approached him with a deep bow and traditional
Japanese greetings of respect.
Making the Wrong Assumptions
Most of us can identify with Stan’s faux pas. In our era of diversity and
globalization, respect for cultural differences is constantly stressed.
Yet our counterparts are complex people who won’t necessarily follow their
national cultural scripts.
does matter, a lot,
but not necessarily in the way many people think
about it or define it.
That group may be a national society, but it may also be an organization, a
functional department within that organization, a team or even an identity group
formed by generation, ethnicity, gender, religion or other factors.
We recently conducted an on-line cultural assessment of 20 Chinese staff at a Wholly Owned Foreign Enterprise (WOFE) in Suzhou. Their cultural orientations varied depending on where in China they were raised, education level, job role and in what kind of company they previously worked.
The lesson: Don’t stereotype!
While preparing for cross cultural negotiations it is important to not only
understand your counterpart’s motives, objectives, requirements and
BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated
agreement) but to also perform Cultural Due Diligence – the assessing and
preparing for the possible impact of culture and culture differences. The
best way to accomplish that is to first understand your own
cultural preferences and reflect upon why those
preferences came into being. Only then can one begin to appreciate the
cultural similarities and differences in others.
Last week I met a successful businessman from the Netherlands in Shanghai. He proudly said that the Dutch are one of the most direct people in the world in terms of communication and interactions style. When asked how that was working out for him in China, he replied that he has learned not to be Dutch anymore! Of course it would be a mistake to assume that all Chinese prefer an indirect style. Many do not.
In some cases it may prove to be a useful hypothesis and starting point in doing your own Cultural Due Diligence. Further probing on your part will be necessary, however.
When meeting with your counterpart in negotiations take time away from the
negotiation table to
brainstorm and invent creative options. Not only does this
process help to discover the underlying needs of both parties, but will help to
“increase the size of the pie” by creating even greater value. Several
years ago in Shanghai, based on this integrative, “expanding the pie” approach
we were able to turn a USD 10 million dollar deal into a USD 200 million deal.
Through the discovery of new options and connections with each other, we created
new relationships that embraced both diversity and trust. And
trust, the cornerstone of all relationships, is particularly vital in
successfully negotiating across cultures.
Need help in negotiating and navigating across different cultures? Simply e-mail email@example.com or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.
Power Breakfast Hour: 2 Jul 2014
Negotiating Across Cultures
VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 （靠法华镇路）
DATE: Wednesday, 2 Jul 2014
TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
PRICE: RMB 200 ONLY!
To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations too firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips for Sales People:
by Liane Davey
Do you value friendly relations with your colleagues? Are you proud of being a
nice person who would never pick a fight? Unfortunately, you might be just as
responsible for group dysfunction as your more combative team members. That’s
because it’s a problem when you shy away from open, healthy conflict about the
issues. If you think you’re “taking one for the team” by not rocking the boat,
you’re deluding yourself.
Teams need conflict to function effectively. Conflict allows the team to come to
terms with difficult situations, to synthesize diverse perspectives, and to make
sure solutions are well thought-out. Conflict is uncomfortable, but it is the
source of true innovation and also a critical process in identifying and
Still, I meet people every day who admit that they aren’t comfortable with
conflict. They worry that disagreeing might hurt someone’s feelings or disrupt
harmonious team dynamics. They fret that their perspective isn’t as valid as
someone else’s, so they hold back.
Sure, pulling your punches might help you maintain your self-image as a nice
person, but you do so at the cost of getting your alternative perspective on the
table; at the cost of challenging faulty assumptions; and at the cost of
highlighting hidden risks. That’s a high cost to pay for nice.
To overcome these problems, we need a new definition of nice. In this version of
nice, you surface your differences of opinion, you discuss the uncomfortable
issues, and you put things on the table where they can help your team move
The secret of having healthy conflict and maintaining your self-image as a nice
person is all in the mindset and the delivery.
To start shifting your mindset, think about your value to the team not in how
often you agree, but in how often you add unique value. If all you’re doing is
agreeing with your teammates, you’re redundant. So start by telling yourself
“it’s my obligation to bring a different perspective than what others are
bringing.” Grade yourself on how much value you bring on a topic.
Here are a few tips on improving your delivery:
1. Use “and,” not “but.” When you need to disagree with someone, express your
contrary opinion as an “and.” It’s not necessary for someone else to be wrong
for you to be right. When you are surprised to hear something a teammate has
said, don’t try to trump it, just add your reality. “You think we need to leave
room in the budget for a customer event and I’m concerned that we need that
money for employee training. What are our options?” This will engage your
teammates in problem solving, which is inherently collaborative instead of
2. Use hypotheticals. When someone disagrees with you, don’t take them head
on—being contradicted doesn’t feel very good. Instead, a useful tactic is to ask
about hypothetical situations and to get them imagining. (Imagining is the
opposite of defending, so it gets the brain out of a rut.) If you are meeting
resistance to your ideas, try asking your teammates to imagine a different
scenario. “I hear your concern about getting the right sales people to pull off
this campaign. If we could get the right people…what could the campaign look
3. Ask about the impact. Directing open-ended questions at your teammate is also
useful. If you are concerned about a proposed course of action, ask your
teammates to think through the impact of implementing their plan. “Ok, we’re
contemplating launching this product to only our U.S. customers. How is that
going to land with our two big customers in Latin America?” This approach feels
much less aggressive than saying “Our Latin American customers will be angry.”
Anytime you can demonstrate that you’re open to ideas and curious about the
right approach, it will open up the discussion (and you’ll preserve your
reputation as a nice person).
4. Discuss the underlying issue. Many conflicts on a team spiral out of control
because the parties involved aren’t on the same page. If you disagree with a
proposed course of action, instead of complaining about the solution, start by
trying to understand what’s behind the suggestion. If you understand the
reasoning, you might be able to find another way to accomplish the same goal.
“I’m surprised you suggested we release the sales figures to the whole team.
What is your goal in doing that?” Often conflict arises when one person tries to
solve a problem without giving sufficient thought to the options or the impact
of those actions. If you agree that the problem they are trying to solve is
important, you will have common ground from which to start sleuthing toward
5. Ask for help. Another tactic for “nice conflict” is to be mildly
self-deprecating and to own the misunderstanding. If something is really
surprising to you (e.g., you can’t believe anyone would propose anything so
crazy), say so. “I’m missing something here. Tell me how this will address our
sales gap for Q1.” If the person’s idea really doesn’t hold water, a series of
genuine, open questions that come from a position of helping you understand will
likely provide other teammates with the chance to help steer the plan in a
Conflict — presenting a different point of view even when it is uncomfortable — is critical to team effectiveness. Diversity of thinking on a team is the source of innovation and growth. It is also the path to identifying and mitigating risks. If you find yourself shying away from conflict, use one of these techniques to make it a little easier.
Directions Management Consulting
Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia. LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.
In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia.
Using the Belbin Team Role Profiling, Directions Management Consulting helps develop high performance teams and leadership at every level.
Psycheselling.com is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.
Raybattle is the strategic partner of Directions Management Consulting specialising in experiential learning events and management retreats.
Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as Delphi Packard, InterContinental Hotels Group, LELO, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Philips Lighting, Carrier, Ingersoll Rand, Kulzer Dental etc.
Directions Management Consulting will increase its efforts to conduct leadership studies in China and other parts of Asia, so that more companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved in this part of the world.
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