You are receiving this email because of your relationship with Directions Consulting. If you do not wish to receive any more emails, you can unsubscribe at the bottom of this e-mail



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  Most of the so-called customs and traditions shared in such "cross-cultural" training are either outdated, or totally based on assumptions rather than realities.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:

  1. Negotiating Across Cultures; and

  2. Conflict Strategies for Nice People

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.


In brief:

    • Culture does matter, a lot, but not necessarily in the way many people think about it or define it;

    • First understand your own cultural preferences and reflect upon why those preferences came into being;

    • Meeting your counterpart outside the formal negotiation room is also an excellent opportunity to engage in Cultural Dialogue.   Read on... ...

    To read the rest of this newsletter, pls. click here (


    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.

    When he heard Sugimoto’s reply— “What’s up with that, my man?”—Stan felt a sinking sensation in his gut.  As Stan understood in hindsight, he needlessly raised cultural barriers between himself and Sugimoto that night.  He should have realized—based on Sugimoto’s employer, his hotel choice, and even his clothes—that his awkward attempt at traditional Japanese manners would only embarrass his guest.


    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.  Culture does matter, a lot, but not necessarily in the way many people think about it or define it.

    A very useful definition of culture is one developed by Berlitz TMC in their Cultural Orientations Approach It defines culture as “the complex pattern of ideas, emotions and behaviors that tend to be expected, reinforced and rewarded by and within a particular group.” 


    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.

    There are many cultural influences which impact our and our counterpart’s unique individual cultural profile.  Those influences may include family culture, host culture, national culture, education, social class and corporate culture. 


    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!

    Preparing for Cross-Cultural Negotiations


    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.

    If your counterpart is not willing to adapt to your cultural preference you may consider adapting a key cultural skill called Style Switching


    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.


    Exploring Options

    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.

    Meeting your counterpart outside the formal negotiation room is also an excellent opportunity to engage in Cultural Dialogue – another critical cultural skill.  Cultural Dialogue is a powerful tool to establish a new understanding and create a shared foundation for thinking and acting when cultural differences seem intractable, or when we seek to create synergies.  It is a skill most effectively applied when Style Switching is deemed unreasonable or ineffective.

    Those with cultural insights make a conscious decision to use the Cultural Dialogue approach when working with partners or clients from another culture.  Dialogue assumes that there are many alternative ways to structure thinking about a group’s work and enables the design of a communication dynamic and creation of cultural norms that represent the social reality of a culturally diverse team or group.

    Through Cultural Dialogue, members of diverse teams, work groups and partnerships can isolate the assumptions about each other, learn about their counterparts’ preferences and encourage ways to find common operating agreements.  During our many negotiations with our Shanghai counterparts we would often find a quiet, peaceful place in Suzhou or Hangzhou to conduct such Cultural Dialogues.


    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 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

    • The impact of culture on global negotiations
    • Understand negotiation power, influence, and trust in a multicultural context
    • Develop an inclusive approach to negotiations based on your understanding of yourself and your counterpart


    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


    Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

    Tips for Sales People:
    Conflict Strategies for Nice People


    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 mitigating risks.

    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 forward.

    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 combative.

    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 like?

    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 answers.

    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 different direction.

    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.

    The alternative is withholding your concerns, taking them up outside of the team, and slowly eroding trust and credibility. That’s not nice at all.


    To find out how you can resolve conflicts without being confrontational, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001

    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.

  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.


    Enquiries and suggestions, pls. e-mail or visit

    Mailing Address: Shui Cheng Nan Road 51 Lane No. 9 Suite 202 Shanghai 201103 China