How to Make Successful Connections in the New Global Era

How to Make a Successful Culture Crossing 

We live in an increasingly connected world. That much we all know. As a regular globetrotter, I know how easy it is to cross borders.

But it’s not always so easy to understand each other.

Often I see how a phrase in one language doesn’t translate to another. Try speaking on stage and using a gesture that is common in one country and see how it offends an audience in another. Technology and travel have moved faster than our understanding of cultural differences.

That’s why I loved reading strategic management consultant Michael Landers new book Culture Crossing: Discover the Key to Making Successful Connections in the new Global Era. It’s an extraordinary look into our differences. Michael provides insights into how we can create more effective interactions and thus achieve greater success in working with each other. I talked with him about his extensive work.

 

Leadership Tip: Be mindful of your own cultural programming when working with others.

 

Avoid a Culture Crash

What’s a culture crash?

Every time people from different cultures interact, a culture crossing occurs. When you get a culture connection, things go well, and the impact you have on each other matches your intentions. But there can also be a culture crash,  a phenomenon that occurs when someone from one culture unintentionally confuses, frustrates, or offends a person from another culture. Typically when these occur, people’s intentions are not in alignment with the impact they may be having on each other.

 

Would you share a high-profile example or two?  Some more recent culture crashes that come to mind include when Microsoft founder Bill Gates insulted the South Korean president by keeping one hand in his pocket while shaking her hand, a sign of disprespect in South Korea, or  when LeBron James inadvertently disrespected Princess Kate (and much of the U.K.) by slinging his arm around her for a photo op.

 

Recognize Your Own Cultural Programming

Can you share a few simple culture crash–minimizing techniques?

There is a three-step method that can apply in many situations that helps people to take some of the “cultural reflex” out of the equation and set themselves up for success.  It’s the same method I share with all my clients:

  1. Recognize your own cultural programming.
  2. Open your mind to other ways of perceiving or approaching a situation.
  3. Identify opportunities to adapt your response to optimize results.

The methodology is widely applicable, whether the goal is to increase sales, build strategic partnerships lead people/teams, or maximize the potential of a diverse customer base.   The more you search through your cultural baggage and recognize your own cultural programming (Step 1), the easier it will become to put the next two steps into action. Getting to the bottom of your bag won’t happen overnight. I’ve been at it for several decades, and I still regularly discover new aspects of my cultural programming.

 

Acknowledge You’re in the Dark

How Companies Can Overcome the Pitfalls of Globalization

Overcome the Pitfalls of Globalization

Does your company have global aspirations?

How do you determine which countries to pursue and which to avoid?

 

When growth stalls, many managers decide that the answer to the slowing metrics is in going global. In many instances, managers don’t appreciate the inherent risks, miss the cultural nuances, and miscalculate the legal costs of the lofty goals globalization requires.

Robert Salomon is a professor of International Management and Faculty Scholar at NYU’s Stern School of Business and has been teaching and studying the effects of globalization for nearly 20 years. His new book, Global Vision: How Companies Can Overcome the Pitfalls of Globalization, is a guide to successfully navigating the global marketplace.

As the CEO of a global business myself, I was intrigued by the lessons in the book and reached out to Robert to share some of his findings with you.

 

The Problem of Unbridled Optimism

Global Vision . CoverIn your book, you say that one of the biggest problems with globalization is managers and their unbridled optimistic attitude. How does this increase risk?

The problem is that managers systematically overestimate the benefits of globalization and underestimate its costs. They tend to believe that globalization is relatively easy, and they therefore overlook the economic, political, and cultural risks involved.

Many people cite Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” as an urgent call toward globalization. What’s usually wrong with this thinking?

More and more research suggests that the world is less global than Friedman suggests, and not just by a little, but by a lot. And so if managers base their views of globalization on Friedman’s work, they will end up making very dangerous assumptions about globalization’s risks and challenges.

Why is overestimating market potential so prevalent?

It is prevalent because managers tend to think that consumers will respond to their company’s products similarly in every market. They therefore believe that they can simply port their existing business model to global markets with little change. In this respect, they fail to recognize the challenges that culture—in the form of different consumer cultures—can place on their business model.

 

Strategic Mistake: Porting existing business models to global markets with little change.

 

Understanding the Importance of Culture

Your research led you to the conclusion that “culture is probably the least understood.” Tell us more about the importance of culture and its role.

Culture is the least well understood of all of globalization’s challenges because culture is difficult to define and measure. Is culture about language differences? Yes. Is culture about religious differences? Yes. Is culture about differences in behaviors, norms, customs, and social structure? Yes. But even if we recognize these differences across countries, they are difficult to quantify and measure. Because culture is difficult to quantify and measure, managers end up discounting its effect on globalization. In my book, Global Vision, I discuss how culture impacts globalization and also how managers can quantify the impact of culture on global companies.

 

Culture is the least understood of the challenges of global expansion.