How to overcome cultural barriers
In a multi-cultural country like the UAE, it's crucial to learn how to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds
Professionals throughout the years, in this country, have attempted to define culture and help us adapt our business practices so we are comfortable, efficient and respectful when we work with people from other cultures.
The most widely known model used to explain culture is the Geoleadership Model. Management expert Dr Eileen Wibbeke created the Geoleadership Model and ?published it in her 2009 book Global Business Leadership. The model highlights six essential principles that you can apply to lead and work with people from many different cultures. It resulted from a 12- month study which brought together a panel of 31 intercultural experts from all over the world.
The model is especially useful if you're leading or working with people from diverse backgrounds, as you can apply it to all cultures. You can also apply it to all situations when culture isn't a major consideration. For example, an effective leader can usefully take note of the six key principles even if they're not working with a culturally-diverse group. In other words, this is simply good practice.
We are all leaders in our way even if we don't have a sign on our door that says so. For example, you lead your colleagues, partner, customers, and friends and so on. In fact, you lead everyone you come into contact with by the influence of your personality and your behaviour - which is why this model is so important to you!
The six key principles are:
With these six principles in mind, we can look at the strategies you can use to understand cultural attributions and bridge communication gaps. Let's look at ways to improve your cultural intelligence in four different dimensions.
Cultural Intelligence Drive
You can improve your cultural int-elligence drive by talking to people who have worked in different countries or have travelled extensively. Ask them about their motivation, what they learnt and what they found challenging.Make a list of the benefits of learning about different cultures and think about the benefits you garnered from interacting with people from different backgrounds in the past.
Cultural Intelligence Knowledge
Improve your knowledge by reading and researching about different cultures. Attend a lecture on ?some aspects of a different culture, or visit a museum. Read articles or join a community interest group. Through education you acquire knowledge and through knowledge you develop a greater understanding for cultures at large.
Cultural Intelligence Strategy
This refers to how mindful you are of diversity and how well you plan your interactions.
Prepare for an interaction by -
- Summarising your knowledge about a different culture
- Thinking about things that you might say or do that would make the person comfortable/uncomfortable
- Checking in during an interaction to see if your expectations were correct
Cultural Intelligence Action
You need to adapt your behaviour to suit different cultural situations. You can do this by:
- Practising a new behaviour so that it becomes more natural
- Acting out a specific behaviour that is different from your norm
- Watching others of different cultures and trying to learn from their actions
By identifying where your weaknesses lie, you can build your skills with these strategies to become more culturally aware, and more culturally intelligent.
(Oksana Tashakova, founder of Wealth Dynamics Unlimited, is a personal branding expert and entrepreneurial educator.)