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StockPhoto 1 - Sugar and CoffeeAn executive expressed her discomfort during a lunch hour with a colleague from a different culture recently. This is the moment that can make you hold your breath, describe your experience vividly to colleagues, friends and family, and think if you could go through a similar experience again.

 

 

 

 

Here are other experiences that get mentioned:

  • I really need to get used to this food if I am to have more dinner meetings like this.
  • She was waiving around with the knife (in her right hand) when she got excited during the meal.
  • One must dress rather formal to these events.
  • There was not enough time to eat and get to know each other.
  • He kept putting his shoe right at my face.
  • He talks so loud that the entire room can hear.
  • They share their personal lives on the company social media site.
  • Traffic was awful.
  • The buildings feel so tall.
  • I don’t know if I can work in this open work space environment.
  • How can I get used to this kissing in business encounters.
  • They don’t use deodorant here.

 

Can you think of similar experiences from your life and how do you manage these situations?

Last week we mentioned the importance of strategic networking. These situations are experiences that can present themselves during networking. They don’t sound very fun. Yet with a shift in your mindset, they can turn into very enriching experiences:

Let yourself be surprised. Are you possibly limiting yourself by judging situations according to your own culture? You may be missing out on the surprise effect of international networking. Make sure to have a very open mind about international/multicultural encounters. These encounters actually help develop a rich repertoire of expressions and behavior. We can let ourselves be surprised by novelty. There is a chance you will enjoy adopting the unfamiliar behavior to your global business repertoire once you get to know the person or understand the situation more.

Identify the fun. Dive into the awareness world. What don’t you like in the situation and why does the situation present itself? Is there anything positive you can focus on such as the enthusiasm of the other person?

Communicate effectively. Let’s assume that trust exists but there is something that bothers you in a situation. You may choose to say this very clearly as in “Could you please speak quietly” or you may like to deliver your message via a story as in “ When I was in this country the custom was to kiss on the cheeks multiple times. I tend to greet with a hand shake. What are the different ways you like to greet?” The right type of approach will depend on your analysis of the situation, if a cultural adaptation is needed and your level of comfort.

“Recognize, Respect and Reconcile”, the approach recommended by Fons Trompenaars goes a long way in international/multicultural interactions. Reconciliation can also be seen as a negotiation process to resolve a conflict.

How do you find joy in unexpected business encounters and turning them into productive experiences? Please share.

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For ATC Webinar Series_5A key component of networking strategically when networking internationally is cultural awareness. Cultural awareness impacts “with whom” and “how” business professionals need to network to succeed in their international endeavors. According to the Global Mindset® research, building networks across cultures and with influential individuals is a key global leadership attribute that helps build trust across cultures.

 

 

 

 

Below are tips for four strategic areas that will help you enjoy building your productive international relationships.

Self-awareness: Ask yourself if you feel good at networking in your home country. How do you measure success? What would you recommend others if they needed advice about how to build strong networks in your country? Then, notice how some key shared beliefs and values, in other words the culture, in your country influence this advice. Let this then trigger your curiosity about how networks are built in other countries.

The role of culture in building trust: Considering some measurable outcomes of networking are gaining critical information and new relationships, understanding the role of culture in building trust will help you increase the effectiveness of your networking.

Culture impacts the process in multiple ways. One, it impacts “whom to network with.” Studying the work of thought leaders like Geert Hofstede or utilizing tools like GlobeSmart give great insight into the key aspects of cultures that affect business practices including relationship building. Why for instance may it be possible to build immediate relationships at a networking event in one country and why introductions are crucial in another? Two, it impacts “how to network.” While the information above will also shed light on how to network across cultures another great resource is The Culture Map, a book authored by Erin Meyer, where she differentiates between cognitive Vs. affective trust building.

Networking with cultural awareness will help you connect emotionally and develop productive relationships when the networking activity takes place.

Networking goals across cultures: There is much overlap between setting goals in a homogeneous culture and heterogeneous culture situations. However, it is important to keep in mind that networking across cultures can take more or less time than in networking situations you may be used to. There may also be long standing or temporary adverse outlooks on your business topic or country of origin. Mutual understanding and respect go a long way. Discuss networking in a specific culture with other more experienced professionals. Experience exchange is a great way of learning and a great practice for future networking.

Influential contacts and organizations: Start with people you already know. Put your cultural awareness into action, and decide whom or which organizations you need to network with, and how. Keep in mind that organizations that may be recommended for networking can include national and local governments you are not used to liaising with in your home country. Last but not least, mutually helpful discussions are best for productive relationships.

Once you have prepared yourself mentally and emotionally for communicating across cultures, “practiced” different communication approaches (yes, especially in-person networking can benefit greatly from practice), set your networking goals, identified your key networks and set aside networking time on your schedule start networking away and enjoy networking across cultures. This is one of the activities that will move you closer to your business goals.

Stay tuned for more networking insights from experts and professionals working in the international/global field in the near future.

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