The Weekly Buzz: Cultural Differences
Do you have any clients who are based in a different country? In fields that benefit from 21st-century communication technology, like marketing, consulting, and software, the chances are very high that customers can be found across the globe. It’s much easier to connect with them than ever before, but cultural differences still remain.
Inc. magazine ran a piece on business leadership principles that focused on how American football does each of five things right. While it was nice to be able to focus the imagination on a specific sport, all of the skills in the piece are also demonstrated in many other sports, including basketball, soccer, and rugby. If you only want to reach Americans, stick with American football. Consider, though, how easy it would be to swap in details from a sport that is popular in another country to reach another audience—or use examples from multiple sports in the first place.
Learn From Differences
Research shows that corporate cultures in different countries result in very different business environments, which can affect individual performance, relationships, and negotiation. For example, intercultural differences around time can have a big effect on expectations for meetings. If you live in a “monochronic” culture, such as Germany, you will have different expectations from your “polychronic” counterpart who might hail from Italy. Monochronic culture is like a soccer game. There is a clock that dictates the course of play. Polychronic culture is like a baseball game where 9 innings are going to be played, regardless of how long it takes.
Speak Their Culture
When working internationally, being fluent in other languages is secondary to understanding how cultural differences can impact your relationship before a word is even spoken. If effective communication is essential in your job role—sales and marketing professionals, I am looking at you—then it’s important to do your homework before trying to share the value of your products and services globally. This understanding includes gestures and even how we sit. If you cross your legs and show the bottom of your foot to your host in Islamic culture, you have offended your host. Check out this handy guide to preparing to negotiate across cultures.
Do you need help sharing your message with customers around the world? Reach out to Bob Greene, Senior Sales Leadership Consultant and Trainer with Maestro, who is BMIA certified in Intercultural Analysis and Cross-Cultural Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.