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Today’s Leaders Need to Be Able to Communicate Across Cultures

As the global pandemic endures, so does our need to be culturally competent so that we can effectively communicate across the planet. As a species we need to come together. We have a common goal — to defeat a common enemy, coronavirus. Plus, how can we share our thoughts and ideas if we can’t communicate? […]

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As the global pandemic endures, so does our need to be culturally competent so that we can effectively communicate across the planet. As a species we need to come together. We have a common goal — to defeat a common enemy, coronavirus. Plus, how can we share our thoughts and ideas if we can’t communicate?

Being able to communicate across cultures does not necessarily imply a competence in language skills, but rather, an understanding of the culture with which we want to share ideas. Gaining cultural knowledge does not have to be hard or costly. These days, a healthy curiosity and a Google search can offer you some basics, but the ability to communicate effectively, globally, is difficult. You will need to have a desire to learn about cultures other than your own, in order to understand their values, beliefs and customs, regardless if it stems from a job requirement or a personal growth perspective.

Most of us want to keep growing our knowledge base and expanding our ability to build relationships, and being culturally competent is a great way to do that. By exploring other cultures, you will garner an appreciation and an understanding of why people are the way they are, their motivations and behaviors.

Be aware, this is not for everyone. It could be lost on those who chose to live “small.” But for those who choose to live “big,” who yearn to know more about the world, they will become more well-rounded, and better people in general.

Many of us are working from home and attending global Zoom or other virtual meetings, so we need to be aware of cultural differences. Not knowing how to conduct yourself could impede your mission or work, and make you look bad in front of your team. So, learn about your team members in other countries. Where do they live? How do they typically react to feedback, or listen in groups? Culture influences all of these things and more.

Of course, each of us is an individual, no matter where we were raised. However, you can learn about some national characteristics that can shed some light on why some team members are thoughtful listeners, and others are impatient, loud, and speak before they think.

Without a working knowledge of cultural differences, your team may not be as productive or as successful. Collaboration might suffer, and you might waste time due to miscommunication or a lack of communication. The value in having global communication skills is giving every member of your team an equitable chance to contribute, in their own culturally motivated way. This will lead to more creative ideas and business solutions.

Savvy leaders celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace and the wealth of experience and ideas it affords.

The value to you personally, is you will become more understanding, more tolerant of cultural differences, more interesting to your friends, and you may even be happier. It’s a common side effect of broadening one’s horizons.

Someday, those of us who chose to live “big” will be able to travel again, to explore other cultures up-close and personally, while others may choose to explore, virtually. Regardless, a good way to begin your cultural exploration is to hire a coach like me. I can customize a culturally appropriate development plan, tailored to your specific global work or personal environment.

Until then, make an effort to get to know and appreciate your culturally diverse team. We should all get to know our global neighbors, especially in the time of COVID-19. It sounds trite, but we really, truly are in this together, so let’s communicate with respect and kindness, for all our sakes.

This article was originally published in May 2020 on HeidiDulebohn.com.

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