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:
- Recognize your own cultural programming.
- Open your mind to other ways of perceiving or approaching a situation.
- 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.