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How to Install a Collaborative Culture to Drive Continuous Change

Cross-cultural competence is a necessity, not a goal

Collaboration is a key to leading successful change projects. It requires people to transfer their skills between work silos seamlessly, into subcultures that may be alien to them. To do so effectively, employees must develop cross-cultural competence.

In this article, you’ll learn how to develop your cross-cultural competence to install culture of collaboration that will drive continuous change.

What is cross-cultural competence?

Cross-cultural competence is the ability to understand and engage with people from other cultures. In a world in which organizations are increasingly global, and working teams increasingly diverse, cultural shock can sink a change project before it starts. Yet when diverse teams are managed effectively, the benefits are huge and paramount to a culture of continuous change. These include:

  • Increased flexibility and adaptability
  • A healthier and wider range of views
  • Inspiration to outperform
  • More complete set of skills enabling a wider range of services

To access these benefits and provide an environment where cultural diversity is embraced and empowered to energize continuous change, leaders and employees will need the knowledge, skills and motivation to adapt to cross-cultural environments. 

Six steps to develop cross-cultural competence

Without cross-cultural competence, it is unlikely (if not impossible) to develop the collaborative environment in which organizations thrive through continuous change. Communication is likely to break down, cultural customs and rituals misunderstood, and workplace conflict increase.

The following steps will help develop your cross-cultural competence:

1. Understand your own culture

Be self-aware, and increase your emotional intelligence. Understand how you react in different situations, and how your background and culture has helped to shape your reactions.

2. Focus on developing intercultural understanding

Learn about other cultures, and develop cross-cultural relationships. You won’t learn all you need to know from books, but instead will need to utilise and question your experiences. Seek cultural sources to inform your learning.

3. Manage your reactions to other cultures

With a greater understanding of self and increased understanding of other cultures, you will be better placed to manage your reactions to values, beliefs and customs that may run contrary to your own.

There will be times when you are surprised by your cultural differences. People will act in ways you don’t understand. Find out why, asking your cultural sources for explanations and further your experience-based cross-cultural knowledge.

4. See things from the other point of view

As your understanding grows, it will become easier to view things from the viewpoint of the person from another culture. This will further serve to increase your understanding as you begin to create a virtuous circle of cross-cultural competence.

5. Plan for cross-cultural meetings

Think about how to dress, and how to communicate your points effectively and without causing cultural offence. Consider, too, about how you express yourself, and the nonverbal clues your body language could be giving to real meaning.

6. Seek feedback and behavioral explanations

You have spent decades being subliminally indoctrinated with your inbuilt culture. Your values and beliefs are natural to you, and a part of your personality. You cannot expect to have the same level of understanding of other cultures. It is a continuous learning experience. Ask for feedback after interactions, and examine how you got your message across. Consider how other people have behaved, and how their culture informed that behavior.

Cross-cultural competence – making collaboration possible

As we travel more and societies become increasingly culturally diverse, the ability to communicate across cultures is growing in importance in our personal lives. Business is no different. Without an appreciation of different cultures, leaders and employees in multicultural organizations will fail to engender the collaborative culture required to empower continuous change. 

Developing cross-cultural competence is a long-term journey, and one on that we continually learn. The more we learn, the greater an organization’s ability to develop the imperative business culture of collaboration and continuous change.

To discover how a Change Agent Bootcamp and coaching in consulting and facilitating will help your organization and leaders produce lasting change, contact Forward Focus today. 

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