Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cultural Awareness tipsheet

There are a number of things to consider when thinking about your global team and how to lead.  Just this past week Tom Doctoroff wrote about the emergence of "American style individualism" in China.....or not.  Yesterday I mentioned Hofstede and Trompenaars work and won't repeat it here.  My own list of things to consider goes something like this:
  1. Respect for authority
  2. Expectations about decision making- Leader, Majority or Consensus
  3. Personal Freedom
  4. Self Interest
  5. Tolerance for Open Debate and free expression 
  6. Ethics, codes of conduct
There can be huge differences in national culture among Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, South Americans....really any nationality.  The obvious lesson is the importance of a leader developing behaviors that take these cultural differences into account.  There are also a couple of traps here.  First, although there are national cultural attitudes about these things, it's also a mistake to assume everyone from that culture all hold common beliefs.  Its seems self evident but there will always be differences among individuals.   Stereotyping all people of a national culture can be just as
de-motivating to a team as treating them all as if they were from a single culture.  Second, company culture can trump national culture among long serving employees of some companies.  Understanding the way we do things here can be just as important as understanding national culture.
So, yes a leader must be very aware of the influences different national cultural tendencies can have on their team AND the skilled leader has to understand the degree to which their team members reflect those differences.  Appreciating those differences and being inclusive of them when leading  will result in more effective team performance..

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